Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim

Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
by Alfred Edersheim
Volume 1

Among the outward means by which the religion of Israel was
preserved, one of the most important was the centralisation
and localisation of its worship in Jerusalem. If to some the
ordinances of the Old Testament may in this respect seem
narrow and exclusive, it is at least doubtful, whether
without such a provision Monothsiem itself could have
continued as a creed or a worship. In view of the state of
the ancient world, and of the tendencies of Israel during the
earlier stages of their history, the strictest isolation was
necessary in order to preserve the religion of the Old
Testament from that mixture with foreign elements which would
speedily have proved fatal to its existence. And if one
source of that danger had ceased after the seventy years’
exile in babylonia, the dispersion of the greater part of the
nation among those manners and civilisation would necessarily
influence them, rendered the continuance of this separation
of as great importance as before. In this respect, even
traditionalism had its mission and use, as a hedge around the
Law to render its infringement or modification impossible.
Wherever a Roman, a Greek, or an Asiatic might wander, he
could take his gods with him, or find rites kindred to his
own. It was far otherwise with the Jew. He had only one
Temple, that in Jerusalem; only one God, Him Who had once
throned there between the Cherubim, and Who was still King
over Zion. That Temple was the only place where a
God-appointed, pure priesthood could offer acceptable
sacrifices, whether for forgiveness of sin, or for fellowship
with God. Here, in the impenetrable gloom of the innermost
sanctuary, which the High-Priest alone might enter once a
year for most solemn expiation, had stood the Ark, the leader
of the people into the Land of Promise, and the footstool on
which the Schechinah had rested. From that golden altar rose
the cloud in incense, symbol of Israel’s accepted prayers;
that seven-branched candlestick shed its perpetual light,
indicative of the brightness of God’s Covenant Presence; on
that table, as it were before the face of Jehovah, was laid,
week by week, ‘the Bread of the Face,’ [1 Such is the literal
meaning of what is translated by ‘shewbread.’] a constant
sacrificial meal which Israel offered unto God, and wherewith
God in turn fed His chosen priesthood. On the great
blood-sprinkled altar of sacrifice smoked the daily and.festive burnt-offerings, brought by all Israel, and for all
Israel, wherever scattered; while the vast courts of the
Temple were thronged not only by native Palestinians, but
literally by ‘Jews out of every nation under heaven.’ Around
this Temple gathered the sacred memories of the past; to it
clung the yet brighter hopes of the future. The history of
Israel and all their prospects were intertwined with their
religion; so that it may be said that without their religion
they had no history, and without their history no religion.
Thus, history, patriotism, religion, and hope alike pointed
to Jerusalem and the Temple as the centre of Israel’s unity.
Nor could the depressed state of the nation alter their
views or shake their confidence. What mattered it, that the
Idumaean, Herod, had unsurped the throne of David, expect so
far as his own guilt and their present subjection were
concerned? Israel had passed through deeper waters, and stood
triumphant on the other shore. For centuries seemingly
hopeless bondsmen in Egypt, they had not only been delivered,
but had raised the God-inspired morning-song of jubilee, as
they looked back upon the sea cleft for them, and which had
buried their oppressors in their might and pride. Again, for
weary years had their captives hung Zion’s harps by the
rivers of that city and empire whose colossal grandeur,
wherever they turned, must have carried to the scattered
strangers the desolate feeling of utter hopelessness. And yet
that empire had crumbled into dust, while Israel had again
taken root and sprung up. And now little more than a century
and a half had passed, since a danger greater even than any
of these had threatened the faith and the very existence of
Israel. In his daring madness, the Syrian king, Antiochus IV.
(Epiphanes) had forbidden their religion, sought to destroy
their sacred books, with unsparing ferocity forced on them
conformity to heathen rites, desecrated the Temple by
dedicating it to Zeus Olympios, what is translated by
‘shewbread.’ a constant sacrificial and even reared a heathen
altar upon that of burnt-offering. [2 Macc. i. 54, 59; Jos.
Ant. xii. 5. 4.] Worst of all, his wicked schemes had been
aided by two apostate High-Priests, who had outvied each
other in buying and then prostituting the sacred office of
God’s anointed. [1 After the deposition of Onias III. through
the bribery of his own brother Jason, the latter and Menelaus
outvied each other in bribery for, and prostitution of, the
holy office.] Yet far away in the mountains of Ephraim [2
Modin, the birthplace of the Maccabees, has been identified
with the modern El-Medyeh, about sixteen miles northwest of
Jerusalem, in the ancient territory of Ephraim. Comp.
Conder’s Handbook of the Bible, p. 291; and for a full
reference to the whole literature of the subject, see Schurer
(Neutest. Zeitgesch. p. 78, note 1).] God had raised for them
most unlooked-for and unlikely help. Only three years later,
and, after a series of brilliant victories by undisciplined
men over the flower of the Syrian army, Judas the Maccabee,
truly God’s Hammer [3 On the meaning of the name Maccabee,
comp. Grimm’s Kurzgef. Exeget. Handb. z. d. Apokr. Lief.
iii., pp. ix. x. We adopt the derivation from Maqqabha, a
hammer, like Charles Martel.] had purified the Temple, and.restored its altar on the very same day [4 1 Macc. 1. 54.] on
which the ‘abomination of desolation’ [5 1 Macc. iv. 52-54:]
Megill. Taan. 23. had been set up in its place. In all their
history the darkest hour of their night had ever preceded the
dawn of a morning brighter than any that had yet broken. It
was thus that with one voice all their prophets had bidden
them wait and hope. Their sayings had been more than
fulfilled as regarded the past. Would they not equally become
true in reference to that far more glorious future for Zion
and for Israel, which was to be ushered in by the coming of
the Messiah?
Nor were such the feelings of the Palestinian Jews only.
These indeed were now a minority. The majority of the nation
constituted what was known as the dispersion; a term which,
however, no longer expressed its original meaning of
banishment by the judgment of God, [6 Alike the verb in
Hebrew, and in Greek, with their derivatives, are used in the
Old Testament, and in the rendering of the LXX., with
reference to punitive banishment. See, for example, Judg.
xviii. 30; 1 Sam. iv. 21; and in the LXX. Deut. xxx. 4; Ps.
cxlvii. 2; Is. xlix. 6, and other passages.] since absence
from Palestine was now entirely voluntary. But all the more
that it referred not to outward suffering, [7 There is some
truth, although greatly exaggerated, in the bitter remarks of
Hausrath (Neutest. Zeitgesch. ii. p. 93), as to the
sensitiveness of the Jews in the, and the loud outcry of all
its members at any interference with them, however trivial.
But events unfortunately too often proved how real and near
was their danger, and how necessary the caution ‘Obsta
principiis.’] did its continued use indicate a deep feeling
of religious sorrow, of social isolation, and of political
strangership [8 St. Peter seems to have used it in that
sense, 1 Pet. i. 1.] in the midst of a heathen world. For
although, as Josephus reminded his countrymen, [Jew. W ii.
16. 4.] there was ‘no nation inthe world which had not among
them part of the Jewish people,’ since it was ‘widely
dispersed over all the world among its inhabitants,’ [b vii.
3.3.] yet they had nowhere found a real home. A century and a
half before our era comes to us from Egypt [1 Comp. the
remarks of Schneckenburger (Vorles u. Neutest. Zeitg. p.
95).] ,where the Jews possessed exceptional privileges,
professedly from the heathen, but really fdrom the Jewish [2
Comp. Friedlieb, D. Sibyll. Weissag. xxii. 39.] Sibyl, this
lament of Israel:, Crowding with thy numbers every ocean and
country, Yet an offense to all around thy presence and
customs! [3 Orac Sibyll. iii. 271,272, apud Friedlieb, p.
62.] Sixty years later the Greek geographer and historian
Strabo bears the like witness to their presence in every
land, but in language that shows how true had been the
complaint of the Sibyl. [4 Strabo apud Jos. Ant. xiv. 7.2:
‘It is not easy to find a place in the world that has not
admitted this race, and is not mastered by it.’] The reasons
for this state of feeling will by-and-by appear. Suffice it
for the present that, all unconsciously, Philo tells its
deepest ground, and that of Israel’s loneliness in the
heathen world, when speaking, like the others, of his.countrymen as in ‘all the cities of Europe, in the provinces
of Asia and in the islands,’ he describes them as, wherever
sojourning, having but one metropolis, not Alexandria,
Antioch, or Rome, but ‘the Holy City with its Temple,
dedicateda to the Most High God.’ [5 Philo in Flaccum (ed.
Francf.), p. 971.] A nation, the vast majority of which was
dispersed over the whole inhabited earth, had ceased to be a
special, and become a world-nation. [6 Comp. Jos. Ant. xii.
3; xiii. 10. 4; 13. 1; xiv. 6. 2; 8. 1; 10. 8; Sueton. Caes.
85.] Yet its heart beat in Jerasulem, and thence the
life-blood passed to its most distant members. And this,
indeed, if we rightly understand it, was the grand object of
the ‘Jewish dispersion’ throughout the world.
What has been said applies, perhaps, in a special manner, to
the Western, rather than to the Eastern ‘dispersion.’ The
connection of the latter with Palestine was so close as
almost to seem one of continuity. In the account of the truly
representative gathering in Jerusalem on that ever-memorable
Feast of Weeks, [a Acts ii. 9-11] the division of the
‘dispersion’ into two grand sections, the Eastern or
Trans-Euphratic, and the Western or Hellenist, seems clearly
marked. [7 Grimm (Clavis N.T. p. 113) quotes two passages
from Philo, in one of which he contradistinguishes ‘us,’ the
Hellenist Jews, from ‘the Hebrews,’ and speaks of the Greek
as ‘our language.’] In this arrangement the former would
include ‘the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and dwellers in
Mesopotamia,’ Judaea standing, so to speak, in the middle,
while ‘the Bretes and Arabians’ would typically represent the
farthest outrunners respectively of the Western and the
Eastern Diaspora. The former, as we know from the New
Testament, commonly bore in Palestine the name of the
‘dispersion of the Greeks,” [a St. John vii. 35.] and of
‘Hellenists’ or ‘Grecians.” [b Acts vi. 1;ix. 29; xi. 20.] On
the other hand, the Trans-Euphratic Jews, who ‘inhabited
Babylon and many of the other satrapies,'[c Philo ad Cajum,
p. 1023; Jos. Ant. xv. 3.1.] were included with the
Palestinians and the Syrians under the term ‘Hebrews,’ from
the common language which they spoke.
But the difference between the ‘Grecians’ and the ‘Hebrews’
was far deeper than merely of language, and extended to the
whole direction of thought. There were mental influences at
work in the Greek world from which, in the nature of things,
it was impossible even for Jews to withdraw themselves, and
which, indeed, were as necessary for the fulfillment of their
mission as their isolation from heathenism, and their
connection with Jerusalem. At the same time it was only
natural that the Hellenists, placed as they were in the midst
of such hostile elements, should intensely wish to be Jews,
equal to their Eastern brethren. On the other hand,
Pharisaism, in its pride of legal purity and of the
possession of traditional lore, with all that it involved,
made no secret of its contempt for the Hellenists, and openly
declared the Grecian far inferior to the Babylonian
‘dispersion.’ [1 Similarly we have (in Men. 110a) this
curious explanation of Is. xliii. 6: ‘My sons from afar’,.these are the exiles in Babylon, whose minds were settled,
like men, ‘and my daughters from the ends of the earth’,
these are the exiles in other lands, whose minds were not
settled, like women.] That such feelings, and the suspicions
which they engendered, had struck deep into the popular mind,
appears from the fact, that even in the Apostolic Church, and
that in her earliest days, disputes could break out between
the Hellenists and the Hebrews, arising from suspicion of
unkind and unfair dealings grounded on these sectional
prejudices. [d Acts vi. 1.]
Far other was the estimate in which the Babylonians were
held by the leaders of Judaism. Indeed, according to one view
of it, Babylonia, as well as ‘Syria’ as far north as Antioch,
was regarded as forming part of the land of Israel. [Ber. R.
17.] Every other country was considered outside ‘the land,’
as Palestine was called, witht the exception of Babylonia,
which was reckoned as part of it. [e Erub. 21 a Gritt. 6 a.]
For Syria and Mesopotamia, eastwards to the banks of the
Tigris, were supposed to have been in the territory which
King David had conquered, and this made them ideally for ever
like the land of Israel. But it was just between the
Euphrates and the Tigris that the largest and wealthiest
settlements of the Jews were, to such extent that a later
writer actually designated them ‘the land of Israel.’ Here
Nehardaa, on the Nahar Malka, or royal canal, which passed
from the Euphrates to the Tigris, was the oldest Jewish
settlement. It boasted of a Synagogue, said to have been
built by King Jechoniah with stones that had been brought
from the Temple. [1 Comp. Furst, Kult. u. Literaturgesch d.
Jud. in Asien, vol. i. p. 8.] In this fortified city the vast
contributions intended for the Temple were deposited by the
Eastern Jews, and thence conveyed to their destination under
escort of thousands of armed men. Another of these Jewish
treasure-cities was Nisibis, in northern Mesopotamia. Even
the fact that wealth, which must have sorely tempted the
cupidity of the heathen, could be safely stored in these
cities and transported to Palestine, shows how large the
Jewish population must have been, and how great their general
In general, it is of the greatest importance to remember in
regard to this Eastern dispersion, that only a minority of
the Jews, consisting in all of about 50,000, originally
returned from Babylon, first under Zerubbabel and afterwards
under Ezra. [a 537 B.C., and 459-‘8 B.C.] Nor was their
inferiority confined to numbers. The wealthiest and most
influential of the Jews remained behind. According to
Josephus, [b Ant. xi. 5. 2; xv. 2. 2; xviii. 9.] with whom
Philo substantially agrees, vast numbers, estimated at
millions, inhabited the Trans-Euphratic provinces. To judge
even by the number of those slain in popular risings (50,000
in Seleucia alone [2 Jos. Ant. xviii. 9. 9.] ),these figures
do not seem greatly exaggerated. A later tradition had it,
that so dense was the Jewish population in the Persian
Empire, that Cyrus forbade the further return of the exiles,
lest the country should be depopulated. [3 Midrash on Cant..v. 5, ed. Warsh. p. 26 a.] So large and compact a body soon
became a political power. Kindly treated under the Persian
monarchy, they were, after the fall of that empire, [c 330 B.
C.] favoured by the successors of Alexander. When in turn the
Macedono-Syrian rule gave place to the Parthian Empire, [d 63
B.C.] the Jews formed, from their national opposition to
Rome, an important element in the East. Such was their
influence that, as late as the year 40 A.D., the Roman legate
shrank from provoking their hostility. [4 Philo ad Caj.] At
thesame time it must not be thought that, even in these
favoured regions, they were wholly without persecution. Here
also history records more than one tale of bloody strife on
the part of those among whom they dwelt. [5 The following are
the chief passages in Josephus relating to that part of
Jewish history: Ant. xi. 5. 2; xiv. 13. 5; xv. 2. 7; 3. 1;
xvii. 2. 1-3; xviii. 9. 1, &c.; xx. 4. Jew. W. i. 13. 3.]
To the Palestinians, their brethren of the East and of
Syria, to which they had wandered under the fostering rule of
the Macedono-Syrian monarchs (the Seleucidae), were indeed
pre-eminently the Golah, or ‘dispersion.’ To them the
Sanhedrin in Jerusalem intimated by fire-signals from
mountain-top to mountain-top the commencement of each month
for the regulation of the festive calendar, [1 Rosh. haSh.
ii. 4; comp. the Jer. Gemara on it, and in the Bab. Talmud 23
b.] even as they afterwards despatched messengers into Syria
for the same purpose. [2 Rosh. haSh. i. 4.] In some respects
the Eastern dispersion was placed on the same footing; in
others, on even a higher level than the mothercountry. Tithes
and Terumoth, or first-fruits in a prepared condition, [3
Shev. vi. passim; Gitt. 8 a.] were due from them, while the
Bikkurim, or first-fruits in a fresh state, were to be
brought from Syria to Jerusalem. Unlike the heathen
countries, whose very dust defiled, the soil of Syria was
declared clean, like that of Palestine itself. [a Ohol.
xxiii. 7.] So far as purity of descent was concerned, the
Babylonians, indeed, considered themselves superior to their
Palestinian brethren. They had it, that when Ezra took with
him those who went to Palestine, he had left the land behind
him as pure as fine flour. [b Kidd. 69.] To express it in
their own fashion: In regard to the genealogical purity of
their Jewish inhabitants, all other countries were, compared
to Palestine, like dough mixed with leaven; but Palestine
itself was such by the side of Babylonia. [4 Cheth. 111 a.]
It was evemaintained, that the exact boundaries could be
traced in a district, within which the Jewish population had
preserved itself unmixed. Great merit was in this respect
also ascribed to Ezra. In the usual mode of exaggeration, it
was asserted, that, if all the genealogical studies and
researches [5 As comments upon the genealogies from ‘Azel’ in
1 Chr. viii. 37 to ‘Azel’ in ix. 44. Pes. 62 b.] had been put
together, they would have amounted to many hundred
camel-loads. There was for it, however, at least this
foundation in truth, that great care and labour were bestowed
on preserving full and accurate records so as to establish
purity of descent. What importance attached to it, we know
from the action on Ezra [c Chs. ix. x.] in that respect, and.from the stress which Josephus layson this point. [d Life i.;
Ag Apion i. 7.] Official records of descent as regarded the
priesthood were kept in the Temple. Besides, the Jewish
authorities seem to have possessed a general official
register, which Herod afterwards ordered to be burnt, from
reasons which it is not difficult to infer. But from that
day, laments a Rabbi, the glory of the Jews decreased! [6
Pes. 62 b; Sachs,Beitr. vol. ii. p. 157.]
Nor was it merely purity of descent of which the Eastern
dispersion could boast. In truth, Palestine owed everything
to Ezra, the Babylonian, [1 According to tradition he
returned to Babylon, and died there. Josephus says that he
died in Jerusalem (Anti. xi. 5. 5).] a man so distinguished
that, according to tradition, the Law would have been given
by him, if Moses had not previously obtained that honor.
Putting aside the various traditional ordinances which the
Talmud ascribes to him, [2 Herzfeld has given a very clear
historical arrangement of the order in which, and the persons
by whom, the various legal determinations were supposed to
have been given. See Gesch. d. V. Isr. vol. iii. pp. 240 &c.]
we know from the Scriptures what his activity for good had
been. Altered circumstances had brought many changes to the
new Jewish State. Even the language, spoken and written, was
other than formerly. Instead of the characters anciently
employed, the exiles brought with them, on their return,
those now common, the so-called square Hebrew letters, which
gradually came into general use. [a Sanh. 21 b.] [3 Although
thus introduced under Ezra, the ancient Hebrew characters,
which resemble the Samaritan, only very gradually gave way.
They are found on monuments and coins.] The language spoken
by the Jews was no longer Hebrew, but Aramaean, both in
Palestine and in Babylonia; [4 Herzfeld (u. s. vol. iii. p.
46) happily designates the Palestinian as the
Hebraeo-Aramaic, from its Hebraistic tinge. The Hebrew, as
well as the Aramaean, belongs to the Semitic group of
languages, which has thus been arranged: 1. North Semitic:
Punico-Phoenician, Hebrew, and Aramaic (Western and Eastern
dialects). 2. South Semitic: Arabic, Himyaritic, and
Ethipian. 3. East Semitic: The Assyro-Baylonian cuneiform.
When we speak of the dialect used in Palestine, we do not, of
course, forget the great influence of Syria, exerted long
before and after the Exile. Of these three branches the
Aramaic is the most closely connected with the Hebrew. Hebrew
occupies an intermediate position between the Aramaic and the
Arabic, and may be said to be the oldest, certainly from a
literary point of view. Together with the introduction of the
new dialect into Palestine, we mark that of the new, or
square, characters of writing. The Mishnah and all the
kindred literature up to the fourth century are in Hebrew, or
rather in a modern development and adaptation of that
language; the Talmud is in Aramaean. Comp. on this subject:
DeWette-Schrader, Lehrb. d. hist. kr. Eink. (8 ed.) pp.
71-88; Herzog’s Real-Encykl. vol. i. 466, 468; v. 614 &c.,
710; Zunz, Gottesd. Vortr. d. Jud. pp. 7-9; Herzfeld, u.s.
pp. 44 &c., 58&c.] in the former the Western, in the latter
the Eastern dialect. In fact, the common people were ignorant.of pure Hebrew, which henceforth became the language of
students and of the Synagogue. Even there a Methurgeman, or
interpreter, had to be employed to translate into the
vernacular the portions of Scripture read in the public
services, [5 Could St. Paul have had this in mind when, in
referring to the miraculous gift of speaking in other
languages, he directs that one shall always interpret (1 Cor.
xiv. 27)? At any rate, the word targum in Ezra iv. 7 is
rendered in the LXX. by The following from the Talmud (Ber. 8
a and b) affords a curious illustration of 1 Cor. xiv. 27:
‘Let a man always finish his Parashah (the daily lesson from
the Law) with the congregation (at the same time), twice the
text, and once targum.’]. and the address delivered by the
Rabbis. This was the origin of the so-called Targumim, or
paraphrases of Scripture. In earliest times, indeed, it was
forbidden to the Methurgeman to read his translation or to
write down a Targum, lest the paraphrase should be regarded
as of equal authority with the original. It was said that,
when Jonathan brought out his Targum on the Prophets, a voice
from heaven was heard to utter: ‘Who is this that has
revealed My secrets to men?’ [a Megill. 3.] Still, such
Targumim seem to have existed from a very early period, and,
amid the varying and often incorrect renderings, their
necessity must have made itself increasingly felt.
Accordingly, their use was authoritatively sanctioned before
the end of the second century after Christ. This is the
origin of our two oldest extant Targumim: that of Onkelos (as
it is called), on the Pentateuch; and that on the Prophets,
attributed to Jonathan the son of Uzziel. These names do not,
indeed, accurately represent the authorship of the oldest
Targumim, which may more correctly be regarded as later and
authoritative recensions of what, in some form, had existed
before. But although these works had their origin in
Palestine, it is noteworthy that, in the form in which at
present we possess them, they are the outcome of the schools
of Babylon.
But Palestine owed, if possible, a still greater debt to
Babylonia. The new circumstances in which the Jews were
placed on their return seemed to render necessary an
adaptation of the Mosaic Law, if not new legislation.
Besides, piety and zeal now attached themselves to the
outward observance and study of the letter of the Law. This
is the origin of the Mishnah, or Second Law, which was
intended to explain and supplement the first. This
constituted the only Jewish dogmatics, in the real sense, in
the study of which the sage, Rabbi , scholar, scribe, and
Carshan, [1 From darash, to search out, literally, to tread
out. The preacher was afterwards called the Darshan.] were
engaged. The result of it was the Midrash, or investigation,
a term which afterwards was popularly applied to commentaries
ont he Scriptures and preaching. From the outset, Jewish
theology divided into two branches: the Halakhah and the
Haggadah. The former (from halakh, to go) was, so to speak,
the Rule of the Spiritual Road, and, when fixed, had even
greater authority than the Scriptures of the Old Testament,
since it explained and applied them. On the other hand, the.since it explained and applied them. On the other hand, the
Haggadah [2 The Halakhah might be described as the apocryphal
Pentateuch, the personal saying of the teacher, more or less
valuable according to his learning and popularity, or the
authorities which he could quote in his support. Unlike the
Halakhah, the Haggadah had no absolute authority, either as
to doctrine practice, or exegesis. But all the greater would
be its popular influence, [1 We may here remind ourselves of
1 Tim. v. 17. St. Paul, as always, writes with the familiar
Jewish phrases ever recurring to his mind. The expression
seems to be equivalent to Halakhic teaching. Comp. Grimm,
Clavis N. T. pp. 98, 99.] and all the more dangerous the
doctrinal license which it allowed. In fact, strange as it
may sound, almost all the doctrinal teaching of the Synagogue
is to be derived from the Haggadah and this also is
characteristic of Jewish traditionalism. But, alike in
Halakhah and Haggadah, Palestine was under the deepest
obligation to Babylonia. For the father of Halakhic study was
Hillel, the Babylonian, and among the popular Haggadists
there is not a name better known than that of Eleazar the
Mede, who flourished in the first century of our era.
After this, it seems almost idle to inquire whether, during
the first period after the return of the exiles from Babylon,
there were regular theological academies in Babylon. Although
it is, of course, impossible to furnish historical proof, we
can scarely doubt that a community so large and so intensely
Hebrew would not have been indifferent to that study, which
constituted the main thought and engagement of their brethren
in Palestine. We can understand that, since the great
Sanhedrin in Palestine exercised supreme spiritual authority,
and in that capacity ultimately settled all religious
questions, at least for a time, the study and discussion of
these subjects should also have been chiefly carried on in
the schools of Palestine; and that even the great Hillel
himself, when still a poor and unknown student, should have
wandered thither to acquire the learning and authority, which
at that period he could not have found in his own country.
But even this circumstance implies, that such studies were at
least carried on and encouraged in Babylonia. How rapidly
soon afterwards the authority of the Babylonian schools
increased, till they not only overshadowed those of
Palestine, but finally inherited their prerogatives, is well
known. However, therefore, the Palestinians in their pride or
jealousy might sneer, [2 In Moed Q. 25 a. sojourn in Babylon
is mentioned as a reason why the Shekhinah could not rest
upon a certain Rabbi.] that the Babylonians were stupid,
proud, and poor (‘they ate bread upon bread’), [3 Pes. 34 b;
Men. 52 a; Sanh. 24 a; Bets. 16 a, apud Neubauer, Geog. du
Talmud, p. 323. In Keth. 75 a, they are styled the ‘silly
Babylonians.’ See also Jer. Pes. 32 a.] even they had to
acknowledge that, ‘when the Law had fallen into oblivion, it
was restored by Ezra of Babylon; when it was a second time
forgotten, Hillel the Babylonian came and recovered it; and
when yet a third time it fell into oblivion, Rabbi Chija came
from Babylon and gave it back once more.’ [4 Sukk. 20 a. R.
Chija, one of the teachers of the second century, is among.the most.celebrated Rabbinical authorities, around whose
memory legend has thrown a special halo.] Such then was that
Hebrew dispersion which, from the first, constituted Such
then was that Hebrew dispersion which, from the first,
constituted really the chief part and the strength of the
Jewish nation, and with which its religious future was also
to lie. For it is one of those strangely significant, almost
symbolical, facts in history, that after the destruction of
Jerusalem the spiritual supremacy of Palestine passed to
Babylonia, and that Rabbinical Judaism, under the stress of
political adversity, voluntarily transferred itself to the
seats of Israel’s ancient dispersion, as if to ratify by its
own act what the judgment of God had formerly executed. But
long before that time the Babylonian ‘dispersion’ had already
stretched out its hands in every direction. Northwards, it
had spread through Armenia, the Caucasus, and to the shores
of the Black Sea, and through Media to those of the Caspian.
Southwards, it had extended to the Persian Gulf and through
the vast extent of Arabia, although Arabia Felix and the land
of the Homerites may have received their first Jewish
colonies from the opposite shores of Ethiopia. Eastwards it
had passed as far as India. [1 In this, as in so many
respects, Dr. Neubauer has collated very interesting
information, to which we refer. See his Geogr. du Talm. pp.
369-399.] Everywhere we have distinct notices of these
wanderers, and everywhere they appear as in closest
connection with the Rabbinical hierarchy of Palestine. Thus
the Mishnah, in an extremely curious section, [2 The whole
section gives a most curious glimpse of the dress and
ornaments worn by the jews at that time. The reader
interested in the subject will find special information int
he three little volumes of Hartmann (Die Hebraerin am
Putztische), in N. G. Schroder’s some-what heavy work: De
Vestitu Mulier. Hebr., and especially in that interesting
tractate, Trachten d. Juden, by Dr. A. Brull, of which,
unfortunately, only one part has appeared.] tells us how on
Sabbaths the Jewesses of Arabia might wear their long veils,
and those of India the kerchief round the head, customary in
those countries, without incurring the guilt of desecrating
the holy day by needlessly carrying what, in the eyes of the
law, would be a burden; [a Shabb. vi. 6.] while in the rubric
for the Day of Atonement we haveit noted that the dress which
the High-Priest wore ‘between the evenings’ of the great
fast, that is, as afternoon darkened into evening, was of
most costly ‘Indian’ stuff. [b Yoma iii. 7.]
That among such a vast community there should have been
poverty, and that at one time, as the Palestinians sneered,
learning may have been left to pine in want, we can readily
believe. For, as one of the Rabbis had it in explanation of
Deut. xxx. 13: ‘Wisdom is not „beyond the sea”, that is, it
will not be found among traders or merchants,’ [c Er. 55 a.]
whose mind must be engrossed by gain. And it was trade and
commerce which procured to the Babylonians their wealth and
influence, although agriculture was not neglected. Their
caravans, of whose camel drivers, by the way, no very
flattering account is given [a Kidd. iv.], carried the rich.carpets and woven stuffs of the East, as well as its precious
spices, to the West: generally through Palestine to the
Phoenician harbours, where a fleet of merchantmen belonging
to Jewish bankers and shippers lay ready to convey them to
every quarter of the world. These merchant princes were
keenly alive to all that passed, not only in the financial,
but in the political world. We know that they were in
possession of State secrets, and entrusted with the
intricacies of diplomacy. Yet, whatever its condition, this
Eastern Jewish community was intensely Hebrew. Only eight
days’ journey, though, according to Philo’s western ideas of
it, by a difficult road [1 Philo ad Cajum, ed. Frcf. p.
1023.], separated them from Palestine; and every pulsation
there vibrated in Babylonia. It was in the most outlying part
of that colony, in the wide plains of Arabia, that Saul of
Tarsus spent those three years of silent thought and unknown
labour, which preceded his re-appearance in Jerusalem, when
from the burning longing to labour among his brethren,
kindled by long residence among these Hebrews of the Hebrews,
he was directed to that strange work which was his life’s
mission. [b Gal. i. 17;] And it was among the same community
that Peter wrote and laboured, [c 1 Pet. v. 13.] amidst
discouragements of which we can form some conception from the
sad boast of Nehardaa, that up to the end of the third
century it had not numbered among its members any convert to
Christianity. [2 Pes. 56 a, apud Neubauer, u. s., p. 351.] In
what has been said, no notice has been taken of those
wanderers of the ten tribes, whose trackless footsteps seem
as mysterious as their after-fate. The Talmudists name four
countries as their seats. But, even if we were to attach
historic credence to their vague statements, at least two of
these localities cannot with any certainty be identified. [3
Comp. Neubauer, pp. 315, 372; Hamburger, Real-Encykl. p.
135.] Only thus far all agree as to point us northwards,
through India, Armenia, the Kurdish mountains, and the
Caucasus. And with this tallies a curious reference in what
is known as IV. Esdras, which locates them in a land called
Arzareth, a term which has, with some probability, been
identified with the land of Ararat. [4 Comp. Volkmar, Handb.
d. Einl. in d. Apokr. iite Abth., pp. 193, 194, notes. For
the reasons there stated, I prefer this to the ingenious
interpretation proposed by Dr. Schiller-Szinessy (Journ. of
Philol. for 1870, pp. 113, 114), who regards it as a
contraction of Erez achereth, ‘another land,’ referred to in
Deut. xxix. 27 (28).] Josephus [a Ant. xi. 5.2.] describes
them as an innumerable multitude, and vaguely locates them
beyond the Euphrates. The Mishnah is silent as to their
seats, but discusses their future restoration; Rabbi Akiba
denying and Rabbi Eliezer anticipating it. [b Sanh. x. 3.] [1
R. Eliezer seems to connect their return with the dawn of the
new Messianic day.] Another Jewish tradition [c Ber. R. 73.]
locates them by the fabled river Sabbatyon, which was
supposed to cease its flow on the weekly Sabbath. This, of
course, is an implied admission of ignorance of their seats.
Similarly, the Talmud [d Jer. Sanb 29 c.]speaks of three
localities whither they had been banished : the district
around the river Sabbatyon; Daphne, near Antioch; while the.third was overshadowed and hidden by a cloud.
Later Jewish notices connect the final discovery and the
return of the ‘lost tribes’ with their conversion under that
second Messiah who, in contradistinction to ‘the Son of
David’ is styled ‘the Son of Joseph,’ to whom Jewish
tradition ascribes what it cannot reconcile with the royal
dignity of ‘the Son of David,’ and which, if applied to Him,
would almost inevitably lead up to the most wide concessions
in the Christian argument. [2 This is not the place to
discuss the later Jewish fiction of a second or ‘suffering’
Messiah, ‘the son of Joseph,’ whose special mission it would
be to bring back the ten tribes, and to subject them to
Messiah, ‘the son of David,’ but who would perish in the war
against Gog and Magog.] As regards the ten tribes there is
this truth underlying the strange hypothesis, that, as their
persistent apostacy from the God of Israel and His worship
had cut them off from his people, so the fulfilment of the
Divine promises to them in the latter days would imply, as it
were, a second birth to make them once more Israel. Beyond
this we are travelling chiefly into the region of conjecture.
Modern investigations have pointed to the Nestorians, [3
Comp. the work of Dr. Asahel Grant on the Nestorians. His
arguments have been well summarised and expanded in an
interesting note in Mr. Nutths Sketch of Samaritan History,
pp. 2-4.] and latterly with almost convincing evidence (so
far as such is possible) to the Afghans, as descended from
the lost tribes. [4 I would here call special attention to a
most interesting paper on the subject (‘A New Afghan
Question’), by Mr. H. W. Bellew, in the ‘Journal of the
United Service Institution of India,’ for 1881, pp. 49-97.]
Such mixture with, and lapse into, Gentile nationalities
seems to have been before the minds of those Rabbis who
ordered that, if at present a non-Jew weds a Jewess, such a
union was to be respected, since the stranger might be a
descendant of the ten tribes. [e Yebam 16 b.] Besides, there
is reason to believe that part of them, at least, had
coalesced with their brethren of the later exile; [5 Kidd. 69
b.] while we know that individuals who had settled in
Palestine and, presumably, elsewhere, were able to trace
descent from them.[1 So Anna from the tribe of Aser, St. Luke
ii. 36. Lutterbeck (Neutest. Lehrbegr. pp. 102, 103) argues
that the ten tribes had become wholly undistinguishable from
the other two. But his arguments are not convincing, and his
opinion was certainly not that of those who lived in the time
of Christ, or who reflected their ideas.] Still the great
mass of the ten tribes was in the days of Christ, as in our
own, lost to the Hebrew nation.
When we turn from the Jewish ‘dispersion’ in the East to
that in the West, we seem to breathe quite a different
atmosphere. Despite their intense nationalism, all
unconsciously to themselves, their mental characteristics and
tendencies were in the opposite direction from those of their
brethren. With those of the East rested the future of
Judaism; with them of the West, in a sense, that of the
world. The one represented old Israel, stretching forth its
hands to where the dawn of a new day was about to break.
These Jews of the West are known by the term Hellenists, from
, to conform to the language and manners of the Greeks.[1
Indeed, the word Alnisti (or Alunistin), ‘Greek’, actually
occurs, as in Jer. Sot. 21 b, line 14 from bottom. Bohl
(Forsch. n. ein. Volksb. p. 7) quotes Philo (Leg. ad Caj. p.
1023) in proof that he regarded the Eastern dispersion as a
branch separate from the Palestinians. But the passage does
not convey to me the inference which he draws from it. Dr.
Guillemard (Hebraisms in the Greek Test.) on Acts vi. 1,
agreeing with Dr. Roberts, argues that the term ‘Hellenist’
indicated only principles, and not birthplace, and that there
were Hebrews and Hellenists in and out of Palestine. But this
view is untenable.]
Whatever their religious and social isolation, it was, in
the nature of thing, impossible that the Jewish communities
in the West should remains unaffected by Grecian culture and
modes of though; just as, on the other hand, the Greek world,
despite popular hatred and the contempt of the higher
classes, could not wholly withdraw itself from Jewish
influences. Witness here the many converts to Judaism among
the Gentiles; [2 An account of this propaganda of Judaism and
of its results will be given in another connection.] witness
also the evident preparedness of the lands of this
‘dispersion’ for the new doctrine which was to come from
Judea. Many causes contributed to render the Jews of the West
accessible to Greek influences. They had not a long local
history to look back upon, nor did they form a compact body,
like their brethren in the East. They were craftsmen,
traders, merchants, settled for a time here or there, units
might combine into communities, but could not form one
people. Then their position was not favourable to the sway of
traditionalism. Their occupations, the very reasons for their
being in a ‘strange land,’ were purely secular. That lofty
absorption of thought and life in the study of the Law,
writtem and oral, which characterised the East, was to the,
something in the dim distance, sacred, like the soil and the
institutions of Palestine, but unattainable. In Palestine or
Babylonia numberless influences from his earliest years, all
that he saw and heard, the very force of circumstances, would
tend to make an earnest Jew a disciple of the Rabbis; in the
West it would lead him to ‘hellenise.’ It was, so to speak,
‘in the air’; and he could no more shut his mind against
Greek thought than he could withdraw his body from
atmospheric influences. That restless, searching, subtle
Greek intellect would penetrate everywhere, and flash its.light into the innermost recesses of his home and Synagogue.
To be sure, they were intensely Jewish, these communities of
strangers. Like our scattered colonists in distant lands,
they would cling with double affection to the customs of
their home, and invest with the halo of tende memories the
sacred traditions of thir faith. The Grecian Jew might well
look with contempt, not unmingled with pity, on the
idolatrous rites practised around, from which long ago the
pitiless irony of Isaiah had torn the veil of beauty, to show
the hideousness and unreality beneath. The dissoluteness of
public and private life, the frivolity and aimlessness of
their pursuits, political aspirations, popular assemblies,
amusements, in short, the utter decay of society, in all its
phases, would lie open to his gaze. It is in terms of lofty
scorn, not unmingled with idignation, which only occasionally
gives way to the softer mood of warning, or even invitation,
that Jewish Hellenistic literature, whether in the Apocrypha
or in its Apocalyptic utterances, address heathenism.
From that spectacle the Grecian Jew would turn with infinite
satisfaction, not to say, pride, to his own community, to
think of its spiritual enlightenment, and to pass in review
its exclusive privileges. [1 St, Paul fully describes these
feelings in the Epistle to the Romans.] It was with no
uncertain steps that he would go past those splendid temples
to his own humbler Synagogue, pleased to find himself there
surrounded by those who shared his descent, his faith, his
hopes; and gratified to see their number swelled by many who,
heathens by birth, had learned the error of their ways, and
now, so to speak, humbly stood as suppliant ‘strangers of the
gate,’ to seek admission into his sanctuary. [1 The ‘Gerey
haShaar,’ proselytes of the gate, a designation which some
have derived from the circumstance that Gentiles were not
allowed to advance beyond the Temple Court, but more likely
to be traced to such passages as Ex. xx. 10; Deut. xiv. 21;
xxiv. 14.] How different were the rites which he practised,
hallowed in their Divine origin, rational in themselves, and
at the same time deeply significant, from the absurd
superstitions around. Who could have compared with the
voiceless, meaningless, blasphemous heathen worship, if it
deserved the name, that of the Synagogue, with its pathetic
hymns, its sublime liturgy, its Divine Scriptures, and those
‘stated sermons’ which ‘instructed in virtue and piety,’ of
which not only Philo, [a De Vita Mosis, p. 685; Leg ad Caj.
p. 1014.]Agrippa, [b Leg. ad Caj. p. 1035.] and Josephus, [c
Ag. Apion ii. 17.] speak as a regular institution, but whose
antiquity and general prevalence is attested in Jewish
writings, [2 Comp. here Targ. Jon. on Judg. v. 2, 9. I feel
more hesitation in appealing to such passages as Ber. 19 a,
where we read of a Rabbi in Rome, Thodos (Theudos?), who
flourished several generations before Hillel, for reasons
which the passage itself will suggest to the student. At the
time of Philo, however, such instructions in the Synagogues
at Rome were a long, established institution (Ad Caj. p.
1014).] and nowhere more strongly than in the book of the
Acts of the Apostles?.And in these Synagogues, how would ‘brotherly love’ be
called out, since, if one member suffered, all might soon be
affected, and the danger which threatened one community
would, unless averted, ere long overwhelm the rest. There was
little need for the admonition not to ‘forget the love of
strangers.’ [3 Hebr. xiii. 2.] To entertain them was not
merely a virtue; in the Hellenist dispersion it was a
religious necessity. And by such means not a few whom they
would regard as ‘heavenly messengers’ might be welcomed. From
the Acts of the Apostles we knew with what eagerness they
would receive, and with what readiness they would invite, the
passing Rabbi or teacher, who came from the home of their
faith, to speak, if there were in them a word of comforting
exhortation for the people. [d Acts xiii. 15.] We can
scarcely doubt, considering the state of things, that this
often bore on ‘the consolation of Israel.’ But, indeed, all
that came from Jerusalem, all that helped them to realise
their living connection with it, or bound it more closely,
was precious. ‘Letters out of Judaea,’ the tidings which some
one might bring on his return from festive pilgrimage or
business journey, especially about anything connected with
that grand expectation, the star which was to rise on the
Eastern sky, would soon spread, till the Jewish pedlar in his
wanderings had carried the news to the most distant and
isolated Jewish home, where he might find a Sabbath, welcome
and Sabbath-rest.
Such undoubtedly was the case. And yet, when the Jew stepped
out of the narrow circle which he had drawn around him, he
was confronted on every side by Grecianism. It was in the
forum, in the market, in the counting, house, in the street;
in all that he saw, and in all to whom he spoke. It was
refined; it was elegant; it was profound; it was supremely
attractive. He might resist, but he could not push it aside.
Even in resisting, he had already yielded to it. For, once
open the door to the questions which it brought, if it were
only to expel, or repel them, he must give up that principle
of simple authority on which traditionalism as a system
rested. Hellenic criticism could not so be silenced, nor its
searching light be extinguished by the breath of a Rabbi. If
he attempted this, the truth would not only be worsted before
its enemies, but suffer detriment in his own eyes. He must
meet argument with argument, and that not only for those who
were without, but in order to be himself quite sure of what
he believed. He must be able to hold it, not only in
controversy with others, where pride might bid him stand
fast, but in that much more serious contest within, where a
man meets the old adversary alone in the secret arena of his
own mind, and has to sustain that terrible hand-to-hand
fight, in which he is uncheered by outward help. But why
should he shrink from the contest, when he was sure that his
was Divine truth, and that therefore victory must be on his
side? As in our modern conflicts against the onesided
inferences from physical investigations we are wont to say
that the truths of nature cannot contradict those of
revelation, both being of God, and as we are apt to regard as.truths of nature what sometimes are only deductions from
partially ascertained facts, and as truths of revelation
what, after all, may be only our own inferences, sometimes
from imperfectly apprehended premises, so the Hellenist would
seek to conciliate the truths of Divine revelation with those
others which, he thought, he recognized in Hellenism. But
what were the truths of Divine revelation? Was it only the
substance of Scripture, or also its form, the truth itself
which was conveyed, or the manner in which it was presented
to the Jews; or, if both, then did the two stand on exactly
the same footing? On the answer to these questions would
depend how little or how much he would ‘hellenise.
One thing at any rate was quite certain. The Old Testament,
leastwise, the Law of Moses, was directly and wholly from
God; and if so, then its form also, its letter, must be
authentic and authoritative. Thus much on the surface, and
for all. But the student must search deeper into it, his
senses, as it were, quickened by Greek criticism; he must
‘meditate’ and penetrate into the Divine mysteries. The
Palestinian also searched into them, and the result was the
Midrash. But, whichever of his methods he had applied, the
Peshat, or simple criticism of the words, the Derush, or
search into the possible applications of the text, what might
be ‘trodden out’ of it; or the Sod, the hidden, mystical,
supranatural bearing of the words, it was still only the
letter of the text that had been studied. There was, indeed,
yet another understanding of the Scriptures, to which St.
Paul directed his disciples: the spiritual bearing of its
spiritual truths. But that needed another qualification, and
tended in another direction from those of which the Jewish
student knew. On the other hand, there was the intellectual
view of the Scriptures, their philosophical understanding,
the application to them of the results of Grecian thought and
criticism. It was this which was peculiarly Hellenistic.
Apply that method, and the deeper the explorer proceeded in
his search, the more would he feel himself alone, far from
the outside crowd; but the brighter also would that light of
criticism, which he carried, shine in the growing darkness,
or, as he held it up, would the precious ore, which he laid
bare, glitter and sparkle with a thousand varying hues of
brilliancy. What was Jewish, Palestinian, individual,
concrete in the Scriptures, was only the outside, true in
itself, but not the truth. There were depths beneath. Strip
these stories of their nationalism; idealise the individual
of the persons introduced, and you came upon abstract ideas
and realities, true to all time and to all nations. But this
deep symbolism was Pythagorean; this pre-existence of ideas
which were the types of all outward actuality, was Platonism!
Broken rays in them, but the focus of truth in the
Scriptures. Yet these were rays, and could only have come
from the Sun. All truth was of God; hence theirs must have
been of that origin. Then were the sages of the heathen also
in a sense God, taught, and God, teaching, or inspiration,
was rather a question of degree than of kind!
One step only remained; and that, as we imagine, if not the.easiest, yet, as we reflect upon it, that which in practice
would be most readily taken. It was simply to advance towards
Grecianism; frankly to recognise truth in the results of
Greek thought. There is that within us, name it mental
consciousness, or as you will, which, all unbidden, rises to
answer to the voice of intellectual truth, come whence it
may, just as conscience answers to the cause of moral truth
or duty. But in this case there was more. There was the
mighty spell which Greek philosophy exercised on all kindred
minds, and the special adaptation of the Jewish intellect to
such subtle, if not deep, thinking. And, in general, and more
powerful than the rest, because penetrating everywhere, was
the charm of Greek literature, with its brilliancy; of Greek
civilisation and culture, with their polish and
attractiveness; and of what, in one word, we may call the
‘time-spirit,’ that tyrannos, who rules all in their
thinking, speaking, doing, whether they list or not.
Why, his sway extended even to Palestine itself, and was
felt in the innermost circle of the most exclusive Rabbinism.
We are not here referring to the fact that the very language
spoken in Palestine came to be very largely charged with
Greek, and even Latin, words Hebraised, since this is easily
accounted for by the new circumstances, and the necessities
of intercourse with the dominant or resident foreigners. Nor
is it requisite to point out how impossible it would have
been, in presence of so many from the Greek and Roman world,
and after the long and persistent struggle of their rulers to
Grecianise Palestine, nay, even in view of so many
magnificent heathen temples on the very soil of Palestine, to
exclude all knowledge of, or contact with Grecianism. But not
to be able to exclude was to have in sight the dazzle of that
unknown, which as such, and in itself, must have had peculiar
attractions to the Jewish mind. It needed stern principle to
repress the curiosity thus awakened. When a young Rabbi, Ben
Dama, asked his uncle whether he might not study Greek
philosophy, since he had mastered the ‘Law’ in every aspect
of it, the older Rabbi replied by a reference to Josh. i. 8:
‘Go and search what is the hour which is neither of the day
nor of the night, and in it thou mayest study Greek
philosophy.’ [a Men. 99 b, towards the end.] Yet eventhe
Jewish patriarch, Gamaliel II., who may have sat with Saul of
Tarsus at the feet of his grandfather, was said to have
busied himself with Greek, as he certainly held liberal views
on many points connected with Grecianism. To be sure,
tradition justified him on the ground that his position
brought him into contact with the ruling powers, and,
perhaps, to further vindicate him, ascribed similar pursuits
to the elder Gamaliel, although groundlessly, to judge from
the circumstance that he was so impressed even with the wrong
of possessing a Targum on Job in Aramaean, that he had it
buried deep in the ground.
But all these are indications of a tendency existing. How
wide it must have spread, appears from the fact that the ban
had to be pronounced on all who studied ‘Greek wisdom.’ One
of the greatest Rabbis, Elisha ben Abujah, seems to have been.actually led to apostacy by such studies. True, he appears as
the ‘Acher’, the ‘other’, in Talmudic writings, whom it was
not proper even to name. But he was not yet an apostate from
the Synagogue when those ‘Greek songs’ ever flowed from his
lips; and it was in the very Beth-ha-Midrash, or theological
academy, that a multitude of Siphrey Minim (heretical books)
flew from his breast, where they had lain concealed. [a Jer.
Chag. ii. 1; comp. Chag. 15.] It may be so, that the
expression ‘Siphrey Homeros’ (Homeric writings), which occur
not only in the Talmud [b Jer. Sanh. x. 28 a.] but even in
the Mishnah [c Yad. iv. 6.] referred pre-eminently, if not
exclusively, to the religious or semi-religious Jewish
Hellenistic literature, outside even the Apocrypha. [1
Through this literature, which as being Jewish might have
passed unsuspected, a dangerous acquaintance might have been
introduced with Greek writings, the more readily, that for
example Aristobulus described Homer and Hesiod as having
‘drawn from our books’ (ap. Euseb. Praepar. Evang. xiii. 12).
According to Hamburger (Real-Encykl. fur Bibel u. Talmud,
vol. ii. pp. 68, 69), the expression Siphrey Homeros applies
exclusively to the Judaeo-Alexandrian heretical writings;
according to First (Kanon d. A. Test. p. 98), simply to
Homeric literature. But see the discussion in Levy, Neuhebr.
u. Chald. Worterb., vol. i. p. 476 a and b.] But its
occurrence proves, at any rate, that the Hellenists were
credited with the study of Greek literature, and that through
them, if not more directly, the Palestinians had become
acquainted with it.
This sketch will prepare us for a rapid survey of that
Hellenistic literature which Judaea so much dreaded. Its
importance, not only to the Hellenists but to the world at
large, can scarcely be over-estimated. First and foremost, we
have here the Greek translation of the Old Testament,
venerable not only as the oldest, but as that which at the
time of Jesus held the place of our ‘Authorized Version,’ and
as such is so often, although freely, quoted, in the New
Testament. Nor need we wonder that it should have been the
people’s Bible, not merely among the Hellenists, but in
Galilee, and even in Judaea. It was not only, as already
explained, that Hebrew was no longer the ‘vulgar tongue’ in
Palestine, and that written Targumim were prohibited. but
most, if not all, at least in towns, would understand the
Greek version; it might be quoted in intercourse with
Hellenist breathren or with the Gentiles; and, what was
perhaps equally, if not more important, it was the most
readily procurable. From the extreme labour and care bestowed
on them, Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible were enormously
dear, as we infer from a curious Talmudical notice, [d Gitt.
35 last line and b.] where a common wollen wrap, which of
course was very cheap, a copy of the Psalms, of Job, and torn
pieces from Proverbs, are together valued at five maneh, say,
about 19l. Although this notice dates from the third or
fourth century, it is not likely that the cost of Hebrew
Biblical MSS. was much lower at the time of Jesus. This
would, of course, put their possession well nigh out of
common reach. On the other hand, we are able to form an idea.of the cheapness of Greek manuscripts from what we know of
the price of books in Rome at the beginning of our era.
Hundreds of slaves were there engaged copying what one
dictated. The result was not only the publication of as large
editions as in our days, but their production at only about
double the cost of what are now known as ‘cheap’ or ‘people’s
editions.’ Probably it would be safe to compute, that as much
matter as would cover sixteen pages of small print might, in
such cases, be sold at the rate of about sixpence, and in
that ratio. [1 Comp. Friedlander, Sitteng. Roms, vol. iii. p.
315.] Accordingly, manuscripts in Greek or Latin, although
often incorrect, must have been easily attainable, and this
would have considerable influence on making the Greek version
of the Old Testament the ‘people’s Bible.’ [2 To these causes
there should perhaps be added the attempt to introduce
Grecianism by force into Palestine, the consequences which it
may have left, and the existence of a Grecian party in the
The Greek version, like the Targum of the Palestinians,
originated, no doubt, in the first place, in a felt national
want on the part of the Hellenists, who as a body were
ignorant of Hebrew. Hence we find notices of very early Greek
versions of at least parts of the Pentateuch. [3 Aristobulus
in Euseb. Praepar. Evang. ix. 6; xiii. 12. The doubts raised
by Hody against this testimony have been generally repudiated
by critics since the treatise by Valkenaer (Diatr. de
Aristob. Jud. appended to Gaisford’s ed. of the Praepar.
Evang.).] But this, of course, could not suffice. On the
other hand, there existed, as we may suppose, a natural
curiosity on the part of students, especially in Alexandria,
which had so large a Jewish population, to know the sacred
books on which the religion and history of Israel were
founded. Even more than this, we must take into account the
literary tastes of the first three Ptolemies (successors in
Egypt of Alexander the Great), and the exceptional favour
which the Jews for a time enjoyed. Ptolemy I. (Lagi) was a
great patron of learning. He projected the Museum in
Alexandria, which was a home for literature and study, and
founded the great library. In these undertakings Demetrius
Phalereus was his chief adviser. The tastes of the first
Ptolemy were inherited by his son, Ptolemy II.
(Philadelphus), who had for two years been co-regent. [a
286-284 B.C.] In fact, ultimately that monarch became
literally book-mad, and the sums spent on rare MSS., which
too often proved spurious, almost pass belief. The same may
be said of the third of these monarchs, Ptolemy III.
(Euergetes). It would have been strange, indeed, if these
monarchs had not sought to enrich their library with an
authentic rendering of the Jewish sacred books, or not
encouraged such a translation.
These circumstances will account for the different elements
which we can trace in the Greek version of the Old Testament,
and explain the historical, or rather legendary, notices
which we have of its composition. To begin with the latter.
Josephus has preserved what, no doubt in its present form, is.a spurious letter from one Aristeas to his brother
Philocrates, [1 Comp. Josephi Opera, ed. Havercamp, vol. ii.
App. pp. 103-132. The best and most critical edition of this
letter by Prof. M. Schmidt, in Merx’ Archiv. i. pp. 252-310.
The story is found in Jos. Ant. xii. 2. 2; Ag. Ap. ii. 4;
Philo, de Vita Mosis, lib. ii. section 5-7. The extracts are
most fully given in Euseb. Praepar. Evang. Some of the
Fathers give the story, with additional embellishments. It
was first critically called in question by Hody (Contra
Historiam Aristeae de L. X. interpret. dissert. Oxon. 1685),
and has since been generally regarded as legendary. But its
foundation in fact has of late been recognized by well nigh
all critics, though the letter itself is pseudonymic, and
full of fabulous details.] in which we are told how, by the
advice of his librarian (?), Demetrius Phalereus, Ptolemy II.
had sent by him (Aristeas) and another officer, a letter,
with rich presents, to Eleazar, the High-Priest at Jerusalem;
who in turn had selected seventy-two translators (six out of
each tribe), and furnished them with a most valuable
manuscript of the Old Testament. The letter then gives
further details of their splendid reception at the Egyptian
court, and of their sojourn in the island of Pharos, where
they accomplished their work in seventy-two days, when they
returned to Jerusalem laden with rich presents, their
translation having received the formal approval of the Jewish
Sanhedrin at Alexandria. From this account we may at least
derive as historical these facts: that the Pentateuch, for to
it only the testimony refers, was translated into Greek, at
the suggestion of Demetrius Phalareus, in the reign and under
the patronage, if not by direction, of Ptolemy II.
(Philadelphus). [2 This is also otherwise attested. See Keil,
Lehrb. d. hist. kr. Einl. d. A. T., p. 551, note 5.] With
this the Jewish accounts agree, which describe the
translation of the Pentateuch under Ptolemy, the Jerusalem
Talmud [a Meg. i.] in a simpler narrative, the Babylonian [b
Meg. 9 a.] with additions apparently derived from the
Alexandrian legends; the former expressly noting thirteen,
the latter marking fifteen, variations from the original
text. [3 It is scarcely worth while to refute the view of
Tychsen, Jost (Gesch. d. Judenth.), and others, that the
Jewish writers only wrote down for Ptolemy the Hebrew words
in Greek letters. But the word cannot possibly bear that
meaning in this connection. Comp. also Frankel, Vorstudien,
p. 31.]
The Pentateuch once translated, whether by one, or more
likely by several persons,. [4 According to Sopher. i. 8, by
five persons, but that seems a round number to correspond to
the five books of Moses. Frankel (Ueber d. Einfl. d. palast.
Exeg.) labours, however, to show in detail the differences
between the different translators. But his criticism is often
strained, and the solution of the question is apparently
impossible.] the other books of the Old Testament would
naturally soon receive the same treatment. They were
evidently rendered by a number of persons, who possessed very
different qualifications for their work, the translation of
the Book of Daniel having been so defective, that in another by Theodotion was afterwards substituted. The
version, as a whole, bears the name of the LXX., as some have
supposed from the number of its translators according to
Aristeas’ account, only that in that case it should have been
seventy-two; or from the approval of the Alexandrian
Sannedrin [1 Bohl would have it, ‘the Jerusalem Sanhedrin!’]
although in that case it should have been seventy-one; or
perhaps because, in the popular idea, the number of the
Gentile nations, of which the Greek (Japheth) was regarded as
typical, was seventy. We have, however, one fixed date by
which to compute the completion of this translation. From the
prologue to the Apocryphal ‘Wisdom of Jesus the son of
Sirach,’ we learn that in his days the Canon of Scripture was
closed; and that on his arrival, in his thirty-eighth year,
[2 But the expression has also been referred to the
thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes.] In Egypt,
which was then under the rule of Euergetes, he found the
so-called LXX. version completed, when he set himself to a
similar translation of the Hebrew work of his grandfather.
But in the 50th chapter of that work we have a description of
the High-Priest Simon, which is evidently written by an
eye-witness. We have therefore as one term the pontificate of
Simon, during which the earlier Jesus lived; and as the
other, the reign of Euergetes, in which the grandson was at
Alexandria. Now, although there were two High-Priests who
bore the name Simon, and two Egyptian kings with the surname
Euergetes, yet on purely historical grounds, and apart from
critical prejudices, we conclude that the Simon of Ecclus. L.
was Simon I., the Just, one of the greatest names in Jewish
traditional history; and similarly, that the Euergetes of the
younger Jesus was the first of that name, Ptolemy III., who
reigned from 247 to 221 B.C. [3 To my mind, at least, the
historical evidence, apart from critical considerations,
seems very strong. Modern writers on the other side have
confessedly been influenced by the consideration that the
earlier date of the Book of Sirach would also involve a much
earlier date for the close of the O. T. Canon than they are
disposed to admit. More especially would it bear on the
question of the so-called ‘Maccabean Psalms,’ and the
authorship and date of the Book of Daniel. But historical
questions should be treated independently of critical
prejudices. Winex (Bibl. Realworterb. i. p. 555), and others
after him admit that the Simon of Ecclus. ch. L. was indeed
Simon the Just (i.), but maintain that the Euergetes of the
Prologue was the second of that name, Ptolemy VII., popularly
nicknamed Kakergetes. Comp. the remarks of Fritzsche on this
view in the Kurzgef. Exeg. Handb. z. d. Apokr. 5te Lief. p.
xvii.] In his reign, therefore, we must regard the LXX.
version as, at least substantially, completed.
From this it would, of course, follow that the Canon of the
Old Testament was then practically fixed in Palestine. [1
Comp. here, besides the passages quoted in the previous note,
Baba B. 13 b and 14 b; for the cessation of revelation in the
Maccabean period, 1 Macc. iv. 46; ix. 27; xiv. 41; and, in
general, for the Jewish view on the subject at the time of
Christ, Jos. Ag. Ap. i. 8.] That Canon was accepted by the.Alexandrian translators, although the more loose views of the
Hellenists on ‘inspiration,’ and the absence of that close
watchfulness exercised over the text in Palestine, led to
additions and alterations, and ultimately even to the
admission of the Apocrypha into the Greek Bible. Unlike the
Hebrew arrangement of the tex into the Law, the Prophets, [2
Anterior: Josh., Judg., 1 and 2 Sam. 1 and 2 Kings.
Posterior: Major: Is., Jer., and Ezek.; and the Minor
Prophets.] and the (sacred) Writings, or Hagiographa, the
LXX. arrange them into historical, prophetical, and poetic
books, and count twenty-two, after the Hebrew alphabet,
instead of twenty-four, as the Hebrews. But perhaps both
these may have been later arrangements, since Philo evidently
knew the Jewish order of the books. [a De Vita Contempl.
section 3.] What text the translators may have used we can
only conjecture. It differs in almost innumerable instances
from our own, though the more important deviations are
comparatively few. [3 They occur chiefly in 1 Kings, the
books of Esther, Job, Proverbs, Jeremiah, and Daniel. In the
Pentateuch we find them only in four passages in the Book of
Exodus.] In the great majority of the lesser variations our
Hebrew must be regarded as the correct text. [4 There is also
a curious correspondence between the Samaritan version of the
Pentateuch and that of the LXX., which in no less than about
2,000 passages agree as against our Hebrew, although in other
instances the Greek text either agrees with the Hebrew
against the Samaritan, or else is independent of both. On the
connection between Samaritan literature and Hellenism there
are some very interesting notices in Freudenthal, Hell. Stud.
pp. 82-103, 130-136, 186, &c.]
Putting aside clerical mistakes and misreadings, and making
allowance for errors of translation, ignorance, and haste, we
note certain outstanding facts as characteristic of the Greek
version. It bears evident marks of its origin in Egypt in its
use of Egyptian words and references, and equally evident
traces of its Jewish composition. By the side of slavish and
false literalism there is great liberty, if not licence, in
handling the original; gross mistakes occur along with happy
renderings of very difficult passages, suggesting the aid of
some able scholars. Distinct Jewish elements are undeniably
there, which can only be explained by reference to Jewish
tradition, although they are much fewer than some critics
have supposed. [5 The extravagant computations in this
respect of Frankel (both in his work, Ueber d. Einfl. d.
Palast. Exeg., and also in the Vorstud. z. Sept. pp. 189-191)
have been rectified by Herzfeld (Gesch. d. Vol. Isr. vol.
iii.), who, perhaps, goes to the other extreme. Herzfeld (pp.
548-550) admits, and even this with hesitation, of only six
distinct references to Halakhoth in the following passages in
the LXX.: Gen. ix. 4; xxxii. 32; Lev. xix. 19; xxiv. 7; Deut.
xxv. 5; xxvi. 12. As instances of Haggadah we may mention the
renderings in Gen. v. 24 and Ex. x. 23.] This we can easily
understand, since only those traditions would find a place
which at that early time were not only received, but in
general circulation. The distinctively Grecian elements,
however, are at present of chief interest to us. They consist
of allusions to Greek mythological terms, and adaptations of.Greek philosophical ideas. However few, [1 Dahne and Gfrorer
have in this respect gone to the same extreme as Frankel on
the Jewish side. But even Siegfried (Philo v. Alex. p. 8) is
obliged to admit that the LXX. rendering, Gen. i. 2), bears
undeniable mark of Grecian philosophic views. And certainly
this is not the sole instance of the kind.] even one
well-authenticated instance would lead us to suspect others,
and in general give to the version the character of Jewish
Hellenising. In the same class we reckon what constitutes the
prominent characteristic of the LXX. version, which, for want
of better terms, we would designate as rationalistic and
apologetic. Difficulties, or what seemed such, are removed by
the most bold methods, and by free handling of the text; it
need scarcely be said, often very unsatisfactorily. More
especially a strenuous effort is made to banish all
anthropomorphisms, as inconsistent with their ideas of the
Deity. The superficial observer might be tempted to regard
this as not strictly Hellenistic, since the same may be
noted, and indeed is much more consistently carried out, in
the Targum of Onkelos. Perhaps such alterations had even been
introduced into the Hebrew text itself. [2 As in the
so-called ‘Tiqquney Sopherim,’ or ‘emendations of the
scribes.’ Comp. here generally the investigations of Geiger
(Urschrift u. Ueberse z. d. Bibel). But these, however
learned and ingenious, require, like so many of the dicta of
modern Jewish criticism, to be taken with the utmost caution,
and in each case subjected to fresh examination, since so
large a proportion of their writings are what is best
designated by the German Tendenz-Schriften, and their
inferences Tendenz-Schlusse. But the critic and the historian
should have no Tendenz, except towards simple fact and
historical truth.] But there is this vital difference between
Palestinainism and Alexandrianism, that, broadly speaking,
the Hebrew avoidance of anthropomorphisms depends on
objective, theological and dogmatic, the Hellenistic on
subjective, philosophical and apologetic, grounds. The Hebrew
avoids them as he does what seems to him inconsistent with
the dignity of Biblical heroes and of Israel. ‘Great is the
power of the prophets,’ he writes, ‘who liken the Creator to
the creature;’ or else [a Mechilta on Ex. xix.] ‘a thing is
written only to break it to the ear’, to adapt it to our
human modes of speaking and understanding; and again, [b Ber.
31 b.] the ‘words of the Torah are like the speech of the
children of men.’ But for this very purpose the words of
Scripture may be presented in another form, if need be even
modified, so as to obviate possible misunderstanding, or
dogmatic error. The Alexandrians arrived at the same
conclusion, but from an opposite direction. They had not
theological but philosophical axioms in their minds, truths
which the highest truth could not, and, as they held, did not
contravene. Only dig deeper; get beyond the letter to that to
which it pointed; divest abstract truth of its concrete,
national, Judaistic envelope, penetrate through the dim porch
into the temple, and you were surrounded by a blaze of light,
of which, as its portals had been thrown open, single rays
had fallen into the night of heathendom. And so the truth
would appear glorious, more than vindicated in their own.sight, triumphant in that of others!
In such manner the LXX. version became really the people’s
Bible to that large Jewish world through which Christianity
was afterwards to address itself to mankind. It was part of
the case, that this translation should be regarded by the
Hellenists as inspired like the original. Otherwise it would
have been impossible to make final appeal to the very words
of the Greek; still less, to find in them a mystical and
allegorical meaning. Only that we must not regard their views
of inspiration, except as applying to Moses, and even there
only partially, as identical with ours. To their minds
inspiration differed quantitatively, not qualitatively, from
what the rapt soul might at any time experience, so that even
heathen philosophers might ultimately be regarded as at times
inspired. So far as the version of the Bible wa concerned
(and probably on like grounds), similar views obtained at a
later period even in Hebrew circles, where it was laid down
that the Chaldee Targum on the Pentateuch had been originally
spoken to Moses on Sinai, [a Ned. 37 b; Kidd. 49 a.] though
afterwards forgotten, till restored and re-introduced. [b
Meg. 3 a.]
Whether or not the LXX. was read in the Hellenist
Synagogues, and the worship conducted, wholly or partly, in
Greek, must be matter of conjecture. We find, however, a
significant notice [c Jer. Meg. iv. 3,ed. Krot. p. 75a.] to
the effect that among those who spoke a barbarous language
(not Hebrew, the term referring specially to Greek), it was
the custom for one person to read the whole Parashah (or
lesson for the day), while among the Hebrew-speaking Jews
this was done by seven persons, successively called up. This
seems to imply that either the Greek text alone was read, or
that it followed a Hebrew reading, like the Targum of the
Easterns. More probably, however, the former would be the
case, since both Hebrew manuscripts, and persons qualified to
read them, would be difficult to procure. At any rate, we
know that the Greek Scriptures were authoritatively
acknowledged in Palestine, [1 Meg. i. It is, however, fair to
confess strong doubt, on my part, whether this passage may
not refer to the Greek translation of Akylas. At the same
time it simply speaks of a translation into Greek. And before
the version of Aquila the LXX. alone held that place. It is
one of the most daring modern Jewish perversions of history
to identify this Akylas, who flourished about 130 after
Christ, with the Aquila of the Book of Acts. It wants even
the excuse of a colourable perversion of the confused story
about Akylas, which Epiphanius who is so generally
inaccurate, gives in De Pond. et Mensur. c. xiv. and that the
ordinary daily prayers might be said in Greek. [2 The ‘Shema’
(Jewish creed), with its collects, the eighteen
‘benedictions,’ and ‘the grace at meat.’ A later Rabbi
vindicated the use of the ‘Shema’ in Greek by the argument
that the word Shema meant not only ‘Hear,’ but also
‘understand’ (Jer. Sotah vii. 1.) Comp. sotah vii. 1, 2. In
Ber. 40 b, it is said that the Parashah connected with the
woman suspected of adultery, the prayer and confession at the.bringing of the tithes, and the various benedictions over
food, may be said not only in Hebrew, but in any other
languages.] The LXX. deserved this distinction from its
general faithfulness, at least, in regard to the Pentateuch,
and from its preservation of ancient doctrine. Thus, without
further referring to its full acknowledgment of the doctrine
of Angels (comp. Deut. xxxii. 8, xxxiii. 2), we specially
mark that is preserved the Messianic interpretation of Gen.
xlix. 10, and Numb. xxiv. 7, 17, 23, bringing us evidence of
what had been the generally received view two and a half
centuries before the birth of Jesus. It must have been on the
ground of the use made of the LXX. in argument, that later
voices in the Synagogue declared this version to have been as
great calamity to Israel as the making of the golden calf, [a
Mass. Sopher i. Hal. 7, at the close of vol. ix. of the
Bab.Talmud.] and that is completion had been followed by the
terrible omen of an eclipse, that lasted three days. [b
Hilch. Ged. Taan.] For the Rabbis declared that upon
investigation it had been found that the Torah could be
adequately translated only into Greek, and they are most
extravagant in their praise of the Greek version of Akylas,
or Aquila, the proselyte, which was made to counteract the
influence of the LXX. [c Jer. Meg. i. 11, ed. Krot. p. 71 b
and c.] But in Egypt the anniversary of the completion of the
LXX. was celebrated by a feast in the island of Pharos, in
which ultimately even heathens seem to have taken part. [d
Philo, Vita Mos. ii. ed. Francf. p. 660.]
The translation of the Old Testament into Greek may be
regarded as the starting-point of Hellenism. It rendered
possible the hope that what in its original form had been
confined to the few, might become accessible to the world at
large. [a Philo, de Vita Mos. ed. Mangey, ii. p. 140.] But
much yet remained to be done. If the religion of the Old
Testament had been brought near to the Grecian world of
thought, the latter had still to be brought near to Judaism.
Some intermediate stage must be found; some common ground on
which the two might meet; some original kindredness of spirit
to which their later divergences might be carried back, and
where they might finally be reconciled. As the first attempt
in this direction, first in order, if not always in time, we
mark the so-called Apocryphal literature, most of which was
either written in Greek, or is the product of Hellenising
Jews. [1 All the Apocrypha were originally written in Greek,
except 1 Macc., Judith, part of Baruch, probably Tobit, and,
of course, the ‘Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach.’] Its
general object was twofold. First, of course, it was.apologetic, intended to fill gaps in Jewish history or
thought, but especially to strengthen the Jewish mind against
attacks from without, and generally to extol the dignity of
Israel. Thus, more withering sarcasm could scarcely be poured
on heathenism than in the apocryphal story of ‘Bel and the
Dragon,’ or in the so-called ‘Epistle of Jeremy,’ with which
the Book of ‘Baruch’ closes. The same strain, only in more
lofty tones, resounds through the Book of the ‘Wisdom of
Solomon,’ [b Comp. x. xx.] along with the constantly implied
contrast between the righteous, or Israel, and sinners, or
the heathen. But the next object was to show that the deeper
and purer thinking of heathenism in its highest philosophy
supported, nay, in some respects, was identical with, the
fundamental teaching of the Old Testament. This, of course,
was apologetic of the Old Testament, but it also prepared the
way for a reconciliation with Greek philosophy. We notice
this especially in the so-called Fourth Book of Maccabees, so
long erroneously attributed to Josephus, [1 It is printed in
Havercamp’s edition of Josephus, vol. ii. pp. 497-520. The
best edition is in Fritzsche, Libri Apocryphi Vet. Test.
(Lips. 1871).] and in the ‘Wisdom of Solomon.’ The first
postulate here would be the acknowledgment of truth among the
Gentiles, which was the outcome of Wisdom, and Wisdom was the
revelation of God. This seems already implied in so
thoroughly Jewish a book as that of Jesus the Son of Sirach.
[a Comp. for ex. Ecclus. xxiv. 6.] Of coursethere could be no
alliance with Epicureanism, which was at the opposite pole of
the Old Testament. But the brilliancy of Plato’s speculations
would charm, while the stern self-abnegation of Stoicism
would prove almost equally attractive. The one would show why
they believed, the other why they lived, as they did. Thus
the theology of the Old Testament would find a rational basis
in the ontology of Plato, and its ethics in the moral
philosophy of the Stoics. Indeed, this is the very line of
argument which Josephus follows in the conclusion of his
treatise against Apion. [b ii. 39, 40.] This, then, was an
unassailable position to take:contempt poured on heathenism
as such, [c Comp. also Jos. Ag. Ap. ii. 34.] and arational
philosophical basis for Judaism. They were not deep, only
acute thinkers, these Alexandrians, and the result of their
speculations was a curious Eclecticism, in which Platonism
and Stoicism are found, often heterogeneously, side by side.
Thus, without further details, it may be said that the Fourth
Book of Maccabees is a Jewish Stoical treatise on the Stoical
theme of ‘the supremacy of reason’, the proposition, stated
at the outset, that ‘pious reason bears absolute sway over
the passions,’ being illustrated by the story of the
martyrdom of Eleazar, and of the mother and her seven sons.
[d Comp. 2 Macc. vi. 18-vii. 41.] On the other hand, that
sublime work, the ‘Wisdom of Solomon,’ contains Platonic and
Stoic elements [2 Ewald (Gesch. d. Volkes Isr., vol. iv. pp.
626-632) has given a glowing sketch of it. Ewald rightly says
that its Grecian elements have been exaggerated; but Bucher
(Lehre vom Logos, pp. 59-62) utterly fails in denying their
presence altogether.], chiefly perhaps the latter, the two
occurring side by side. Thus [e Ch. vii. 22-27.] ‘Wisdom,’
which is so concretely presented as to be almost.hypostatised, [3 Compare especially ix. 1; xviii. 14-16,
where the idea of passes into that of the. Of course the
above remarks are not intended to depreciate the great value
of this book, alike in itself, and in its practical teaching,
in its clear enunciation of a retribution as awaiting man,
and in its important bearing on the New Testament revelation
of the.] is first described in the language of Stoicism, [f
Vv. 22-24.] and afterwards set forth, in that of Platonism,
[g Vv. 25-29.] as ‘the breath of thepower of God;’ as ‘a pure
influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty;’ ‘the
brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of
the power of God, and the image of His goodness.’ Similarly,
we have [a In ch. viii. 7.] a Stoical enumeration of the four
cardinal virtues, temperance, prudence, justice, and
fortitude, and close by it the Platonic idea of the soul’s
pre-existence, [b In vv. 19, 20.] and of earth and matter
pressing it down. [c ix. 15.] How such views would point in
the direction of the need of a perfect revelation from on
high, as in the Bible, and of its rational possibility, need
scarcely be shown.
But how did Eastern Judaism bear itself towards this
Apocryphal literature? We find it described by a term which
seems to correspond to our ‘Apocrypha,’ as Sepharim Genuzim,’
‘hidden books,’ i.e., either such whose origin was hidden,
or, more likely, books withdrawn from common or
congregational use. Although they were, of course, carefully
distinguished from the canonical Scriptures, as not being
sacred, their use was not only allowed, but many of them are
quoted in Talmudical writings. [1 Some Apocryphal books which
have not been preserved to us are mentioned in Talmudical
writings, among them one, ‘The roll of the building of the
Temple,’ alas, lost to us! Comp. Hamburger, vol. ii. pp.
66-70.] In this respect they are placed on a very different
footing from the so-called Sepharim Chitsonim, or ‘outside
books,’ which probably included both the products of a
certain class of Jewish Hellenistic literature, and the
Siphrey Minim, or writings of the heretics. Against these
Rabbinism can scarcely find terms of sufficient violence,
even debarring from share in the world to come those who read
them. [d Sanh 100.] This, not only because they were used
incontroversy, but because their secret influence on orthodox
Judaism was dreaded. For similar reasons, later Judaism
forbade the use of the Apocrypha in the same manner as that
of the Sepharim Chitsonim. But their influence had already
made itself felt. The Apocrypha, the more greedily perused,
not only for their glorification of Judaism, but that they
were, so to speak, doubtful reading, which yet afforded a
glimpse into that forbidden Greek world, opened the way for
other Hellenistic literature, of which unacknowledged but
frequent traces occur in Talmudical writings. [2 Comp.
Siegfried, Philo von Alex. pp. 275-299, who, however, perhaps
overstates the matter.]
To those who thus sought to weld Grecian thought with Hebrew
revelation, two objects would naturally present themselves.
They must try to connect their Greek philosophers with the.Bible, and they must find beneath the letter of Scripture a
deeper meaning, which would accord with philosophic truth. So
far as the text of Scripture was concerned, they had a method
ready to hand. The Stoic philosophers had busied themselves
in finding a deeper allegorical meaning, especially in the
writings of Homer. By applying it to mythical stories, or to
the popular beliefs, and by tracing the supposed symbolical
meaning of names, numbers, &c., it became easy to prove
almost anything, or to extract from these philosophical
truths ethical principles, and even the later results of
natural science. [1 Comp. Siegfried, pp. 9-16; Hartmann, Enge
Verb. d. A. Test. mit d. N., pp. 568-572.] Such a process was
peculiarly pleasing to the imagination, and the results alike
astounding and satisfactory, since as they could not be
proved, so neither could they be disproved. This allegorical
method [2 This is to be carefully distinguished from the
typical interpretation and from the mystical, the type being
prophetic, the mystery spiritually understood.] was the
welcome key by which the Hellenists might unlock the hidden
treasury of Scripture. In point of fact, we find it applied
so early as in the ‘Wisdom of Solomon.’ [3 Not to speak of
such sounder interpretations as that of the brazen serpent
(Wisd. xvi. 6, 7), and of the Fall (ii. 24), or of the view
presented of the early history of the chosen race in ch. x.,
we may mention as instances of allegorical interpretation
that of the manna (xvi. 26-28), and of the high-priestly
dress (xviii. 24), to which, no doubt, others might be added.
But I cannot find sufficient evidence of this allegorical
method in the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach. The
reasoning of Hartmann (u. s., pp. 542-547) seems to me
greatly strained. Of the existence of allegorical
interpretations in the Synoptic Gospels, or of any connection
with Hellenism, such as Hartmann, Siegfried, and Loesner
(Obs. ad. N.T. e Phil. Alex) put into them, I cannot, on
examination, discover any evidence. Similarity of
expressions, or even of thought, afford no evidence of inward
connection. Of the Gospel by St. John we shall speak in the
sequel. In the Paul ne Epistles we find, as might be
expected, some allegorical interpretations, chiefly in those
to the Corinthians, perhaps owing to the connection of that
church with Apollos. Comp here 1 Cor. ix. 9; x. 4 (Philo,
Quod deter. potiori insid. 31); 2 Cor. iii. 16; Gal. iv. 21.
Of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse we cannot
here speak.]
But as yet Hellenism had scarcely left the domain of sober
interpretation. it is otherwise in the letter of the
Pseudo-Aristeas, to which reference has already been made. [4
See p. 25.] Here the wildest symbolismis put into the mouth
of the High-Priest Eleazar, to convince Aristeas and his
fellow-ambassador that the Mosaic ordinances concerning food
had not only a political reason, to keep Israel separate from
impious nations, and a sanitary one, but chiefly a mystical
meaning. The birds allowed for food were all tame and pure,
and they fed on corn or vegetable products, the opposite
being the case with those forbidden. The first lesson which
this was intended to teach was, that Israel must be just, and.not seek to obtain aught from others by violence; but, so to
speak, imitate the habits of those birds which were allowed
them. The next lesson would be, that each must learn to
govern his passions and inclinations. Similarly, the
direction about cloven hoofs pointed to the need of making
separation, that is, between good and evil; and that about
chewing the cud to the need of remembering, viz. God and His
will. [1 A similar principle applied to the prohibition of
such species as the mouse or the weasel, not only because
they destroyed everthing, but because they latter, from its
mode of conceiving and bearing, symbolized listening to evil
tales, and exaggerated, lying, or malicious speech.] In such
manner, according to Aristeas, did the High Priest go through
the catalogue of things forbidden, and of animals to be
sacrificed, showing from their ‘hidden meaning’ the majesty
and sanctity of the Law. [2 Of course this method is
constantly adopted by Josephus. Comp. for example, Ant. iii.
1. 6; 7. 7.]
This was an important line to take, and it differed in
principle from the allegorical method adopted by the Eastern
Jews. Not only the Dorshey Reshumoth, [3 Or Dorshey
Chamuroth, searchers of difficult passages. Zunz. Gottesd.
Vortr. p. 323. note b.] or searches out of the subleties of
Scripture, of their indications, but even the ordinry
Haggadist employed, indeeds, allegoric interpretations.
Thereby Akiba vindicated for the ‘Song of Songs’ its place in
the Canon. Did not Scripture say: ‘One thing spake God,
twofold is what I heard,’ [a Ps. lxii. 11; Sanh. 34 a.] and
did not this imply a twofold meaning; nay, could not the
Torah be explained by many different methods? [4 The seventy
languages in which the Law was supposed to have been written
below Mount Ebal (Sotah vii. 5). I cannot help feeling this
may in part also refer to the various modes of interpreting
Holy Scripture, and that there is an allusion to this Shabb.
88 b, where Ps. lxviii. 12. and Jer. xxiii. 29, are quoted,
the latter to show that the word of God is like a hammer that
breaks the rock in a thousand pieces. Comp. Rashi on Gen.
xxxiii. 20.] What, for example, was the water which Israel
sought in the wilderness, or the bread and raiment which
Jacob asked in Bethel, but the Torah and the dignity which it
conferred? But in all these, and innumerable similar
instances, the allegorical interpretation was only an
application of Scripture for homiletical purposes, not a
searching into a rationale beneath, such as that of the
Hellenists. The latter the Rabbis would have utterly
repudiated, on their express principle that ‘Scripture goes
not beyond its plain meaning.’ [5 Perhaps we ought here to
point out one of the most important principles of Rabbinism,
which has been almost entirely overlooked in modern criticism
of the Talmud. It is this: that any ordinance, not only of
the Divine law, but of the Rabbis, even though only given for
a particular time or occasion, or for a special reason,
remains in full force for all time unless it be expressly
recalled (Betsah 5 b). Thus Maimonides (Sepher ha Mitsv.)
declares the law to extirpate the Canaanites as continuing in
its obligations. The inferences as to the perpetual.obligation, not only of the ceremonial law, but of
sacrifices, will be obvious, and their bearing on the Jewish
controversy need not be explained. Comp. Chief Rabbi
Holdheim. d. Ceremonial Gesetz in Messasreich, 1845.] They
sternly insisted, that we ought not to search into the
ulterior object and rationale of a law, but simply obey it.
But it was this very rationale of the Law which the
Alexandrians sought to find under its letter. It was in this
sense that Aristobulus, a Hellenist Jew of Alexandria, [b
About 160 B.C.] sought to explain Scripture. Only a fragment
of hwork, which seems to have been a Commentary on the
Pentateuch, dedicated to King Ptolemy (Philometor), has been
preserved to us (by Clement of Alexandria, and by Eusebius [a
Praepar. Evang. vii. 14. 1 ; vii. 10. 1-17; xiii. 12.]).
According to Clement of Alexandria, his aim was, ‘to bring
the Peripatetic philosophy out of the law of Moses, and out
of the other prophets.’ Thus, when we read that God stood, it
meant the stable order of the world; that He created the
world in six days, the orderly succession of time; the rest
of the Sabbath, the preservation of what was created. And in
such manner could the whole system of Aristole be found in
the Bible. But how was this to be accounted for? Of course,
the Bible had not learned from Aristole, but he and all the
other philosphers had learned from the Bible. Thus, according
to Aristobulus, Pythagoras, Plato, and all the other sages
had really learned from Moses, and the broken rays found in
their writings were united in all their glory in the Torah.
It was a tempting path on which to enter, and one on which
there was no standing still. It only remained to give
fixedness to the allegorical method by reducing it to certain
principles, or canons of criticism, and to form the
heterogeneous mass of Grecian philosophemes and Jewish
theologumena into a compact, if not homogeneous system. This
was the work of Philo of Alexandria, born about 20 B.C. It
concerns us not here to inquire what were the intermediate
links between Aristobulus and Philo. Another and more
important point claims our attention. If ancient Greek
philosophy knew the teaching of Moses, where was the historic
evidence for it? If such did not exist, it must somehow be
invented. Orpheus was a name which had always lent itself to
literary frand, [b As Val. Kenaer puts it, Daitr. de Aristob.
Jud. p. 73.] and so Aristobulus boldl;y produces (whether of
his own or of others’ making) a number of spurious citations
from Hesiod, Homer, Linus, but especially from Orpheus, all
Biblical and Jewish in their cast. Aristobulus was neither
the first nor the last to commit such fraud. The Jewish Sibyl
boldly, and, as we shall see, successfully personated the
heathen oracles. And this opens, generally, quite a vista of
Jewish-Grecia literature. In the second, and even in the
third century before Christ, there were Hellenist historians,
such as Eupolemus, Artapanus, Demetrius, and Aristeas; tragic
and epic poets, such as Ezekiel, Pseudo-Philo, and Theodotus,
who, after the manner of the ancient classical writers, but
for their own purposes, described certain periods of Jewish
history, or sang of such themes as the Exodus, Jerusalem, or
the rape of Dinah..The mention of these spurious quotations naturally leads us
to another class of spurious literature, which, although not
Hellenistic, has many elements in common with it, and, even
when originating with Palestinian Jews is not Palestinian,
nor yet has been preserved in its language. We allude to what
are known as the Pseudepigraphic, or Pseudonymic Writings, so
called because, with one exception, they bear false names of
authorship. It is difficult to arrange them otherwise than
chronological, and even here the greatest difference of
opinions prevails. Their general character (with one
exception) may be described as anti-heathen, perhaps
missionary, but chiefly as Apocalyptic. They are attempts at
taking up the key-note struck in the prophecies of Daniel;
rather, we should say, to lift the veil only partially raised
by him, and to point, alike as concerned Israel, and the
kingdoms of the world, to the past, the present, and the
future, in the light of the Kingship of the Messiah. Here, if
anywhere, we might expect to find traces of New Testament
teaching; and yet, side by side with frequent similarity of
form, the greatest difference, we had almost said contrast,
in spirit, prevails.
Many of these works must have perished. In one of the latest
of them [a 4 Esdras xiv. 44, 46.] they are put down at
seventy, probably a roundnumber, having reference to the
supposed number of the nations of the earth, or to every
possible mode of interpreting Scripture. They are described
as intended for ‘the wise among the people,’ probably those
whom St. Paul, in the Christian sense, designates as ‘knowing
the time’ [b Rom. xiii. 11.] [1 The of St. Paul seems here
used in exactly the same sense as in later Hebrew. The LXX.
render it so in five passages (Ezr. v. 3; Dan. iv. 33; vi.
10; vii. 22, 25).] of the Advent of the Messiah. Viewed in
this light, they embody the ardent aspirataions and the
inmost hopes [2 Of course, it suits Jewish, writers, like Dr.
Jost, to deprecate the value of the Pseudepigrapha. Their
ardour of expectancy ill agrees with the modern theories,
which would eliminate, if possible, the Messianic hope from
ancient Judaism.] of those who longed for the ‘consolation of
Israel,’ as they understood it. Nor should we judge their
personations of authorship according to our Western ideas. [3
Comp. Dillmann in Herzog’s Real-Encykl. vol. xii. p. 301.]
Pseudonymic writings were common in that age, and a Jew might
perhaps plead that, even in the Old Testament, books had been
headed by names which confessedly were not those of their
authors (such as Samuel, Ruth, Esther). If those inspired
poets who sang in the spirit, and echoed the strains, of
Asaph, adopted that designation, and the sons of Korah
preferred to be known by that title, might not they, who
could no longer claim the authority of inspiration seek
attention for their utterances by adopting the names of those
in whose spirit they professed to write?
The most interesting as well as the oldest of these books
are those known as the Book of Enoch, the Sibylline Oracles,
the Paler of Solomon, and the Book of Jubilees, or Little.Genesis. Only the briefest notice of them can here find a
place. [1 For a brief review of the ‘Pseudepigraphic
Writings,’ see Appendix I.]
The Book of Enoch, the oldest parts of which date a century
and a half before Christ, comes to us from Palestine. It
professes to be a vision vouchsafed to that Patriacrch, and
atells of the fall of the Angels and its consequences, and of
what he saw and heard in his rapt journeys through heaven and
earth. Of deepest, though often sad, interest, is what it
says of the Kingdom of Heaven, of the advent of Messiah and
His Kingdom, and of the last things.
On the other hand, the Sibylline Oracles, of which the
oldest portions date from about 160 B.C., come to us from
Egypt. It is to the latter only that we here refer. Their
most interesting parts are also the most characteristics. In
them the ancient heathen myths of the first ages of man are
welded together with Old Testament notices, while the heathen
Theogony is recast in a Jewish mould. Thus Noah becomes
Uranos, Shem Saturn, Ham Titan, and Japheth Japetus.
Similarly, we have fragments of ancient heathen oracles, so
to speak, recast in a Jewish edition. The strangest
circumstance is, that the utterances of this Judaising and
Jewish Sibyl seem to have passed as the oracles of the
ancient Erythraean, which had predicted the fall of Troy, and
as those of the Sibyl of Cumae, which, in the infancy of
Rome, Tarquinius Superbus had deposited in the Capitol.
The collection of eighteen hymns known as the Psalter of
Solomon dates from more than half a century before our ear.
No doubt the e original was Hebrew, though they breathe a
somewhat Hellenistic spirit. They express ardent Messianic
aspirations, and a firm faith in the Resurrection, and in
eternal rewards and punishments.
Different in character from the preceding works is The Book
of Jubilees, so called from its chronological arrangement
into ‘Jubilee-periods’, or ‘Little Genesis.’ It is chiefly a
kind of legendary supplement to the Book of Genesis, intended
to explain some of its historic difficulties, and to fill up
its historic lacunae. It was probably written about the time
of Christ, and this gives it a special interest, by a
Palestinian, and in Hebrew, or rather Aramaean. But, like the
rest of the Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphic literature which
comes from Palestine, or was originally written in Hebrew, we
posses it no longer in that language, but only in
If from this brief review of Hellenist and Pseudepigraphic
literature we turn to take a retrospect, we can scarcely fail
to perceive, on the one hand, the development of the old, and
on the other the preparation for the new, in other words, the
grand expectancy awakened, and the grand preparation made.
One step only remained to complete what Hellenism had already
begun. That completion came through one who, although himself
untouched by the Gospel, perhaps more than any other prepared.alike his co-religionists the Jews, and his countrymen the
Greeks, for the new teaching, which, indeed, was presented by
many of its early advocates in the forms which they had
learned from him. That man was Philo the Jew, of Alexandria.
It is strange how little we know of the personal history of
the greatest of uninspired Jewish writers of old, though he
occupied so prominent a position in his time. [1 Hausrath
(N.T. Zeitg. vol. ii. p. 222 &c.) has given a highly
imaginative picture of Philo, as, indeed, of many other
persons and things.] Philo was born in Alexandria, about the
year 20 before Christ. He was a descendant of Aaron, and
belonged to one of the wealthiest and most influential
families among the Jewish merchant-princes of Egypt. His
brother was the political head of that community in
Alexandria, and he himself on one occasion represented his
co-religionists, though unsuccessfully, at Rome, [a 39 or 40
A.D.] as the head of an embassy to entreat the Emperior
Caligula for protection from the persecutions consequent on
the Jewish resistance to placing statues of the Emperor in
their Synagogues. But it is not with Philo, the wealthy
aristocratic Jew of Alexandria, but with the great writer and
thinker who, so to speak, completed Jewish Hellenism, that we
have here to do. Let us see what was his relation alike to
heathen philosophy and to the Jewish faith, of both of which
he was the ardent advocate, and how in his system he combined
the teaching of the two.
To begin with, Philo united in rare measure Greek learning
with Jewish enthusiasm. In his writings he very frequently
uses classical modes of expression; [2 Siegfried has, with
immense labor, collected a vast number of parallel
expressions, chiefly from Plato and Plutarch (pp. 39-47).] he
names not fewer than sixty-four Greek writers; [3 Comp.
Grossmann, Quaest. Phil. i. p. 5 &c.] and he either alludes
to, or quotes frequently from, such sources as Homer, Hesiod,
Pindar, Solon, the great Greek tragedians, Plato, and others.
But to him these men were scarcely ‘heathen.’ He had sat at
their feet, and learned to weave a system from Pythagoras,
Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics. The gatherings of these
philosophers were ‘holy,’ and Plato was ‘the great.’ But
holier than all was the gathering of the true Israel; and
incomparably greater than any, Moses. From him had all sages
learned, and with him alone was all truth to be found, not,
indeed, in the letter, but under the letter, of Holy
Scripture. If in Numb. xxiii. 19 we read ‘God is not a man,’
and in Deut. i. 31 that the Lord was ‘as a man,’ did it not.imply, on the one hand, the revelation of absolute truth by
God, and, on the other, accommodation to those who were weak?
Here, then, was the principle of a twofold interpretation of
the Word of God, the literal and the allegorical. The letter
of the text must be held fast; and Biblical personages and
histories were real. But only narrow-minded slaves of the
letter would stop here; the more so, as sometimes the literal
meaning alone would be tame, even absurd; while the
allegorical interpretation gave the true sense, even though
it might occassionally run counter to the letter. Thus, the
patriarchs represented states of the soul; and, whatever the
letter might bear, Joseph represented one given to the
fleshly, whom his brothers rightly hated; Simeon the soul
aiming after the higher; the killing of the Egyptian by
Moses, the subjugation of passion, and so on. But this
allegorical interpretation, by the side of the literal (the
Peshat of the Palestinians), though only for the few, was not
arbitrary. It had its ‘laws,’ and ‘canons’, some of which
excluded the literal interpretation, while others admitted it
by the side of the higher meaning. [1 In this sketch of the
system of Philo I have largely availed myself of the careful
analysis of Siegfried.]
To begin with the former: the literal sense must be wholly
set aside, when it implied anything unworthy of the Deity,
anything unmeaning, impossible, or contrary to reason.
Manifestly, this canon, if strictly applied, would do away
not only with all anthropomorphisms, but cut the knot
wherever difficulties seemed insuperable. Again, Philo would
find an allegorical, along with the literal, interpretation
indicated in the reduplication of a word, and in seemingly
superfluous words, particles, or expressions. [2 It should be
noted that these are also Talmudical canons, not indeed for
allegorical interpretation, but as pointing to some special
meaning, since there was not a word or particle in Scripture
without a definite meaning and object.] These could, of
course, only bear such a meaning on Philo’s assumption of the
actual inspiration of the LXX. version. Similarly, in exact
accordance with a Talmudical canon, [a Baba K 64 a.] any
repetition of what had been already stated would point to
something new. These were comparatively sober rules of
exegesis. Not so the licence which he claimed of freely
altering the punctuation [3 To illustrate what use might be
made of such alterations, the Midrash (Ber. R. 65) would have
us punctuate Gen. xxvii. 19, as follows: ‘And Jacob said unto
his father, I (viz. am he who will receive the ten
commandments), (but) Esau (is) thy firstborn.’ In Yalkut
there is the still more curious explanation that in heaven
the soul of Jacob was the firstborn!] of sentences, and his
notion that, if one from among several synonymous words was
chosen in a passage, this pointed to some special meaning
attaching to it. Even more extravagant was the idea, that a
word which occurred in the LXX. might be interpreted
according to every shade of meaning which it bore in the
Greek, and that even another meaning might be given it by
slightly altering the letters. However, like other of Philo’s
allegorical canons, these were also adopted by the Rabbis,.and Haggadic interpretations were frequently prefaced by:
‘Read not thus, but thus.’ If such violence might be done to
the text, we need not wonder at interpretations based on a
play upon words, or even upon parts of a word. Of course, all
seemingly strange or peculiar modes of expression, or of
designation, occurring in Scripture, must have their special
meaning, and so also every particle, adverb, or preposition.
Again, the position of a verse, its succession by another,
the apparently unaccountable presence or absence of a word,
might furnish hints for some deeper meaning, and so would an
unexpected singular for a plural, or vice versa, the use of a
tense, even the gender of a word. Most serious of all, an
allegorical interpretation might be again employed as the
basis of another. [1 Each of these positions is capable of
ample proof from Philo’s writings, as shown by Siegfried. But
only a bare statement of these canons was here possible.]
We repeat, that these allegorical canons of Philo are
essentially the same as those of Jewish traditionalism in the
Haggadah, [2 Comp. our above outline with the ‘XXV. theses de
modis et formulis quibus pr. Hebr. doctores SS. interpretari
etc. soliti fuerunt,’ in Surenhusius, Biblos, pp. 57-88.]
only the latter were not rationalising, and far more
brilliant in their application. [3 For a comparison between
Philo and Rabbinic theology, see Appendix II.: ‘Philo and
Rabbinic Theology.’ Freudenthal (Hellen. Studien, pp. 67 &c.)
aptly designates this mixture of the two as ‘Hellenistic
Midrash,’ it being difficult sometimes to distinguish whether
it originated in Palestine or in Egypt, or else in both
independently. Freudenthal gives a number of curious
instances in which Hellenism and Rabbinism agree in their
interpretations. For other interesting comparisons between
Haggadic interpretations and those of Philo, see Joel, Blick
in d. Religionsgesch. i. p. 38 &c.] In another respect also
the Palestinian had the advantage of the Alexandrian
exegesis. Reverently and cautiously it indicated what might
be omitted in public reading, and why; what expressions of
the original might be modified by the Meturgeman, and how; so
as to avoid alike one danger by giving a passage in its
literality, and another by adding to the sacred text, or
conveying a wrong impression of the Divine Being, or else
giving occasion to the unlearned and unwary of becoming
entangled in dangerous speculations. Jewish tradition here
lays down some principles which would be of great practical
use. Thus we are told, [a Ber. 31 b.] that Scripture uses the
modes ofexpression common among men. This would, of course,
include all anthropomorphisms. Again, sometimes with
considerable ingenuity, a suggestion is taken from a word,
such as that Moses knew the Serpent was to be made of brass
from the similarity of the two words (nachash, a serpent, and
nechosheth, brass. [b Ber. R. 31.] Similarly, it is noted
that Scripture uses euphemistic language, so as to preserve
the greatest delicacy. [c Ber. R. 70.] These instances might
be multiplied, but the above will suffice.
In his symbolical interpretations Philo only partially took
the same road as the Rabbis. The symbolism of numbers and, so.far as the Sanctuary was concerned, that of colours, and even
materials, may, indeed, be said to have its foundation in the
Old Testament itself. The same remark applies partially to
that of names. The Rabbis certainly so interpreted them. [1
Thus, to give only a few out of many examples, Ruth is
derived from ravah, to satiate to give to drink, because
David, her descendant, satiated God with his Psalms of praise
(Ber. 7 b). Here the principle of the significance of
Biblenames is deduced from Ps. xlvi. 8 (9 in the Hebrew):
‘Come, behold the works of the Lord, who hath made names on
earth,’ the word ‘desolations,’ SHAMOTH, being altered to
SHEMOTH, ‘names.’ In general, that section, from Ber. 3 b, to
the end of 8 a, is full of Haggadic Scripture
interpretations. On fol. 4 a there is the curious symbolical
derivation of Mephibosheth, who is supposed to have set David
right on halakhic questions, as Mippi bosheth: ‘from my mouth
shaming,’ ‘because he put to shame the face of David in the
Halakhah.’ Similarly in Siphre (Par. Behaalothekha, ed.
Friedmann, p. 20 a) we have very beautiful and ingenious
interpretations of the names Reuel, Hobab and Jethro.] But
the application which Philo made of this symbolism was very
different. Everything became symbolical in his hands, if it
suited his purpose: numbers (in a very arbitrary manner),
beasts, birds, fowls, creeping things, plants, stones,
elements, substances, conditions, even sex, and so a term or
an expression might even have several and contradictory
meanings, from which the interpreter was at liberty to
From the consideration of the method by which Philo derived
from Scriptures his theological views, we turn to a brief
analysis of these views. [2 It would be impossible here to
give the references, which would occupy too much space.]
1. Theology. In reference to God, we find, side by side, the
apparently contradictory views of the Platonic and the Stoic
schools. Following the former, the sharpest distinction was
drawn between God and the world. God existed neither in
space, nor in time; He had neither human qualities nor
afections; in fact, He was without any qualities ( ), and
even without any name ( ) ; hence, wholly uncognisable by man
( ). Thus, changing the punctuation and the accents, the LXX.
of Gen. iii. 9 was made to read: ‘Adam, thou art somewhere;’
but God had no somewhere, as Adam seemed to think when he hid
himself from Him. In the above sense, also, Ex. iii. 14, and
vi. 3, were explained, and the two names Elohim and Jehovah
belonged really to the two supreme Divine ‘Potencies,’ while
the fact of God’s being uncognisable appeared from Ex. xx.
But side by side with this we have, to save the Jewish, or
rather Old Testament, idea of creation and providence, the
Stoic notion of God as immanent in the world, in fact, as
that alone which is real in it, as always working: in short,
to use his own Pantheistic expression, as ‘Himself one and
the all’ ( ). Chief in His Being is His goodness, the
forthgoing of which was the ground of creation. Only the good.comes from Him. With matter He can have nothing to do, hence
the plural number in the account of creation. God only
created the soul, and that only of the good. In the sense of
being ‘immanent,’ God is everywhere, nay, all things are
really only in Him, or rather He is the real in all. But
chiefly is God the wellspring and the light of the soul, its
‘Saviour’ from the ‘Egypt’ of passion. Two things follow.
With Philo’s ideas of the sepration between God and matter,
it was impossible always to account for miracles or
interpositions. Accordingly, these are sometimes allegorised,
sometimes rationalistically explained. Further, the God of
Philo, whatever he might say to the contrary, was not the God
of that Israel which was His chosen people.
2. Intermediary Beings. Potencies ( ). If, in what has
preceded, we have once and again noticed a remarkable
similarity between Philo and the Rabbis, there is a still
more curious analogy between his teaching and that of Jewish
Mysticism, as ultimately fully developed in the ‘Kabbalah.’
The very term Kabbalah (from qibbel, to hand down) seems to
point out not only its descent by oral tradition, but also
its ascent to ancient sources. [1 For want of handier
material I must take leave to refer to my brief sketch of the
Kabbalah in the ‘History of the Jewish Nation,’ pp. 434-446.]
Its existence is presupposed, and its leading ideas are
sketched in the Mishnah. [a Chag. ii. 1.]The Targums also
bear at least one remarkable trace of it. May it not be, that
as Philo frequently refers to ancient tradition, so both
Eastern and Western Judaism may here have drawn from one and
the same source, we will not venture to suggest, how high up,
while each made such use of it as suited their distinctive
tendencies? At any rate the Kabbalah also, likening Scripture
to a person, compares those who study merely the letter, to
them who attend only to the dress; those who consider the
mnoral of a fact, to them who attend to the body; while the
initiated alone, who regard the hidden meaning, are those who
attend to the soul. Again, as Philo, so the oldest part of
the Mishnah [a Ab. v. 4.] designates God as Maqom, ‘the
place’, the, the all-comprehending, what the Kabbalists
called the EnSoph, ‘the boundless,’ that God, without any
quality, Who becomes cognisable only by His manifestations.
[1 In short, the of the Stoics.]
The manifestations of God! But neither Eastern mystical
Judaism, nor the philosophy of Philo, could admit of any
direct contact between God and creation. The Kabbalah solved
the difficulty by their Sephiroth, [2 Supposed to mean either
numerationes, or splendour. But why not derive the word from
? The ten are: Crown, Wisdom, Intelligence, Mercy, Judgment,
Beauty, Triumph, Praise, Foundation, Kingdom.] or emanations
from God, through which this contact was ultimately brought
about, and of which the EnSoph, or crown, was the spring:
‘the source from which the infinite light issued.’ If Philo
found greater difficulties, he had also more ready help from
the philosophical systems to hand. His Sephiroth were
‘Potencies’ ( ), ‘Words’ ( ), intermediate powers.
‘Potencies,’ as we imagine, when viewed Godwards; ‘Words,’ as
viewed creationwards. They were not emanations, but,.according to Plato, ‘archetypal ideas,’ on the model of which
all that exists was formed; and also, according to the Stoic
idea, the cause of all, pervading all, forming all, and
sustaining all. Thus these ‘Potencies’ were wholly in God,
and yet wholly out of God. If we divest all this of its
philosophical colouring, did not Eastern Judaism also teach
that there was a distinction between the Unapproachable God,
and God manifest? [3 For the teaching of Eastern Judaism in
this respect, see Appendix II.: ‘Philo and Rabbinic
Another remark will show the parallelism between Philo and
Rabbinism. [4 A very interesting question arises: how far
Philo was acquainted with, and influenced by, the Jewish
traditional law or the Halakhah. This has been treated by Dr.
B. Ritter in an able tractate (Philo u. die Halach.),
although he attributes more to Philo than the evidence seems
to admit.] As the latter speaks of the two qualities
(Middoth) of Mercy and Judgment in the Divine Being, [b Jer.
Ber. ix. 7.] and distinguishes between Elohim as the God of
Justice, and Jehovah as the God of Mercy and Grace, so Philo
places next to the Divine Word ( ), Goodness ( ), as the
Creative Potency ( ), and Power ( ), as the Ruling Potency (
), proving this by a curious etymological derivation of the
words for ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ ( ), apparently unconscious that
the LXX., in direct contradiction, translated Jehovah by Lord
( ), and Elohim by God ( )! These two potencies of goodness
and power, Philo sees in the two Cherubim, and in the two
‘Angels’ which accompanied God (the Divine Word), when on his
way to destroy the cities of the plain. But there were more
than these two Potencies. In one place Philo enumerates six,
according to the number of the cities of refuge. The
Potencies issued from God as the beams from the light, as the
waters from the spring, as the breath from a person; they
were immanent in God, and yet independent beings. They were
the ideal world, which in its impulse outwards, meeting
matter, produced this material world of ours. They were also
the angels of God, His messengers to man, the media through
whom He reveled Himself. [1 At the same time there is a
remarkable difference here between Philo and Rabbinism. Philo
holds that the creation of the world was brought about by the
Potencies, but the Law was given directly through Moses, and
not by the mediation of angels. But this latter was certainly
the view generally entertained in Palestine as expressed in
the LXX. rendering of Deut. xxxii. 2, in the Targumim on that
passage, and more fully still in Jos. Ant. xv. 5. 3, in the
Midrashim and in the Talmud, where we are told (Macc. 24 a)
that only the opening words, ‘I am the Lord thy God, thou
shalt have no other gods but Me,’ were spoken by God Himself.
Comp. also Acts vii. 38, 53; Gal. iii. 19; Heb. ii. 2.]
3. The Logos. Viewed in its bearing on New Testament
teaching, this part of Philo’s system raises the most
interesting questions. But it is just here that our
difficulties are greatest. We can understand the Platonic
conception of the Logos as the ‘archetypal idea,’ and that of
the Stoics as the ‘world-reason’ pervading matter. Similarly,
we can perceive, how the Apocrypha, especially the Book of.Wisdom, following up the Old Testament typical truth
concerning „Wisdom’ (as specially set forth in the Book of
Proverbs) almost arrived so far as to present ‘Wisdom’ as a
special ‘Subsistence’ (hypostatising it). More than this, in
Talmudical writings, we find mention not only of the Shem, or
‘Name,’ [2 Hammejuchad, ‘appropriatum;’ hammephorash,
‘expositum,’ ‘separatum,’ the ‘tetragrammaton,’ or
four-lettered name, There was also a Shem with ‘twelve,’ and
one with ‘forty-two’ letters (Kidd. 71 a).] but also of the
Shekhinah,’ God as manifest and present, which is sometimes
also presented as the Ruach ha Qodesh, or Holy Spirit. [a Or
Ruach ham Maqom, Ab. iii. 10, and frequently in the Talmud.]
But in the Targumim we eet yet another expression, which,
strange to say, never occurs in the Talmud. [1 Levy (Neuhebr.
Worterb. i. p. 374 a.) seems to imply that in the Midrash the
term dibbur occupies the same place and meaning. But with all
deference I cannot agree with this opinion, nor do the
passages quoted bear it out.] It is that of the Memra, Logos,
or ‘Word.’ Not that the term is exclusively applied to the
Divine Logos. [2 The ‘word,’ as spoken, is distinguished from
the ‘Word’ as speaking, or revealing Himself. The former is
generally designated by the term ‘pithgama.’ Thus in Gen. XV.
1, ‘After these words (things) came the „pithgama” of Jehovah
to Abram in prophecy, saying, Fear not, Abram, My „Memra”
shall be thy strength, and thy very great reward.’ Still, the
term Memra, as applied not only to man, but also in reference
to God, is not always the equivalent of ‘the Logos.’] But it
stands out as perhaps the most remarkable fact in this
literature, that God, not as in His permanent manifestation,
or manifest Presence, but as revealing Himself, is designated
Memra. Altogether that term, as applied to God, occurs in the
Targum Onkelos 179 times, in the so-called Jerusalem Targum
99 times, and in the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 321 times. A
critical analysis shows that in 82 instances in Onkelos, in
71 instances in the Jerusalem Targum, and in 213 instances in
the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, the designation Memra is not only
distinguished from God, but evidently refers to God as
revealing Himself. [3 The various passages in the Targum of
Onkelos, the Jerusalem, and the Pseudo-Jonathan Targum on the
Pentateuch will be found enumerated and classified, as those
in which it is a doubtful, a fair, or an unquestionable
inference, that the word Memra is intended for God revealing
Himself, in Appendix II.: ‘Philo and Rabbinic Theology.’] But
what does this imply? The distinction between God and the
Memra of Jehovah is marked in many passages. [4 As, for
example, Gen. xxviii. 21, ‘the Memra of Jehovah shall be my
God.’] Similarly, the Memra of Jehovah is distinguished from
the Shekhinah. [5 As, for example, Num. xxiii. 21, ‘the Memra
of Jehovah their God is their helper, and the Shekhinah of
their King is in the midst of them.’] Nor is the term used
instead of the sacred word Jehovah; [6 That term is often
used by Onkelos. Besides, the expression itself is ‘the Memra
of Jehovah.’] nor for the well-known Old Testament expression
‘the Angel of the Lord; [7 Onkelos only once (in Ex. iv. 24)
paraphrases Jehovah by ‘Malakha.’] nor yet for the Metatron
of the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and of the Talmud. [8 Metatron,
either = , or In the Talmud it is applied to the Angel of.Jehovah (Ex. xxiii. 20), ‘the Prince of the World,’ ‘the
Prince of the Face’ or ‘of the Presence,’ as they call him;
he who sits in the innermost chamber before God, while the
other angels only hear His commands from behind the veil
(Chag. 15 a; 16 a; Toseft. ad Chull. 60 a; Jeb. 16 b). This
Metatron of the Talmud and the Kabbalah is also the Adam
Qadmon, or archetypal man.] Does it then represent an older
tradition underlying all these? [9 Of deep interest is
Onkelos’ rendering of Deut. xxxiii. 27, where, instead of
‘underneath are the everlasting arms,’ Onkelos has, ‘and by
His Memra was the world created,’ exactly as in St John i.
10. Now this divergence of Onkelos from the Hebrew text seems
unaccountable. Winer, whose inaugural dissertation, ‘De
Onkeloso ejusque paraph. Chald.’ Lips. 1820, most modern
writers have followed (with amplifications, chiefly from
Luzzato’s Philoxenus), makes no reference to this passage,
nor do his successors, so far as I know.
It is curious that, as our present Hebrew text of this verse
consists of three words, so does the rendering of Onkelos,
and that both end with the same word. Is the rendering of
Onkelos then a paraphrase, or does it represent another
reading? Another interesting passage is Deut. viii. 3. Its
quotation by Christ in St. Matt. iv. 4 is deeply interesting,
as read in the light of the rendering of Onkelos, ‘Not by
bread alone is man sustained, but by every forthcoming Memra
from before Jehovah shall man live.’ Yet another rendering of
Onkelos is significantly illustrative of 1 Cor. x. 1-4. He
renders Deut. xxxiii. 3 ‘with power He brought them out of
Egypt; they were led under thy cloud; they journeyed
according to (by) thy Memra.’ Does this represent a
difference in Hebrew from the admittedly difficult text in
our present Bible? Winer refers to it as an instance in which
Onkelos ‘suopte ingenio et copiose admodum eloquitur vatum
divinorum mentem,’ adding, ‘ita ut de his, quas singulis
vocibus inesse crediderit, significationibus non possit recte
judicari;’ and Winer’s successors say much the same. But this
is to state, not to explain, the difficulty. In general, we
may here be allowed to say that the question of the Targumim
has scarcely received as yet sufficient treatment. Mr.
Deutsch’s Article in Smith’s ‘Dictionary of the Bible’ (since
reprinted in his ‘Remains’) is, though brilliantly written,
unsatisfactory. Dr. Davidson (in Kitto’s Cyclop., vol. iii.
pp. 948-966) is, as always, careful, laborious, and learned.
Dr. Volck’s article (in Herzog’s Real-Encykl., vol. xv. pp.
672-683) is without much intrinsic value, though painstaking.
We mention these articles, besides the treatment of the
subject in the Introduction to the Old Testament (Keil, De
Wette-Schrader, Bleek-kamphausen, Reuss), and the works of
Zunz, Geiger, Noldeke, and others, to whom partial reference
has already been made. Frankel’s interesting and learned book
(Zu dem Targum der Propheten) deals almost exclusively with
the Targum Jonathan, on which it was impossible to enter
within our limits. As modern brochures of interest the
following three may be mentioned: Maybaum, Anthropomorphien
bei Onkelos; Gronemann, Die Jonath. Pentat. Uebers. im
Verhaltn. z. Halacha; and Singer, Onkelos im Verhaltn. z.
Halacha.] Beyond this Rabbinic theology has not preserved the doctrine of Personal distinctions in the Godhead. And
yet, if words have any meaning, the Memra is a hypostasis,
though the distinction of permanent, personal Subsistence is
not marked. Nor yet, to complete this subject, is the Memra
identified with the Messiah. In the Targum Onkelos distinct
mention is twice made of Him, [a Gen. xlix. 10, 11; Num.
xxiv. 17.] while in the other Targumim no fewer than
seventy-one Biblical passages are rendered with explicit
reference to Him.
If we now turn to the views expressed by Philo about the
Logos we find that they are hesitating, and even
contradictory. One thing, however, is plain: the Logos of
Philo is not the Memra of the Targumim. For, the expression
Memra ultimately rests on theological, that of Logos on
philosophical grounds. Again, the Logos of Philo approximates
more closely to the Metatron of the Talmud and Kabbalah. As
they speak of him as the ‘Prince of the Face,’ who bore the
name of his Lord, so Philo represents the Logos as ‘the
eldest Angel,’ ‘the many-named Archangel,’ in accordance with
the Jewish view that the name JeHoVaH unfolded its meaning in
seventy names for the Godhead. [1 See the enumeration of
these 70 Names in the Baal-ha-Turim on Numb. xi. 16.] As they
speak of the ‘Adam Qadmon,’ so Philo of the Logos as the
human reflection of the eternal God. And in both these
respects, it is worthy of notice that he appeals to ancient
teaching. [2 Comp. Siegfried, u. s., pp. 221-223.]
What, then, is the Logos of Philo? Not a concrete
personality, and yet, from another point of view, not
strictly impersonal, nor merely a property of the Deity, but
the shadow, as it were, which the light of God casts–and if
Himself light, only the manifested reflection of God, His
spiritual, even as the world is His material, habitation.
Moreover, the Logos is ‘the image of God’ ( ) upon which man
was made, [a Gen. i. 27.] or, to use the platonic term, ‘the
archetypal idea.’ As regards the relation between the Logos
and the two fundamental Potencies (from which all others
issue), the latter are variously represented, on the one
hand, as proceeding from the Logos; and on the other, as
themselves constituting the Logos. As regards the world, the
Logos is its real being. He is also its archetype; moreover
the instrument ( ) through Whom God created all things. If
the Logos separates between God and the world, it is rather
as intermediary; He separates, but He also unites. But
chiefly does this hold true as regards the relation between
God and man. The Logos announces and interprets to man the
will and mind of God ( ) He acts as mediator; He is the real
High-Priest, and as such by His purity takes away the sins of
man, and by His intercession procures for us the mercy of
God, Hence Philo designates Him not only as the High-Priest,
but as the ‘Paraclete.’ He is also the sun whose rays
enlighten man, the medium of Divine revelation to the soul;
the Manna, or support of spiritual life; He Who dwells in the
soul. And so the Logos is, in the fullest sense, Melchisedek,
the priest of the most high God, the king of righteousness ,
and the king of Salem Who brings righteousness and peace to.the soul. [b De Leg. Alleg. iii 25,26.] But the Logos ‘does
not come into any soul that is dead in sin.’ That there is
close similarity of form between these Alexandrian views and
much in the argumentation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, must
be evident to all, no less than that there is the widest
possible divergence in substance and spirit. [1 For a full
discussion of this similarity of form and divergence of
spirit, between Philo, or, rather, between Alexandrianism,
and the Epistle to the Hebrews, the reader is referred to the
masterly treatise by Riehm (Der Lehrbegriff d. Hebraerbr. ed.
1867, especially pp. 247-268, 411-424, 658-670, and 855-860).
The author’s general view on the subject is well and
convincingly formulated on p. 249. We must, however, add, in
opposition to Riehm, that, by his own showing the writer of
the Epistle to the Hebrews displays few traces of a
Palestinian training.] The Logos of Philo is shadowy, unreal,
not a Person; [2 On the subject of Philo’s Logos generally
the brochure of Harnoch (Konigsberg, 1879) deserves perusal,
although it does not furnish much that is new. In general,
the student of Philo ought especially to study the sketch by
Zeller in his Philosophie der Gr. vol. iii. pt. ii. 3rd ed.
pp. 338-418.] there is no need of an atonement; the
High-Priest intercedes, but has no sacrifice to offer as the
basis of His intercession, least of all that of Himself; the
old Testament types are only typical ideas, not typical
facts; they point to a Prototypal Idea in the eternal past,
not to an Antitypal Person and Fact in history; there is no
cleansing of the soul by blood, no sprinkling of the Mercy
Seat, no access for all through the rent veil into the
immediate Presence of God; nor yet a quickening of the soul
from dead works to serve the living God. If the argumentation
of the Epistle to the Hebrews is Alexandrian, it is an
Alexandrianism which is overcome and past, which only
furnishes the form, not the substance, the vessel, not its
contents. The closer therefore the outward similarity, the
greater is the contrast in substance.
The vast difference between Alexandrianism and the New
Testament will appear still more clearly in the views of
Philo on Cosmology and Anthropology. In regard to the former,
his results in some respects run parallel to those of the
students of mysticism in the Talmud, and of the Kabbalists.
Together with the Stoic view, which represented God as ‘the
active cause’ of this world, and matter as ‘the passive,’
Philo holds the Platonic idea, that matter was something
existent, and that is resisted God. [1 With singular and
characteristic inconsistency, Philo, however, ascribes also
to God the creation of matter (de Somn. i. 13).] Such
speculations must have been current among the Jews long
before, to judge by certain warning given by the Son of
Sirach. [a As for example Ecclus. iii. 21-24.] [2 So the
Talmudists certainly understood it, Jer. Chag. ii. 1.] And
Stoic views of the origin of the world seem implied even in
the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon (i. 7; vii. 24; viii. 1;
xii. 1). [3 Comp. Grimm, Exeg. Handb. zu d. Apokr., Lief. vi.
pp. 55, 56.] The mystics in the Talmud arrived at similar
conclusions, not through Greek, but through Persian teaching..Their speculations [4 They were arranged into those
concerning the Maasey Bereshith (Creation), and the Maasey
Merkabbah, ‘the chariot’ of Ezekiel’s vision (Providence in
the widest sense, or God’s manifestation in the created
world).] boldly entered on the dangerous ground, [5 Of the
four celebrities who entered the ‘Pardes,’ or enclosed
Paradise of theosophic speculation, one became an apostate,
another died, a third went wrong (Ben Soma), and only Akiba
escaped unscathed, according to the Scripture saying, ‘Draw
me, and we will run’ (Chag. 14 b).] forbidden to the many,
scarcely allowed to the few, [6 ‘It is not lawful to enter
upon the Maasey Bereshith in presence of two, nor upon the
Merkabhah in presence of one, unless he be a „sage,” and
understands of his own knowledge. Any one who ratiocinates on
these four things, it were better for him that he had not
been born: What is above and what is below; what was afore,
and what shall be hereafter.’ (Chag. ii. 1).] where such deep
questions as the origin of our world and its connection with
God were discussed. It was, perhaps, only a beautiful poetic
figure that God had taken of the dust under the throne of His
glory, and cast it upon the waters, which thus became earth.
[b Shem. R. 13.] But so far did isolated teachers become
intoxicated [1 ‘Ben Soma went astray (mentally): he shook the
(Jewish) world.’] by the new wine of these strange
speculations, that they whispered it to one another that
water was the original element of the world, [2 That
criticsm, which one would designate as impertinent, which
would find this view in 2 Peter iii. 5, is, alas! not
confined to Jewish writers, but hazarded even by De Wette.]
which had successively been hardened into snow and then into
earth. [a Jer. Chag. 77a] [3 Judah bar Pazi, in the second
century. Ben Soma lived in the first century of our era.]
Other and later teachers fixed upon the air or the fire as
the original element, arguing the pre-existence of matter
from the use of the word ‘made’ in Gen. i. 7. instead of
‘created.’ Some modified this view, and suggested that God
had originally created the three elements of water, air or
spirit, and fire, from which all else was developed. [4
According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Ber. i. I) the firmament
was at first soft, and only gradually became hard. According
to Ber. R. 10, God created the world from a mixture of fire
and snow, other Rabbis suggesting four original elements,
according to the quarters of the globe, or else six, adding
to them that which is above and that which is below. A very
curious idea is that of R. Joshua ben Levi, according to
which all the works of creation were really finished on the
first day, and only, as it were, extended on the other days.
This also represents really a doubt of the Biblical account
of creation. Strange though it may sound, the doctrine of
development was derived from the words (Gen. ii. 4). ‘These
are the generations of heaven and earth when they were
created, in the day when Jahveh Elohim made earth and
heavens.’ It was argued, that the expression implied, they
were developed from the day in which they had been created.
Others seem to have held, that the three principal things
that were created, earth, heaven, and water, remained, each
for three days, at the end of which they respectively.developed what is connected with them (Ber. R. 12).] Traces
also occur of the doctrine of the pre-existence of things, in
a sense similar to that of Plato. [b Ber. R. i.]
Like Plato and the Stoics, Philo regarded matter as devoid
of all quality, and even form. Matter in itself was dead,
more than that, it was evil. This matter, which was already
existing, God formed (not made), like an architect who uses
his materials according to a pre-existing plan, which in this
case was the archetypal world.
This was creation, or rather formation, brought about not by
God Himself, but by the Potencies, especially by the Logos,
Who was the connecting bond of all. As for God, His only
direct work was the soul, and that only of the good, not of
the evil. Man’s immaterial part had a twofold aspect:
carthwards, as Sensuousness; and heavenwards, as Reason. The
sensuous part of the soul was connected with the body. It had
no heavenly past, and would have no future. But ‘Reason’ was
that breath of true life which God had breathed into man
whereby the earthy became the higher, living spirit, with its
various faculties. Before time began the soul was without
body, an archetype, the ‘heavenly man,’ pure spirit in
Paradise (virtue), yet even so longing after its ultimate
archetype, God. Some of these pure spirits descended into
bodies and so lost their purity. Or else, the union was
brought about by God and by powers lower than God (daemons).
To the latter is due our earthly part. God breathed on the
formation, and the ‘earthly Reason’ became ‘intelligent’
‘spiritual’ soul Our earthly part alone is the seat of sin.
[1 For further notices on the Cosmology and Anthropology of
Philo, see Appendix II.: ‘Philo and Rabbinic Theology.’]
This leads us to the great question of Original Sin. Here the
views of Philo are those of the Eastern Rabbis. But both are
entirely different from those on which the argument in the
Epistle to the Romans turns. It was neither at the feet of
Gamaliel, nor yet from Jewish Hellenism, that Saul of Tarsus
learned the doctrine of original sin. The statement that as
in Adam all spiritually died, so in Messiah all should be
made alive, [2 We cannot help quoting the beautiful Haggadic
explanation of the name Adam, according to its three letters,
A, D, M, as including these three names, Adam, David,
Messiah.] finds absolutely no parallel in Jewish writings. [3
Raymundus Martini, in his ‘Pugio Fidei’ (orig. ed. p. 675;
ed. Voisin et Carpzov, pp. 866, 867), quotes from the book
Siphre: ‘Go and learn the merit of Messiah the King, and the
reward of the righteous from the first Adam, on whom was laid
only one commandment of a prohibitive character, and he
transgressed it. See how many deaths were appointed on him,
and on his generations, and on the generations of his
generations to the end of all generations. (Wunsche, Leiden
d. Mess. p. 65, makes here an unwarrantable addition, in his
translation.) But which attribute (measuring?) is the
greater, the attribute of goodness or the attribute of
punishment (retribution)? He answered, the attribute of
goodness is the greater, and the attribute of punishment the
less. And Messiah the King, who was chastened and suffered.for the transgressors, as it is said, „He was wounded for our
transgressions,” and so on, how much more shall He justify
(make righteous, by His merit) all generations; and this is
what is meant when it is written, „And Jehovah made to meet
upon Him the sin of us all.”‘ We have rendered this passage
as literally as possible, but we are bound to add that it is
not found in any now existing copy of Siphre.] What may be
called the starting point of Christian theology, the doctrine
of hereditary guilt and sin, through the fall of Adam, and of
the consequent entire and helplesss corruption of our nature,
is entirely unknown to Rabbinical Judaism. The reign of
physical death was indeed traced to the sin of our first
parents. [4 Death is not considered an absolute evil. In
short, all the various consequences which Rabbinical writings
ascribe to the sin of Adam may be designated either as
physical, or, if mental, as amounting only to detriment,
loss, or imperfectness. These results had been partially
counteracted by Abraham, and would be fully removed by the
Messiah. Neither Enoch nor Elijah had sinned, and accordingly
they did not die. Comp. generally, Hamburger, Geist d. Agada,
pp. 81-84, and in regard to death as connected with Adam, p.
85.] But the Talmud expressly teaches, [a Ber. 61 a] that God
originally created man withtwo propensities, [5 These are
also hypostatised as Angels. Comp. Levy, Chald. Worterb. p.
342 a; Neuhebr. Worterb. p. 259, a, b.] one to good and one
to evil (Yetser tobh, and Yetser hara [6 Or with ‘two reins,’
the one, advising to good, being at his right, the other,
counselling evil, at his left, according to Eccles. x. 2
(Ber. 61 a, towards the end of the page).] The evil impulse
began immediately after birth. [b Sanh. 91 b] [7 In a sense
its existence was necessary for the continuance of this
world. The conflict between these two impulses constituted
the moral life of man.] But it was within the power of man to
vanquish sin, and to attain perfect righteousness; in fact,
this stage had actually been attained. [1 The solitary
exception here is 4 Esdras, where the Christian doctrine of
original sin is most strongly expressed, being evidently
derived from New Testament teaching. Comp. especially 4
Esdras (our Apocryphal 2 Esdras) vii. 46-53, and other
passages. Wherein the hope of safety lay, appears in ch. ix.]
Similarly, Philo regarded the soul of the child as ‘naked’
(Adam and Eve), a sort of tabula rasa, as wax which God would
fain form and mould. But this state ceased when ‘affection’
presented itself to reason, and thus sensuous lust arose,
which was the spring of all sin. The grand task, then, was to
get rid of the sensuous, and to rise to the spiritual. In
this, the ethical part of his system, Philo was most under
the influence of Stoic philosophy. We might almost say, it is
no longer the Hebrew who Hellenises, but the Hellene who
Hebraises. And yet it is here also that the most ingenious
and widereaching allegorisms of Scripture are introduced. It
is scarcely possible to convey an idea of how brilliant this
method becomes in the hands of Philo, how universal its
application, or how captivating it must have proved. Philo
describes man’s state as, first one of sensuousness, but also
of unrest, misery and unsatisfied longing. If persisted in,.it would end in complete spiritual insensibility. [2
Symbolised by Lot’s wife.] But from this state the soul must
pass to one of devotion to reason. [3 Symbolised by Ebher,
Hebrew.] This change might be accomplished in one of three
ways: first, by study, of which physical was the lowest;
next, that which embraced the ordinary circle of knowledge;
and lastly, the highest, that of Divine philosophy. The
second method was Askesis: discipline, or practice, when the
soul turned from the lower to the higher. But the best of all
was the third way: the free unfolding of that spiritual life
which cometh neither from study nor discipline, but from a
natural good disposition. And in that state the soul had true
rest [4 The Sabbath, Jerusalem.] and joy. [5 For further
details on these points see Appendix II.: ‘Philo and Rabbinic
Here we must for the present pause. [6 The views of Philo on
the Messiah will be presented in another connection.] Brief
as this sketch of Hellenism has been, it must have brought
the question vividly before the mind, whether and how far
certain parts of the New Testament, especially the fourth
Gospel, [7 This is not the place to enter on the question of
the composition, date, and authorship of the four Gospels.
But as regards the point on which negative criticism has of
late spoken strongest, and on which, indeed (as Weiss rightly
remarks) the very existence of ‘the Tubingen School’ depends,
that of the Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel, I
would refer to Weiss, Leben Jesu (1882: vol. i. pp. 84-139),
and to Dr. Salmon’s Introd. to the New Test. pp. 266-365.]
are connected with the direction of thought described in the
preceding pages. Without yielding to that school of critics,
whose perverse ingenuity discerns everywhere a sinister
motive or tendency in the Evangelic writers, [1 No one not
acquainted with this literature can imagine the character of
the arguments sometimes used by a certain class of critics.
To say that they proceed on the most forced perversion of the
natural and obvious meaning of passages, is but little. But
one cannot restrain moral indignation on finding that to
Evangelists and Apostles is imputed, on such grounds, not
only systematic falsehood, but falsehood with the most
sinister motives.] it is evident that each of them had a
special object in view in constructing his narrative of the
One Life; and primarily addressed himself to a special
audience. If, without entering into elaborate discussion, we
might, according to St. Luke i. 2, regard the narrative of
St. Mark as the grand representative of that authentic
‘narration’, though not by Apostles, [2 I do not, of course,
mean that the narration of St. Mark was not itself derived
chiefly from Apostolic preaching, especially that of St.
Peter. In general, the question of the authorship and source
of the various Gospels must be reserved for separate
treatment in another place.] which was in circulation, and
the Gospel by St. Matthew as representing the ‘tradition’
handed down, by the Apostolic eye-witnesses and ministers of
the Word, [3 Comp. Mangold’s ed.of Bleek, Einl. in d. N.T.
(3te Aufl. 1875), p. 346.] we should reach the following
results. Our oldest Gospel-narrative is that by St. Mark,.which, addressing itself to no class in particular, sketches
in rapid outlines the picture of Jesus as the Messiah, alike
for all men. Next in order of time comes our present Gospel
by St. Matthew. It goes a step further back than that by St.
Mark, and gives not only the genealogy, but the history of
the miraculous birth of Jesus. Even if we had not the
consensus of tradition, every one must feel that this Gospel
is Hebrew in its cast, in its citations from the Old
Testament, and in its whole bearing. Taking its key-note from
the Book of Daniel, that grand Messianic text-book of Eastern
Judaism at the time, and as re-echoed in the Book of Enoch,
which expresses the popular apprehension of Daniel’s
Messianic idea, it presents the Messiah chiefly as ‘the Son
of Man,’ ‘the Son of David,’ ‘the Son of God.’ We have here
the fulfilment of Old Testament law and prophecy; the
realisation of Old Testament life, faith, and hope. Third in
point of time is the Gospel by St. Luke, which, passing back
another step, gives us not only the history of the birth of
Jesus, but also that of John, ‘the preparer of the way.’ It
is Pauline, and addresses itself, or rather, we should say,
presents the Person of the Messiah, it may be ‘to the Jew
first,’ but certainly ‘also to the Greek.’ The term which St.
Luke, alone of all Gospel writers, [4 With the sole exception
of St. Matt. xii. 18, where the expression is a quotation
from the LXX. of Is. xlii. 1.] applies to Jesus, is that of
the or ‘servant’ of God, in the sense in which Isaiah has
spoken of the Messiah as the ‘Ebhed Jehovah,’ ‘servant of the
Lord.’ St. Luke’s is, so to speak, the Isaiah-Gospel,
presenting the Christ in His bearing on the history of God’s
Kingdom and of the world, as God’s Elect Servant in Whom He
delighted. In the Old Testament, to adopt a beautiful figure,
[1 First expressed by Delitzsch (Bibl. Comm. u. d. Proph.
Jes. p. 414), and then adopted by Oehler (Theol.
d. A. Test. vol. ii. pp. 270-272).] the idea of the Servant
of the Lord is set before us like a pyramid: at its base it
is all Israel, at its central section Israel after the Spirit
(the circumcised in heart), represented by David, the man
after God’s own heart; while at its apex it is the ‘Elect’
Servant, the Messiah. [2 The two fundamental principles in
the history of the Kingdom of God are selection and
development. It is surely remarkable, not strange, that these
are also the two fundamental truths in the history of that
other Kingdom of God, Nature, if modern science has read them
correctly. These two substantives would mark the facts as
ascertained; the adjectives, which are added to them by a
certain class of students, mark only their inferences from
these facts. These facts may be true, even if as yet
incomplete, although the inferences may be false. Theology
should not here rashly interfere. But whatever the ultimate
result, these two are certainly the fundamental facts in the
history of the Kingdom of God, and, marking them as such, the
devout philosopher may rest contented.] And these three
ideas, with their sequences, are presented in the third
Gospel as centring in Jesus the Messiah. By the side of this
pyramid is the other: the Son of Man, the Son of David, the
Son of God. The Servant of the Lord of Isaiah and of Luke is
the Enlightener, the Consoler, the victorious Deliverer; the.Messiah or Anointed: the Prophet, the Priest, the King.
Yet another tendency, shall we say, want?, remained, so to
speak, unmet and unsatisfied. That large world of latest and
most promising Jewish thought, whose task it seemed to bridge
over the chasm between heathenism and Judaism, the Western
Jewish world, must have the Christ presented to them. For in
every direction is He the Christ. And not only they, but that
larger Greek world, so far as Jewish Hellenism could bring it
to the threshold of the Church. This Hellenistic and Hellenic
world now stood in waiting to enter it, though as it were by
its northern porch, and to be baptized at its font. All this
must have forced itself on the mind of St. John, residing in
the midst of them at Ephesus, even as St. Paul’s Epistles
contain almost as many allusions to Hellenism as to
Rabbinism. [3 The Gnostics, to whom, in the opinion of many,
so frequent references are made in the writings of St. John
and St. Paul, were only an offspring (rather, as the Germans
would term it, an Abart) of Alexandrianism on the one hand,
and on the other of Eastern notions, which are so largely
embodied in the later Kabbalah.] And so the fourth Gospel
became, not the supplement, but the complement, of the other
three. [1 A complement, not a supplement, as many critics put
it (Ewald, Weizsacker, and even Hengstenberg), least of all a
rectification (Godet, Evang. Joh. p. 633).] There is no other
Gospel more Palestinian than this in its modes of expression,
allusions, and references. Yet we must all feel how
thoroughly Hellenistic it also is in its cast, [2 Keim (Leben
Jesu von Nazara, i. a, pp. 112-114) fully recognises this;
but I entirely differ from the conclusions of his analytical
comparison of Philo with the fourth Gospel.] in what it
reports and what it omits, in short, in its whole aim; how
adapted to Hellenist wants its presentation of deep central
truths; how suitably, in the report of His Discourses, even
so far as their form is concerned, the promise was here
fulfilled, of bringing all things to remembrance whatsoever
He had said. [a St. John xiv. 26] It is the true Light which
shineth, of which the full meridian-blaze lies on the
Hellenist and Hellenic world. There is Alexandrian form of
thought not only in the whole conception, but in the Logos,
[3 The student who has carefully considered the views
expressed by Philo about the Logos, and analysed, as in the
Appendix, the passages in the Targumim in which the word
Memra occurs, cannot fail to perceive the immense difference
in the presentation of the Logos by St. John. Yet M. Renan,
in an article in the ‘Contemporary Review’ for September
1877, with utter disregard of the historical evidence on the
question, maintains not only the identity of these three sets
of ideas, but actually grounds on it his argument against the
authenticity of the fourth Gospel. Considering the importance
of the subject, it is not easy to speak with moderation of
assertions so bold based on statements so entirely
inaccurate.] and in His presentation as the Light, the Life,
the Wellspring of the world. [4 Dr. Bucher, whose book, Des
Apostels Johannes Lehre vom Logos, deserves careful perusal,
tries to trace the reason of these peculiarities as indicated
in the Prologue of the fourth Gospel. Bucher great length between the Logos of Philo and of the fourth
Gospel. He sums up his views by stating that in the Prologue
of St. John the Logos is presented as the fulness of Divine
Light and Life. This is, so to speak, the theme, while the
Gospel history is intended to present the Logos as the giver
of this Divine Light and Life. While the other Evangelists
ascend from the manifestation to the idea of the Son of God,
St. John descends from the idea of the Logos, as expressed in
the Prologue, to its concrete realisation in His history. The
latest tractate (at the present writing, 1882) on the Gospel
of St. John, by Dr. Muller, Die Johann. Frage, gives a good
summary of the argument on both sides, and deserves the
careful attention of students of the question.] But these
forms are filled in the fourth Gospel with quite other
substance. God is not afar off, uncognisable by man, without
properties, without name. He is the Father. Instead of a
nebulous reflection of the Deity we have the Person of the
Logos; not a Logos with the two potencies of goodness and
power, but full of grace and truth. The Gospel of St. John
also begins with a ‘Bereshith’, but it is the theological,
not the cosmic Bereshith, when the Logos was with God and was
God. Matter is not pre-existent; far less is it evil. St.
John strikes the pen through Alexandrianism when he lays it
down as the fundamental fact of New Testament history that
‘the Logos was made flesh,’ just as St. Paul does when he
proclaims the great mystery of ‘God manifest in the flesh.’
Best of all, it is not by a long course of study, nor by
wearing discipline, least of all by an inborn good
disposition, that the soul attains the new life, but by a
birth from above, by the Holy Ghost, and by simple faith
which is brought within reach of the fallen and the lost. [1
I cannot agree with Weiss (u. s., p. 122) that the great
object of the fourth Gospel was to oppose the rising Gnostic
movement, This may have been present to the Apostle’s mind,
as evidenced in his Epistle, but the object in view could not
have been mainly, nor even primarily, negative and
Philo had no successor. In him Hellenism had completed its
cycle. Its message and its mission were ended. Henceforth it
needed, like Apollos, its great representative in the
Christian Church, two things: the baptism of John to the
knowledge of sin and need, and to have the way of God more
perfectly expounded. [a Acts xviii 24-28] On the other hand,
Eastern Judaism had entered with Hillel on a new stage. This
direction led farther and farther away from that which the
New Testament had taken in following up and unfolding the
spiritual elements of the Old. That development was incapable
of transformation or renovation. It must go on to its final
completion, and be either true, or else be swept away and
We have spoken of Alexandria as the capital of the Jewish
world in the West. Antioch was, indeed, nearer to Palestine,
and its Jewish population, including the floating part of it,
as numerous as that of Alexandria. But the wealth, the
thought, and the influence of Western Judaism centred in the
modern capital of the land of the Pharaohs. In those days
Greece was the land of the past, to which the student might
resort as the home of beauty and of art, the timehallowed
temple of thought and of poetry. But it was also the land of
desolateness and of ruins, where fields of corn waved over
the remains of classic antiquity. The ancient Greeks had in
great measure sunk to a nation of traders, in keen
competition with the Jews. Indeed, Roman sway had levelled
the ancient world, and buried its national characteristics.
It was otherwise in the far East; it was otherwise also in
Egypt. Egypt was not a land to be largely inhabited, or to be
‘civilised’ in the then sense of the term: soil, climate,
history, nature forbade it. Still, as now, and even more than
now, was it the dream-land of untold attractions to the
traveller. The ancient, mysterious Nile still rolled its
healing waters out into the blue sea, where (so it was
supposed) they changed its taste within a radius farther than
the eye could reach. To be gently borne in bark or ship on
its waters, to watch the strange vegetation and fauna of its
banks; to gaze beyond, where they merged into the trackless
desert; to wander under the shade of its gigantic monuments,
or within the wierd avenues of its colossal temples, to see
the scroll of mysterious hieroglyphics; to note the sameness
of manner and of people as of old, and to watch the unique
rites of its ancient religion, this was indeed to be again in
the old far-away world, and that amidst a dreaminess
bewitching the senses, and a gorgeousness dazzling the
imagination. [1 What charm Egypt had for the Romans may be
gathered from so many of their mosaics and frescoes. Comp.
Friedlander, u. s. vol. ii. pp. 134-136.
We are still far out at sea, making for the port of
Alexandria, the only safe shelter all along the coast of Asia
and Africa. Quite thirty miles out the silver sheen of the
lighthouse on the island of Pharos [1 This immense lighthous
was square up to the middle, then covered by an octagon, the
top being round. The last recorded repairs to this
magnificent structure of blocks of marble were made in the
year 1303 of our era.], connected by a mole with Alexandria,
is burning like a star on the edge of the horizon. Now we
catch sight of the palmgroves of Pharos; presently the anchor
rattles and grates on the sand, and we are ashore. What crowd
of vessels of all sizes, shapes and nationalities; what a
multitude of busy people; what a very Babel of languages;
what a commingling of old and new world civilisation; and
what a variety of wares piled up, loading or unloading!
Alexandria itself was not an old Egyptian, but a.comparatively modern, city; in Egypt and yet not of Egypt.
Everything was in character, the city, its inhabitants,
public life, art, literature, study, amusements, the very
aspect of the place. Nothing original anywhere, but
combination of all that had been in the ancient world, or
that was at the time, most fitting place therefore to be the
capital of Jewish Hellenism.
As its name indicates, the city was founded by Alexander the
Great. It was built in the form of an open fan, or rather, of
the outspread cloak of a Macedonian horseman. Altogether, it
measured (16,360 paces) 3,160 paces more than Rome; but its
houses were neither so crowded nor so many-storied. It had
been a large city when Rome was still inconsiderable, and to
the last held the second place in the Empire. One of the five
quarters into which the city was divided, and which were
named according to the first letters of the alphabet, was
wholly covered by the royal palaces, with their gardens, and
similar buildings, including the royal mausoleum, where the
body of Alexander the Great, preserved in honey, was kept in
a glass coffin. But these, and its three miles of colonnades
along the principal highway, were only some of the
magnificent architectural adornments of a city full of
palaces. The population amounted, probably, to nearly a
million, drawn from the East and West by trade, the
attractions of wealth, the facilities for study, or the
amusements of a singularly frivolous city. A strange mixture
of elements among the people, combining the quickness and
versatility of the Greek with the gravity, the conservatism,
the dream-grandeur, and the luxury of the Eastern.
Three worlds met in Alexandria: Europe, Asia, and Africa;
and brought to it, or fetched from it, their treasures. Above
all, it was a commercial city, furnished with an excellent
harbour, or rather with five harbours. A special fleet
carried, as tribute, from Alexandria to Italy, two-tenths of
the corn produce of Egypt, which sufficed to feed the capital
for four months of the year. A magnificent fleet it was, from
the light quick sailer to those immense corn-ships which
hoisted a special flag, and whose early arrival was awaited
at Puteoli [1 The average passage from Alexandria to Puteoli
was twelve days, the ships touching at Malta and in Sicily.
It was in such a ship, the ‘Castor and Pollux’ carrying
wheat, that St. Paul sailed from Malta to Puteoli, where it
would be among the first arrivals of the season.] with more
eagerness than that of any modern ocean-steamer. [2 They
bore, painted on the two sides of the prow, the emblems of
the gods to whom they were dedicated, and were navigated by
Egyptian pilots, the most reowned in the world. One of these
vessels is described as 180 by 45 feet and of about 1,575
tons, and is computed to have returned to its owner nearly
3,000l. annually. (Comp. Friedlander, u.s. vol. ii. p. 131,
&c.) And yet these were small ships compared with those built
for the conveyance of marble blocks and columns, and
especially of obelisks. One of these is said to have carried,
besides an obelisk, 1,200 passenger, a freight of paper,
nitre, pepper, linen, and a large cargo of wheat.] The.commerce of India was in the hands of the Alexandrian
shippers. [3 The journey took aboutthree months, either up
the Nile, thence by caravan, and again by sea; or else
perhaps by the Ptolemy Canal and the Red Sea.] Since the days
of the Ptolemies the Indian trade alone had increased
sixfold. [4 It included gold-dust, ivory, and mother-of-pearl
from the interior of Africa, spices from Arabia, pearls from
the Gulf of Persia, precious stones and byssus from India,
and silk from China.] Nor was the native industry
inconsiderable. Linen goods, to suit the tastes or costumes
of all countries; woolen stuffs of every hue, some curiously
wrought with figures, and even scenes; glass of every shade
and in every shape; paper from the thinnest sheet to the
coarsest packing paper; essences, perfumeries, such were the
native products. However idly or luxuriously inclined, still
every one seemed busy, in a city where (as the Emperor
Hadrian expressed it) ‘money was the people’s god;’ and every
one seemed well-to-do in his own way, from the waif in the
streets, who with little trouble to himself could pick up
sufficient to go to the restaurant and enjoy a comfortable
dinner of fresh or smoked fish with garlic, and his pudding,
washed down with the favourite Egyptian barley beer, up to
the millionaire banker, who owned a palace in the city and a
villa by the canal that connected Alexandria with Canobus.
What a jostling crowd of all nations in the streets, in the
market (where, according to the joke of a contemporary,
anything might be got except snow), or by the harbours; what
cool shades, delicious retreats, vast halls, magnificent
libraries, where the savants of Alexandria assembled and
taught every conceivable branch of learning, and its
far-famed physicians prescribed for the poor consumptive
patients sent thither from all parts of Italy! What bustle
and noise among that ever excitable, chatty conceited, vain,
pleasure-loving multitude, whose highest enjoyment was the
theatre and singers; what scenes on that long canal to
Canobus, lined with luxurious inns, where barks full of
pleasure-seekers revelled in the cool shade of the banks, or
sped to Canobus, that scene of all dissipation and luxury,
proverbial even in those days! And yet, close by, on the
shores of Lake Mareotis, as if in grim contrast, were the
chosen retreats of that sternly ascetic Jewish party, the
Therapeutae, [a On theexistence of the Therapeutes comp. Art.
Philo in Smith & Wace’s Dict. of Chr. Biogr. vol. iv.] whose
views and practices in so many points were kindred to those
of the Essenes in Palestine!
This sketch of Alexandria will help us to understand the
surroundings of the large mass of Jews settled in the
Egyptian capital. Altogether more than an eighth of the
population of the country (one million in 7,800,000) was
Jewish. Whether or not a Jewish colony had gone into Egypt at
the time of Nebuchadnezzar, or even earlier, the great mass
of its residents had been attracted by Alexander the Great,
[b Mommsen (Rom. Gesch. v. p. 489) ascribes this rather to
Ptolemy I.] who had granted the Jews equally exceptional
privileges with the Macedonians. The later troubles of
Palestine under the Syrian kings greatly swelled their.number, the more so that the Ptolemies, with one exception,
favoured them. Originally a special quarter had been assigned
to the Jews in the city, the ‘Delta’ by the eastern harbour
and the Canobus canal, probably alike to keep the community
separate, and from its convenience for commercial purposes.
The priveleges which the Ptolemies had accorded to the Jews
were confirmed, and even enlarged, by Julius Caesar. The
export trade in grain was now in their hands, and the harbour
and river police committed to their charge. Two quarters in
the city are named as specially Jewish, not, however, in the
sense of their being confined to them. Their Synagogues,
surrounded by shady trees, stood in all parts of the city.
But the chief glory of the Jewish community in Egypt, of
which even the Palestinians boasted, was the great central
Synagogue, built in the shape of a basilica, with double
colonnade, and so large that it needed a signal for those
most distant to know the proper moment for the responses. The
different trade guilds sat there together, so that a stranger
would at once know where to find Jewish employers or
fellow-workmen. [c Sukk. 51 b.] In the choir of this Jewish
cathedral stood seventy chairs of state, encrusted with
precious stones, for the seventy elders who constituted the
eldership of Alexandria, on the model of the great Sanhedrin
in Jerusalem.
It is a strange, almost inexplicable fact, that the Egyptian
Jews had actually built a schismatic Temple. During the
terrible Syrian persecutions in Palestine Onias, the son of
the murdered High-Priest Onias III., had sought safety in
Egypt. Ptolemy Philometor not only received him kindly, but
gave a disused heathen temple in the town of Leontopolis for
a Jewish sanctuary. Here a new Aaronic priesthood ministered,
their support being derived from the revenues of the district
around. The new Temple, however, resembled not that of
Jerusalem either in outward appearance nor in all its
internal fittings. [1 Instead of the seven-branched golden
candlestick there was a golden lamp, suspended from a chain
of the same metal.] At first the Egyptian Jews were very
proud of their new sanctuary, and professed to see in it the
fulfilment of the prediction, [a is xix. 18.] that five
cities in the land of Egypt should speak the language of
Canaan, of which one was to be called Ir-ha-Heres, which the
LXX. (in their original form, or by some later emendation)
altered into ‘the city of righteousness.’ This temple
continued from about 160 B.C. to shortly after the
destruction of Jerusalem. It could scarcely be called a rival
to that on Mount Moriah, since the Egyptian Jews also owned
that of Jerusalem as their central sanctuary, to which they
made pilgrimages and brought their contributions, [b Philo,
ii, 646, ed. Mangey.] while the priests at Leontopolis,
before marrying, always consulted the official archives in
Jerusalem to ascertain the purity of descent of their
intended wives. [c Jos. Ag. Ap. i. 7.] The Palestinians
designated it contemptuously as ‘the house of Chonyi’
(Onias), and declared the priesthood of Leontopolis incapable
of serving in Jerusalem, although on a par with those who
were disqualified only by some bodily defect. Offerings.brought in Leontopolis were considered null, unless in the
case of vows to which the name of this Temple had been
expressly attached. [d Men. xiii. 10, and the Gemara, 109 a
and b.] This qualified condemnation seems, however, strangely
mild, except on the supposition that the statements we have
quoted only date from a time when both Temples had long
passed away.
Nor were such feelings unreasonable. The Egyptian Jews had
spread on all sides, southward to Abyssinia and Ethiopia, and
westward to, and beyond, the province of Cyrene. In the city
of that name they formed one of the four classes into which
its inhabitants were divided. [e Strabo in Jos. Ant. xiv. 7,
2.] A Jewish inscription at Berenice, apparently dating from
the year 13 B.C., shows that the Cyrenian Jews formed a
distinct community under nine ‘rulers’ of their own, who no
doubt attended to the communal affairs, not always an easy
matter, since the Cyrenian Jews were noted, if not for
turbulence, yet for strong anti-Roman Roman feeling, which
more than once was cruelly quenched in blood. [1 Could there
have been any such meaning in laying the Roman cross which
Jesus had to bear upon a Cyrenian (St. Luke xxiii. 26)? A
symbolical meaning it certainly has, as we remember that the
last Jewish rebellion (132-135 A.D.), which had Bar Cochba
for its Messiah, first broke out in Cyrene. What terrible
vengeance was taken on those who followed the false Christ,
cannot here be told.] Other inscriptions prove, [2 Jewish
inscriptions have also been found in Mauritania and Algiers.]
that in other places of their dispersion also the Jews had
their own Archontes or ‘rulers,’ while the special direction
of public worship was always entrusted to the Archisynagogos,
or ‘chief ruler of the Synagogue,’ both titles occurring side
by side. [3 On a tombstone at Capua (Mommsen, Inscr. R. Neap.
3,657, apud Schurer, p 629). The subject is of great
importance as illustrating the rule of the Synagogue in the
days of Christ. Another designation on the gravestones seems
to refer solely to age, one being described as 110 years
old.] It is, to say the least, very doubtful, whether the
High-Priest at Leontopolis was ever regarded as, in any real
sense, the head of the Jewish community in Egypt. [4 Jost,
Gesch. d. Judenth. i. p. 345.] In Alexandria, the Jews were
under the rule of a Jewish Ethnarch, [5 Marquardt (Rom.
Staatsverwalt. vol. i. p. 297). Note 5 suggests that may here
mean classes, ordo.] whose authority was similar to that of
‘the Archon’ of independent cities. [a Strabo in Jos. Ant.
xiv. 7. 2] But his authority [6 The office itself would seem
to have been continued. (Jos. Ant. xix. 5. 2.)] was
transferred, by Augustus, to the whole ‘eldership.’ [b Philo,
in Flacc. ed. Mangey, ii 527] Another, probably Roman,
office, though for obvious reasons often filled by Jews, was
that of the Alabarch, or rather Arabarch, who was set over
the Arab population. [7 Comp. Wesseling, de Jud. Archont. pp.
63, &c., apud Schurer, pp. 627, 628.] Among others,
Alexander, the brother of Philo, held this post. If we may
judge of the position of the wealthy Jewish families in
Alexandria by that of this Alabarch, their influence must
have been very great. The firm of Alexander was probably as the great Jewish banking and shipping house of
Saramalla in Antioch. [c Jos. Antxiv. 13. 5; War. i. 13, 5]
Its chief was entrusted with the management of the affairs of
Antonia, the much respected sister-in-law of the Emperor
Tiberius. [d Ant. xix 5. 1] It was a small thing for such a
man to lend King Agrippa, when his fortunes were very low, a
sum of about 7,000l. with which to resort to Italy, [c Ant.
xviii. 6.3] since he advanced it on the guarantee of
Agrippa’s wife, whom he highly esteemed, and at the same time
made provision that the money should not be all spent before
the Prince met the Emperor. Besides, he had his own plans in
the matter. Two of his sons married daughters of King
Agrippa; while a third, at the price of apostasy, rose
successively to the posts of Procurator of Palestine, and
finally of Governor of Egypt. [f Ant. xix. 5. 1; xx. 5. 3]
The Temple at Jerusalem bore evidence of the wealth and
munificence of this Jewish millionaire. The gold and silver
with which the nine massive gates were covered, which led
into the Temple, were the gift of the great Alexandrian
The possession of such wealth, coupled no doubt with pride
and self-assertion, and openly spoken contempt of the
superstitions around, [1 Comp.for example, such a trenchant
chapter as Baruch vi., or the 2nd Fragm. of the Erythr.
Sibyl, vv. 21-33.] would naturally excite the hatred of the
Alexandria populace against the Jews. The greater number of
those silly stories about the origin, early history, and
religion of the Jews, which even the philosophers and
historians of Rome record as genuine, originated in Egypt. A
whole series of writers, beginning with Manetho, [a Probably
about 200 B.C] made it their business to give a kind of
historical travesty of the events recorded in the books of
Moses. The boldest of these scribblers was Apion, to whom
Josephus replied, a world-famed charlatan and liar, who wrote
or lectured, with equal presumption and falseness, on every
conceivable object. He was just the man to suit the
Alexandrians, on whom his unblushing assurance imposed. In
Rome he soon found his level, and the Emperor Tiberius well
characterised the irrepressible boastful talker as the
‘tinkling cymbal of the world.’ He had studied, seen, and
heard everything, even, on three occasions, the mysterious
sound on the Colossus of Memnon, as the sun rose upon it! At
least, so he graved upon the Colossus itself, for the
information of all generations. [2 Comp. Friedlander, u. s.
ii. p. 155.] Such was the man on whom the Alexandrians
conferred the freedom of their city, to whom they entrusted
their most important affairs, and whom they extolled as the
victorious, the laborious, the new Homer. [3 A very good
sketch of Apion is given by Hausrath, Neutest. Zeitg. vol.
ii. pp. 187-195. There can be little doubt, that the popular
favour was partly due to Apion’s virulent attacks upon the
Jews. His grotesque accounts of their history and religion
held them up to contempt. But his real object was to rouse
the fanaticism of the populace against the Jews. Every year,
so he told them, it was the practice of the Jews to get hold
of some unfortunate Hellene, whom ill-chance might bring into.their hands, to fatten him for the year, and then to
sacrifice him, partaking of his entrials, and burying the
body, while during these horrible rites they took a fearful
oath of perpetual enmity to the Greeks. These were the people
who battened on the wealth of Alexandria, who had usurped
quarters of the city to which they had no right, and claimed
exceptional privileges; a people who had proved traitors to,
and the ruin of every one who had trusted them. ‘If the
Jews,’ he exclaimed, ‘are citizens of Alexandria, why do they
not worship the same gods as the Alexandrians?’ And, if they
wished to enjoy the protection of the Caesars, why did they
not erect statues, and pay Divine honor to them? [1 Jos. Ag.
Ap. ii. 4, 5, 6.] There is nothing strange in these appeals
to the fanaticism of mankind. In one form or another, they
have only too often been repeated in all lands and ages, and,
alas! by the representatives of all creeds. Well might the
Jews, as Philo mourns, [a Leg. ad Caj. ed. Frcf.] wish no
better for themselves than to be treated like other men!
We have already seen, that the ideas entertained in Rome
about the Jews were chiefly derived from Alexandrian sources.
But it is not easy to understand, how a Tacitus, Cicero, or
Pliny could have credited such absurdities as that the Jews
had come from Crete (Mount Ida, Idaei = Judaei), been
expelled on account of leprosy from Egypt, and emigrated
under an apostate priest, Moses; or that the Sabbath-rest
originated in sores, which had obliged the wanderers to stop
short on the seventh day; or that the Jews worshipped the
head of an ass, or else Bacchus; that their abstinence from
swine’s flesh was due to remembrance and fear of leprosy, or
else to the worship of that animal, and other puerilities of
the like kind. [b Comp. Tacitus, Hist. v. 2-4; Plut. Sympos.
iv. 5] The educated Roman regarded the Jew with a mixture of
contempt and anger, all the more keen that, according to his
notions, the Jew had, since his subjection to Rome, no longer
a right to his religion; and all the more bitter that, do
what he might, that despised race confronted him everywhere,
with a religion so uncompromising as to form a wall of
separation, and with rites so exclusive as to make them not
only strangers, but enemies. Such a phenomenon was nowhere
else to be encountered. The Romans were intensely practical.
In their view, political life and religion were not only
intertwined, but the one formed part of the other. A religion
apart from a political organisation, or which offered not, as
a quid pro quo, some direct return from the Deity to his
votaries, seemed utterly inconceivable. Every country has its
own religion, argued Cicero, in his appeal for Flaccus. So
long as Jerusalem was unvaquished, Judaism might claim
toleration; but had not the immortal gods shown what they
thought of it, when the Jewish race was conquered? This was a
kind of logic that appealed to the humblest in the crowd,
which thronged to hear the great orator defending his client,
among others, against the charge of preventing the transport
from Asia to Jerusalem of the annual Temple-tribute. This was
not a popular accusation to bring against a man in such an
assembly. And as the Jews, who, to create a distrubance, had
(we are told) distributed themselves among the audience in.such numbers, that Cicero somewhat rhetorically declared, he
would fain have spoken with bated breath, so as to be only
audible to the judges, listened to the great orator, they
must have felt a keen pang shoot to their hearts while he
held them up to the scorn of the heathen, and touched, with
rough finger, their open sore, as he urged the ruin of their
nation as the one unanswerable argument, which Materialism
could bring against the religion of the Unseen.
And that religion, was it not, in the words of Cicero, a
‘barbarous superstition,’ and were not its adherents, as
Pliny had it, [a Hist. Nat. xiii. 4] ‘a race distinguished
for its contempt of the gods’? To begin with their theology.
The Roman philosopher would sympathise with disbelief of all
spiritual realities, as, on the other hand, he could
understand the popular modes of worship and superstition. But
what was to be said for a worship of something quite unseen,
an adoration, as it seemed to him, of the clouds and of the
sky, without any visible symbol, conjoined with an utter
rejection of every other form of religion, Asiatic, Egyptian,
Greek, Roman, and the refusal even to pay the customary
Divine honor to the Caesars, as the incarnation of Roman
power? Next, as to their rites. Foremost among them was the
initiatory rite of circumcision, a constant subject for
coarse jests. What could be the meaning of it; or of what
seemed like some ancestral veneration for the pig, or dread
of it, since they made it a religious duty not to partake of
its flesh? Their Sabbath-observance, however it had
originated, was merely an indulgence in idleness. The fast
young Roman literati would find their amusement in wandering
on the Sabbath-eve through the tangled, narrow streets of the
Ghetto, watching how the dim lamp within shed its unsavory
light, while the inmates mumbled prayers ‘with blanched
lips;’ [b Persius v. 184] or they would, like Ovid, seek in
the Synagogue occasion for their dissolute amusements. The
Thursday fast was another target for their wit. In short, at
the best, the Jew was a constant theme of popular merriment,
and the theatre would resound with laughter as his religion
was lampooned, no matter how absurd the stories, or how poor
the punning. [1 Comp. the quotation of such scenes in the
Introd. to the Midrash on Lamentations.]
And then, as the proud Roman passed on the Sabbath through
the streets, Judaism would obtrude itself upon his notice, by
the shops that were shut, and by the strange figures that
idly moved about in holiday attire. They were strangers in a
strange land, not only without sympathy with what passed
around, but with marked contempt and abhorrence of it, while
there was that about their whole bearing, which expressed the
unspoken feeling, that the time of Rome’s fall, and of their
own supremacy, was at hand. To put the general feeling in the
words of Tacitus, the Jews kept close together, and were ever
most liberal to one another; but they were filled with bitter
hatred of all others. They would neither eat nor sleep with
strangers; and the first thing which they taught their
proselytes was to despise the gods, to renounce their own
country, and to rend the bonds which had bound them to.parents, children or kindred. To be sure, there was some
ground of distorted truth in these charges. For, the Jew, as
such, was only intended for Palestine. By a necessity, not of
his own making, he was now, so to speak, the negative element
in the heathen world; yet one which, do what he might, would
always obtrude itself upon public notice. But the Roman
satirists went further. They accused the Jews of such hatred
of all other religionists, that they would not even show the
way to any who worshipped otherwise, nor point out the
cooling spring to the thirsty.[a Juv. Sat. xiv. 103, 104]
According to Tacitus, there was a political and religious
reason for this. In order to keep the Jews separate from all
other nations, Moses had given them rites, contrary to those
of any other race, that they might regard as unholy what was
sacred to others, and as lawful what they held in
abomination. [b Hist. v. 13] Such a people deserved neither
consideration nor pity; and when the historian tells how
thousands of their number had been banished by Tiberius to
Sardinia, he dismisses the probability of their perishing in
that severe climate with the cynical remark, that it entailed
a ‘poor loss’ [c Ann. ii.85, Comp. Suet. Tib. 36] (vile
Still, the Jew was there in the midst of them. It is
impossible to fix the date when the first Jewish wanderers
found their way to the capital of the world. We know, that in
the wars under Pompey, Cassius, and Antonius, many were
brought captive to Rome, and sold as slaves. In general, the
Republican party was hostile, the Caesars were friendly, to
the Jews. The Jewish slaves in Rome proved an unprofitable
and troublesome acquisition. They clung so tenaciously to
their ancestral customs, that it was impossible to make them
conform to the ways of heathen households. [d Philo, Leg. ad
Caj. ed. Frcf. p. 101] How far they would carry their passive
resistance, appears from a story told by Josephus, [e Life 3]
about some Jewish priests of his acquaintance, who, during
their captivity in Rome, refused to eat anything but figs and
nuts, so as to avoid the defilement of Gentile food. [1
Lutterbeck (Neutest. Lehrbegr. p. 119), following up the
suggestions of Wieseler (Chron. d. Apost. Zeitalt. pp. 384,
402, etc.), regards these priests as the accusers of St.
Paul, who brought about his martyrdom.] Their Roman masters
deemed it prudent to give their Jewish slaves their freedom,
either at a small ransom, or even without it. These freedmen
(liberti) formed the nucleus of the Jewish community in Rome,
and in great measure determined its social character. Of
course they were, as always, industrious, sober, pushing. In
course of time many of them acquired wealth. By-and-by Jewish
immigrants of greater distinction swelled their number. Still
their social position was inferior to that of their
co-religionists in other lands. A Jewish population so large
as 40,000 in the time of Augustus, and 60,000 in that of
Tiberius, would naturally included all ranks, merchants,
bankers, literati, even actors. [1 Comp., for example, Mart.
xi. 94; Jos. Life 3.] In a city which offered such
temptations, they would number among them those of every
degree of religious profession; nay, some who would not only.imitate the habits of those around, but try to outdo their
gross licentiousness. [2 Martialis, u. s. The ‘Anchialus’ by
whom the poet would have the Jew swear, is a corruption of
Anochi Elohim (‘I am God’) in Ex. xx. 2. Comp. Ewald, Gesch.
Isr. vol. vii. p. 27.] Yet, even so, they would vainly
endeavor to efface the hateful mark of being Jews.
Augustus had assigned to the Jews as their special quarter
the ‘fourteenth region’ across the Tiber, which stretched
from the slope of the Vatican onwards and across the
Tiber-island, where the boats from Ostia were wont to unload.
This seems to have been their poor quarter, chiefly inhabited
by hawkers, sellers of matches, [a Mart. i.41; xii. 57]
glass, old clothes and second-hand wares. The Jewish
burying-ground in that quarter [3 Described by Bosio, but
since unknown. Comp. Friedlander, u. s. vol. iii. pp. 510,
511.] gives evidence of their condition. The whole
appointments and the graves are mean. There is neither marble
nor any trace of painting, unless it be a rough
representation of the seven-branched candlestick in red
coloring. Another Jewish quarter was by the Porta Capena,
where the Appian Way entered the city. Close by, the ancient
sanctuary of Egeria was utilized at the time of Juvenal [4
Sat. iii.13; vi. 542.] as a Jewish hawking place. But there
must have been richer Jews also in that neighborhood, since
the burying-place there discovered has paintings, some even
of mythological figures, of which the meaning has not yet
been ascertained. A third Jewish burying-ground was near the
ancient Christian catacombs.
But indeed, the Jewish residents in Rome must have spread
over every quarter of the city, even the best, to judge by
the location of their Synagogues. From inscriptions, we have
been made acquainted not only with the existence, but with
the names, of not fewer than seven of these Synagogues. Three
of them respectively bear the names of Augustus, Agrippa, and
Volumnius, either as their patrons, or because the
worshippers were chiefly their attendants and clients; while
two of them derived their names from the Campus Martius, and
the quarter Subura in which they stood. [1 Comp. Friedlander,
u. s. vol. iii. p.510.] The ‘Synagoge Elaias’ may have been
so called from bearing on its front the device of an
olive-tree, a favourite, and in Rome specially significant,
emblem of Israel, whose fruit, crushed beneath heavy weight,
would yield the precious oil by which the Divine light would
shed its brightness through the night of heathendom. [2 Midr.
R. on Ex. 36.] Of course, there must have been other
Synagogues besides those whose names have been discovered.
One other mode of tracking the footsteps of Israel’s
wanderings seems strangely significant. It is by tracing
their records among the dead, reading them on broken
tombstones, and in ruined monuments. They are rude, and the
inscriptions, most of them in bad Greek, or still worse
Latin, none in Hebrew, are like the stammering of strangers.
Yet what a contrast between the simple faith and earnest hope
which they express, and the grim proclamation of utter.disbelief in any future to the soul, not unmixed with
language of coarsest materialism, on the graves of so many of
the polished Romans ! Truly the pen of God in history has, as
so often, ratified the sentence which a nation had pronounced
upon itself. That civilisation was doomed which could
inscribe over its dead such words as: ‘To eternal sleep;’ ‘To
perpetual rest;’ or more coarsely express it thus, ‘I was
not, and I became; I was, and am no more. Thus much is true;
who says other, lies; for I shall not be,’ adding, as it were
by way of moral, ‘And thou who livest, drink, play, come.’
Not so did God teach His people; and, as we pick our way
among these broken stones, we can understand how a religion,
which proclaimed a hope so different, must have spoken to the
hearts of many even at Rome, and much more, how that blessed
assurance of life and immortality, which Christianity
afterwards brought, could win its thousands, though it were
at the cost of poverty, shame, torture, and the arena.
Wandering from graveyard to graveyard, and deciphering the
records of the dead, we can almost read the history of Israel
in the days of the Caesars, or when Paul the prisoner set
foot on the soil of Italy. When St. Paul, on the journey of
the ‘Castor and Pollux,’ touched at Syracuse, he would,
during his stay of three days, find himself in the midst of a
Jewish community, as we learn from an inscription. When he
disembarked at Puteoli, he was in the oldest Jewish
settlement next to that of Rome, [a Jos. Ant. xvii. 12. 1;
War ii. 7. 1] where the loving hospitality of Christian
Israelites constrained him to tarry over a Sabbath. As he
‘went towards Rome,’ and reached Capua, he would meet Jews
there, as we infer from the tombstone of one ‘Alfius Juda,’
who had been ‘Archon’ of the Jews, and ‘Archisynagogus’ in
Capua. As he neared the city, he found in Anxur (Terracina) a
Synagogue. [1 Comp. Cassel, in Ersch u. Gruber’s Encyclop. 2d
sect. vol. xxvii. p. 147.] In Rome itself the Jewish
community was organized as in other places. [b Acts xxviii.
17] It sounds strange, as after these many centuries we again
read the names of the Archons of their various Synagogues,
all Roman, such as Claudius, Asteris, Julian (who was Archon
alike of the Campesian and the Agrippesian Synagogue priest,
the son of Julian the Archisynagogus, or chief of the
eldership of the Augustesian Synagogue). And so in other
places. On these tombstones we find names of Jewish
Synagogue-dignitaries, in every centre of population, in
Pompeii, in Venusia, the birthplace of Horace; in Jewish
catacombs; and similarly Jewish inscriptions in Africa, in
Asia, in the islands of the Mediterranean, in AEgina, in
Patrae, in Athens. Even where as yet records of their early
settlements have not been discovered, we still infer their
presence, as we remember the almost incredible extent of
Roman commerce, which led to such large settlements in
Britain, or as we discover among the tombstones those of
‘Syrian’ merchants, as in Spain (where St. Paul hoped to
preach, no doubt, also to his own countrymen), throughout
Gaul, and even in the remotest parts of Germany. [2 Comp.
Friedlander, u. s. vol. ii. pp. 17-204 passim.] Thus the
statements of Josephus and of Philo, as to the dispersion of.Israel throughout all lands of the known world, are fully
borne out.
But the special importance of the Jewish community in Rome
lay in its contiguity to the seat of the government of the
world, where every movement could be watched and influenced,
and where it could lend support to the wants and wishes of
that compact body which, however widely scattered, was one in
heart and feeling, in thought and purpose, in faith and
practice, in suffering and in prosperity. [3 It was probably
this unity of Israelitish interests which Cicero had in view
(Pro Flacco, 28) when he took such credit for his boldness in
daring to stand up against the Jews, unless, indeed, the
orator only meant to make a point in favour of his client.]
Thus, when upon the death of Herod a deputation from
Palestine appeared in the capital to seek the restoration of
their Theocracy under a Roman protectorate, [a Jos. Ant.
xvii. 11. 1; War. ii. 6. 1] no less than 8,000 of the Roman
Jews joined it. And in case of need they could find powerful
friends, not only among the Herodian princes, but among court
favourites who were Jews, like the actor of whom Josephus
speaks; [b Life 3] among those who were inclined towards
Judaism, like Poppaea, the dissolute wife of Nero, whose
coffin as that of a Jewess was laid among the urns of the
emperors; [1 Schiller (Gesch. d. Rom. Kaiserreichs, p. 583)
denies that Poppaea was a proselyte. It is, indeed, true, as
he argues, that the fact of her entombment affords no
absolute evidence of this, if taken by itself; but comp. Jos.
Ant. xx. 8. 11; Life 3.] or among real proselytes, like those
of all ranks who, from superstition or conviction, had
identified themselves with the Synagogue. [2 The question of
Jewish proselytes will be treated in another place.]
In truth, there was no law to prevent the spread of Judaism.
Excepting the brief period when Tiberius [c 19 A.D.] banished
the Jews from Rome and sent 4,000 of their number to fight
the banditti in Sardinia, the Jews enjoyed not only perfect
liberty, but exceptional privileges. In the reign of Caesar
and of Augustus we have quite a series of edicts, which
secured the full exercise of their religion and their
communal rights. [3 Comp. Jos. Ant. xiv. 10, passim, and xvi.
6. These edicts are collated in Krebs. Decreta Romanor. pro
Jud. facta, with long comments by the author, and by
Levyssohn.] In virtue of these they were not to be disturbed
in their religious ceremonies, nor in the observance of their
sabbaths and feasts. The annual Temple-tribute was allowed to
be transported to Jerusalem, and the alienation of these
funds by the civil magistrates treated as sacrilege. As the
Jews objected to bear arms, or march, on the Sabbath, they
were freed from military service. On similar grounds, they
were not obliged to appear in courts of law on their holy
days. Augustus even ordered that, when the public
distribution of corn or of money among the citizens fell on a
Sabbath, the Jews were to receive their share on the
following day. In a similar spirit the Roman authorities
confirmed a decree by which the founder of Antioch, Seleucus
I. (Nicator), [d Ob.280 B.C.] had granted the Jews the right.of citizenship in all the cities of Asia Minor and Syria
which he had built, and the privilege of receiving, instead
of the oil that was distributed, which their religion forbade
them to use, [e Ab. Sar ii. 6] an equivalent in money. [f
Jos. Ant. xii. 3. 1] These rights were maintained by
Vespasian and Titus even after the last Jewish war,
notwithstanding the earnest remonstrances of these cities. No
wonder, that at the death of Caesar [g 44 B.C.] the Jews of
Rome gathered for many nights, waking strange feelings of awe
in the city, as they chanted in mournful melodies their
Psalms around the pyre on which the body of their benefactor
had been burnt, and raised their pathetic dirges. [a Suet.
Caes. 84] The measures of Sejanus, and ceased with his sway.
Besides, they were the outcome of public feeling at the time
against all foreign rites, which had been roused by the vile
conduct of the priests of Isis towards a Roman matron, and
was again provoked by a gross imposture upon Fulvia, a noble
Roman proselyte, on the part of some vagabond Rabbis. But
even so, there is no reason to believe that literally all
Jews had left Rome. Many would find means to remain secretly
behind. At any rate, twenty years afterwards Philo found a
large community there, ready to support him in his mission on
behalf of his Egyptian countrymen. Any temporary measures
against the Jews can, therefore, scarcely be regarded as a
serious interference with their privileges, or a cessation of
the Imperial favour shown to them.
It was not only in the capital of the Empire that the Jews
enjoyed the rights of Roman citizenship. Many in Asia Minor
could boast of the same privilege. [a Jos. Ant. xiv. 10,
passim; Acts xxii. 25-29] The Seleucidic rulers of Syria had
previously bestowed kindred privileges on the Jews in many
places. Thus, they possessed in some cities twofold rights:
the status of Roman and the privileges of Asiatic,
citizenship. Those who enjoyed the former were entitled to a
civil government of their own, under archons of their
choosing, quite independent of the rule and tribunals of the
cities in which they lived. As instances, we may mention the
Jews of Sardis, Ephesus, Delos, and apparently also of
Antioch. But, whether legally entitled to it or not, they
probably everywhere claimed the right of self-government, and
exercised it, except in times of persecution. But, as already
stated, they also possessed, besides this, at least in many
places, the privileges of Asiatic citizenship, to the same
extent as their heathen fellow-citizens. This twofold status
and jurisdiction might have led to serious complications, if
the archons had not confined their authority to strictly
communal interests, [b Co. np. Acts xix. 14 ix. 2] without.interfering with the ordinary administration of justice, and
the Jews willingly submitted to the sentences pronounced by
their own tribunals.
But, in truth, they enjoyed even more than religious liberty
and communal privileges. It was quite in the spirit of the
times, that potentates friendly to Israel bestowed largesses
alike on the Temple in Jerusalem, and on the Synagogues in
the provinces. The magnificent porch of the Temple was
‘adorned’ with many such ‘dedicated gifts.’ Thus, we read of
repeated costly offerings by the Ptolemies, of a golden
wreath which Sosius offered after he had taken Jerusalem in
conjunction with Herod, and of rich flagons which Augustus
and his wife had given to the Sanctuary. [c Jos. Ant. xii. 2.
5; xiii. 3. 4; Ag. Ap.ii. 5; Ant. xiv. 16. 4; War v. 13] And,
although this same Emperor praised his grandson for leaving
Jerusalem unvisited on his journey from Egypt to Syria, yet
he himself made provision for a daily sacrifice on his
behalf, which only ceased when the last war against Rome was
proclaimed. [a Jos. War ii. 10. 4; ii. 17.] Even the
circumstance that there was a ‘Court of the Gentiles,’ with
marble screen beautifully ornamented, bearing tablets which,
in Latin and Greek, warned Gentiles not to proceed further,
[1 One of these tablets has lately been excavated. Comp. ‘The
Temple: its Ministry and Services in the Time of Christ,’ p.
24.] proves that the Sanctuary was largely attended by others
than Jews, or, in the words of Josephus, that ‘it was held in
reverence by nations from the ends of the earth.’ [b War iv.
4. 3; comp. War ii. 17. 2-4]
In Syria also, where, according to Josephus, the largest
number of Jews lived, [2 War, vii. 3. 3.] they experienced
special favour. In Antioch their rights and immunities were
recorded on tables of brass. [3 War, vii. 5. 2.]
But, indeed, the capital of Syria was one of their favourite
resorts. It will be remembered what importance attached to it
in the early history of the Christian Church. Antioch was the
third city of the Empire, and lay just outside what the
Rabbinists designated as ‘Syria’ and still regarded as holy
ground. Thus it formed, so to speak, an advanced post between
the Palestinian and the Gentile world. Its chief Synagogue
was a magnificent building, to which the successors of
Antiochus Epiphanes had given the spoils which that monarch
had brought from the Temple. The connection between Jerusalem
and Antioch was very close. All that occurred in that city
was eagerly watched in the Jewish capital. The spread of
Christianity there must have excited deep concern. Careful as
the Talmud is not to afford unwelcome information, which
might have led to further mischief, we know that three of the
principal Rabbis went thither on a mission, we can scarcely
doubt for the purpose of arresting the progress of
Christianity. Again, we find at a later period a record of
religious controversy in Antioch between Rabbis and
Christians. [4 Comp. generally Neubauer, Geogr. du Talmud,
pp. 312, 313.] Yet the Jews of Antioch were strictly
Hellenistic, and on one occasion a great Rabbi was unable to.find among them a copy of even the Book of Esther in Hebrew,
which, accordingly, he had to write out from memory for his
use in their Synagogue. A fit place this great border-city,
crowded by Hellenists, in close connection with Jerusalem, to
be the birthplace of the name ‘Christian,’ to send forth a
Paul on his mission to the Gentile world, and to obtain for
it a charter of citizenship far nobler than that of which the
record was graven on tablets of brass.
But, whatever privileges Israel might enjoy, history records
an almost continuous series of attempts, on the part of the
communities among whom they lived, to deprive them not only
of their immunities, but even of their common rights.
Foremost among the reasons of this antagonism we place the
absolute contrariety between heathenism and the Synagogue,
and the social isolation which Judaism rendered necessary. It
was avowedly unlawful for the Jew even ‘to keep company, or
come unto one of another nation.’ [a Acts x. To quarrel with
this, was to find fault with the law and the religion which
made him a Jew. But besides, there was that pride of descent,
creed, enlightenment, and national privileges, which St. Paul
so graphically sums up as ‘making boast of God and of the
law.’ [b Comp. Rom. ii. 17-24 However differently they might
have expressed it, Philo and Hillel would have been at one as
to the absolute superiority of the Jew as such. Pretensions
of this kind must have been the more provocative, that the
populace at any rate envied tne prosperity which Jewish
industry, talent, and capital everywhere secured. Why should
that close, foreign corporation possess every civic right,
and yet be free from many of its burdens? Why should their
meetings be excepted from the ‘collegia illicita’? why should
they alone be allowed to export part of the national wealth,
to dedicate it to their superstition in Jerusalem? The Jew
could not well feign any real interest in what gave its
greatness to Ephesus, it attractiveness to Corinth, its
influence to Athens. He was ready to profit by it; but his
inmost thought must have been contempt, and all he wanted was
quietness and protection in his own pursuits. What concern
had he with those petty squabbles, ambitions, or designs,
which agitated the turbulent populace in those Grecian
cities? what cared he for their popular meetings and noisy
discussions? The recognition of the fact that, as Jews, they
were strangers in a strange land, made them so loyal to the
ruling powers, and procured them the protection of kings and
Caesars. But it also roused the hatred of the populace.
That such should have been the case, and these widely
scattered members have been united in one body, is a unique
fact in history. Its only true explanation must be sought in
a higher Divine impulse. The links which bound them together
were: a common creed, a common life, a common centre, and a
common hope.
Wherever the Jew sojourned, or however he might differ from
his brethern, Monotheism, the Divine mission of Moses, and
the authority of the Old Testament, were equally to all
unquestioned articles of belief. It may well have been that.the Hellenistic Jew, living in the midst of a hostile,
curious, and scurrilous population, did not care to exhibit
over his house and doorposts, at the right of the entrance,
the Mezuzah, [1 Ber. iii. 3; Meg. i. 8; Moed K. iii. 4; Men.
iii. 7. Comp. Jos. Ant. iv.8.13; and the tractate Mezuzah in
Kirchheim, Septem libri Talmud. parvi Hierosol. pp. 12-17.]
which enclosed the folded parchment that, on twenty-two
lines, bore the words from Deut. iv. 4-9 and xi. 13-21, or to
call attention by their breadth to the Tephillin, [St. Matt.
xxiii. 5; Ber. i. 3; Shabb. vi. 2; vii. 3; xvi. 1; Er. x. 1,
2; Sheq. iii. 2; Meg. i. 8; iv. 8; Moed. Q. iii. 4; Sanh. xi.
3; Men. iii. 7; iv. 1; Kel. xviii. 8; Miqv. x. 3; yad. iii.
3. Comp. Kirchheim, Tract. Tephillin, u. s. pp. 18-21.] or
phylacteries on his left arm and forehead, or even to make
observable the Tsitsith, [Moed K. iii. 4; Eduy. iv. 10; Men.
iii. 7; iv. 1. Comp. Kirchheim, Tract. Tsitsith, u. s. pp.
22-24.] or fringes on the borders of his garments. [The
Tephillin enclosed a transcript of Exod. xiii. 1-10, 11-16;
Deut. vi. 4-9; xi. 13-21. The Tsitsith were worn in obedience
to the injunction in Num. xv. 37 etc.; Deut. xxii. 12 (comp.
St. Matt. ix. 20; xiv. 36; St. Mark v. 27; St. Luke viii.
44).] Perhaps, indeed, all these observances may at that time
not have been deemed incumbent on every Jew. [It is
remarkable that Aristeas seems to speak only of the
phylacteries on the arm, and Philo of those for the head,
while the LXX. takes the command entirely in a metaphorical
sense. This has already been pointed out in that book of
gigantic learning, Spencer, De Leg. Heb. p. 1213. Frankel
(Uber d. Einfl. d. Pal. Exeg., pp. 89, 90) tries in vain to
controvert the statement. The insufficency of his arguments
has been fully shown by Herzfeld (Gesch. d. Volk. Isr. vol.
iii. p. 224).] At any rate, we do not find mention of them in
heathen writers. Similarly, they could easily keep out of
view, or they may not have had conveniences for, their
prescribed purifications. But in every place, as we have
abundant evidence, where there were at least ten Batlanim –
male householders who had leisure to give themselves to
regular attendance – they had, from ancient times, [Acts xv.
21.] one, and, if possible, more Synagogues. [Jos. Ant. xix.
6. 3; War, ii. 14. 4, 5; vii. 3. 3; Philo, Quod omnis probus
liber, ed. Mangey, ii. p. 458; Philo, Ad Caj. ii. p. 591;
Jos. Ant. xvi. 6. 2; Philo, Vita Mosis, lib. iii., ii. p.
168.] Where there was no Synagogue there was at least a
Proseuche, [Acts xvi.13] [Jos. Ant. xvi. 10 23, life 54;
Philo, In Flacc. ii. p. 523; Ad Caj. ii. pp. 565, 596;
Epiphan. Haer. 1xxx. 1. Comp. Juven. Sat. iii. 296: ‘Ede ubi
consistas? in qua te quaero proseucha?’] open sky, after the
form of a theatre, generally outside the town, near a river
or the sea, for the sake of lustrations. These, as we know
from classical writers, were well known to the heathen, and
even frequented by them. Their Sabbath observance, their
fasting on Thursdays, their Day of Atonement, their laws
relating to food, and their pilgrimages to Jerusalem – all
found sympathiers among Judaising Gentiles. [8 Comp., among
others, Ovid, Ars Amat. i. 76; Juv. Sat. xvi. 96, 97; Hor.
Sat. i. 5. 100; 9. 70; Suet. Aug. 93.] They even watched to
see, how the Sabbath lamp was kindled, and the solemn prayers.spoken which marked the beginning of the Sabbath. [9 Persius
v. 180. But to the Jew the Synagogue was the bond of union
throughout the world. There, on Sabbath and feast days they
met to read, from the same Lectionary, the same
Scripture-lessons which their brethren read throughout the
world, and to say, in the words of the same liturgy, their
common prayers, catching echoes of the gorgeous
Temple-services in Jerusalem. The heathen must have been
struck with awe as they listened, and watched in the gloom of
the Synagogue the mysterious light at the far curtained end,
where the sacred oracles were reverently kept, wrapped in
costly coverings. Here the stranger Jew also would find
himself at home: the same arrangements as in his own land,
and the well-known services and prayers. A hospitable welcome
at the Sabbath-meal, and in many a home, would be pressed on
him, and ready aid be proffered in work or trial.
For, deepest of all convictions was that of their common
centre; strongest of all feelings was the love which bound
them to Palestine and to Jerusalem, the city of God, the joy
of all the earth, the glory of His people Isael. ‘If I forget
thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; let
my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouuth,’ Hellenist and
Eastern equally realised this. As the soil of his native
land, the deeds of his people, or the graves of his fathers
draw the far-off wanderer to the home of his childhood, or
fill the mountaineer in his exile with irrepressible longing,
so the sounds which the Jew heard in his Synagogue, and the
observances which he kept. Nor was it with him merely matter
of patriotism, of history, or of association. It was a
religious principle, a spiritual hope. No truth more firmly
rooted in the consciousness of all, than that in Jerusalem
alone men could truly worship. [a St. John iv. 20] As Daniel
of old had in his hour ofworship turned towards the Holy
City, so in the Synagogue and in his prayers every Jew turned
towards Jerusalem; and anything that might imply want of
reverence, when looking in that direction, was considered a
grievous sin. From every Synagogue in the Diaspora the annual
Temple-tribute went up to Jerusalem, [1 Comp. Jos. Ant. xiv.
7. 2; xvi. 6, passium; Philo, De Monarchia, ed. Mangey, ii.
p. 224; Ad Caj. ii. p. 568; Contra Flacc. ii. p. 524.] no
doubt often accompanied by rich votive offerings. Few, who
could undertake or afford the journey, but had at some time
or other gone up to the Holy City to attend one of the great
feasts. [2 philo, De Monarchia, ii. p. 223.] Philo, who was
held by the same spell as the most bigoted Rabbinist, had
himself been one of those deputed by his fellow-citizens to
offer prayers and sacrifices in the great Sanctuary. [3
Philo, in a fragment preserved in Euseb., Praepar. Ev. viii.
13. What the Temple was in the estimation of Israel,] Views
and feelings of this kind help us to understand, how, on some
great feast, as Josephus states on sufficient authority, the
population of Jerusalem – within its ecclesiastical
boundaries – could have swelled to the enormous number of
nearly three millions. [a War vi. 9. 3; comp. ii. 14. 3]
And still, there was an even stronger bond in their common.hope. That hope pointed them all, wherever scattered, back to
Palestine. To them the coming of the Messiah undoubtedly
implied the restoration of Israel’s kingdom, and, as a first
part in it, the return of ‘the dispersed.’ [1 Even
Maimonides, in spite of his desire to minimise the Messianic
expectancy, admits this. Indeed, every devout Jew prayed, day
by day: ‘Proclaim by Thy loud trumpet our deliverance, and
raise up a banner to gather our dispersed, and gather us
together from the four ends of the earth. Blessed be Thou, O
Lord! Who gatherest the outcasts of Thy people Israel.’ [2
This is the tenth of the eighteen (or rather nineteen)
benedictions in the daily prayers. Of these the first and the
last three are certainly the oldest. But this tenth also
dates from before the destruction of Jerusalem. Comp. Zunz,
Gottesd. Vortr. d. Juden, p. 368.] That prayer included in
its generality also the lost ten tribes. So, for example, the
prophecy [b Hos. xi. 11.] was rendered: ‘They hasten hither,
like a bird out of Egypt,’ – referring to Israel of old; ‘and
like a dove out of the land of Assyria’ – referring to the
ten tribes. [c Midr. on Cant. i. 15, ed. warshau, p. 11b] [3
Comp. Jer. Sanh. x. 6; Sanh. 110 b: Yalk. Shim.] And thus
even these wanderers, so long lost, were to be reckoned in
the field of the Good Shepherd. [4 The suggestion is made by
Castelli, Il Messia, p. 253.]
It is worth while to trace, how universally and warmly both
Eastern and Western Judaism cherished this hope of all
Israel’s return to their own land. The Targumim bear repeated
reference to it; [5 Notably in connection with Ex. xii. 42
(both in the Pseudo-Jon. and Jer. Targum); Numb. xxiv. 7
(Jer. Targ.); Deut. xxx. 4 (Targ. Ps.-Jon.); Is. xiv. 29;
Jer. xxxiii. 13; Hos. xiv. 7; Zech. x. 6. Dr. Drummond, in
his ‘Jewish Messiah,’ p. 335, quotes from the Targum on
Lamentations. But this dates from long after the Talmudic
period.] and although there may be question as to the exact
date of these paraphrases, it cannot be doubted, that in this
respect they represented the views of the Synagogue at the
time of Jesus. For the same reason we may gather from the
Talmud and earliest commentaries, what Israel’s hope was in
regard to the return of the ‘dispersed.’ [6 As each sentence
which follows would necessitate one or more references to
different works, the reader, who may be desirous to verify
the statements in the text, is generally referred to
Castelli, u. s. pp. 251-255.] It was a beautiful idea to
liken Israel to the olive-tree, which is never stripped of
its leves. [d Men. 53 b] The storm of trial that had swept
over it was, indeed, sent in judgment, but not to destroy,
only to purify. Even so, Israel’s persecutions had served to
keep them from becoming mixed with the Gentiles. Heaven and
earth might be destroyed, but not Israel; and their final
deliverance would far outstrip in marvellousness that from
Egypt. The winds would blow to bring together the dispersed;
nay, if there were a single Israelite in a land, however
distant, he would be restored. With every honour would the
nations bring them back. The patriarchs and all the just
would rise to share in the joys of the new possession of
their land; new hymns as well as the old ones would rise to.the praise of God. Nay, the bounds of the land would be
extended far beyond what they had ever been, and made as wide
as originally promised to Abraham. Nor would that possession
be ever taken from them, nor those joys be ever succeeded by
sorrows. [1 The fiction of two Messiahs, one the Son of
David, the other the Son of Joseph, the latter being
connected with the restoration of the ten tribes, has been
conclusively shown to be the post-Christian date (comp.
Schottgen, Horae Hebr. i. p. 359; and Wunsche, Leiden d.
Mess. p. 109). Possibly it was invented to find an
explanation for Zech. xii. 10 (comp. Succ. 52 a), just as the
Socinian doctrine of the assumption of Christ into heaven at
the beginning of His ministry was invented to account for St.
John iii. 13.] In view of such general expectations we cannot
fail to mark with what wonderful sobriety the Apostles put
the question to Jesus: ‘Wilt Thou at this time restore the
kingdom to Israel?’ [a Acts i.6]
Hopes and expectations such as these are expressed not only
in Talmudical writings. We find them throughout that very
interesting Apocalyptic class of literature, the
Pseudepigrapha, to which reference has already been made. The
two earliest of them, the Book of Enoch and the Sibylline
Oracles, are equally emphatic on this subject. The seer in
the Book of Enoch beholds Israel in the Messianic time as
coming in carriages, and as borne on the wings of the wind
from East, and West, and South. [b Book of En. ch. lvii.;
comp.xc.33] Fuller details of that happy event are furnished
by the Jewish Sibyl. In her utterances these three events are
connected together: the coming of the Messiah, the rebuilding
of the Temple, [c B. iii. 286-294; comp. B. v. 414-433] and
the restoration of the dispersed, [d iii. 732-735] when all
nations would bring their wealth to the House of God. [e iii.
766-783] [2 M. Maurice Vernes (Hist. des Idees Messian. pp.
43-119) maintains that the writers of Enoch and Or. Sib. iii.
expected this period under the rule of the Maccabees, and
regarded one of them as the Messiah. It implies a peculiar
reading of history, and a lively imagination, to arrive at
such a conclusion.] The latter trait specially reminds us of
their Hellenistic origin. A century later the same joyous
confidence, only perhaps more clearly worded, appears in the
so-called ‘Psalter of Solomon.’ Thus the seventeenth Psalm
bursts into this strain: ‘Blessed are they who shall live in
those days, in the reunion of the tribes, which God brings
about.’ [f Ps. of Sol. vxii. 50; comp. also Ps. xi.] And no
wonder, since they are the days when ‘the King, the Son of
David,’ [a Ps. Sal. xviii. 23] having purged Jerusalem [b v.
25] and destroyed the heathen by the word of His mouth, [c v.
27] would gather together a holy people which He would rule
with justice, and judge the tribes of His people, [d v. 28]
‘dividing them over the land according to tribes;’ when ‘no
stranger would any longer dwell among them.’ [e vv. 30,31]
Another pause, and we reach the time when Jesus the Messiah
appeared. Knowing the characteristics of that time, we
scarcely wonder that the Book of Jubilees, which dates from
that period, should have been Rabbinic in its cast rather.than Apocalyptic. Yet even there the reference to the future
glory is distinct. Thus we are told, that, though for its
wickedness Israel had been scattered, God would ‘gather them
all from the midst of the heathen,’ ‘build among them His
Sanctuary, and dwell with them.’ That Sanctuary was to ‘be
for ever and ever, and God would appear to the eye of every
one, and every one acknowledge that He was the God of Israel,
and the Father of all the Children of Jacob, and King upon
Mount Zion, from everlasting to everlasting. And Zion and
Jerusalem shall be holy.’ [f Book of Jub. ch. i.; comp. also
ch. xxiii.] When listening to this language of, perhaps, a
contemporary of Jesus, we can in some measure understand the
popular indignation which such a charge would call forth, as
that the Man of Nazareth had proposed to destroy the Temple,
[g St. John ii. 19] or that he thought merely of the children
of Jacob.
There is an ominous pause of a century before we come to the
next work of this class, which bears the title of the Fourth
Book of Esdras. That century had been decisive in the history
of Israel. Jesus had lived and died; His Apostles had gone
forth to bear the tidings of the new Kingdom of God; the
Church had been founded and separated from the Synagogue; and
the Temple had been destroyed, the Holy City laid waste, and
Israel undergone sufferings, compared with which the former
troubles might almost be forgotten. But already the new
doctrine had struck it roots deep alike in Eastern and in
Hellenistic soil. It were strange indeed if, in such
circumstances, this book should not have been different from
any that had preceded it; stranger still, if earnest Jewish
minds and ardent Jewish hearts had remained wholly unaffected
by the new teaching, even though the doctrine of the Cross
still continued a stumbling-block, and the Gospel
announcement a rock of offence. But perhaps we could scarcely
have been prepared to find, as in the Fourth Book of Esdras,
doctrinal views which were wholly foreign to Judaism, and
evidently derived from the New Testament, and which, in
logical consistency, would seem to lead up to it. [1 The
doctrinal part of IV. Esdras may be said to be saturated with
the dogma of original sin, which is wholly foreign to the
theology alike of Rabbinic and Hellenistic Judaism. Comp.
Vis. i. ch. iii. 21, 22; iv. 30, 38; Vis. iii. ch. vi, 18, 19
(ed. Fritzsche, p. 607); 33-41; vii. 46-48; viii. 34-35.] The
greater part of the book may be described as restless
tossing, the seer being agitated by the problem and the
consequences of sin, which here for the first and only time
is presented as in the New Testament; by the question, why
there are so few who are saved; and especially by what to a
Jew must have seemed the inscrutable, terrible mystery of
Israel’s sufferings and banishment. [1 It almost seems as if
there were a parallelism between this book and the Epistle to
the Romans, which in its dogmatic part, seems successively to
take up these three subjects, although from quite another
point of view. How different the treatment is, need not be
told.] Yet, so far as we can see, no other way of salvation
is indicated than that by works and personal righteousness.
Throughout there is a tone of deep sadness and intense.earnestness. It almost seems sometimes, as if one heard the
wind of the new dispensation sweeping before it the withered
leaves of Israel’s autumn. Thus far for the principal portion
of the book. The second, or Apocalyptic, part, endeavors to
solve the mystery of Israel’s state by foretelling their
future. Here also there are echoes of New Testament
utterances. What the end is to be, we are told in
unmistakable language. His ‘Son,’ Whom the Highest has for a
long time preserved, to deliver ‘the creature’ by Him, is
suddenly to appear in the form of a Man. From His mouth shall
proceed alike woe, fire, and storm, which are the
tribulations of the last days. And as they shall gather for
war against Him, He shall stand on Mount Zion, and the Holy
City shall come down from heaven, prepared and ready, and He
shall destroy all His enemies. But a peaceable multitude
shall now be gathered to Him. These are the ten tribes, who,
to separate themselves from the ways of the heathen, had
wandered far away, miraculously helped, a journey of one and
a half years, and who were now similarly restored by God to
their own land. But as for the ‘Son,’ or those who
accompanied him, no one on earth would be able to see or know
them, till the day of His appearing. [a Vis. vi. ch. xiii.
27-52] [2 The better reading is ‘in tempore diei ejus. (v.
It seems scarcely necessary to complete the series of
testimony by referring in detail to a book, called ‘The
Prophecy and Assumption of Moses,’ and to what is known as
the Apocalypse of Branch, the servant of Jeremiah. Both date
from probably a somewhat later period than the Fourth Book of
Esdras, and both are fragmentary. The one distinctly
anticipates the return of the ten tribes;[b Prophet. et Ass.
Mos. iv. 7-14; vii. 20] the other, in the letter to the nine
and a half tribes, far beyond the Euphrates, [c Ap. Bar.
xxvii. 22] with which the book closes, preserves an ominous
silence on that point, or rather alludes to it in language
which so strongly reminds us of the adverse opinion expressed
in the Talmud, that we cannot help suspecting some internal
connection between the two. [1 In Sanh. 110 b we read, ‘Our
Rabbisteach, that the Ten Tribes have no part in the era to
come, because it is written „The Lord drave them out of their
land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and
cast them into another land.” „The Lord drave them from their
land”, in the present era, „and cast them into another land”,
in the era to come.’ In curious agreement with this,
Pseudo-Baruch writes to the nine and a half tribes to
‘prepare their hearts to that which they had formerly
believed,’ least they should suffer ‘in both eras (ab utroque
saeculo),’ being led captive in the one, and tormented in the
other (Apoc. Bar. lxxxiii. 8).]
The writings to which we have referred have all a decidedly
Hellenistic tinge of thought. [2 Thus, for example, the
assertion that there had been individuals who fulfilled the
commandments of God, Vis. i. ch. iii. 36; the domain of
reason, iv. 22; v. 9; general Messianic blessings to the
world at large, Vis. i. ch. iv. 27, 28; the idea of a law.within their minds, like that of which St. Paul speaks in the
case of the heathen, Vis. iii. ch. vi. 45-47 (ed. Fritzsche,
p. 609). These are only instances, and we refer besides to
the general cast of the reasoning.] Still they are not the
outcome of pure Hellenism. It is therefore with peculiar
interest that we turn to Philo, the great representative of
that direction, to see whether he would admit an idea so
purely national and, as it might seem, exclusive. Nor are we
here left in doubt. So universal was this belief, so
deep-seated the conviction, not only in the mind, but in the
heart of Israel, that we could scarcely find it more
distinctly expressed than by the great Alexandrian. However
low the condition of Israel might be, he tells us, [a De
Execrat. ed. Frcf. pp. 936, 937] or however scattered the
people to the ends of the earth, the banished would, on a
given sign, be set free in one day. In consistency with his
system, he traces this wondrous event to their sudden
conversion to virtue, which would make their masters ashamed
to hold any longer in bondage those who were so much better
than themselves. Then, gathering as by one impulse, the
dispersed would return from Hellas, from the lands of the
barbarians, from the isles, and from the continents, led by a
Divine, superhuman apparition invisible to others, and
visible only to themselves. On their arrival in Palestine the
waste places and the wilderness would be inhabited, and the
barren land transformed into fruitfulness.
Whatever shades of difference, then, we may note in the
expression of these views, all anticipate the deliverance of
Israel, their restoration, and future pre-eminent glory, and
they all connect these events with the coming of the Messiah.
This was ‘the promise’ unto which, in their ‘instant service
night and day, the twelve tribes,’ however grievously
oppressed, hoped to come. [b Acts xxvi. 7] To this ‘sure
wordof prophecy’ ‘the strangers scattered’ throughout all
lands would ‘take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a
dark place,’ until the day dawned, and the day-star rose in
their hearts. [a 2 Pet. i. 19] It was this which gave meaning
to their worship, filled them with patience in suffering,
kept them separate from the nations around, and ever fixed
their hearts and thoughts upon Jerusalem. For the ‘Jerusalem’
which was above was ‘the mother’ of them all. Yet a little
while, and He that would come should come, and not tarry, and
then all the blessing and glory would be theirs. At any
moment the gladsome tidings might burst upon them, that He
had come, when their glory would shine out from one end of
the heavens to the other. All the signs of His Advent had
come to pass. Perhaps, indeed, the Messiah might even now be
there, ready to manifest Himself, so soon as the voice of
Israel’s repentance called Him from His hiding. Any hour
might that banner be planted on the top of the mountains;
that glittering sword be unsheathed; that trumpet sound.
Closer then, and still closer, must be their connection with
Jerusalem, as their salvation drew nigh; more earnest their
longing, and more eager their gaze, till the dawn of that
long expected day tinged the Eastern sky with its brightness..INTRODUCTORY.
THE pilgrim who, leaving other countries, entered Palestine,
must have felt as if he had crossed the threshold of another
world. Manners, customs, institutions, law, life, nay, the
very intercourse between man and man, were quite different.
All was dominated by the one all-absorbing idea of religion.
It penetrated every relation of life. Moreover, it was
inseparably connected with the soil, as well as the people of
Palestine, at least so long as the Temple stood. Nowhere else
could the Shekhinah dwell or manifest itself; nor could,
unless under exceptional circumstances, and for ‘the merit of
the fathers,’ the spirit of prophecy be granted outside its
bounds. To the orthodox Jew the mental and spiritual horizon
was bounded by Palestine. It was ‘the land’; all the rest of
the world, except Babylonia, was ‘outside the land.’ No need
to designate it specially as ‘holy’; for all here bore the
impress of sanctity, as he understood it. Not that the soil
itself, irrespective of the people, was holy; it was Israel
that made it such. For, had not God given so many
commandments and ordinances, some of them apparently
needless, simply to call forth the righteousness of Israel;
[a Mac. 23 b] did not Israel possess the merits of ‘the
fathers,’ [b Rosh HaSh. 11 a] and specially that of Abraham,
itself so valuable that, even if his descendants had, morally
speaking, been as a dead body, his merit would have been
imputed to them? [c Ber. R. 44] More than that, God had
created the world on account of Israel, [d Yalkut 2] and for
their merit, making preparation for them long before their
appearance on the scene, just as a king who foresees the
birth of his son; nay, Israel had been in God’s thoughts not
only before anything had actually been created, but even
before every other creative thought. [e Ber. R. 1] If these
distinctions seem excessive, they were, at least, not out of
proportion to the estimate formed of Israel’s merits. In
theory, the latter might be supposed to flow from ‘good
works,’ of course, including the strict practice of legal
piety, and from ‘study of the law.’ But in reality it was
‘study’ alone to which such supreme merit attached. Practice
required knowledge for its direction; such as the Am-ha-arets
(‘country people,’ plebeians, in the Jewish sense of being
unlearned) could not possess, [a Comp. Ab ii. 5] who had
bartered away the highest crown for a spade with which to
dig. And ‘the school of Arum’, the sages, the ‘great ones of
the world’ had long settled it, that study was before works.
[b Jer. Chag. i. hal. 7, towards the end; Jer. Pes. iii.7]
And how could it well be otherwise, since the studies, which
engaged His chosen children on earth, equally occupied their
Almighty Father in heaven? [c Ab. Z. 3 b] Could anything,
then, be higher than the peculiar calling of Israel, or.better qualify them for being the sons of God?
It is necessary to transport oneself into this atmosphere to
understand the views entertained at the time of Jesus, or to
form any conception of their infinite contrast in spirit to
the new doctrine. The abhorrence, not unmingled with
contempt, of all Gentile ways, thoughts and associations; the
worship of the letter of the Law; the self-righteousness, and
pride of descent, and still more of knowledge, become thus
intelligible to us, and, equally so, the absolute antagonism
to the claims of a Messiah, so unlike themselves and their
own ideal. His first announcement might, indeed, excite hope,
soon felt to have been vain; and His miracles might startle
for a time. But the boundary lines of the Kingdom which He
traced were essentially different from those which they had
fixed, and within which they had arranged everything, alike
for the present and the future. Had He been content to step
within them, to complete and realise what they had indicated,
it might have been different. Nay, once admit their
fundamental ideas, and there was much that was beautiful,
true, and even grand in the details. But it was exactly in
the former that the divergence lay. Nor was there any
possibility of reform or progress here. The past, the
present, and the future, alike as regarded the Gentile world
and Israel, were irrevocably fixed; or rather, it might
almost be said, there were not such, all continuing as they
had been from the creation of the world, nay, long before it.
The Torah had really existed 2,000 years before Creation; [d
Shir haShir. R. on Cant. v. 11, ed War shau, p. 26b] the
patriarchs had had their Academies of study, and they had
known and observed all the ordinances; and traditionalism had
the same origin, both as to time and authority, as the Law
itself. As for the heathen nations, the Law had been offered
by God to them, but refused, and even their after repentance
would prove hypocritical, as all their excuses would be shown
to be futile. But as for Israel, even though their good deeds
should be few, yet, by cumulating them from among all the
people, they would appear great in the end, and God would
exact payment for their sins as a man does from his friends,
taking little sums at a time. It was in this sense, that the
Rabbis employed that sublime figure, representing the Church
as one body, of which all the members suffered and joyed
together, which St. Paul adopted and applied in a vastly
different and spiritual sense. [a Eph. iv. 16]
If, on the one hand, the pre-eminence of Israel depended on
the Land, and, on the other, that of the Land on the presence
of Israel in it, the Rabbinical complaint was, indeed, well
grounded, that its ‘boundaries were becoming narrow.’ We can
scarcely expect any accurate demarcation of them, since the
question, what belonged to it, was determined by ritual and
theological, not by geographical considerations. Not only the
immediate neighborhood (as in the case of Ascalon), but the
very wall of a city (as of Acco and of Caesarea) might be
Palestinian, and yet the city itself be regarded as ‘outside’
the sacred limits. All depended on who had originally
possessed, and now held a place, and hence what ritual.obligations lay upon it. Ideally, as we may say, ‘the land of
promise’ included all which God had covenanted to give to
Israel, although never yet actually possessed by them. Then,
in a more restricted sense, the ‘land’ comprised what ‘they
who came up from Egypt took possession of, from Chezib [about
three hours north of Acre] and unto the river [Euphrates],
and unto Amanah.’ This included, of course, the conquests
made by David in the most prosperous times of the Jewish
commonwealth, supposed to have extended over Mesopotamia,
Syria, Zobah, Achlah, &c. To all these districts the general
name of Soria, or Syria, was afterwards given. This formed,
at the time of which we write, a sort of inner band around
‘the land,’ in its narrowest and only real sense; just as the
countries in which Israel was specially interested, such as
Egypt, Babylon, Ammon, and Moab, formed an outer band. These
lands were heathen, and yet not quite heathen, since the
dedication of the so-called Terumoth, or first-fruits in a
prepared state, was expected from them, while Soria shared
almost all the obligations of Palestine, except those of the
‘second tithes,’ and the fourth year’s product of plants. [b
Lev. xix. 24.] But the wavesheaf at the Paschal Feast, and
the two loaves at Pentecost, could only be brought from what
had grown on the holy soil itself. This latter was roughly
defined, as ‘all which they who came up from Babylon took
possession of, in the land of Israel, and unto Chezib.’
Viewed in this light, there was a special significance in the
fact that Antioch, where the name ‘Christian’ first marked
the new ‘Sect’ which had sprung up in Palestine, [c Acts xi.
26.] and where the first Gentile Church was formed, [a Acts
xi. 20, 21] lay just outside the northern boundary of ‘the
land.’ Similarly, we understand, why those Jewish zealots who
would fain have imposed on the new Church the yoke of the
Law, [b Acts xv.1]concentrated their first efforts on that
Soria which was regarded as a kind of outer Palestine.
But, even so, there was a gradation of sanctity in the Holy
Land itself, in accordance with ritual distinctions. Ten
degrees are here enumerated, beginning with the bare soil of
Palestine, and culminating in the Most Holy Place in the
Temple, each implying some ritual distinction, which did not
attach to a lower degree. And yet, although the very dust of
heathen soil was supposed to carry defilement, like
corruption or the grave, the spots most sacred were
everywhere surrounded by heathenism; nay, its traces were
visible in Jerusalem itself. The reasons of this are to be
sought in the political circumstances of Palestine, and in
the persistent endeavour of its rulers, with the exception of
a very brief period under the Maccabees, to Grecianise the
country, so as to eradicate that Jewish particularism which
must always be antagonistic to every foreign element. In
general, Palestine might be divided into the strictly Jewish
territory, and the so-called Hellenic cities. The latter had
been built at different periods, and were politically
constituted after the model of the Greek cities, having their
own senates (generally consisting of several hundred persons)
and magistrates, each city with its adjoining territory
forming a sort of commonwealth of its own. But it must not be.imagined, that these districts were inhabited exclusively, or
even chiefly, by Greeks. One of these groups, that towards
Peraea, was really Syrian, and formed part of Syria
Decapolis; [1 The following cities probably formed the
Decapolis, though it is difficult to feel quite sure in
reference to one or the other of them: Damascus,
Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis, Gadara, Hippos Dion,
Pella, Gerasa, and Canatha. On these cities, comp. Caspari,
Chronol. Geogr. Einl. in d. Leben J. Christ, pp. 83-90.]
while the other, along the coast of the Mediterranean, was
Phoenician. Thus ‘the land’ was hemmed in, east and west,
within its own borders, while south and north stretched
heathen or semi-heathen districts. The strictly Jewish
territory consisted of Judaea proper, to which Galilee,
Samaria and Peraea were joined as Toparchies. These
Toparchies consisted of a group of townships, under a
Metropolis. The villages and townships themselves had neither
magistrates of their own, nor civic constitution, nor lawful
popular assemblies. Such civil adminstration as they required
devolved on ‘Scribes’ (the so-called). Thus Jerusalem was
really, as well as nominally, the capital of the whole land.
Judaea itself was arranged into eleven, or rather, more
exactly, into nine Toparchies, of which Jerusalem was the
chief. While, therefore, the Hellenic cities were each
independent of the other, the whole Jewish territory formed
only one ‘Civitas.’ Rule, government, tribute, in short,
political life, centred in Jerusalem.
But this is not all. From motives similar to those which led
to the founding of other Hellenic cities, Herod the Great and
his immediate successors built a number of towns, which were
inhabited chiefly by Gentiles, and had independent
constitutions, like those of the Hellenic cities. Thus, Herod
himself built Sebaste (Samaria), in the centre of the
country; Caesarea in the west, commanding the sea-coast; Gaba
in Galilee, close to the great plain of Esdraelon; and
Esbonitis in Peraea. [1 Herod rebuilt or built other cities,
such as Antipatris, Cypros, Phasaelis, Anthedon, &c. Schurer
describes the two first as built, but they were only rebuilt
or fortified (comp. Ant. xiii. 15. 1; War i. 21. 8.) by
Herod.] Similarly, Philip the Tetrarch built Caesarea
Philippi and Julias (Bethsaida-Julias, on the western shore
of the lake); and Herod Antipas another Julias, and Tiberias.
[2 He also rebuilt Sepphoris.] The object of these cities was
twofold. As Herod, well knowing his unpopularity, surrounded
himself by foreign mercenaries, and reared fortresses around
his palace and the Temple which he built, so he erected these
fortified posts, which he populated with strangers, as so
many outworks, to surround and command Jerusalem and the Jews
on all sides. Again, as, despite his profession of Judaism,
he reared magnificent heathen temples in honour of Augustus
at Sebaste and Caesarca, so those cities were really intended
to form centres of Grecian influence within the sacred
territory itself. At the same time, the Herodian cities
enjoyed not the same amount of liberty as the ‘Hellenic,’
which, with the exception of certain imposts, were entirely
self-governed, while in the former there were representatives.of the Herodian rulers. [3 Comp. on the subject of the civic
institutions of the Roman Empire, Kuhn, Die Stadt. u.
burgerl. Verf. d. Rom. Reichs, 2 vols.; and for this part.
vol. ii. pp. 336-354, and pp. 370-372.]
Although each of these towns and districts had its special
deities and rites, some being determined by local traditions,
their prevailing character may be described as a mixture of
Greek and Syrian worship, the former preponderating, as might
be expected. [4 A good sketch of the variousrites prevailing
in different places is given by Schurer, Neutest. Zeitg. pp.
378-385.] On the other hand, Herod and his successors
encouraged the worship of the Emperor and of Rome, which,
characteristically, was chiefly practised in the East. [5
Comp. Weiseler, Beitr. z richt. Wur dig. d. Evang. pp. 90
91.] Thus, in the temple which Herod built to Augustus in
Caesarea, there were statues of the Emperor as Olympian Zeus,
and of Rome as Hera. [a Jos. Ant. xv. 9. 6; War i. 21. 5-8.]
He was wont to excuse this conformity to heathenism before
his own people on the ground of political necessity. Yet,
even if his religious inclinations had not been in that
direction, he would have earnestly striven to Grecianise the
people. Not only in Caesarea, but even in Jerusalem, he built
a theatre and amphitheatre, where at great expense games were
held every four years in honour of Augustus. [1 The Actian
games took place every fifth year, three years always
intervening. The games in Jerusalem were held in the year 28
B.C. (Jos. Ant. xv. 8. 1); the first games in Caesarea in the
year 12 B.C. (Ant. xvi. 5. 1; comp. War. i. 21. 8).] Nay, he
placed over the great gate of Temple at Jerusalem a massive
golden eagle, the symbol of Roman dominion, as a sort of
counterpart to that gigantic golden vine, the symbol of
Israel, which hung above the entrance to the Holy Place.
These measures, indeed, led to popular indignation, and even
to conspiracies and tumults, [b Ant. xv. 8. 1-4; xvii. 6. 2]
though not of the same general and intense character, as
when, at a later period, Pilate sought to introduce into
Jerusalem images of the Emperor, or when the statue of
Caligula was to be placed in the Temple. In connection with
this, it is curious to notice that the Talmud, while on the
whole disapproving of attendance at theatres and
amphitheatres, chiefly on the ground that it implies ‘sitting
in the seat of scorners,’ and might involve contributions to
the maintenance of idol-worship, does not expressly prohibit
it, nor indeed speak very decidedly on the subject. [c So at
least in a Boraitha. Comp. the the discussion and the very
curious arguments in favour of attendance in Ab. Zar. 18 b,
and following
The views of the Rabbis in regard to pictorial
representations are still more interesting, as illustrating
their abhorrence of all contact with idolatry. We mark here
differences at two, if not at three periods, according to the
outward circumstances of the people. The earliest and
strictest opinions [d Mechilta on Ex. xx. 4 ed. Weiss, p. 75
a.] absolutely forbade any representation of things in
heaven, on earth, or in the waters. But the Mishnah [e Ab.
Zar. iii.] seems to relax these prohibitions by subtle.distinctions, which are still further carried out in the
Talmud. [2 For a full statement of the Talmudical views as to
images, representations on coins, and the most ancient Jewish
coins, see Appendix III.]
To those who held such stringent views, it must have been
peculiarly galling to see their most sacred feelings openly
outraged by their own rulers. Thus, the Asmonean princess,
Alexandra, the mother-in-law of Herod, could so far forget
the traditions of her house, as to send portraits of her son
and daughter to Mark Antony for infamous purposes, in hope of
thereby winning him for her ambitious plans. [f Jos. Ant. xv.
2. 5 and 6] One would be curious to know who painted these
pictures, for, when the statue of Caligula was to be made for
the Temple at Jerusalem, no native artist could be found, and
the work was entrusted to Phoenicians. It must have been
these foreigners also who made the ‘figures,’ with which
Herod adorned his palace at Jerusalem, and ‘the brazen
statues’ in the gardens ‘through which the water ran out,’ [a
Jos. Warv. 4. 4] as well as the colossal statues at Caesarea,
and those of the three daughters of Agrippa, which after his
death [b Acts xii. 23] were so shamefully abused by
thesoldiery at Sebaste and Caesarea. [cAnt. xix. 9. l]
This abhorrence of all connected with idolatry, and the
contempt entertained for all that was non-Jewish, will in
great measure explain the code of legislation intended to
keep the Jew and Gentile apart. If Judaea had to submit to
the power of Rome, it could at least avenge itself in the
Academies of its sages. Almost innumerable stories are told
in which Jewish sages, always easily, confute Roman and Greek
philosophers; and others, in which even a certain Emperor
(Antoninus) is represented as constantly in the most menial
relation of self-abasement before a Rabbi. [1 Comp. here the
interesting tractate of Dr. Bodek, ‘Marc. Aur. Anton. als
Freund u. Zeitgenosse des R. Jehuda ha Nasi.’] Rome, which
was the fourth beast of Daniel, [d Dan. vii. 23.] would in
the age to come, [2 The Athidlabho, ‘saeculum futurum,’ to be
distinguished from the Olam habba, ‘the world to come.’] when
Jerusalem would be the metropolis of all lands, [e Midr. R.
on Ex. Par. 23.] be the first to excuse herself on false
though vain pleas for her wrongs to Israel. [f Ab. Z. 2 b]
But on wordly grounds also, Rome was contemptible, having
derived her language and writing from the Greeks, and not
possessing even a hereditary succession in her empire. [g Ab.
Z. 10 a; Gitt. 80 a.] If such was the estimate of dreaded
Rome, it may be imagined in what contempt other nations were
held. Well might ‘the earth tremble,’ [Ps. ixxvi. 9.] for, if
Israel had not accepted the Law at Sinai, the whole world
would have been destroyed, while it once more ‘was still’
when that [i Shabb. 88 a.] happy event took place, although
God in a manner forced Israel to it. And so Israel was
purified at Mount Sinai from the impurity which clung to our
race in consequence of the unclean union between Eve and the
serpent, and which still adhered to all other nations! [3 Ab.
Z. 22 b. But as in what follows the quotations would be too
numerous, they will be omitted. Each statement, however,.advanced in the text or notes is derived from part of the
Talmudic tractate Abodah Zarah.]
To begin with, every Gentile child, so soon as born, was to
be regarded as unclean. Those who actually worshipped
mountains, hills, bushes, &c., in short, gross idolaters,
should be cut down with the sword. But as it was impossible
to exterminate heathenism, Rabbinic legislation kept certain
definite objects in view, which may be thus summarised: To
prevent Jews from being inadvertenly led into idolatry; to
avoid all participation in idolatry; not to do anything which
might aid the heathen in their worship; and, beyond all this,
not to give pleasure, nor even help, to heathens. The latter
involved a most dangerous principle, capable of almost
indefinite application by fanaticism. Even the Mishnah goes
for far [a Ab. Z. ii. 1] as to forbid aid to amother in the
hour of her need, or nourishment to her babe, in order not to
bring up a child for idolatry! [1 The Talmud declares it only
lawful if done to avoid exciting hatred against the Jews.]
But this is not all. Heathens were, indeed, not to be
precipitated into danger, but yet not to be delivered from
it. Indeed, an isolated teacher ventures even upon this
statement: ‘The best among the Gentiles, kill; the best among
serpents, crush its head.’ [b Mechilta, ed. Weiss, p. 33 b,
line 8 from top] Still more terrible was the fanaticism which
directed, that heretics, traitors, and those who had left the
Jewish faith should be thrown into actual danger, and, if
they were in it, all means for their escape removed. No
intercourse of any kind was to be had with such, not even to
invoke their medical aid in case of danger to life, [2 There
is a well-known story told of a Rabbi who was bitten by a
serpent, and about to be cured by the invocation of the name
of Jesus by a Jewish Christian, which was, however,
interdicted.] since it was deemed, that he who had to do with
heretics was imminent peril of becoming one himself, [3 Yet,
such is the moral obliquity, that even idolatry is allowed to
save life, provided it be done in secret!] and that, if a
heretic returned to the true faith, he should die at once,
partly, probably, to expiate his guilt, and partly from fear
of relapse. Terrible as all this sounds, it was probably not
worse than the fanaticism displayed in what are called more
enlightened times. Impartial history must chronicle it,
however painful, to show the circumstances in which teaching
so far different was propounded by Christ. [4 Against this,
although somewhat doubtfully, such concessions may be put as
that, outside Palestine, Gentiles were not to be considered
as idolators, but as observing the customs of their fathers
(Chull. 13 b), and that the poor of the Gentiles were to be
equally supported with those of Israel, their sick visited,
and their dead buried; it being, however, significantly
added, ‘on account of the arrangements of the world’ (Gitt.
61 a). The quotation so often made (Ab. Z. 3 a), that a
Gentile who occupied himself with the Torah was to be
regarded as equal to the High-Priest, proves nothing, since
in the case supposed the Gentile acts like a Rabbinic Jew.
But, and this is a more serious point, it is difficult to
believe that those who make this quotation are not aware, how.the Talmud (Ab. Z. 3 a) immediately labours to prove that
their reward is not equal to that of Israelites. A somewhat
similar charge of one-sideness, if not of unfairness, must be
brought against Deutsch (Lecture on the Talmud, Remains, pp.
146, 147), whose sketch of Judaism should be compared, for
example, with the first Perek of the Talmudic tractate Abodah
In truth, the bitter hatred which the Jew bore to the
Gentile can only be explained from the estimate entertained
of his character. The most vile, and even unnatural, crimes
were imputed to them. It was not safe to leave cattle in
their charge, to allow their women to nurse infants, or their
physicians to attend the sick, nor to walk in their company,
without taking precautions against sudden and unprovoked
attacks. They should, so far as possible, be altogether
avoided, except in cases of necessity or for the sake of
business. They and theirs were defiled; their houses unclean,
as containing idols or things dedicated to them; their
feasts, their joyous occasions, their very contact, was
polluted by idolatry; and there was no security, if a heathen
were left alone in a room, that he might not, in wantonness
or by carelessness, defile the wine or meat on the table, or
the oil and wheat in the store. Under such circumstances,
therefore, everything must be regarded as having been
rendered unclean. Three days before a heathen festival
(according to some, also three days after) every business
transaction with them was prohibited, for fear of giving
either help or pleasure. Jews were to avoid passing through a
city where there was an idolatrous feast, nay, they were not
even to sit down within the shadow of a tree dedicated to
idol-worship. Its wood was polluted; if used in baking, the
bread was unclean; if a shuttle had been made of it, not only
was all cloth woven on it forbidden, but if such had been
inadvertently mixed with other pieces of cloth, or a garment
made from it placed with other garments, the whole became
unclean. Jewish workmen were not to assist in building
basilicas, nor stadia, nor places where judicial sentences
were pronounced by the heathen. Of course, it was not lawful
to let houses or fields, nor to sell cattle to them. Milk
drawn by a heathen, if a Jew had not been present to watch
it, [a Ab. Zar. 35 b.] bread and oil prepared by them, were
unlawful. Their wine was wholly interdicted [1 According to
R. Asi, there was a threefold distinction. If wine had been
dedicated to an idol, to carry, even on a stick, so much as
the weight of an olive of it, defiled a man. Other wine, if
prepared by a heathen, was prohibited, whether for personal
use or for trading. Lastly, wine prepared by a Jew, but
deposited in custody of a Gentile, was prohibited for
personal use, but allowed for traffic.] , the mere touch of a
heathen polluted a whole cask; nay, even to put one’s nose to
heathen wine was strictly prohibited!
Painful as these details are, they might be multiplied. And
yet the bigotry of these Rabbis was, perhaps, not worse than
that of other sectaries. It was a painful logical necessity
of their system, against which their heart, no doubt, often.rebelled; and, it must be truthfully added, it was in measure
accounted for by the terrible history of Israel.
In trying to picture to ourselves New Testament scenes, the
figure most prominent, next to those of the chief actors, is
that of the Scribe (literatus). He seems ubiquitous; we meet
him in Jerusalem, in Judaea, and even in Galilee. [a St. Luke
v. 17.] Indeed, he is indispensable, not only in Babylon,
which may have been the birthplace of his order, but among
the ‘dispersion’ also. [b Jos. Ant. xviii. 3. 5 xx. 11. 2]
Everywhere he appears as the mouthpiece and representative of
the people; he pushes to the front, the crowd respectfully
giving way, and eagerly hanging on his utterances, as those
of a recognised authority. He has been solemnly ordained by
the laying on of hands; and is the Rabbi, [1 The title Rabbon
(our Master) occurs first in connection with Gamaliel i.
(Acts v. 34). The N.T. expression Rabboni or Rabbouni (St.
Mark x. 51; St. John xx. 16) takes the word Rabbon or Rabban
(here in the absolute sense)= Rabh, and adds to it the
personal suffix ‘my,’ pronouncing the Kamez in the Syriac
manner.] ‘my great one,’ Master, amplitudo. He puts
questions; he urges objections; he expects full explanations
and respectful demeanour. Indeed, his hyper-ingenuity in
questioning has become a proverb. There is not measure of his
dignity, nor yet limit to his importance. He is the ‘lawyer,’
[c the legis Divinae peritus, St. Matt. xxii. 35; St. Luke
vii. 30; x.25; xi. 45; xiv. 3.] the well-plastered pit,’
filled with the water of knowledge’out of which not a drop
can escape,’ [d Ab. ii. 8.] in opposition to the weeds of
untilled soil’ of ignorance. [e Ber. 45 b 2; Ab. ii. 5;
Bemid. R. 3.] He is the Divine aristocrat, among the vulgar
herd of rude and profane ‘country-people,’ who ‘know not the
Law’ and are ‘cursed.’ More than that, his order constitutes
the ultimate authority on all questions of faith and
practice; he is ‘the Exegete of the Laws,’ [f Jos. Ant. xvii.
6 2.] the ‘teacher of the Law,’ [g St. Luke v. 17; Acts v.
34; comp. also 1 Tim. i. 7.] and along with ‘the chief
priests’ and ‘elders’ a judge in the ecclesiastical
tribunals, whether of the capital or in the provinces. [h St.
Matt. ii. 4; xx. 18; xxi. 15; xxvi. 57; xxvii. 41; St. Mark
xiv.1.43;xv. 1; St. Luke xxii. 2, 66; xxiii. 10; Acts iv. 5.]
Although generally appearing incompany with ‘the Pharisees,’
he is not necessarily one of them, for they represent a
religious party, while he has a status, and holds an office.
[1 The distinction between ‘Pharisees’ and ‘Scribes,’ is
marked in may passages in the N.T., for example, St. Matt.
xxiii. passim; St. Luke vii. 30; xiv. 3; and especially in.St. Luke xi. 43, comp. with v. 46. The words ‘Scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites,’ in ver. 44, are, according to all
evidence, spurious.] In short, he is the Talmid or learned
student, the Chakham or sage, whose honour is to be great in
the future world. Each Scribe outweighed all the common
people, who must accordingly pay him every honour. Nay, they
were honoured of God Himself, and their praises proclaimed by
the angels; and in heaven also, each of them would hold the
same rank and distinction as on earth. [a Siphre or Numb. p
25 b.] Such was to be therespect paid to their sayings, that
they were to be absolutely believed, even if they were to
declare that to be at the right hand which was at the left,
or vice versa. [b Siphre on Deut. p. 105 a.]
An institution which had attained such proportions, and
wielded such power, could not have been of recent growth. In
point of fact, its rise was very gradual, and stretched back
to the time of Nehemiah, if not beyond it. Although from the
utter confusion of historical notices in Rabbinic writings
and their constant practice of antedating events, it is
impossible to furnish satisfactory details, the general
development of the institution can be traced with sufficient
precision. If Ezra is described in Holy Writ [c Ezra vii.6,
10, 11, 12.] as ‘a ready (expertus) Scribe,’ who had ‘set his
heart to seek (seek out the full meaning of) the law of the
Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel,’ this might
indicate to his successors, the Sopherim (Scribes), the
threefold direction which their studies afterwards took: the
Midrash, the Halakhah, and the Haggadah, [e Nedar. iv. 8.] [2
In Ned. iv. 3 this is the actual division. Of course, in
another sense the Midrash might be considered as the source
of both the Halakhah and the Haggadah.] of which the one
pointed to Scriptural investigation, the other to what was to
be observed, and the third to oral teaching in the widest
sense. But Ezra left his work uncompleted. On Nehemiah’s
second arrival in Palestine, he found matters again in a
state of utmost confusion. [f Neh. xiii.] He must have felt
the need of establishing some permanent authority to watch
over religious affairs. This we take to have been ‘the Great
Assembly,’ or, as it is commonly called, the ‘Great
Synagogue.’ It is impossible with certainty to determine, [3
Very strange and ungrounded conjectures on this subject have
been hazarded, which need not here find a place. Comp. for
ex. the two articles of Gratz in Frankel’s Montsschrift for
1857, pp. 31 etc. 61 etc., the main positions of which have,
however, been adopted by some learned English writers.]
either who composed this assembly, or of how many members it
consisted. [4 The Talmudic notices are often inconsistent.
The number as given in them amounts to about 120. But the
modern doubts (of Kuenen and others) against the institution
itself cannot be sustained.] Probably it comprised the
leading men in Church and State, the chief priests, elders,
and ‘judges’, the latter two classes including ‘the Scribes,’
if, indeed, that order was already separately organised. [a
Ezra x. 14; Neh. v. 7.] Probably also the term ‘Great
Assembly’ refers rather to a succession of men than to one
Synod; the ingenuity of later times filling such parts of the.historical canvas as had been left blank with fictitious
notices. In the nature of things such an assembly could not
exercise permanent sway in a sparsely populated country,
without a strong central authority. Nor could they have
wielded real power during the political difficulties and
troubles of foreign domination. The oldest tradition [b Ab.
i. 1.] sums up the result of their activity in this sentence
ascribed to them: ‘Be careful in judgment, set up many
Talmidim, and make a hedge about the Torah (Law).’
In the course of time this rope of sand dissolved. The
High-Priest, Simon the Just, [c In the beginning of the third
century B.C.] is already designated as ‘of the remnants of
the Great Assembly.’ But even this expression does not
necessarily imply that he actually belonged to it. In the
troublous times which followed his Pontificate, the sacred
study seems to have been left to solitary individuals. The
Mishnic tractate Aboth, which records ‘the sayings of the
Fathers,’ here gives us only the name of Antigonus of Socho.
It is significant, that for the first time we now meet a
Greek name among Rabbinic authorities, together with an
indistinct allusion to his disciples. [d Ab. i. 3, 4] [1 Zunz
has well pointed out that, if in Ab. i. 4 the first ‘couple’
is said to have ‘received from them’, while only Antigonus is
mentioned in the preceding Mishnah, it must imply Antigonus
and his unnamed disciples and followers. In general, I may
take this opportunity of stating that, except for special
reasons, I shall not refer to previous writers on this
subject, partly because it would necessitate too many
quotations, but chiefly because the line of argument I have
taken differs from that of my predecessors.] The long
interval between Simon theJust and Antigonus and his
disciples, brings us to the terrible time of Antiochus
Epiphanes and the great Syrian persecution. The very sayings
attributed to these two sound like an echo of the political
state of the country. On three things, Simon was wont to say,
the permanency of the (Jewish?) world depends: on the Torah
(faithfulness to the Law and its pursuit), on worship (the
non-participation in Grecianism), and on works of
righteousness. [e Ab. i. 2.] They were dark times, when God’s
persecuted people were tempted to think, that it might be
vain to serve Him, in which Antigonus had it: ‘Be not like
servants who serve their master for the sake of reward, but
be like servants who serve their lord without a view to the
getting of reward, and let the fear of heaven be upon you.’
[f Ab. i. 3.] After these two names come those of the
so-called five Zugoth, or ‘couples,’ of whom Hillel and
Shammai are the last. Later tradition has represented these
successive couples as, respectively, the Nasi (president),
and Ab-beth-din (vice-president, of the Sanhedrin). Of the
first three of these ‘couples’ it may be said that, except
significant allusions to the circumstances and dangers of
their times, their recorded utterances clearly point to the
development of purely Sopheric teaching, that is, to the
Rabbinistic part of their functions. From the fourth
‘couple,’ which consists of Simon ben Shetach, who figured so
largely in the political history of the later Maccabees [1.See Appendix IV.: ‘Political History of the Jews from the
Reign of Alexander to the Accession of Herod.’] (as
Ab-beth-din), and his superior in learning and judgment,
Jehudah ben Tabbai (as Nasi), we have again utterances which
show, in harmony with the political history of the time, that
judicial functions had been once more restored to the Rabbis.
The last of five couples brings us to the time of Herod and
of Christ.
We have seen that, during the period of severe domestic
troubles, beginning with the persecutions under the
Seleucidae, which marked the mortal struggle between Judaism
and Grecianism, the ‘Great Assembly’ had disappeared from the
scene. The Sopherim had ceased to be a party in power. They
had become the Zeqenim, ‘Elders,’ whose task was purely
ecclesiastical, the perservation of their religion, such as
the dogmatic labours of their predecessors had made it. Yet
another period opened with the advent of the Maccabees. These
had been raised into power by the enthusiasm of the Chasidim,
or ‘pious ones,’ who formed the nationalist party in the
land, and who had gathered around the liberators of their
faith and country. But the later bearing of the Maccabees had
alienated the nationalists. Henceforth they sink out of view,
or, rather, the extreme section of them merged in the extreme
section of the Pharisees, till fresh national calamities
awakened a new nationalist party Instead of the Chasidim, we
see now two religious parties within the Synagogue, the
pharisees and the Sadducees. The latter originally
represented a reaction from the Pharisees, the modern men,
who sympathised with the later tendencies of the Maccabees.
Josephus places the origin of these two schools in the time
of Jonathan, the successor of Judas Maccabee, [a 160-143
B.C.] and with this other Jewish notices agree. Jonathan
accepted from the foreigner (the Syrian) the High-Priestly
dignity, and combined with it that of secular ruler. But this
is not all. The earlier Maccabees surrounded themselves with
a governing eldership. [b The Pepovajia, 1 Maco. xii. 6;
xiii. 36; xiv. 28; Jos. Ant. xiii. 4. 9; 5. 8] [2 At the same
time some kind of ruling existed earlier than at this period,
if we may judge from Jos. Ant. xii 3.3.] On the coins of
their reigns this is designated as the Chebher, or eldership
(association) of the Jews. Thus, theirs was what Josephus
designates as an aristocratic government, [a Ant. xi. 4. 8]
and of which he somewhat vaguely says, that it lasted ‘from
the Captivity until the descendants of the Asmoneans set up
kingly government.’ In this aristocratic government the
High-Priest would rather be the chief of a representative
ecclesiastical body of rulers. This state of things continued
until the great breach between Hycanus, the fourth from Judas
Maccabee, and the Pharisaical party, [1 Even Ber. 48 a
furnishes evidence of this ‘enmity.’ On the hostile relations
between the Pharisaical party and the Maccabees see
Hamburger, Real-Enc. ii. p. 367. Comp. Jer. Taan. iv. 5.]
which is equally recorded by Josephus [b Ant. xiii. 10. 5. 6]
and the Talmud, with only variations of names and details.
The dispute apparently arose from the desire of the
Pharisees, that Hycanus should be content with the secular.power, and resign the Pontificate. But it ended in the
persecution, and removal from power, of the Pharisees. Very
significantly, Jewish tradition introduces again at this time
those purely ecclesiastical authorities which are designated
as ‘the couples.’ [d Jer. Maas Sheni v. end, p. 56 d Jer.
Sot. ix. p. 24 a] In accordance with this, altered state of
things, the name ‘Chebher’ now disappears from the coins of
the Maccabees, and Rabbinical celebrities (‘the couples’ or
Zugoth) are only teachers of traditionalism, and
ecclesiastical authorities. The ‘eldership,’ which under the
earlier Maccabees was called ‘the tribunal of the Asmoneans.’
[f Sanh 82 a; Ab. Z. 36 b.] [2 Derenbourg takes a different
view, and identifies the tribunal of the Asmoneans with the
Sanhedrin. This seems to me, historically, impossible. But
his opinion to that effect (u. s. p. 87) is apparently
contradicted at p. 93.] now passed into the Sanhedrin. [3
Schurer, following Wieseler, supposes the Sanhedrin to have
been of Roman institution. But the arguments of Wieseler on
this point [Beitr. zur richt. Wurd. d. Evang. p. 224] are
inconclusive.] [g in the N.T also once Acts v. 21 and twice
St. Luke xxii. 66; Acts xxii 5.] Thus we place the origin of
this institution about the time of Hyrcanus. With this Jewish
tradition fully agrees. [4 Comp. Derenbourg, u. s. p. 95.]
The power of the Sanhedrin would, of course, vary with
political circumstances, being at times almost absolute, as
in the reign of the Pharisaic devotee-Queen, Alexandra, while
at others it was shorn of all but ecclesiasticla authority.
But as the Sanhedrin was in full force at the time of Jesus,
its organization will claim our attention in the sequel.
After this brief outline of the origin and development of an
institution which exerted such decisive influence on the
future of Israel, it seems necessary similarly to trace the
growth of the ‘traditions of the Elders, ‘so as to understand
what, alas! so effectually, opposed the new doctrine of the
Kingdom. The first place must here be assigned to those legal
determinations, which traditionalism declared absolutely
binding on all, not only of equal, but even greater
obligation than Scripture itself. [5 Thus we read: ‘The
sayings of the elders have more weight than those of the
prophets’ (Jer. Ber. i. 7); ‘an offence against the sayings
of the Scribes is worse than one against those of Scripture’
(Sanh. xi. 3). Compare also Er. 21 b The comparison between
such claims and those sometimes set up on behalf of ‘creeds’
and ‘articles’ (Kitto’s Cyclop., 2nd ed., p. 786, col a) does
not seem to me applicable. In the introduction to the Midr.
on Lament. it is inferred from Jer. ix. 12, 13, that to
forsake the law, in the Rabbinic sense, was worse than
adolatry, uncleanness, or the shedding of blood. See
generally that Introduction.] And this not illogically, since
tradition was equally of Divine origin with Holy Scripture,
and authoritatively explained its meaning; supplemented it;
gave it application to cases not expressly provided for,
perhaps not even forseen in Biblical times; and generally
guarded its sanctity by extending and adding to its
provisions, drawing ‘a hedge,’ around its ‘garden enclosed.’
Thus, in new and dangerous circumstances, would the full.meaning of God’s Law, to its every title and iota, be
elicited and obeyed. Thus also would their feet be arrested,
who might stray from within, or break in from without.
Accordingly, so important was tradition, that the greatest
merit a Rabbi could claim was the strictest adherence to the
traditions, which he had received from his teacher. Nor might
one Sanhedrin annul, or set aside, the decrees of its
predecessors. To such length did they go in this worship of
the letter, that the great Hillel was actually wont to
mispronounce a word, because his teacher before him had done
so. [a Eduy. i. 3. See the comment of Maimonides.]
These traditional ordinances, as already stated, bear the
general name of the Halakhah, as indicating alike the way in
which the fathers had walked, and that which their children
were bound to follow. [1 It is so explained in the Aruch (ed
Zandau, vol. ii. p. 529, col b).] These Halakhoth were either
simply the laws laid down in Scripture; or else derived from,
or traced to it by some ingenious and artificial method of
exegesis; or added to it, by way of amplification and for
safety’s sake; or, finally, legalized customs. They provided
for every possible and impossible case, entered into every
detail of private, family, and public life; and with iron
logic, unbending rigour, and most minute analysis pursued and
dominated man, turn whither he might, laying on him a yoke
which was truly unbearable. The return which it offered was
the pleasure and distinction of knowledge, the acquisition of
righteousness, and the final attainment of rewards; one of
its chief advantages over our modern traditionalism, that it
was expressly forbidden to draw inferences from these
traditions, which should have the force of fresh legal
determinations. [2 Comp. Hamburger, u.s. p 343.]
In describing the historical growth of the Halakhah, [3
Comp. here especially the detailed description by Herzfeld
(u. s. vol. iii. pp. 226, 263); also the Introduction of
Maimonides, and the very able and learned works (not
sufficiently appreciated) by Dr. H. S. Hirschfeld,
Halachische Exegese (Berlin, 1840), and Hagadische Exegese
(Berlin, 1847). Perhaps I may also take leave to refer to the
corresponding chapters in my ‘History of the Jewish Nation.’
Similarly, the expressions in Ex. xxiv. 12 were thus
explained: ‘the tables of stone,’ the ten commandments; the
‘law,’ the written Law; the ‘commandments,’ the Mishnah;
‘which I have written,’ the Prophets and Hagiographa; ‘that
thou mayest teach them,’ the Talmud, which shows that they
were all given to Moses on Sinai’ (Ber. 5 a, lines 11-16). A
like application was made of the various clauses in Cant.
vii. 12 (Erub. 21 b). Nay, by an alternation of the words in
Hos. vii. 10, it was shown that the banished had been brought
back for the merit of their study (of the sacrificial
sections) of the Mishnah (Vayyik R. 7).] we may dismiss in a
few sentences the legends of Jewish tradition about
patriarchal times. They assure us, that there was an Academy
and a Rabbinic tribunal of Shem, and they speak of traditions
delivered by that Patriarch to Jacob; of diligent attendance
by the latter on the Rabbinic College; of a tractate (in 400.sections) on idolatry by Abraham, and of his observance of
the whole traditional law; of the introduction of the three
daily times of prayer, successively by Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob; of the three benedictions in the customary ‘grace at
meat,’ as propounded by Moses, Joshua, and David and Solomon;
of the Mosaic introduction of the practice of reading lessons
from the law on Sabbaths, New Moons, and Feast Days, and even
on the Mondays and Thursdays; and of that, by the same
authority, of preaching on the three great festivals about
those feasts. Further, they ascribe to Moses the arrangement
of the priesthood into eight courses (that into sixteen to
Samuel, and that into twenty-four to David), as also, the
duration of the time for marriage festivities, and for
mourning. But evidently these are vague statements, with the
object of tracing traditionalism and its observances to
primaeval times, even as legend had it, that Adam was born
circumcised, [a Midr. Shochar Tobh on Ps. ix. 6. ed. Warshau,
p. 14 b; Abde R. Nath. 2.] and later writers that he had kept
all the ordinances.
But other principles apply to the traditions, from Moses
downwards. According to the Jewish view, God had given Moses
on Mount Sinai alike the oral and the written Law, that is,
the Law with all its interpretations and applications. From
Ex. xx. 1, it was inferred, that God had communicated to
Moses the Bible, the Mishnah, and Talmud, and the Haggadah,
even to that which scholars would in latest times propound.
In answer to the somewhat natural objection, why the Bible
alone had been written, it was said that Moses had proposed
to write down all the teaching entrusted to him, but the
Almighty had refused, on account of the future subjection of
Israel to the nations, who would take from them the written
Law. Then the unwritten traditions would remain to separate
between Israel and the Gentiles. Popular exegesis found this
indicated even in the language of prophecy. [b Hos. viii
12;comp. Shem. R. 47.]
But traditionalism went further, and placed the oral
actually above the written Law. The expression, [a Ex. xxxiv.
27.] ‘After the tenor of these words I have made a covenant
with thee and with Israel,’ was explained as meaning, that
God’s covenant was founded on the spoken, in opposition to
the written words. [b Jer. Chag. p. 76 d.] If the written was
thus placed below the oral Law, we can scarcely wonder that
the reading of the Hagiographa was actually prohibited to the
people on the Sabbath, from fear that it might divert
attention from the learned discourses of the Rabbis. The
study of them on that day was only allowed for the purpose of
learned investigation and discussions. [c Tos. Shabb. xiv.]
[1. Another reason also is, however, mentioned for his
But if traditionalism was not to be committed to writing by
Moses, measures had been taken to prevent oblivion or
inaccuracy. Moses had always repeated a traditional law
successively to Aaron, to his sons, and to the elders of the
people, and they again in turn to each other, in such wise,.that Aaron heard the Mishnah four times, his sons three
times, the Elders twice, and the people once. But even this
was not all, for by successive repetitions of Aaron, his
sons, and the Elders) the people also heard it four times. [d
Erub. 54b.] And, before his death, Moses had summoned any one
to come forward, if he had forgotten aught of what he had
heard and learned. [e Deut. i. 5.] But these ‘Halakhoth of
Moses from Sinai’ do not make up the whole of traditionalism.
According to Maimonides, it consists of five, but more
critically of three classes. [2 Hirschfeld, u. s. pp. 92-99.]
The first of these comprises both such ordinances as are
found in the Bible itself, and the so-called Halakhoth of
Moses from Sinai, that is, such laws and usages as prevailed
from time immemorial, and which, according to the Jewish
view, had been orally delivered to, but not written down by
Moses. For these, therefore, no proof was to be sought in
Scripture, at most support, or confirmatory allusion
(Asmakhtu). [3 From to lean against. At the same time the
ordinances, for which an appeal could be made to Asmakhta,
were better liked than those which rested on tradition alone
(Jer. Chag. p. 76, col d).] Nor were these open to
discussion. The second class formed the ‘oral law,’ [f.] or
the ‘traditional teaching’ [g.] in the stricter sense. To
this class belonged all that was supposed to be implied in,
or that could be deduced from, the Law of Moses. [4 In
connection with this it is very significant that R. Jochanan
ben Zaccai, who taught not many years after the Crucifixion
of Christ, was wont to say, that, in the future, Halakhahs in
regard to purity, which had not the support of Scripture,
would be repeated (Sot. 27 b, line 16 from top). In general,
the teaching of R. Jochanan should be studied to understand
the unacknowledged influence which Christianity exercised
upon the Synagogue.] The latter contained, indeed, in
substance or germ, everything; but it had not been brought
out, till circumstances successfully evolved what from the
first had been provided in principle. For this class of
ordinances reference to, and proof from, Scripture was
required. Not so for the third class of ordinances, which
were ‘the hedge’ drawn by the Rabbis around the Law, to
prevent any breach of the Law or customs, to ensure their
exact observance, or to meet peculiar circumstances and
dangers. These ordinances constituted ‘the sayings of the
Scribes’ or ‘of the Rabbis’ [1 But this is not always.] , and
were either positive in their character (Teqqanoth), or else
negative (Gezeroth from gazar to cut off’). Perhaps the
distinction of these two cannot always be strictly carried
out. But it was probably to this third class especially,
confessedly unsupported by Scripture, that these words of
Christ referred: [c St. Matt. xxiii. 3, 4.] ‘All therefore
whatsoever they tell you, that do and observe; but do not ye
after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind
heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s
shoulders; but with their finger they will not move them away
(set in motion).’ [2 To elucidate the meaning of Christ, it
seemed necessary to submit an avowedly difficult text to
fresh criticism. I have taken the word moveo in the sense of
ire facio (Grimm, Clavis N.T. ed. 2(da), p. 241 a), but I.have not adopted the inference of Meyer (Krit. Exeget. Handb.
p. 455). In classical Greek also is used for ‘to remove, to
alter.’ My reasons against what may be called the traditional
interpretation of St. Matt. xxiii. 3, 4, are: 1. It seems
scarcely possible to suppose that, before such an audience,
Christ would have contemplated the possiblity of not
observing either of the two first classes of Halakhoth, which
were regarded as beyond controversy. 2. It could scarcely be
truthfully charged against the Scribes and Pharisees, that
they did not attempt to keep themselves the ordinances which
they imposed upon others. The expression in the parallel
passage (St. Luke xi. 46) must be explained in accordance
with the commentation on St. Matt. xxiii. 4. Nor is there any
serious difficulty about it.] This view has two-fold
confirmation. For, this third class of Halakhic ordinances
was the only one open to the discussion of the learned, the
ultimate decision being according to the majority. Yet it
possessed practically (though not theoretically) the same
authority as the other two classes. In further confirmation
of our view the following may be quoted: ‘A Gezerah (i.e.
this third class of ordinances) is not to be laid on the
congregation, unless the majority of the congregation is able
to bear it’ [d B. Kam. 79.] , words which read like a
commentary on those of Jesus, and show that these burdens
could be laid on, or moved away, according to the varying
judgment or severity of a Rabbinic College. [3 For the
classification, arrangement, origin, and enumeration of these
Halakhoth, see Appendix V.: ‘Rabbinic Theology and
This body of traditional ordinances forms the subject of the
Mishnah, or second, repeated law. We have here to place on
one side the Law of Moses as recorded in the Pentateuch, as
standing by itself. All else, even the teaching of the
Prophets and of the Hagiographa, as well as the oral
traditions, bore the general name of Qabbalah, ‘that which
has been received.’ The sacred study, or Midrash, in the
original application of the term, concerned either the
Halakhah, traditional ordinance, which was always ‘that which
was said’ upon the authority of individuals, not as legal
ordinance. It was illustration, commentary, anecdote, clever
or learned saying, &c. At first the Halakhah remained
unwritten, probably owing to the disputes between Pharisees
and Sadducees. But the necessity of fixedness and order led
in course of time to more or less complete collections of the
Halakhoth. [1 See the learned remarks of Levy about the
reasons for the earlier prohibition of writing down the oral
law, and the final collection of the Mishnah (Neuhebr. u.
Chald. Worterb. vol. ii. p. 435).] The oldest of these is
ascribed to R. Akiba, in the time of the Emperor Hadrian. [a
132-135 A.D.] [2 These collections are enumerated in the
Midrash on eccles. xii. 3. They are also distinguished as
‘the former’ and ‘the later’ Mishnah (Nedar. 91 a).] But the
authoritative collection in the so-called Mishhan is the work
of Jehudah the Holy, who died about the end of the second
century of our era..Altogether, the Mishnah comprises six ‘Orders’ (Sedarim),
each devoted to a special class of subjects. [3 The first
‘Order’ (Zeraim, ‘seeds’) begins with the ordinances
concerning ‘benedictions,’ or the time, mode, manner, and
character of the prayers prescribed. It then goes on to
detail what may be called the religio-agrarian laws (such as
tithing, Sabbatical years, first fruits, &c.). The second
‘Order’ (Moed, ‘festive time’) discusses all connected with
the Sabbath observance and the other festivals. The third
‘Order’ (Nashim, ‘women’) treats of all that concerns
betrothal, marriage and divorce, but also includes a tractate
on the Nasirate. The fourth ‘Order’ (Neziqin, ‘damages’)
contains the civil and criminal law. Characteristically, it
includes all the ordinances concerning idol-worship (in the
tractate Abhodah Zarah) and ‘the sayings of the Fathers’
(Abhoth). The fifth ‘Order’ (Qodashim, ‘holy things’) treats
of the various classes of sacrifices, offerings, and things
belonging (as the first-born), or dedicated, to God, and of
all questions which can be grouped under ‘sacred things’
(such as the redemption, exchange, or alienation of what had
been dedicated to God). It also includes the laws concerning
the daily morning and evening service (Tamid), and a
description of the structure and arrangements of the Temple
(Middoth, ‘the measurements’). Finally, the sixth ‘Order’
(Toharoth, ‘cleannesses’) gives every ordinance connected
with the questions of ‘clean and unclean,’ alike as regards
human beings, animals, and inanimate things.] These ‘Orders’
are divided into tractates (Massikhtoth, Massekhtiyoth,
‘textures, webs’), of which there are sixty-three (or else
sixty-two) in all. These tractates are again subdivided into
chapters (Peraqim), in all 525, which severally consist of a
certain number of verses, or Mishnahs (Mishnayoth, in all
4,187). Considering the variety and complexity of the
subjects treated, the Mishnah is arranged with remarkable
logical perspicuity. The language is Hebrew, though of course
not that of the Old Testament. The words rendered necessary
by the new circumstances are chiefly derived from the Greek,
the Syriac, and the Latin, with Hebrew terminations. [1 Comp.
the very interesting tractate by Dr. Brill (Fremdspr
Redensart in d. Talmud), as well as Dr. Eisler’s Beitrage z.
Rabb. u. Alterthumsk., 3 fascic; Sachs, Beitr. z. Rabb u.
Alterthumsk.] But all connected with social intercourse, or
ordinary life (such as contracts), is written, not in Hebrew,
but in Aramaean, as the language of the people.
But the traditional law embodied other materials than the
Halakhoth collected in the Mishnah. Some that had not been
recorded there, found a place in the works of certain Rabbis,
or were derived from their schools. These are called
Boraithas, that is, traditions external to the Mishnah.
Finally, there were ‘additions’ (or Tosephtoth), dating after
the completion of the Mishnah, but probably not later than
the third century of our era. Such there are to not fewer
than fifty-two out of the sixty-three Mishnic tractates. When
speaking of the Halakhah as distinguished from the Haggadah,
we must not, however, suppose that the latter could be
entirely separated from it. In point of fact, one whole.tractate in the Mishnah (Aboth: The Sayings of the ‘Fathers’)
is entirely Haggadah; a second (Middoth: the ‘Measurements of
the Temple’) has Halakhah in only fourteen places; while in
the rest of the tractates Haggadah occurs in not fewer than
207 places. [2 Comp. the enumeration in Pinner, u. s.] Only
thirteen out of the sixty-three tractates of the Mishnah are
entirely free from Haggadah.
Hitherto we have only spoken of the Mishnah. But this
comprises only a very small part of traditionalism. In course
of time the discussions, illustrations, explanations, and
additions to which the Mishnah gave rise, whether in its
application, or in the Academies of the Rabbis, were
authoritatively collected and edited in what are known as the
two Talmuds or Gemaras. [3 Talmud: that which is learned,
doctrine.Gemara: either the same, or else ‘perfection,’
‘completion.’] If we imagine something combining law reports,
a Rabbinical ‘Hansard,’ and notes of a theological debating
club, all thoroughly Oriental, full of digressions,
anecdotes, quaint sayings, fancies, legends, and too often of
what, from its profanity, superstition, and even obscenity,
could scarcely be quoted, we may form some general idea of
what the Talmud is. The oldest of these two Talmuds dates
from about the close of the fourth century of our era. It is
the product of the Palestinian Academies, and hence called
the Jerusalem Talmud. The second is about a century younger,
and the outcome of the Babylonian schools, hence called the
Babylon (afterwards also ‘our’) Talmud. We do not possess
either of these works complete. [1 The following will explain
our meaning: On the first ‘order’ we have the Jerusalem
Talmud complete, that is, on every tractate (comprising in
all 65 folio leaves), while the Babylon Talmud extends only
over its first tractate (Berakhoth). On the second order, the
four last chapters of one tractate (Shabbath) are wanting in
the Jerusalem, and one whole tractate (Sheqalim) in the
Babylon Talmud. The third order is complete in both Gemaras.
On the fourth order a chapter is wanting in one tractate
(Makkoth) in the Jerusalem, and two whole tractates (Eduyoth
and Abhoth) in both Gemaras. The fifth order is wholly
wanting in the Jerusalem, and two and a half tractates of it
Babylon Talmud. Of the sixth order only one tractate (Niddah)
exists in both Gemaras. The principal Halakhoth were
collected in a work (dating from about 800 A.D.) entitled
Halakhoth Gedoloth. They are arranged to correspond with the
weekly lectionary of the Pentateuch in a work entitled
Sheeltoth (‘Questions:’ bested. Dghernfurth, 1786). The
Jerusalem Talmud extends over 39, the Babylonian over 36 1/2
tractates, 15 1/2 tractates have no Gemara at all.] The most
defective is the Jerusalem Talmud, which is also much
briefer, and contains far fewer discussions than that of
Babylon. The Babylon Talmud, which in its present form
extends over thirty-six out of the sixty-three tractates of
the Mishnah, is about ten or eleven times the size of the
latter, and more than four times that of the Jerusalem
Talmud. It occupies (in our editions), with marginal
commentations, 2,947 folio leaves (pages a and b). Both
Talmuds are written in Aramaean; the one in its western, the.other in its eastern dialect, and in both the Mishnah is
discussed seriatim, and clause by clause. Of the character of
these discussions it would be impossible to convey an
adequate idea. When we bear in mind the many sparkling,
beautiful, and occasionally almost sublime passages in the
Talmud, but especially that its forms of thought and
expression so often recall those of the New Testament, only
prejudice and hatred could indulge in indiscriminate
vituperation. On the other hand, it seems unaccountable how
any one who has read a Talmudic tractate, or even part of
one, could compare the Talmud with the New Testament, or find
in the one the origin of the other.
To complete our brief survey, it should be added that our
editions of the Babylon Talmud contain (at the close of vol.
ix. and after the fourth ‘Order’) certain Boraithas. Of these
there were originally nine, but two of the smaller tractates
(on ‘the memorial fringes,’ and on ‘non-Israelites’) have not
been preserved. The first of these Boraithas is entitled
Abhoth de Rabbi Nathan, and partially corresponds with a
tractate of a similar name in the Mishnah. [2 The last ten
chapters curiously group together events or things under
numerals from 10 downwards. The most generally interesting of
these is that of the 10 Nequdoth, or passages of Scripture in
which letters are marked by dots, together with the
explanation of their reasons (ch. xxxiv.). The whole Boraitha
seems composed of parts of three different works, and
consists of forty (or forty-one) chapters, and occupies ten
folio leaves.] Next follow six minor tractates. These are
respectively entitled Sopherim (Scribes), [1 In twenty-one
chapters, each containing a number of Halakhahs, and
occupying in all four folio leaves.] detailing the ordinances
about copying the Scriptures, the ritual of the Lectionary,
and festive prayers; Ebhel Rabbathi or Semakhoth, [2 In
fourteen chapters, occupying rather more than three folio
leaves.] containing Halakhah and Haggadah about funeral and
mourning observances; Kallah, [3 It fills little more than a
folio page.] on the married relationship; Derekh Erets, [4 In
eleven chapters, covering about 1 3/4 folio leaves.]
embodying moral directions and the rules and customs of
social intercourse; Derekh Erets Zuta, [5 In nine chapters,
filling one folio leaf.] treating of similar subjects, but as
regards learned students; and, lastly, the Pereq ha Shalom,
[6 Little more than a folio column.] which is a eulogy on
peace. All these tractates date, at least in their present
form, later than the Talmudic period. [7 Besides these,
Raphael Kirchheim has published (Frankfort, 1851) the
so-called seven smaller tractates, covering altogether, with
abundant notes, only forty-four small pages, which treat of
the copying of the Bible (Sepher Torah, in five chapters), of
the Mezuzah, or memorial on the doorposts (in two chapters),
of the Tsitsith, (Tephillin, in one chapter), of the
Tsitsith, or memorial-fringes (in one chapter), of Slaves
(Abhadim, in three chapters) of the Cutheans, or Samaritans
(in two chapters), and, finally, a curious tractate on
Proselytes (Gerim, in four chapters).].But when the Halakhah, however varied in its application,
was something fixed and stable, the utmost latitude was
claimed and given in the Haggadah. It is sadly
characteristic, that, practically, the main body of Jewish
dogmatic and moral theology is really only Haggadah, and
hence of no absolute authority. The Halakhah indicated with
the most minute and painful punctiliousness every legal
ordinance as to outward observances, and it explained every
bearing of the Law of Moses. But beyond this it left the
inner man, the spring of actions, untouched. What he was to
believe and what to feel, was chiefly matter of the Haggadah.
Of course the laws of morality, and religion, as laid down in
the Pentateuch, were fixed principles, but there was the
greatest divergence and latitude in the explanation and
application of many of them. A man might hold or propound
almost any views, so long as he contravened not the Law of
Moses, as it was understood, and adhered in teaching and
practice to the traditional ordinances. In principle it was
the same liberty which the Romish Church accords to its
professing members, only with much wider application, since
the debatable ground embraced so many matters of faith, and
the liberty given was not only that of private opinion but of
public utterance. We emphasise this, because the absence of
authoritative direction and the latitude in matters of faith
and inner feeling stand side by side, and in such sharp
contrast, with the most minute punctiliousness in all matters
of outward observance. And here we may mark the fundamental
distinction between the teaching of Jesus and Rabbinism. He
left the Halakhah untouched, putting it, as it were, on one
side, as something quite secondary, while He insisted as
primary on that which to them was chiefly matter of Haggadah.
And this rightly so, for, in His own words, ‘Not that which
goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh
out of the mouth,’ since ‘those things which proceed out of
the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile the
man.’ [a St. Matt. xv. 11, 18.] The difference was one of
fundamental principle, and not merely of development, form,
or detail. The one developed the Law in its outward direction
as ordinances and commandments; the other in its inward
direction as life and liberty. Thus Rabbinism occupied one
pole, and the outcome of its tendency to pure externalism was
the Halakhah, all that was internal and higher being merely
Haggadic. The teaching of Jesus occupied the opposite pole.
Its starting-point was the inner sanctuary in which God was
known and worshipped, and it might well leave the Rabbinic
Halakhoth aside, as not worth controversy, to be in the
meantime ‘done and observed,’ in the firm assurance that, in
the course of its development, the spirit would create its
own appropriate forms, or, to use a New Testament figure, the
new wine burst the old bottles. And, lastly, as closely
connected with all this, and marking the climax of
contrariety: Rabbinism started with demand of outward
obedience and righteousness, and pointed to sonship as its
goal; the Gospel started with the free gift of forgiveness
through faith and of sonship, and pointed to obedience and
righteousness as its goal..In truth, Rabbinism, as such, had no system of theology;
only what ideas, conjectures, or fancies the Haggadah yielded
concerning God, Angels, demons, man, his future destiny and
present position, and Israel, with its past history and
coming glory. Accordingly, by the side of what is noble and
pure, what a terrible mass of utter incongruities, of
conflicting statements and too often debasing superstitions,
the outcome of ignorance and narrow nationalism; of legendary
colouring of Biblical narratives and scenes, profane, coarse,
and degrading to them; the Almighty Himself and His Angels
taking part in the conversations of Rabbis, and the
discussions of Academies; nay, forming a kind of heavenly
Sanhedrin, which occasionally requires the aid of an earthly
Rabbi. [1 Thus, in B. Mez. 86 a, we read of a discussion in
the heavenly Academy on the subject of purity, when Rabbah
was summoned to heaven by death, although this required a
miracle, since he was constantly engaged in sacred study.
Shocking to write, it needed the authority of Rabbah to
attest the correctness of the Almighty’s statement on the
Halakhic question discussed.] The miraculous merges into the
ridiculous, and even the revolting. Miraculous cures,
miraculous supplies, miraculous help, all for the glory of
great Rabbis, who by a look or word can kill, and restore to
life. At their bidding the eyes of a rival fall out, and are
again inserted. Nay, such was the veneration due to Rabbis,
that R. Joshua used to kiss the stone on which R. Eliezer had
sat and lectured, saying: ‘This stone is like Mount Sinai,
and he who sat on it like the Ark.’ Modern ingenuity has,
indeed, striven to suggest deeper symbolical meaning for such
stories. It should own the terrible contrast existing side by
side: Hebrewism and Judaism, the Old Testament and
traditionalism; and it should recognise its deeper cause in
the absence of that element of spiritual and inner life which
Christ has brought. Thus as between the two – the old and the
new – it may be fearlessly asserted that, as regards their
substance and spirit, there is not a difference, but a total
divergence, of fundamental principle between Rabbinism and
the New Testament, so that comparison between them is not
possible. Here there is absolute contrariety.
The painful fact just referred to is only too clearly
illustrated by the relation in which traditionalism places
itself to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, even though it
acknowledges their inspiration and authority. The Talmud has
it, [a Baba Mets. 33 a] that he who busies himselfwith
Scripture only (i.e. without either the Mishnah or Gemara)
has merit, and yet no merit. Even the comparative paucity of
references to the Bible in the Mishnah is significant Israel
had made void the Law by its traditions. Under a load of
outward ordinances and observances its spirit had been
crushed. The religion as well as the grand hope of the Old
Testament had become externalized. And so alike Heathenism
and Judaism – for it was no longer the pure religion of the
Old Testament – each following its own direction, had reached
its goal. All was prepared and waiting. The very porch had
been built, through which the new, and yet old, religion was
to pass into the ancient world, and the ancient world into.the new religion. Only one thing was needed: the Coming of
the Christ. As yet darkness covered the earth, and gross
darkness lay upon the people. But far away the golden light
of the new day was already tingeing the edge of the horizon.
Presently would the Lord arise upon Zion, and His glory be
seen upon her. Presently would the Voice from out the
wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; presently would it
herald the Coming of His Christ to Jew and Gentile, and that
Kingdom of heaven, which, established upon earth, is
righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. [1 For
details on the Jewish views on the Canon, and historical and
mystical theology, see Appendix V.: ‘Rabbinic Theology and
IF the dust of ten centuries could have been wiped from the
eyelids of those sleepers, and one of them who thronged
Jerusalem in the highday of its glory, during the reign of
King Solomon, had returned to its streets, he would scarcely
have recognised the once familiar city. Then, as now, a
Jewish king reigned, who bore undivided rule over the whole
land; then, as now, the city was filled with riches and
adorned with palaces and architectural monuments; then, as
now, Jerusalem was crowded with strangers from all lands.
Solomon and Herod were each the last Jewish king over the
Land of Promise; [1 I do not here reckon the brief reign of
King Agrippa.] Solomon and Herod, each, built the Temple. But
with the son of David began, and with the Idumaean ended,
‘the kingdom’; or rather, having fulfilled its mission, it
gave place to the spiritual world-kingdom of ‘David’s greater
Son.’ The sceptre departed from Judah to where the nations
were to gather under its sway. And the Temple which Solomon
built was the first. In it the Shekhinah dwelt visibly. The
Temple which Herod reared was the last. The ruins of its
burning, which the torch of the Romans had kindled, were
never to be restored. Herod was not the antitype, he was the
Barabbas, of David’s Royal Son.
In other respects, also, the difference was almost equally
great. The four ‘companion-like’ hills on which the city was
built, [a Ps. cxxii] the deep clefts by which it was
surrounded, the Mount of Olives rising in the the east, were
the same as a thousand years ago. There, as of old were the
Pool of Siloam and the royal gardens, nay, the very wall that
had then surrounded the city. And yet all was so altered as
to be scarcely recognisable. The ancient Jebusite fort, the
City of David, Mount Zion, [2 It will be seen that, with the
most recent explorers, I locate Mount Zion not on the
traditional site, on the western hill of Jerusalem, but onthe
eastern, south of the Temple area.] was now the priests’
quarter, Ophel, andthe old royal palace and stables had been
thrown into the Temple area, now completely levelled, where.they formed the magnificent treble colonnade, known as the
Royal Porch. Passing through it, and out by the Western Gate
of the Temple, we stand on the immense bridge which spans the
‘Valley of the Cheesemongers,’ or the Tyropoeon, and connects
the Eastern with the Western hills of the city. It is perhaps
here that we can best mark the outstanding features, and note
the changes. On the right, as we look northward, are (on the
Eastern hill) Ophel, the Priest-quarter, and the Temple, oh,
how wondrously beautiful and enlarged, and rising terrace
upon terrace, surrounded by massive walls: a palace, a
fortress, a Sanctuary of shining marble and glittering gold.
And beyond it frowns the old fortress of Baris, rebuilt by
Herod, and named after his patron, Antonia. This is the Hill
of Zion. Right below us is the cleft of the Tyropoeon, and
here creeps up northwards the ‘Lower City’ or Acra, in the
form of a crescent, widening into an almost square ‘suburb.’
Across the Tyropoeon, westward, rises the ‘Upper City.’ If
the Lower City and suburb form the business-quarter with its
markets, bazaars, and streets of trades and guilds, the
‘Upper City’ is that of palaces. Here, at the other end of
the great bridge which connects the Temple with the ‘Upper
City,’ is the palace of the Maccabees; beyond it, the Xystos,
or vast colonnaded enclosure, where popular assemblies are
held; then the Palace of Ananias the High-Priest, and nearest
to the Temple, ‘the Council Chamber’ and public Archives.
Behind it, westwards, rise, terrace upon terrace, the stately
mansions of the Upper City, till, quite in the north-west
corner of the old city, we reach the Palace which Herod had
built for himself, almost a city and fortress, flanked by
three high towers, and enclosing spacious gardens. Beyond it
again, and outside the city walls, both of the first and the
second, stretches all north of the city the new suburb of
Bezetha. Here on every side are gardens and villas; here
passes the great northern road; out there must they have laid
hold on Simon the Cyrenian, and here must have led the way to
the place of the Crucifixion.
Changes that marked the chequered course of Israel’s history
had come even over the city walls. The first and oldest, that
of David and Solomon, ran round the west side of the Upper
City, then crossed south to the Pool of Siloam, and ran up
east, round Ophel, till it reached the eastern enclosure of
the Temple, whence it passed in a straight line to the point
from which it had started, forming the northern boundary of
the ancient city. But although this wall still existed, there
was now a marked addition to it. When the Maccabee Jonathan
finally cleared Jerusalem of the Syrian garrison that lay in
Fort Acra, [a 1 Macc. i. 33, and often; but the precise
situation of this ‘fort’ is in dispute] he built a wall right
‘through the middle of the city,’ so as to shut out the foe.
[b 1 Macc. xii. 36; Jos. Ant. xiii. 5. 11; comp. with it xiv.
16. 2; War vi. 7. 2; 8. 1] This wall probably ran from the
western angle of the Temple southwards, to near the pool of
Siloam, following the winding course of the Tyropoeon, but on
the other side of it, where the declivity of the Upper City
merged in the valley. Another monument of the Syrian Wars, of
the Maccabees, and of Herod, was the fortress Antonia. Part.of it had, probably, been formerly occupied by what was known
as Fort Acra, of such unhappy prominence in the wars that
preceded and marked the early Maccabean period. it had passed
from the Ptolemies to the Syrians, and always formed the
central spot round which the fight for the city turned. Judas
Maccabee had not been able to take it. Jonathan had laid
siege to it, and built the wall, to which reference has just
been made, so as to isolatc its garrison. It was at last
taken by Simon, the brother and successor of Jonathan, and
levelled with the ground. [c 141 B.C.] Fort Baris, which was
constructed by his successor Hyrcanus I., [d 135-106 B.C.]
covered a much wider space. It lay on the northwestern angle
of the Temple, slightly jutting beyond it in the west, but
not covering the whole northern area of the Temple. The rock
on which it stood was higher than the Temple, [1 It is, to
say the least, doubtful, whether the numeral 50 cubits (75
feet), which Josephus assigns to this rock (War v. 5. 8),
applies to its height (comp. Speiss, Das Jerus. d. Jos.p.
66).] although lower than the hill up which the new suburb
Bezetha crept, which, accordingly, was cut off by a deep
ditch, for the safety of the fortress. Herod greatly enlarged
and strengthened it. Within encircling walls the fort rose to
a height of sixty feet, and was flanked by four towers, of
which three had a height of seventy, the fourth (S.E.), which
jutted into the Temple area, of 105 feet, so as to command
the sacred enclosure. A subterranean passage led into the
Temple itself, [e Ant. xv. 11. 7]which was also connected
with it by colonnades and stairs. Herod had adorned as well
as strengthened and enlarged, this fort (now Antonia), and
made it a palace, an armed camp, and almost a city. [f Jos.
War v. 5. 8]
Hitherto we have only spoken of the first, or old wall,
which was fortified by sixty towers. The second wall, which
had only fourteen towers, began at some point in the northern
wall at the Gate Gennath, whence it ran north, and then east,
so as to enclose Acra and the Suburb. It terminated at Fort
Antonia. Beyond, and all around this second wall stretched,
as already noticed, the new, as yet unenclosed suburb
Bezetha, rising towards the north-east. But these changes
were as nothing compared with those within the city itself.
First and foremost was the great transformation in the Temple
itself, [1 I must take leave to refer to the description of
Jerusalem, and especially of the Temple, in the ‘Temple and
its Services at the Time of Jesus Christ.’] which, from a
small building, little larger than an ordinary church, in the
time of Solomon, [2 Dr. Muhlau, in Riehm’s Handworterb. Part
viii. p. 682 b, speaks of the dimensions of the old Sanctuary
as little more than those of a village church.] had become
that great and glorious House which excited the admiration of
the foreigner, and kindled the enthusiasm of every son of
Israel. At the time of Christ it had been already forty-six
years in building, and workmen were still, and for a long
time, engaged on it. [3 It was only finished in 64 A.D., that
is, six years before its destruction.] But what a
heterogeneous crowd thronged its porches and courts!
Hellenists; scattered wanderers from the most distant parts.of the earth, east, west, north, and south; Galileans, quick
of temper and uncouth of Jewish speech; Judaeans and
Jerusalemites; white-robed Priests and Levites; Temple
officials; broad-phylacteried, wide-fringed Pharisees, and
courtly, ironical Sadducees; and, in the outer court, curious
Gentiles! Some had come to worship; others to pay vows, or
bring offerings, or to seek purification; some to meet
friends, and discourse on religious subjects in those
colonnaded porches, which ran round the Sanctuary; or else to
have their questions answered, or their causes heard and
decided, by the smaller Sanhedrin of twenty-three, that sat
in the entering of the gate or by the Great Sanhedrin. The
latter no longer occupied the Hall of Hewn Stones, Gazith,
but met in some chamber attached to those ‘shops,’ or booths,
on the Temple Mount, which belonged to the High-Priestly
family of Ananias, and where such profitable trade was driven
by those who, in their cupidity and covetousness, were worthy
successors of the sons of Eli. In the Court of the Gentiles
(or in its porches) sat the official money-changers, who for
a fixed discount changed all foreign coins into those of the
Sanctuary. Here also was that great mart for sacrificial
animals, and all that was requisite for offerings. How the
simple, earnest country people, who came to pay vows, or
bring offerings for purifying, must have wondered, and felt
oppressed in that atmosphere of strangely blended religious
rigorism and utter worldliness; and how they must have been
taxed, imposed upon, and treated with utmost curtness, nay,
rudeness, by those who laughed at their boorishness, and
despised them as cursed, ignorant country people, little
better than heathens, or, for that matter, than brute beasts.
Here also there lay about a crows of noisy beggars, unsightly
from disease, and clamorous for help. And close by passed the
luxurious scion of the High-Priestly families; the proud,
intensely self-conscious Teacher of the Law, respectfully
followed by his disciples; and the quick-witted, subtle
Scribe. These were men who, on Sabbaths and feast-days, would
come out on the Temple-terrace to teach the people, or
condescend to answer their questions; who in the Synagogues
would hold their puzzled hearers spell-bound by their
traditional lore and subtle argumentation, or tickle the
fancy of the entranced multitude, that thronged every
available space, by their ingenious frivolities, their
marvellous legends, or their clever sayings; but who would,
if occasion required, quell an opponent by well-poised
questions, or crush him beneath the sheer weight of
authority. Yet others were there who, despite the utterly
lowering influence which the frivolities of the prevalent
religion, and the elaborate trifling of its endless
observances, must have exercised on the moral and religious
feelings of all, perhaps, because of them, turned aside, and
looked back with loving gaze to the spiritual promises of the
past, and forward with longing expectancy to the near
‘consolation of Israel,’ waiting for it in prayerful
fellowship, and with bright, heaven-granted gleams of its
dawning light amidst the encircling gloom.
Descending from the Temple into the city, there was more.than enlargement, due to the increased population.
Altogether, Jerusalem covered, at its greatest, about 300
acres. [1 See Conder, Heth and Moab, p. 94.]As of old there
were still the same narrow streets in the business quarters;
but in close contiguity to bazaars and shops rose stately
mansions of wealthy merchants, and palaces of princes. [2
Such as the Palace of Grapte, and that of Queen Helena of
Adiabene.] And what a change in the aspect of these streets,
in the character of those shops, and, above all, in the
appearance of the restless Eastern crowd that surged to and
fro! Outside their shops in the streets, or at least in sight
of the passers, and within reach of their talk, was the
shoemaker hammering his sandals, the tailor plying his
needle, the carpenter, or the worker in iron and brass. Those
who were less busy, or more enterprising, passed along,
wearing some emblem of their trade: the dyer, variously
coloured threads; the carpenter, a rule: the writer, a reed
behind his ear; the tailor, with a needle prominently stuck
in his dress. In the side streets the less attractive
occupations of the butcher, the wool-comber, or the
flaxspinner were pursued: the elegant workmanship of the
goldsmith and jeweller; the various articles de luxe, that
adorned the houses of the rich; the work of the designer, the
moulder, or the artificer in iron or brass. In these streets
and lanes everything might be purchased: the production of
Palestine, or imported from foreign lands, nay, the rarest
articles from the remotest parts. Exquisitely shaped,
curiously designed and jewelled cups, rings and other
workmanship of precious metals; glass, silks, fine linen,
woollen stuffs, purple, and costly hangings; essences,
ointments, and perfumes, as precious as gold; articles of
food and drink from foreign lands, in short, what India,
Persia, Arabia, Media Egypt, Italy, Greece, and even the
far-off lands of the Gentiles yielded, might be had in these
Ancient Jewish writings enable us to identify no fewer than
118 different articles of import from foreign lands, covering
more than even modern luxury has devised. Articles of luxury,
especially from abroad, fetched indeed enormous prices; and a
lady might spend 36l. on a cloak; [a Baba B. ix. 7.] silk
would be paid by its weight in gold; purple wool at 3l. 5s.
the pound, or, if double-dyed, at almost ten times that
amount; while the price of the best balsam and nard was most
exorbitant. On the other hand, the cost of common living was
very low. In the bazaars you might get a complete suit for
your slave for eighteen or nineteen shillings, [b Arakh. vi.
5.] and a tolerable outfit for yourself from 3l. to 6l.For
the same sum you might purchase an ass, [c Baba K. x. 4.] an
ox, [d Men. xiii. 8; or a cow, [e Tos. Sheq. ii.; Tos. Ar.
iv.] and , for little more, a horse. A calf might be had for
less than fifteen shillings, a goat for five or six. [f Men.
xiii. 8.] Sheep were dearer, and fethed from four to fifteen
or sixteen shillings, while a lamb might sometimes be had as
low as two pence. No wonder living and labour were so cheap.
Corn of all kinds, fruit, wine, and oil, cost very little.
Meat was about a penny a pound; a man might get himself a.small, of course unfurnished, lodging for about sixpence a
week. [g Tos. Baba Mets. iv.] A day labourer was paid about 7
1/2d. a day, though skilled labour would fetch a good deal
more. Indeed, the great Hillel was popularly supposed to have
supported his family on less than twopence a day, [h Yoma 35
b.] while property to the amount of about 6l., or trade with
2l. or 3l. of goods, was supposed to exclude a person from
charity, or a claim on what was left in the corners of fields
and the gleaners. [i Peah viii. 8, 9.]
To these many like details might be added. [1 Comp.
Herzfeld’s Handelsgesch.] Sufficient has been said to show
the two ends of society: the exceeding dearness of luxuries,
and the corresponding cheapness of necessaries. Such extremes
would meet especially at Jerusalem. Its population, computed
at from 200,000 to 250,000, [2 Ancient Jerusalem is supposed
to have covered about double the area of the modern city.
Comp. Dr. Schick in A.M. Luncz, ‘Jerusalem,’ for 1882.] was
enormously swelled by travellers, and by pilgrims during the
great festivals. [1 Although Jerusalem covered only about 300
acres, yet, from the narrowness of Oriental streets, it would
hold a very much larger population than any Western city of
the same extent. Besides, we must remember that its
ecclesiastical boundaries extended beyond the city.] The
great Palace was the residence of King and Court, with all
their following and luxury; in Antonia lay afterwards the
Roman garrison. The Temple called thousands of priests, many
of them with their families, to Jerusalem; while the learned
Academies were filled with hundreds, though it may have been
mostly poor, scholars and students. In Jerusalem must have
been many of the large warehouses for the near commercial
harbour of Joppa; and thence, as from the industrial centres
of busy Galilee, would the pedlar go forth to carry his wares
over the land. More especially would the markets of
Jerusalem, held, however, in bazaars and streets rather than
in squares, be thronged with noisy sellers and bargaining
buyers. Thither would Galilee send not only its manufactures,
but its provisions: fish (fresh or salted), fruit [a Maaser.
ii. 3.] known for its lusciousness, oil, grape-syrup, and
wine. There were special inspectors for these markets, the
Agardemis or Agronimos, who tested weights and measures, and
officially stamped them, [b Baba B. 89 a.] tried the
soundness of food or drink, [c Jer. Ab. Z 44 b; Ab. Z. 58 a.]
and occasionally fixed or lowered the market-prices,
enforcing their decision, [d Jer. Dem 22 c.] if need were,
even with the stick. [e Yoma 9 a.] [2On the question of
officially fixing the market-price, diverging opinions are
expressed, Baba B. 89 b. It was thought that the market-price
should leave to the producer a profit of one-sixth on the
cost (Baba B. 90 a). In general, the laws on these subjects
form a most interesting study. Bloch (Mos. Talm. Polizeir.)
holds, that there were two classes of market-officials. But
this is not supported by sufficient evidence, nor, indeed,
would such an arrangement seem likely. 3 That of Botnah was
the largest, Jer. Ab. Z. 39 d.] Not only was there an upper
and a lower market in Jerusalem, [f Sanh. 89 a.] but we read
of at least seven special markets: those for cattle, [g Erub..x. 9.] wool, iron-ware, [h Jos. War v. 8. 1.] clothes, wood,
[i Ibid. ii. 19. 4.] bread, and fruit and vegetables. The
original market-days were Monday and Tuesday, afterwards
Friday. [k Tos. Baba Mets. iii.] The large fairs (Yeridin)
were naturally confined to the centres of import and export,
the borders of Egypt (Gaza), the ancient Phoenician maritime
towns (Tyro and Acco), and the Emporium across the Jordan
(Botnah). Besides, every caravansary, or khan (qatlis,
atlis,), was a sort of mart, where goods were unloaded, and
especially cattle set out [l Kerith. iii. 7;] for sale, and
purchases made. But in Jerusalem one may suppose the sellers
to have been every day in the market; and the magazines, in
which greengrocery and all kinds of meat were sold (the Beth
haShevaqim), [m Makhsh. vi. 2] must have been always open.
Besides, there were the many shops (Chanuyoth) either
fronting the streets, or in courtyards, or else movable
wooden booths in the streets. Stangely enough, occasionally
Jewish women were employed in selling. [a Kethub. ix. 4]
Business was also done in the resturants and wineshops, of
which there were many; where you might be served with some
dish: fresh or salted fish, fried locusts, a mess of
vegetables, a dish of soup, pastry, sweetmeats, or a piece of
a fruit-cake, to be washed down with Judaean or Galilean
wine, Idumaean vinegar, or foreign beer.
If from these busy scenes we turn to the more aristocratic
quarters of the Upper City, [1 Compare here generally Unruh,
D. alte Jerusalem.] we stillsee the same narrow streets, but
tenanted by another class. First, we pass the High-Priest’s
palace on the slope of the hill, with a lower story under the
principal apartments, and a porch in front. Here, on the
night of the Betrayal, Peter was ‘beneath in the Palace.’ [a
St. Mark xiv. 66.] Next, we come to Xystos, and thenpause for
a moment at the Palace of the Maccabees. It lies higher up
the hill, and westward from the Xytos. From its halls you can
look into the city, and even into the Temple. We know not
which of the Maccabees had built this palace. But it was
occupied, not by the actually reigning prince, who always
resided in the fortress (Baris, afterwards Antonia), but by
some other member of the family. From them it passed into the
possession of Herod. There Herod Antipas was when, on that
terrible Passover, Pilate sent Jesus from the old palace of
Herod to be examined by the Ruler of Galilee. [b St. Luke
xxiii. 6,7] If these buildings pointed to the difference
between the past and present, two structures of Herod’s were,
perhaps, more eloquent than any words in their accusations of
the Idumaean. One of these, at least, would come in sight in
passing along the slopes of the Upper City. The Maccabean
rule had been preceded by that of corrupt High-Priests, who
had prostituted their office to the vilest purposes. One of
them, who had changed his Jewish name of Joshua into Jason,
had gone so far, in his attempts to Grecianise the people, as
to build a Hippodrome and Gymnasium for heathen games. We
infer, it stood where the Western hill sloped into the
Tyropoeon, to the south-west of the Temple. [c Jos. War ii.3.
1] It was probably this which Herod afterwards enlarged and
beautified, and turned into a threatre. No expense was spared.on the great games held there. The threatre itself was
magnificently adorned with gold, silver, precious stones, and
trophies of arms and records of the victories of Augustus.
But to the Jews this essentially heathen place, over against
their Temple, was cause of deep indignation and plots. [d
Ant. xv. 8. 1] Besidesthis theatre, Herod also built an
immense amphitheatre, which we must locate somewhere in the
north-west, and outside the second city wall. [e Ant. xvii.
10. 2; War ii. 3. 1, 2]
All this was Jerusalem above ground. But there was an under
ground Jerusalem also, which burrowed everywhere under the
city, under the Upper City, under the Temple, beyond the city
walls. Its extent may be gathered from the circumstance that,
after the capture of the city, besides the living who had
sought shelter there, no fewer than 2,000 dead bodies were
found in those subterranean streets.
Close by the tracks of heathenism in Jerusalem, and in sharp
contrast, was what gave to Jerusalem its intensely Jewish
character. It was not only the Temple, nor the festive
pilgrims to its feasts and services. But there were hundreds
of Synagogues, [1 Tradition exaggerates their number as 460
(Jer. Kethub. 35 c.) or even 480 (Jer. Meg. 73 d). But even
the large number (proportionally to the size of the city)
mentioned in the text need not surprise us when we remember
that ten men were sufficient to form a Synagogue, and how
many, what may be called ‘private’, Synagogues exist at
present in every town where there is a large and orthodox
Jewish population.] some for different nationalities, such as
the Alexandrians, or the Cyrenians; some for, or perhaps
founded by, certain trade-guilds. If possible, the Jewish
schools were even more numerous than the Synagogues. Then
there were the many Rabbinic Academies; and, besides, you
might also see in Jerusalem that mysterious sect, the
Essenes, of which the members were easily recognized by their
white dress. Essenes, Pharisees, stranger Jews of all hues,
and of many dresses and languages! One could have imagined
himself almost in another world, a sort of enchanted land, in
this Jewish metropolis, and metropolis of Judaism. When the
silver trumpets of the Priests woke the city to prayer, or
the strain of Levite music swept over it, or the smoke of the
sacrifices hung like another Shekhinah over the Temple,
against the green background of Olivet; or when in every
street, court, and housetop rose the booths at the Feast of
Tabernacles, and at night the sheen of the Temple
illumination threw long fantastic shadows over the city; or
when, at the Passover, tens of thousands crowded up the Mount
with their Paschal lambs, and hundreds of thousands sat down
to the Paschal supper, it would be almost difficult to
believe, that heathenism was so near, that the Roman was
virtually, and would soon be really, master of the land, or
that a Herod occupied the Jewish throne.
Yet there he was; in the pride of his power, and the
reckless cruelty of his ever-watchful tyranny. Everywhere was
his mark. Temples to the gods and to Caesar, magnificent, and.magnificently adorned, outside Palestine and in its
non-Jewish cities; towns rebuilt or built: Sebaste for the
acient Samaria, the splendid city and harbour of Coesarea in
the west, Antipatris (after his father) in the north, Kypros
and Phasaelis (after his mother and brother), and Agrippeion;
unconquerable fortresses, such as Essebonitis and Machoerus
in Peraea, Alexandreion, Herodeion, Hyrcania, and Masada in
Judaea, proclaimed his name and sway. But in Jerusalem it
seemed as if he had gathered up all his strength. The theatre
and amphitheatre spoke of his Grecianism; Antonia was the
representative fortress; for his religion he had built that
glorious Temple, and for his residence the noblest of
palaces, at the north-western angle of the Upper City, close
by where Milo had been in the days of David. It seems almost
incredible, that a Herod should have reared the Temple, and
yet we can understand his motives. Jewish tradition had it,
that a Rabbi (Baba ben Buta) had advised him in this manner
to conciliate the people, [a Baba B. 3 b] or else thereby to
expiate the slaughter of so many Rabbis. [b Bemid. R. 14.] [1
The occasion is said to have been, that the Rabbis, in answer
to Herod’s question, quoted Deut. xvii. 15. Baba ben Buta
himself is said to have escaped the slaughter, indeed, but to
have been deprived of his eyes.] Probably a desire to gain
popularity, and supersition, may alike have contributed, as
also the wish to gratify his love for splendour and building.
At the same time, he may have wished to show himself a better
Jew than that rabble of Pharisees and Rabbis, who perpetually
would cast it in his teeth, that he was an Idumaean. Whatever
his origin, he was a true king of the Jews, as great, nay
greater, than Solomon himself. Certainly, neither labour nor
money had been spared on the Temple. A thousand vehicles
carried up the stone; 10,000 workmen, under the guidance of
1,000 priests, wrought all the costly material gathered into
that house, of which Jewish tradition could say, ‘He that has
not seen the temple of Herod, has never known what beauty
is.’ [c Baba B. 4a.] And yet Israel despised and abhorred the
builder! Nor could his apparent work for the God of Israel
have deceived the most credulous. In youth he had browbeaten
the venerable Sanhedrin, and threatened the city with
slaughter and destruction; again and again had he murdered
her venerable sages; he had shed like water the blood of her
Asmonean princes, and of every one who dared to be free; had
stifled every national aspiration in the groans of the
torture, and quenched it in the gore of his victims. Not
once, nor twice, but six times did he change the
High-Priesthood, to bestow it at last on one who bears no
good name in Jewish theology, a foreigner in Judaea, an
Alexandrian. And yet the power of that Idumaean was but of
yesterday, and of mushroom growth!
It is an intensely painful history, [1 For a fuller sketch.of this history see Appendix IV.] in the course of which
Herod made his way to the throne. We look back nearly two and
a half centuries to where, with the empire of Alexander,
Palestine fell to his successors. For nearly a century and a
half it continued the battle-field of the Egyptian and Syrian
kings (the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae). At last it was a
corrupt High-Priesthood, with which virtually the government
of the land had all along lain, that betrayed Israel’s
precious trust. The great-grandson of so noble a figure in
Jewish history as Simon the Just (compare Ecclus. 1.) bought
from the Syrians the High-Priestly office of his brother,
adopted the heathen name Jason, and sought to Grecianise the
people. The sacred office fell, if possible, even lower when,
through bribery, it was transferred to his brother Menelaus.
Then followed the brief period of the terrible persecutions
of Antiochus Epiphanes, when Judaism was all but exterminated
in Palestine. The glorious uprising of the Maccabees called
forth all the national elements left in Israel, and kindled
afresh the smouldering religious feeling. It seemed like a
revival of Old Testament times. And when Judas the Maccabee,
with a band so inferior in numbers and discipline, defeated
the best of the Syrian soldiery, led by its ablest generals,
and, on the anniversary of its desecration by heathen rites,
set up again the great altar of burnt-offering, it appeared
as if a new Theocracy were to be inaugurated. The ceremonial
of that feast of the new ‘dedication of the Temple,’ when
each night the number of lights grew larger in the winter’s
darkness, seemed symbolic of what was before Israel. But the
Maccabees were not the Messiah; nor yet the kingdom, which
their sword would have restored , that of Heaven, with its
blessings and peace. If ever, Israel might then have learned
what Saviour to look for.
The period even of promise was more brief than might have
been expected. The fervour and purity of the movement ceased
almost with its success. It was certainly never the golden
age of Israel, not even among those who remained faithful to
its God, which those seem to imagine who, forgetful of its
history and contests, would trace to it so much that is most
precious and spiritual in the Old Testament. It may have been
the pressure of circumstances, but it was anything but a
pious, or even a ‘happy’ thought [1 So Schurer in his
Neutestam. Zeitgesch.] of Judas the Maccabee, to seek the
alliance of the Romans. From their entrance on the scene
dates the decline of Israel’s national cause. For a time,
indeed, though after varying fortunes of war, all seemed
prosperous. The Maccabees became both High-Priests and Kings.
But partystrife and worldliness, ambition and corruption, and
Grecianism on the throne, soon brought their sequel in the
decline of morale and vigour, and led to the decay and
decadence of the Maccabean house. It is a story as old as the
Old Testament, and as wide as the history of the world.
Contention for the throne among the Maccabees led to the
interference of the foreigner. When, after capturing
Jerusalem, and violating the sanctity of the Temple, although
not plundering its treasures, Pompey placed Hyrcanus II. in
the possession of the High-Priesthood, the last of the.Maccabean rulers [2 A table of the Maccabean and Herodian
families is given in Appendix VI.] was virtually shorn of
power. The country was now tributary to Rome, and subject to
the Governor of Syria. Even the shadow of political power
passed from the feeble hands of Hyrcanus when, shortly
afterwards, Gabinius (one of the Roman governors) divided the
land into five districts, independent of each other.
But already a person had appeared on the stage of Jewish
affairs, who was to give them their last decisive turn. About
fifty years before this, the district of Idumaea had been
conquered by the Maccabean King Hyrcanus I., and its
inhabitants forced to adopt Judaism. By this Idumaea we are
not, however, to understand the ancient or Eastern Edom,
which was now in the hands of the Nabataeans, but parts of
Southern Palestine which the Edomites had occupied since the
Babylonian Exile, and especially a small district on the
northern and eastern boundary of Judaea, and below Samaria.
[a Comp. 1 Macc. vi. 31] After it became Judaean, its
administration was entrusted to a governor. In the reign of
the last of the Maccabees this office devolved on one
Antipater, a man of equal cunning and determination. He
successfully interfered in the unhappy dispute for the crown,
which was at last decided by the sword of Pompey. Antipater
took the part of the utterly weak Hyrcanus in that contest
with his energetic brother Aristobulus. He soon became the
virtual ruler, and Hyrcanus II. only a puppet in his hands.
From the accession of Judas Maccabaeus, in 166 B.C., to the
year 63 B.C., when Jerusalem was taken by Pompey, only about
a century had elapsed. Other twenty-four years, and the last
of the Maccabees had given place to the son of Antipater:
Herod, surnamed the Great.
The settlement of Pompey did not prove lasting. Aristobulus,
the brother and defeated rival of Hyrcanus, was still alive,
and his sons were even more energetic than he. The risings
attempted by them, the interference of the Parthians on
behalf of those who were hostile to Rome, and, lastly, the
contentions for supremacy in Rome itself, made this period
one of confusion, turmoil, and constant warfare in Palestine.
When Pompey was finally defeated by Caesar, the prospects of
Antipater and Hycanus seemed dark. But they quickly changed
sides; and timely help given to Caesar in Egypt brought to
Antipater the title of Procurator of Judaea, while Hycanus
was left in the High-Priesthood, and, at least, nominal head
of the people. The two sons of Antipater were now made
governors: the elder, Phasaelus, of Jerusalem; the younger,
Herod, only twenty-five years old, of Galilee. Here he
displayed the energy and determination which were his
characteristics, in crushing a guerilla warfare, of which the
deeper springs were probably nationalist. The execution of
its leader brought Herod a summons to appear before the Great
Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, for having arrogated to himself the
power of life and death. He came, but arrayed in purple,
surrounded by a body-guard, and supported by the express
direction of the Roman Governor to Hyrcanus, that he was to
be acquitted. Even so he would have fallen a victim to the.apprehensions of the Sanhedrin, only too well grounded, had
he not been persuaded to withdrawn from the city. He returned
at the head of an army, and was with difficulty persuaded by
his father to spare Jerusalem. Meantime Caesar had named him
Governor of Coelesyria.
On the murder of Caesar, and the possession of Syria by
Cassius, Antipater and Herod again changed sides. But they
rendered such substantial service as to secure favour, and
Herod was continued in the position conferred on him by
Caesar. Antipater was, indeed, poisoned by a rival, but his
sons Herod and Phasaelus repressed and extinguished all
opposition. When the battle of Philippi placed the Roman
world in the hands of Antony and Octavius, the former
obtained Asia. Once more the Idumaeans knew how to gain the
new ruler, and Phasaelus and Herod were named Tetrarchs of
Judaea. Afterwards, when Antony was held in the toils of
Cleopatra, matters seemed, indeed, to assume a different
aspect. The Parthians entered the land, in support of the
rival Maccabean prince Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus. By
treachery, Phasaelus and Hyrcanus were induced to go to the
Parthian camp, and made captives. Phasaelus shortly
afterwards destroyed himself in his prison, [1 By dashing out
his brains againstthe prison walls.] while Hyrcanus was
deprived of his ears, to unfit him for the High-Priestly
office. And so Antigonus for a short time succeeded both to
the High-Priesthood and royalty in Jerusalem. Meantime Herod,
who had in vain warned his brother and Hyrcanus against the
Parthian, had been able to make his escape from Jerusalem.
His family he left to the defence of his brother Joseph, in
the inaccessible fortress of Masada; himself fled into
Arabia, and finally made his way to Rome. There he succeeded,
not only with Antony, but obtained the consent of Octavius,
and was proclaimed by the Senate King of Judaea. A sacrifice
on the Capitol, and a banquet by Antony, celebrated the
accession of the new successor of David.
But he had yet to conquer his kingdom. At first he made way
by the help of the Romans. Such success, however, as he had
gained, was more than lost during his brief absence on a
visit to Antony. Joseph, the brother of Herod, was defeated
and slain, and Galilee, which had been subdued, revolted
again. But the aid which the Romans rendered, after Herod’s
return from Antony, was much more hearty, and his losses were
more than retrieved. Soon all Palestine, with the exception
of Jerusalem, was in his hands. While laying siege to it, he
went to Samaria, there to wed the beautiful Maccabean
princess Mariamme, who had been betrothed to him five years
before. [2 He had previously been married to one Doris, the
issue of the marriage being a son, Antipater.] That ill-fated
Queen, and her elder brother Aristobulus, united in
themselves the two rival branches of the Maccabean family.
Their father was Alexander, the eldest son of Aristobulus,
and brother of that Antigonus whom Herod now besieged in
Jerusalem; and their mother, Alexandra, the daughter of
Hyrcanus II. The uncle of Mariamme was not long able to hold
out against the combined forces of Rome and Herod. The.carnage was terrible. When Herod, by rich presents, at length
induced the Romans to leave Jerusalem, they took Antigonus
with them. By desire of Herod he was executed.
This was the first of the Maccabees who fell victim to his
jealousy and cruelty. The history which now follows is one of
sickening carnage. The next to experience his vengeance were
the principal adherents in Jerusalem of his rival Antigonus.
Forty-five of the noblest and richest were executed. His next
step was to appoint an abscure Babylonian to the
High-Priesthood. This awakened the active hostility of
Alexandra, the mother of Marimme, Herod’s wife. The Maccabean
princess claimed the High-Priesthood for her son Aristobulus.
Her intrigues with Cleopatra, and through her with Antony,
and the entreaties of Mariamme, the only being whom Herod
loved, though in his own mad way, prevailed. At the age of
seventeen Aristobulus was made High-Priest. But Herod, who
well knew the hatred and contempt of the Maccabean members of
his family, had his mother-in-law watched, a precaution
increased after the vain attempt of Alexandra to have herself
and her son removed in coffins from Jerusalem, to flee to
Cleopatra. Soon the jealousy and suspicions of Herod were
raised to murderous madness, by the acclamations which
greeted the young Aristobulus at the Feast of Tabernacles. So
dangerous a Maccabean rival must be got rid of; and, by
secret order of Herod, Aristobulus was drowned while bathing.
His mother denounced the murderer, and her influence with
Cleopatra, who also hated Herod, led to his being summoned
before Antony. Once more bribery, indeed, prevailed; but
other troubles awaited Herod.
When obeying the summons of Antony, Herod had committed the
government to his uncle Joseph, who was also his
brother-in-law, having wedded Salome, the sister of Herod.
His mad jealousy had prompted him to direct that, in case of
his condemnation, Mariamme was to be killed, that she might
not become the wife of another. Unfortunately, Joseph told
this to Mariamme, to show how much she was loved. But on the
return of Herod, the infamous Salome accused her old husband
of impropriety with Mariamme. When it appeared that Joseph
had told the Queen of his commission, Herod, regarding it as
confirming his sister’s charge, ordered him to be executed,
without even a hearing. External complications of the gravest
kind now supervened. Herod had to cede to Cleopatra the
districts of Phoenice and Philistia, and that of Jericho with
its rich balsam plantations. Then the dissensions between
Antony and Octavius involved him, in the cause of the former,
in a war with Arabia, whose king had failed to pay tribute to
Cleopatra. Herod was victorious; but he had now to reckon
with another master. The battle of Actium [a 31 B.C.] decided
the fate on Antony, and Herod had to make his peace with
Octavius. Happily, he was able to do good service to the new
cause, ere presenting himself before Augustus. But, in order
to be secure from all possible rivals, he had the aged
Hyrcanus II. executed, on pretence of intrigues with the
Arabs. Herod was successful with Augustus; and when, in the
following summer, he furnished him supplies on his march to.Egypt, he was rewarded by a substantial addition of
When about to appear before Augustus, Herod had entrusted to
one Soemus the charge of Mariamme, with the same fatal
directions as formerly to Joseph. Again Mariamme learnt the
secret; again the old calumnies were raised, this time not
only by Salome, but also by Kypros, Herod’s mother; and again
Herod imagined he had found corroborative evidence. Soemus
was slain without a hearing, and the beautiful Mariamme
executed after a mock trail. The most fearful paroxysm of
remorse, passion, and longing for his murdered wife now
seized the tyrant, and brought him to the brink of the grave.
Alexandra, the mother of Mariamme, deemed the moment
favorable for her plots, but she was discovered, and
executed. Of the Maccabean race there now remained only
distant members, the sons of Babas, who had found an asylum
with Costobarus, the Governor of Idumaea, who had wedded
Salome after the death of her first husband. Tired of him, as
she had been of Joseph, Salome denounced her second husband;
and Costobarus, as well as the sons of Babas, fell victims to
Herod. Thus perished the family of the Maccabees.
The hand of the maddened tyrant was next turned against his
own family. Of his ten wives, we mention only those whose
children occupy a place in this history. The son of Doris was
Antipater; those of the Maccabean Mariamme, Alexander and
Aristobulus; another Mariamme, whose father Herod had made
High-Priest, bore him a son named Herod (a name which other
of the sons shared); Malthake, a Samaritan, was the mother of
Archelaus and Herod Antipas; and, lastly, Cleopatra of
Jerusalem bore Philip. The sons of the Maccabean princess, as
heirs presumptive, were sent to Rome for their education. On
this occasion Herod received, as reward for many services,
the country east of the Jordan, and was allowed to appoint
his still remaining brother, Pheroras, Tetrarch of Peraea. On
their return from Rome the young princes were married:
Alexander to a daughter of the King of Cappadocia, and
Aristobulus to his cousin Berenice, the daughter of Salome.
But neither kinship, nor the yet nearer relation in which
Aristobulus now stood to her, could extinguish the hatred of
Salome towards the dead Maccabean princess or her children.
Nor did the young princes, in their pride of descent,
disguise their feelings towards the house of their father. At
first, Herod gave not heed to the denunciations of his
sister. Presently he yielded to vague apprehensions. As a
first step, Antipater, the son of Doris, was recalled from
exile, and sent to Rome for education. So the breach became
open; and Herod took his sons to Italy, to lay formal
accusation against them before Augustus. The wise counsels of
the Emperor restored peace for a time. But Antipater now
returned to Plaestine, and joined his calumnies to those of
Salome. Once more the King of Cappadocia succeeded in
reconciling Herod and his sons. But in the end the intrigues
of Salome, Antipater, and of an infamous foreigner who had
made his way at Court, prevailed. Alexander and Aristobulus
were imprisoned, and an accusation of high treason laid.against them before the Emperor. Augustus gave Herod full
powers, but advised the convocation of a mixed tribunal of
Jews and Romans to try the case. As might have been expected,
the two princes were condemned to death, and when some old
soldiers ventured to intercede for them, 300 of the supposed
adherents of the cause were cut down, and the two princes
strangled in prison. This happened in Samaria, where, thirty
years before, Herod had wedded their ill-fated mother.
Antipater was now the heir presumptive. But, impatient of
the throne, he plotted with Herod’s brother, Pheroras,
against his father. Again Salome denounced her nephew and her
brother. Antipater withdrew to Rome; but when, after the
death of Pheraras, Herod obtained indubitable evidence that
his son had plotted against his life, he lured Antipater to
Palestine, where on his arrival he was cast into prison. All
that was needed was the permission of Augustus for his
execution. It arrived, and was carried out only five days
before the death of Herod himself. So ended a reign almost
unparalleled for reckless cruelty and bloodshed, in which the
murder of the Innocents in Bethlehem formed but so trifling
an episode among the many deeds of blood, as to have seemed
not deserving of record on the page of the Jewish historian.
But we can understand the feelings of the people towards
such a King. They hated the Idumaean; they detested his
semi-heathen reign; they abhorred his deeds of cruelty. the
King had surrounded himself with foreign councillors, and was
protected by foreign mercenaries from Thracia, Germany, and
Gaul. [a Jos. Ant. vxii. 8. 3] So long as he lived, no
woman’s honour was safe, no man’s life secure. An army of
allpowerful spies pervaded Jerusalem, nay, the King himself
was said to stoop to that office. [b Ant. xv. 10. 4] If pique
or private enmity led to denunciation, the torture would
extract any confession from the most innocent. What his
relation to Judaism had been, may easily be inferred. He
would be a Jew, even build the Temple, advocate the cause of
the Jews in other lands, and, in a certain sense, conform to
the Law of Judaism. In building the Temple, he was so anxious
to conciliate national prejudice, that the Sanctuary itself
was entrusted to the workmanship of priests only. Nor did he
ever intrude into the Holy Place, nor interfere with any
functions of the priesthood. None of his coins bear devices
which could have shocked popular feeling, nor did any of the
buildings he erected in Jerusalem exhibit any forbidden
emblems. The Sanhedrin did exist during his reign, [1 Comp.
the discussion of this question in Wieseler, Beitr. pp. 215
&c.] though it must have been shorn of all real power, and
its activity confined to ecclesiastical, or
semi-ecclesiastical, causes. Strangest of all, he seems to
have had at least the passive support of two of the greatest
Rabbis, the Pollio and Sameas of Josephus [a Ant. xiv. 9. 4;
xv. 1 1 10. 4.], supposed to represent those great figures in
Jewish tradition, Abtalion and Shemajah. [b Ab. i. 10, 11] [2
Even their recorded fundamental principles bear this out.
That of Shemajah was: ‘Love labour, hate lordship, and do not
push forward to the authorities.’ That of Abtalion was: ‘Ye.sages, be careful in your words, lest perchance ye incur
banishment, and are exiled to a place of bad waters, and the
disciples who follow you drink of them and die, and so in the
end the name of God be profaned.’ We can but conjecture, that
they preferres even his rule to what had preceded; and hoped
it might lead to a Roman Protectorate, which would leave
Judaea practically independent, or rather under Rabbinc rule.
It was also under the government of Herod, that Hillel and
Shammai lived and taught in Jerusalem: [3 On Hillel and
Shammai see the article in Herzog’s Real-Encyklop.; that in
Hamburger’s; Delitzscg, Jesus u. Hillel. and books on Jewish
history generally.] the two, whom tradition designates as
‘the fathers of old.’ [c Eduj. 1. 4] Both gave their names to
‘schools,’ whose direction was generally different, not
unfrequently, it seems, chiefly for the sake of opposition.
But it is not correct to describe the former as consistently
the more liberal and mild. [4 A number of points on which the
ordinances of Hillel were more severe than those of Shammai
are enumerated in Eduj. iv. 1-12; v. 1-4; Ber. 36 a, end.
Comp. also Ber. R. 1.] The teaching of both was supposed to
have been declared by the ‘Voice from Heaven’ (the Bath-Qol)
as ‘the words of the living God;’ yet the Law was to be
henceforth according to the teaching of Hillel. [d Jer. Ber.
3 b, lines 3 and 2 from botton But to us Hillel is so
intensely interesting, not merely as the mild and gentle, nor
only as the earnest student who came from Babylon to learn in
the Academies of Jerusalem; who would support his family on a
third of his scanty wages as a day labourer, that he might
pay for entrance into the schools; and whose zeal and merits
were only discovered when, after a severe night, in which,
from poverty, he had been unable to gain admittance into the
Academy, his benumbed form was taken down from the
window-sill, to which he had crept up not to lose aught of
the precious instruction. And for his sake did they gladly
break on that Sabbath the sacred rest. Nor do we think of
him, as tradition fables him, the descendant of David, [a
Ber. R. 98] possessed of every great quality of body, mind,
and heart; nor yet as the second Ezra, whose learning placed
him at the head of the Sanhedrin, who laid down the
principles afterwards applied and developed by Rabbinism, and
who was the real founder of traditionalism. Still less do we
think of him, as he is falsely represented by some: as he
whose principles closely resemble the teaching of Jesus, or,
according to certain writers, were its source. By the side of
Jesus we think of him otherwise than this. We remember that,
in his extreme old age and near his end, he may have presided
over that meeting of Sanhedrin which, in answer to Herod’s
inquiry, pointed to Bethlehem as the birthplace of the
Messiah. [b St.Matt. ii. 4.] [1 On the chronology of the life
of Hillel &c., see also Schmilg, Ueb. d. Entsteh. &c. der
Megillath Taanith, especially p. 34. Hillel is said to have
become Chief of the Sanhedrin in 30 B.C., and to have held
the office for forty years. These numbers, however, are no
doubt somewhat exaggerated.] We think of him also as the
grandfather of that Gamaliel, at whose feet Saul of Tarsus
sat. And to us he is the representative Jewish reformer, in.the spirit of those times, and in the sense of restoring
rather than removing; while we think of Jesus as the Messiah
of Israel, in the sense of bringing the Kingdom of God to all
men, and opening it to all believers.
And so there were two worlds in Jerusalem, side by side. On
the one hand, was Grecianism with its theatre and
amphitheatre; foreigners filling the Court, and crowding the
city; foreign tendencies and ways, from the foreign King
downwards. On the other hand, was the old Jewish world,
becoming now set and ossified in the Schools of Hillel and
Shammai, and overshadowed by Temple and Synagogue. And each
was pursuing its course, by the side of the other. If Herod
had everywhere his spies, the Jewish law provided its two
police magistrates in Jerusalem, the only judges who received
renumeration. [c Jer, Kethub. 35 c; Kethub. 104 b] [2 The
police laws of the Rabbis might well serve us as a model for
all similar legislation.] If Herod judged cruelly and
despotically, the Sanhedrin weighed most deliberately, the
balance always inclining to mercy. If Greek was the language
of the court and camp, and indeed must have been understood
and spoken by most in the land, the language of the people,
spoken also by Christ and His Apostles, was a dialect of the
ancient Hebrew, the Western or Palestinian Aramaic. [3 At the
same time I can scarcely agree with Delitzsch and others,
that this was the dialect called Sursi. The latter was rather
Syriac. Comp. Levy, ad voc.] It seems strange, that this
could ever have been doubted. [4 Professor Roberts has
advocated, with great ingenuity, the view that Christ and His
Apostles used the Greek language. See especially his
‘Discussions on the Gospels.’ The Roman Catholic Church
sometimes maintained, that Jesus and His disciples spoke
Latin, and in 1822 a work appeared by Black to prove that the
N.T. Greek showed a Latin origin.] A Jewish Messiah Who would
urge His claim upon Israel in Greek, seems almost a
contradiction in terms. We know, that the language of the
Temple and the Synagogue was Hebrew, and that the addresses
of the Rabbis had to be ‘targumed’ into the vernacular
Aramaean, and can we believe that, in a Hebrew service, the
Messiah could have risen to address the people in Greek, or
that He would have argued with the Pharisees and Scribes in
that tongue, especially remembering that its study was
actually forbidden by the Rabbis? [1 For a full statement of
the arguments on this subject we refer the student to Bohl,
Forsch. n. e. Volksbibel z. Zeit Jesu, pp. 4-28; to the
latter work by the same writer (Aittestam. Citate im N.
Test.); to a very interesting article by Professor Delitzsch
in the ‘Daheim’ for 1874 (No. 27); to Buxtorf, sub Gelil; to
J. D. Goldberg, ‘The Language of Christ’; but especially
prop. di Cristo (Parma 1772).]
Indeed, it was a peculiar mixture of two worlds in
Jerusalem: not only of the Grecian and the Jewish, but of
piety and frivolity also. The devotion of the people and the
liberality of the rich were unbounded. Fortunes were lavished
on the support of Jewish learning, the promotion of piety, or
the advance of the national cause. Thousands of votive.offerings, and the costly gifts in the Temple, bore evidence
of this. priestly avarice had artificially raised the price
of sacrificial animals, a rich man would bring into the
Temple at his own cost the number requisite for the poor.
Charity was not only open-handed, but most delicate, and one
who had been in good circumstances would actually be enabled
to live according to his former station. [2 Thus Hillel was
said to have hired a horse, and even an outrunner, for a
decayed rich man.] Then these Jerusalemites, townspeople, as
they called themselves, were so polished, so witty, so
pleasant. There was a tact in their social intercourse, and a
considerateness and delicacy in their public arrangements and
provisions, nowhere else to be found. Their very language was
different. There was a Jerusalem dialect, [a Bemid. R. 14;
ed. Warsh. p. 59a.] quicker, shorter, ‘lighter’ (Lishna
Qalila). [b Baba K.] And their hospitality, especially at
festive seasons, was unlimited. No one considered his house
his own, and no stranger or pilgrim but found reception. And
how much there was to be seen and heard in those luxuriously
furnished houses, and at those sumptuous entertainments! In
the women’s apartments, friends from the country would see
every novelty in dress, adornment, and jewellery, and have
the benefit of examining themselves in looking-glasses. To be
sure, as being womanish vanity, their use was interdicted to
men, except it were to the members of the family of the
President of the Sanhedrin, on account of their intercourse
with those in authority, just as for the same reason they
were allowed to learn Greek. [a Jer.Shabb. 7 d] Nor might
even women look in theglass on the Sabbath. [b Shabb. 149 a]
But that could only apply to those carried in the hand, since
one might be tempted, on the holy day, to do such servile
work as to pull out a grey hair with the pincers attached to
the end of the glass; but not to a glass fixed in the lid of
a basket; [c Kel. xiv. 6] nor to such as hung on the wall. [d
Tos. Shabb.xiii. ed. Zuckerm. p. 130] And then the
lady-visitor might get anything in Jerusalem; from a false
tooth to an Arabian veil, a Persian shawl, or an Indian
While the women so learned Jerusalem manners in the inner
apartments, the men would converse on the news of the day, or
on politics. For the Jerusalemites had friends and
correspondents in the most distant parts of the world, and
letters were carried by special messengers, [e Shabb. x.4] in
a kind of post-bag. Nay, there seem to have been some sort of
receiving-offices in towns, [f Shabb. 19a] and even something
resembling our parcel-post. [g Rosh haSh. 9 b] And, strange
as it may sound, even a species of newspapers, or
broadsheets, appears to have been circulating (Mikhtabhin),
not allowed, however, on the Sabbath, unless they treated of
public affairs. [h Tos. Shabb. xviii.]
Of course, it is difficult accurately to determine which of
these things were in use in the earliest times, or else
introduced at a later period. Perhaps, however, it was safer
to bring them into a picture of Jewish society. Undoubted,
and, alas, too painful evidence comes to us of the.luxuriousness of Jerusalem at that time, and of the moral
corruption to which it led. It seems only too clear, that
such commentations as the Talmud [i Shabb. 62 b] gives of Is.
iii. 16-24, in regard to the manners and modes of attraction
practised by a certain class of the female population in
Jerusalem, applied to a far later period than that of the
prophet. With this agrees only too well the recorded covert
lascivious expressions used by the men, which gives a
lamentable picture of the state of morals of many in the
city, [k Comp. Shabb. 62 b, last line and first of 63 a] and
the notices of the indecent dress worn not only by women, [l
Kel. xxiv. 16; xxviii. 9] but evenby corrupt High-Priestly
youths. Nor do the exaggerated descriptions of what the
Midrash on Lamentations [m On ch. iv 2] describes as the
dignity of the Jerusalemites; of the wealth which they
lavished on their marriages; of the ceremony which insisted
on repeated invitations to the guests to a banquet, and that
men inferior in rank should not be bidden to it; of the dress
in which they appeared; the manner in which the dishes were
served, the wine in white crystal vases; and the punishment
of the cook who had failed in his duty, and which was to be
commensurate to the dignity of the party, give a better
impression of the great world in Jerusalem.
And yet it was the City of God, over whose destruction not
only the Patriarch and Moses, but the Angelic hosts, nay, the
Almighty Himself and His Shekhinah, had made bitterest
lamentation. [1 See the Introduction to the Midrash on
Lamentations. But some of the descriptions are so painful,
even blasphemous , that we do not venture on quotation.] The
City of the Prophets, also, since each of them whose
birthplace had not been mentioned, must be regarded as having
sprung from it. [aMeg. 15 a] Equally, even more, marked, but
now for joy and triumph, would be the hour of Jerusalem’s
uprising, when it would welcome its Messiah. Oh, when would
He come? In the feverish excitement of expectancy they were
only too ready to listen to the voice of any pretender,
however coarse and clumsy the imposture. Yet He was at hand,
even now coming: only quite other than the Messiah of their
dreams. ‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become
children of God, even to them that believe on His Name.’
It was the time of the Morning Sacrifice. [1 We presume,
that the ministration of Zacharias (St. Luke i. 9) took place
in the morning, as the principal service. But Meyer (Komm. i.
2, p. 242) is mistaken in supposing, that this follows from
the reference to the lot. It is, indeed, true that, of the
four lots for the priestly functions, three took place only
in the morning. But that for incensing was repeated in the
evening (Yoma 26 a). Even Bishop Haneberg (Die Relig..Alterth. p. 609) is not accurate in this respect. As the
massive Temple gates slowly swung on their hinges, a
three-fold blast from the silver trumpets of the Priests
seemed to waken the City, as with the Voice of God, to the
life of another day. As its echoes came in the still air
across the cleft of the Tyropoeon, up the slopes of the Upper
City, down the busy quarters below, or away to the new suburb
beyond, they must, if but for a moment, have brought holier
thoughts to all. For, did it not seem to link the present to
the past and the future, as with the golden chain of promises
that bound the Holy City to the Jerusalem that was above,
which in type had already, and in reality would soon descend
from heaven? Patriot, saint, or stranger, he could not have
heard it unmoved, as thrice the summons from within the
Temple-gates rose and fell.
It had not come too soon. The Levites on ministry, and those
of the laity, whose ‘course’ it was to act as the
representatives of Israel, whether in Palestine or far away,
in a sacrifice provided by, and offered for, all Israel,
hastened to their duties. [2 For a description of the details
of that service, see ‘The Temple and its Services,’ &c.] For
already the blush of dawn, for which the Priest on the
highest pinnacle of the Temple had watched, to give the
signal for beginning the services of the day, had shot its
brightness far away to Hebron and beyond. Within the Courts
below all had long been busy. At some time previously,
unknown to those who waited for the morning, whether at
cockcrowing, or a little earlier or later, [a Tamid i. 2] the
superintending Priest had summoned to their sacred functions
those who had ‘washed,’ according to the ordinance. There
must have been each day about fifty priests on duty. [1 If we
reckon the total number in the twenty-four courses of,
presumably, the officiating priesthood, at 20,000, according
to Josephus (Ag. Ap. ii. 8), which is very much below the
exaggerated Talmudic computation of 85,000 for the smallest
course (Jer. Taan. 69 a), and suppose, that little more than
one-third of each course had come up for duty, this would
give fifty priests for each week-day, while on the Sabbath
the whole course would be on duty. This is, of course,
considerably more than the number requisite, since, except
for the incensing priest, the lot for the morning also held
good for the evening sacrifice.] Such of them as were ready
now divided into two parties, to make inspection of the
Temple courts by torchlight. Presently they met, and trooped
to the well-known Hall of Hewn Polished Stones, [a Yoma 25 a]
where formerly the Sanhedrin had been wont to sit. The
ministry for the day was there apportioned. To prevent the
disputes of carnal zeal, the ‘lot’ was to assign to each his
function. Four times was it resorted to: twice before, and
twice after the Temple-gates were opened. The first act of
their ministry had to be done in the grey dawn, by the fitful
red light that glowed on the altar of burnt offering, ere the
priests had stirred it into fresh flame. It was scarcely
daybreak, when a second time they met for the ‘lot,’ which
designated those who were to take part in the sacrifice
itself, and who were to trim the golden candlestick, and make.ready the altar of incense within the Holy Place. And now
morn had broken, and nothing remained before the admission of
worshippers but to bring out the lamb, once again to make
sure of its fitness for sacrifice, to water it from a golden
bowl, and then to lay it in mystic fashion, as tradition
described the binding of Isaac, on the north side of the
altar, with its face to the west.
All, priests and laity, were present as the Priest, standing
on the east side of the altar, from a golden bowl sprinkled
with sacrificial blood two sides of the altar, below the red
line which marked the difference between ordinary sacrifices
and those that were to be wholly consumed. While the
sacrifice was prepared for the altar, the priests, whose lot
it was, had made ready all within the Holy Place, where the
most solemn part of the day’s service was to take place, that
of offering the incense, which symbolised Israel’s accepted
prayers. Again was the lot (the third) cast to indicate him,
who was to be honoured with this highest mediatorial act.
Only once in a lifetime might any one enjoy that privilege.
[b Tamid v. 2] Henceforth he was called ‘rich,’ [2 Yoma 26 a.
The designation ‘rich’ is derived from the promise which, in
Deut. xxxiii. 11, follows on the service referred to in verse
10. But probably a spiritual application was also intended.]
and must leave to his brethren the hope of the distinction
which had been granted him. It was fitting that, as the
custom was, such lot should be preceded by prayer and
confession of their faith [1 The so-called Shema, consisting
of Deut. vi. 4-9; xi. 13-21; Num. xv. 37-41.] on the part of
the assembled priests.
It was the first week in October 748 A.U.C., [2 The question
of this date is, of course, intimately connected with that of
the Nativity of Christ, and could therefore not be treated in
the text. It is discussed in Appendix VII.: ‘On the Date of
the Nativity of our Lord.’] that is, in the sixth year before
our present era, when ‘the course of Abia’ [3 This was the
eighth course in the ,iginal arrangement (1 Chr. xxiv. 10).]
, the eighth in the original arrangement of the weekly
service, was on duty in the Temple. True this, as indeed most
of the twenty-four ‘courses’ into which the Priesthood had
been arranged, could not claim identity, only continuity,
with those whose names they bore. For only three, or at most
four, of the ancient ‘courses’ had returned from Babylon. But
the original arrangement had been preserved, the names of the
missing courses being retained, and their number filled up by
lot from among those who had come back to Palestine. In our
ignorance of the number of ‘houses of their father,’ or
families,’ which constituted the ‘course of Abia,’ it is
impossible to determine, how the services of that week had
been apportioned among them. But this is of comparatively
small importance, since there is no doubt about the central
figure in the scene.
In the group ranged that autumn morning around the
superintending Priest was one, on whom the snows of at least
sixty winters had fallen. [4 According to St. Luke i. 7, they.were both ‘well stricken in years.’ But from Aboth v. 21 we
learn, that sixty years was considered ‘the commencement of
agedness.’] But never during these many years had he been
honoured with the office of incensing, and it was perhaps
well he should have learned, that this distinction came
direct from God. Yet the venerable figure of Zacharias must
have been well known in the Temple. For, each course was
twice a year on ministry, and, unlike the Levites, the
priests were not disqualified by age, but only by infirmity.
In many respects he seemed different from those around. His
home was not in either of the great priest-centres, the
Ophel-quarter in Jerusalem, nor in Jericho [5 According to
tradition, about one-fourth of the priesthood was resident in
Jericho. But, even limiting this to those who were in the
habit of officiating, the statement seems greatly
exaggerated.], but in some small town in those uplands, south
of Jerusalem: the historic ‘hill-country of Judea.’ And yet
he might have claimed distinction. To be a priest, and
married to the daughter of a priest, was supposed to convey
twofold honour. [6 Comp. Ber. 44 a; Pes. 49 a; Vayyikra R.
4.] That he was surrounded by relatives and friends, and that
he was well known and respected throughout his district,
appears incidentally from the narrative.(1) It would, indeed,
have been strange had it been otherwise. There was much in
the popular habits of thought, as well as in the office and
privileges of the Priesthood, if worthily represented, to
invest it with a veneration which the aggressive claims of
Rabbinism could not wholly monopolise. And in this instance
Zacharias and Elisabeth, his wife, were truly ‘righteous,’ [1
, of course not in the strict sense in which the word is
sometimes used, especially by St. Paul, but as pius et bonus.
See Vorstius (De Hebraism. N.T. pp. 55 &c.). As the account
of the Evangelist seems derived from an original Hebrew
source, the word must have corresponded to that of Tsaddiq in
the then popular signification.] in the sense of walking, so
far as man could judge, ‘blamelessly,’ alike in those
commandments which were specially binding on Israel, and in
those statues that were of universal bearing on mankind. [2
evidently mark an essential division of the Law at the time.
But it is almost impossible to determine their exact Hebrew
equivalents. The LXX. render by these two terms not always
the same Hebrew words. Comp. Gen. xxvi. 5 with Deut. iv. 40.
They cannot refer to the division of the law into affirmative
(248) and prohibitive (365) commandments.] No doubt their
piety assumed in some measure the form of the time, being, if
we must use the expression, Pharisaic, though in the good,
not the evil sense of it.
There is much about those earlier Rabbis, Hillel, Gamaliel,
and others, to attract us, and their spirit ofttimes sharply
contrasts with the narrow bigotry, the self-glory, and the
unspiritual externalism of their successors. We may not
unreasonably infer, that the Tsaddiq in the quiet home of the
hill-country was quite other than the self-asserting Rabbi,
whose dress and gait, voice and manner, words and even
prayers, were those of the religious parvenu, pushing his
claims to distinction before angels and men. Such a that of Zacharias and Elisabeth would have all that was
beautiful in the religion of the time: devotion towards God;
a home of affection and purity; reverence towards all that
was sacred in things Divine and human; ungrudging,
self-denying, loving charity to the poor; the tenderest
regard for the feelings of others, so as not to raise a
blush, nor to wound their hearts; [3 There is, perhaps, no
point on which the Rabbinic Law is more explicit or stringent
than on that of tenderest regard for the feelings of others,
especially of the poor.] above all, intense faith and hope in
the higher and better future of Israel. Of such, indeed,
there must have been not a few in the land, the quiet, the
prayerful, the pious, who, though certainly not Sadducees nor
Essenes, but reckoned with the Pharisaic party, waited for
the consolation of Israel, and received it with joy when
manifested. Nor could aught more certainly have marked the
difference between the one and the other section than on a
matter, which must almost daily, and most painfully have
forced itself on Zacharias and Elisabeth. There were among
the Rabbis those who, remembering the words of the prophet,
[a Mal. ii. 13 16] spoke in most pathetic language of the
wrong of parting from the wife of youth, [b Gitt. 90 b] and
there were those to whom the bare fact of childlessness
rendered separation a religious duty. [c Yeb. 64 a] Elisabeth
was childless. Formany a year this must have been the burden
of Zacharias’ prayer; the burden also of reproach, which
Elisabeth seemed always to carry with her. They had waited
together these many years, till in the evening of life the
flower of hope had closed its fragrant cup; and still the two
sat together in the twilight, content to wait in loneliness,
till night would close around them.
But on that bright autumn morning in the Temple no such
thoughts would come to Zacharias. For the first, and for the
last time in life the lot had marked him for incensing, and
every thought must have centred on what was before him. Even
outwardly, all attention would be requisite for the proper
performance of his office. First, he had to choose two of his
special friends or relatives, to assist in his sacred
service. Their duties were comparatively simple. One
reverently removed what had been left on the altar from the
previous evening’s service; then, worshipping, retired
backwards. The second assistant now advanced, and, having
spread to the utmost verge of the golden altar the live coals
taken from that of burnt-offering, worshipped and retired.
Meanwhile the sound of the ‘organ’ (the Magrephah), heard to
the most distant parts of the Temple, and, according to
tradition, far beyond its precincts, had summoned priests,
Levites, and people to prepare for whatever service or duty
was before them. For, this was the innermost part of the
worship of the day. But the celebrant Priest, bearing the
golden censer, stood alone within the Holy Place, lit by the
sheen of the seven-branched candlestick. Before him, somewhat
farther away, towards the heavy Veil that hung before the
Holy of Holies, was the golden altar of incense, on which the
red coals glowed. To his right (the left of the altar, that
is, on the north side) was the table of shewbread; to his.left, on the right or south side of the altar, was the golden
candlestick. And still he waited, as instructed to do, till a
special signal indicated, that the moment had come to spread
the incense on the altar, as near as possible to the Holy of
Holies. Priests and people had reverently withdrawn from the
neighbourhood of the altar, and were prostrate before the
Lord, offering unspoken worship, in which record of past
deliverance, longing for mercies promised in the future, and
entreaty for present blessing and peace, [1 For the prayers
offered by the people during the incensing, see ‘The Temple,’
pp. 139, 140.] seemed the ingredients of the incense, that
rose in a fragrant cloud of praise and prayer. Deep silence
had fallen on the worshippers, as if they watched to heaven
the prayers of Israel, ascending in the cloud of ‘odours’
that rose from the golden altar in the Holy Place. [a Rev. v.
8; viii. 1, 3, 4] Zacharias waited, until he saw the incense
kindling. Then he also would have ‘bowed down in worship,’
and reverently withdrawn, [b Tamid vi. 3] had not a wondrous
sight arrested his steps.
On the right (or south) side of the altar, between it and
the golden candlestick, stood what he could not but recognise
as an Angelic form. [2 The following extract from Yalkut
(vol. i. p. 113 d, close) affords a curious illustration of
this Divine communication from beside the altar of incense:
‘From what place did the Shekhinah speak to Moses? R. Nathan
said: From the altar of incense, according to Ex. xxx. 6.
Simeon ben Asai said: From the side of the altar of
incense.’] Never, indeed, had even tradition reported such a
vision to an ordinary Priest in the act of incensing. The two
super-natural apparitions recorded, one of an Angel each year
of the Pontificate of Simon the Just; the other in that
blasphemous account of the vision of the Almighty by Ishmael,
the son of Elisha, and of the conversation which then ensued
[c Ber. 7 a] [3 According to the Talmud, Ishmael once went
into the innermost Sanctuary, when he had a vision of God,
Who called upon the priest to pronounce a benediction. The
token of God’s acceptance had better not be quoted.] , had
bothbeen vouchsafed to High-Priests, and on the Day of
Atonement. Still, there was always uneasiness among the
people as any mortal approached the immediate Presence of
God, and every delay in his return seemed ominous. [d Jer.
Yoma 42 c] No wonder, then, that Zacharias ‘was troubled, and
fear fell on him,’ as of a sudden, probably just after he had
spread the incense on the altar, and was about to offer his
parting prayer, he beheld what afterwards he knew to be the
Angel Gabriel (‘the might of God’). Apart from higher
considerations, there could perhaps be no better evidence of
the truth of this narrative than its accord with
psychological facts. An Apocryphal narrative would probably
have painted the scene in agreement with what, in the view of
such a writer, should have been the feelings of Zacharias,
and the language of the Angel. [4 Instances of an analogous
kind frequently occur in the Apocryphal Gospels.] The Angel
would have commenced by referring to Zacharias’ prayers for
the coming of a Messiah, and Zacharias would have been
represented in a highly enthusiastic state. Instead of the.strangely prosaic objection which he offered to the Angelic
announcement, there would have been a burst of spiritual
sentiment, or what passed for such. But all this would have
been psychologically untrue. There are moments of moral
faintness, so to spseak, when the vital powers of the
spiritual heart are depressed, and, as in the case of the
Disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration and in the Garden
of Gethsemane, the physical part of our being and all that is
weakest in us assert their power.
It was true to this state of semi-consciousness, that the
Angel first awakened within Zacharias the remembrance of
life-long prayers and hopes, which had now passed into the
background of his being, and then suddenly startled him by
the promise of their realisation. But that Child of so many
prayers, who was to bear the significant name of John
(Jehochanan, or Jochanan), ‘the Lord is gracious,’ was to be
the source of joy and gladness to a far wider circle than
that of the family. This might be called the first rung of
the ladder by which the Angel would take the priest upwards.
Nor was even this followed by an immediate disclosure of
what, in such a place, and from such a messenger, must have
carried to a believing heart the thrill of almost unspeakable
emotion. Rather was Zacharias led upwards, step by step. The
Child was to be great before the Lord; not only an ordinary,
but a life-Nazarite, [1 On the different classes of
Nazarites, see ‘The Temple, &c.,’ pp. 322-331.] as Samson and
Samuel of old had been. Like them, he was not to consecrate
himself, but from the inception of life wholly to belong to
God, for His work. And, greater than either of these
representatives of the symbolical import of Nazarism, he
would combine the twofold meaning of their mission , outward
and inward might in God, only in a higher and more spiritual
sense. For this life-work he would be filled with the Holy
Ghost, from the moment life woke within him. Then, as another
Samson, would he, in the strength of God, lift the axe to
each tree to be felled, and, like another Samuel, turn many
of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. Nay,
combining these two missions, as did Elijah on Mount Carmel,
he should, in accordance with prophecy, [a Mal. iii. 1]
precede the Messianic manifestation, and, not indeed in the
person or form, but in the spirit and power of Elijah,
accomplish the typical meaning of his mission, as on that day
of decision it had risen as the burden of his prayer [b 1
Kings xviii. 37] , that is, in the words of prophecy, [c Mal.
iv. 5, 6] ‘turn the heart of the fathers to the children,’
which, in view of the coming dispensation, would be ‘the
disobedient (to walk) in the wisdom of the just.’ [d St. Luke
i. 17; comp. St. Matt. xi. 19] Thus would this new Elijah
‘make ready for the Lord a people prepared.’
If the apparition of the Angel, in that place, and at that
time, had overwhelmed the aged priest, the words which he
heard must have filled him with such bewilderment, that for
the moment he scarcely realised their meaning. One idea
alone, which had struck its roots so long in his
consciousness, stood out: A son, while, as it were in the dim.distance beyond, stretched, as covered with a mist of glory,
all those marvellous things that were to be connected with
him. So, when age or strong feeling renders us almost
insensible to the present, it is ever that which connects
itself with the past, rather than with the present, which
emerges first and strongest in our consciousness. And so it
was the obvious doubt, that would suggest itself, which fell
from his lips, almost unconscious of what he said. Yet there
was in his words an element of faith also, or at least of
hope, as he asked for some pledge or confirmation of what he
had heard.
It is this demand of some visible sign, by which to ‘know’
all that the Angel had promised, which distinguishes the
doubt of Zacharias from that of Abraham, [a Gen. xvii. 17,
18] or of Manoah and his wife,[b Judg. xiii 2-21] under
somewhat similar circumstances, although, otherwise also,
even a cursory reading must convey the impression of most
marked differences. Nor ought we perhaps to forget, that we
are on the threshold of a dispensation, to which faith is the
only entrance. This door Zacharias was now to hold ajar, a
dumb messenger. He that would not speak the praises of God,
but asked a sign, received it. His dumbness was a sign,
though the sign, as it were the dumb child of the prayer of
unbelief, was its punishment also. And yet, when rightly
applied, a sign in another sense also, a sign to the waiting
multitude in the Temple; a sign to Elisabeth; to all who knew
Zacharias in the hill-country; and to the priest himself,
during those nine months of retirement and inward solitude; a
sign also that would kindle into flame in the day when God
would loosen his tongue.
A period of unusual length had passed, since the signal for
incensing had been given. The prayers of the people had been
offered, and their anxious gaze was directed towards the Holy
Place. At last Zacharias emerged to take his stand on the top
of the steps which led from the Porch to the Court of the
Priests, waiting to lead in the priestly benediction, [c
Numb. vi. 24-26] that preceded the daily meat-offering and
the chant of the Psalms of praise, accompanied with joyous
sound of music, as the drink-offering was poured out. But
already the sign of Zacharias was to be a sign to all the
people. The pieces of the sacrifices had been ranged in due
order on the altar of burnt-offering; the priests stood on
the steps to the porch, and the people were in waiting.
Zacharias essayed to speak the words of benediction,
unconscious that the stoke had fallen. But the people knew it
by his silence, that he had seen a vision in the Temple. Yet
as he stood helpless, trying by signs to indicate it to the
awestruck assembly, he remained dumb.
Wondering, they had dispersed, people and priests. The day’s
service over, another family of ministrants took the place of
those among whom Zacharias had been; and again, at the close
of the week’s service, another ‘course’ that of Abia. They
returned to their homes, some to Ophel, some to Jericho, some
to their quiet dwellings in the country. But God fulfilled.the word which He had spoken by His Angel.
Before leaving this subject, it may be well to inquire into
the relation between the events just described, and the
customs and expectations of the time. The scene in the
Temple, and all the surroundings, are in strictest accordance
with what we know of the services of the Sanctuary. In a
narrative that lays hold on some details of a very complex
service, such entire accuracy conveys the impression of
general truthfulness. Similarly, the sketch of Zacharias and
Elisabeth is true to the history of the time, though
Zacharias could not have been one of the ‘learned,’ nor to
the Rabbinists, a model priest. They would have described him
as an ‘idiot,’ [1 The word or ‘idiot,’ when conjoined with
‘priest’ ordinarily means a common priest, in distinction to
the High priest. But the word unquestionably also signifies
vulgar, ignorant, and illiterate. See Jer. Sot. 21 b, line 3
from bottom; Sanh. 21 b. Comp. also Meg. 12 b; Ber. R. 96.]
or common, and as an Amha-arets, a ‘rustic’ priest, and
treated himm with benevolent contempt. [2 According to Sanh.
90 b, such an one was not even allowed to get the Terumah.]
The Angelic apparition, which he saw, was wholly
unprecedented, and could therefore not have lain within range
of common expectation; though the possibility, or rather the
fear, of some contact with the Divine was always present to
the popular mind. But it is difficult to conceive how, if not
true, the invention of such a vision in such circumstances
could have suggested itself. This difficulty is enhanced by
the obvious difference between the Evangelic narrative, and
the popular ideas of the time. Far too much importance has
here been attached by a certain class of writers to a
Rabbinic saying, [a Jer. haSh. 56 d, line 10 from bottom]
that the names of the Angels were brought from Babylon. For,
not only was this saying (of Ben Lakish) only a clever
Scriptural deduction (as the context shows), and not even an
actual tradition, but no competent critic would venture to
lay down the principle, that isolated Rabbinic sayings in the
Talmud are to be regarded as sufficient foundation for
historical facts. On the other hand, Rabbinic tradition does
lay it down, that the names of the Angels were derived from
their mission, and might be changed with it. Thus the reply
of the Angel to the inquiry of Manoah [a Judg. xiii. 18] is
explained as implying, that he knew not what other name might
be given him in the future. In the Book of Daniel, to which
the son of Lakish refers, the only two Angelic names
mentioned are Gabriel [b Dan. ix. 21] and Michael, [c x. 21]
while the appeal to the Book of Daniel, as evidence of the
Babylonish origin of Jewish Angelology, comes with strange
inconsistency from writers who date it in Maccabean times. [1
Two other Angels are mentioned, but not named, in Dan. x. 13,
20.] But the question of Angelic nomenclature is quite
secondary. The real point at issue is, whether or not the
Angelology and Demonology of the New Testament was derived
from contemporary Judaism. The opinion, that such was the
case, has been so dogmatically asserted, as to have almost
passed among a certain class as a settled fact. That
nevertheless such was not the case, is capable of the most.ample proof. Here also, with similarity of form, slighter
than usually, there os absolutely contrast of substance. [2
The Jewish ideas and teaching about angels are fully given in
Appendix XIII.: ‘Jewish Angelology and Demonology.’]
Admitting that the names of Gabriel and Michael must have
been familiar to the mind of ZXacharias, some not unimportant
differences must be kept in view. Thus, Gabriel was regarded
in tradition as inferior to Michael; and, though both were
connected with Israel, Gabriel was represented as chiefly the
minister of justice, and Michael of mercy; while, thirdly,
Gabriel was supposed to stand on the left, and not (as in the
Evangelic narrative) on the right, side of the throne of
glory. Small as these divergences may seem, they are
allimportant, when derivation of one set of opinions from
another is in question. Finally, as regarded the coming of
Elijah as forerunner of the Messiah, it is to be observed
that, according to Jewish notions, he was to appear
personally, and not merely ‘in spirit and power.’ In fact,
tradition represents his ministry and appearances as almost
continuous , not only immediately before the coming of
Messiah, but at all times. Rabbinic writings introduce him on
the scene, not only frequently, but on the most incongruous
occasions, and for the most diverse purposes. In this sense
it is said of him, that he always liveth. [d Moed k. 26a]
Sometimes, indeed, he is blamed, as for the closing words in
his prayer about the turning of the heart of the people, [e 1
Kings xviii. 37 (in Hebr. without ‘that’ and ‘again’); see
Ber. 31 b, last two lines] and even his sacrifice on Carmel
was only excused on the ground of express command. [f
Bemidbar R. 14. Another view in Par. 13] But his great
activity as precursor of the Messiah is to resolve doubts of
all kinds; to reintroduce those who had been violently and
improperly extruded from the congregation of Israel, and
vice-versa; to make peace; while, finally, he was connected
with the raising of the dead. [a This in Shir haSh R. i. ed.
Warshau, p. 3 a.] [1 All the Rabbinic traditions about
‘Elijah as the Forerunner of the Messiah’ are collated in
Appendix VIII.] But nowhere is he prominently designated as
intended ‘to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.’ [2 I
should, however, remark, that that very curious chapter on
Repentance, in the Pirke de R. Elieser (c. 43), closes with
these words: ‘And Israel will not make great repentance till
Elijah, his memory for blessing!, come, as it is said, Mal.
iv. 6,’ &c. From this isolated and enigmatic sentence,
Professor Delitzsch’s implied inference (Zeitschr. fur
Luther. Theol. 1875, p. 593) seems too sweeping.]
Thus, from whatever source the narrative may be supposed to
have been derived, its details certainly differ, in almost
all particulars, from the theological notions current at the
time. And the more Zacharias meditated on this in the long
solitude of his enforced silence, the more fully must new
spiritual thoughts have come to him. As for Elisabeth, those
tender feelings of woman, which ever shrink from the
disclosure of the dearest secret of motherhood, were
intensely deepened and sanctified in the knowledge of all.that had passed. Little as she might understand the full
meaning of the future, it must have been to her, as if she
also now stood in the Holy Place, gazing towards the Veil
which concealed the innermost Presence. Meantime she was
content with, nay, felt the need of, absolute retirement from
other fellowship than that of God and her own heart. Like her
husband, she too would be silent and alone, till another
voice called her forth. Whatever the future might bring,
sufficient for the present, that thus the Lord had done to
her, in days in which He looked down to remove her reproach
among men. The removal of that burden, its manner, its
meaning, its end, were all from God, and with God; and it was
fitting to be quite alone and silent, till God’s voice would
again wake the echoes within. And so five months passed in
absolute retirement.
(St. Matt. i.; St. Luke i. 26-80.)
FROM the Temple to Nazareth! It seems indeed most fitting
that the Evangelic story should have taken its beginning
within the Sanctuary, and at the time of sacrifice. Despite
its outward veneration for them, the Temple, its services,
and specially its sacrifices, were, by an inward logical
necessity, fast becoming a superfluity for Rabbinism. But the
new development, passing over the intruded elements, which
were, after all, of rationalistic origin, connected its
beginning directly with the Old Testament dispensation, its
sacrifices, priesthood, and promises. In the Sanctuary, in
connection with sacrifice, and through the priesthood, such
was significantly the beginning of the era of fulfillment.
And so the great religious reformation of Israel under Samuel
had also begun in the Tabernacle, which had so long been in
the background. But if, even in this Temple-beginning, and in
the communication to, and selection of an idiot ‘priest,’
there was marked divergence from the Rabbinic ideal, that
difference widens into the sharpest contrast, as we pass from
the Forerunner to the Messiah, from the Temple to Galilee,
from the ‘idiot’ priest to the humble, unlettered family of
Nazareth. It is necessary here to recall our general
impression of Rabbinism: its conception of God, [1 Terrible
as it may sound, it is certainly the teaching of Rabbinism,
that God occupied so many hours every day in the study of the
Law. Comp. Targ. Ps.-Jonathan on Deut. xxxii. 4, and Abhod.
Z. 3 b. Nay, Rabbinism goes farther in its daring, and speaks
of the Almighty as arrayed in a white dress, or as occupying
himself by day with the study of the Bible, and by night with
that of the six tractates of the Mishnah. Comp. also the
Targum on Cant. v. 10.] and of the highest good and ultimate
object of all things, as concentrated in learned study,
pursued in Academies; and then to think of the unmitigated.contempt with which they were wont to speak of Galilee, and
of the Galileans, whose very patois was an offence; of the
utter abhorrence with which they regarded the unlettered
country-people, in order to realise, how such an household as
that of Joseph and Mary would be regarded by the leaders of
Israel. A Messianic announcement, not the result of learned
investigation, nor connected with the Academies, but in the
Sanctuary, to a ‘rustic’ priest; an Elijah unable to untie
the intellectual or ecclesiastical knots, of whose mission,
indeed, this formed no part at all; and a Messiah, the
offspring of a Virgin in Galilee betrothed to a humble
workman , assuredly, such a picture of the fulfillment of
Israel’s hope could never have been conceived by contemporary
Judaism. There was in such a Messiah absolutely nothing,
past, present, or possible; intellectually, religiously, or
even nationally, to attract, but all to repel. And so we can,
at the very outset of this history, understand the infinite
contrast which it embodied, with all the difficulties to its
reception, even to those who became disciples, as at almost
every step of its progress they were, with ever fresh
surprise, recalled from all that they had formerly thought,
to that which was so entirely new and strange.
And yet, just as Zacharias may be described as the
representative of the good and the true in the Priesthood at
that time, so the family of Nazareth as a typical Israelitish
household. We feel, that the scantiness of particulars here
supplied by the Gospels, was intended to prevent the human
interest from overshadowing the grand central Fact, to which
alone attention was to be directed. For, the design of the
Gospels was manifestly not to furnish a biography of Jesus
the Messiah, [1 The object which the Evangelists had in view
was certainly not that of biography, even as the Old
Testament contains no biography. The twofold object of their
narratives is indicated by St. Luke i. 4, and by St. John xx.
31.] but, in organic connection with the Old Testament, to
tell the history of the long-promised establishment of the
Kingdom of God upon earth. Yet what scanty details we possess
of the ‘Holy Family’ and its surroundings may here find a
The highlands which form the central portion of Palestine
are broken by the wide, rich plain of Jezreel, which severs
Gailee from the rest of the land. This was always the great
battle-field of Israel. Appropriately, it is shut in as
between mountain-walls. That along the north of the plain is
formed by the mountains of Lower Galilee, cleft about the
middle by a valley that widens, till, after an hour’s
journey, we stand within an enclosure which seems almost one
of Nature’s own sanctuaries. As in an amphitheatre, fifteen
hill-tops rise around. That to the west is the highest, about
500 feet. On its lower slopes nestles a little town, its
narrow streets ranged like terraces. This is Nazareth,
probably the ancient Sarid (or En-Sarid), which, in the time
of Joshua, marked the northern boundary of Zebulun. [a Josh.
xix. 10,11] [1 The name Nazareth may best be regarded as the
equivalent of ‘watch’ or ‘watcheress.’ The name does not.occur in the Talmud, nor in those Midrashim which have been
preserved. But the elegy of Eleazar ha Kallir, written before
the close of the Talmud, in which Nazareth is mentioned as a
Priestcentre, is based upon an ancient Midrash, now lost
(comp. Neubauer, Geogr. du Talmud, p. 117, note 5). It is,
however, possible, as Dr. Neubauer suggests (u.s. p. 190,
note 5), that the name in Midr. on Eccl. ii. 8 should read
and refers to Nazareth.]
Climbing this steep hill, fragrant with aromatic plants, and
bright with rich-coloured flowers, a view almost unsurpassed
opens before us. For, the Galilee of the time of Jesus was
not only of the richest fertility, cultivated to the utmost,
and thickly covered with populous towns and villages, but the
centre of every known industry, and the busy road of the
world’s commerce. Northward the eye would sweep over a rich
plain; rest here and there on white towns, glittering in the
sunlight; then quickly travel over the romantic hills and
glens which form the scenes of Solomon’s Song, till, passing
beyond Safed (the Tsephath of the Rabbis, the ‘city set on a
hill’), the view is bounded by that giant of the far-off
mountain-chain, snow-tipped Hermon. Westward stretched a like
scene of beauty and wealth, a land not lonely, but wedded;
not desolate, but teeming with life; while, on the edge of
the horizon, lay purple Carmel; beyond it a fringe of silver
sand, and then the dazzling sheen of the Great Sea. In the
farthest distance, white sails, like wings outspread towards
the ends of the world; nearer, busy ports; then, centres of
industry; and close by, travelled roads, all bright in the
pure Eastern air and rich glow of the sun. But if you turned
eastwards, the eye would soon be arrested by the wooded
height of Tabor, yet not before attention had been riveted by
the long, narrow string of fantastic caravans, and curiosity
roused by the motley figures, of all nationalities and in all
costumes, busy binding the East to the West by that line of
commerce that passed along the route winding around Tabor.
And when, weary with the gaze, you looked once more down on
little Nazareth nestling on the breast of the mountain, the
eye would rest on a scene of tranquil, homely beauty. Just
outside the town, in the north-west, bubbled the spring or
well, the trysting-spot of townspeople, and welcome
resting-place of travellers. Beyond it stretched lines of
houses, each with its flat roof standing out distinctly
against the clear sky; watered, terraced gardens, gnarled
wide-spreading figtrees, graceful feathery palms, scented
oranges, silvery olive-trees, thick hedges, rich
pasture-land, then the bounding hills to the south; and
beyond, the seemingly unbounded expanse of the wide plain of
And yet, withdrawn from the world as, in its enclosure of
mountains, Nazareth might seem, we must not think of it as a
lonely village which only faint echoes reached of what roused
the land beyond. With reverence be it said: such a place
might have suited the training of the contemplative hermit,
not the upbringing of Him Whose sympathies were to be with
every clime and race. Nor would such an abode have furnished.what (with all due acknowledgment of the supernatural) we
mark as a constant, because a rationally necessary, element
in Scripture history: that of inward preparedness in which
the higher and the Divine afterwards find their ready points
of contact.
Nor was it otherwise in Nazareth. The two great interests
which stirred the land, the two great factors in the
religious future of Israel, constantly met in the retirement
of Nazareth. The great caravan-route which led from Acco on
the sea to Damascus divided at its commencement into three
roads: the most northern passing through Caesarea Philippi;
the Upper Galilean; and the Lower Galilean. The latter, the
ancient Via Maris led through Nazareth, and thence either by
Cana, or else along the northern shoulder of Mount Tabor, to
the Lake of Gennesaret, each of these roads soon uniting with
the Upper Galilean. [1 Comp. the detailed description of
these roads, and the references in Herzog’s Real-Encykl. vol.
xv. pp. 160, 161.] Hence, although the stream of commerce
between Acco and the East was divided into three channels,
yet, as one of these passed through Nazareth, the quiet
little town was not a stagnant pool of rustic seclusion. Men
of all nations, busy with another life than that of Israel,
would appear in the streets of Nazareth; and through them
thoughts, associations, and hopes connected with the great
outside world be stirred. But, on the other hand, Nazareth
was also one of the great centers of Jewish Temple-life. It
has already been indicated that the Priesthood was divided
into twenty-four ‘course’ which, in turn, ministered in the
Temple. The Priests of the ‘course’ which was to be on duty
always gathered in certain towns, whence they went up in
company to Jerusalem, while those of their number who were
unable to go spent the week in fasting and prayer. Now
Nazareth was one of these Priest-centres, [2 Comp. Neubauer,
u. s. p. 190. See a detailed account in ‘sketches of Jewish
Social Life,’ &c. p. 36.] and although it may well have been,
that comparatively few in distant Galilee conformed to the
Priestly regulations, some must have assembled there in
preparation for the sacred functions, or appeared in its
Synagogue. Even the fact, so well known to all, of this
living connection between Nazareth and the Temple, must have
wakened peculiar feelings. Thus, to take the wider view, a
double symbolic significance attached to Nazareth, since
through it passed alike those who carried on the traffic of
the world, and those who ministered in the Temple. [1 It is
strange, that these two circumstances have not been noticed.
Keim (Jesu von Nazari i. 2, pp. 322, 323) only cursorily
refers to the great road which passed through Nazareth.]
We may take it, that the people of Nazareth were like those
of other little towns similarly circumstanced: [2 The
inference, that the expression of Nathanael (St. John i. 46)
implies a lower state of the people of Nazareth, is
unfounded. Even Keim points out, that it only marks disbelief
that the Messiah would come from such a place.] with all the
peculiarities of the impulsive, straight-spoken, hot-blooded,
brave, intensely national Galileans; [3 Our description of.them is derived from notices by Josephus (such as War iii. 3,
2), and many passages in the Talmud,] with the deeper
feelings and almost instinctive habits of thought and life,
which were the outcome of long centuries of Old Testament
training; but also with the petty interest and jealousies of
such places, and with all the ceremonialism and punctilious
self-assertion of Orientals. The cast of Judaism prevalent in
Nazareth would, of course, be the same as in Galilee
generally. We know, that there were marked divergences from
the observances in that stronghold of Rabbinism, [4 These
differences are marked in Pes. iv. 5; Keth. iv. 12; Ned. ii.
4; Chull. 62 a; Baba K. 80 a; Keth. 12 a.] Judaea, indicating
greater simplicity and freedom from the constant intrusion of
traditional ordinances. The home-life would be all the purer,
that the veil of wedded life was not so coarsely lifted as in
Judaea, nor its sacred secrecy interfered with by an
Argus-eyed legislation. [5 The reader who wishes to
understand what we have only ventured to hint, is referred to
the Mishnic tractate Niddah.] The purity of betrothal in
Galilee wasless likely to be sullied, [a Keth. 12 a] and
weddings were more simple than in Judaea, without the dubious
institution of groomsmen, [b Keth. 12 a, and often] [6 Comp.
‘Sketches of Jewish Social Life,’ &c., pp. 152 &c.] or
‘friends of the bridegroom,’ [c St. John iii. 29.] whose
office must not unfrequently have degenerated into utter
coarseness. The bride was chosen, not as in Judaea, where
money was too often the motive, but as in Jerusalem, with
chief regard to ‘a fair degree;’ and widows were (as in
Jerusalem) more tenderly cared for, as we gather even from
the fact, that they had a life-right of residence in their
husband’s house.
Such a home was that to which Joseph was about to bring the
maiden, to whom he had been betrothed. Whatever view may be
taken of the genealogies in the Gospels according to St.
Matthew and St. Luke, whether they be regarded as those of
Joseph and of Mary, [1 The best defence of this view is that
by Wieseler, Beitr. zur Wurdig. d. Evang. pp. 133 &c. It is
also virtually adopted by Weiss (Leben Jesu, vol. i. 1882).]
or, which seems the more likely, [2 This view is adopted
almost unanimously by modern writers.] as those of Joseph
only, marking his natural and his legal descent [3 This view
is defended with much skill by Mr. McClellan in his New
Testament, vol. i. pp. 409-422.] from David, or vice versa [4
So Grotius, Bishop Lord Arthur Hervey, and after him most
modern English writers.], there can be no question, that both
Joseph and Mary were of the royal lineage of David. [5 The
Davidic descent of the Virgin-Mother, which is questioned by
some even among orthodox interpreters, seems implied in the
Gospel (St. Luke i. 27, 32, 69; ii. 4), and an almost
necessary inference from such passages as Rom. i. 3; 2 Tim.
ii. 8; Hebr. vii. 14. The Davidic descent of Jesus is not
only admitted, but elaborately proved, on purely
rationalistic grounds, by Keim (u. s. pp. 327-329).] Most
probably the two were nearly related, [6 This is the general
view of antiquity.] while Mary could also claim kinship with
the Priesthood, being, no doubt on her mother’s side, a.’blood-relative’ of Elisabeth, the Priest-wife of Zacharias.
[a St. Luke i. 36.] [7 Reference to this union of Levi and
Judah in the Messiah is made in the Test. xii. Patriarch.,
Test. Simeonis vii. (apud Fabr. Cod. Pseudepigr. vol. ii. p.
542). Curiously, the great Hillel was also said by some to
have descended, through his father and mother, from the
tribes of Judah and Levi, all, however, asserting his Davidic
origin (comp. Jer. Taan. iv. 2; Ber. R. 98 and 33).] Even
this seems to imply, that Mary’s family must shortly before
have held higher rank, for only with such did custom sanction
any alliance on the part of Priests. [8 Comp, Maimonides, Yad
haChaz Hil. Sanh. ii. The inference would, of course, be the
same, whether we suppose Mary’s mother to have been the
sister-in-law, or the sister, of Elisabeth’s father.] But at
the time of their betrothal, alike Joseph and Mary were
extremely poor, as appears, not indeed from his being a
carpenter, since a trade was regarded as almost a religious
duty, but from the offering at the presentation of Jesus in
the Temple. [b St. Luke ii. 24.] Accordingly, their betrothal
must have been of the simplest, and the dowry settled the
smallest possible. [9 Comp. ‘Sketches of Jewish Social Life
in the Days of Christ,’ pp. 143-149. Also the article on
‘Marriage’ in Cassell’s Bible-Educator, vol. iv. pp.
267-270.] Whichever of the two modes of betrothal [10 There
was a third mode, by cohabitation; but this was highly
disapproved of even by the Rabbis.] may have been adopted: in
the presence of witnesses, either by solemn word of mouth, in
due prescribed formality, with the added pledge of a piece of
money, however small, or of money’s worth for use; or else by
writing (the so-called Shitre Erusin), there would be no
sumptuous feast to follow; and the ceremony would conclude
with some such benediction as that afterwards in use:
‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the World, Who
hath sanctified us by His Commandments, and enjoined us about
incest, and forbidden the betrothed, but allowed us those
wedded by Chuppah (the marriage-baldachino) and betrothal.
Blessed art Thou, Who sanctifiest Israel by Chuppah and
betrothal’, the whole being perhaps concluded by a
benediction over the statutory cup of wine, which was tasted
in turn by the betrothed. From that moment Mary was the
betrothed wife of Joseph; their relationship as sacred, as if
they had already been wedded. Any breach of it would be
treated as adultery; nor could the band be dissolved except,
as after marriage, by regular divorce. Yet months might
intervene between the betrothal and marriage. [1 The
assertion of Professor Wunsche (Neue Beitr. zur Erlauter. d.
Evang. p. 7) that the practice of betrothal was confined
exclusively, or almost so, to Judaea, is quite ungrounded.
The passages to which he refers (Kethub. i. 5, not 3, and
especially Keth. 12 a) are irrelevant. Keth. 12 a marks the
simpler and purer customs of Galilee, but does not refer to
Five months of Elisabeth’s sacred retirement had passed,
when a strange messenger brought its first tidings to her
kinswoman in far-off Galilee. It was not in the solemn
grandeur of the Temple, between the golden altar of incense.and the seven-branched candlesticks that the Angel Gabriel
now appeared, but in the privacy of a humble home at
Nazareth. The greatest honor bestowed on man was to come
amidst circumstances of deepest human lowliness, as if the
more clearly to mark the exclusively Divine character of what
was to happen. And, although the awe of the Supernatural must
unconsciously have fallen upon her, it was not so much the
sudden appearance of the mysterious stranger in her
retirement that startled the maiden, as the words of his
greeting, implying unthought blessing. The ‘Peace to thee’ [2
I have rendered the Greek by the Hebrew and for the
correctness of it refer the reader to Grimm’s remarks on 1
Macc. x. 18 (Exeget. Handb. zu d. Apokryph. 3(tte) Lief. p.
149).] was, indeed, the well-known salutation, while the
words, ‘The Lord is with thee’ might waken the remembrance of
the Angelic call, to great deliverance in the past. [a Judg.
vi. 12.] But this designation of ‘highly favored’ [3 Bengel
aptly remarks, ‘Non ut mater gratiae, sed ut filia gratiae.’
Even Jeremy Taylor’s remarks (Life of Christ, ed. Pickering,
vol. i. p. 56) would here require modification. Following the
best critical authorities, I have omitted the words, ‘Blessed
art thou among women.’] came upon her with bewildering
surprise, perhaps not so much from its contrast to the
humbleness of her estate, as from the self-conscious humility
of her heart. And it was intended so, for of all feelings
this would now most become her. Accordingly, it is this story
of special ‘favour’ or grace, which the Angel traces in rapid
outline, from the conception of the Virgin-Mother to the
distinctive, Divinely-given Name, symbolic of the meaning of
His coming; His absolute greatness; His acknowledgment as the
Son of God; and the fulfillment in Him of the great Davidic
hope, with its never-ceasing royalty, [1 We here refer, as an
interesting corroboration, to the Targum on Ps. xlv. 7 (6 in
our A. V.). But this interest is intensely increased when we
read it, not as in our editions of the Targum, but as found
in a MS. copy of the year 1208 (given by Levy in his Targum.
Worterb. vol. i. p. 390 a). Translating it from that reading,
the Targum thus renders Ps. xlv. 7, ‘Thy throne, O God, in
the heaven’ (Levy renders, ‘Thy throne from God in heaven,’
but in either case it refers to the throne of the Messiah)
‘is for ever and ever’ (for ‘world without end,’ ‘a rule of
righteousness is the rule of Thy kingdom, O Thou King
Messiah!’] and its never-ending, boundless Kingdom. [2 In
Pirque’ de R. El. c. 11, the same boundless dominion is
ascribed to Messiah the King. In that curious passage
dominion is ascribed to ‘ten kings,’ the first being God, the
ninth the Messiah, and the tenth again God, to Whom the
kingdom would be delivered in the end, according to Is. xliv.
6; Zechar. xiv. 9; Ezek. xxxiv. 24, with the result described
in Is. lii. 9.]
In all this, however marvellous, there could be nothing
strange to those who cherished in their hearts Israel’s great
hope, not merely as an article of abstract belief, but as
matter of certain fact, least of all to the maiden of the
lineage of David, betrothed to him of the house and lineage
of David. So long as the hand of prophetic blessing rested on.the house of David, and before its finger had pointed to the
individual who ‘found favor’ in the highest sense, the
consciousness of possibilities, which scarce dared shape
themselves into definite thoughts, must at times have stirred
nameless feelings, perhaps the more often in circumstances of
outward depression and humility, such as those of the ‘Holy
Family.’ Nor was there anything strange even in the naming of
the yet unconceived Child. It sounds like a saying current
among the people of old, this of the Rabbis, [a Pirque’ de R.
El. 32, at the beginning] concerning the six whose names were
given before their birth: Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Solomon,
Josiah, and ‘the Name of the Messiah, Whom may the Holy One,
blessed be His Name, bring quickly in our days!’ [3 Professor
Wunsche’s quotation is here not exact (u. s. p. 414)] But as
for the deeper meaning of the name Jesus, [b St. Matt. i. 21]
which, like an unopened bud, enclosed the flower of His
Passion, that was mercifully yet the unthought-of secret of
that sword, which should pierce the soul of the
Virgin-Mother, and which only His future history would lay
open to her and to others.
Thus, on the supposition of the readiness of her believing
heart, and her entire self-unconsciousness, it would have
been only the glorious announcement of the impending event,
which would absorb her thinking, with nothing strange about
it, or that needed further light, than the how of her own
connection with it. [4 Weiss (Leben Jesu, 1882, vol. i. p.
213) rightly calls attention to the humility of her
self-surrender, when she willingly submitted to what her
heart would feel hardest to bear, that of incurring suspicion
of her purity in the sight of all.] And the words, which she
spake, were not of trembling doubt, that required to lean on
the staff of a ‘sign,’ but rather those of enquiry, for the
further guidance of a willing self-surrender. The Angel had
pointed her opened eyes to the shining path: that was not
strange; only, that She should walk in it, seemed so. And now
the Angel still further unfolded it in words which, however
little she may have understood their full meaning, had again
nothing strange about them, save once more that she should be
thus ‘favoured’; words which, even to her understanding, must
have carried yet further thoughts of Divine favour, and so
deepened her humility. For, the idea of the activity of the
Holy Ghost in all great events was quite familiar to Israel
at the time, [1 So in almost innumerable Rabbinic passages.]
even though the Individuation of the Holy Ghost may not have
been fully apprehended. Only, that they expected such
influences to rest exclusively upon those who were either
mighty, or rich, or wise. [a Nedar. 38 a] And of this twofold
manifestation of miraculous ‘favour,’ that she, and as a
Virgin, should be its subject, Gabriel, ‘the might of God,’
gave this unasked sign, in what had happened to her kinswoman
The sign was at the same time a direction. The first, but
also the ever-deepening desire in the heart of Mary, when the
Angel left her, must have been to be away from Nazareth, and
for the relief of opening her heart to a woman, in all, who perhaps might speak blessed words to her.
And to such an one the Angel himself seemed to have directed
her. It is only what we would have expected, that ‘with
haste’ she should have resorted to her kinswoman, without
loss of time, and before she would speak to her betrothed of
what even in wedded life is the first secret whispered. [2
This is answer to the objection, so pertinaciously urged, of
inconsistency with the narrative in St. Matt. i. 19 &c. It is
clear, that Mary went ‘with haste’ to her kinswoman, and that
any communication to Joseph could only have taken place after
that, and after the Angelic prediction was in all its parts
confirmed by her visit to Elisabeth. Jeremy Taylor (u. s. p.
64) has already arranged the narrative as in the text.]
It could have been no ordinary welcome that would greet the
Virgin-Mother, on entering the house of her kinswoman.
Elisabeth must have learnt from her husband the destiny of
their son, and hence the near Advent of the Messiah. But she
could not have known either when, or of whom He would be
born. When, by a sign not quite strange to Jewish expectancy,
[3 According to Jewish tradition, the yet unborn infants in
their mother’s] she recognised in her near kinswoman the
Mother of her Lord, her salutation was that of a mother to a
mother, the mother of the ‘preparer’ to the mother of Him for
Whom he would prepare. To be more precise: the words which,
filled with the Holy Ghost, she spake, were the mother’s
utterance, to the mother, of the homage which her unborn babe
offered to his Lord; while the answering hymn of Mary was the
offering of that homage unto God. It was the antiphonal
morning-psalmody of the Messianic day as it broke, of which
the words were still all of the old dispensation, [1 The
poetic grandeur and the Old Testament cast of the Virgin’s
hymn (comp. the Song of Hannah, 1 Sam. ii. 1-10), need
scarcely be pointed out. Perhaps it would read fullest and
best by trying to recall what must have been its Hebrew
original.] but their music of the new; the keynote being that
of ‘favour,’ ‘grace,’ struck by the Angel in his first
salutation: ‘favour’ to the Virgin; [a 1st stanza vv. 46-49]
‘favour,’ eternal ‘favour’ to all His humble and poor ones;
[b 2nd stanza, vv. 50-53] and ‘favour’ to Israel, stretching
in golden line from the calling of Abraham to the glorious
future that now opened. [c 3rd stanza, vv. 54-55] Not one of
these fundamental ideas but lay strictly within the range of
the Old Testament; and yet all of them now lay beyond it,
bathed in the golden light of the new day. Miraculous it all
is, and professes to be; not indeed in the connection of
these events, which succeed each other with psycological
truthfulness; nor yet in their language, which is of the
times and the circumstances; but in the underlying facts. [2
Weiss, while denying the historical accuracy of much in the
Gospel-narrative of it, unhesitatingly accepts the fact of
the supernatural birth of Jesus.] And for these there can be
no other evidence than the Life, the Death, and the
Resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. If He was such, and if He
really rose from the dead, then, with all soberness and
solemnity, such inception of His appearance seems almost a
logical necessity. But of this whole narrative it may be.said, that such inception of the Messianic appearance, such
announcement of it, and such manner of His Coming, could
never have been invented by contemporary Judaism; indeed, ran
directly counter to all its preconceptions. [3 Keim
elaborately discusses the origin of what he calls the legend
of Christ’s supernatural conception. He arrives at the
conclusion that it was a Jewish-Christian legend, as if a
Jewish invention of such a ‘legend’ were not the most
unlikely of all possible hypotheses! But negative criticism
is at least bound to furnish some historical basis for the
origination of such an unlikely legend. Whence was the idea
of it first derived? How did it find such ready acceptance in
the Church? Weiss has, at considerable length, and very
fully, shown the impossibility of its origin either in Jewish
or heathen legend.]
Three months had passed since the Virgin-Mother entered the
home of her kinswoman. And now she must return to Nazareth.
Soon Elisabeth’s neighbours and kinsfolk would gather with
sympathetic joy around a home which, as they thought, had
experienced unexpected mercy, little thinking, how
wide-reaching its consequences would be. But the
Virgin-Mother must not be exposed to the publicity of such
meetings. However conscious of what had led to her condition,
it must have been as the first sharp pang of the sword which
was to pierce her soul, when she told it all to her
betrothed. For, however deep his trust in her whom he had
chosen for wife, only a direct Divine communication could
have chased all questioning from his heart, and given him
that assurance, which was needful in the future history of
the Messiah. Brief as, with exquisite delicacy, the narrative
is, we can read in the ‘thoughts’ of Joseph the anxious
contending of feelings, the scarcely established, and yet
delayed, resolve to ‘put her away,’ which could only be done
by regular divorce; this one determination only standing out
clearly, that, if it must be, her letter of divorce shall be
handed to her privately, only in the presence of two
witnesses. The humble Tsaddiq of Nazareth would not willingly
have brought the blush to any face, least of all would he
make of her ‘a public exhibition of shame.’ [1 I have
thusparaphrased the verb rendered in Heb. vi. 6 ‘put to an
open shame.’ Comp. also LXX. Num. xxv. 4; Jer. xiii. 22;
Ezek. xxviii. 17 (see Grimm, Clavis N.T. p. 333 b) Archdeacon
Farrar adopts the reading.] It was a relief that he could
legally divorce her either publicly or privately, whether
from change of feeling, or because he had found just cause
for it, but hesitated to make it known, either from regard
for his own character, or because he had not sufficient legal
evidence [2 For example, if he had not sufficient witnesses,
or if their testimony could be invalidated by any of those
provisions in favour of the accused, of which traditionalism
had not a few. Thus, as indicated in the text, Joseph might
have privately divorced Mary leaving it open to doubt on what
ground he had so acted.] of the charge. He would follow, all
unconscious of it, the truer manly feeling of R. Eliezar, [a
Keth. 74 b 75 a.] R. Jochanan, and R. Zera, [b Keth. 97 b.]
according to which a man would not like to put his wife to.shame before a Court of Justice, rather than the opposite
sentence of R. Meir.
The assurance, which Joseph could scarcely dare to hope for,
was miraculously conveyed to him in a dream-vision. All would
now be clear; even the terms in which he was addressed (‘thou
son of David’), so utterly unusual in ordinary circumstances,
would prepare him for the Angel’s message. The naming of the
unborn Messiah would accord with popular notions; [3 See a
former note.] the symbolism of such a name was deeply rooted
in Jewish belief; [1 Thus we read in (Shocher Tobh) the
Midrash on Prov. xix. 21 (closing part; ed. Lemberg. p. 16 b)
of eight names given to the Messiah, viz. Yinnon (Ps. xxii.
17, ‘His name shall sprout [bear sprouts] before the Sun;’
comp. also Pirqe de R. El. c. 2); Jehovah; Our Righteousness;
Tsemach (the Branch, Zech. iii. 8); Menachem (the Comforter,
Is. li. 3); David (Ps. xviii. 50); Shiloh (Gen. xlix. 10);
Elijah (Mal. iv. 5). The Messiah is also called Anani (He
that cometh in the clouds, Dan. vii. 13; see Tanch. Par.
Toledoth 14); Chaninah, with reference to Jer. xvi. 13; the
Leprous, with reference to Is. liii. 4 (Sanh. 96 b). It is a
curious instance of the Jewish mode of explaining a meaning
by gimatreya, or numerical calculation, that they prove
Tsemach (Branch) and Menachem (Comforter) to be the same,
because the numerical equivalents of the one word are equal
to those of the other:] while the explanation of Jehoshua or
Jeshua (Jesus), as He who would save His people (primarily,
as he would understand it, Israel) from their sins, described
at least one generally expected aspect of His Mission, [2
Professor Wunsche (Erlauter. d. Evang. p. 10) proposes to
strike out the words ‘from their sins’ as an un-Jewish
interpolation. In answer, it would suffice to point him to
the passages on this very subject which he has collated in a
previous work: Die Leiden des Messias, pp. 63-108. To these I
will only add a comment in the Midrash on Cant. i. 14 (ed.
Warshau, p. 11 a and b), where the reference is undoubtedly
to the Messiah (in the words of R. Berakhyah, line 8 from
bottom; and again in the words of R. Levi, 11 b, line 5 from
top, &c.). The expression is there explained as meaning ‘He
Who makes expiation for the sins of Israel,’ and it is
distinctly added that this expiation bears reference to the
transgressions and evil deeds of the children of Abraham, for
which God provides this Man as the Atonement.] although
Joseph may not have known that it was the basis of all the
rest. And perhaps it was not without deeper meaning and
insight into His character, that the Angel laid stress on
this very element in His communication to Joseph, and not to
The fact that such an announcement came to Him in a dream,
would dispose Joseph all the more readily to receive it. ‘A
good dream’ was one of the three things [3 ‘A good king, a
fruitful year, and a good dream.’] popularly regarded as
marks of God’s favour; and so general was the belief in their
significance, as to have passed into this popular saying: ‘If
any one sleeps seven days without dreaming (or rather,
remembering his dream for interpretation), call him wicked’.(as being unremembered of God [a Ber. 55 b] [4 Rabbi Zera
proves this by a reference to Prov. xix. 23, the reading
Sabhea (satisfied) being altered into Shebha, both written,
while is understood as of spending the night. Ber. 55 a to 57
b contains a long, and sometimes very coarse, discussion of
dreams, giving their various interpretations, rules for
avoiding the consequences of evil dreams, &c. The fundamental
principle is, that ‘a dream is according to its
interpretation’ (Ber. 55 b). Such views about dreams would,
no doubt, have long been matter of popular belief, before
being formally expressed in the Talmud.]). Thus Divinely set
at rest, Joseph could no longer hesitate. The highest duty
towards the Virgin-Mother and the unborn Jesus demanded an
immediate marriage, which would afford not only outward, but
moral protection to both. [5 The objection, that the account
of Joseph and Mary’s immediate marriage is inconsistent with
the designation of Mary in St. Luke ii. 5, is sufficiently
refuted by the consideration that, in any other case, Jewish
custom would not have allowed Mary to travel to Bethlehem in
company with Joseph. The expression used in St. Luke ii. 5,
must be read in connection with St. Matt. i. 25.]
Viewing events, not as isolated, but as links welded in the
golden chain of the history of the Kingdom of God, ‘all
this’, not only the birth of Jesus from a Virgin, nor even
His symbolic Name with its import, but also the unrestful
questioning of Joseph, ‘happened’ [1 Haupt (Alttestam. Citate
in d. vier Evang. pp. 207-215) rightly lays stress on the
words, ‘all this was done.’ He even extends its reference to
the threefold arrangement of the genealogy by St. Matthew, as
implying the ascending splendour of the line of David, its
midday glory, and its decline.] in fulfilment [2 The correct
Hebrew equivalent of the expression ‘that it might be
fulfilled’ is not, as Surenhusius (Biblos Katallages, p. 151)
and other writers have it, still loss (Wunsche) but, as
Professor Delitzsch renders it, in his new translation of St.
Matthew, The difference is important, and Delitzsch’s
translation completely established by the similar rendering
of the LXX. of 1 Kings ii. 27 and 2 Chron. xxxvi. 22.] of
what had been prefigured. [a Is. vii. 14.] The promise of a
Virginborn son as a sign of the firmness of God’s covenant of
old with David and his house; the now unfolded meaning of the
former symbolic name Immanuel; even the unbief of Ahaz, with
its counterpart in the questioning of Joseph, ‘all this’
could now be clearly read in the light of the breaking day.
Never had the house of David sunk morally lower than when, in
the words of Ahaz, it seemed to renounce the very foundation
of its claim to continuance; never had the fortunes of the
house of David fallen lower, than when a Herod sat on its
throne, and its lineal representative was a humble village
carpenter, from whose heart doubts of the Virgin-Mother had
to be Divinely chased. And never, not even when God gave to
the doubts of Moses this as the sign of Israel’s future
deliverance, that in that mountain they should worship [b Ex.
iii. 12.] had unbelief been answered by more strange
evidence. But as, nevertheless, the stability of the Davidic
house was ensured by the future advent of Immanuel, and with.such certainty, that before even such a child could discern
between choice of good and evil, the land would be freed of
its dangers; so now all that was then prefigured was to
become literally true, and Israel to be saved from its real
danger by the Advent of Jesus, Immanuel. [3 A critical
discussion of Is. vii. 14 would here be out of place; though
I have attempted to express my views in the text. (The
nearest approach to them is that by Engelhardt in the
Zeitschr. fur Luth. Theol. fur 1872, Heft iv.). The quotation
of St. Matthew follows, with scarcely any variation, the
rendering of the LXX. That they should have translated the
Hebrew by, ‘a Virgin,’ is surely sufficient evidence of the
admissibility of such a rendering. The idea that the promised
Son was to be either that of Ahaz, or else of the prophet,
cannot stand the test of critical investigation (see Haupt,
u.s., and Bohl, Alttest. Citate im N.T. pp. 3-6). Our
difficulties of interpretation are, in great part, due to the
abruptness of Isaiah’s prophetic language, and to our
ignorance of surrounding circumstances. Steinmeyer
ingeniously argues against the mythical theory that, since
Is. vii. 14 was not interpreted by the ancient Synagogue in a
Messianic sense, that passage could not have led to the
origination of ‘the legend’ about the ‘Virgin’s Son’ (Gesch.
d. Geb. d. Herrn, p. 95). We add this further question,
Whence did it originate?] And so it had all been intended.
Thegolden cup of prophecy which Isaiah had placed empty on
the Holy Table, waiting for the time of the end, was now full
filled, up to its brim, with the new wine of the Kingdom.
Meanwhile the long-looked-for event had taken place in the
home of Zacharias. No domestic solemnity so important or so
joyous as that in which, by circumcision, the child had, as
it were, laid upon it the yoke of the Law, with all of duty
and privilege which this implied. Even the circumstance, that
it took place at early morning [a Pes. 4 a.] might indicate
this. It was, so tradition has it, as if the father had acted
sacrificially as High-Priest, [b Yalkut Sh. i. par. 81.]
offering his child to God in gratitude and love; [c Tanch. P
Tetsavveh, at the beginning, ed. Warshau, p. 111 a.] and it
symbolised this deeper moral truth, that man must by his own
act complete what God had first instituted. [d Tanch. u. s.]
To Zacharias and Elisabeth the rite would have even more than
this significance, as administered to the child of their old
age, so miraculously given, and who was connected with such a
future. Besides, the legend which associates circumcision
with Elijah, as the restorer of this rite in the apostate
period of the Kings of Israel, [e Pirq de R. Elies. c. 29.]
was probably in circulation at the time. [1 Probably the
designation of ‘chair’ or ‘throne of Elijah,’ for the chair
on which the godparent holding the child sits, and certainly
the invocation of Elijah, are of later date. Indeed, the
institution of godparents is itself of later origin.
Curiously enough, the Council of Terracina, in 1330 had to
interdict Christians acting as godparents at circumcision!
Even the great Buxtorf acted as godparent in 1619 to a Jewish
child, and was condemned to a fine of 100 florins for his
offence. See Low, Lebensalter, p. 86.] We can scarcely be.mistaken in supposing, that then, as now, a benediction was
spoken before circumcision, and that the ceremony closed with
the usual grace over the cup of wine, [2 According to
Josephus (Ag. Ap. ii. 26) circumcision was not followed by a
feast. But, if this be true, the practice was soon altered,
and the feast took place on the eve of circumcision (Jer.
Keth. i. 5; B. Kama 80 a; B. Bath. 60 b, &c.). Later
Midrashim traced it up to the history of Abraham and the
feast at the weaning of Isaac, which they represented as one
at circumcision (Pirqe d. R. Eliez. 29).] when the child
received his name in a prayer that probably did not much
differ from this at present in use: ‘Our God, and the God of
our fathers, raise up this child to his father and mother,
and let his name be called in Israel Zacharias, the son of
Zacharias. [3 Wunsche reiterates the groundless objection of
Rabbi Low (u. s. p.96), that a family-name was only given in
remembrance of the grandfather, deceased father, or other
member of the family! Strange, that such a statement should
ever have been hazarded; stranger still, that it should be
repeated after having been fully refuted by Delitzsch. It
certainly is contrary to Josephus (War iv. 3, 9), and to the
circumstance that both the father and brother of Josephus
bore the name of Mattias. See also Zunz (Z. Gesch. u. Liter.
p. 318).] Let his father rejoice in the issue of his loins,
and his mother in the fruit of her womb, as it is written in
Prov. xxiii. 25, and as it is said in Ezek. xvi. 6, and again
in Ps. cv. 8, and Gen. xxi. 4;’ the passages being, of
course, quoted in full. The prayer closed with the hope that
the child might grow up, and successfully, ‘attain to the
Torah, the marriagebaldachino, and good works.’ [1 The reader
will find B. H. Auerbach’s Berith Abraham (with a Hebrew
introduction) an interesting tractate on the subject. For
another and younger version of these prayers, see Low, u. s.
p. 102.]
Of all this Zacharias was, though a deeply interested, yet a
deaf and dumb [2 From St. Luke i. 62 we gather, that
Zacharias was what the Rabbis understood by, one deaf as well
as dumb. Accordingly they communicated with him by ‘signs’,
as Delitzsch correctly renders it:] witness. This only had he
noticed, that, in the benediction in which the child’s name
was inserted, the mother had interrupted the prayer. Without
explaining her reason, she insisted that his name should not
be that of his aged father, as in the peculiar circumstances
might have been expected, but John (Jochanan). A reference to
the father only deepened the general astonishment, when he
also gave the same name. But this was not the sole cause for
marvel. For, forthwith the tongue of the dumb was loosed, and
he, who could not utter the name of the child, now burst into
praise of the name of the Lord. His last words had been those
of unbelief, his first were those of praise; his last words
had been a question of doubt, his first were a hymn of
assurance. Strictly Hebrew in its cast, and closely following
Old Testament prophecy, it is remarkable and yet almost
natural, that this hymn of the Priest closely follows, and,
if the expression be allowable, spiritualises a great part of
the most ancient Jewish prayer: the so-called Eighteen.Benedictions; rather perhaps, that it transforms the
expectancy of that prayer into praise of its realisation. And
if we bear in mind, that a great portion of these prayers was
said by the Priests before the lot was cast for incensing, or
by the people in the time of incesing, it almost seems as if,
during the long period of his enforced solitude, the aged
Priest had meditated on, and learned to understand, what so
often he had repeated. Opening with the common form of
benediction, his hymn struck, one by one, the deepest chords
of that prayer, specially this the most significant of all
(the fifteenth Eulogy), ‘Speedily make to shoot forth the
Branch [3 Although almost all modern authorities are against
me, I cannot persuade myself that the expression (St. Luke i.
78) rendered ‘dayspring’ in our A. V. is here not the
equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Branch.’ The LXX at any rate
rendered in Jer. xxiii. 5; Ezek. xvi. 7; xvii. 10; Zech. iii.
8; vi. 12, by.] of David, Thy servant, and exalt Thou his
horn by Thy salvation, for in Thy salvation we trust all the
day long. Blessed art Thou, Jehovah! Who causeth to spring
forth the Horn of Salvation’ (literally, to branch forth).
This analogy between the hymn of Zacharias and the prayers of
Israel will best appear from the benedictions with which
these eulogies closed. For, when thus examined, their leading
thoughts will be found to be as follows: God as the Shield of
Abraham; He that raises the dead, and causes salvation to
shoot forth; the Holy One; Who graciously giveth knowledge;
Who taketh pleasure in repentance; Who multiplieth
forgiveness; Who redeemeth Israel; Who healeth their
(spiritual) diseases; Who blesseth the years; Who gathereth
the outcasts of His people; Who loveth righteousness and
judgment; Who is the abode and stay of the righteous; Who
buildeth Jerusalem; Who causeth the Horn of Salvation to
shoot forth; Who heareth prayer; Who bringeth back His
Shekhinah to Zion; God the Gracious One, to Whom praise is
due; Who blesseth His people Israel with peace.
It was all most fitting. The question of unbelief had struck
the Priest dumb, for most truly unbelief cannot speak; and
the answer of faith restored to him speech, for most truly
does faith loosen the tongue. The first evidence of his
dumbness had been, that his tongue refused to speak the
benediction to the people; and the first evidence of his
restored power was, that he spoke the benediction of God in a
rapturous burst of praise and thanksgiving. The sign of the
unbeliving Priest standing before the awe-struck people,
vainly essaying to make himself understood by signs, was most
fitting; most fitting also that, when ‘they made signs’ to
him, the believing father should burst in their hearing into
a prophetic hymn.
But far and wide, as these marvellous tidings spread
throughout the hill-country of Judaea, fear fell on all, the
fear also of a nameless hope. The silence of a long-clouded
day had been broken, and the light which had suddenly riven
its gloom, laid itself on their hearts in expectancy: ‘What
then shall this Child be? For the Hand of the Lord also was
with Him!’ [2 The insertion of seems critically established,.and gives the fuller meaning.]
It were an extremely narrow, and, indeed, false view, to
regard the difference between Judaism and Christianity as
confined to the question of the fulfillment of certain
prophecies in Jesus of Nazareth. These predictions could only
outline individual features in the Person and history of the
Messiah. It is not thus that a likeness is recognised, but
rather by the combination of the various features into a
unity, and by the expression which gives it meaning. So far
as we can gather from the Gospel narratives, no objection was
ever taken to the fulfillment of individual prophecies in
Jesus. But the general conception which the Rabbis had formed
of the Messiah, differed totally from what was presented by
the Prophet of Nazareth. Thus, what is the fundamental
divergence between the two may be said to have existed long
before the events which finally divided them. It is the
combination of letters which constitute words, and the same
letters may be combined into different words. Similarly, both
Rabbinism and, what, by anticipation, we designate,
Christianity might regard the same predictions as Messianic,
and look for their fulfillment; while at the same time the
Messianic ideal of the Synagogue might be quite other than
that, to which the faith and hope of the Church have clung.
1. The most important point here is to keep in mind the
organic unity of the Old Testament. Its predictions are not
isolated, but features of one grand prophetic picture; its
ritual and institutions parts of one great system; its
history, not loosely connected events, but an organic
development tending towards a definite end. Viewed in its
innermost substance, the history of the Old Testament is not
different from its typical institutions, nor yet these two
from its predictions.The idea, underlying all, is God’s
gracious manifestation in the world, the Kingdom of God; the
meaning of all, the establishment of this Kingdom upon earth.
That gracious purpose was, so to speak, individualized, and
the Kingdom actually established in the Messiah. Both the
fundamental and the final relationship in view was that of
God towards man, and of man towards God: the former as
expressed by the word Father; the latter by that of Servant,
or rather the combination of the two ideas: ‘Son-Servant.’
This was already implied in the so-called Protevangel; [a
Gen. iii. 13 ] and in this sense also the words of Jesus hold
true: ‘Before Abraham came into being, I am.’
But, narrowing our survey to where the history of the
Kingdom of God begins with that of Abraham, it was indeed as
Jesus said: ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced that he should see
My day, and he saw it, and was glad.’ [b St. John viii. 56]
For, all that followed from Abraham to the Messiah was one,.and bore this twofold impress: heavenwards, that of Son;
earthwards, that of Servant. Israel was God’s Son, His
‘first-born’; their history that of the children of God;
their institutions those of the family of God; their
predictions those of the household of God. And Israel was
also the Servant of God, ‘Jacob My Servant’; and its history,
institutions, and predictions those of the Servant of the
Lord. Yet not merely Servant, but Son-Servant, ‘anointed’ to
such service. This idea was, so to speak, crystallised in the
three great representative institutions of Israel. The
‘Servant of the Lord’ in relation to Israel’s history was
Kingship in Israel; the ‘Servant of the Lord’ in relation to
Israel’s ritual ordinances was the Priesthood in Israel; the
‘Servant of the Lord’ in relation to prediction was the
Prophetic order. But all sprang from the same fundamental
idea: that of the ‘Servant of Jehovah.’
One step still remains. The Messiah and His history are not
presented in the Old Testament as something separate from, or
superadded to, Israel. The history, the institutions, and the
predictions of Israel run up into Him. [1 In this respect
there is deep significance in the Jewish legend (frequently
introduced; see, for example, Tanch. ii. 99 a; Deb. R. 1),
that all the miracles which God had shown to Israel in the
wilderness would be done again to redeemed Zion in the
‘latter days.’] He is the typical Israelite, nay, typical
Israel itself, alike the crown, the completion, and the
representative of Israel. He is the Son of God and the
Servant of the Lord; but in that highest and only true sense,
which had given its meaning to all the preparatory
development. As He was ‘anointed’ to be the ‘Servant of the
Lord,’ not with the typical oil, but by ‘the Spirit of
Jehovah’ ‘upon’ Him, so was He also the ‘Son’ in a unique
sense. His organic connection with Israel is marked by the
designations ‘Seed of Abraham’ and ‘Son of David,’ while at
the same time He was essentially, what Israel was
subordinately and typically: ‘Thou art My Son, this day have
I begotten Thee.’ Hence also, in strictest truthfulness, the
Evangelist could apply to the Messiah what referred to
Israel, and see it fulfilled in His history: ‘Out of Egypt
have I called my Son.’ [a St. Matt. ii. 15] And this other
correlate idea, of Israel as ‘the Servant of the Lord,’ is
also fully concentrated in the Messiah as the Representative
Israelite, so that the Book of Isaiah, as the series of
predictions in which His picture is most fully outlined,
might be summarised as that concerning ‘the Servant of
Jehovah.’ Moreover, the Messiah, as Representative Israelite,
combined in Himself as ‘the Servant of the Lord’ the
threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King, and joined
together the two ideas of ‘Son’ and ‘Servant’. [b Phil. ii.
6-11] And the final combination and full exhibition of these
two ideas was the fulfillment of the typical mission of
Israel, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God among
Thus, in its final, as in its initial, [c Gen. iii. 15]
stage it was the establishment of the Kingdom of God, brought about by the ‘Servant’ of the Lord, Who was to
stricken humanity the God-sent ‘Anointed Comforter’ (Mashiach
ha-Menachem): in this twofold sense of ‘Comforter’ of
individuals (‘the friend of sinners’), and ‘Comforter’ of
Israel and of the world, reconciling the two, and bringing to
both eternal salvation. And here the mission of Israel ended.
It had passed through three stages. The first, or historical,
was the preparation of the Kingdom of God; the second, or
ritual, the typical presentation of that Kingdom; while the
third, or prophetic, brought that Kingdom into actual contact
with the kingdoms of the world. Accordingly, it is during the
latter that the designation ‘Son of David’ (typical Israel)
enlarged in the visions of Daniel into that of ‘Son of Man’
(the Head of redeemed humanity). It were a onesided view to
regard the Babylonish exile as only a punishment for Israel’s
sin. There is, in truth, nothing in all God’s dealings in
history exclusively punitive. That were a merely negative
element. But there is always a positive element also of
actual progress; a step forward, even though in the taking of
it something should have to be crushed. And this step forward
was the development of the idea of the Kingdom of God in its
relation to the world.
2. This organic unity of Israel and the Messiah explains how
events, institutions, and predictions, which initially were
purely Israelitish, could with truth be regarded as finding
their full accomplishment in the Messiah. From this point of
view the whole Old Testament becomes the perspective in which
the figure of the Messiah stands out. And perhaps the most
valuable element in Rabbinic excommentation on Messianic
times is that in which, as so frequently, it is explained,
that all the miracles and deliverances of Israel’s past would
be re-enacted, only in a much wider manner, in the days of
the Messiah. Thus the whole past was symbolic, and typical of
the future, the Old Testament the glass, through which the
universal blessings of the latter days were seen. It is in
this sense that we would understand the two sayings of the
Talmud: ‘All the prophets prophesied only of the days of the
Messiah,’ [a Sanh. 99 a] and ‘The world was created only for
the Messiah.’ [b Sanh. 98 b]
In accordance with all this, the ancient Synagogue found
references to the Messiah in many more passages of the Old
Testament than those verbal predictions, to which we
generally appeal; and the latter formed (as in the New
Testament) a proportionately small, and secondary, element in
the conception of the Messianic era. This is fully borne out
by a detailed analysis of those passages in the Old Testament
to which the ancient Synagogue referred as Messianic. [1 See
Appendix IX., where a detailed list is given of all the Old
Testament passages which the ancient Synagogue applied
Messianically, together with the references to the Rabbinic
works where they are quoted.] Their number amounts to upwards
of 456 (75 from the Pentateuch, 243 from the Prophets, and
138 from the Hagiographa), and their Messianic application is
supported by more than 558 references to the most ancient
Rabbinic writings. [2 Large as this number is, I do not.present the list as complete. Thus, out of the thirty-seven
Parashahs constituting the Midrash on Leviticus, no fewer
than twenty-five close with an outlook on Messianic times.
The same may be said of the close of many of the Parashahs in
the Midrashim known as Pesiqta and Tanchuma (Zunz, u.s. pp.
181, 234). Besides, the oldest portions of the Jewish liturgy
are full of Messianic aspirations] But comparatively few of
these are what would be termed verbal predictions. Rather
would it seem as if every event were regarded as prophetic,
and every prophecy, whether by fact, or by word (prediction),
as a light to cast its sheen on the future, until the picture
of the Messianic age in the far back-ground stood out in the
hundredfold variegated brightness of prophetic events, and
prophetic utterances; or, as regarded the then state of
Israel, till the darkness of their present night was lit up
by a hundred constellations kindling in the sky overhead, and
its lonely silence broken by echoes of heavenly voices, and
strains of prophetic hymns borne on the breeze.
Of course, there was the danger that, amidst these dazzling
lights, or in the crowd of figures, each so attractive, or
else in the absorbing interest of the general picture, the
grand central Personality should not engage the attention it
claimed, and so the meaning of the whole be lost in the
contemplation of its details. This danger was the greater
from the absence of any deeper spiritual elements. All that
Israel needed: ‘study of the Law and good works,’ lay within
the reach of every one; and all that Israel hoped for, was
national restoration and glory. Everything else was but means
to these ends; the Messiah Himself only the grand instrument
in attaining them. Thus viewed, the picture presented would
be of Israel’s exaltation, rather than of the salvation of
the world. To this, and to the idea of Israel’s exclusive
spiritual position in the world, must be traced much, that
otherwise would seem utterly irrational in the Rabbinic
pictures of the latter days. But in such a picture there
would be neither room nor occasion for a Messiah-Saviour, in
the only sense in which such a heavenly mission could be
rational, or the heart of humanity respond to it. The
Rabbinic ideal of the Messiah was not that of ‘a light to
lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel’,
the satisfaction of the wants of humanity, and the completion
of Israel’s mission but quite different, even to contrariety.
Accordingly, there was a fundamental antagonism between the
Rabbis and Christ, quite irrespective of the manner in which
He carried out His Messianic work. On the other hand, it is
equally noteworthy, that the purely national elements, which
well nigh formed the sum total of Rabbinic expectation,
scarcely entered into the teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom
of God. And the more we realise, that Jesus so fundamentally
separated Himself from all the ideas of His time, the more
evidential is it of the fact, that He was not the Messiah of
Jewish conception, but derived His mission from a source
unknown to, or at least ignored by, the leaders of His
3. But still, as the Rabbinic ideas were at least based on.the Old Testament, we need not wonder that they also embodied
the chief features of the Messianic history. Accordingly, a
careful perusal of their Scripture quotations [1 For these,
see Appendix IX.] shows, that the main postulates of the New
Testament concerning the Messiah are fully supported by
Rabbinic statements. Thus, such doctrines as the pre-mundane
existence of the Messiah; His elevation above Moses, and even
above the Angels; His representative character; His cruel
sufferings and derision; His violent death, and that for His
people; His work on behalf of the living and of the dead; His
redemption, and restoration of Israel; the opposition of the
Gentiles; their partial judgment and conversion; the
prevalence of His Law; the universal blessings of the latter
days; and His Kingdom, can be clearly deduced from
unquestioned passages in ancient Rabbinic writings. Only, as
we might expect, all is there indistinct, incoherent,
unexplained, and from a much lower standpoint. At best, it is
the lower stage of yet unfulfilled prophecy, the haze when
the sun is about to rise, not the blaze when it has risen.
Most painfully is this felt in connection with the one
element on which the New Testament most insists. There is,
indeed, in Rabbinic writings frequent reference to the
sufferings, and even the death of the Messiah, and these are
brought into connection with our sins, as how could it be
otherwise in view of Isaiah liii. and other passages, and in
one most remarkable comment [a Yalkut on Is. ix. 1] the
Messiah is represented as willingly taking upon Himself all
these sufferings, on condition that all Israel, the living,
the dead, and those yet unborn, should be saved, and that, in
consequence of His work, God and Israel should be reconciled,
and Satan cast into hell. But there is only the most
indistinct reference to the removal of sin by the Messiah, in
the sense of vicarious sufferings.
In connection with what has been stated, one most important
point must be kept in view. So far as their opinions can be
gathered from their writings, the great doctrines of Original
Sin, and of the sinfulness of our whole nature, were not held
by the ancient Rabbis. [1 This is the view expressed by all
Jewish dogmatic writers. See also Weber, Altsynag. Theol. p.
217.] Of course, it is not meant that they denied the
consequences of sin, either as concerned Adam himself, or his
descendants; but the final result is far from that
seriousness which attaches to the Fall in the New Testament,
where it is presented as the basis of the need of a Redeemer,
Who, as the Second Adam, restored what the first had lost.
The difference is so fundamental as to render further
explanation necessary. [2 Comp. on the subject. Ber. R.
The fall of Adam is ascribed to the envy of the Angels [3 In
Ber. R., however, it has seemed to me, as if sometimes a
mystical and symbolical view of the history of the Fall were
insinuated, evil concupiscence being the occasion of it.] ,
not the fallen ones, for none were fallen, till God cast them
down in consequence of their seduction of man. The Angels,
having in vain tried to prevent the creation of man, at last
conspired to lead him into sin as the only means of his ruin,.the task being undertaken by Sammael (and his Angels), who in
many respects was superior to the other Angelic princes. [b
Pirqe de R. El. c. 13; Yalkut i. p. 8 c] The instrument
employed was the serpent, of whose original condition the
strangest legends are told, probably to make the Biblical
narrative appear more rational. [c Comp. Pirqe de R. El. and
Yalkut, u.s.; also Ber. R. 19] The details of the story of
the Fall, as told by the Rabbis, need not be here repeated,
save to indicate its consequences. The first of these was the
withdrawal of the Shekhinah from earth to the first heaven,
while subsequent sins successively led to its further removal
to the seventh heaven. This, however, can scarcely be
considered a permanent sequel of sin, since the good deeds of
seven righteous men, beginning with Abraham, brought it
again, in the time of Moses, to earth. [a Ber. R. 19, ed.
Warshau, p. 37a] Six things Adam is said to have lost by his
sin; but even these are to be restored to man by the Messiah.
[b Bemidb. R. 13] [1 They are: the shiningsplendour of his
person, even his heels being like suns; his gigantic size,
from east to west, from earth to heaven; the spontaneous
splendid products of the ground, and of all fruit-trees; an
infinitely greater measure of light on the part of the
heavenly bodies; and, finally, endless duration of life (Ber.
R. 12, ed. Warsh. p. 24 b; Ber. R. 21; Sanh. 38 b; Chag. 12
a; and for their restoration by the Messiah, Bem. R. 13).]
That the physical death of Adam was the consequence of his
sin, is certainly taught. Otherwise he would have lived
forever, like Enoch and Elijah. [c Vayyikra R. 27] But
although the fate which overtook Adam was to rest on all the
world, [d Ber. R. 16 21, and often] and death came not only
on our first father but on his descendants, and all creation
lost its perfectness, [e Ber. R. 5, 12, 10; comp. also Midr.
on Eccl. vii. 13; and viii. 1, and Baba B. 17 a] yet even
these temporal sequences are not universally admitted. It
rather seems taught, that death was intended to be the fate
of all, or sent to show the folly of men claiming Divine
worship, or to test whether piety was real, [f Ber. R. 9] the
more so that with death the weary struggle with our evil
inclination ceased. It was needful to die when our work was
done, that others might enter upon it. In each case death was
the consequence of our own, not of Adam’s sin. [g Bemidb. R.
19] In fact, over these six, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses,
Aaron, and Miriam, the Angel of Death had had no absolute
power. Nay, there was a time when all Israel were not only
free from death, but like the Angels, and even higher than
they. For, originally God had offered the Law to all Gentile
nations, [h According to Deut.xxxiii. 2; Hab. iii. 3] but
they had refused to submit to it. [i Ab. Zar. 2 b] But when
Israel took on themselvesthe Law at Mount Sinai, the
description in Psalm 1xxxii. 6 applied literally to them.
They would not have died, and were ‘the sons of God.’ [k Ab.
Z. 5 a] But all this was lost by the sin of making the golden
calf,although the Talmud marks that, if Israel had continued
in that Angelic state, the nation would have ceased with that
generation. [2 By a most ingenious theological artifice the
sin of the golden calf, and that of David are made matter for
thanksgiving; the one as showing that, even if the whole.people sinned, God was willing to forgive; the other as
proving, that God graciously condescended to each individual
sinner, and that to each the door of repentance was open.]
Thus there were two divergent opinions, the one ascribing
death to personal, the other tracing it to Adam’s guilt.] [3
In the Talmud (Shabb. 55 a and b) each view is supported in
discussion, the one by a reference to Ezek. xviii. 20, the
other to Eccles. ix. 2 (comp. also Siphre on Deut. xxxii.
49). The final conclusion, however, greatly inclines towards
the connection between death and the fall (see especially the
clear statement in Debar. R. 9, ed. Warsh., p. 20 a). This
view is also supported by such passages in the Apocrypha as
Wisdom ii. 23, 24; iii. 1, &c.; while, on the other hand,
Ecclus. xv. 11-17 seems rather to point in a different
When, however, we pass from the physical to the moral
sequences of the fall, our Jewish authorities wholly fail us.
They teach, that man is created with two inclinations, that
to evil (the Yetser ha-ra), and that to good; [a Targum
Ps.-Jon. on Gen. ii. 7] the first working in him from the
beginning, the latter coming gradually in the course of time.
[b Nedar. 32 b; Midr. on Eccl. iv. 13, 14, ed. W. p. 89 a;
ix. 15; ib. p. 101 a] Yet, so far from guilt attaching to the
Yetser ha-ra, its existence is absolutely necessary, if the
world is to continue. [c Ber. R. 9] In fact, as the Talmud
expressly teaches, [d Ber. 61 a] the evil desire or impulse
was created by God Himself; while it is also asserted [e
Sukk. 52 a, and Yalkut ii. p. 149 b] that, on seeing the
consequences, God actually repented having done so. This
gives quite another character to sin, as due to causes for
which no blame attaches to man. [f Comp. also Jer. Targum on
Ex. xxxii. 22] On the other hand, as it is in the power of
each wholly to overcome sin, and to gain life by study and
works; [g Ab. Z. 5 b; Kidd. 30 b] as Israel at Mount Sinai
had actually got rid of the Yetser ha-ra; and as there had
been those, who were entirely righteous, [h For example, Yoma
28 b; Chag. 4 b] there scarcely remains any moral sequence of
Adam’s fall to be considered. Similarly, the Apocrypha are
silent on the subject, the only exception being the very
strong language used in II. Esdras, which dates after the
Christian era. [i Comp. IV. Esd. iii. 21, 22, 26; iv. 30; and
especially vii. 46-53] [1 There can be no question that,
despite its strong polemical tendency against Christianity,
the Fourth Book of Esdras (II. Esdras in our Apocrypha),
written at the close of the first century of our era, is
deeply tinged with Christian doctrine. Of course, the first
two and the last two chapters in our Apocryphal II. Esdras
are later spurious additions of Christian authorship. But in
proof of the influence of the Christian teaching on the
writer of the Fourth Book of Esdras we may call attention,
besides the adoption of the doctrine of original sin, to the
remarkable application to Israel of such N.T. expressions as
the ‘firstborn,’ the ‘only-begotten,’ and the ‘Well-beloved’
(IV. Esdras vi. 58, in our Apocr. II. Esdras iv. 58).
4. In the absence of felt need of deliverance from sin, we.can understand, how Rabbinic tradition found no place for the
Priestly office of the Messiah, and how even His claims to be
the Prophet of His people are almost entirely overshadowed by
His appearance as their King and Deliverer. This, indeed, was
the ever-present want, pressing the more heavily as Israel’s
national sufferings seemed almost inexplicable, while they
contrasted so sharply with the glory expected by the Rabbis.
Whence these sufferings? From sin [k Men. 53 b], national
sin; the idolatry of former times; [l Gitt. 7 a] the
prevalence of crimes and vices; the dereliction of God’s
ordinances; [m Gitt. 88 a] the neglect of instruction, of
study, and of proper practice of His Law; and, in later days,
the love of money and party strife. [n Jer. Yoma i. 1; Yoma 9
a, and many other passages] But the seventy years’ captivity
had ceased, why not the present dispersion? Because hypocrisy
had been added to all other sins; [o Yoma 9 b] because there
had not been proper repentance; [pJer. Yoma i. 1] because of
the half-heartedness of the Jewish proselytes; because of
improper marriages, and other evil customs; [a Nidd. 13 b]
and because of the gross dissoluteness of certain cities. [b
Yoma 19 b] The consequences appeared not only in the
political condition of Israel, but in the land itself, in the
absence of rain and dew, of fruitfulness and of plenty; in
the general disorder of society; the cessation of piety and
of religious study; and the silence of prophecy. [c For all
these points comp. Ber. 58 b; 59 a; Sot. 48 a; Shabb. 138 b;
Baba B. 12 a, b] As significantly summed up, Israel was
without Priesthood, without law, without God. [d Vayyikra R
19] Nay, the world itself suffered in consequence of the
destruction of the Temple. In a very remarkable passage, [e
Sukk. 55 b] where it is explained, that the seventy bullocks
offered during the Feast of Tabernacles were for the nations
of the world, R. Jochanan deplores their fate, since while
the Temple had stood the altar had atoned for the Gentiles,
but who was now to do so? The light, which had shone from out
the Temple windows into the world, had been extinguished. [f
Pesiqta, 1 ed. Buber, p. 145 a, last lines] Indeed, but for
the intercession of the Angels the world would now be
destroyed. [g Midr, on Ps.cxxxvii.] In the poetic language of
the time, the heavens, sun, moon and stars, trees and
mountains, even the Angels, mourned over the desolation of
the Temple, [h Pesiqta 148 b] and the very Angelic hosts had
since been diminished. [i Chag. 13 b] But, though the Divine
Presence had been withdrawn, it still lingered near His own;
it had followed them in all their banishments; it had
suffered with them in all their sorrows. [2 This in very many
Rabbinical passages. Comp. Castelli, II Messia, p. 176, note
4.] It is a touching legend, which represents the Shekhinah
as still lingering over the western wall of the Temple [k
Shemoth R. 2. ed. Warsh. p. 7 b, lines 12 &c.] , the only one
supposed to be still standing. [3 In proof they appeal to
such passages as 2 Chr. vii. 16; Ps. iii. 4; Cant. ii. 9,
proving it even from the decree of Cyrus (Ezra i. 3, 4), in
which God is spoken of as still in desolate Jerusalem.] Nay,
in language still bolder, and which cannot be fully
reproduced, God Himself is represented as mourning over
Jerusalem and the Temple. He has not entered His Palace since.then, and His hair is wet with the dew. [4 The passage from
Yalkut on Is. lx. 1 is quoted in full in Appendix IX.] He
weeps over His children and their desolateness, [m Ber. 3 a;
59 a] and displays in the heavens tokens of
mourning,corresponding to those which an earthly monarch
would show. [n Pesiqta 119 b; 120 a]
All this is to be gloriously set right, when the Lord
turneth the captivity of Zion, and the Messiah cometh. But
when may He be expected, and what are the signs of His
coming? Or perhaps the question should thus be put: Why are
the redemption of Israel and the coming of the Messiah so
unaccountably delayed? It is here that the Synagogue finds
itself in presence of an insoluble mystery. The explanations
attempted are, confessedly, guesses, or rather attempts to
evade the issue. The only course left is, authoritatively to
impose silence on all such inquiries, the silence, as they
would put it, of implicit, mournful submission to the
inexplicable, in faith that somehow, when least expected,
deliverance would come; or, as we would put it, the silence
of ever-recurring disappointment and despair. Thus the grand
hope of the Synagogue is, as it were, written in an epitaph
on a broken tombstone, to be repeated by the thousands who,
for these long centuries, have washed the ruins of the
Sanctuary with unavailing tears.
5. Why delayeth the Messiah His coming? Since the brief and
broken sunshine of the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the sky
overhead has ever grown darker, nor have even the terrible
storms, which have burst over Israel, reft the canopy of
cloud. The first capitivity passed, why not the second? This
is the painful question ever and again discussed by the
Rabbis. [a Jer. Yoma i. 1, ed. Krot. p 38 c, last part, Sanh.
97 b, 98 a] Can they mean it seriously, that the sins of the
second, are more grievous than those which caused the first
dispersion; or that they of the first captivity repented, but
not they of the second? What constitutes this repentance
which yet remains to be made? But the reasoning becomes
absolutely self-contradictory when, together with the
assertion that, if Israel repented but one day, the Messiah
would come, [b Midr. on Cant. v. 2, ed. Warsh. p. 25 a;Sanh.
98 a] we are told, that Israel will not repent till Elijah
comes. [c Pirqe de R. Eliez. 43 end] Besides, bold as
thelanguage is, there is truth in the expostulation, which
the Midrash [d On Lam. v. 21, ed. Warsh. vo. iii. p. 77 a]
puts into the mouth of the congregation of Israel: ‘Lord of
the world, it depends on Thee that we repent.’ Such truth,
that, although at first the Divine reply is a repetition of
Zechar. i. 3, yet, when Israel reiterates the words, ‘Turn
Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned,’
supporting them by Ps lxxxv. 4, the argument proves
Other conditions of Israel’s deliverance are, indeed,
mentioned. But we can scarcely regard the Synagogue as
seriously making the coming of Messiah dependent on their
realisation. Among the most touching of these is a beautiful.passage (almost reminding us of Heb. xi.), in which Israel’s
future deliverance is described as the reward of faith. [e
Tanch. on Ex. xv. 1, ed. Warsh. p. 86 b] Similarly beautiful
is the thought, [f On Jer.’ xxxi. 9] that, when God redeems
Israel, it will be amidst their weeping. [g Tanch. on Gen.
xiv. 2, ed. Warsh.] But neither can this be regarded as the
condition of Messiah’s coming; nor yet such generalities as
the observance of the Law, or of some special commandments.
The very variety of suggestions [h Sanh. 97 b 98 a] [1 The
reader will find these discussions summarised at the close of
Apendix IX.] shows, how utterly unable the Synagogue felt to
indicate any condition to be fulfilled by Israel. Such vague
statements, as that the salvation of Israel depended on the
merits of the patriarchs, or on that of one of them, cannot
help us to a solution; and the long discussion in the Talmud
[a Sanh. 98 a and b] leaves no doubt, that the final and most
sober opinion was, that the time of Messiah’s coming depended
not on repentance, nor any other condition, but on the mercy
of God, when the time fixed had arrived. But even so, we are
again thrown into doubt by the statement, that it might be
either hastened or retarded by Israel’s bearing! [1 See, on
the whole subject, also Debar. R. 2.]
In these circumstances, any attempt at determining the date
of Messiah’s coming would be even more hypothetical than such
calculations generally are. [2 We put aside, as universally
repudiated, the opinion expressed by one Rabbi, that Israel’s
Messianic era was past, the promises having been fulfilled in
King Hezekiah (Sanh. 98 b; 99 a).] Guesses on the subject
could only be grounded on imaginary symbolisms. Of such we
have examples in the Talmud. [3 See, in Appendix IX. the
extracts from Sanh.] Thus, some fixed the date at 4000 years
after the Creation, curiously enough, about the era of
Christ, though Israel’s sin had blotted out the whole past
from the reckoning; others at 4291 from the Creation; [b
Sanh. 97b] others again expected it at the beginning, or end,
of the eighty-fifth Jubilee, with this proviso, that it it
would not take place earlier; and so on, through equally
groundless conjectures. A comparatively late work speaks of
five monarchies, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and
Ishmael. During the last of these God would hear the cry of
Israel, [c Pirqe de R. Ehes. 32] and the Messiah come, after
a terrible war between Rome and Ishmael (the West and the
East). [d u. s. 30] But as the rule of these monarchies was
to last altogether one day (= 1000 years), less two-thirds of
an hour (1 hour = 83 1/2 years); [e Comp. Pirqe de R. El. 48]
it would follow, that their domination would last 9444/9
years. [4 Pirqe de R. El. 28. The reasoning by which this
duration of the monarchies is derived from Lament. i. 13 and
Zech. xiv. 7, is a very curious specimen of Rabbinic
argumentation.] Again, according to Jewish tradition, the
rule of Babylon had lasted 70, that of Medo-Persia 34, and
that of Greece 180 years, leaving 6604/9 years for Rome and
Ishmael. Thus the date for the expected Advent of the Messiah
would have been about 661 after the destruction of Jerusalem,
or about the year 729 of the Christian era. [5 Comp. Zunz,
Gottesd. Vortr. p. 277.].In the category of guesses we must also place such vague
statements, as that the Messiah would come, when all were
righteous, or all wicked; or else nine months after the
empire of Rome had extended over the whole world; [a Sanh. 98
b 1] or when all the souls, predestined to inhabit bodies,
had been on earth. [b Ab. Z. 5 a, Ber. R. 24] But as, after
years of unrelieved sufferings, the Synagogue had to
acknowledge that, one by one, all the terms had passed, and
as despair settled on the heart of Israel, it came to be
generally thought, that the time of Messiah’s Advent could
not be known beforehand, [c Targum Pseudo-Jon on Gen. xlix.
1] and that speculation on the subject was dangerous, sinful,
even damnable. The time of the end had, indeed, been revealed
to two sons of Adam, Jacob and David; but neither of them had
been allowed to make it known. [d Midrash on Ps. xxxi. ed.
Warsh. p. 41 a, lines 18 to 15 from bottom] In view of this,
it can scarcely be regarded as more than a symbolical, though
significant guess, when the future redemption of Israel is
expected on the Paschal Day, the 15th of Nisan. [e Pesikta,
ed. Buber, 47 b. 48 a, Sopher. xxi. Hal. 2. Shir. haShir. R.
ii. 8. ed. Warsh. vol. iii. p. 15 a] [2 Solitary opinions,
however, place the future redemption in the month Tishri
(Tanch. on Ex. xii. 37, ed. Warsh. p. 81 b, line 2 from
6. We now approach this most difficult and delicate
question: What was the expectation of the ancient Synagogue,
as regarded the Nature, Person, and qualifications of the
Messiah? In answering it, not at present from the Old
Testament, but from the views expressed in Rabinic
literature, and, so far as we can gather from the
Gospel-narratives, from those cherished by the contemporaries
of Christ, two inferences seem evident. First, the idea of a
Divine Personality, and of the union of the two Natures in
the Messiah, seems to have been foreign to the Jewish
auditory of Jesus of Nazareth, and even at first to His
disciples. Secondly, they appear to have regarded the Messiah
as far above the ordinary human, royal, prophetic, and even
Angelic type, to such extent, that the boundary-line
separating it from Divine Personality is of the narrowest, so
that, when the conviction of the reality of the Messianic
manifestation in Jesus burst on their minds, this
boundary-line was easily, almost naturally, overstepped, and
those who would have shrunk from framing their belief in such
dogmatic form, readily owned and worshipped Him as the Son of
God. Nor need we wonder at this, even taking the highest view
of Old Testament prophecy. For here also the principle
applies, which underlies one of St. Paul’s most wide-reaching
utterance: ‘We prophesy in part’ [3 See the telling remarks
of Oehler in Herzog’s Real-Encykul., vol. ix. p. 417. We
would add, that there is always a ‘hereafter’ of further
development in the history of the individual believer, as in
that of the Church, growing brighter and brighter, with
increased spiritual communication and knowledge, till at last
the perfect light is reached.] In the nature of it, all
prophecy presents but disjecta, membra, and it almost seems,.as if we had to take our stand in the prophet’s valley of
vision (Ezek. xxxvii.), waiting till, at the bidding of the
Lord, the scattered bones should be joined into a body, to
which the breath of the Spirit would give life.
These two inferences, derived from the Gospel-narratives,
are in exact accordance with the whole line of ancient Jewish
teaching. Beginning with the LXX. rendering of Genesis xlix.
10, and especially of Numbers xxiv. 7, 17, we gather, that
the Kingdom of the Messiah [1 No reasonable doubt can be left
on the mind, that the LXX. translators have here the Messiah
in view.] was higher than any that is earthly, and destined
to subdue them all. But the rendering of Psalm lxxii. 5, 7;
Psalm cx. 3; and especially of Isaiah ix., carries us much
farther. They convey the idea, that the existence of this
Messiah was regarded as premundane (before the moon, [a Ps.
lxxii.] before the morning-star [b Ps. cx.]), and eternal, [c
Ps. lxxii.] and His Person and dignity as superior to that of
men and Angels: ‘the Angel of the Great Council,’ [d Is. ix.
6(2).] probably ‘the Angel of the Face’,a view fully
confirmed by the rendering of the Targum. [3 Three, if not
four, different renderings of the Targum on Is. ix. 6 are
possible. But the minimum conveyed to my mind implies the
premundane existence, the eternal continuance, and the
superhuman dignity of the Messiah. (See also the Targum on
Micah v. 2.)] The silence of the Apocrypha about the Person
of the Messiah is so strange, as to be scarcely explained
bythe consideration, that those books were composed when the
need of a Messiah for the deliverance of Israel was not
painfully felt. [4 This is the view of Grimm, and more fully
carried out by Oehler. The argument of Hengstenberg, that the
mention of such a Messiah was restrained from fear of the
heathen, does not deserve serious refutation.] All the more
striking are the allusions in the Pseudepigraphic Writings,
although these also do not carry us beyond our two
inferences. Thus, the third book of the Sibylline Oracles
which, with few exceptions, [5 These exceptions are,
according to Friedlieb (Die Sibyllin. Weissag.) vv. 1-45, vv.
47-96 (dating from 40-31 before Christ), and vv. 818-828. On
the subject generally, see our previous remarks in Book 1.]
dates from more than a century and a half before Christ,
presents a picture of Messianic times, [e vv. 652-807.]
generally admitted to have formed the basis of Virgil’s
description of the Golden Age, and of similar heathen
expectations. In these Oracles, 170 years before Christ, the
Messiah is ‘the King sent from heaven’ who would ‘judge every
man in blood and splendour of fire.’ [f vv. 285, 286.]
Similarly, the vision of Messianic times opens with a
reference to ‘the King Whom God will send from the sun. [g v.
652.] [6 Mr. Drummond defends (at pp. d 274, 275) Holtxmann’s
view, taht the expression applies to Simon the Maccabee,
although on p. 291 he argues on the opposite supposition that
the text refers to the Messiah. It is difficult to
understand, how on reading the whole passage the hypothesis
of Holtzmann could be entertained. While referring to the 3rd
Book of the Sib. Or., another point of considerable interest
deserves notice. According to the theory which places the.authorship of Daniel in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, or
say about 165 B.C., the ‘fourth kingdom’ of Daniel must be
the Grecian. But, on the other hand, such certainly was not
the view entertained by Apocalypts of the year 165, since the
3d Book of the Sib. Or., which dates from precisely that
period, not only takes notice of the rising power of Rome,
but anticipates the destruction of the Grecian Empire by
Rome, which in turn is to be vanquished by Israel (vv.
175-195; 520-544; 638-807). This most important fact would
require to be accounted for by the opponents of the
authenticity of Daniel.] That a superhuman Kingdom of eternal
duration, such as this vision paints, [a vv. 652-807.] should
have a superhuman King, seems almost a necessary corollary.
[1 I have purposely omittedall referances to controverted
passages. But see Langen, D. Judenth. in Palest. pp. 401 &c.]
Even more distinct are the statements in the so-called ‘Book
of Enoch.’ Critics are substantially agreed, that the oldest
part of it [b ch. i.- xxxvi. and lxxii.-cv. dates from
between 150 and 130 B.C. [2 The next oldest portion,
consisting of the so-called Similitudes (ch xxxvii.- xxi.),
excepting what are termed ‘the Noachic parts, dates from
about the time of Herod the Great.] The part next in date is
full of Messianic allusions; but, as a certain class of
modern writers has ascribed to it a post-Christian date, and,
however ungrounded, [3 Schiirer (Lehrb. d. Neutest. Zitg. pp.
534, 535) has, I think, consclusively shown that this portion
of the Book of Enoch is of Jewish authorship, and
pre-Christian date. If so, it were deeply interesting to
follow its account of the Messiah. He appears by the side of
the Ancient of Days, His face like appearance of a man, and
yet so lovely, like that of one of the holy Angels. This ‘Son
of Man’ has, and with Him dwells, all righteousness; He
reveals the treasures of all that is hidden, being chosen by
the Lord, is superior to all, and destined to subdue and
destroy all the powers and kingdoms of wickedness (ch.
xivi.). Although only revealed at the last, His Name had been
named before God, before sun or stars were created. He is the
staff on which the righteous lean, the light of nations, and
the hope of all who mourn in spirit. All are to bow down
before Him, and adore Him, and for this He was chosen and
hidden with God before the world was created, and will
continue before Him for ever (ch. xlviii.). This ‘Elect One’
is to sit on the throne of glory, and dwell among His saints.
Heaven and earth would abide on the and only the saints would
abide on the renewed earth (ch. xiv.). He is mighty in all
the secrets of righteousness, and unrighteousness would flee
as a shadow, because His glory lasted from eternity to
eternity, and ‘is power from generation to generation (ch.
xlix.). Then would the earth, Hades, and hell give up their
dead, and Messiah, sitting on His throne, would select and
own the just, and open up all secrets of wisdom, amidst the
universal joy of ransomed earth (ch. li., lxi., lxii.).] to
Christian authorship, it may be better not to refer to it in
the present argument, the more so as we have other testimony
from the time of Herod. Not to speak, therefore, of such
peculiar designations of the Messiah as ‘the Woman’s Son,’ [c.lxii. 5.] ‘the Son of Man, [d For ex. xlviii. 2: lxii. 7;
lxix 29.] ‘the Elect,’ and ‘the Just One,’ we mark that the
Messiah is expressly designed in the oldest portion as ‘the
Son of God’ (‘I and My Son’). [e cv. 2.] That this implies,
not, indeed, essential Sonship, but infinite superiority over
all other servants of God, and rule over them, appears from
the mystic description of the Messiah as ‘the first of the
[now changed] white bulls,’ ‘the great Animal among them,
having great and black horns on His head’ [a xc. 38.], Whom
‘all the beasts of the field and all the fowls of heaven
dread, and to Whom they cry at all times.’
Still more explicit is that beautiful collection of eighteen
Psalms, dating from about half a century before Christ, which
bears the name of ‘the Psalter of Solomon.’ Achaste
anticipation of the Messianic Kingdom [b in Ps. xi.]. is
followed by a full description of its need and it blessings,
[c in Ps. xvii.] to which the concluding Psalm [d xviii.]
forms an apt epilogue. The King Who reigns is of ther house
of David. [e xvii. 5.] He is the Son of David, Who comes at
the time known to God only, to reign over Israel. [f v. 23.]
He is a righteous King, taught of God. [g v. 35.] He is
Christ the Lord [h v. 36.] exactlyu as inthe LXX.
translations of Lamentations iv. 20). ‘He is pure from sin,’
which qualifies Him for ruling His people, and banishing
sinners by His word. [i v. 41.] Never in His days will He be
infirm towards His God, since God renders Him strong in the
Holy Ghost,’ wise in counsel, with might and righteousness
(‘mighty in deed and word’). The blessingof the Lord being
upon Him, He does not fail. [k vv. 42, 43.] ‘This is the
beauty of the King of Israel, Whom God hath chosen, to set
Him over the house of Israel to rule it.’ [m v. 47.] Thus
invincible, not by outward might, but in His God, He will
bring His people the blessings of restoration to their tribal
possessions, and of righteousness, but break in pieces His
enemies, not by outward weapons, but by the word of His
mouth; purify Jerusalem, and judge the nations, who will be
subject to His rule, and behold and own His glory. [n vv.
25-35.] Manifestly, this is not an earthly Kingdom, nor yet
an earthly King.
If we now turn to works dating after the Christian era, we
would naturally expect them, either simply to reproduce
earlier opinions, or, from opposition to Christ, to present
the Messiah in a less exalted manner. [1 In illustration of
this tendency we may quote the following evidently polemical
saying, of R. Abbahu. ‘If any man saith to thee, „I am God”
he is a liar; „I am the Son of Man,” he will at last repent
of it; „I go up to heaven,” hath he said, and shall he not do
it? [or, he hath said, and shall not make it good] (Jer.
Taan. p. 65 b. line 7 from bottom). This R. Abbahu (279-320
of our era) seems to have largely engaged in controversy with
Jewish Christians. Thus he sought to argue against the
Sonship of Christ, by commenting, as follows, on Is. xliv. 6:
‘”I am the first” because He has no father; „I am the last”,
because He has no Son; „and beside me there is no God”,
because He has no brother (equal)’ (Shem. R. 29, ed. Warsh..vol. ii. p. 41 a, line 8 from bottom).] But since, strange to
say, they even more strongly assert the high dignity of the
Messiah, we are warranted in regarding this as the rooted
belief of the Synagogue. [2 It is, to say the least, a pity
that Mr. Drummond should have imagined that the question
could be so easily settled on the premises which he
presents.] This estimate of the Messiah may be gathered from
IV Esdras, [o xii. 32; xiii. 26, 52; xiv. 9.] [3 The 4th Book
of Esdras (in our Apocr. II. Esdras) dates from the end of
the first century of our era, and so does the Apocalypse of
Baruch.] with which the kindred picture of the Messiah and
His reign in the Apocalypse of Baruch [a lxx.9- lxxiv.] may
be compared. But even in strictly Rabbinic documents, the
premundane, if not the eternal existence of the Messiah
appears as matter of common belief. Such is the view
expressed in the Targum on Is. ix. 6, and in that on Micah v.
2. But the Midrash on Prov. viii. 9 [b Ed. Lemb. p. 7 a]
expressly mentions the Messiah among the seven things created
before the world. [1 These are: the Throne of Glory, Messiah
the King, the Torah, (ideal) Israel, the Temple, repentance,
and Gehenna.] The passage is the more important, as it throws
light on quite a series of others, in which the Name of the
Messiah is said to have been created before the world. [c
Pirqe de R. E. 3; Midr.on Ps. xciii.1; Ps. 54a; Nedar. 39 b;
Ber. R. 1; 3 Tanch. on Numb. vii. 14, ed. Warsh. vol. ii
Midr. on Ps. 54 a; Nedar. 39 b; Ber. R. 1; Tanch. on Numb.
vii. 14, ed. Warsh. vol. ii. p. 56 b, at the bottom.] [2 In
Pirqu de R. El. and the other authorities these seven things
are: the Torah, Gehenna, Paradise, the Throne of Glory, the
Temple, repentance, and the Name of the Messiah.] Even if
this were an ideal conception, it would prove the Messiah to
be elevated above the ordinary conditions of humanity. But it
means much more than this, since not only the existence of
the Messiah long before His actual appearance, but His
premundane state are clearly taught in other places. In the
Talmud [d Jer. Ber. ii. 4, p. 5 a.] it is not only implied,
that the Messiah may already be among the living, but a
strange story is related, according to which He had actually
been born in the royal palace at Bethlehem, bore the name
Menachem (Comforter), was discovered by one R. Judan through
a peculiar device, but had been carried away by a storm.
Similarly, the Babylon Talmud represents Him as sitting at
the gate of Imperial Rome. [e Sanh. 98 a; comp. also Jerus.
Targ. on Ex. xii. 42, Pirqe de R. El. 30, and other
passages.] In general, the idea of the Messiah’s appearance
and concealment is familiar to Jewish tradition. [f See for
example Pesiqta, ed Buber, p. 49 b 5.] But the Rabbis go much
farther back, and declare that from the time of Judah’s
marriage, [g Gen.. xxxviii. 1, 2.] ‘God busied Himself with
creating the light of the Messiah,’ it being significantly
added that, ‘before the first oppressor [Pharaoh] was born,
the final deliverer [Messiah, the son of David] was already
born.’ [h Ber. R. 85, ed. Warsh. p. 151 b.] In another
passage the Messiah is expresily identified with Anani, [1
These ar: the Throne of Glory, Messiah the King, the Torah,
(ideal) Israel, the Temple, repentance, and Gehenna.] and
therefore represented as pre-existent long before his actual.manifestation. [k Tanch. Par. To edoth, 14. ed. Warsh. p. 37
b.] The same inference may be drawn from His emphatic
designation as the First. [m Ber. R. 65 ed. Warsh. p. 114 b;
Vayyikra R. 30, ed. W. vol. iii. p. 47 a; Pes 5 a.] Lastly,
in Yalkut on Is. lx., the words ‘In Thy light shall we see
light’ (Ps. xxxvi. 9) are explained as meaning, that this is
the light of the Messiah, the same which God had at the first
pronounced to be very good, and which, before the world was
created, He had hid beneath the throne of His glory for the
Messiah and His age. When Satan asked for whom it was
reserved, he was told that it was destined for Him Who would
put him to shame, and destroy him. And when, at his request,
he was shown the Messiah, he fell on his face and owned, that
the Messiah would in the future cast him and the Gentiles
into Gehenna [a Yalkut ii.p. 56 c] Whatever else may be
inferred from it, this passage clearly implies not only the
pre-existence, but the premundane existence of the Messiah.
[1 The whole of this very remarkable passage is given in
Appendix IX., in the notes on Is. xxv. 8; lx l; lxiv. 4; Jer.
xxxi. 8.]
But, indeed, it carries us much farther. For, a Messiah,
preexistent, in the Presence of God, and destined to subdue
Satan and cast him into hell, could not have been regarded as
an ordinary man. It is indeed true that, as the history of
Elijah, so that of the Messiah is throughout compared with
that of Moses, the ‘first’ with ‘the last Redeemer.’ As Moses
was educated at the court of Pharaoh, so the Messiah dwells
in Rome (or Edom) among His enemies. [b Shem. R. 1, ed. W.
vol. ii. p. 5 b; Tanch. Par. Tazrya, 8, ed. W. vol. ii. p. 20
a] Like Moses He comes, withdraws, and comes again. [c
Pesiqta, ed. Buber, p. 49 b; Midr. Ruth. Par. 5, ed. W. p. 43
b] Like Moses He works deliverance. But here the analogy
ceases, for, whereas the redemption by Moses was temporary
and comparatively small, that of the Messiah would be eternal
and absolute. All the marvels connected with Moses were to be
intensified in the Messiah. The ass on which the Messiah
would ride, and this humble estate was only caused by
Israel’s sin [d Sanh. 98 a], would be not only that on which
Moses had come backto Egypt, but also that which Abraham had
used when he went to offer up Isaac, and which had been
specially created on the eve of the world’s first Sabbath. [e
Pirque de R. El. 31, ed. Lemb. p. 38 a] Similarly, thehorns
of the ram caught in the thicket, which was offered instead
of Isaac, were destined for blowing –the left one by the
Almighty on Mount Sinai, the right and larger one by the
Messiah, when He would gather the outcasts of Israel (Is.
xxvii. 13).[f Pirque de R. El. u. s., p. 39 a, close] Again,
the ‘rod’ of the Messiah was that of Aaron, which had budded,
blossomed, and burst into fruit; as also that on which Jacob
had leaned, and which, through Judah, had passed to all the
kings of Israel, till the destruction of the Temple. [g
Bemid. R. 18, close of the Phar. h Ps. lxxii. 16] And so the
principle that ‘the later Deliverer would be like the first’
was carried into every detail. As the first Deliverer brought
down the Manna, so the Messiah; [h According to the last
clause of (English verson) Joel iii. 18 (Midr. on Eccles. i..9 ed. Warsh, vol. iv. p. 80 b)] as the first Deliverer had
made a spring of water to rise, so would the second.(i)
But even this is not all. That the Messiah had, without any
instruction, attained to knowledge of God; [a Bemid. R. 14,
ed. Warsh. p. 55 a] and that He had received, directly from
Him, all wisdom, knowledge, counsel, and grace, [b Bemid. R.
13] is comparatively little, since the same was claimed for
Abraham, Job, and Hezekiah. But we are told that, when God
showed Moses all his successors, the spirit of wisdom and
knowledge in the Messiah equalled that of all the others
together. [c Yalkut on Numb. xxvii. 16,] vol. i. p. 247 d]
The Messiah would be ‘greater than the Patriarchs,’ higher
than Moses, [1 This is the more noteworthyas, according Sotah
9 b, none in Israel was so great as Moses, who was only
inferior to the Almighty.] and even loftier than the
ministering Angels. [d Tanch., Par. Toledoth 14] In view of
this we canunderstand, how the Midrash on Psalm xxi. 3 should
apply to the Messiah, in all its literality, that ‘God would
set His own crown on His head,’ and clothe Him with His
‘honour and majesty.’ It is only consistent that the same
Midrash should assign to the Messiah the Divine designations:
‘Jehovah is a Man of War,’ and ‘Jehovah our Righteousness.’
[e Midr. Tehill. ed.Warsh. p. 30 b] One other quotation, from
perhaps the most spiritual Jewish commentary, must be added,
reminding us of that outburst of adoring wonder which once
greeted Jesus of Nazareth. The passage first refers to the
seven garments with which God successively robed Himself, the
first of ‘honour and glory,’ at creation; [f Ps. civ. 1] the
second of ‘majesty,’ at the Red Sea; [g Ps. xciii. 1] the
third of ‘strength,’ at the giving of the Law; [h Ps. xciii.
1] the fourth ‘white,’ when He blotteth outthe sins of
Israel; [i Dan. vii. 9] the fifth of ‘zeal,’ when He avengeth
them of their enemies; [k Is. lix. 17] the sixth of
‘righteousness,’ at the time when the Messiah should be
revealed; [m Is. lix. 17] and the seventh ‘red,’ when He
wouldtake vengeance on Edom (Rome). [n Is. lxiii.] ‘But,’
continues the commentary, ‘the garment with which in the
future He will clothe the Messiah, its splendour will extend
from one end of the world to the other, as it is written: [o
Is. lxi. 10] ”As a bridegroom priestly in headgear.” And
Israel are astounded at His light, and say: Blessed the hour
in which the Messiah was created; blessed the womb whence He
issued; blessed the generation that sees Him; blessed the eye
that is worthy to behold Him; because the opening of His lips
is blessing and peace, and His speech quieting of the spirit.
Glory and majesty are in His appearance (vesture), and
confidence and tranquillity in His words; and on His tongue
compassion and forgiveness; His prayer is a sweet-smelling
odour, and His supplication holiness and purity. Happy
Israel, what is reserved for you! Thus it is written: [p Ps.
xxxi. 19] „How manifold is Thy goodness, which Thou hast
reserved to them that fear Thee.” ‘[q Pesiqta. ed. Buber. pp.
149, a, b] Such a King Messiah might well be represented as
sitting at the Right Hand of God, while Abraham was only at
His left; [a Midr. on Ps. xviii. 36, ed. Warsh. p. 27 a] nay,
as throwing forth His Right Hand, while God stood up to war.for Him [b Midr. on Ps. cx. 1, ed. Warsh. p. 80 b]
It is not without hesitation, that we make reference to
Jewish allusions to the miraculous birth of the Saviour. Yet
there are two expressions, which convey the idea, if not of
superhuman origin, yet of some great mystery attaching to His
birth. The first occurs in connection with the birth of Seth.
‘Rabbi Tanchuma said, in the name of Rabbi Samuel: Eve had
respect [had regard, looked forward] to that Seed which is to
come from another place. And who is this? This is Messiah the
King.’ [c Ber. R. 23, ed Warsh p. 45 b] The second appears in
the narrative of the crime of Lot’s daughters: [d Gen. xix.
32] ‘It is not written „that we may preserve a son from our
father,” but „seed from our father.” This is that seed which
is coming from another place. And who is this? This is the
King Messiah.’ [e Ber. R. 51 ed. Warsh. p. 95 a] [1 I am, of
course, aware that certain Rabbinists explain the expression
‘Seed from another place,’ as referring to the descent of the
Messiah from Ruth–a non-Israelite. But if this explanation
could be offered in reference to the daughters of Lot, it is
difficult to see its meaning in reference to Eve and the
birth of Seth. The connection there with the words (Gen. iv.
25), ‘God hath appointed me another Seed,’ would be the very
That a superhuman character attached, if not to the
Personality, yet to the Mission of the Messiah, appears from
three passages, in which the expression, ‘The Spirit of the
Lord moved upon the face of the deep,’ is thus paraphrased:
‘This is the Spirit of the King Messiah.’ [f Ber. R. 2; and
8; Vayyikra R. 14, ed. Warsh. vol. iii. p. 21 b] [2 I am
surprised, that Castelli (u. s. p. 207) should have
contended, that the reading in Ber. R. 8 and Vay. R. 14
should be ‘the Spirit of Adam.’ For (1) the attempted
correction gives neither sense, nor proper meaning. (2) The
passage Ber. R. 1 is not impugned; yet that passage is the
basis of the other two. (3) Ber. R. 8 must read, ‘The Spirit
of God moved on the deep–that is, the Spirit of Messiah the
King,’ because the proof-passage is immediately added, ‘and
the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,’ which is a
Messianic passage; and because, only two lines before the
impugned passage, we are told, that Gen. i. 26, 1st clause,
refers to the ‘spirit of the first man.’ The latter remark
applies also to Vayyikra R. 14, where the context equally
forbids the proposed correction.] Whether this implies some
activity of the Messiah in connection with creation, [3 It
would be very interesting to compare with this the statements
of Philo as to the agency of the Logos in Creation. The
subject is very well treated by Riehm (Lehrbegr. d. Hebr. Br.
pp. 414-420), although I cannot agree with all his
conclusions.] or only that, from the first,His Mission was to
have a bearing on all creation, it elevates His character and
work above every other agency, human or Angelic. And, without
pressing the argument, it is at least very remarkable that
even the Ineffable Name Jehovah is expressly attributed to
the Messiah. [g Midr. on Lament. i 16, ed Warsh. p. 64 a,
last line comp. Pesiqta, p. 148 a ; 4 Midr. on Ps. xxi. and.the very curious concessions in a controvesy with a Christian
recorded in Sanh. 38 b] The whole of this passage, beginning
at p. 147 b, is very curious and deeply interesting. It would
lead too far to quote fact becomes the more significant, when
we recall that one of the most familiar names of the Messiah
was Anani, He Whi cometh in the clouds of heaven. [a Dan.
vii. 13]
In what has been stated, no reference has been made to the
final conquests of Messiah, to His reign with all its
wonders, or to the subdual of all nation, in short, to what
are commonly called ‘the last things.’ This will be treated
in another connection. Nor is it contented that, whatever
individuals may have expected, the Synagogue taught the
doctrine of the Divine Personality of the Messiah, as held by
the Christian Church. On the other hand, the cumulative
evidence just presented must leave on the mind at least this
conviction, that the Messiah expected was far above the
conditions of the most exalted of God’s servants, even His
Angels; in short, so closely bordering on the Divine, that it
was almost impossible to distinguish Him therefrom. In such
circumstances, it only needed the personal conviction, that
He, Who taught and wrought as none other, was really the
Messiah, to kindle at His word into the adoring confession,
that He was indeed ‘the Son of the Living God.’ And once that
point reached, the mind, looking back through the teaching of
the Synagogue, would, with increasing clearness, perceive
that, however ill-understood in the past, this had been all
along the sum of the whole Old Testament. Thus, we can
understand alike the preparedness for, and yet the
gradualness of conviction on this point; then, the increasing
clearness with which it emerged in the consciousness of the
disciples; and, finally, the unhesitating distinctness with
which it was put forward in Apostolic teaching as the
fundamental article of belief to the Church Catholic. [1 It
will be noticed, that the cummulative argument presented in
the foregoing pages follows closely that in the first chapter
of the Epistle to the Hebrews; only, that the latter carries
it up to its final conclusion, that the Messiah was truly the
Son of God, while it has been our purpose simply to state,
what was the expectation of the ancient Synagogue, not what
it should have been according to the Old Testament.]
(St. Matthew i. 25; St. Luke ii. 1-20.)
SUCH then was ‘the hope of the promise made of God unto the
fathers,’ for which the twelve tribes, ‘instantly serving
(God) night and day,’ longed, with such vividness, that they
read it in almost every event and promise; with such
earnestness, that it ever was the burden of their prayers;
with such intensity, that many and long centuries if.disappointment have not quenched it. Its light, comparatively
dim in days of sunshine and calm, seemed to burn brightest
inthe dark and lonely nights of suffering, as if each gust
that swept over Israel only kindled it into fresh flame.
To the question, whether this hope has ever been realised,
or rather, whether One has appeared Whose claims to the
Messiahship have stood the test of investigation and of time,
impartial history can make only one answer. It points to
Bethlehem and to Nazareth. If the claims of Jesus have been
rejected by the Jewish Nation, He has at least, undoubtedly,
fulfilled one part of the Mission prophetically assigned to
the Messiah. Whether or not He be the Lion of the tribe of
Judah, to Him, assuredly, has been the gathering of the
nations, and the isles have waited for His law. Passing the
narrow bounds of obscure Judaea, and breaking down the walls
of national prejudice and isolation, He has made the sublimer
teaching of the Old Testament the common possession of the
world, and founded a great Brotherhood, of which the God of
Israel is the Father. He alone also has exhibited a life, in
which absolutely no fault could be found; and promulgated a
teaching, to which absolutely no exception can be taken.
Admittedly, He was the One perfect Man, the ideal of
humanity, His doctrine the one absolute teaching. The world
has known none other, none equal. And the world has owned it,
if not by the testimony of words, yet by the evidence of
facts. Springing from such a people; born, living, and dying
in circumstances, and using means, the most unlikely of such
results, the Man of Nazareth has, by universal consent, been
the mightiest Factor in our world’s history: alike
politically, socially, intellectually, and morally. If He be
not the Messiah, He has at least thus far done the Messiah’s
work. If He be not the Messiah, there has has at least been
none other, before or after Him. If He be not the Messiah,
the world has not, and never can have, a Messiah.
To Bethlehem as the birthplace of Messiah, not only Old
Testament prediction, [a Micah v. 2] but the testimony of
Rabbinic teaching, unhesitatingly pointed. Yet nothing could
be imagined more directly contrary to Jewish thoughts and
feelings, and hence nothing less likely to suggest itself to
Jewish invention [1 The advocates of the mythical theory have
not answered, not even faced or understood, what to us seems,
on their hypothesis, an insuperable difficulty. Granting,
that Jewish expectancy would suggest the birth of Jesus at
Bethlehem, why invent such circumstances to being Mary to
Bethlehem? Keim may be right in saying: ‘The belief in the
birth at Bethlehem originated very simply (Leben Jesu i. 2,
p. 393); but all the more complicated and inexplicable is the
origination of the legend, which accounts for the journey
thither of Mary and Joseph.] , than the circumstances which,
according to the Gospel-narrative, brought about the birth of
the Messiah in Bethlehem. Acounting of the people, of Census;
and that Census taken at the bidding of a heathen Emperor,and
executed by one so universally hated as Herod, would
represent the ne plus ultra of all that was most repugnant to
Jewish feeling. [2 In evidence of of these feelings, we have.the account of Josephus of the consequences of the taxation
of Cyrenius (Ant. xviii. 1. 1. Comp. Acts v. 37).] If the
account to the Gospel-narrative, brought about the birth of
the Bethlehem, has no basis in fact, but is a legend invented
to locate the birth of the Nazarene in the royal City of
David, it must be pronounced most clumsily devised. There is
absolutely nothing to account for its origination, either
from parallel events in the past, or from contemporary
expectancy. Why then connect the birth of their Messiah with
what was most repugnant to Israel, especially if, as the
advocates of the legendary hypothesis contend, it did not
occur at a time when any Jewish Census was taken, but ten
years previously?
But if it be impossible rationally to account for any
legendary origin of the narrative of Joseph and Mary’s
journey to Bethlehem, the historical grounds, on which its
accuracy has been impugned, are equally insufficient. They
resolve themselves into this: that (beyond the
Gospel-narrative) we have no solid evidence that Cyrenius was
at that time occupying the needful official position in the
East, to order such a registration for Herod to carry out.
But even this feeble contention is by no means historically
unassailable. [3 The arguments on what may be calledthe
orthodox side have, from different points of view, been so
often and well stated, latterly by Wieseler, Huschke, Zumpt,
and Steinmeyer, and on the otherside almost ad nauseam by
negative critics of every school, that it seems unnecessary
to go again over them. The reader will find the whole subject
stated by Canon Cook, whose views we substantially adopt, in
the ‘Speaker’s Commentary’ (N.T. i. pp. 326-329). The
reasoning of Mommsen (Res gestae D. Aug. pp. 175, 176) does
not seem to me to affect the view taken in the text.] At any
rate, there are two facts, which render any historical
mistake by St. Luke on this point extremely difficult to
believe. First, he was evidently aware of a Census under
Cyrenius, ten years later; [a Comp. Acts v. 37] secondly,
whatever rendered of St. Luke ii. 2 may be adopted, it will
at least be admitted, that the intercalated sentence about
Cyrenius was not necessary for the narrative, and that the
writer must have intended thereby emphatically to mark a
certain event. But an author would not be likely to call
special attention to a fact, of which he had only indistinct
knowledge; rather, if it must be mentioned, would he do so in
the most indefinite terms. This presumption in favour of St.
Luke’s statement is strengthened by the consideration, that
such an event as the taxing of Judaea must have been so
easily ascertainable by him.
We are, however, not left to the presumptive reasoning just
set forth. That the Emperor Augustus made registers of the
Roaman Empire, and of subject and tributary states, is now
generally admitted. This registration, for the purpose of
future taxation, would also embrace Palestine. Even if no
actual order to that effect had been issued during the
lifetime of Herod, we can understand that he would deem it
most expedient, both on account of his relations to the.Emperor, and in view of the probable excitement which a
heathen Census would cause in Palestine, to take steps for
making a registration, and that rather according to the
Jewish than the Roman manner. This Census, then, arranged by
Augustus, and taken by Herod in his own manner, was,
according to St. Luke, ‘first [really] carried out when
Cyrenius was Governor of Syria,’ some years after Herod’s
death and when Judaea had become a Roman province. [1 For the
textual explanation we again refer to Canon Cook, only we
would mark, with Steinmeyer, that the meaning of the
expression, in St. Luke ii. 2, is determined by the similar
use of it in Acts xi. 28, where what was predicted is said to
have actually taken place at the time of Claudius Caesar.]
We are now prepared to follow the course of the
Gospel-narrative. In consequence of ‘the decree of Caesar
Augustus,’ Herod directed a general registration to be made
after the Jewish, rather than the Roman, manner. Practically
the two would, indeed, in this instance, be very similar.
According to the Roman law, all country-people were to be
registered in their ‘own city’, meaning thereby the town to
which the village or place, where they were born, was
attached. In so doing, the ‘house and lineage’ (the nomen and
cognomen) of each were marked. [1 Comp. Huschke. Ueber d. z.
Zeit d. Geb. J. C. gehalt. Census pp. 119, 120. Most critics
have written very confusedly on this point.] According to the
Jewish mode of registration, the people would have been
enrolled according to tribes, families or clans, and the
house of their fathers. But as the ten tribes had not
returned to Palestine, this could only take place to a very
limited extent, [2 The reader will now be able to appreciate
the value of Keim’s objections against such a Census, as
involving a ‘wahre Volkswanderung’ (!), and being ‘eine Sache
der Unmoglichkeit.’] while it would be easy for each to be
registered in ‘his own city.’ In the case of Joseph and Mary,
whose descent from David was not only known, but where, for
the sake of the unborn Messiah, it was most important that
this should be distinctly noted, it was natural that, in
accordance with Jewish law, they should have gone to
Bethlehem. Perhaps also, for many reasons which will readily
suggest themselves, Joseph and Mary might be glad to leave
Nazareth, and seek, if possible, a home in Bethlehem. Indeed,
so strong was this feeling, that it afterwards required
special Divine direction to induce Joseph to relinquish this
chosen place of residence, and to return into Galilee. [a St.
Matt ii. 22.] In these circumstances, Mary, now the ‘wife’ of
Joseph, though standing to him only in the actual
relationship of ‘betrothed,’ [b St. Luke ii. 5.] would, of
course, accompany her husband to Bethlehem. Irrespective of
this, every feeling and hope in her must have prompted such a
course, and there is no need to discuss whether Roman or
Jewish Census-usage required her presence, a question which,
if put, would have to be answered in the negative.
The short winter’s day was probably closing in, [3 This, of
course, is only a conjecture; but I call it ‘probable,’
partly because one would naturally so arrange a journey of.several days, to make its stages as slow and easy as
possible, and partly from the circumstance, that, on their
arrival, they found the khan full, which would scarcely have
been the case had they reached Bethlehem early in the day.]
as the two travellers from Nazareth, bringing with them the
few necessaries of a poor Eastern household, neared their
journey’s end. If we think of Jesus as the Messiah from
heaven, the surroundings of outward poverty, so far from
detracting, seem most congruous to His Divine character.
Earthly splendor would here seem like tawdry tinsel, and the
utmost simplicity like that clothing of the lilies, which far
surpassed all the glory of Solomon’s court. But only in the
East would the most absolute simplicity be possible, and yet
neither it, nor the poverty from which it sprang, necessarily
imply even the slightest taint of social inferiority. The way
had been long and weary, at the very least, three days’
journey, whatever route had been taken from Galilee. Most
probably it would be that so commonly followed, from a desire
to avoid Samaria, along the eastern banks of the Jordan, and
by the fords of Jericho. [1 Comp. the account of the roads,
inns, &c. in the ‘History of the Jewish Nation,’ p. 275; and
the chapter on Travelling in Palestine,’ in ‘Sketches of
Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ.’] Although passing
through one of the warmest parts of the country, the season
of the year must, even in most favorable circumstances, have
greatly increased the difficulties of such a journey. A sense
of rest and peace must, almost unconsciously, have crept over
the travellers when at last they reached the rich fields that
surrounded the ancient ‘House of Bread,’ and, passing through
the valley which, like an amphitheatre, sweeps up to the
twain heights along which Bethlehem stretches (2,704 feet
above the sea), ascended through the terraced vineyards and
gardens. Winter though it was, the green and silvery foliage
of the olive might, even at that season, mingle with the pale
pink of the almond, nature’s ‘early waker’ [2 The almond is
called, in Hebrew, ‘the waker,’ from the word ‘to be awake.’
It is quite possible, that many of the earliest spring
flowers already made the landscape bright.], and with the
darker coloring of the opening peach-buds. The chaste beauty
and sweet quiet of the place would recall memories of Boaz,
of Jesse, and of David. All the more would such thoughts
suggest themselves, from the contrast between the past and
the present. For, as the travellers reached the heights of
Bethlehem, and, indeed, long before, the most prominent
object in view must have been the great castle which Herod
had built, and called after his own name. Perched on the
highest hill south-east of Bethlehem, it was, at the same
time magnificent palace, strongest fortress, and almost
courtier-city. [a Jos. Ant. xiv. 13. 9; xv. 9. 4; War. i. 13.
8:21, 10.] With a sense of relief the travellers would turn
from this, to mark the undulating outlines of the highland
wilderness of Judaea, till the horizon was bounded by the
mountain-ridges of Tekoa. Through the break of the hills
eastward the heavy molten surface of the Sea of Judgement
would appear in view; westward wound the road to Hebron;
behind them lay the valleys and hills which separated
Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and concealed the Holy City..But for the present such thoughts would give way to the
pressing necessity of finding shelter and rest. The little
town of Bethlehem was crowded with those who had come from
all the outlying district to register their names. Even if
the strangers from far-off Galilee had been personally
acquainted with any one in Bethlehem, who could have shown
them hospitality, they would have found every house fully
occupied. The very inn was filled, and the only available
space was, where ordinarily the cattle were stabled. [1 Dr.
Geikie indeed ‘feelssure’ that the was not an inn, but a
guest-chamber, because the word is used in that sense in St.
Mark xiv. 14, Luke xxii. 11. But this inference is critically
untenable. The Greek word is of very wide application, and
means (as Schleusner puts it) ‘omnis locus quieti aptus.’ In
the LXX. is the equivalent of not less than five Hebrew
words, which have widely different meanings. In the LXX.
rendering of Ex. iv. 24 it is used for the Hebrew which
certainly cannot mean a guest-chamber, but an inn. No one
could imagine that. If private hospitality had been extended
to the Virgin-Mother, she would have been left in such
circumstances in a stable. The same term occurs in Aramaic
form, in Rabbinic writings, as an inn. Delitzsch, in his
Hebrew N.T., uses the more common Bazaars and markets were
also held in those hostelries; animals killed, and meat sold
there; also wine and cider; so that they were a much more
public place of resort than might at first be imagined. Comp.
Herzfeld. Handelsgesch. p. 325.] Bearing in mind the simple
habits of the East, this scarcely implies, what it would in
the West; and perhaps the seclusion and privacy from the
noisy, chattering crowd, which thronged the khan, would be
all the more welcome. Scanty as these particulars are, even
thus much is gathered rather by inference than from the
narrative itself. Thus early in this history does the absence
of details, which painfully increases as we proceed, remind
us, that the Gospels were not intended to furnish a biography
of Jesus, nor even the materials for it; but had only this
twofold object: that those who read them ‘might believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,’ and that believing they
‘might have life through His Name.’ [a St. John xx. 31; comp.
St. Luke i. 4.] The Christian heart and imagination, indeed,
long to be able to localise the scene of such surpassing
importance, and linger with fond reverence over that Cave,
which is now covered by ‘the Church of the Nativity.’ It may
be, nay, it seems likely, that this, to which the most
venerable tradition points, was the sacred spot of the
world’s greatest event. [2 Perhaps the best authenticated of
all local traditions is that which fixes on this cave as the
place of the Nativity. The evidence in its favour is well
given by Dr. Farrar in his ‘Life of Christ.’ Dean Stanley,
however, and others, have questioned it.] But certainly we
have not. It is better, that it should be so. As to all that
passed in the seclusion of that ‘stable,’ the circumstances
of the ‘Nativity,’ even its exact time after the arrival of
Mary (brief as it must have been), the Gospel-narrative is
silent. This only is told, that then and there the
Virgin-Mother ‘brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped.Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.’ Beyond
this announcement of the bare fact, Holy Scripture, with
indescribable appropriateness and delicacy, draws a veil over
that most sacred mystery. Two impressions only are left on
the mind: that of utmost earthly humility, in the surrounding
circumstances; and that of inward fitness, in the contrast
suggested by them. Instinctively, reverently, we feel that it
is well it should have been so. It best befits the birth of
the Christ, if He be what the New Testament declares Him.
On the other hand, the circumstances just noted afford the
strongest indirect evidence of the truth of this narrative.
For, if it were the outcome of Jewish imagination, where is
the basis for it in contemporary expectation? Would Jewish
legend have ever presented its Messiah as born in a stable,
to which chance circumstances had consigned His Mother? The
whole current of Jewish opinion would run in the contrary
direction. The opponents of the authenticity of this
narrative are bound to face this. Further, it may safely be
asserted, that no Apocryphal or legendary narrative of such a
(legendary) event would have been characterised by such
scantiness, or rather absence, of details. For, the two
essential features, alike of legend and of tradition, are,
that they ever seek to surround their heroes with a halo of
glory, and that they attempt to supply details, which are
otherwise wanting. And in both these respects a more
sharply-marked contrast could scarcely be presented, than in
the Gospel-narrative.
But as we pass from the sacred gloom of the cave out into
the night, its sky all aglow with starry brightness, its
loneliness is peopled, and its silence made vocal from
heaven. There is nothing now to conceal, but much to reveal,
though the manner of it would seem strangely incongruous to
Jewish thinking. And yet Jewish tradition may here prove both
illustrative and helpful. That the Messiah was to be born in
Bethlehem, [1 In the curious story of His birth, related in
the Jer. Talmud (Ber. ii. 3), He is said to have been born in
‘the royal castle of Bethlehem;’ while in the parallel
narrative in the Midr. on Lament. i. 16, ed. W. p. 64 b) the
somewhat mysterious expression is used But we must keep in
view the Rabbinic statement that, even if a castle falls
down, it is still called a castle (Yalkut, vol. ii. p. 60
b).] was a settled conviction. Equally so was the belief,
that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, ‘the tower of
the flock.’ [a Targum Pseudo-Jon. on Gen. xxxv 21.] This
Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks
which pastured on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem,
but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A
passage in the Mishnah [b Shek. vii. 4.] leads to the
conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were
destined for Temple-sacrifices, [2 In fact the Mishnah (Baba
K. vii. 7) expressly forbids the keeping of flocks throughout
the land of Israel, except in the wilderness, and the only
flocks otherwise kept, would be those for the Temple-services
(Baba K. 80 a).] and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who
watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds. The latter.were under the ban of Rabbinism, [1 This disposes of an inapt
quotation (from Delitzsch) by Dr. Geikie. No one could
imagine, that the Talmudic passages in question could apply
to such shepherds as these.] on account of their necessary
isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of
life, which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not
absolutely impossible. The same Mishnic passage also leads us
to infer, that these flocks lay out all the year round, since
they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the
Passover, that is, in the month of February, when in
Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest. [2 The
mean of 22 seasons in Jerusalem amounted to 4.718 inches in
December, 5.479 in January, and 5.207 in February (see a very
interesting paper by Dr. Chaplin in Quart. Stat. of Pal.
Explor. Fund, January, 1883). For 1876-77 we have these
startling figures: mean for December, .490; for January,
1.595; for February, 8.750, and, similarly, in other years.
And so we read: ‘Good the year in which Tebheth (December) is
without rain’ (Taan. 6 b). Those who have copied Lightfoot’s
quotations about the flocks not lying out during the winter
months ought, at least, to have known that the reference in
the Talmudic passages is expressly to the flocks which
pastured in ‘the wilderness’. But even so, the statement, as
so many others of the kind, is not accurate. For, in the
Talmud two opinions are expressed. According to one, the
‘Midbariyoth,’ or ‘animals of the wilderness,’ are those
which go to the open at the Passovertime, and return at the
first rains (about November); while, on the other hand, Rabbi
maintains, and, as it seems, more authoritatively, that the
wilderness-flocks remain in the open alike in the hottest
days and in the rainy season, i.e. all the year round (Bezah
40 a). Comp. also Tosephta Bezah iv. 6. A somewhat different
explanation is given in Jer. Bezah 63 b.] Thus, Jewish
tradition in some dim manner apprehended the first revelation
of the Messiah from that Migdal Eder, where shepherds watched
the Temple-flocks all the year round. Of the deep symbolic
significance of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak.
It was, then, on that ‘wintry night’ of the 25th of
December, [3 There is no adequate reason for questioning the
historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally
made rest on grounds, which seem to me historically
untenable. The subject has been fully discussed in an article
by Cassel in Herzog’s Real. Ency. xvii. pp. 588-594. But a
curious piece of evidence comes to us from a Jewish source.
In the addition to the Megillath Taanith (ed. Warsh. p. 20
a), the 9th Tebheth is marked as a fast day, and it is added,
that the reason for this is not stated. Now, Jewish
chronologists have fixed on that day as that of Christ’s
birth, and it is remarkable that, between the years 500 and
816 A.D. the 25th of December fell no less than twelve times
on the 9th Tebheth. If the 9th Tebheth, or 25th December, was
regarded as the birthday of Christ, we can understand the
concealment about it. Comp. Zunz, Ritus d. Synag. Gottesd. p.
126.] that shepherds watched the flocks destined for
sacrificial services, in the very place consecrated by
tradition as that where the Messiah was to be first revealed..Of a sudden came the long-delayed, unthoughtof of
announcement. Heaven and earth seemed to mingle, as suddenly
announcement. Heaven and earth seemed to mingle, as suddenly
an Angel stood before their dazzled eyes, while the
outstreaming glory of the Lord seemed to enwrap them, as in a
mantle of light. [4 In illustration we may here quote Shem.
R. 2 (ed. W. vol. ii. p. 8 a), where it is said that,
wherever Michael appears, there also is the glory of the
Shekhinah. In the same section we read, in reference to the
appearance in the bush, that, ‘at first only one Angel came,’
who stood in the burning bush, and after that the Shekhinah
came, and spoke to Moses from out the bush. (It is a curious
illustration of Acts ix. 7, that Moses alone is said in
Jewish tradition to have seen the vision. but not the men who
were with him.) Wetstein gives an erroneous reference to a
Talmudic statement, to the effect that, at the birth of
Moses, the room was filled with heavenly light. The statement
really occurs in Sotah 12 a; Shem. R. 1; Yalkut i. 51 c. This
must be the foundation of the Christian legend, that the
cave, in which Christ was born, was filled with heavenly
light. Similarly, the Romish legend about the Virgin Mother
not feeling the pangs of maternity is derived from the Jewish
legend, which asserts the same of the mother of Moses. The
same authority maintains, that the birth of Moses remained
unknown for three months, because he was a child of seven
months. There are other legends about the sinlessness of
Moses’ father, and the maidenhood of his mother (at 103
years), which remind us of Christian traditions.] Surprise,
awe, fear would be hushed into calm and expectancy, as from
the Angel they heard, that what they saw boded not judgment,
but ushered in to waiting Israel the great joy of those good
tidings which he brought: that the long-promised Saviour,
Messiah, Lord, was born in the City of David, and that they
themselves might go and see, and recognize Him by the
humbleness of the circumstances surrounding His Nativity.
It was, as if attendant angels had only waited the signal.
As, when the sacrifice was laid on the altar, the
Temple-music burst forth in three sections, each marked by
the blast of the priests’ silver trumpets, as if each Psalm
were to be a Tris-Hagion; [1 According to tradition, the
three blasts symbolically proclaimed the Kingdom of God, the
providence of God, and the final judgment.] so, when the
Herald-Angel had spoken, a multitude of heaven’s host [2
Curiously enough, the word is Hebraised in the same
connection See Yalkut on Ps. xlv. (vol. ii. p. 105 a, about
the middle).] stood forth to hymn the good tidings he had
brought. What they sang was but the reflex of what had been
announced. It told in the language of praise the character,
the meaning, the result, of what had taken place. Heaven took
up the strain of ‘glory’; earth echoed it as ‘peace’; it fell
on the ears and hearts of men as ‘good pleasure’:
Glory to God in the highest, And upon earth peace, Among men
good pleasure! [3 I have unhesitatingly retained the reading
of the textus receptus. The arguments in its favor are
sufficiently set forth by Canon Cook in his ‘Revised Version.of the First Three Gospels,’ pp. 27,32.]
Only once before had the words of the Angels’ hymn fallen
upon mortal’s ears, when, to Isaiah’s rapt vision, Heaven’s
high Temple had opened, and the glory of Jehovah swept its
courts, almost breaking down the trembling posts that bore
its boundary gates. Now the same glory enwrapt the shepherds
on Bethlehem’s plams. Then the Angels’ hymn had heralded the
announcement of the Kingdom coming; now that of the King
come. Then it had been the Tris-Hagion of prophetic
anticipation; now that of Evangelic fulfilment.
The hymn had ceased; the light faded out of the sky; and the
shepherds were alone. But the Angelic message remained with
them; and the sign, which was to guide them to the Infant
Christ, lighted their rapid way up the terraced height to
where, at the entering of Bethlehem, the lamp swinging over
the hostelry directed them to the strangers of the house of
David, who had come from Nazareth. Though it seems as if, in
the hour of her utmost need, the Virgin, Mother had not been
ministered to by loving hands, [1 This appears to me implied
in theemphatic statement, that Mary, as I gather, herself,
‘wrapped Him in swaddling clothes’ (St. Luke ii. 7, 12).
Otherwise the remark would seem needless and meaningless.]
yet what had happened in the stable must soon have become
known in the Khan. Perhaps friendly women were still passing
to and fro on errands of mercy, when the shepherds reached
the ‘stable.’ [2 It seems difficult to understand how, on Dr.
Geikie’s theory, the shepherds could have found the
Infant-Saviour, since, manifestly, they could not during that
night have roused every household in Bethlehem, to inquire
whether any child had been born among their guests.] There
they found, perhaps not what they had expected, but as they
had been told. The holy group only consisted of the humble
Virgin-Mother, the lowly carpenter of Nazareth, and the Babe
laid in the manger. What further passed we know not, save
that, having seen it for themselves, the shepherds told what
had been spoken to them about this Child, to all around [3
The term more than to ‘ make known abroad.’ Wahl renders it
‘ultro citroquenarroh’; Schleusner: ‘divulgo aliquid ut aliis
innotescat, spargo rumorem.’] , in the ‘stable’ in the
fields, probably also in the Temple, to which they would
bring their flocks, thereby preparing the minds of a Simeon,
of an Anna, and of all them that looked for salvation in
Israel. [4 This may have prepared not only those who welcomed
Jesus on His presentation in the Temple, but filled many
others with expectancy.]
And now the hush of wondering expectancy fell once more on
all, who heard what was told by the shepherds, this time not
only in the hill-country of Judaea, but within the wider
circle that embraced Behtlehem and the Holy City. And yet it
seemed all so sudden, so strange. That such slender thread,
as the feeble throb of an Infant-life, the salvation of the
world should hang, and no special care watch over its safety,
no better shelter be provided it than a ‘stable,’ no other
cradle than a manger! And still it is ever so. On what.slender thread has the continued life of the Church often
seemed to hang; on what feeble throbbing that of every child
of God, with no visible outward means to ward off danger, no
home of comfort, no rest of ease. But, ‘Lo, children are
Jehovah’s heritage!’, and: ‘So giveth He to His beloved in
his sleep!’ [1 The following remarkable extract from the
Jerusalem Targum on Ex. xii. 42 may interest the reader:
It is a night to be observed and exalted…. Four nights are
there written in the Book of Memorial. Night first: when the
Memra of Jehovah was revealed upon the world for its
creation; when the world was without form and void, and
darkness was spread upon the face of the deep, and hte Memra
of Jehovah illuminated and made it light; and He called it
the first night. Night second: when the Memra of Jehovah was
revealed unto Abraham between the divided pieces; when
Abraham was a hundred years, and Sarah was ninety years, and
to confirm thereby that which the Scripture saith, Abraham a
hundred years, can he beget? and Sarah, ninety years old, can
she bear? Was not our father Isaac thirty-seven years old at
the time he was offered upon the altar? Then the heavens were
bowed down and brought low, and Isaac saw their foundations,
and his eyes were blinded owing to that sight; and He called
it the second night. The thrid night: when the Memra of
Jehovah was revealed upon the Egyptians, at the dividing of
the night; His right hand slew the first-born of the
Egyptians, and His right hand spared the first-born of
Israel; to fulfil what the Scripture hath said, Israel is My
first-born well-beloved son. And He called it the thrid
night. Night the forth: when the end of the world will be
accomplished, that it might be dissolved, the bands of
wickedness destroyed, and the iron yoke broken. Moses came
forth from the midst of the desert, and the King Messiah from
the midst of Rome. This one shall lead at the head of a
Cloud, and that one shall lead at the head of a Cloud; and
the Memra of Jehovah will lead between both, and they two
shall come as one (Cachada).’ (For explan. see vol. ii. p.
100, note.)]
(St. Luke ii. 21-38.)
FOREMOST amongst those who, wondering, had heard what the
shepherds told, was she whom most it concerned, who laid it
up deepest in her heart, and brought to it treasured stores
of memory. It was the Mother of Jesus. These many months, all
connected with this Child could never have been far away form
her thoughts. And now that He was hers, yet not hers,
belonged, yet did not seem to belong, to her, He would be the
more dear to her Mother-heart for what made Him so near, and
yet parted Him so far from her. And upon all His history.seemed to lie such wondrous light, that she could only see
the path behindm, so far as she had trodden it,; while upon
that on which she was to move, was such dazzling brightness,
that she could scare look upon the present, and dared not
gaze towards the future.
At the very outset of this history, and increasingly in its
course, the question meets us, how, if the Angelic message to
the Virgin was a reality, and her motherhood so supernatural,
she could have been apparently so ignorant of what was to
come, nay, so often have even misunderstood it? Strange, that
she should have ‘pondered in her heart’ the shepherd’s
account; stranger, that afterwards she should have wondered
at His lingering in the Temple among Israel’s teachers;
strangest, that, at the very first of His miracles, a
mother’s fond pride should have so harshly broken in upon the
Divine melody of His work, by striking a keynote so different
from that, to which His life had been set; or that
afterwards, in the height of his activity, loving fears, if
not doubts, should have prompted her to interrupt, what
evidently she had not as yet comprehended in the fulness of
its meaning. Might we not rather have expected, that the
Virgin-Mother from the inception of this Child’s life would
have understood, that He was truly the Son of God? The
question, like so many others, requires only to be clearly
stated, to find its emphatic answer. For. had it been so His
history, His human life, of which every step is of such
importance to mankind, would not have been possible. Apart
from all thoughts of the deeper necessity, both as regarded
His Mission and all the salvation of the world, of a true
human development of gradual consciousness and personal life,
Christ could not, in any true sense, have been subject to His
Parents, if they had fully understood that He was Divine; nor
could He, in that case, have been watched, as He ‘grew in
wisdon and in favour with God and men.’ Such knowledge would
have broken the bond of His Humanity to ours, by severing
that which bound Him as a child to His mother. We could not
have become His brethren, had He not been truly the Virgin’s
Son. The mystery of the Incarnation would have been needless
and fruitless, had His humanity not been subject to all its
right and ordinary conditions. And, applying the same
principle more widely, we can thus, in some measure,
understand why the mystery of His Divinity had to be kept
while He was on earth. Had it been otherwise, the thought of
His Divinity would have proved so all-absorbing, as to render
impossible tthat of His Humanity, with all its lessons. The
Son of God Most High, Whom they worshipped, could never have
been the loving Man, with Whom they could hold such close
converse. The bond which bound the Master to His disciples,
the Son of Man to humanity, would have been dissolved; His
teaching as a Man, the Inearnation, and the Tabernacling
among men, in place of the former Old Testament Revelation
from heaven, would have become wholly impossible. In short,
one, and that the distinctive New Testament, element in our
salvation would have been taken away. At the beginning of His
life He would have anticipated the lessons of its end, nay,
not those of His Death only, but of His Resurrection and.Ascension, and of the coming of the Holy Ghost.
In all this we have only been taking the subjective, not the
objective, view of the question; considered the eartward, not
the heavenward, aspect of His life. The latter, though very
real, lies beyond our present horizon. Not so the question as
to the development of the Virgin-Mother’s spiritual
knowledge. Assuming her to have occupied, in the fullest
sense, the standpoint of Jewish Messianic expectancy, and
remembering, also, that she was so ‘highly favoured’ of God,
still, there was not as yet anything, nor could there be for
many years, to lead her beyond what might be called the
utmost height of Jewish belief. On the contrary, there was
much connected with His true Humanity to keep her back. For
narrow as, to our retrospective thinking, the boundary-line
seems between Jewish belief and that in the hypostatic union
of the two Natures, the passage from the one to the other
represented such tremendous mental revolution, as to imply
direct Divine teaching. [a 1 Cor. xii. 3] An illustrative
instance willprove this better than argument. We read, in a
commentary on the opening words of Gen. xv. 18, [b Ber. R.
44, ed. Warsh. p. 81 b] that when God made the covenant with
Abram, He ‘revealed to him both this Olam (dispensation) and
the Olam to come,’ which latter expression is correctly
explained as referring to the days of the Messiah. Jewish
tradition, therefore, here asserts exactly what Jesus stated
in these words: ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day;
and he saw it, and was glad.’ [e St. John viii. 56] Yet we
know what storm of indignation the enunciation of it called
forth among the Jews!
Thus it was, that every event connected with the Messianic
manifestation of Jesus would come to the Virgin-Mother as a
fresh discovery and a new surprise. Each event, as it took
place, stood isolated in her mind; not as part of a whole
which she would anticipate, nor as only one link in a chain;
but as something quite by itself. She knew the beginning, and
she knew the end; but she knew not the path which led from
the one to the other; and each step in it was a new
revelation. Henceit was, tht she so carefully treasured in
her heart every new fact, [d St. Luke ii. 19, 51] piecing
each to the other, till she could read from it the great
mystery that He, Whom Incarnate she had borne, was, indeed,
the Son of the living God. And as it was natural, so it was
well that it should be so. For, thus only could she truly,
because self-unconsciously, as a Jewish woman and mother,
fulfil all the requirements of the Law, alike as regarded
herself and her Child
The first of these was Circumcision, representing voluntary
subjection to the conditions of the Law, and acceptance of
the obligations, but also of the privileges, of the Covenant
between God and Abraham and his seed. Any attempt to show the
deep siginificance of such a rite in the case of Jesus, could
only weaken the impression which the fact itself conveys. The
ceremony took place, as in all ordinary circumstances, on the
eight day, when the Child received the Angel-given name
Jeshua (Jesus). Two other legal ordinances still remained observed. The firstbnorn son of every household was,
according to the Law, to be ‘redeemed’ of the priest at the
price of five shekels of the Sanctuary. [e Numb. xviii. 16]
Rabbinic casuistry here added many needless, and even
repulsive, details. The following, however, are of practical
interest. The earliest period of presentation was thirty-one
days after birth so as to make the legal month quite
complete. The child must have been the firstborn of his
mother (according to some writers, of his father also); [1 So
Lundius, Jud. Alterth. p.621, and Buxtorf, Lex. Talmud. p.
1699. But I am bound to say, that this seems contrary to the
sayings of the Rabbis.] neither father nor mother [2 This
disposes of the idea, that the Virgin-Mother was of direct
Aaronic or Levitic descent.] must be of Levitic descent; and
the child must be free from all such bodily blemishes as
would have disqualified him for the priesthood, or, as it was
expressed: ‘the firstborn for the priesthood.’ It was a thing
much dreaded, that the child should die before his
redemption; but if his father died in the interval, the child
had to redeem himself when of age. As the Rabbinic law
expressly states, that the shekels were to be of ‘Tyrian
weight,’ [a Bechor viii. 7] the value of the ‘redemption
money’ would amount to about ten or twelve shillings. The
redemption could be made from any priest, and attendance in
the Temple was not requisite. It was otherwise with the
‘purification’ of the mother. [b Lev. xii.] The Rabbinicd law
fixed this at forty-one days after the birth of a son, and
eighty-one after that of a daughter, [3 Archdeacon Farrar is
mistaken in supposing, that the ‘thirty-three days’ were
counted ‘after the circumcision.’ The idea must have arisen
from a misunderstanding of the English version of Lev. xii.
4. There was no connection between the time of the
circumcision of the child, and that of the purification of
his mother. In certain circumstances circumcision might have
to be delayed for days, in case of sickness, till recovery.
It is equally a mistake to suppose, that a Jewish mother
could not leave the house till after the forty days of her
purification.] so as to make the Biblical terms quite
complete. [c Comp. Sifra, ed. Weiss, p. 59 a and b;
Maimonides, Yad haChaz. Hal.Mechusre Capp., ed. Amst., vol.
iii. p. 255 a and b.] But it might take place any time later,
notably, when attendance on any of the great feasts brought a
family to Jerusalem. Thus, we read of cases when a mother
would offer several sacrifices of purification at the same
time. [4 Comp. Kerith. i. 7.] But, indeed, the woman was not
required to be personally present at all, when her offering
was presented, or, rather (as we shall see), provided for,
say, by the representatives of the laity, who daily took part
in the services for the various districts from which they
came. This also is specially provided for in the Tulmud. [5
Jer. Sheq. 50 b.] But mothers who were within convenient
distanceof the Temple, and especially the more earnest among
them, would naturally attend personally in the Temple; [6
There is no ground whatever for the objection which Rabbi Low
(Lebensalter, p. 112) raises against the account of St. Luke.
Jewish documents only prove, that a mother need not
personally attend in the Temple; not tht they did not do so,.when attendance was possible. The contrary impression is
conveyed to us by Jewish notices.] and in such cases, when
practicable, the redemption of the firstborn, and the
purification of his mother, would be combined. Such was
undoubtedly the case with the Virgin-Mother and her Son.
For this twofold purpose the Holy Family went up to the
Temple, when the prescribed days were completed. [1 The
expression cannot refer to the Purification of the Virgin and
her Babe (Farrar), nor to that of the Virgin and Joseph
(Meyer), because neither the Babe nor Joseph needed, nor were
they included in, the purification. It can only refer to
‘their’ (i.e. the Jews’) purification. But this does not
imply any Romish inferences (Sepp, Leben Jesu, ii. 1, p. 131)
as to the superhuman condition or origin of the Blessed
Virgin; on the contrary, the offering of the sin-offering
points in the other direction.] The ceremony at the
redemption of a firstborn son was, no doubt, more simple than
that at present in use. It consisted of the formal
presentation of the child to the priest, accompanied by two
short ‘benedictions’, the one for the law of redemption money
was paid. [2 Comp. the rubric and the prayers in Maimonides,
Yad haChaz. Hilch. Biccur. xi. 5.] Most solemn, as in such a
place, and remembering its symbolic significance as the
expression of God’s claim over each family in Israel, must
this rite have been.
As regards the rite at the purification of the mother, the
scantiness of information has led to serious misstatements.
Any comparison with our modern ‘churching’ of women [3 So Dr.
Geikie.] is inapplicable, since the latter consists of
thanksgiving, and the former primarily of a sin-offering for
the Levitical defilement symbolically attaching to the
beginning of life, and a burnt-offering, that marked the
restoration of communion with God. Besides, as already
stated, the sacrifice for purification might be brought in
the absence of the mother. Similar mistakes prevail as to the
rubric. It is not case, as generally stated, that the woman
was sprinkled with blood, and then pronounced clean by the
priest, or that prayers were offered on the occasion. [4 So
Dr. Geikie, taking his account from Herzog’s Real-Encykl. The
mistake about the mother being sprinkled with sacrificial
blood orginated with Lightfoot (Horae Hebr. on St. Luke ii.
22). Later writers have followed the lead. Tamid v. 6, quoted
by Lightfoot, refers only to the cleansing of the leper. The
‘prayers’ supposed to be spoken, and the pronouncing clean by
the priests, are the embellishments of later writers, for
which Lightfoot is not responsible. The service simply
consisted of the statutory sacrifice. This was what, in
ecclesiastical language, was termed an offering oleh veyored,
that is, ‘ascending and descending,’ according to the means
of the offerer. The sin-offering was, in all cases, a
turtle-dove or a young pigeon. But, while the more wealthy
brought a lamb for a burnt-offering the poor might substitute
for it a turtle-dove, or a young pigeon. [5 According to
Sifra (Par. Tazria, Per. iv. 3): ‘Whenever the sin-offering
is changed, it precedes [as on ordinary occasions] the.burnt-offering; but when the burnt-offering is changed [as on
this occasion], it precedes the sin-offering.’] The ribric
directed that the neck of the sin-offering was to be broken,
but the head not wholly severed; that some of the blood
should be sprinkled at the south-western angle of the altar,
[1 But this precisespot was not matter of absolute necessity
(Seb. vi. 2). Directions are given as to the manner in which
the priest was to perform the sacrificial act.] below the red
line, [2 Kinnim i. 1. If the sin-offering was a four-footed
animal, the blood was sprinkled above the red line.] which
ran round the middle of the altar, and that the rest should
be poured out at the base of the altar. The whole of the
flesh belonged to the priests, and had to be eaten within the
enclosure of the Sanctuary. The rubric for the burnt-offering
of a turtle-dove or a young pigeon was somewhat more
intricate. [a Sebach. vi 5] The substitution of the latter
for a young lamb was expressly designated ‘the poor’s
offering.’ And rightly so, since, while a lamb would probably
cost about three shillings, the average value of a pair of
turtle-doves, for both the sin-and burnt-offering, would be
about eightpence, [b Comp. Kerith. i. 7] and on one occasion
fell so low as twopence. The Temple-price of the meat-and
drink-offerings was fixed once a month; and special officials
instructed the intending offerers, and provided them with
what was needed. [c Sheq. iv. 9] There was also a special
‘superintendent of turtle-doves and pigeons,’ required for
certain purifications, and the holder of that office is
mentioned with praise in the Mishnah. [d Sheq. v. 1] Much,
indeed, depended upon his uprightness. For, at any rate as
regarded those who brought the poor’s offering, the
purchasers of pigeons or turtle-doves would, as a rule, have
to deal with him. In the Court of the Women there were
thirteen trumpet-shaped chests for pecuniary contributions,
called ‘trumpets.’ [3 Comp. St. Matt. vi. 2. See ‘The Temple
and its Services,’ & c. pp. 26, 27.] Into the third of these
they who brought the poor’s offering, like the Virgin-Mother,
were to drop the price of the sacrifices which were needed
for their purification. [4 Comp. Shekal. vi. 5, the
Commentaries, and Jer. Shek. 50 b.] As we infer, [e Tosepht.
Sheq. iii. 2] the superintending priest must have been
stationed here, alike to inform the offerer of the price of
the turtle-doves, and to see that all was in order. For, the
offerer of the poor’s offering would not require to deal
directly with the sacrificing priest. At a certain time in
the day this third chest was opened, and half of its contents
applied to burnt, the other half to sin-offerings. Thus
sacrifices were provided for a corresponding number of those
who were to be purified, without either shaming the poor,
needlessly disclosing the character of impurity, or causing
unnecessary bustle and work. Though this mode of procedure
could, of course, not be obligatory, it would, no doubt, be
that generally followed.
We can now, in imagination, follow the Virgin-Mother in the
Temple. [1 According to Dr. Geikie, ‘the Golden Gate at the
head of the long flight of steps that led to the valley of
the Kedron opened into the Court of the Women.’ But there Golden Gate, neither was there any flight of steps into
the valley of the Kedron, while between the Court of the
Women and any outer gate (such as could have led into
Kedron), the Court of the Gentiles and a colonnade must have
intervened.] Her child had been given up to the Lord, and
received back from Him. She had entered the Court of the
Women, probably by the ‘Gate of the Women, ‘ [2 Or else, ‘the
gate of the firstlings.’ Comp. generally, ‘The Temple, its
Ministry and Services.’] on the north side, and deposited the
price of her sacrifices in Trumpet No. 3, which was close to
the raised dais or gallery where the women worshipped, apart
from the men. And now the sound of the organ, which announced
throughout the vast Temple-buildings that the incense was
about to be kindled on the Golden Altar, summoned those who
were to be purified. The chief of the ministrant
lay-representatives of Israel on duty (the so-called
‘station-men’) ranged those, who presented themselves before
the Lord as offerers of special sacrifices, within the
wickets on either side the great Nicanor Gate, at the top of
the fifteen steps which led up from the Court of the Women to
that of Israel. It was, as if they were to be brought nearest
to the Sanctuary; as if theirs were to be specially the
‘prayers’ that rose in the cloud of incense from the Golden
Altar; as if for them specially the sacrifices were laid on
the Altar of Burnt-offering; as if theirs was a larger share
of the benediction which, spoken by the lips of the priests,
seemed like Jehovah’s answer to the prayers of the people;
theirs especially the expression of joy symbolised in the
drink-offering, and the hymn of praise whose Tris-Hagion
filled the Temple. From where they stood they could see it
all, [3 This they could not have done from the elevated
platform on which they commonly worshipped.] share in it,
rejoice in it. And now the general service was over, and only
those remained who brought special sacrifices, or who
lingered near them that had such, or whose loved abode was
ever in the Temple. The purification-service, with such
unspoken prayer and praise as would be the outcome of a
grateful heart, [4 This is stated by the Rabbis to have been
the object of the burnt-offering. That suggested for the
sin-offering is too ridiculous to mention. The language used
about the burnt-offering reminds us of that in the
exhortation in the office for the ‘Churching of Women’: ‘that
she might be stirred up to give thanks to Almighty God, Who
has delivered her from the pains and perils of childbirth
which is matter of miracle.’ (Comp. Hottingerus, Juris Hebr.
Leges, ed. Tiguri, p. 233.)] was soon ended, and they who had
shared in it were Levitically clean. Now all stain was
removed, and, as the Law put it, they might again partake of
sacred offerings.
And in such sacred offering, better than any of which
priest’s family had ever partaken, was the Virgin-Mother
immediately to share. It has been observed, that by the side
of every humiliation connected with the Humanity of the
Messiah, the glory of His Divinity was also made to shine
forth. The coincidences are manifestly undesigned on the part
of the Evangelic writers, and hence all the more striking..Thus, if he was born of the humble Maiden of Nazareth, an
Angel announced His birth; if the Infant-Saviour was cradled
in a manger, the shining host of heaven hymned His Advent.
And so afterwards, if He hungered and was tempted in the
wilderness, Angels ministered to Him, even as an Angel
strengthened Him in the agony of the garden. If He submitted
to baptism, the Voice and vision from heaven attested His
Sonship; if enemies threatened. He could miraculously pass
through them; if the Jews assailed, there was the Voice of
God to glorify Him; if He was nailed to the cross, the sun
craped his brightness, and earth quaked; if He was laid in
the tomb, Angels kept its watches, and heralded His rising.
And so, when now the Mother of Jesus, in her humbleness,
could only bring the ‘poor’s offering,’ the witness to the
greatness of Him Whom she had borne was not wanting. A
‘eucharistic offering’, so to speak, was brought, the record
of which is the more precious that Rabbinic writings make no
allusion to the existence of the party, whose representatives
we here meet. Yet they were the true outcome of the spirit of
the Old Testament, and, as such, at this time, the special
recipients of the ‘Spirit’ of the Old Testament.
The ‘parents’ of Jesus had brought Him into the Temple for
presentation and redemption, when they were met by one, whose
venerable figure must have been well known in the city and
the Sanctuary. Simeon combined the three characteristics of
Old Testament piety: ‘Justice,’ as regarded his relation and
bearing to God and man; [1 Comp. Josephus, Ant. xii. 2. 5.]
‘fear of God,’ [2 The expression, unquestionably refers to
‘fear of God.’ Comp. Delitzsch, Hebr. Br. pp. 191, 192; and
Grimm, Clavis N. T. p. 180 b.] in opposition to the boastful
self-righteousness of Pharisaism; and, above all, longing
expectancy of the near fulfilment of the great promises, and
that in their spiritual import as ‘the Consolation of
Israel.’ [3 The expression ‘consolation,’ for the great
Messianic hope, whence the Messianic title of Menachem, is of
very frequent occurence (so in the Targum on Isaiah and
Jeremiah, and in many Rabbinical passages). Curiously enough,
it is several times put into the mouth of a Simeon (Chag. 16
b; Macc. 5 b; Shev. 34 a), although, of course, not the one
mentioned by St. Luke. The suggestion, that the latter was
the son of the great Hillel and the father of Gamaliel, St.
Paul’s teacher, though not impossible as regards time, is
unsupported, though it does seem strange that the Mishnah has
nothing to say about him: ‘lo niscar bamishnah.’] The Holy
Spirit was upon him; and by that same Spirit [1 The mention
of the ‘Holy Spirit,’ as speaking to individuals, is frequent
in Rabbinic writings. This, of course, does not imply their
belief in the Personality of the Holy Spirit (comp. Bemidb.
R. 15; 20; Midr. on Ruth ii. 9; Yalkut, vol. i. pp. 221 b and
265 d).] the gracious Divine answer to his heart’s longing
had been communicated him. And now it was as had been
promised him. Coming ‘in the Spirit’ into the Temple, just as
His parents were bringing the Infant Jesus, he took Him into
his arms, and burst into rapt thanksgiving. Now, indeed, had
God fulfilled His word. He was not to see death, till he had
seen the Lord’s Christ. Now did his Lord ‘dismiss’ him ‘in.peace’ [2 The Talmud (Ber.last page) has a curious conceit,
to the effect that, in taking leave of a person, one ought to
say: ‘Go to peace,’ not ‘in peace’ not), the former having
been said by Jethro to Moses (Ex. iv. 18), on which he
prospered; the latter by David to Absalom (2 Sam. xv. 9), on
which he perished. On the other hand, on taking leave of a
dead friend, we are to say ‘Go in peace,’ according to Gen.
xv.15, and not ‘Go to peace.’], release him [3 The
expression, absolvere, liberare, demittere, is most graphic.
It corresponds to the Hebrew, which is also used of death; as
in regard to Simeon the Just, Menach. 109 b; comp. Ber. 17 a;
Targum on Cant. i. 7.] in blessed comfort from work and
watch, since he had actually seen that salvation, [4 Godet
seems to strain the meaning of, when he renders it by the
neuter of the adjective. It is frequently used in the LXX.
for.] so long preparing for a waiting weary world: a glorious
light, Whose rising would light up heathen darkness, and be
the outshining glory around Israel’s mission. With this
Infant in his arms, it was as if he stood on the
mountain-height of prophetic vision, and watched the golden
beams of sunrise far away over the isles of the Gentiles, and
then gathering their full glow over his own beloved land and
people. There was nothing Judiac, quite the contrary: only
what was of the Old Testament, in what he first said. [a St.
Luke ii. 29-32.]
But his unexpected appearance, the more unexpected deed and
words, and that most unexpected form in which what was said
of the Infant Christ was presented to their minds, filled the
hearts of His parents with wonderment. And it was, as if
their silent wonderment had been an unspoken question, to
which the answer now came in words of blessing from the aged
watche. Mystic they seemed, yet prophetic. But now it was the
personal, or rather the Judaic, aspect which, in broken
utterances, was set before the Virgin-Mother, as if the whole
history of the Christ upon earth were passing in rapid vision
before Simeon. That Infant, now again in the Virgin-Mother’s
arms: It was to be a stone of decision; a foundation and
corner-stone, [b Is. viii. 14.] for fall or for uprising; a
sign spoken against; the sword of deep personal sorrow would
pierce the Mother’s heart; and so to the terrible end, when
the veil of externalism which had so long covered the hearts
of Israel’s leaders would be rent, and the deep evil of their
thoughts [1 generally used in an evil sense.] laid bare.
Such, as regarded Israel, was the history of Jesus, from His
Baptism to the Cross; and such is still the history of Jesus,
as ever present to the heart of the believing, loving Church.
Nor was Simeon’s the only hymn of praise on that day. A
special interest attaches to her who, coming that very
moment, responded in praise to God [2 The verb may mean
responsive praise, or simply praise which in this case,
however, would equally be ‘in response’ to that of Simeon,
whether responsive in form or not.] for the pledge she saw of
the near redemption. A kind of mystery seems to invest this
Anna (Channah). A widow, whose early desolateness had been
followed by a long life of solitary mourning; one of those in.whose home the tribal genealogy had been preserved. [3 The
whole subject of ‘genealogies’ is briefly, but well treated
by Hamburger, Real Encykl., section ii. pp. 291 &c. It is a
pity, that Hamburger so often treats his subject from a
Judaeo-apologetic standpoint.] We infer from this, and from
the fact that it was that of a tribe which had not returned
to Palestine, that hers was a family of some distinction.
Curiously enough, the tribe of Asher alone is celebrated in
tradition for the beauty of its women, and their fitness to
be wedded to High-Priest or King. [a Bar. R. 71, ed. Warsh.p.
131 b end; 99. p. 179 a, lines 13 and 12 from bottom.]
But Anna had better claim to distinction than
family-descent, or long, faithful memory of brief home-joys.
These many years she had spent in the Sanctuary, [4 It is
scarcely necessary to discuss the curious suggestion, that
Anna actually lived in the Temple. No one, least of all a
woman, permanently resided in the Temple, though the High
Priest had chambers there.] and spent in fasting and prayer,
yet not of that self-righteous, self-satisfied kind which was
of the essence of popular religion. Nor, as to the Pharisees
around, was it the Synagogue which was her constant and loved
resort; but the Temple, with its symbolic and unspoken
worship, which Rabbinic self-assertion and rationalism were
rapidly superseding, and for whose services, indeed,
Rabbinism could find no real basis. Nor yet were ‘fasting and
prayer’ to her the all-in-all of religion, sufficient in
themselves; sufficient also before God. Deepest in her soul
was longing waiting for the ‘redemption’ promised, and now
surely nigh. To her widowed heart the great hope of Israel
appeared not so much, as to Simeon, in the light of
‘consolation,’ as rather in that of ‘redemption.’ The
seemingly hopeless exile of her own tribe, the political
state of Judaea, the condition, social, moral, and religious,
of her own Jerusalem: all kindled in her, as in those who
were like-minded, deep, earnest longing for the time of
promised ‘redemption.’ No place so suited to such an one as
the Temple, with its services, the only thing free, pure,
undefiled, and pointing forward and upward; no occupation so
befitting as ‘fasting and prayer.’ And, blessed be God, there
were others, perhaps many such, in Jerusalem. Though Rabbinic
tradition ignored them, they were the salt which preserved
the mass from festering corruption. To her as the
representative, the example, friend, and adviser of such, was
it granted as prophetess to recognise Him, Whose Advent had
been the burden of Simeon’s praise. And, day by day, to those
who looked for redemption in Jerusalem, would she speak of
Him Whom her eyes had seen, though it must be in whispers and
with bated breath. For they were in the city of Herod, and
the stronghold of Pharisaism.
CHAPTER VIII.(St. Matt. ii. 1-8.) With the Presentation of the Infant
Saviour in the Temple, and His acknowledgement, not indeed by
the leaders of Israel, but, characteristically, by the
representatives of those earnest men and women who looked for
His Advent, the Prologue, if such it may be called, to the
third Gospel closes. From whatever source its information was
derived, perhaps, as has been suggested, its earlier portion
from the Virgin-Mother, the later from Anna; or else both
alike from her, who with loving reverence and wonderment
treasured it all in her heart its marvellous details could
not have been told with greater simplicity, nor yet with more
exquisitely delicate grace. [1 It is scarcely necessary to
point out, how evidential this is of the truthfulness of the
Gospel-narrative. In this respect also the so-called
Apocryphal Gospels, with their gross and often repulsive
legendary adornments, form a striking contrast. I have
purposely abstained from reproducing any of these narratives,
partly because previous writers have done so, and partly
because the only object served by repeating, what must so
deeply shock the Christian mind, would be to point the
contrast between the canonical and the Apocryphal Gospels.
But this can, I think, be as well done by a single sentence,
as by pages of quotations.] On the other hand, the Prologue
to the first Gospel, while omitting these, records other
incidents of the infancy of the Saviour. The plan of these
narratives, or the sources whence they may originally have
been derived, may account for the omissions in either case.
At first sight it may seem strange, that the cosmopolitan
Gospel by St. Luke should have described what took place in
the Temple, and the homage of the Jews, while the Gospel by
St. Matthew, which was primarily intended for Hebrews,
records only the homage of the Gentiles, and the
circumstances which led to the flight into Egypt. But of such
seeming contrasts there are not a few in the Gospel-history,
discords, which soon resolve themselves into glorious
The story of the homage to the Infant Saviour by the Magi is
told by St. Matthew, in language of which the brevity
constitutes the chief difficulty. Even their designation is
not free from ambiguity. The term Magi is used in the LXX.,
by Philo, Josephus, and by profane writers, alike in an evil
and, so to speak, in a good sense [1 The evidence on this
point is furnished by J. G. Miller in Herzog’s Real-Enc.,
vol. viii. p. 682. The whole subject of the visit of the Magi
is treated with the greatest ability and learning (as agaisnt
Strauss) by Dr. Mill (‘On the Mythical Interpretation of the
Gospels,’ part ii. pp. 275 &c.).], in the former case as
implying the practice of magical arts; [a So also in Acts
viii. 9; xiii. 6, 8.] in the latter, as referring to the
those Eastern (especially Chaldee) priest-sages, whose
researches, in great measure as yet mysterious and unknown to
us, seem to have embraced much deep knowledge, though not
untinged with superstition. It is dsto these latter, that the
Magi spoken of by St. Matthew must have belonged. Their
number, to which, however, no importance attaches, cannot be
ascertained. [2 They are variously stated as twelve (Aug..Chrysost.) and three, the latter on account of the number of
the gifts. Other legends on the subject need not be
repeated.] Various suggestions have been made as to the
country of ‘the East,’ whence they came. At the period in
question the sacerdotal caste of the Medes and Persians was
dispersed over various parts of the East, [3 Mill, u. s., p.
303.] and the presence in those lands of a large
Jewishdiaspora, through which they might, and probably would,
gain knowleded of the great hope of Israel, [4 There is no
historical evidence that at the time of Christ there was
among the nations any widespread expectancy of the Advent of
a Messiah in Palestine. Where the knowledge of such a hope
existed, it must have been entirely derived from Jewish
sources. The allusions to it by Tacitus (Hist. v. 13) and
Suetonius (Vesp. 4) are evidently derived from Josephus, and
admittedly refer to the Flavian dynasty, and to a period
seventy years or more after the Advent of Christ. ‘The
splendid vaticination in the Fourth Eclogue of Virgil,’ which
Archdeacon Farrar regards as among the ‘unconscious
prophecies of heathendom,’ is confessedly derived from the
Cumaean Sibyl, and based on the Sibylline Oracles, book iii.
lines 784-794 (ed. Friedlieb, p. 86; see Einl. p. xxxix.).
Almost the whole of book iii., inclusive of these verses, is
of Jewish authorship, and dates probably from about 160 B.C.
Archdeacon Farrar holds that, besides the above references,
‘there is ample proof, both in Jewish and Pagan writings,
that a guilty and weary world was dimly expecting the advent
of its Deliverer.’ But he offers no evidence of it, either
from Jewish or Pagan writings.] is sufficiently attested by
Jewish history. The oldest opinion traces the Magi, though
partially on insufficient grounds [5 Comp. Mill, u.s., p.
308, note 66. The grounds adduced by some are such references
as to Is. viii. 4; Ps. lxxii. 10, &c.; and the character of
the gifts.] to Arabia. And there is this in favor of it, that
not only the closest intercourse existed between century fo
our ear, the but that from about 120 B.C. to the sixth
century of our ear, the kings of Yemen professed the Jewish
faith. [6 Comp. the account of this Jewish monarchy in the
‘History of the Jewish Nation,’ pp. 67-71; also Remond’s
Vers. e. Gesch. d. Ausbreit. d. Judenth. pp. 81 &c.; and
Jost, Gesch. d. Isr. vol. v. pp. 236 &c.] For if, on the one
hand, it seems unlikely, that Eastern Magi would
spontaneously connect a celestial phenomenon with the birth
of a Jewish king, evidence will, on the other hand, be
presented to connect the meaning attached to the appearance
of ‘the star’ at that particular time with Jewish expectancy
of the Messiah. But we are anticipating.
Shortly after the Presentation of the Infant Saviour in the
Temple, certain Magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem with
strange tidings. They had seen at its ‘rising’ [1 This is the
correct rendering,and not, as in A.V., ‘in the East,’ the
latter being expressed by the plural of, in v. 1, while in
vv. 2 and 9 the word is used in the singular.] a sidereal
appearance, [2 Schleusner has abundantly proved that the
word, though primarily meaning a star, is also used of
constellations, meteors, and comets, in short, has the widest
application: ‘omne designare, quod aliquem splendorem emitit’ (Lex. in N.T., t. i. pp. 390, 391).] which they
regarded as betokening the birthof the Missiah King of the
Jews, in the sense which at the time attached to that
designation. Accordingly, they had come to Jerusalem to pay
homage [3 Not, as in the A.V., ‘to worship,’ which at this
stage of the history would seem most incongruous, but as an
equivalent of the Hebrew, as in Gen. xix. 1. So often in the
LXX. and by profane writers (comp. Scheleusner, u. s., t. ii.
pp. 749, 750, and Vorstius, De Hebraismis N.T. pp. 637-641).]
to Him, probably not because they imagined He must be born in
the Jewish capital [4 This is the view generally, but as I
think erroneously, entertained. Any Jew would have told them,
that the Messiah was not to be born in Jerusalem. Besides,
the question of the Magi implies their ignorance of the
‘where’ of the Messiah.] but because they would naturally
expect there to obtain authentic information, ‘where’ He
might be found. In their simplicity of heart, the Magi
addressed themselves in the first place to the official head
of the nation. The rumor of such an inquiry, and by such
persons, would rapidly spread throughout the city. But it
produced on King Herod, and in the capital, a far different
impression from the feeling of the Magi. Unscrupulously cruel
as Herod had always proved, even the slightest suspicion of
danger to his rule, the bare possibility of the Advent of
One, Who had such claims upon the allegiance of Israel, and
Who, if acknowledged, would evoke the most intense movement
on their part, must have struck terror to his heart. Not that
he could believe the tidings, though a dread of their
possibility might creep over a nature such as Herod’s; but
the bare thought of a Pretender, with such claims, would fill
him with suspicion, apprehension, and impotent rage. Nor is
it difficult to understand, that the whole city should,
although on different grounds, have shared the ‘trouble’ of
the king. It was certainly not, as some have suggested, from
apprehension of ‘the woes’ which, according to popular
notions, were to accompany the Advent of Messiah. Throughout
the history of Christ the absence of such ‘woes’ was never
made a ground of objection to His Messianic claims; and this,
because these ‘woes’ were not associated with the first
Advent of the Messiah, but with His final manifestation in
power. And between these two periods a more or less long
interval was supposed to intervene, during which the Messiah
would be ‘hidden,’ either in the literal sense, or perhaps as
to His power, or else in both respects. [1 Christian writers
on these subjects have generally conjoined the so-called
‘woes of the Messiah’ with His first appearance. It seems not
to have occured to them, that, if such had been the Jewish
expectation, a preliminary objection would have lain against
the claims of Jesus from their absence.] This enables us to
understand the question of the disciples, as to the sign of
His coming and the end of the world, and the answer of the
Master. [a As reported in St. Matt. xxiv. 3-29]But the people
of Jerusalem had far other reason to fear. They knew only too
well the character of Herod, and what the consequences would
be to them, or to any one who might be suspected, however
unjustly, of sympathy with any claimant to the royal throne
of David. [2 Their feelings on this matterwould be.represented, mutatis mutandis, by the expressions in the
Sanhedrin, recorded in St.
John xi. 47-50.]
Herod took immediate measures, characterised by his usual
cunning. He called together all the High-Priest, past and
present, and all the learned Rabbis, [3 Both Meyer and Weiss
have shown, that this was not a meeting of the Sanhedrin, if,
indeed, that body had anything more than a shadowy existence
during the reign of Herod.] and, without committing himself
as to whether the Messiah was already born, or only expected,
[4 The question propounded by Herod (v. 4), ‘where Christ
should be born,’ is put neither in the past nor in the
future, but in the present tense. In other words, he laid
before them a case, a theological problem, but not a fact,
either past or future. simply propounded to them the question
of His birthplace. This would show him where Jewish
expectancy looked for the appearance of his rival, and thus
enable him to watch alike that place and the people
generally, while it might possibly bring to light the
feelings of the leaders of Israel. At the same time he took
care diligently to inquire the precise time, when the
sidereal appearance had first attracted the attention of the
Magi. [b St. Matt. ii. 7.] This would enable him to judge,
how far back he would have to make his own inquiries, since
the birth of the Pretender might be made to synchronise with
the earliest appearance of the sidereal phenomenon. So long
as any one lived, who was born in Bethlehem between the
earliest appearance of this ‘star’ and the time of the
arrival of the Magi, he was not safe. The subsequent conduct
of Herod [c v. 16.] shows, that the Magi must have told him,
that their earliest observation of the sidereal phenomenon
had taken place two years before their arrival in Jerusalem.
The assembled authorities of Israel could only return one
answer to the question submitted by Herod. As shown by the
rendering of the Targum Jonathan, the prediction in Micah v.
2 was at the time universally understood as pointing to
Bethlehem, as the birthplace of the Messiah. That such was
the general expectation, appears from the Talmud, [a Jer.
Ber. ii. 4, p. 5 a.] where, in an imaginary conversation
between an Arab and a Jew, Bethlehem is authoritatively named
as Messiah’s birthplace. St. Matthew reproduces the prophetic
utterance of Micah, exactly as such quotations were popularly
made at that time. It will be remembered that, Hebrew being a
dead language so far as the people were concerned, the Holy
Scriptures were always translated into the popular dialect,
the person so doing being designated Methurgeman (dragoman)
or interpreter. These renderings, which at the time of St.
Matthew were not yet allowed to be written down, formed the
precedent for, if not the basis of, our later Targum. In
short, at that time each one Targumed for himself, and these
Targumind (as our existing one on the Prophets shows) were
neither literal versions, [1 In point of fact, the Talmud
expressly lays it down, that ‘whosoever targums a verse in
its closely literal form [without due regard to its meaning],
is a liar.’ (Kidd. 49 a; comp. on the subject Deutsch’s.’Literary Remains,’p. 327).] nor yet paraphrases, but
something between them, a sort of interpreting translation.
That, when Targuming, the New Testament writers should in
preference make use of such a well-known and widely-spread
version as the Translation of the LXX. needs no explanation.
That they did not confine themselves to it, but, when it
seemed necessary, literally or Targumically rendered a verse,
appears from the actual quotations in the New Testament. Such
Targuming of the Old Testament was entirely in accordance
with the then universal method of setting Holy Scripture
before a popular audience. It is needless to remark, that the
New Testament writers would Targum as Christians. These
remarks apply not only to the case under immediate
consideration, [b St. Matt. ii. 6.] but generally tothe
quotations from the Old Testament in the New. [2 The general
pinciple, that St. Matthew rendered Mic. v. 2 targumically,
would, it seems, cover all the differences between his
quotation and the Hebrew text. But it may be worth while, in
this instance at least, to examine the differences in detail.
Two of them are trivial, viz., ‘Bethlehem, land of Juda,’
instead of ‘Ephratah;’ ‘princes’ instead of ‘thousands,’
though St. Matthew may, possibly, have pointed (‘princes’),
instead of as in our Hebrew text. Perhaps he rendered the
word more correctly than we do, since means not only a
‘thousand’ but also a part of a tribe (Is. lx. 22), a clan,
or Beth Abh (Judg. vi. 15); comp. also Numb. i. 16; x. 4, 36;
Deut. xxxiii. 17; Josh. xxii. 21, 30; i Sam. x. 19; xxiii.
23; in which case the personification of these ‘thousands’
(=our ‘hundreds’) by their chieftains or ‘princes’ would be a
very apt Targumic rendering. Two other of the divergences are
more important, viz., (1) ‘Art not the least,’ instead of
‘though thou be little.’ But the Hebrew words have also been
otherwise rendered: in the Syriac interrogatively (‘art thou
little?’), which suggests the rendering of St. Matthew; and
in the Arabic just as by St. Matthew (vide Pocock, Porta
Mosis, Notae, c. ii.; but Pocock does not give the Targum
accurately). Credner ingeniously suggested, that the
rendering of St. Matthew may have been caused by a Targumic
rendering of the Hebrew but he does not seem to have noticed,
that this is the actual rendering in the Targum Jon. on the
passage. As for the second and more serious divergence in the
latter part of the verse, it may be best here simply to give
for comparison the rendering of the passage in the Targum
Jonathan: ‘Out of thee shall come forth before Me Messiah to
exercise rule over Israel.’]
The further conduct of Herod was in keeping with his plans.
He sent for the Magi, for various reasons, secretly. After
ascertaining the precise time, when they had first observed
the ‘star,’ he directed them to Bethlehem, with the request
to inform him when they had found the Child; on pretence,
that he was equally desirous with them to pay Him homage. As
they left Jerusalem [1 Not necessarily by night,as most
writers suppose.] for the goal of their pilgrimage, to their
surprise and joy, the ‘star,’ which had attracted their
attention at its ‘rising,’ [2 So correctly, and not ‘in the
East,’ as in A.V.] and which, as seems implied in the.narrative, they had not seen of late, once more appeared on
the horizon, and seemed to move before them, till ‘it stood
over where the young child was’, that is, of course, over
Bethlehem, not over any special house in it. Whether at a
turn of the road, close to Bethlehem, they lost sight of it,
or they no longer heeded its position, since it had seemed to
go before them to the goal that had been pointed out, for,
surely, they needed not the star to guide them to Bethlehem,
or whether the celestial phenomenon now disappeared, is
neither stated in the Gospel-narrative, nor is indeed of any
importance. Sufficient for them, and for us: they had been
auhoritatively directed to Bethlehem; as they had set out for
it, the sidereal phenomenon had once more appeared; and it
had seemed to go before them, till it actually stood over
Bethlehem. And, since in ancient times such extraordinary
‘guidance’ by a ‘star’ was matter of belief and expectancy,
[3 Proof of this is abundantly furnished by Wetstein, Nov.
Test. t. i. pp. 247 and 248] the Magi would, from their
standpoint, regard it as the fullest confirmation that they
had been rightly directed to Bethlehem, and ‘they rejoiced
with exceeding great joy.’ It could not be difficult to learn
in Bethlehem, where the Infant, around Whose Birth marvels
had gathered, might be found. It appears that the temporary
shelter of the ‘stable’ had been exchanged by the Holy Family
for the more permanent abode of a ‘house;’ [a v. 11] and
there the Magi found the Infant-Saviour with His Mother. With
exquisite tact and reverence the narrative attempts not the
faintest description of the scene. It is as if the sacred
writer had fully entered into the spirit of St. Paul, ‘Yea,
though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now
henceforth know we Him no more.’ [a 2 Cor. v 16] And thus it
should ever be. It is the great fact of the manifestation of
Christ, not its outward surroundings, however precious or
touching they might be in connection with any ordinary
earthly being, to which our gaze must be directed. The
externals may, indeed, attract our sensuous nature; but they
detract from the unmatched glory of the great supersensuous
Reality. [1 In this seems to lie the strongest condemnation
of Romish and Romanising tendencies, that they ever seek to
present, or, perhaps, rather obtrude, the external
circumstances. It is not thus that the Gospel most fully
presents to us the spiritual, nor yet thus that the deepest
and holiest impressions are made. True religion is ever
objectivistic, sensuous subjectivistic.] Around the Person of
the God-Man, in the hour when the homage of the heathen world
was first offered Him, we need not, and want not, the drapery
of outward circumstances. That scene is best realized, not by
description, but by silently joining in the silent homage and
the silent offerings of ‘the wise men from the East.’
Before proceeding further, we must ask ourselves two
questions: What relationship does this narrative bear to
Jewish expectancy? and, Is there any astronomical
confirmation of this account? Besides their intrinsic
interest, the answer to the first question will determine,
whether any legendary basis could be assigned to the
narrative; while on the second will depend, whether the.account can be truthfully charged with an accommodation on
the part of God to the superstitions and errors of astrology.
For, if the whole was extranatural, and the sidereal
appearance specially produced in order to meet the
astrological views of the Magi, it would not be a sufficient
answer to the difficulty, ‘that great catastrophes and
unusual phenomena in nature have synchronised in a remarkable
manner with sidereal appearance was not of supernatural
origin, and would equally have taken place whether or not
there had been Magi to direct to Bethlehem, the difficulty is
not only entirely removed, but the narrative affords another
instance, alike of the condescension of God to the lower
standpoint of the Magi, and of His wisdom and goodness in the
combination of circumstances.
As regards the question of Jewish expectancy, sufficient has
been said in the preceding pages, to show that Rabbinism
looked for a very different kind and manner of the world’s
homage to the Messiah than that of a few Magi, guided by a
star to His Infant-Home. Indeed, so far from serving as
historical basis for the orgin of such a ‘legend’ a more
gross caricature of Jewish Messianic anticipation could
scarcely be imagined. Similarly futile would it be to seek a
background for this narrative in Balaam’s prediction, [a
Numb. xxiv. 17] since it is incredible that any one could
have understood it as referring to a brief sidereal
apparition to a few Magi, in order to bring them to look for
the Messiah. [1 Strauss (Leben Jesu, i. pp. 224-249) finds a
legendary basis for the Evangelic account in Numb. xxiv. 17,
and also appeals to the legendary stories of profane writers
about stars appearing at the birth of great men.] Nor can it
be represented as intended to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah,
[b lx. 6 last clauses] [2 Keim (Jesu von Nazara, i. 2, p.
377) drops the appeal to legends of profane writers, ascribes
only a secondary influence to Numb. xxiv. 17, and lays the
main stress of ‘the legend’ on Is. lx., with what success the
reader may judge.] that ‘they shall bring gold and incense,
and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.’ For,
supposing this figurative language to have been grossly
literalised, [3 Can it be imagined thatany person would
invent such a ‘legend’ on the strength of Is. lx. 6? On the
other hand, if the event really took place, it is easy to
understand how Christian symbolism would, though
uncritically, have seen an adumbration of it in that
prophecy.] what would become of the other part of that
prophecy, [4 The ‘multitude of camels and dromedaries,’ the
‘flocks of Kedar and the rams of Nebaioth’ (v. 7), and ‘the
isles,’ and ‘the ships of Tarshish’ (v. 9).] which must, of
course, have been treated in the same manner; not to speak of
the fact, that the whole evidently refers not to the Messiah
(least of all in His Infancy), but to Jerusalem in her
latter-day glory. Thus, we fail to perceive any historical
basis for a legendary origin of St. Matthew’s narrative,
either in the Old Testament or, still less, in Jewish
tradition. And we are warranted in asking: If the account be
not true, what rational explanation can be given of its
origin, since its invention would never have occurred to any.contemporary Jew?
But this is not all. There seems, indeed, no logical
connection between this astrological interpretation of the
Magi, and any supposed practice of astrology among the Jews.
Yet, strange to say, writers have largely insisted on this.
[5 The subject of Jewish astrology is well treated by Dr.
Hamburger, both in the first and second volumes of his
Real-Encykl. The ablest summary, though brief, is that in Dr.
Gideon Brecher’s book, ‘Das Transcendentale im Talmud.’
Gfrorer is, as usually, one-sided, and not always trustworthy
in his translations. A curious brochure by Rabbi Thein (Der
Talmud, od. das Prinzip d. planet. Elinfl.) is one of the
boldest attempts at special pleading, to the ignoration of
palpable facts on the other side. Hausrath’s dicta on this
subject are, as on many others, assertions unsupported by
historical evidence.] The charge is, to say the least,grossly
exaggerated. That Jewish, as other Eastern, impostors
pretended to astrological knowledge, and that such
investigations may have been secretly carried on by certain
Jewish students, is readily admitted. But the language of
disapproval in which these pursuits are referred to, such as
that knowledge of the Law is not found with astrologers [a
Deb. R. 8,] and the emphatic statement, that he who learned
even one thing from a Mage deserved death, show what views
were authoritatively held. [b Comp. Shabb. 75 a] [1 I cannot,
however, see that Buxtorf charges so many Rabbis with giving
themselves to astrology as Dr. Geikie imputes to him, nor how
Humboldt can be quoted as corroborating the Chinese record of
the appearance of a new star in 750 (see the passage in the
Cosmos, Engl. transl. vol. i. pp. 92, 93).] Of course, the
Jews (or many of them), like most ancients, believed in the
influence of the planets upon the destiny of man. [c See for
ex. Jos. Warvi. 5. 3] But it was a principle strongly
expressed, and frequently illustrated in the Talmud, that
such planetary influence did not extend to Israel. [d Shabb.
156 a] It mustbe admitted, that this was not always
consistently carried out; and there were Rabbis who computed
a man’s future from the constellation (the Mazzal), either of
the day, or the hour, under which he was born. [e Shabb,It
was supposed, that some persons had a star of their own, [f
Moed K. 16 a] andthe (representative) stars of all proselytes
were said to have been present at Mount Sinai. Accordingly,
they also, like Israel, had lost the defilement of the
serpent (sin). [g Shabb. 145 b; 146 a comp. Yeb. 103 b] One
Rabbi even had it, that success, wisdom, the duration of
life, and a posterity, depended upon the constellation. [h
Moed K. 28 a] Such views were carried out till they merged in
a kind of fatalism, [i Comp. Baba K. 2 b; Shabb. 121 b] or
else in the idea of a ‘natalaffinity,’ by which persons born
under the same constellation were thought to stand in
sympathetic rapport. [k Ned. 39 b] The further statement,
that conjunctions of the planets [2 Jewish astronomy
distinguishes the seven planets (called ‘wandering stars’);
the twelve signs of the Zodiac, Mazzaloth (Aries, Taurus,
Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius,
Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces), arranged by astrologers into.four trigons: that of fire (1, 5, 9); of earth (2, 6, 10); of
air (3, 7, 11); and of water (4, 8, 12); and the stars. The
Kabbalistic book Raziel (dating from the eleventh century)
arranges them into three quadrons. The comets, which are
called arrows or star-rods, proved a great difficulty to
students. The planets (in their order) were: Shabbathai (the
Sabbatic, Saturn); Tsedeq (righteousness, Jupiter); Maadim
(the red, blood-coloured, Mars); Chammah (the Sun); Nogah
(splendour, Venus); Cokhabh (the star, Mercury); Lebhanah
(the Moon). Kabbalistic works depict our system as a circle,
the lower arc consisting of Oceanos, and the upper filled by
the sphere of the earth; next comes that of the surrounding
atmosphere; then successively the seven semicircles of the
planets, each fitting on the other, to use the Kabbalistic
illustration, like the successive layers in an onion (see
Sepher Raziel, ed. Lemb. 1873, pp. 9 b, 10 a). Day and night
were divided each into twelve hours (from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M.,
and from 6 P.M. to 6 A.M.). Each hour was under the influence
of successive planets: thus, Sunday, 7 A.M., the Sun; 8 A.M.,
Venus; 9 A.M., Mercury; 10 A.M., Moon; 11 A.M., Saturn; 12
A.M., Jupiter, and so on. Similary, we have for Monday, 7
A.M., the Moon, &c.; for Tuesday, 7 A.M., Mars; for
Wednesday, 7 A.M., Mercury; for Thursday, 7 A.M., Jupiter;
for Friday, 7 A.M., Venus; and for Saturday, 7 A.M., Saturn.
Most important were the Tequphoth, in which the Sun entered
respectively Aries (Tek. Nisan, spring-equinox, ‘harvest’),
Cancer (Tek. Tammuz, summer solstice, ‘warmth’), Libra (Tek.
Tishri, autumn-equinox, seed-time), Capricornus (Tek.
Tebheth, winter-solstice, ‘cold’). Comp. Targ. Pseudo-Jon. on
Gen. viii. 22. From one Tequphah to the other were 91 days
71/2 hours. By a beautiful figure the sundust is called
‘filings of the day’ (as the word, that which falls off from
the sunwheel as it turns (Yoma 20 b). affected the products
of the earth [a Erub. 56 a: Ber. R. 10.] is scarcely
astrological; nor perhaps this, that an eclipse of the sun
betokened evil to the nations, an eclipse of the moon to
Israel, because the former calculated time by the sun, the
latter by the moon.
But there is one illustrative Jewish statement which, though
not astrological, is of the greatest importance, although it
seems to have been hitherto overlooked. Since the appearance
of Munter’s well known tractate on the Star of the Magi, [1
‘Der Stern der Weisen, ‘Copenhagen, 1827. The tractate,
though so frequently quoted, seems scarcely to have been
sufficiently studied, most writers having apparently rather
read the references to it in Ideler’s Handb. d. Math. u
techn. Chronol. Munter’s work contains much that is
interesting and important. writers have endeavoured to show,
that Jewish expectancy of a Messiah was connected with a
peculiar sidereal conjunction, such as that which occurred
two years before the birth of our Lord, [b In 747 A.U.C., or
7 B.C.] and this on the ground of a quotation from the
well-known Jewish commentator Abarbanel (or rather
Abrabanel). [c Born 143 died 1508.] In his Commentary on
Daniel that Rabbi laid it down, that the conjunction of
Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Pisces betokened not.only the most important events, but referred especially to
Israel (for which he gives five mystic reasons). He further
argues that, as that conjunction had taken place three years
before the birth of Moses, which heralded the first
deliverance of Israel, so it would also precede the birth of
the Messiah, and the final deliverance of Israel. But the
argument fails, not only because Abarbanel’s calculations are
inconclusive and even erroneous, [2 To form an adequate
conception of the untrustworthiness of such a testimony, it
is necessary to study the history of the astronomical and
astrological pursuits of the Jews during that period, of
which a masterly summary is given in Steinschneider’s History
of Jewish Literature (Ersch u. Gruber, Encykl. vol. xxvii.).
Comp. also Sachs, Relig. Poes. d. Juden in Spanien, pp. 230
&c.] but because it is manifestly unfair to infer the state
of Jewish belief at the time of Christ from a haphazard
astrological conceit of a Rabbi of the fifteenth century.
There is, however, testimony which seems to us not only
reliable, but embodies most ancient Jewish tradition. It is
contained in one of the smaller Midrashim, of which a
collection has lately been published. [3 ByDr. Jellinek, in a
work in six parts, entitled ‘Beth ha-Midrash,’ Leipz, and
Vienna, 1853-1878.] On account of its importance, one
quotation at least from it should be made in full. The
so-called Messiah-Haggadah (Aggadoth Mashiach) opens as
follows: ‘A star shall come out of Jacob. There is a Boraita
in the name of the Rabbis: The heptad in which the Son of
David cometh, in the first year, there will not be sufficient
nourishment; in the second year the arrows of famine are
launched; in the third, a great famine; in the fourth,
neither famine nor plenty; in the fifth, great abundance, and
the Star shall shine forth from the East, and this is the
Star of the Messiah. And it will shine from the East for
fifteen days, and if it be prolonged, it will be for the good
of Israel; in the sixth, sayings (voices), and announcements
(hearings); in the seventh, wars, and at the close of the
seventh the Messiah is to be expected.’ A similar statement
occurs at the close of a collection of three Midrashim,
respectively entitled, ‘The Book of Elijah,’ ‘Chapters about
the Messiah,’ and ‘The Mysteries of R. Simon, the son of
Jochai’ [a Jellinek, Beth ha-Midrash, fasc. iii. p. 8.],
where we read that a Star in the East was to appear two years
before the birth of the Messiah. The statement is almost
equally remarkable, whether it represents a tradition
previous to the birth of Jesus, or originated after that
event. But two years before the birth of Christ, which, as we
have calculated, took place in December 749 A.U.C., or 5
before the Christian era, brings us to the year 747 A.U.C.,
or 7 before Christ, in which such a Star should appear in the
East. [1 It would, of course, be possible to argue, that the
Evangelic account arose from this Jewish tradition about the
appearance of a star two years before the birth of the
Messiah. But ut has been already shown, that the hypothesis
of a Jewish legendary origin is utterly untenable. Besides,
if St. Matthew ii. had been derived from this tradition, the
narrative would have been quite differently shaped, and more
especially the two years’ interval between the rising of and the Advent of the Messiah would have been
emphasized, instead of being, as now, rather matter of
Did such a Star, then, really appear in the East seven years
before the Christian era? Astronomically speaking, and
without any reference to controversy, there can be no doubt
that the most remarkable conjunction of planets, that of
Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pices, which
occurs only once in 800 years, did take place no less than
three times in the year 747 A.U.C., or two year, befored the
birth of Christ (in May, October and December). This
conjunction is admitted by all astronomers. It was not only
extraordinary, but presented the most brilliant spectacle in
the night-sky, such as could not but attract the attention of
all who watched the sidereal heavens, but especially of those
who busied themselves with astrology. In the year following,
that is, in 748 A.U.C., another planet, Mars, joined this
conjunction. The merit of first discovering these facts, of
which it is unnecessary here to present the literary history
[2 The chief writers on the subject have been: Miinter(u.s.),
Ideler (u.s.). and Wieseler (Chronol. Synopse d. 4 Evang.
(1843), and again in Herzog’s Real-Enc. vol. xxi p. 544, and
finally in his Beitr. z. Wiird. d Ev. 1869). In our own
country, writers have, since the appearance of Professor
Pritchard’s art. (‘Star of the Wise Men’) in Dr. Smith’s
Bible Dict. vol. iii., generally given up the astronomical
argument, without, however, clearly indicating whether they
regard the star as a miraculous guidance. I do not, of
course, presume to enter on an astronomical discussion with
Professor Pritchard; but as his reasoning proceeds on the
idea that the planetary conjunction of 747 A.U.C., is
regarded as ‘the Star of the Magi,’ his arguments do not
apply either to the view presented in the text nor even to
that of Wieseler. Besides, I must guard myself against
accepting his interpretation of the narrative in St.
Matthew.], belongs to the great Kepler, [a De Stella Nova
&c., Pragae, 160.] who, accordingly, placed the Nativity of
Christ in the year 748 A.U.C. This date, however, is not only
well nigh impossible; but it has also been shown that such a
conjunction would, for various reasons, not answer the
requirements of the Evangelical narrative, so far as the
guidance to Bethlehem is concerned. But it does fully account
for the attention of the Magi being aroused, and, even if
they had not possessed knowledge of the Jewish expectancy
above described for their making inquiry of all around, and
certainly, among others, of the Jews. Here we leave the
domain of the certain, and enter upon that of the probable.
Kepler, who was led to the discovery by observing a similar
conjunction in 1603-4, also noticed, that when the three
planets came into conjunction, a new, extraordinary,
brilliant, and peculiarly colored evanescent star was visible
between Jupiter and Saturn, and he suggested that a similar
star had appeared under the same circumstances in the
conjunction preceding the Nativity. Of this, of course, there
is not, and cannot be, absolute certainty. But, if so, this
would be ‘the star’ of the Magi, ‘in its rising.’ There is.yet another remarkable statement, which, however, must also
be assigned only to the domain of the probable. In the
astronomical tables of the Chinese, to whose general
trustworthiness so high an authority as Humboldt bears
testimony [b Cosmos. vol. i. p. 92.], the appearance of an
evanescent star was noted. Pingre and others have designated
it as a comet, and calculated its first appearance in
February 750 A.U.C., which is just the time when the Magi
would, in all probability, leave Jerusalem for Bethlehem,
since this must have preceded the death of Herod, which took
place in March 750. Moreover, it has been astronomically
ascertained, that such a sidereal apparition would be visible
to those who left Jerusalem, and that it would point, almost
seem to go before, in the direction of, and stand over,
Bethlehem. [1 By the astronomer, Dr. Goldschmidt. (See
Wieseler, Chron. Syn. p. 72.).] Such, impartially stated, are
the facts of the case, and here the subject must, in the
present state of our information, be left. [2 A somewhat
different view is presented in the laborious and learned
edition of the New Testament by Mr. Brown McClellan (vol. i.
pp, 400-402).]
Only two things are recorded of this visit of the Magi to
Bethlehem: their humblest Eastern homage, and their
offerings. [3 Our A.V. curiously translates in v. 11,
‘treasures,’ instead of ‘treasury-cases.’ The expression is
exactly the same as in Deut. xxviii. 12, for which the LXX.
use the same words as the Evangelist. The expression is also
used in this sense in the Apocr. and by profane writers.
Comp. Wetstein and Meyer ad locum. Jewish tradition also
expresses the expectancy that the nations of the world would
offer gifts unto the Messiah. (Comp. Pes. 118 b; Ber. R.
78.).] Viewed as gifts, the incense and the myrrh would,
indeed, have been strangely inappropriate. But their
offerings were evidently intended as specimens of the
products of their country, and their presentation was, even
as in our own days, expressive of the homage of their country
to the new-found King. In this sense, then, the Magi may
truly be regarded as the representatives of the Gentile
world; their homage as the first and typical acknowledgment
of Christ by those who hitherto had been ‘far off;’ and their
offerings as symbolic of the world’s tribute. This deeper
significance the ancient Church has rightly apprehended,
though, perhaps, mistaking its grounds. Its symbolism,
twining, like the convolvulus, around athe Divine Plant, has
traced in the gold the emblem of His Royalty; inthe myrrh, of
His Humanity, and that in the fullest evidence of it, in His
burying; and in the incense, that of His Divinity. [1 So not
only in ancient hymns (by Sedulius, Juvencus, and Claudian),
but by the Fathers and later writers. (Comp. Sepp, Leben
Jesu, ii. 1, pp. 102, 103.).]
As always in the history of Christ, so here also, glory and
suffering appear in juxtaposition. It could not be, that
these Magi should become the innocent instruments of Herod’s
murderous designs; nor yet that the Infant-Saviour should
fall a victim to the tyrant. Warned of God in a dream, the.’wise men’ returned ‘into their own country another way;’
and, warned by the angel of the Lord in a dream, the Holy
Family sought temporary shelter in Egypt. Baffled in the hope
of attaining his object through the Magi, the reckless tyrant
sought to secure it by an indiscriminate slaughter of all the
children in Bethlehem and its immediate neighborhood, from
two years and under. True, considering the population of
Bethlehem, their number could only have been small, probably
twenty at most. [2 So Archdeacon Farrar rightly computes it.]
But the deed was none the less atrocious; and these infants
may justly be regarded as the ‘protomartyrs,’ the first
witnesses, of Christ, ‘the blossom of martydom’ (‘flores
martyrum,’ as Prudentius calls them). The slaughter was
entirely in accordance with the character and former measures
of Herod. [3 An illustrative instance of the ruthless
destruction of whole families on suspicion that his crown was
in danger, occurs in Ant. xv. 8. 4. But the suggestion that
Bagoas had suffered at the hands of Herod for Messianic
predictions is entirely an invention of Keim. (Schenkel,
Bibel Lex., vol. iii. p. 37. Comp. Ant. xvii. 2. 4.).] Nor do
we wonder, that it remained unrecorded by Josephus, since on
other occasions also he has omitted events which to us seem
important. [1 There are, in Josephus’ history of Herod,
besides omissions, inconsistencies of narrative, such as
about the execution of Mariamme (Ant. xv. 3, 5-9 &c.; comp.
War i. 22. 3, 4), and of chronology (as War i. 18. 2, comp.
v. 9. 4; Ant. xiv. 16. 2, comp. xv. 1. 2, and others.)] The
murder of a few infants in an insignificant village might
appear scarcely worth notice in a reign stained by so much
bloodshed. Besides, he had, perhaps, a special motive for
this silence. Josephus always carefully suppresses, so far as
possible, all that refers to the Christ [2 Comp. on article
on Josephus in Smith and Wace’s Dict. of Christian Biogr.],
probably not only in accordance with his own religious views,
but because mention of a Christ might have been dangerous,
certainly would have been inconvenient, in a work written by
an intense self-seeker, mainly for readers in Rome.
Of two passages in his own Old Testament Scriptures the
Evangelist sees a fulfilment in these events. The flight into
Egypt is to him the fulfilment of this expression by Hosea,
‘Out of Egypt have I called My Son.’ [a Hos. xi. 1.] In the
murder of ‘the Innocents,’ he sees the fulfilment of Rachel’s
lament [b Jer. xxxi. 15.] (who died and was buried in Ramah)
[3 See the evidence for it summarized in ‘Sketches of Jewish
Social Life in the Days of Christ,’ p. 60.] over her
children, the men of Benjamin, when the exiles to Babylon met
in Ramah, [c Jer. xi. 1.] and there was bitter wailing at the
prospect of parting for hopeless captivity, and yet bitterer
lament, as they who might have encumbered the onward march
were pitilessly slaughtered. Those who have attentively
followed the course of Jewish thinking, and marked how the
ancient Synagogue, and that rightly, read the Old Testament
in its unity, as ever pointing to the Messiah as the
fulfilment of Israel’s history, will not wonder at, but fully
accord with, St. Matthew’s retrospective view. The words of
Hosea were in the highest sense ‘fulfilled’ in the flight to,.and return of, the Saviour from Egypt. [4 In point of fact
the ancient Synagogue did actually apply to the Messiah Ex.
iv. 22, on which the words of Hosea are based. See the
Midrash on Ps. ii. 7. The quotation is given in full in our
remarks on Ps. ii. 7 in Appendix IX.] To an inspired writer,
nay, to a true Jewish reader of the Old Testament, the
question in regard to any prophecy could not be: What did the
prophet, but, What did the prophecy mean? And this could only
be unfolded in the course of Israel’s history. Similarly,
those who ever saw in the past the prototype of the future,
and recognized in events, not only the principle, but the
very features, of that which was to come, could not fail to
perceive, in the bitter wail of the mothers of Bethlehem over
their slaughtered children, the full realisation of the
prophetic description of the scene enacted in Jeremiah’s
days. Had not the prophet himself heard, in the lament of the
captives to Babylon, the echoes of Rachel’s voice in the
past? In neither one nor the other case had the utterances of
the prophets (Hosea and Jeremiah) been predictions: they were
prophetic. In neither one nor the other case was the
‘fulfilment’ literal: it was Scriptural, and that in the
truest Old Testament sense.
(St. Matt. ii. 19-23; St. Luke ii. 39, 40.)
THE stay of the Holy Family in Egypt must have been of brief
duration. The cup of Herod’s misdeeds, but also of his
misery, was full. During the whole latter part of his life,
the dread of a rival to the throne had haunted him, and he
had sacrificed thousands, among them those nearest and
dearest to him, to lay that ghost. [1 And yet Keim speaks of
his Hochherzigkeit and naturlicher Edelsinn! (Leben Jesu, i.
1. p. 184.) A much truer estimate is that of Schurer,
Neutest. Zeitgesch. pp. 197, 198.] And still the tyrant was
not at rest. A more terrible scene is not presented in
history than that of the closing days of Herod. Tormenteo by
nameless fears; ever and again a prey to vain remorse, when
he would frantically call for his passionately-loved,
murdered wife Mariamme, and her sons; even making attempts on
his own life; the delirium of tyranny, the passion for blood,
drove him to the verge of madness. The most loathsome
disease, such as can scarcely be described, had fastened on
his body, [2 See the horrible description of his living death
in Jos. Ant. xvii. 6. 5.] and his sufferings were at times
agonizing. By the advice of his physicians, he had himself
carried to the baths of Callirhoe (east of the Jordan),
trying all remedies with the determination of one who will do
hard battle for life. It was in vain. The namelessly horrible
distemper, which had seized the old man of seventy, held him
fast in its grasp, and, so to speak, played death on the
living. He knew it, that his hour was come, and had himself.conveyed back to his palace under the palm-trees of Jericho.
They had known it also in Jerusalem, and, even before the
last stage of his disease, two of the most honored and loved
Rabbis, Judas and Matthias, had headed the wild band, which
would sweep away all traces of Herod’s idolatrous rule. They
began by pulling down the immense golden eagle, which hung
over the great gate of the Temple. The two ringleaders, and
forty of their followers, allowed themselves to be taken by
Herod’s guards. A mock public trial in the theatre at Jericho
followed. Herod, carried out on a couch, was both accuser and
judge. The zealots, who had made noble answer to the tyrant,
were burnt alive; and the High-Priest, who was suspected of
connivance, deposed.
After that the end came rapidly. On his return from
Callirhoe, feeling his death approaching, the King had
summoned the noblest of Israel throughout the land of
Jericho, and shut them up in the Hippodrome, with orders to
his sister to have them slain immediately upon his death, in
the grim hope that the joy of the people at his decease would
thus be changed into mourning. Five days before his death one
ray of passing joy lighted his couch. Terrible to say, it was
caused by a letter from Augustus allowing Herod to execute
his son Antipater, the false accuser and real murderer of his
half-brothers Alexander and Aristobulus. The death of the
wretched prince was hastened by his attempt to bribe the
jailer, as the noise in the palace, caused by an attempted
suicide of Herod, led him to suppose his father was actually
dead. And now the terrible drama was hastening to a close.
The fresh access of rage shortened the life which was already
running out. Five days more, and the terror of Judaea lay
dead. He had reigned thirty-seven years, thirty-four since
his conquest of Jerusalem. Soon the rule for which he had so
long plotted, striven, and stained himself with untold
crimes, passed from his descendants. A century more, and the
whole race of Herod had been swept away.
We pass by the empty pageant and barbaric splendor of his
burying in the Castle of Herodium, close to Bethlehem. The
events of the last few weeks formed a lurid back-ground to
the murder of ‘the Innocents.’ As we have reckoned it, the
visit of the Magi took place in February 750 A.U.C. On the
12th of March the Rabbis and their adherents suffered. On the
following night (or rather early morning) there was a lunar
eclipse; the execution of Antipater preceded the death of his
father by five days, and the latter occurred from seven to
fourteen days before the Passover, which in 750 took place on
the 12th of April. [1 See the calculation in Wiesler’s
Synopse, pp. 56 and 444. The ‘Dissertatio de Herode Magno, by
J.A. van der Chijs (Leyden, 1855), is very clear and
accurate. Dr. Geikie adopts the manifest mistake of Caspari,
that Herod died in January, 753, and holds that the Holy
Family spent three years in Egypt. The repeated statement of
Josephus that Herod died close upon the Passover should have
sufficed to show the impossibility of that hypothesis.
Indeed, there is scarcely any historical date on which
competent writers are more agreed than that of Herod’s death..See Schurer, Neutest. Zeitg., pp. 222, 223.] It need scarcely
be said, that Salome (Herod’s sister) and her husband were
too wise to execute Herod’s direction in regard to the noble
Jews shut up in the Hippodrome. Their liberation, and the
death of Herod, were marked by the leaders of the people as
joyous events in the so-called Megillath Taanith, or Roll of
Fasts, although the date is not exactly marked. [a Meg. Taan
xi, 1, ed Warsh, p. 16 a.] Henceforth this was to be a Yom
Tobh (feast-day), on which mourning was interdicted. [1 The
Megillath Taanith itself, or ‘Roll of Fasts,’ does not
mention the death of Herod. But the commentator adds to the
dates 7th Kislev (Nov.) and 2nd Shebhat (Jan.), both
manifestly incorrect, the notice that Herod had died, on the
2nd Shebhat, Jannai also, at the same time telling a story
about the incarceration and liberation of ‘seventy of the
Elders of Israel,’ evidently a modification of Josephus’
account of what passed in the Hiprodrome of Jericho.
Accordingly, Gratz (Gesch. vol. iii. p. 427) and Derenbourg
(pp. 101, 164) have regarded the 1st of Shebhat as really
that of Herod’s death. But this is impossible; and we know
enough of the historical inaccuracy of the Rabbis not to
attach any serious importance to their precise dates.]
Herod had three times before changed his testament. By the
first will Antipater, the successful calumniator of Alexander
and Aristobulus, had been appointed his successor, while the
latter two were named kings, though we know not of what
districts. [b Jos. War i. 23.5] After the execution of the
two sons of Mariamme, Antipater was named king, and, in case
of his death, Herod, the son of Mariamme II. When the
treachery of Antipater was proved, Herod made a third will,
in which Antipas (the Herod Antipas of the New Testament) was
named his successor. [c Jos. Ant. xvii. 6. 1; War i. 32. 7]
But a few days before his death he made yet another
disposition, by which Archelaus, the elder brother of Antipas
(both sons of Malthake, a Samaritan), was appointed king;
Antipas tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea; and Philip (the son
of Cleopatra, of Jerusalem [2 Herod had married no less than
ten times. See his genealogical table.]), tetrarch of the
territory east of the Jordan. [3 Batanaea, Trachonitis,
Auranitis, and Panias.] These testaments reflected the
varying phases of suspicion and family-hatred through which
Herod had passed. Although the Emperor seems to have
authorised him to appoint his successor, [d Jos. War i. 23.5]
Herod wisely made his disposition dependent on the approval
of Augustus. [e Ant. xvii 8.2] But the latter was not by any
means to be taken for granted. Archelaus had, indeed, been
immediately proclaimed King by the army; but he prudently
declined the title, till it had been confirmed by the
Emperor. The night of his father’s death, and those that
followed, were characteristically spent by Archelaus in
rioting with his friends. [f Ant. xvii 8.4; 9.5] But the
people of Jerusalem were not easily satisfied. At first
liberal promises of amnesty and reforms had assuaged the
populace. [g Ant. xvii 8.4] But the indignation excited by
the late murder of the Rabbis soon burst into a storm of
lamentation, and then of rebellion, which Archelaus the slaughter of not less than three thousand, and that
within the sacred precincts of the Temple itself. [a Ant.
xvii. 1-3]
Other and more serious difficulties awaited him in Rome,
whither he went in company with his mother, his aunt Salome,
and other relatives. These, however, presently deserted him
to espouse the claims of Antipas, who likewise appeared
before Augustus to plead for the royal succession, assigned
to him in a former testament. The Herodian family, while
intriguing and clamouring each on his own account, were, for
reasons easily understood, agreed that they would rather not
have a king at all, but be under the suzerainty of Rome;
though, if king there must be, they preferred Antipas to
Archelaus. Meanwhile, fresh troubles broke out in Palestine,
which were suppressed by fire, sword, and crucifixions. And
now two other deputations arrived in the Imperial City.
Philip, the step-brother of Archelaus, to whom the latter had
left the administration of his kingdom, came to look after
his own interests, as well as to support Archelaus. [b Ant.
xvii. 11.1; War 11. 6.1] [1 1 cannot conceive on what ground
Keim (both in Schenkel’s Bible Lex, and in his ‘Jesu von
Nazara’) speaks of him as a pretender to the throne.] At the
same time, a Jewish deputation of fifty, from Palestine,
accompanied by eight thousand Roman Jews, clamoured for the
deposition of the entire Herodian race, on account of their
crimes, [2 This may have been the historical basis of the
parable of our Lord in St. Luke xix. 12-27.] and the
incorporation of Palestine with Syria, no doubt in hope of
the same semi-independence under their own authorities,
enjoyed by their fellow-religionists in the Grecian cities.
Augustus decided to confirm the last testament of Herod, with
certain slight modifications, of which the most important was
that Archelaus should bear the title of Ethnarch, which, if
he deserved it, would by-and-by be exchanged for that of
King. His dominions were to be Judaea, Idumaea, and Samaria,
with a revenue of 600 talents [3 The revenues of Antipas were
200 talents, and those of Philip 100 talents.] (about
230,000l. to 240,000l). It is needless to follow the fortunes
of the new Ethnarch. He began his rule by crushing all
resistance by the wholesale slaughter of his opponents. Of
the High-Priestly office he disposed after the manner of his
father. But he far surpassed him in cruelty, oppression,
luxury, the grossest egotism, and the lowest sensuality, and
that, without possessing the talent or the energy of Herod. [
This is admitted even byBraun (Sohne d. Herodes, p. 8).
Despite its pretentiousness this tractate is untrustworthy,
being written in a party spirit (Jewish).] His brief reign
ceased in the year 6 of our era, when the Emperor banished
him, on account of his crimes to Gaul.
It must have been soon after the accession of Archelaus, [
We gather this from the expression, ‘When he heard that
Archelaus did reign.’ Evidently Joseph had not heard who was
Herod’s successor, when he left Egypt. Archdeacon Farrar
suggests, that the expression ‘reigned’ (‘as a king, ,St.
Matt. ii. 22) refers to the period before Augustus had.changed his title from ‘King’ to Ethnarch. But this can
scarcely be pressed, the word being used of other rule than
that of a king, not only in the New Testament and in the
Apocrypha, but by Josephus, and even by classical writers.]
but before tidings of it had actually reached Joseph in
Egypt, that the Holy Family returned to Palestine. The first
intention of Joseph seems to have been to settle in
Bethlehem, where he had lived since the birth of Jesus.
Obvious reasons would incline him to choose this, and, if
possible, to avoid Nazareth as the place of his residence.
His trade, even had he been unknown in Bethlehem, would have
easily supplied the modest wants of his household. But when,
on reaching Palestine, he learned who the successor of Herod
was, and also, no doubt, in what manner he had inaugurated
his reign, common prudence would have dictated the withdrawal
of the Infant-Saviour from the dominions of Archelaus. But it
needed Divine direction to determine his return to Nazareth.
[2 The language of St. Matthew (ii. 22, 23) seems to imply
express Divine direction not to enter the territory of
Judaea. In that case he would travel along the coast-line
till he passed into Galilee. The impression left is, that the
settlement at Nazareth was not of his own choice.]
Of the many years spent in Nazareth, during which Jesus
passed from infancy to childhood, from childhood to youth,
and from youth to manhood, the Evangelic narrative has left
us but briefest notice. Of His childhood: that ‘He grew and
waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of
God was upon Him;’ [a St. Luke ii. 40] of His youth: besides
the account of His questioning the Rabbis in the Temple, the
year before he attained Jewish majority, that ‘He was subject
to His parents,’ and that ‘He increased in wisdom and in
stature, and in favour with God and man.’ Considering what
loving care watched over Jewish child-life, tenderly marking
by not fewer than eight designations the various stages of
its development, [3 Yeled, the newborn babe, as in Is. ix. 6;
Yoneq, the suckling, Is. xi. 8; Olel, the suckling beginning
to ask for food, Lam. iv. 4; Gamul, the weaned child, Is.
xxviii. 9; Taph, the child clinging to its mother, Jer. xl.
7; Elem, a child becoming firm; Naar, the lad, literally,
‘one who shakes himself free; and Bachur, the ripened one.
(See ‘Sketches of Jewish Social Life,’ pp. 103. 104.)] and
the deep interest naturally attaching to the early life of
the Messiah, that silence, in contrast to the almost
blasphemous absurdities of the Apocryphal Gospels, teaches us
once more, and most impressively, that the Gospels furnish a
history of the Saviour, not a biography of Jesus of Nazareth.
St. Matthew, indeed, summarises the whole outward history of
the life in Nazareth in one sentence. Henceforth Jesus would
stand out before the Jews of His time, and, as we know, of
all times [1 This is still the common, almost universal,
designation of Christ among the Jews.], by the distinctive
designation: ‘of Nazareth,’ (Notsri), ‘the Nazarene.’ In the
mind of a Palestinian a peculiar significance would attach to
the by-Name of the Messiah, especially in its connection with
the general teaching of prophetic Scripture, And here we must.remember, that St. Matthew primarily addressed his Gospel to
Palestinian readers, and that it is the Jewish presentation
of the Messiah as meeting Jewish expectancy. In this there is
nothing derogatory to the character of the Gospel, no
accommodation in the sense of adaptation, since Jesus was not
only the Saviour of the world, but especially also the King
of the Jews, and we are now considering how He would stand
out before the Jewish mind. On one point all were agreed: His
Name was Notsri (of Nazareth). St. Matthew proceeds to point
out, how entirely this accorded with prophetic Scripture,
not, indeed, with any single prediction, but with the whole
language of the prophets. From this [Comp. ch. iv. of this
book.] the Jews derived not fewer than eight designations or
Names by which the Messiah was to be called. The most
prominent among them was that of Tsemach, or ‘Branch.’ [a In
accordance with Jer. xxiii. 5; xxxiii. 15; and especially
Zech. iii 18] We call it the most prominent, not only because
it is based upon the clearest Scripture-testimony, but
because it evidently occupied the foremost rank in Jewish
thinking, being embodied in this earliest portion of their
daily liturgy: ‘The Branch of David, Thy Servant, speedily
make to shoot forth, and His Horn exalt Thou by Thy
Salvation….Blessed art Thou Jehovah, Who causeth to spring
forth (literally: to branch forth) the Horn of Salvation’
(15th Eulogy). Now, what is expressed by the word Tsemach is
also conveyed by the term Netser, ‘Branch,’ in such passages
as Isaiah xi,1, which was likewise applied to the Messiah. [3
See Appendix IX.] Thus, starting from Isaiahxi. 1, Netser
being equivalent to Tsemach, Jesus would, as Notsri or Ben
Netser, [b So in Be R. 76] [4 Comp. Buxtorf, Lexicon Talm. p.
1383.] bear in popular parlance, and that on the ground of
prophetic Scriptures, the exact equivalent of the best-known
designation of the Messiah. [5 All this becomes more evident
by Delitzsch’s ingenious suggestion (Zeitschr. fur luther.
Theol. 1876, part iii. p. 402), that the real meaning, though
not the literal rendering, of the words of St. Matthew, would
be, ‘for Nezer [‘branch’] is His Name.] The more significant
this, that it was not a self-chosen nor man-given name, but
arose, in the providence of God, from what otherwise might
have been called the accident of His residence. We admit that
this is a Jewish view; but then this Gospel is the Jewish
view of the Jewish Messiah.
But, taking this Jewish title in its Jewish significance, it
has also a deeper meaning, and that not only to Jews, but to
all men. The idea of Christ as the Divinely placed ‘Branch’
(symbolised by His Divinely-appointed early residence), small
and despised in its forthshooting, or then visible appearance
(like Nazareth and the Nazarenes), but destined to grow as
the Branch sprung out of Jesse’s roots, is most marvellously
true to the whole history of the Christ, alike as sketched
‘by the prophets,’ and as exhibited in reality. And thus to
us all, Jews or Gentiles, the Divine guidance to Nazareth and
the name Nazarene present the truest fulfilment of the
prophecies of His history.
Greater contrast could scarcely be imagined than between the.intricate scholastic studies of the Judaeans, and the active
pursuits that engaged men in Galilee. It was a common saying:
‘If a person wishes to be rich, let him go north; if he wants
to be wise, let him come south’, and to Judaea, accordingly,
flocked, from ploughshare and workshop, whoever wished to
become ‘learned in the Law.’ The very neighbourhood of the
Gentile world, the contact with the great commercial centres
close by, and the constant intercourse with foreigners, who
passed through Galilee along one of the world’s great
highways, would render the narrow exclusiveness of the
Southerners impossible. Galilee was to Judaism ‘the Court of
the Gentiles’, the Rabbinic Schools of Judaea its innermost
Sanctuary. The natural disposition of the people, even the
soil and climate of Galilee, were not favourable to the
all-engrossing passion for Rabbinic study. In Judaea all
seemed to invite to retrospection and introspection; to
favour habits of solitary thought and study, till it kindled
into fanaticism. Mile by mile as you travelled southwards,
memories of the past would crowd around, and thoughts of the
future would rise within. Avoiding the great towns as the
centres of hated heathenism, the traveller would meet few
foreigners, but everywhere encounter those gaunt
representatives of what was regarded as the superlative
excellency of his religion. These were the embodiment of
Jewish piety and asceticism, the possessors and expounders of
the mysteries of his faith, the fountain-head of wisdom, who
were not only sure of heaven themselves, but knew its
secrets, and were its very aristocracy; men who could tell
him all about his own religion, practised its most minute
injunctions, and could interpret every stroke and letter of
the Law, nay, whose it actually was to ‘loose and to bind,’
to pronounce an action lawful or unlawful, and to ‘remit or
retain sins,’ by declaring a man liable to, or free from,
expiatory sacrifices, or else punishment in this or the next
world. No Hindoo fanatic would more humbly bend before
Brahmin saints, nor devout Romanist more venerate the members
of a holy fraternity, than the Jew his great Rabbis. [1 One
of the most absurdly curious illustrations of this is the
following: ‘He who blows his nose in the presence of his
Rabbi is worthy of death’ (Erub, 99 a, line 11 from bottom).
The dictum is supported by an alteration in the reading of
Prov. viii. 36.] Reason, duty, and precept, alike bound him
to reverence them, as he reverenced the God Whose
interpreters, representatives, deputies, intimate companions,
almost colleagues in the heavenly Sanhedrin, they were. And
all around, even nature itself, might seem to foster such
tendencies. Even at that time Judaea was comparatively
desolate, barren, grey. The decaying cities of ancient
renown; the lone highland scenery; the bare, rugged hills;
the rocky terraces from which only artificial culture could
woo a return; the wide solitary plains, deep glens, limestone
heights, with distant glorious Jerusalem ever in the far
background, would all favour solitary thought and religious
It was quite otherwise in Galilee. The smiling landscape of
Lower Galilee invited the easy labour of the agriculturist..Even the highlands of Upper Galilee [2 Galilee covered the
ancient possessions of Issachar, Zebulun, Naphtali, and
Asher. ‘In the time of Christ it stretched northwards to the
possessions of Tyre on the one side, and to Syria on the
other. On the south it was bounded by Samaria, Mount Carmel
on the Western, and the district of Scythopolis on the
eastern side, being here landmarks; while the Jordan and the
Lake of Gennesaret formed the general eastern boundary line.’
(Sketches of Jewish Soc. Life. p. 33.) It was divided into
Upper and Lower Galilee, the former beginning ‘where
sycomores (not our sycamores) cease to grow.’ Fishing in the
Lake of Galilee was free to all (Baba K. 81 b).] were not,
like those of Judaea, sombre, lonely, enthusiasm-killing, but
gloriously grand, free, fresh, and bracing. A more beautiful
country, hill, dale, and lake, could scarcely be imagined
than Galilee Proper. It was here that Asher had ‘dipped his
foot in oil.’ According to the Rabbis, it was easier to rear
a forest of olive-trees in Galilee than one child in Judaea.
Corn grew in abundance; the wine, though not so plentiful as
the oil, was rich and generous. Proverbially, all fruit grew
in perfection, and altogether the cost of living was about
one-fifth that in Judaea. And then, what a teeming, busy
population! Making every allowance for exaggeration, we
cannot wholly ignore the account of Josephus about the 240
towns and villages of Galilee, each with not less than 15,000
inhabitants. In the centres of industry all then known trades
were busily carried on; the husbandman pursued his happy toil
on genial soil, while by the Lake of Gennesaret, with its
unrivalled beauty, its rich villages, and lovely retreats,
the fisherman plied his healthy avocation. By those waters,
overarched by a deep blue sky, spangled with the brilliancy
of innumerable stars, a man might feel constrained by nature
itself to meditate and pray; he would not be likely to
indulge in a morbid fanaticism.
Assuredly, in its then condition, Galilee was not the home
of Rabbinism, though that of generous spirits, of warm,
impulsive hearts, of intense nationalism, of simple manners,
and of earnest piety. Of course, there would be a reverse
side to the picture. Such a race would be excitable,
passionate, violent. The Talmud accuses them of being
quarrelsome, [a ‘cantankerous’ (?), Ned. 48 a] but admits
that they cared more for honour than for money. The great
ideal teacher of Palestinian schools was Akiba, and one of
his most outspoken opponents a Galilean, Rabbi Jose. [b
Siphre on Numb. x. 19, ed. Friedmann, 4 a; Chag. 14 a] In
religious observances their practice was simpler; as regarded
canon-law they often took independent views, and generally
followed the interpretations of those who, in opposition to
Akiba, inclined to the more mild and rational, we had almost
said, the more human, application of traditionalism. [1 Of
which Jochanan, the son of Nuri, may here be regarded as the
exponent.] The Talmud mentions several points in which the
practice of the Galileans differed from that of Judaea, all
either in the direction of more practical earnestness, [2 As
in the relation between bridegroom and bride, the cessation
of work the day before the Passover, &c.] or of alleviation.of Rabbinic rigorism. [3 As in regard to animals lawful to be
eaten, vows, &c.] On the other hand, they were looked down
upon as neglecting traditionalism, unable to rise to its
speculative heights, and preferring the attractions of the
Haggadah to the logical subtleties of the Halakhah. [4 The
doctrinal, or rather Halakhic, differences between Galilee
and Judaea are partially noted by Lightfoot (Chronoger.
Matth. praem. lxxxvi.), and by Hamburger (Real-Enc. i. p.
395).] There was a general contempt in Rabbinic circles for
all that was Galilean. Although the Judaean or Jerusalem
dialect was far from pure, [5 See Deutsch’s Remains, p. 358.]
the people of Galilee were especially blamed for neglecting
the study of their language, charged with errors in grammar,
and especially with absurd malpronunciation, sometimes
leading to ridiculous mistakes. [6 The differences of
pronunciation and language are indicated by Lightfoot (u.s.
lxxxvii.), and by Deutsch (u. s. pp. 357, 358). Several
instances of ridiculous mistakes arising from it are
recorded. Thus, a woman cooked for her husband two lentils
instead of two feet (of an animal, as desired (Nedar. 66 b).
On another occasion a woman malpronounced ‘Come, I will give
thee milk,’ into ‘Companion, butter devour thee!’ (Erub. 53
b). In the same connection other similar stories are told.
Comp. also Neubauer, Geogr. du Talmud, p. 184, G. de Rossi,
della lingua prop. di Cristo, Dissert. I. passim.] ‘Galilean,
Fool!’ was so common an expression, that a learned lady
turned with it upon so great a man as R. Jose, the Galilean,
because he had used two needless words in asking her the road
to Lydda. [a Erub. 53 b] [1 The Rabbi asked: What road leads
to Lydda?, using four words. The woman pointed out that,
since it was not lawful to multiply speech with a woman, he
should have asked: Whither to Lydda?, in two words.] Indeed,
this R. Jose had considerable prejudices to overcome, before
his remarkable talents and learning were fully acknowledged.
[2 In fact, only four great Galilean Rabbis are mentioned.
The Galileans are said to have inclined towards mystical
(Kabbalistic?) pursuits.]
Among such a people, and in that country, Jesus spent by far
the longest part of His life upon earth. Generally, this
period may be described as that of His true and full Human
Development, physical, intellectual, spiritual, of outward
submission to man, and inward submission to God, with the
attendant results of ‘wisdom,’ ‘favour,’ and ‘grace.’
Necessary, therefore, as this period was, if the Christ was
to be TRUE MAN, it cannot be said that it was lost, even so
far as His Work as Saviour was concerned. It was more than
the preparation for that work; it was the commencement of it:
subjectively (and passively), the self-abnegation of
humiliation in His willing submission; and objectively (and
actively), the fulfilment of all righteousness through it.
But into this ‘mystery of piety’ we may only look afar off,
simply remarking, that it almost needed for us also these
thirty years of Human Life, that the overpowering thought of
His Divinity might not overshadow that of His Humanity. But
if He was subject to such conditions, they must, in the
nature of things, have affected His development. It is.therefore not presumption when, without breaking the silence
of Holy Scripture, we follow the various stages of the
Nazareth life, as each is, so to speak, initialled by the
brief but emphatic summaries of the third Gospel.
In regard to the Child-Life, [3 Gelpke, Jugendgesch, des
Herrn, has, at least in our days, little value beyond its
title.] we read: ‘And the Child grew, and waxed strong in
spirit, [4 The words ‘in spirit’ are of doubtful authority.
But their omission can be of no consequence, since the
‘waxing strong’ evidently refers to the mental development,
as the subsequent clause shows.] being filled with wisdom,
and the grace of God was upon Him. [b St. Luke ii. 40] This
marks, so to speak, the lowest rung in the ladder. Having
entered upon life as the Divine Infant, He began it as the
Human Child, subject to all its conditions, yet perfect in
These conditions were, indeed, for that time, the happiest
conceivable, and such as only centuries of Old Testament
life-training could have made them. The Gentile world here
presented terrible contrast, in them. alike in regard to the
relation of parents and children, and the character and moral
object of their upbringing. Education begins in the home, and
there were not homes like those in Israel; it is imparted by
influence and example, before it comes by teaching; it is
acquired by what is seen and heard, before it is laboriously
learned from books; its real object becomes instinctively
felt, before its goal is consciously sought. What Jewish
fathers and mothers were; what they felt towards their
children; and with what reverence, affection, and care the
latter returned what they had received, is known to every
reader of the Old Testament. The relationship of father has
its highest sanction and embodiment in that of God towards
Israel; the tenderness and care of a mother in that of the
watchfulness and pity of the Lord over His people. The
semi-Divine relationship between children and parents appears
in the location, the far more than outward duties which it
implies in the wording, of the Fifth Commandment. No
punishment more prompt than that of its breach; [a Deut. xxi.
18-21.] no description more terribly realistic than that of
the vengeance which overtakes such sin. [b Prov. xxx. 17.]
From the first days of its existence, a religious atmosphere
surrounded the child of Jewish parents. Admitted in the
number of God’s chosen people by the deeply significant rite
of circumcision, when its name was first spoken in the
accents of prayer, [1 See the notice of these rites at the
circumcision of John the Baptist, in ch. iv. of his Book.] it
was henceforth separated unto God. Whether or not it accepted
the privileges and obligations implied in this dedication,
they came to him directly from God, as much as the
circumstances of his birth. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, the God of Israel, the God of the promises, claimed
him, with all of blessing which this conveyed, and of
responsibility which resulted from it. And the first wish
expressed for him was that, ‘as he had been joined to the.covenant,’ so it might also be to him in regard to the
‘Torah’ (Law), to ‘the Chuppah’ (the marriage-baldachino),
and ‘to good works;’ in other words, that he might live
‘godly, soberly, and righteously in this present world’, a
holy, happy, and God-devoted life. And what this was, could
not for a moment be in doubt. Putting aside the overlying
Rabbinic interpretations, the ideal of life was presented to
the mind of the Jew in a hundred different forms, in none
perhaps more popularly than in the words, ‘These are the
things of which a man enjoys the fruit in this world, but
their possession continueth for the next: to honour father
and mother, pious works, peacemaking between man and man, and
the study of the Law, which is equivalent to them all.’ [a
Peah i. 1.] This devotion to the Law was, indeed, to the Jew
the all in all, the sum of intellectual pursuits, the aim of
life. What better thing could a father seek for his child
than this inestimable boon?
The first education was necessarily the mother’s. [1 Comp.
‘Sketches of Jewish Social Life,’ pp. 86-160, the literature
there quoted: Duschak, Schulgesetzgebung d. alten Isr.; and
Dr. Marcus, Paedagog. d. Isr. Volkes.] Even the Talmud owns
this, when, among the memorable sayings of the sages, it
records one of the School of Rabbi Jannai, to the effect that
knowledge of the Law may be looked for in those, who have
sucked it in at their mother’s breast. [b Ber. 63 b.] And
what the true mothers in Israel were, is known not only from
instances in the Old Testament, from the praise of woman in
the Book of Proverbs, and from the sayings of the son of
Sirach (Ecclus. iii. [2 The counterpart is in Ecclus. xxx.]),
but from the Jewish women of the New Testament. [3 Besides
the holy women who are named in the Gospels, we would refer
to the mothers of Zebedee’s children and of Mark, to Dorcas,
Lydia, Lois, Eunice, Priscilla, St. John’s ‘elect lady,’ and
others.] If, according to a somewhat curious traditional
principle, women were dispensed from all such positive
obligations as were incumbent at fixed periods of time (such
as putting on phylacteries), other religious duties devolved
exclusively upon them. The Sabbath meal, the kindling of the
Sabbath lamp, and the setting apart a portion of the dough
from the bread for the household, these are but instances,
with which every ‘Taph,’ as he clung to his mother’s skirts,
must have been familiar. Even before he could follow her in
such religious household duties, his eyes must have been
attracted by the Mezuzah attached to the door-post, as the
name of the Most High on the outside of the little folded
parchment [c On which 4-9 and xi. 13-21 were
inscribed.] was reverently touched by each who came or went,
and then the fingers kissed that had come in contact with the
Holy Name. [d Jos. Ant. iv. 8. 13; Ber.iii. 3; Megill. i. 8;
Moed K. iii.] Indeed, the duty of the Mezuzah was incumbent
on women also, and one can imagine it to have been in the
heathen-home of Lois and Eunice in the far-off ‘dispersion,’
where Timothy would first learn to wonder at, then to
understand, its meaning. And what lessons for the past and
for the present might not be connected with it! In popular
opinion it was the symbol of the Divine guard over Israel’, the visible emblem of this joyous hymn: ‘The Lord
shall preserve thy going out and coming in, from this time
forth, and even for evermore.’ [e Ps. cxxi. 8.]
There could not be national history, nor even romance, to
compare with that by which a Jewish mother might hold her
child entranced. And it was his own history, that of his
tribe, clan, perhaps family; of the past, indeed, but yet of
the present, and still more of the glorious future. Long
before he could go to school, or even Synagogue, the private
and united prayers and the domestic rites, whether of the
weekly Sabbath or of festive seasons, would indelibly impress
themselves upon his mind. In mid-winter there was the festive
illumination in each home. In most houses, the first night
only one candle was lit, the next two, and so on to the
eighth day; and the child would learn that this was symbolic,
and commemorative of the Dedication of the Temple, its
purgation, and the restoration of its services by the
lion-hearted Judas the Maccabee. Next came, in earliest
spring, the merry time of Purim, the Feast of Esther and of
Israel’s deliverance through her, with its good cheer and
boisterous enjoyments. [1 Some of its customs almost remind
us of our 5th of November.] Although the Passover might call
the rest of the family to Jerusalem, the rigid exclusion of
all leaven during the whole week could not pass without its
impressions. Then, after the Feast of Weeks, came bright
summer. But its golden harvest and its rich fruits would
remind of the early dedication of the first and best to the
Lord, and of those solemn processions in which it was carried
up to Jerusalem. As autumn seared the leaves, the Feast of
the New Year spoke of the casting up of man’s accounts in the
great Book of Judgment, and the fixing of destiny for good or
for evil. Then followed the Fast of the Day of Atonement,
with its tremendous solemnities, the memory of which could
never fade from mind or imagination; and, last of all, in the
week of the Feast of Tabernacles, there were the strange
leafy booths in which they lived and joyed, keeping their
harvest-thanksgiving; and praying and longing for the better
harvest of a renewed world.
But it was not only through sight and hearing that, from its
very inception, life in Israel became religious. There was
also from the first positive teaching, of which the
commencement would necessarily devolve on the mother. It
needed not the extravagant laudations, nor the promises held
out by the Rabbis, to incite Jewish women to this duty. If
they were true to their descent, it would come almost
naturally to them. Scripture set before them a continuous
succession of noble Hebrew mothers. How well they followed
their example, we learn from the instance of her, whose son,
the child of a Gentile father, and reared far away, where
there was not even a Synagogue to sustain religious life, had
‘from an infant [2 The word has no other meaning than that of
‘infant’ or ‘babe.’] known the Holy Scriptures,’ and that in
their life-moulding influence. [a 2 Tim. iii. 15; 1. 5.] It
was, indeed,no idle boast that the Jews ‘were from their
swaddling-clothes…trained to recognise God as their Father,.and as the Maker of the world;’ that, ‘having been taught the
knowledge (of the laws) from earliest youth, they bore in
their souls the image of the commandments;’ [b Philo, Legat.
ad Cajum, sec. 16. 31.] that ‘from their earliest
consciousness they learned the laws, so as to have them, as
it were, engraven upon the soul;’ [c Jos. Ag. Apion ii. 19]
and that they were ‘brought up in learning,’ ‘exercised in
the laws,’ ‘and made acquainted with the acts of their
predecessors in order to their imitation of them.’ [d Jos.
Ag.Apion ii. 26; comp. 1.8. 12; ii. 27.]
But while the earliest religious teaching would, of
necessity, come from the lips of the mother, it was the
father who was ‘bound to teach his son.’ [e Kidd, 29 a.] To
impart to the child knowledge of the Torah conferred as great
spiritual distinction, as if a man had received the Law
itself on Mount Horeb. [f Sanh. 99 b.] Every other
engagement, even the necessary meal, should give place to
this paramount duty; [g Kidd, 30 a.] nor should it be
forgotten that, while here real labour was necessary, it
would never prove fruitless. [h Meg. 6 b.] That man was of
the profane vulgar (an Am ha-arets), who had sons, but failed
to bring them up in knowledge of the Law. [i Sot. 22 a.]
Directly the child learned to speak, his religious
instruction was to begin, no doubt, with such verses of Holy
Scripture as composed that part of the Jewish liturgy, which
answers to our Creed. [1 The Shema.] Then would follow other
passages from the Bible, short prayers, and select sayings of
the sages. Special attention was given to the culture of the
memory, since forgetfulness might prove as fatal in its
consequences as ignorance or neglect of the Law. Very early
the child must have been taught what might be called his
birthday-text, some verse of Scripture beginning, or ending
with, or at least containing, the same letters as his Hebrew
name. This guardian-promise the child would insert in its
daily prayers. [2 Comp. ‘Sketches of Jewish Social Life,’ pp.
159 &c. The enigmatic mode of wording and writing was very
common. Thus, the year is marked by a verse, generally from
Scripture, which contains the letters that give the numerical
value of the year. These letters are indicated by marks above
them.] The earliest hymns taught would be the Psalms for the
days of the week, or festive Psalms, such as the Hallel, [n
Ps. cxiii. cxviii.] or those connected with the festive
pilgrimages to Zion.
The regular instruction commenced with the fifth or sixth
year (according to strength), when every child was sent to
school. [o Baba B. 21 a; Keth. 50 a.] There can be no
reasonable doubt that at that time such schools existed
throughout the land. We find references to them at almost
every period; indeed, the existence of higher schools and
Academies would not have been possible without such primary
instruction. Two Rabbis of Jerusalem, specially distinguished
and beloved on account of their educational labours, were
among the last victims of Herod’s cruelty. [a Jos. Ant. xvii.
6. 2.] Later on, tradition ascribes to Joshua the son of
Gamla the introduction of schools in every town, and the.compulsory education in them of all children above the age of
six. [b Baba B. 21 a.] Such was the transcendent merit
attaching to this act, that it seemed to blot out the guilt
of the purchase for him of the High-Priestly office by his
wife Martha, shortly before the commencement of the great
Jewish war. [c Yebam. 61 a; Yoma 18 a.] [1 He was succeeded
by Matthias, the son of Theophilos, under whose Pontificate
the war against Rome began.] To pass over the fabulous number
of schools supposed to have existed in Jerusalem, tradition
had it that, despite of this, the City only fell because of
the neglect of the education of children. [d Shabb. 119 b.]
It was even deemed unlawful to live in a place where there
was no school. [e Sanh. 17 b.] Such a city deserved to be
either destroyed or excommunicated. [f Shabb. u.s.]
It would lead too far to give details about the appointment
of, and provision for, teachers, the arrangements of the
schools, the method of teaching, or the subjects of study,
the more so as many of these regulations date from a period
later than that under review. Suffice it that, from the
teaching of the alphabet or of writing, onwards to the
farthest limit of instruction in the most advanced Academies
of the Rabbis, all is marked by extreme care, wisdom,
accuracy, and a moral and religious purpose as the ultimate
object. For a long time it was not uncommon to teach in the
open air; [g Shabb. 127 a; Moed K. 16. a.] but this must have
been chiefly in connection with theological discussions, and
the instruction of youths. But the children were gathered in
the Synagogues, or in School-houses, [2 Among the names by
which the schools are designated there is also that of
Ischoli, with its various derivations, evidently from the
Greek schola.] where at first they either stood, teacher and
pupils alike, or else sat on the ground in a semicircle,
facing the teacher, as it were, literally to carry into
practice the prophetic saying: ‘Thine eyes shall see thy
teachers.’ [h Is. xxx. 20.] The introduction of benches or
chairs was of later date; but the principle was always the
same, that in respect of accommodation there was no
distinction between teacher and taught. [3 The proof-passages
from the Talmud are collated by Dr. Marcus (Paedagog. d. Isr.
Volkes, ii. pp. 16, 17).] Thus, encircled by his pupils, as
by a crown of glory (to use the language of Maimonides), the
teacher, generally the Chazzan, or Officer of the Synagogue
[i For example, Shabb. 11 a.] should impart to them the
precious knowledge of the Law, with constant adaptation to
their capacity, with unwearied patience, intense earnestness,
strictness tempered by kindness, but, above all, with the
highest object of their training ever in view. To keep
children from all contact with vice; to train them to
gentleness, even when bitterest wrong had been received; to
show sin in its repulsiveness, rather than to terrify by its
consequences; to train to strict truthfulness; to avoid all
that might lead to disagreeable or indelicate thoughts; and
to do all this without showing partiality, without either
undue severity, or laxity of discipline, with judicious
increase of study and work, with careful attention to
thoroughness in acquiring knowledge, all this and more.constituted the ideal set before the teacher, and made his
office of such high esteem in Israel.
Roughly classifying the subjects of study, it was held,
that, up to ten years of age, the Bible exclusively should be
the text-book; from ten to fifteen, the Mishnah, or
traditional law; after that age, the student should enter on
those theological discussions which occupied time and
attention in the higher Academies of the Rabbis. [a Ab. v.
21.] Not that this progression would always be made. For, if
after three, or, at most, five years of tuition, that is,
after having fairly entered on Mishnic studies, the child had
not shown decided aptitude, little hope was to be entertained
of his future. The study of the Bible commenced with that of
the Book of Leviticus. [1 Altingius (Academic. Dissert. p.
335) curiously suggests, that this was done to teach a child
its guilt and the need of justification. The Rabbinical
interpretation (Vayyikra R. 7) is at least equally
far-fetched: that, as children are pure and sacrifices pure,
it is fitting that the pure should busy themselves with the
pure. The obvious reason seems, that Leviticus treated of the
ordinances with which every Jew ought to have been
acquainted.] Thence it passed to the other parts of the
Pentateuch; then to the Prophets; and, finally, to the
Hagiographa. What now constitutes the Gemara or Talmud was
taught in the Academies, to which access could not be gained
till after the age of fifteen. Care was taken not to send a
child too early to school, nor to overwork him when there.
For this purpose the school-hours were fixed, and attendance
shortened during the summer-months.
The teaching in school would, of course, be greatly aided by
the services of the Synagogue, and the deeper influences of
home-life. We know that, even in the troublous times which
preceded the rising of the Maccabees, the possession of parts
or the whole of the Old Testament (whether in the original or
the LXX. rendering) was so common, that during the great
persecutions a regular search was made throughout the land
for every copy of the Holy Scriptures, and those punished who
possessed them. [b 1 Macc. i. 57; comp. Jos. Ant. xii. 5,
4.]After the triumph of the Maccabees, these copies of the
Bible would, of course, be greatly multiplied. And, although
perhaps only the wealthy could have purchased a MS. of the
whole Old Testament in Hebrew, yet some portion or portions
of the Word of God, in the original, would form the most
cherished treasure of every pious household. Besides, a
school for Bible-study was attached to every academy, [a Jer.
Meg. iii. 1, p. 73 d.] in which copies of the Holy Scripture
would be kept. From anxious care to preserve the integrity of
the text, it was deemed unlawful to make copies of small
portions of a book of Scripture. [1 Herzfeld (Gesch. d. V.
Isr. iii. p. 267, note) strangely misquotes and misinterprets
this matter. Comp. Dr. Muller, Massech. Sofer. p. 75.] But
exception was made of certain sections which were copied for
the instruction of children. Among them, the history of the
Creation to that of the Flood; Lev. i.-ix.; and Numb. i.-x.
35, are specially mentioned. [b Sopher. v. 9, p. 25 b; Gitt..60 a; Jer. Meg. 74 a; Tos. Yad. 2.]
It was in such circumstances, and under such influences,
that the early years of Jesus passed. To go beyond this, and
to attempt lifting the veil which lies over His
Child-History, would not only be presumptuous, [2 The most
painful instances of these are the legendary accounts of the
early history of Christ in the Apocryphal Gospels (well
collated by Keim, i. 2, pp. 413-468, passim). But later
writers are unfortunately not wholly free from the charge.]
but involve us in anachronisms. Fain would we know it,
whether the Child Jesus frequented the Synagogue School; who
was His teacher, and who those who sat beside Him on the
ground, earnestly gazing on the face of Him Who repeated the
sacrificial ordinances in the Book of Leviticus, that were
all to be fulfilled in Him. But it is all ‘a mystery of
Godliness.’ We do not even know quite certainly whether the
school-system had, at that time, extended to far-off
Nazareth; nor whether the order and method which have been
described were universally observed at that time. In all
probability, however, there was such a school in Nazareth,
and, if so, the Child-Saviour would conform to the general
practice of attendance. We may thus, still with deepest
reverence, think of Him as learning His earliest earthly
lesson from the Book of Leviticus. Learned Rabbis there were
not in Nazareth, either then or afterwards. [3 I must here
protest against the introduction of imaginary ‘Evening Scenes
in Nazareth,’ when, according to Dr. Geikie, ‘friends or
neighbours of Joseph’s circle would meet for an hour’s quiet
gossip.’ Dr. Geikie here introduces as specimens of this
‘quiet gossip’ a number of Rabbinic quotations from the
German translation in Dukes’ ‘Rabbinische Blumenlese.’ To
this it is sufficient answer: 1. There were no such learned
Rabbis in Nazareth. 2. If there had been, they would not have
been visitors in the house of Joseph. 3. If they had been
visitors there, they would not have spoken what Dr. Geikie
quotes from Dukes, since some of the extracts are from
mediaeval books, and only one a proverbial expression. 4.
Even if they had so spoken, it would at least have been in
the words which Dukes has translated, without the changes and
additions which Dr. Geikie has introduced in some instances.]
He would attend the services of the Synagogue, where Moses
and the prophets were read, and, as afterwards by Himself, [a
St. Luke iv. 16.] occasional addresses delivered. [1 See Book
III., the chapter on ‘The Synagogue of Nazareth.’] That His
was pre-eminently a pious home in the highest sense, it seems
almost irreverent to say. From His intimate familiarity with
Holy Scripture, in its every detail, we may be allowed to
infer that the home of Nazareth, however humble, possessed a
precious copy of the Sacred Volume in its entirety. At any
rate, we know that from earliest childhood it must have
formed the meat and drink of the God-Man. The words of the
Lord, as recorded by St. Matthew [b St. Matt. v. 18.] and St.
Luke, [c St. Luke xvi. 17.] also imply that the Holy
Scriptures which Heread were in the original Hebrew, and that
they were written in the square, or Assyrian, characters. [2
This may be gathered even from such an expression as ‘One.iota, or one little hook,’ not ‘tittle’ as in the A.V.]
Indeed, as the Pharisees and Saducees always appealed to the
Scriptures in the original, Jesus could not have met them on
any other ground, and it was this which gave such point to
His frequent expostulations with them: ‘Have ye not read?’
But far other thoughts than theirs gathered around His study
of the Old Testament Scriptures. When comparing their long
discussions on the letter and law of Scripture with His
references to the Word of God, it seems as if it were quite
another book which was handled. As we gaze into the vast
glory of meaning which He opens to us; follow the shining
track of heavenward living to which He points; behold the
lines of symbol, type, and prediction converging in the grand
unity of that Kingdom which became reality in Him; or listen
as, alternately, some question of His seems to rive the
darkness, as with flash of sudden light, or some sweet
promise of old to lull the storm, some earnest lesson to
quiet the tossing waves, we catch faint, it may be far-off,
glimpses of how, in that early Child-life, when the Holy
Scriptures were His special study, He must have read them,
and what thoughts must have been kindled by their light. And
thus better than before can we understand it: ‘And the Child
grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the
grace of God was upon Him.’
(St. Luke ii. 41-52.)
Once only is the great silence, which lies on the history of
Christ’s early life, broken. It is to record what took place
on His first visit to the Temple. What this meant, even to an
ordinary devout Jew, may easily be imagined. Where life and
religion were so intertwined, and both in such organic
connection with the Temple and the people of Israel, every
thoughtful Israelite must have felt as if his real life were
not in what was around, but ran up into the grand unity of
the people of God, and were compassed by the halo of its
sanctity. To him it would be true in the deepest sense, that,
so to speak, each Israelite was born in Zion, as, assuredly,
all the well-springs of his life were there. [a Ps. ixxxvii.
5-7] It was, therefore, not merely the natural eagerness to
see the City of their God and of their fathers, glorious
Jerusalem; nor yet the lawful enthusiasm, national or
religious, which would kindle at the thought of ‘our feet’
standing within those gates, through which priests, prophets,
and kings had passed; but far deeper feelings which would
make glad, when it was said: ‘Let us go into the house of
Jehovah.’ They were not ruins to which precious memories
clung, nor did the great hope seem to lie afar off, behind
the evening-mist. But ‘glorious things were spoken of Zion,.the City of God’, in the past, and in the near future ‘the
thrones of David’ were to be set within her walls, and amidst
her palaces. [b Ps. cxxii. 1-5]
In strict law, personal observance of the ordinances, and
hence attendance on the feasts at Jerusalem, devolved on a
youth only when he was of age, that is, at thirteen years.
Then he became what was called ‘a son of the Commandment,’ or
‘of the Torah.’ [c Ab. v. 21] But, as a matter of fact, the
legal age was in this respect anticipated by two years, or at
least by one. [d Yoma 82 a] It was in accordance with this
custom, that, [1 Comp. also Maimonides, Hilkh. Chag. ii. The
common statement, that Jesus went to the Temple because He
was ‘a Son of the Commandment,’ is obviously erroneous. All
the more remarkable, on the other hand, is St. Luke’s
accurate knowledge of Jewish customs, and all the more
antithetic to the mythical theory the circumstance, that he
places this remarkable event in the twelfth year of Jesus’
life, and not when He became ‘a Son of the Law.’] on the
first Pascha after Jesus had passed His twelfth year, His
Parents took Him with them in the ‘company’ of the Nazarenes
to Jerusalem. The text seems to indicate, that it was their
wont [1 We take as the more correct reading that which puts
the participle in the present tense , and not in the aorist.]
to go up to the Temple; and we mark that, although women were
not bound to make such personal appearance, [a Jer Kidd. 61
c] Mary gladly availed herselfof what seems to have been the
direction of Hillel (followed also by other religious women,
mentioned in Rabbinic writings), to go up to the solemn
services of the Sanctuary. Politically, times had changed.
The weak and wicked rule of Archelaus had lasted only nine
years, [b From 4 6 A.D.] when, in consequence of the
charges against him, he was banished to Gaul. Judaea, Samaria
and Idumaea were now incorporated into the Roman province of
Syria, under its Governor, or Legate. The special
administration of that part of Palestine was, however,
entrusted to a Procurator, whose ordinary residence was at
Caesarea. It will be remembered, that the Jews themselves had
desired some such arrangement, in the vain hope that, freed
from the tyranny of the Herodians, they might enjoy the
semi-independence of their brethren in the Grecian cities.
But they found it otherwise. Their privileges were not
secured to them; their religious feelings and prejudices were
constantly, though perhaps not intentionally, outraged; [2
The Romans were tolerant of the religion of all subject
nations, excepting only Gaul and Carthage. This for reasons
which cannot here be discussed. But what rendered Rome so
obnoxious to Palestine was the cultus of the Emperor, as the
symbol and impersonation of Imperial Rome. On this cultus
Rome insisted in all countries, not perhaps so much on
religious grounds as on political, as being the expression of
loyalty to the empire. But in Judaea this cultus necessarily
met resistance to the death. (Comp. Schneckenburger, Neutest.
Zeitgesch. pp. 40-61.)] and their Sanhedrin shorn of its real
power, though the Romans would probably not interfere in what
might be regarded as purely religious questions. Indeed, the
very presence of the Roman power in Jerusalem was a constant.offence, and must necessarily have issued in a life and death
struggle. One of the first measures of the new Legate of
Syria, P. Sulpicius Quirinius, [c 6-11 (?) A.D.] after
confiscating the ill-gotten wealth of Archelaus, was to order
a census in Palestine, with the view of fixing the taxation
of the country. [d Acts v. 37; Jos. Ant. xviii. 1. 1] The
popular excitement which this called forth was due, probably,
not so much to opposition on principle, [3 This view, for
which there is no historic foundation, is urged by those
whose interest it is to deny the possibility of a census
during the reign of Herod.] as to this, that the census was
regarded as the badge of servitude, and incompatible with the
Theocratic character of Israel. [1 That these were the sole
grounds of resistance to the census, appears from Jos. Ant.
xviii. 1. 1, 6.] Had a census been considered absolutely
contrary to the Law, the leading Rabbis would never have
submitted to it; [2 As unquestionably they did.] nor would
the popular resistance to the measure of Quirinius have been
quelled by the representations of the High-Priest Joazar.
But, although through his influence the census was allowed to
be taken, the popular agitation was not suppressed. Indeed,
that movement formed part of the history of the time, and not
only affected political and religious parties in the land,
but must have been presented to the mind of Jesus Himself,
since, as will be shown, it had a representative within His
own family circle.
This accession of Herod, misnamed the Great, marked a period
in Jewish history, which closed with the war of despair
against Rome and the flames of Jerusalem and the Temple. It
gave rise to the appearance of what Josephus, despite his
misrepresentation of them, rightly calls a fourth party,
besides the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, that of the
Nationalists. [a Ant. xviii. 1. 6] A deeper and more
independent view of the history of the times would, perhaps,
lead us to regard the whole country as ranged either with or
against that party. As afterwards expressed in its purest and
simplest form, their watchword was, negatively, to call no
human being their absolute lord; [b Ant. xviii. 1. 6]
positively, that God alone was to lead as absolute Lord. [c
u.s. and Jew. War vii. 10. 1] Itwas, in fact, a revival of
the Maccabean movement, perhaps more fully in its national
than in its religious aspect, although the two could scarcely
be separated in Israel, and their motto almost reads like
that which according to some, furnished the letters whence
the name Maccabee [d] was composed: Mi Camochah Baelim
Jehovah, ‘Who like Thee among the gods, Jehovah? [e Ex. xv.
11] It is characteristic of the times and religious
tendencies, that their followers were no more called, as
before, Assideans or Chasidim, ‘the pious,’ but Zealots or by
the Hebrew equivalent Qannaim (Cananoeans, not ‘Canaanites,’
as in A.V.) The real home of that party was not Judaea nor
Jerusalem, but Galilee.
Quite other, and indeed antagonistic, tendencies prevailed
in the stronghold of the Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees.
Of the latter only a small portion had any real sympathy with.the national movement. Each party followed its own direction.
The Essenes, absorbed in theosophic speculations, not
untinged with Eastern mysticism, withdrew from all contact
with the world, and practiced an ascetic life. With them,
whatever individuals may have felt, no such movement could
have originated; nor yet with the Herodians or Boethusians,
who combined strictly Pharisaic views with Herodian political
partisanship; nor yet with the Sadducees; nor, finally, with
what constituted the great bulk of the Rabbinist party, the
School of Hillel. But the brave, free Highlanders of Galilee,
and of the region across their glorious lake, seemed to have
inherited the spirit of Jephthah, [a Judg. xi. 3-6] and to
have treasured as their ideal, alas! often wrongly
apprehended, their own Elijah, as, descending in wild, shaggy
garb from the mountains of Gilead, he did battle against all
the might of Ahab and Jezebel. Their enthusiasm could not be
kindled by the logical subtleties of the Schools, but their
hearts burned within them for their God, their land, their
people, their religion, and their freedom.
It was in Galilee, accordingly, that such wild, irregular
resistance to Herod at the outset of his career, as could be
offered, was organised by guerilla bands, which traversed the
country, and owned one Ezekias as their leader. Although
Josephus calls them ‘robbers,’ a far different estimate of
them obtained in Jerusalem, where, as we remember, the
Sanhedrin summoned Herod to answer for the execution of
Esekias. What followed is told in substantially the same
manner, though with difference of form [1 The talmud is never
to be trusted as to historical details. Often it seems
purposely to alter, when it intends the experienced student
to read between the lines, while at other times it presents a
story in what may be called an alle gorical form.] and,
sometimes, nomenclature, by Josephus, [b Ant. xiv. 9. 2-5]
and in the Talmud. [c Sanh. 19 a] The story has already been
related in another connection. Suffice it that, after the
accession of Herod, the Sanhedrin became a shadow of itself.
It was packed with Sadducees and Priests of the King’s
nomination, and with Doctors of the canon-law, whose only aim
was to pursue in peace their subtleties; who had not, and,
from their contempt of the people, could not have, any real
sympathy with national aspirations; and whose ideal heavenly
Kingdom was a miraculous, heaven-instituted, absolute rule of
Rabbis. Accordingly, the national movement, as it afterwards
developed, received neither the sympathy nor the support of
leading Rabbis. Perhaps the most gross manifestation of this
was exhibited, shortly before the taking of Jerusalem, by R.
Jochanan ben Saccai, the most renowned among its teachers.
Almost unmoved he had witnessed the portent of the opening of
the Temple-doors by an unseen Hand, which, by an
interpretation of Zech. xi. 1, was popularly regarded as
betokening its speedy destruction. [d Yoma 39 b] [2 The
designation ‘Lebanon’ isoften applied in Talmudic writings to
the Temple.] There is cynicism, as well as want of sympathy,
in the story recorded by tradition, that when, in the straits
of famine during the siege, Jochanan saw people eagerly
feasting on soup made from straw, he scouted the idea of such
a garrison resisting Vespasian and immediately resolved to.leave the city. [a Midr. R. on Lament. i. 5; ed. Warsh. vol.
iii.p. 60 a] In fact, we havedistinct evidence that R.
Jochanan had, as leader of the School of Hillel, used all his
influence, although in vain, to persuade the people to
submission to Rome. [b Ab. de R. Nathan 4]
We can understand it, how this school had taken so little
interest in anything purely national. Generally only one side
of the character of Hillel has been presented by writers, and
even this in greatly exaggerated language. His much lauded
gentleness, peacefulness, and charity were rather negative
than positive qualities. He was a philosophic Rabbi, whose
real interest lay in a far other direction than that of
sympathy with the people, and whose motto seemed, indeed, to
imply, ‘We, the sages, are the people of God; but this
people, who know not the Law, are curse.’ [c Comp. Ab ii. 5]
A far deeper feeling, and intense, though misguided
earnestness pervaded the School of Shammai. It was in the
minority, but it sympathised with the aspirations of the
people. It was not philosophic nor eclectic, but intensely
national. It opposed all approach to, and by, strangers; it
dealt harshly with proselytes, [d Shabb. 31] even the most
distinguished (such as Akylas or Onkelos); [e Ber. R. 70] it
passed, by first murdering a number of Hillelites who had
come to the deliberative assembly, eighteen decrees, of which
the object was to prevent all intercourse with Gentiles; [1
This celebrated meeting, of which, however, but scant and
incoherent notices are left us (Shabb. i. 7 and specially in
the Jer. Talmud on the passage p. 3 c, d; and Shabb. 17 a;
Tos. Shabb. i. 2), took place in the house of Chananyah, ben
Chizqiyah, ben Garon, a noted Shammaite. On arriving, many of
the Hillelites were killed in the lower room, and then a
majority of Shammaites carried the so-called eighteen
decrees. The first twelve forbade the purchase of the most
necessary articles of diet from Gentiles; the next five
forbade the learning of their language, declared their
testimony invalid, and their offerings unlawful, and
interdicted all intercourse with them; while the last
referred to first fruits. It was on the ground of these
decrees that the hitherto customary burnt-offering for the
Emperor was intermitted, which was really a declaration of
war against Rome. The date of these decrees was probably
about four years before the destruction of the Temple (See
Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, vol. iii. pp. 494-502). These decrees
were carried by the influence of R. Eleazar, son of Chananyah
the High-Priest, a very wealthy man, whose father and brother
belonged to the opposite or peace party. It was on the
proposal of this strict Shammaite that the offering for the
Emperor was intermitted (Jos. Jew. War ii. 17. 2, 3). Indeed,
it is impossible to over-estimate the influence of these
Shammaite decrees on the great war with Rome. Eleazar, though
opposed to the extreme party, one of whose chiefs he took and
killed, was one of the leaders of the national party in the
war (War ii. 17. 9, 10). There is, however, some confusion
about various persons who bore the same name. It is
impossible in this place to mention the various Shammaites
who took part in the last Jewish war. Suffice it to indicate.the tendency of that School.] and it furnished leaders or
supporters of the national movement.
We have marked the rise of the Nationalist party in Galilee
at the time of Herod’s first appearance on the scene, and
learned how mercilessly he tried to suppress it: first, by
the execution of Ezekias and his adherents, and afterwards,
when he became King of Judaea, by the slaughter of the
Sanhedrists. The consequence of this unsparing severity was
to give Rabbinism a different direction. The School of Hillel
which henceforth commanded the majority, were men of no
political colour, theological theorists, self-seeking
Jurists, vain rather than ambitious. The minority,
represented by the School of Shammai, were Nationalists.
Defective and even false as both tendencies were, there was
certainly more hope, as regarded the Kingdom of God, of the
Nationalists than of the Sophists and Jurists. It was, of
course, the policy of Herod to suppress all national
aspirations. No one understood the meaning of Jewish
Nationalism so well as he; no one ever opposed it so
sytematically. There was internal fitness, so to speak, in
his attempt to kill the King of the Jews among the infants of
Bethlehem. The murder of the Sanhedrists, with the consequent
new anti-Messianic tendency of Rabbinism, was one measure in
that direction; the various appointments which Herod made to
the High-Priesthood another. And yet it was not easy, even in
those times, to deprive the Pontificate of its power and
influence. The High-Priest was still the representative of
the religious life of the people, and he acted on all
occasions, when the question under discussion was not one
exclusively of subtle canon-law, as the President of the
Sanhedrin, in which, indeed, the members of his family had
evidently seat and vote. [a Acts iv. 6] The four families [1
See the list of High-Priests in Appendix VI.] from which,
with few exceptions, the High-Priest, however often changed,
were chosen, absorbed the wealth, and commanded the
influence, of a state-endowed establishment, in its worst
times. It was, therefore, of the utmost importance to make
wise choice of the High-Priest. With the exception of the
brief tenure by Aristobulus, the last of the Maccabees, whose
appointment, too soon followed by his murder, was at the time
a necessity, all the Herodian High-Priests were
non-Palestinians. A keener blow than this could not have been
dealt at Nationalism.
The same contempt for the High-Priesthood characterised the
brief reign of Archelaus. On his death-bed, Herod had
appointed to the Pontificate Joazar, a son of Boethos, the
wealthy Alexandrian priest, whose daughter, Mariamme II., he
had married. The Boethusian family, allied to Herod, formed a
party, the Herodians, who combined strict Pharisaic views
with devotion to the reigning family. [2 The Boethusians
furnished no fewer than four High-Priest during the period
between the reign of Herod and that of Agrippa I. (41 A.
D.).] Joazar took the popular part against Archelaus, on his
accession. For this he was deprived of his dignity in favour
of another son of Boethos, Eleazar by name. But the mood of.Archelaus was fickle , perhaps he was distrustful of the
family of Boethos. At any rate, Eleazar had to give place to
Jesus, the son of Sie, an otherwise unknown individual. At
the time of the taxing of Quirinius we find Joazar again in
office, [a Ant. xviii. 1. 1] apparently restored to it by the
multitude, which, having taken matters into its own hands at
the change of government, recalled one who had formerly
favoured national aspirations. [b Ant. xviii. 2. 1] It is
thus that we explain his influence with the people, in
persuading them to submit to the Roman taxation.
But if Joazar had succeeded with the unthinking populace, he
failed to conciliate the more advanced of his own party, and,
as the event proved, the Roman authorities also, whose favour
he had hoped to gain. It will be remembered, that the
Nationalist party , or ‘Zealots,’ as they were afterwards
called, first appeared in those guerilla-bands which
traversed Galilee under the leadership of Ezekias, whom Herod
executed. But the National party was not destroyed, only held
in check, during his iron reign. It was once more the family
of Ezekias that headed the movement. During the civil war
which followed the accession of Archelaus, or rather was
carried on while he was pleading his cause in Rome, the
standard of the Nationalists was again raised in Galilee.
Judas, the son of Ezekias, took possession of the city of
Sepphoris, and armed his followers from the royal arsenal
there. At that time, as we know, the High-Priest Joazar
sympathised, at least indirectly, with the Nationalists. The
rising, which indeed was general throughout Palestine, was
suppressed by fire and sword, and the sons of Herod were
enabled to enter on their possessions. But when, after the
deposition of Archelaus, Joazar persuaded the people to
submit to the taxing of Quirinius, Judas was not disposed to
follow what he regarded as the treacherous lead of the
Pontiff. In conjunction with a Shammaite Rabbi, Sadduk, he
raised again the standard of revolt, although once more
unsuccessfully. [c Ant. xviii i. 1] How the Hillelites looked
upon this movement, we gather even from the slighting
allusion of Gamaliel. [d Acts v. 37] The family of Ezekias
furnished other martyrs to the National cause. The two sons
of Judas died for it on the cross in 46 A. D. [e Ant. xx. 5.
2] Yet a third son, Manahem, who, from the commencement of
the war against Rome, was one of the leaders of the most
fanatical Nationalists, the Sicarii, the Jacobins of the
party, as they have been aptly designated, died under
unspeakable sufferings, [f Jewish War ii. 17 8 and 9] while a
fourth member of the family, Eleazar, was the leader of
Israel’s forlorn hope, and nobly died at Masada, in the
closing drama of the Jewish war of independence. [a Jewish
War, vii. 7-9] Of such stuff were the Galilean Zealots made.
But we have to take this intense Nationalist tendency also
into account in the history of Jesus, the more so that at
least one of His disciples, and he a member of His family,
had at one time belonged to the party. Only the Kingdom of
which Jesus was the King was, as He Himself said, not of this
world, and of far different conception from that for which
the Nationalists longed..At the time when Jesus went up to the feast, Quirinius was,
as already stated, Governor of Syria. The taxing and the
rising of Judas were alike past; and the Roman Governor,
dissatisfied with the trimming of Joazar, and distrustful of
him, had appointed in his stead Ananos, the son of Seth, the
Annas of infamous memory in the New Testament. With brief
interruption, he or his son held the Pontifical office till,
under the Procuratorship of Pilate, Caiaphas, the son-in-law
of Annas, succeeded to that dignity. It has already been
stated that, subject to the Roman Governors of Syria, the
rule of Palestine devolved on Procurators, of whom Coponius
was the first. Of him and his immediate successors, Marcus
Ambivius, [b 9-12 A.D.] Annius Rufus, [c 12-15 A.D.] and
Valerius Gratus, [d 15-26 A.D.] we know little. They were,
indeed, guilty of the most grievous fiscal oppressions, but
they seem to have respected, so far as was in them, the
religious feelings of the Jews. We know, that they even
removed the image of the Emperor from the standards of the
Roman soldiers before marching them into Jerusalem, so as to
avoid the appearance of a cultus of the Caesars. It was
reserved for Pontius Pilate to force this hated emblem on the
Jews, and otherwise to set their most sacred feelings at
defiance. But we may notice, even at this stage, with what
critical periods in Jewish history the public appearance of
Christ synchronised. His first visit to the Temple followed
upon the Roman possession of Judaea, the taxing, and the
national rising, as also the institution of Annas to the
High-Priesthood. And the commencement of His public Ministry
was contemporaneous with the accession of Pilate, and the
institution of Caiaphas. Whether viewed subjectively or
objectively, these things also have a deep bearing upon the
history of the Christ.
It was, as we reckon it, in spring A. D. 9, that Jesus for
the first time went up to the Paschal Feast in Jerusalem.
Coponius would be there as the Procurator; and Annas ruled in
the Temple as High-Priest, when He appeared among its
doctors. But far other than political thoughts must have
occupied the mind of Christ. Indeed, for a time a brief calm
had fallen upon the land. There was nothing to provoke active
resistance, and the party of the Zealots, although existing,
and striking deeper root in the hearts of the people, was,
for the time, rather what Josephus called it, ‘the
philosphical party’, their minds busy with an ideal, which
their hands were not yet preparing to make a reality. And so,
when, according to ancient wont, [a Ps. xlii. Is. xxx. 29.]
the festive company from Nazareth, soon swelled by other
festive bands, went up to Jerusalem, chanting by the way
those ‘Psalms of Ascent’ [b A.V. ‘Degrees’; Ps. cxx.-cxxxiv.]
to the accompaniment of the flute, they might implicitly
yeild themselves to the spiritual thoughts kindled by such
When the pilgrims’ feet stood within the gates of Jerusalem,
there could have been no difficulty in finding hospitality,
however crowded the City may have been on such occasions [1.It seems, however, that the Feast ofPentecost would see even
more pilgrims at least from a distance, in Jerusalem, than
that of the Passover (comp. Acts ii. 9-11).] the more so when
we remember the extreme simplicity of Eastern manners and
wants, and the abundance of provisions which the many
sacrifices of the season would supply. But on this subject,
also, the Evangelic narrative keeps silence. Glorious as a
view of Jerusalem must have seemed to a child coming to it
for the first time from the retirement of a Galilean village,
we must bear in mind, that He Who now looked upon it was not
an ordinary Child. Nor are we, perhaps, mistaken in the idea
that the sight of its grandeur would, as on another occasion,
[c St. Luke xix. 41.] awaken in Him not so much feelings of
admiration, which might have been akin to those of pride, as
of sadness, though He may as yet have been scarcely conscious
of its deeper reason. But the one all-engrossing thought
would be of the Temple. This, his first visit to its halls,
seems also to have called out the first outspoken, and may we
not infer, the first conscious, thought of that Temple as the
House of His Father, and with it the first conscious impulse
of his Mission and Being. Here also it would be the higher
meaning, rather than the structure and appearance, of the
Temple, that would absorb the mind. And yet there was
sufficient, even in the latter, to kindle enthusiasm. As the
pilgrim ascended the Mount, crested by that symmetrically
proportioned building, which could hold within its gigantic
girdle not fewer than 210,000 persons, his wonder might well
increase at every step. The Mount itself seemed like an
island, abruptly rising from out deep valleys, surrounded by
a sea of walls, palaces, streets, and houses, and crowned by
a mass of snowy marble and glittering gold, rising terrace
upon terrace. Altogether it measured a square of about 1,000
feet, or, to give a more exact equivalent of the measurements
furnished by the Rabbis, 927 feet. At its north-western
angle, and connected with it, frowned the Castle of Antonia,
held by the Roman garrison. The lofty walls were pierced by
massive gates, the unused gate (Tedi) on the north; the Susa
Gate on the east, which opened on the arched roadway to the
Mount of Olives; [1 So according to the Rabbis; Josephus does
not mention it. In general, the account here given is
according to the Rabbis.] the two so-called ‘Huldah’
(probably, ‘weasel’) gates, which led by tunnels [2 These
tunnels were divided by colonnades respectively into three
and into two, the double colonnade being probably used by the
priests, since its place of exit was close to the entrance
into the Court of the Priests.] from the priest-suburb Ophel
into the outer Court; and, finally, four gates on the west.
Within the gates ran all around covered double colonnades,
with here are there benches for those who resorted thither
for prayer or for conference. The most magnificent of those
was the southern, or twofold double colonnade, with a wide
space between; the most venerable, the ancient ‘Solomon’s
Porch,’ or eastern colonnade. Entering from the Xystus
bridge, and under the tower of John, [a Jos. War vi. 3. 2.]
one would pass along the southern colonnade (over the tunnel
of the Huldah-gates) to its eastern extremity, over which.another tower rose, probably ‘the pinnacle’ of the history of
the Temptation. From this height yawned the Kedron valley 450
feet beneath. From that lofty pinnacle the priest each
morning watched and announced the earliest streak of day.
Passing along the eastern colonnade, or Solomon’s Porch, we
would, if the description of the Rabbis is trustworthy, have
reached the Susa Gate, the carved representation of that city
over the gateway reminding us of the Eastern Dispersion. Here
the standard measures of the Temple are said to have been
kept; and here, also, we have to locate the first or lowest
of the three Sanhedrins, which, according to the Mishnah, [b
Sanh. xi. 2.] held their meetings in the Temple; the second,
or intermediate Court of Appeal, being in the ‘Court of the
Priests’ (probably close to the Nicanor Gate); and the
highest, that of the Great Sanhedrin, at one time in the
‘Hall of Hewn Square Stones’ (Lishkath ha-Gazith.)
Passing out of these ‘colonnades,’ or ‘porches,’ you entered
the ‘Court of the Gentiles,’ or what the Rabbis called ‘the
Mount of the House,’ which was widest on the west side, and
more and more narrow respectively on the east, the south, and
the north. This was called the Chol, or ‘profane’ place to
which Gentiles had access. Here must have been the market for
the sale of sacrificial animals, the tables of the
money-changers, and places for the sale of other needful
articles. [c St. John ii. 14; St. Matt. xxi. 12; Jerus. Chag.
p. 78 a; comp. Neh. xiii. 4 &c.] [3The question what was sold
in this ‘market’) and its relation to ‘the bazaar’ of the
family of Annas (the Chanuyoth beney Chanan) will be
discussed in a later part.] Advancing within this Court, you
reached a low breast-wall (the Soreg), which marked the space
beyond which no Gentile, nor Levitically unclean person,
might proceed, tablets, bearing inscriptions to that effect,
warning them off. Thirteen openings admitted into the inner
part of the Court. Thence fourteen steps led up to the Chel
or Terrace, which was bounded by the wall of the
Temple-buildings in the stricter sense. A flight of steps led
up to the massive, splendid gates. The two on the west side
seem to have been of no importance, so far as the worshippers
were concerned, and probably intended for the use of workmen.
North and south were four gates. [1 The question as to their
names and arrangement is not without difficulty. The subject
is fully treated in ‘The Temple and its Services.’ Although I
have followed in the text the arrangements of the Rabbis, I
must express my grave doubts as to their historical
trustworthiness. It seems to me that the Rabbis always give
rather the ideal than the real, what, according to their
theory, should have been, rather than what actually was.] But
the most splendid gate was that to the east, termed ‘the
Beautiful.’ [a Acts iii. 2.]
Entering by the latter, you came into the Court of the
Women, so called because the women occupied in it two
elevated and separated galleries, which, however, filled only
part of the Court. Fifteen steps led up to the Upper Court,
which was bounded by a wall, and where was the celebrated
Nicanor Gate, covered with Corinthian brass. Here the.Levites, who conducted the musical part of the service, were
placed. In the Court of the Women were the Treasury and the
thirteen ‘Trumpets,’ while at each corner were chambers or
halls, destined for various purposes. Similarly, beyond the
fifteen steps, there were repositories for the musical
instruments. The Upper Court was divided into two parts by a
boundary, the narrow part forming the Court of Israel, and
the wider that of the Priests, in which were the great Altar
and the Laver.
The Sanctuary itself was on a higher terrace than that Court
of the Priests. Twelve steps led up to its Porch, which
extended beyond it on either side (north and south). Here, in
separate chambers, all that was necessary for the sacrificial
service was kept. On two marble tables near the entrance the
old shewbread which was taken out, and the new that was
brought in, were respectively placed. The Porch was adorned
by votive presents, conspicuous among them a massive golden
vine. A two-leaved gate opened into the Sanctuary itself,
which was divided into two parts. The Holy Place had the
Golden Candlestick (south), the Table of Shewbread (north),
and the Golden Altar of Incense between them. A heavy double
veil concealed the entrance to the Most Holy Place, which in
the second Temple was empty, nothing being there but the
piece of rock, called the Ebhen Shethiyah, or Foundation
Stone, which, according to tradition, covered the mouth of
the pit, and on which, it was thought, the world was founded.
Nor does all this convey an adequate idea of the vastness of
the Temple-buildings. For all around the Sanctuary and each
of the Courts were various chambers and out-buildings, which
served different purposes connected with the Services of the
Temple. [1 For a full description, I must refer to ‘The
Temple, its Ministry and Services at the time of Jesus
Christ.’ Some repetition of what had been alluded to in
previous chapters has been unavoidable in the present
description of the Temple.]
In some part of this Temple, ‘sitting in the midst of the
Doctors, [2 Although comparatively few really great
authorities in Jewish Canon Law lived at that time, more than
a dozen names could be given of Rabbis celebrated in Jewish
literature, who must have been His contemporaries at one or
another period of His life.] both hearing them and asking
them questions,’ we must look for the Child Jesus on the
third and the two following days of the Feast on which He
first visited the Sanctuary. Only onthe two first days of the
Feast of Passover was personal attendance in the Temple
necessary. With the third day commenced the so-called
half-holydays, when it was lawful to return to one’s home [a
So according to the Rabbis generally. Comp. Hoffmann, Abh.
ii. d. pent. Ges. pp. 65, 66.], a provision of which, no
doubt, many availed themselves. Indeed, there was really
nothing of special interest to detain the pilgrims. For, the
Passover had been eaten, the festive sacrifice (or Chagigah)
offered, and the first ripe barely reaped and brought to the
Temple, and waved as the Omer of first flour before the Lord.
Hence, in view of the well-known Rabbinic provision, the.expression in the Gospel-narrative concerning the ‘Parents’
of Jesus, ‘when they had fulfilled the days,’ [b St. Luke ii.
43.] cannot necessarily imply that Joseph and the Mother of
Jesus had remained in Jerusalem during the whole Paschal
week. [3 In fact, an attentive consideration of what in the
tractate Moed K. (comp. also Chag. 17 b), is declared to be
lawful occupation during the half-holydays, leads us to infer
that a very large proportion must have returned to their
homes.] On the other hand, the circumstances connected with
the presence of Jesus could not have been found among the
Doctors after the close of the Feast. The first question here
is as to the locality in the Temple, where the scene has to
be laid. It has, indeed, been commonly supposed that there
was a Synagogue in the Temple; but of this there is, to say
the least, no historical evidence. [4 For afull discussion of
this important question, see Appendix X.: ‘The Supposed
Temple-Synagogue.’] But even if such had existed, the worship
and addresses of the Synagogue would not have offered any
opportunity for the questioning on the part of Jesus which
the narrative implies. Still more groundless is the idea that
there was in the Temple something like a Beth ha-Midrash, or
theological Academy, not to speak of the circumstance that a
child of twelve would not, at any time, have been allowed to
take part in its discussions. But there were occasions on
which the Temple became virtually, though not formally, a
Beth ha-Midrash. For we read in the Talmud, [a Sanh. 88 b.]
that the members of the Temple-Sanhedrin, who on ordinary
days sat as a Court of Appeal, from the close of the
Morning-to the time of the Evening-Sacrifice, were wont on
Sabbaths and feast-days to come out upon ‘the Terrace’ of the
Temple, and there to teach. In such popular instruction the
utmost latitude of questioning would be given. It is in this
audience, which sat on the ground, surrounding and mingling
with the Doctors, and hence during, not after the Feast, that
we must seek the Child Jesus.
But we have yet to show that the presence and questioning of
a Child of that age did not necessarily imply anything so
extraordinary, as to convey the idea of supernaturalness to
those Doctors or others in the audience. Jewish tradition
gives other instances of precocious and strangely advanced
students. Besides, scientific theological learning would not
be necessary to take part in such popular discussions. If we
may judge from later arrangements, not only in Babylon, but
in Palestine, there were two kinds of public lectures, and
two kinds of students. The first, or more scientific class,
was designated Kallah (literally, bride), and its attendants
Beney-Kallah (children of the bride). These lectures were
delivered in the last month of summer (Elul), before the
Feast of the New Year, and in the last winter month (Adar),
immediately before the Feast of Passover. They implied
considerable preparation on the part of the lecturing Rabbis,
and at least some Talmudic knowledge on the part of the
attendants. On the other hand, there were Students of the
Court (Chatsatsta, and in Babylon Tarbitsa), who during
ordinary lectures sat separated from the regular students by
a kind of hedge, outside, as it were in the Court, some of.whom seem to have been ignorant even of the Bible. The
lectures addressed to such a general audience would, of
course, be of a very different character. [b Comp. Jer. Ber.
iv. p. 7 d, and other passages.]
But if there was nothing so unprecedented as to render His
Presence and questioning marvellous, yet all who heard Him
‘were amazed’ at His ‘combinative insight’ [1 The expression
means originally concursus, and (as Schleusner rightly puts
it) intelligentia in the sense of perspicacia qua res probe
cognitae subtiliter ac diligenter a se invicem discernuntur.
The LXX. render by it no less than eight different Hebrew
terms.] and ‘discerning answers.’ [2 The primary meaning of
the verb, from which the word is derived, is secerno,
discerno.] We scarcely venture to inquire towards what His
questioning had been directed. Judging by what we know of
such discussion, we infer that they may have been connected
with the Paschal solemnities. Grave Paschal questions did
arise. Indeed, the great Hillel obtained his rank as chief
when he proved to the assembled Doctors that the Passover
might be offered even on the Sabbath. [a Jer. Pes. vi. 1;
Pes.66 a.] Many other questions might arise on the subject of
the Passover. Or did the Child Jesus, as afterwards, in
connection with the Messianic teaching [b St.Matt. xxii.
42-45.], lead up by His questions to the deeper meaning of
the Paschal solemnities, as it was to be unfolded, when
Himself was offered up, ‘the Lamb of God, Which taketh away
the sin of the world’?
Other questions also almost force themselves on the mind,
most notably this: whether on the occasion of this His first
visit to the Temple, the Virgin-Mother had told her Son the
history of His Infancy, and of what had happened when, for
the first time, He had been brought to the Temple. It would
almost seem so, if we might judge from the contrast between
the Virgin-Mother’s complaint about the search of His father
and of her, and His own emphatic appeal to the business of
His Father. But most surprising, truly wonderful it must have
seemed to Joseph, and even to the Mother of Jesus, that the
meek, quiet Child should have been found in such company, and
so engaged. It must have been quite other than what, from His
past, they would have expected; or they would not have taken
it for granted, when they left Jerusalem, that He was among
their kinsfolk and acquaintance, perhaps mingling with the
children. Nor yet would they, in such case, after they missed
Him at the first night’s halt, at Sichem, [c Jos. Ant. xv. 8.
5.] if the direct road north, through Samaria, [1 According
to Jer. Ab. Z. 44 d, the soil, the fountains, the houses, and
the roads of Samaria were ‘clean.’] was taken (or, according
to the Mishnah, at Akrabah [d Maas. Sh. v. 2.]), have so
anxiously sought Him by the way, [2 This is implied in the
use of the present participle.] and in Jerusalem; nor yet
would they have been ‘amazed’ when they found Him in the
assembly of the Doctors. The reply of Jesus to the
half-reproachful, half-relieved expostulation of them who had
sought Him ‘sorrowing’ these three days, [3 The first day
would be that of missing Him, the second that of the return,.and the third that of the search in Jerusalem.] sets clearly
these three things before us. He had been so entirely
absorbed by the awakening thought of His Being and Mission,
however kindled, as to be not only neglectful, but forgetful
of all around. Nay, it even seemed to Him impossible to
understand how they could have sought Him, and not known
where He had lingered. Secondly: we may venture to say, that
He now realised that this was emphatically His Father’s
House. And, thirdly: so far as we can judge, it was then and
there that, for the first time, He felt the strong and
irresistible impulse, that Divine necessity of His Being, to
be ‘about His Father’s business.’ [1 The expression may be
equally rendered, or rather supplemented, by ‘in My Father’s
house,’ and ‘about My Father’s business.’ The former is
adopted by most modern commentators. But (1) it does not
accord with the word that must be supplemented in the two
analogous passages in the LXX. Neither in Esth. vii. 9, nor
in Ecclus. xlii. 10, is it strictly ‘the house.’ (2) It seems
unaccountable how the word ‘house’ could have been left out
in the Greek rendering of the Aramaean words of Christ, but
quite natural, if the word to be supplemented was ‘things’ or
‘business.’ (3) A reference to the Temple as His Father’s
house could not have seemed so strange on the lips of Jesus,
nor, indeed, of any Jewish child, as to fill Joseph and Mary
with astonishment.] We all, when first awakening to spiritual
consciousness, or, perhaps, when for the first time taking
part in the feast of the Lord’s House may, and, learning from
His example, should, make this the hour of decision, in which
heart and life shall be wholly consecrated to the ‘business’
of our Father. But there was far more than this in the
bearing of Christ on this occasion. That forgetfulness of His
Child-life was a sacrifice, a sacrifice of self; that entire
absorption in His Father’s business, without a thought of
self, either in the gratification of curiosity, the
acquisition of knowledge, or personal ambition, a
consecration of Himself unto God. It was the first
manifestation of His passive and active obedience to the Will
of God. Even at this stage, it was the forth-bursting of the
inmost meaning of His Life: ‘My meat is to do the Will of Him
that sent Me, and to finish His work.’ And yet this awakening
of the Christ-consciousness on His first visit to the Temple,
partial, and perhaps even temporary, as it may have been,
seems itself like the morning-dawn, which from the pinnacle
of the Temple the Priest watched, ere he summoned his waiting
brethren beneath to offer the early sacrifice.
From what we have already learned of this History, we do not
wonder that the answer of Jesus came to His parents as a
fresh surprise. For, we can only understand what we perceive
in its totality. But here each fresh manifestation came as
something separate and new, not as part of a whole; and
therefore as a surprise, of which the purport and meaning
could not be understood, except in its organic connection and
as a whole. And for the true human development of the
God-Man, what was the natural was also the needful process,
even as it was best for the learning of Mary herself, and for
the future reception of His teaching. These three subsidiary.reasons may once more be indicated here in explanation of the
Virgin-Mother’s seeming ignorance of her Son’s true
character: the necessary gradualness of such a revelation;
the necessary development of His own consciousness; and the
fact, that Jesus could not have been subject to His Parents,
nor had true and proper human training, if they had clearly
known that He was the essential Son of God.
A further, though to us it seems a downward step, was His
quiet, immediate, unquestioning return to Nazareth with His
Parents, and His willing submission [1 The voluntariness of
His submission is implied by the present part. mid. of the
verb.] to them while there. It was self-denial,
self-sacrifice, self-consecration to His Mission, with all
that it implied. It was not self-exinanition but
self-submission, all the more glorious in proportion to the
greatness of that Self. This constant contrast before her
eyes only deepened in the heart of Mary the everpresent
impression of ‘all those matters,’ [2 The Authorised Version
renders ‘sayings.’ But I think the expression is clearly
equivalent to the Hebrew all these things. St. Luke uses the
word in that sense in i. 65; ii. 15,.] of which she was the
most cognisant. She was learning to spell out the word
Messiah, as each of ‘those matters’ taught her one fresh
letter in it, and she looked at them all in the light of the
With His return to Nazareth began Jesus’ Life of youth and
early manhood, with all of inward and outward development, of
heavenly and earthly approbation which it carried. [a St.
Luke ii. 52.] Whether or not He went to Jerusalem on
recurring Feasts, we know not, and need not inquire. For only
once during that period, on His first visit to the Temple,
and in the awakening of His Youth-Life, could there have been
such outward forth-bursting of His real Being and Mission.
Other influences were at their silent work to weld His inward
and outward development, and to determine the manner of His
later Manifesting of Himself. We assume that the
School-education of Jesus must have ceased soon after His
return to Nazareth. Henceforth the Nazareth-influences on the
Life and Thinking of Jesus may be grouped, and progressively
as He advanced from youth to manhood, under these
particulars: Home, Nature, and Prevailing Ideas.
1. Home. Jewish Home-Life, especially in the country, was of
the simplest. Even in luxurious Alexandria it seems often to
have been such, alike as regarded the furnishing of the
house, and the provisions of the table. [3 Comp. Philo in
Flacc.ed. Fcf. p. 977 &c.] The morning and midday meal must
have been of the plainest, and even the larger evening meal
of the simplest, in the home at Nazareth. Only the Sabbath
and festivals, whether domestic or public, brought what of
the best lay within reach. But Nazareth was not the city of
the wealthy or influential, and such festive
evening-entertainments, with elaborate ceremoniousness of
reception, arranging of guests according to rank, and rich
spread of board, would but rarely, if ever, be witnessed in.those quiet homes. The same simplicity would prevail in dress
and manners. [1 For details as to dress, food, and manners in
Palestine, I must refer to other parts of this book.] But
close and loving were the bonds which drew together the
members of a family, and deep the influence which they
exercised on each other. We cannot here discuss the vexed
question whether ‘the brothers and sisters’ of Jesus were
such in the real sense, or step-brothers and sisters, or else
cousins, though it seems to us as if the primary meaning of
the terms would scarcely have been called in question, but
for a theory of false asceticism, and an undervaluing of the
sanctity of the married estate. [a Comp. St. Matt. i. 24; St.
Luke ii. 7; St. Matt. xii. 46; xiii. 55, 56; St. Mark iii.
31; vi. 3; Acts i. 14; 1 Cor. ix. 5; Gal.i 19.] But, whatever
the precise relationship between Jesus and these ‘brothers
and sisters,’ it must, on any theory, have been of the
closest, and exercised its influence upon Him. [2 The
question of the real relationship of Christ to His ‘brothers’
has been so often discussed in the various Cyclopaedias that
it seems unnecessary here to enter upon the matter in detail.
See also Dr. Lightfoot’s Dissertation in his Comment. on
Galat. pp. 282-291.]
Passing over Joses or Joseph, of whose history we know next
to nothing, we have sufficient materials to enable us to form
some judgment of what must have been the tendencies and
thoughts of two of His brothers James and Jude, before they
were heart and soul followers of the Messiah, and of His
cousin Simon. [3 I regard this Simon (Zelotes) as theson of
Clopas (brother of Joseph, the Virgin’s husband) and of Mary.
For the reasons of this view, see Book III. ch. xvii. and
Book V. ch. xv.] If we might venture on a general
characterisation, we would infer from the Epistle of St.
James, that his religious views had originally been cast in
the mould of Shammai. Certainly, there is nothing of the
Hillelite direction about it, but all to remind us of the
earnestness, directness, vigour, and rigour of Shammai. Of
Simon we know that he had belonged to the Nationalist party,
since he is expressly so designated (Zelotes, [b St. Luke vi.
15; Acts i.13] Cananoean). [c St. Mark iii. 18] Lastly, there
are in the Epistle of St. Jude, one undoubted, and another
probable reference to two of those (Pseudepigraphic)
Apocalyptic books, which at that time marked one deeply
interesting phase of the Messianic outlook of Israel. [d St.
Jude xv. 14, 15 to the book of Enoch,and v. 9 probably to the
Assum. of Moses] We have thus within the narrow circle of
Christ’s Family-Life, not to speak of any intercourse with
the sons of Zebedee, who probably were also His cousins [4 On
the maternal side. We read St. John xix. 25 as indicating
four women, His Mother’s sister being Salome, according to
St. Mark xv. 40.] the three most hopeful and pure Jewish
tendencies, brought into constant contact with Jesus: in
Pharisaism, the teaching of Shammai; then, the Nationalist
ideal; and, finally, the hope of a glorious Messianic future.
To these there should probably be added, at least knowledge
of the lonely preparation of His kinsman John, who, though
certainly not an Essene, had, from the necessity of his.calling, much in his outward bearing that was akin to them.
But we are anticipating. From what are, necessarily, only
suggestions, we turn again to what is certain in connection
with His Family-Life and its influences. From St. Mark vi. 3,
we may infer with great probability, though not with absolute
certainty, [a Comp. St. Matt. xiii. 55; St. John vi. 42.]
that He had adopted the trade of Joseph. Among the Jews the
contempt for manual labour, which was one of the painfu [1
See the chapter on ‘Trades and Tradesmen,’ in the ‘Sketches
of Jewish Social Life.’] characteristics of heathenism, did
not exist. On the contrary, it was deemed a religious duty,
frequently and most earnestly insisted upon, to learn some
trade, provided it did not minister to luxury, nor tend to
lead away from personal observance of the Law. [b Comp. Ab.
i. 10; Kidd. 29 b1.] There was not such separation between
rich and poor as with us, and while wealth might confer
social distinction, the absence of it in no way implied
social inferiority. Nor could it be otherwise where wants
were so few, life was so simple, and its highest aim so ever
present to the mind.
We have already spoken of the religious influences in the
family, so blessedly different from that neglect, exposure,
and even murder of children among the heathen, or their
education by slaves, who corrupted the mind from its earliest
opening. [2 Comp. this subject in Dollinger, ‘Heidenthum u.
Judenthum,’ in regard to the Greeks, p. 692; in regard to the
Romans, pp. 716-722: in regard to education and its
abominations, pp. 723-726. Nothing can cast a more lurid
light on the need for Christianity, if the world was not to
perish of utter rottenness, than a study of ancient Hellas
and Rome, as presented by Dollinger in his admirable work.]
The love of parents to children, appearing even in the curse
which was felt to attach to childlessness; the reverence
towards parents, as a duty higher than any of outward
observance; and the love of brethren, which Jesus had learned
in His home, form, so to speak, the natural basis of many of
the teachings of Jesus. They give us also an insight into the
family-life of Nazareth. And yet there is nothing sombre nor
morose about it; and even the joyous games of children, as
well as festive gatherings of families, find their record in
the words and the life of Christ. This also is characteristic
of His past. And so are His deep sympathy with all sorrow and
suffering, and His love for the family circle, as evidenced
in the home of Lazarus. That He spoke Hebrew, and used and
quoted the Scriptures in the original, has already been
shown, although, no doubt, He understood Greek, possibly also
Secondly: Nature and Every-day Life. The most superficial
perusal of the teaching of Christ must convince how deeply
sympathetic He was with nature, and how keenly observant of
man. Here there is no contrast between love of the country
and the habits of city life; the two are found side by side.
On His lonely walks He must have had an eye for the beauty of
the lilies of the field, and thought of it, how the birds of.the air received their food from an Unseen Hand, and with
what maternal affection the hen gathered her chickens under
her wing. He had watched the sower or the vinedresser as he
went forth to his labour, and read the teaching of the tares
which sprang up among the wheat. To Him the vocation of the
shepherd must have been full of meaning, as he led, and fed,
and watched his flock, spoke to his sheep with well-known
voice, brought them to the fold, or followed, and tenderly
carried back, those that had strayed, ever ready to defend
them, even at the cost of his own life. Nay, He even seems to
have watched the habits of the fox in its secret lair. But he
also equally knew the joys, the sorrows, the wants and
sufferings of the busy multitude. The play in the market, the
marriage processions, the funeral rites, the wrongs of
injustice and oppression, the urgent harshness of the
creditor, the bonds and prison of the debtor, the palaces and
luxury of princes and courtiers, the self-indulgence of the
rich, the avarice of the covetous, the exactions of the
tax-gatherer, and the oppression of the widow by unjust
judges, had all made an indelible impression on His mind. And
yet this evil world was not one which He hated, and from
which He would withdraw Himself with His disciples, though
ever and again He felt the need of periods of meditation and
prayer. On the contrary, while He confronted all the evil in
it, He would fain pervade the mass with the new leaven; not
cast it away, but renew it. He recognised the good and the
hopeful, even in those who seemed most lost. He quenched not
the dimly burning flax, nor brake the bruised reed. It was
not contempt of the world, but sadness over it; not
condemnation of man, but drawing him to His Heavenly Father;
not despising of the little and the poor, whether ontwardly
or inwardly such, but encouragement and adoption of them,
together with keen insight into the real under the mask of
the apparent, and withering denunciation and unsparing
exposure of all that was evil, mean, and unreal, wherever it
might appear. Such were some of the results gathered from His
past life, as presented in His teaching.
Thirdly: Of the prevailing ideas around, with which He was
brought in contact, some have already been mentioned. Surely,
the earnestness of His Shammaite brother, if such we may
venture to designate him; the idea of the Kingdom suggested
by the Nationalists, only in its purest and most spiritual
form, as not of this world, and as truly realising the
sovereignty of God in the individual, whoever he might be;
even the dreamy thoughts of the prophetic literature of those
times, which sought to read the mysteries of the coming
Kingdom; as well as the prophet-like asceticism of His
forerunner and kinsman, formed at least so many points of
contact for His teaching. Thus, Christ was in sympathy with
all the highest tendencies of His people and time. Above all,
there was His intimate converse with the Scriptures of the
Old Testament. If, in the Synagogue, He saw much to show the
hollowness, self-seeking, pride, and literalism which a mere
external observance of the Law fostered, He would ever turn
from what man or devils said to what He read, to what was
‘written.’ Not one dot or hook of it could fall to the.ground, all must be established and fulfilled. The Law of
Moses in all its bearings, the utterances of the prophets,
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Micah, Zechariah,
Malachi, and the hopes and consolations of the Psalms, were
all to Him literally true, and cast their light upon the
building which Moses had reared. It was all one, a grand
unity; not an aggregation of different parts, but the
unfolding of a living organism. Chiefest of all, it was the
thought of the Messianic bearing of all Scripture to its
unity, the idea of the Kingdom of God and the King of Zion,
which was the life and light of all. Beyond this, into the
mystery of His inner converse with God, the unfolding of His
spiritual receptiveness, and the increasing communication
from above, we dare not enter. Even what His bodily
appearance may have been, we scarcely venture to imagine. [1
Even the poetic conception of the painter can only furnish
his own ideal, and that of one special mood. Speaking as one
who has no claim to knowledge of art, only one picture of
Christ ever really impressed me. It was that of an ‘Ecce
Homo,’ by Carlo Dolci, in the Pitti Gallery at Florence. For
an account of the early pictorial representations, comp.
Gieseler. Kirchengesch. i. pp. 85, 86.] It could not but be
that His outer man in some measure bodied forth His ‘Inner
Being.’ Yet we dread gathering around our thoughts of Him the
artificial flowers of legend. [2 Of these there are, alas!
only too many. The reader interested in the matter will find
a good summary in Keim, i. 2, pp. 460-463. One of the few
noteworthy remarks recorded is this description of Christ, in
the spurious Epistle of Lentulus, ‘Who was never seen to
laugh, but often to weep.’] What His manner and mode of
receiving and dealing with men were, we can portray to
ourselves from His life. And so it is best to remain content
with the simple account of the Evangelic narrative: ‘Jesus
increased in favour with God and Man.’
(St. Matthew iii. 1-12; St. Mark i. 2-8; St. Luke iii.
THERE is something grand, even awful, in the almost absolute
silence which lies upon the thirty years between the Birth
and the first Messianic Manifestation of Jesus. In a
narrative like that of the Gospels, this must have been
designed; and, if so, affords presumptive evidence of the
authenticity of what follows, and is intended to teach, that
what had preceded concerned only the inner History of Jesus,
and the preparation of the Christ. At last that solemn
silence was broken by an appearance, a proclamation, a rite,
and a ministry as startling as that of Elijah had been. In
many respects, indeed, the two messengers and their times
bore singular likeness. It was to a society secure,.prosperous, and luxurious, yet in imminent danger of
perishing from hidden, festering disease; and to a religious
community which presented the appearance of hopeless
perversion, and yet contained the germs of a possible
regeneration, that both Elijah and John the Baptist came.
Both suddenly appeared to threaten terrible judgment, but
also to open unthought-of possibilities of good. And, as if
to deepen still more the impression of this contrast, both
appeared in a manner unexpected, and even antithetic to the
habits of their contemporaries. John came suddenly out of the
wilderness of Judaea, as Elijah from the wilds of Gilead;
John bore the same strange ascetic appearance as his
predecessor; the message of John was the counterpart of that
of Elijah; his baptism that of Elijah’s novel rite on Mount
Carmel. And, as if to make complete the parallelism, with all
of memory and hope which it awakened, even the more minute
details surrounding the life of Elijah found their
counterpart in that of John. Yet history never repeats
itself. It fulfils in its development that of which it gave
indication at its commencement. Thus, the history of John the
Baptist was the fulfilment of that of Elijah in ‘the fulness
of time.’
For, alike in the Roman world and in Palestine, the time had
fully come; not, indeed, in the sense of any special
expectancy, but of absolute need. The reign of Augustus
marked, not only the climax, but the crisis, of Roman
history. Whatever of good or of evil the ancient world
contained, had become fully ripe. As regarded politics,
philosophy, religion, and society, the utmost limits had been
reached. [1 Instead of detailed quotations I would here
generally refer to works on Roman history, especially to
Friedlander’s Sittengeschichte Roms, and to Dollinger’s
exhaustive work, Heidenthum and Judenthum.] Beyond them lay,
as only alternatives, ruin or regeneration. It was felt that
the boundaries of the Empire could be no further extended,
and that henceforth the highest aim must be to preserve what
had been conquered. The destines of Rome were in the hands of
one man, who was at the same time general-in-chief of a
standing army of about three hundred and forty thousand men,
head of a Senate (now sunk into a mere court for registering
the commands of Caesar), and High-Priest of a religion, of
which the highest expression was the apotheosis of the State
in the person of the Emperor. Thus, all power within,
without, and above lay in his hands. Within the city, which
in one short reign was transformed from brick into marble,
were, side by side, the most abject misery and almost
boundless luxury. Of a population of about two millions,
well-nigh one half were slaves; and, of the rest, the greater
part either freedmen and their descendants, or foreigners.
Each class contributed its share to the common decay. Slavery
was not even what we know it, but a seething mass of cruelty
and oppression on the one side, and of cunning and corruption
on the other. More than any other cause, it contributed to
the ruin of Roman society. The freedmen, who had very often
acquired their liberty by the most disreputable courses, and
had prospered in them, combined in shameless manner the vices.of the free with the vileness of the slave. The foreigners,
especially Greeks and Syrians, who crowded the city, poisoned
the springs of its life by the corruption which they brought.
The free citizens were idle, dissipated, sunken; their chief
thoughts of the theatre and the arena; and they were mostly
supported at the public cost. While, even in the time of
Augustus, more than two hundred thousand persons were thus
maintained by the State, what of the old Roman stock remained
was rapidly decaying, partly from corruption, but chiefly
from the increasing cessation of marriage, and the nameless
abominations of what remained of family-life.
The state of the provinces was in every respect more
favourable. But it was the settled policy of the Empire,
which only too surely succeeded, to destroy all separate
nationalities, or rather to absorb and to Grecianise all. The
only real resistance came from the Jews. Their tenacity was
religious, and, even in its extreme of intolerant
exclusiveness, served a most important Providential purpose.
And so Rome became to all the centre of attraction, but also
of fast-spreading destructive corruption. Yet this unity
also, and the common bond of the Greek language, served
another important Providential purpose. So did, in another
direction, the conscious despair of any possible internal
reformation. This, indeed, seemed the last word of all the
institutions in the Roman world: It is not in me! Religion,
philosophy, and society had passed through every stage, to
that of despair. Without tracing the various phases of
ancient thought, it may be generally said that, in Rome at
least, the issue lay between Stoicism and Epicureanism. The
one flattered its pride, the other gratified its sensuality;
the one was in accordance with the original national
character, the other with its later decay and corruption.
Both ultimately led to atheism and despair, the one, by
turning all higher aspirations self-ward, the other, by
quenching them in the enjoyment of the moment; the one, by
making the extinction of all feeling and self-deification,
the other, the indulgence of every passion and the worship of
matter, its ideal.
That, under such conditions, all real belief in a personal
continuance after death must have ceased among the educated
classes, needs not demonstration. If the older Stoics held
that, after death, the soul would continue for some time a
separate existence, in the case of sages till the general
destruction of the world by fire, it was the doctrine of most
of their successors that, immediately after death, the soul
returned into ‘the world-soul’ of which it was part. But even
this hope was beset by so many doubts and misgivings, as to
make it practically without influence or comfort. Cicero was
the only one who, following Plato, defended the immortality
of the soul, while the Peripatetics denied the existence of a
soul, and leading Stoics at least its continuance after
death. But even Cicero writes as one overwhelmed by doubts.
With his contemporaries this doubt deepened into absolute
despair, the only comfort lying in present indulgence of the
passions. Even among the Greeks, who were most tenacious of.belief in the non-extinction of the individual, the practical
upshot was the same. The only healthier tendency, however
mixed with error, came from the Neo-Platonic School, which
accordingly offered a point of contact between ancient
philosophy and the new faith.
In such circumstances, anything like real religion was
manifestly impossible. Rome tolerated, and, indeed,
incorporated, all national rites. But among the populace
religion had degenerated into abject superstition. In the
East, much of it consisted of the vilest rites; while, among
the philosophers, all religions were considered equally false
or equally true, the outcome of ignorance, or else the
unconscious modifications of some one fundamental thought.
The only religion on which the State insisted was the
defication and worship of the Emperor. [1 The only thorough
resistance to this worship came from hated Judaea, and, we
may add, from Britain (Dollinger, p. 611).] These apotheoses
attained almost incredible development. Soon not only the
Emperors, but their wives, paramours, children, and the
creatures of their vilest lusts, were deified; nay, any
private person might attain that distinction, if the
survivors possessed sufficient means. [2 From the time of
Caesar to that of Diocletian, fifty-three such apotheoses
took place, including those of fifteen women belonging to the
Imperial families.] Mingled with all this was an increasing
amount of superstition, by which term some understood the
worship of foreign gods, the most part the existence of fear
in religion. The ancient Roman religion had long given place
to foreign rites, the more mysterious and untelligible the
more enticing. It was thus that Judaism made its converts in
Rome; its chief recommendation with many being its contrast
to the old, and the unknown possibilities which its seemingly
incredible doctrines opened. Among the most repulsive
symptoms of the general religious decay may be reckoned
prayers for the death of a rich relative, or even for the
satisfaction of unnatural lusts, along with horrible
blasphemies when such prayers remained unanswered. We may
here contrast the spirit of the Old and New Testaments with
such sentiments as this, on the tomb of a child: ‘To the
unjust gods who robbed me of life;’ or on that of a girl of
twenty: ‘I lift my hands against the god who took me away,
innocent as I am.’
It would be unsavoury to describe how far the worship of in
decency was carried; how public morals were corrupted by the
mimic representations of everything that was vile, and even
by the pandering of a corrupt art. The personation of gods,
oracles, divination, dreams, astrology, magic, necromancy,
and theurgy, [3 One of the most painful, and to the Christian
almost incredible, manifestations of religious decay was the
unblushing manner in which the priests practised imposture
upon the people. Numerous and terrible instances of this
could be given. The evidence of this is not only derived from
the Fathers, but a work has been preserved in which formal
instructions are given, how temples and altars are to be
constructed in order to produce false miracles, and by what.means impostures of this kind may be successfully practised.
(Comp. ‘The Pneumatics of Hero,’ translated by B. Woodcroft.)
The worst was, that this kind of imposture on the ignorant
populace was openly approved by the educated. (Dollinger, p.
647.).] Mingled with all this was an increasing amount of
superstition, by which term some understood the worship of
foreign gods, the most part the existence of fear in
religion. The ancient Roman religion had long given place to
foreign rites, the more mysterious and unintelligible the
more enticing. It was thus that Judaism made its converts in
Rome; its chief recommendation with many being its contrast
to the old, and the unknown possibilities which its seemingly
incredible doctrines opened. Among the most repulsive
symptoms of the general religious decay may be reckoned
prayers for the death of a rich relative, or even for the
satisfaction of unnatural lusts, along with horrible
blasphemies when such prayers remained unanswered. We may
here contrast the spirit of the Old and New Testaments with
such sentiments as this, on the tomb of a child: ‘To the
unjust gods who robbed me of life;’ or on that of a girl of
twenty: ‘I lift my hands against the god who took me away,
innocent as I am.’
It would be unsavoury to describe how far the worship of in
decency was carried; how public morals were corrupted by the
mimic representations of everything that was vile, and even
by the pandering of a corrupt art. The personation of gods,
oracles, divination, dreams, astrology, magic, necromancy,
and theurgy, [3 One of the most painful, and to the Christian
almost incredible, manifestations of religious decay was the
unblushing manner in which the priests practised imposture
upon the people. Numerous and terrible instances of this
could be given. The evidence of this is not only derived from
the Fathers, but a work has been preserved in which formal
instructions are given, how temples and altars are to be
constructed in order to produce false miracles, and by what
means impostures of this kind may be successfully practised.
(Comp. ‘The Pneumatics of Hero, ‘translated by B. Woodcroft.)
The worst was, that this kind of imposture on the ignorant
populace was openly approved by the educated. (Dollinger, p.
647.).] all contributed to the general decay. It has been
rightly said, that the idea of conscience, as we understand
it, was unknown to heathenism. Absolute right did not exist.
Might was right. The social relations exhibited, if possible,
even deeper corruption. The sanctity of marriage had ceased.
Female dissipation and the general dissoluteness led at last
to an almost entire cessation of marriage. Abortion, and the
exposure and murder of newly-born children, were common and
tolerated; unnatural vices, which even the greatest
philosophers practised, if not advocated, attained
proportions which defy description.
But among these sad signs of the times three must be
specially mentioned: the treatment of slaves; the bearing
towards the poor; and public amusements. The slave was
entirely unprotected; males and females were exposed to
nameless cruelties, compared to which death by being the wild beasts, or fighting in the arena, might seem
absolute relief. Sick or old slaves were cast out to perish
from want. But what the influence of the slaves must have
been on the free population, and especially upon the young,
whose tutors they generally were, may readily be imagined.
The heartlessness towards the poor who crowded the city is
another well-known feature of ancient Roman society. Of
course, there was neither hospitals, nor provision for the
poor; charity and brotherly love in their every manifestation
are purely Old and New Testament ideas. But even bestowal of
the smallest alms on the needy was regarded as very
questionable; best, not to afford them the means of
protracting a useless existence. Lastly, the account which
Seneca has to give of what occupied and amused the idle
multitude, for all manual labour, except agriculture, was
looked upon with utmost contempt horrified even himself. And
so the only escape which remained for the philosopher, the
satiated, or the miserable, seemed the power of
self-destruction! What is worse, the noblest spirits of the
time of self-destruction! What is worse, the noblest spirits
of the time felt, that the state of things was utterly
hopeless. Society could not reform itself; philosophy and
religion had nothing to offer: they had been tried and found
wanting. Seneca longed for some hand from without to lift up
from the mire of despair; Cicero pictured the enthusiasm
which would greet the embodiment of true virtue, should it
ever appear on earth; Tacitus declared human life one great
farce, and expressed his conviction that the Roman world lay
under some terrible curse. All around, despair, conscious
need, and unconscious longing. Can greater contrast be
imagined, than the proclamation of a coming Kingdom of God
amid such a world; or clearer evidence be afforded of the
reality of this Divine message, than that it came to seek and
to save that which was thus lost? One synchronism, as
remarkable as that of the Star in the East and the Birth of
the Messiah, here claims the reverent attention of the
student of history. On the 19th of December A.D. 69, the
Roman Capitol, with its ancient sanctuaries, was set on fire.
Eight months later, on the 9th of Ab A. D. 70, the Temple of
Jerusalem was given to the flames. It is not a coincidence
but a conjunction, for upon the ruins of heathenism and of
apostate Judaism was the Church of Christ to be reared.
A silence, even more complete than that concerning the early
life of Jesus, rests on the thirty years and more, which
intervened between the birth and the open forthshowing [1
This seems the full meaning of the word, St. Luke i. 80.
Comp. Acts i. 24 Forerunner of the Messiah. Only his outward
and inward development, and his being ‘in the deserts,’ [2
The plural indicates that St. John was not always in the same
‘wilderness.’ The plural form in regard to the ‘wilderness
which are in the land of Israel,’ is common in Rabbinic
writings (comp. Baba K. vii. 7 and the Gemaras on the
passage). On the fulfilment by the Baptist of Is. xl. 3, see
the discussion of that passage in Appendix XI.] [a St. Luke
i. 80.] The latter, assuredly, not in order to learn from the
Essenes, [3 Godet has, in a few forcible sentences, traced.what may be called not merely the difference, but the
contrast between the teaching and aims of the Essenes and
those of John.] but to attain really, in lonely fellowship
with God, what they sought externally. It is characteristic
that, while Jesus could go straight from the home and
workshop of Nazareth to the Baptism of Jordan, His Forerunner
required so long and peculiar preparation: characteristic of
the difference of their Persons and Mission, characteristic
also of the greatness of the work to be inaugurated. St. Luke
furnishes precise notices of the time of the Baptist’s public
appearance, not merely to fix the exact chronology, which
would not have required so many details, but for a higher
purpose. For, they indicate, more so many details, but for a
higher purpose. For, they indicate, more so many details, but
for a higher purpose. For, they indicate, more clearly than
the most elaborate discussion, the fitness of the moment for
the Advent of ‘the Kingdom of Heaven.’ For the first time
since the Babylonish Captivity, the foreigner, the Chief of
the hated Roman Empire, according to the Rabbis, the fourth
beast of Daniel’s vision [b Ab.Zar.2b.] was absolute and
undisputed master of Judaea; and the chief religious office
divided between two, equally unworthy of its functions. And
it deserves, at least, notice, that of the Rulers mentioned
by St. Luke, Pilate entered on his office [a Probably about
Easter, 26A.D.] only shortly before the public appearance of
John, and that they all continued till after the Crucifixion
of Christ. There was thus, so to speak, a continuity of these
powers during the whole Messianic period
As regards Palestine, the ancient kingdom of Herod was now
divided into four parts, Judaea being under the direct
administration of Rome, two other tetrarchies under the rule
of Herod’s sons (Herod of Rome, two other tetrarchies under
the rule of Herod’s sons (Herod Antipas and Philip), while
the small principality of Abilene was governed by Lysanias.
[1 Till quite lately, those who impugn the veracity of the
Gospels, Strauss, and even Keim, have pointed to this notice
of Lysanias as an instance of the unhistorical character of
St. Luke’s Gospel. But it is now admitted on all hands that
the notice of St. Luke is strictly correct; and that, besides
the other Lysanias, one of the same name had reigned over
Abilene at the time of Christ. Comp. Wieseler, Beitr. pp.
196-204, and Schurer in Riehm’s Handworterb, p. 931.] Of the
latter no details can be furnished, nor are they necessary in
this history. It is otherwise as regards the sons of Herod,
and especially the character of the Roman government at that
Herod Antipas, whose rule extended over forty-three years,
reigned over Galilee and Peraea, the districts which were
respectively the principal sphere of the Ministry of Jesus
and of John the Baptist. Like his brother Archelaus, Herod
Antipas possessed in an even aggravated form most of the
vices, without any of the greater qualities, of his father.
Of deeper religious feelings or convictions he was entirely
destitute, though his conscience occasionally misgrave, if it
did not restrain, him. The inherent weakness of his character.left him in the absolute control of his wife, to the final
ruin of his fortunes.He was covetous, avaricious, luxurious,
and utterly dissipated suspicious, and with a good deal of
that fox-cunning which, especially in the East, often forms
the sum total of state-craft. Like his father, he indulged a
taste for building, always taking care to propitiate Rome by
dedicating all to the Emperor. The most extensive of his
undertakings was the building, in 22 A.D., of the city of
Tiberias, at the upper end of the Lake of Galilee. The site
was under the disadvantage of having formerly been a
burying-place, which, as implying Levitical uncleanness, for
some time deterred pious Jews from settling there.
Nevertheless, it rose in great magnificence from among the
reeds which had but lately covered the neighbourhood (the
ensigns armorial of the city were ‘reeds’). Herod Antipas
made it his residence, and built there a strong castle and a
palace of unrivalled splendour. The city, which was peopled
chiefly by adventurers, was mainly Grecian, and adorned with
an amphitheatre, of which the ruins can still be traced.
A happier account can be given of Philip, the son of Herod
the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem. He was undoubtedly the
best of Herod’s sons. He showed, indeed, the same abject
submission as the rest of his family to the Roman Emperor,
after whom he named the city of Caesarea Philippi, which he
built at the sources of the Jordan; just as he changed the
name of Bethsaida, a village of which he made an opulent
city, into Julias, after the daughter of Augustus. But he was
a moderate and just ruler, and his reign of thirty-seven
years contrasted favourably with that of his kinsmen. The
land was quiet and prosperous, and the people contented and
As regards the Roman rule, matters had greatly changed for
the worse since the mild sway of Augustus, under which, in
the language of Philo, no one throughout the Empire dared to
molest the Jews. [a Philo, ed. Frcf., Leg. 1015.] The only
innovations to which Israel had then to submit were, the
daily sacrifices for the Emperor and the Roman people,
offerings on festive days, prayers for them in the
Synagogues, and such participation in national joy or sorrow
as their religion allowed. [b u. s. 1031, 1041.]
It was far other when Tiberius succeeded to the Empire, and
Judaea was a province. Merciless harshness characterised the
administration of Palestine; while the Emperor himself was
bitterly hostile to Judaism and the Jews, and that although,
personally, openly careless of all religion. [c Suet. Tiber.
69.] Under his reign the persecution of the Roman Jews
occurred, and Palestine suffered almost to the verge of
endurance. The first Procurator whom Tiberius appointed over
Judaea, changed the occupancy of the High-Priesthood four
times, till he found in Caiaphas a sufficiently submissive
instrument of Roman tyranny. The exactions, and the reckless
disregard of all Jewish feelings and interests, might have
been characterised as reaching the extreme limit, if worse
had not followed when Pontius Pilate succeeded to the.procuratorship. Venality, violence, robbery, persecutions,
wanton malicious insults, judicial murders without even the
formality of a legal process, and cruelty, such are the
charges brought against his administration. [d Philo, u.s.
1034.] If former governors had, to some extent, respected the
religious scruples of the Jews, Pilate set them purposely at
defiance; and this not only once, but again and again, in
Jerusalem, [e Jos. Ant. xviii. 3. 1, 2.] in Galilee, [f St.
Luke xiii. 1.] and even in Samaria, [g Ant. xviii. 4. 1, 2.]
until the Emperor himself interposed. [h Philo, Leg. 1033.]
Such, then, was the political condition of the land, when
John appeared to preach the near Advent of a Kingdom with
which Israel associated all that was happy and glorious, even
beyond the dreams of the religious enthusiast. And equally
loud was the call for help in reference to those who held
chief spiritual rule over the people. St. Luke significantly
joins together, as the highest religious authority in the
land, the names of Annas and Caiaphas. [1 The Procurators
were Imperial financial officers, with absolute power of
government in smaller territories. The office was generally
in the hands of the Roman knights, which chiefly consisted of
financial men, bankers, chief publicans, &c. The order of
knighthood had sunk to a low state, and the exactions of such
a rule, especially in Judea, can better be imagined than
described. Comp. on the whole subject, Friedlander,
Sittengesch. Rom, vol. i. p. 268 &c.] The former had been
appointed by Quirinius. After holding the Pontificate for
nine years, he was deposed, and succeeded by others, of whom
the fourth was his son-in-law Caiaphas. The character of the
High-Priests during the whole of that period is described in
the Talmud [a Pes. 57 a.] in terrible language. And although
there is no evidence that ‘the house of Annas’ [2 Annas,
either Chanan ( ), or else Chana or Channa, a common name.
Professor Delitzsch has rightly shown that the Hebrew
equivalent for Caiaphas is not Keypha ( ) = Peter, but
Kayapha ( ), or perhaps rather, according to the reading,
Kaipha, , or Kaiphah. The name occurs in the Mishnah as
Kayaph [so, and not Kuph, correctly] (Parah iii. 5).
Professor Delitzsch does not venture to explain its meaning.
Would it be too bold to suggest a derivation from , and the
meaning to be: He who is ‘at the top’?] was guilty of the
same gross self-indulgence, violence, [b Jos. Ant. xx. 8. 8.]
luxury, and even public indecency, [c Yoma 35 b.] as some of
their successors, they are included in the woes pronounced on
the corrupt leaders of the priesthood, whom the Sanctuary is
represented as bidding depart from the sacred precincts,
which their presence defiled. [d Pes. U.S.] It deserves
notice, that the special sin with which the house of Annas is
charged is that of ‘whispering’, or hissing like vipers,
which seems to refer [3 If we may take a statement in the
Talmud, where the same word occurs, as a commentary.] to
private influence on the judges in their administration of
justice, whereby ‘morals were corrupted, judgment perverted
and the Shekhinah withdrawn from Israel.'[e Tos. Set. xiv.]
In illustration of this, we recall the terrorism which
prevented Sanhedrists from taking the part of Jesus, [f St..John vii. 50-52.] and especially the violence which seems to
have determined the final action of the Sanhedrin, [g St.
John xi. 47-50.] against which not only such men as Nicodemus
and Joseph of Arimathea, but even a Gamaliel, would feel
themselves powerless. But although the expression
‘High-Priest’ appears sometimes to have been used in a
general sense, as designating the sons of the High-Priests,
and even the principal members of their families, [h Jos.
Jewish War vi. 2.2.] there could, of course, be only one
actual High-Priest. The conjunction of the two names of Annas
and Caiaphas [1 This only in St. Luke.] probably indicates
that, although Annas was deprived of the Pontificate, he
still continued to preside over the Sanhedrin, a conclusion
not only borne out by Acts iv. 6, where Annas appears as the
actual President, and by the terms in which Caiaphas is
spoken of, as merely ‘one of them,’ [a St. John xi. 49.] but
by the part which Annas took in the final condemnation of
Jesus. [b St. John xviii. 13.]
Such a combination of political and religious distress,
surely, constituted the time of Israel’s utmost need. As yet,
no attempt had been made by the people to right themselves by
armed force. In these circumstances, the cry that the Kingdom
of Heaven was near at hand, and the call to preparation for
it, must have awakened echoes throughout the land, and
startled the most careless and unbelieving. It was, according
to St. Luke’s exact statement, in the fifteenth year of the
reign of Tiberius Caesar, reckoning, as provincials would do,
[2 Wieseler has, I think, satisfactorily established this.
Comp. Beitr. pp. 191-194.] from his co-regency with Augustus
(which commenced two years before his sole reign), in the
year 26 A.D. [c 779 A.U.C.] According to our former
computation, Jesus would then be in His thirtieth year. [3
St. Luke speaks of Christ being ‘about thirty years old’ at
the time of His baptism. If John began His public ministry in
the autumn, and some months elapsed before Jesus was
baptized, our Lord would have just passed His thirtieth year
when He appeared at Bethabara. We have positive evidence that
the expression ‘about’ before a numeral meant either a little
more or a little less than that exact number. See Midr. on
Ruth i. 4 ed. Warsh. p. 39 b.] The scene of John’s first
public appearance was in ‘the wilderness of Judaea,’ that is,
the wild, desolate district around the mouth of the Jordan.
We know not whether John baptized in this place, [4 Here
tradition, though evidently falsely, locates the Baptism of
Jesus.] nor yet how long he continued there; but we are
expressly told, that his stay was not confined to that
locality. [d St. Luke iii. 3.] Soon afterwards we find him at
Bethabara, [e St. John i. 28.] which is farther up the
stream. The outward appearance and the his Mission. Neither
his dress nor his food was that of the Essenes; [5 In
reference not only to this point, but in general, I would
refer to Bishop Lightfoot’s masterly essay on the Essenes in
his Appendix to his Commentary on Colossians (especially
here, pp. 388, 400). It is a remarkable confirmation of the
fact that, if John had been an Essene, his food could not
have been ‘locusts’ that the Gospel of the Ebionites, who,.like the Essenes, abstained from animal food, omits the
mention of the ‘locusts,’ of St. Matt. iii. 4. (see Mr.
Nicholson’s ‘The Gospel of the Hebrews,’ pp. 34, 35). But
proof positive is derived from jer. Nedar. 40 b, where, in
case of a vow of abstinence from flesh, fish and locusts are
interdicted.] and the former, at least, like that of Elijah,
[f 2 Kings i.] whose mission he was now to ‘fulfil.’ This was
evinced alike by what he preached, and by the new symbolic
rite, from which he derived the name of ‘Baptist.’ The grand
burden of his message was: the announcement of the approach
of ‘the Kingdom of Heaven,’ and the needed preparation of his
hearers for that Kingdom. The latter he sought, positively,
by admonition, and negatively, by warnings, while he directed
all to the Coming One, in Whom that Kingdom would become, so
to speak, individualised. Thus, from the first, it was ‘the
good news of the Kingdom,’ to which all else in John’s
preaching was but subsidiary.
Concerning this ‘Kingdom of Heaven,’ which was the great
message of John, and the great work of Christ Himself, [1
Keim beautifully designates it: Das Lieblingswort Jesu.] we
may here say, that it is the whole Old Testament sublimated,
and the whole New Testament realised. The idea of it did not
lie hidden in the Old, to be opened up in the New Testament,
as did the mystery of its realisation. [a Rom. xvi 25, 26;
Eph. i. 9; Col. i. 26, 27.] But this rule of heaven and
Kingship of Jehovah was the very substance of the Old
Testament; the object of the calling and mission of Israel;
the meaning of all its ordinances, whether civil or
religious; [2 If, indeed, in the preliminary dispensation
these two can be well separated.] the underlying idea of all
its institutions. [3 I confess myself utterly unable to
understand, how anyone writing a History of the Jewish Church
can apparently eliminate from it what even Keim designates as
the ‘treibenden Gedanken des Alten Testaments’, those of the
Kingdom and the King. A Kingdom of God without a King; a
Theocracy without the rule of God; a perpetual Davidic
Kingdom without a ‘Son of David’, these are antinomies (to
borrow the term of Kant) of which neither the Old Testament,
the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigraphic writings, nor Rabbinism
were guility.] It explained alike the history of the people,
the dealings of God with them, and the prospects opened up by
the prophets. Without it the Old Testament could not be
understood; it gave perpetuity to its teaching, and dignity
to its representations. This constituted alike the real
contrast between Israel and the nations of antiquity, and
Israel’s real title to distinction. Thus the whole Old
Testament was the preparatory presentation of the rule of
heaven and of the Kingship of its Lord.
But preparatory not only in the sense of typical, but also
in that of inchoative. Even the twofold hindrance, internal
and external, which ‘the Kingdom’ encountered, indicated
this. The former arose from the resistance of Israel to their
King; the latter from the opposition of the surrounding
kingdoms of this world. All the more intense became the
longing through thousands of years, that these hindrances.might be swept away by the Advent of the promised Messiah,
Who would permanently establish (by His spirit) the right
relationship between the King and His Kingdom, by bringing in
an everlasting righteousness, and also cast down existing
barriers, by calling the kingdoms of this world to be the
Kingdom of our God. This would, indeed, be the Advent of the
Kingdom of God, such as had been the glowing hope held out by
Zechariah, [a xiv. 9.] the glorious vision beheld by Daniel.
[b vii. 13, 14.] Three ideas especially did this Kingdoof God
imply: universality, heavenliness, and permanency. Wide as
God’s domain would be His Dominion; holy, as heaven in
contrast to earth, and God to man, would be his character;
and triumphantly lasting its continuance. Such was the
teaching of the Old Testament, and the great hope of Israel.
It scarcely needs mental compass, only moral and spiritual
capacity, to see its matchless grandeur, in contrast with
even the highest aspirations of heathenism, and the blanched
ideas of modern culture.
How imperfectly Israel understood this Kingdom, our previous
investigations have shown. In truth, the men of that period
possessed only the term, as it were, the form. What explained
its meaning, filled, and fulfilled it, came once more from
heaven. Rabbinism and Alexandrianism kept alive the thought
of it; and in their own way filled the soul with its longing,
just as the distress in church and State carried the need of
it to every heart with the keenness of anguish. As throughout
this history, the form was of that time; the substance and
the spirit were of Him Whose coming was the Advent of that
Kingdom. Perhaps the nearest approach to it lay in the higher
aspirations of the Nationalist party, only that it sought
their realisation, not spiritually, but outwardly. Taking the
sword, it perished by the sword. It was probably to this that
both Pilate and Jesus referred in that memorable question:
‘Art Thou then a King?’ to which our Lord, unfolding the
deepest meaning of His mission, replied: ‘My Kingdom is not
of this world: if My Kingdom were of this world, then would
My servants fight.’ [c St. John xvii. 33-37.]
According to the Rabbinic views of the time, the terms
‘Kingdom,’ ‘Kingdom of heaven,’ [3 Occasionally we find,
instead of Malkhuth Shamayim (‘Kingdom of Heaven’), Malkhutha
direqiya (‘Kingdom of the firmament’), as in Ber. 58 a,
Shebhu. 35 b. But in the former passage, at least, it seems
to apply rather to God’s Providential government than to His
moral reign.] and ‘Kingdom of God’ (in the Targum on Micah
iv. 7 ‘Kingdom of Jehovah’), were equivalent. In fact, the
word ‘heaven’ was very often used instead of ‘God,’ so as to
avoid unduly familiarising the ear with the Sacred Name. [1
The Talmud (Shebhu. 35 b) analyses the various passages of
Scripture in which it is used in a sacred and in the common
sense.] This, probably, accounts for the exclusive use of the
expression ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ in the Gospel by St. Matthew.
[2 In St. Matthew the expression occursthirty-two times; six
times that of ‘the Kingdom;’ five times that of ‘Kingdom of
God.’] And the term did imply a contrast to earth, as the
expression ‘the Kingdom of God’ did to this world. The.consciousness of its contrast to earth or the world was
distinctly expressed in Rabbinic writings. [a As in Shebhu 35
b; Ber. R. 9, ed Warsh, pp. 19 b, 20 a.]
This ‘Kingdom of Heaven,’ or ‘of God,’ must, however, be
distinguished from such terms as ‘the Kingdom of the Messiah’
(Malkhutha dimeshicha [b As in the Targum on Ps. xiv. 7, and
on Is. liii. 10.]), ‘the future age (world) of the Messiah’
(Alma deathey dimeshicha [c As in Targum on 1 Kings iv. 33
(v. 13).]), ‘the days of the Messiah,’ ‘the age to come’
(soeculum futurum, the Athid labho [3 The distinction between
the Vlam habba (the world to come), and the Athid labho (the
age to come), is important. It will be more fully referred to
by-and-by. In the meantime, suffice it, that the Athid labho
is the more specific designation of Messianic times. The two
terms are expressly distinguished, for example, in Mechilta
(ed. Weiss), p. 74 a, lines 2, 3.], both this and the
previous expression [d For example, in Ber. R. 88, ed. Warsh.
p. 157 a.]), ‘the end of days,’ [e Targ. PseudoJon. on Ex.
xl. 9, 11.] and ‘the end of the extremity of days’ Soph Eqebh
Yomaya [f Jer. Targ. on Gen. iii. 15; Jer. and PseudoJon.
Targ on Numb. xxiv. 14.]). This is the more important, since
the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ has so often been confounded with the
period of its triumphant manifestation in ‘the days,’ or in
‘the Kingdom, of the Messiah.’ Between the Advent and the
final manifestation of ‘the Kingdom,’ Jewish expectancy
placed a temporary obscuration of the Messiah. [4 This will
be more fully explained and shown in the sequel. For the
present we refer only to Yalkut, vol. ii. p. 75 d, and the
Midr. on Ruth ii. 14.] Not His first appearance, but His
triumphant manifestation, was to be preceded by the so-called
‘sorrows of the Messiah’ (the Chebhley shel Mashiach), ‘the
tribulations of the latter days.’ [5 The whole subject is
fully treated in Book V. ch. vi.]
A review of many passages on the subject shows that, in the
Jewish mind the expression ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ referred, not
so much to any particular period, as in general to the Rule
of God, as acknowledged, manifested, and eventually
perfected. Very often it is the equivalent for personal
acknowledgment of God: the taking upon oneself of the ‘yoke’
of ‘the Kingdom,’ or of the commandments, the former
preceding and conditioning the latter. [g So expressly in
Mechilta, p. 75 a; Yalkut, vol. ii. p. 14 a, last line.]
Accordingly, the Mishnah [a Ber. ii. 2.] gives this as the
reason why, in the collection of Scripture passages which
forms the prayer called ‘Shema,’ [1 The Shema, whichwas
repeated twice every day, was regarded as distinctive of
Jewish profession (Ber. iii. 3).] the confession, Deut. vi. 4
&c., precedes the admonition, Deut. xi. 13 &c., because a man
takes upon himself first the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,
and afterwards that of the commandments. And in this sense,
the repetition of this Shema, as the personal acknowledgment
of the Rule of Jehovah, is itself often designated as ‘taking
upon oneself the Kingdom of Heaven.’ [b For example, Ber. 13
b, 14 b; Ber. ii. 5; and the touching story of Rabbi Akiba
thus taking upon himself the yoke of the Law in the hour of.his martyrdom, Ber. 61 b.] Similarly, the putting on of
phylacteries, and the washing of hands, are also described as
taking upon oneself the yoke of the Kingdom of God. [2 In
Ber. 14 b, last line, and 15 a, first line, there is a
shocking definition of what constitutes the Kingdom of Heaven
in its completeness. For the sake of those who would derive
Christianity from Rabbinism. I would have quoted it, but am
restrained by its profanity.] To give other instances: Israel
is said to have taken up the yoke of the Kingdom of God at
Mount Sinai; [c So often Comp. Siphre p. 142 b, 143 b.] the
children of Jacob at their last interview with their father;
[d Ber. R. 98.] and Isaiah on his call to the prophetic
office, [e Yalkut, vol. ii. p. 43 a.] where it is also noted
that this must be done willingly and gladly. On the other
hand, the sons of Eli and the sons of Ahab are said to have
cast off the Kingdom of Heaven. [f Midr. on 1 Sam. viii 12;
Midr. on Eccl. i. 18.] While thus the acknowledgment of the
Rule of God, both in profession and practice, was considered
to constitute the Kingdom of God, its full manifestation was
expected only in the time of the Advent of Messiah. Thus in
the Targum on Isaiah xl. 9, the words ‘Behold your God!’ are
paraphrased: ‘The Kingdom of your God is revealed.’
Similarly, [g In Yalkut ii. p. 178 a.] we read: ‘When the
time approaches that the Kingdom of Heaven shall be
manifested, then shall be fulfilled that „the Lord shall be
King over all the earth.”‘ [h Zech. xiv. 9.] [3 The same
passage is similarly referred to in the Midr. on Song. ii.
12, where the words ‘the time of the singing has come,’ are
paraphrased; ‘the time of the Kingdom of Heaven that it shall
be manifested, hath come’ (in R. Martini Pugio Fidei, p.
782).] On the other hand, the unbelief of Israel would appear
in that they would reject these three things: the Kingdom of
Heaven, the Kingdom of the House of David, and the building
of the Temple, according to the prediction in Hos. iii. 5. [i
Midr. on 1 Sam. viii. 7. Comp. also generally Midr. on Ps.
cxlvii. 1.] It follows that, after the period of unbelief,
the Messianic deliverances and blessings of the ‘Athid
Labho,’ or future age, were expected. But the final
completion of all still remained for the ‘Olam Habba,’ or
world to come. And that there is a distinction between the
time of the Messiah and this ‘world to come’ is frequently
indicated in Rabbinic writings. [4 As in Shabb. 63 a, where
at least three differences between them are mentioned. For,
while all prophecy pointed to the days of the Messiah,
concerning the world to come we are told (Is. lxiv. 4) that
‘eye hath not seen, &c.’; in the days of the Messiah weapons
would be borne, but not in the world to come; and while Is.
xxiv. 21 applied to the days of the Messiah, the seemingly
contradictory passage, Is. xxx. 26, referred to the world to
come. In Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Exod. xvii. 16, we read of
three generations: that of this world, that of the Messiah,
and that of the world to come (Aram: Alma deathey=olam
habba). Comp. Ar. 13 b, and Midr. on Ps. lxxxi. 2 (3 in
A.V.), ed. Warsh. p. 63 a, where the harp of the Sanctuary is
described as of seven strings (according to Ps. cxix. 164);
in the days of the Messiah as of eight strings (according to
the inscription of ps. xii.); and in the world to come (here.Athid labho) as of ten strings (according to Ps. xcii. 3).
The references of Gfrorer (Jahrh. d. Heils, vol. ii. p. 213)
contain, as not unfrequently, mistakes. I may here say that
Rhenferdius carries the argument about the Olam habba, as
distinguished from the days of the Messiah, beyond what I
believe to be established. See his Dissertation in Meuschen,
Nov. Test. pp. 1116 &c.]
As we pass from the Jewish ideas of the time to the teaching
of the New Testament, we feel that while there is complete
change of spirit, the form in which the idea of the Kingdom
of Heaven is presented is substantially similar. Accordingly,
we must dismiss the notion that the expression refers to the
Church, whether visible (according to the Roman Catholic
view) or invisible (according to certain Protestant writers).
[1 It is difficult to conceive, how the idea of the identity
of the Kingdom of God with the Church could have originated.
Such parables as those about the Sower, and about the Net
(St. Matt. xiii. 3-9; 47, 48), and such admonitions as those
of Christ to His disciples in St. Matt. xix. 12; vi. 33; and
vi. 10, are utterly inconsistent with it.] ‘The Kingdom of
God,’ or Kingly Rule of God, is an objective fact. The
visible Church can only be the subjective attempt at its
outward realisation, of which the invisible Church is the
true counterpart. When Christ says, [a St. John iii. 3.] that
‘except a man be born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom
of God,’ He teaches, in opposition to the Rabbinic
representation of how ‘the Kingdom’ was taken up, that a man
cannot even comprehend that glorious idea of the Reign of
God, and of becoming, by conscious self-surrender, one of His
subjects, except he be first born from above. Similarly, the
meaning of Christ’s further teaching on this subject [b in
ver. 5.] seems to be that, except a man be born of water
(profession, with baptism [2 The passage which seems to me
most fully to explain the import of baptism, in its
subjective bearing, is 1 Peter, iii. 21, which I would thus
render: ‘which (water) also, as the antitype, now saves you,
even baptism; not the putting away of the filth of the flesh,
but the inquiry (the searching, perhaps the entreaty), for a
good conscience towards God, through the resurrection of
Christ.’ It is in this sense that baptism is designated in
Tit. iii. 5, as the ‘washing,’ or ‘bath of regeneration,’ the
baptized person stepping out of the waters of baptism with
this openly spoken new search after a good conscience towards
God; and in this sense also that baptism, not the act of
baptizing, nor yet that of being baptized, saves us, but this
through the Resurrection of Christ. And this leads us up to
the objective aspect of baptism. This consists in the promise
and the gift on the part of the Risen Saviour, Who, by and
with His Holy Spirit, is ever present with his Church. These
remarks leave, of course, aside the question of
Infant-Baptism, which rests on another and, in my view most
solid basis.] as its symbol) and the Spirit, he cannot really
enter into the fellowship of that Kingdom.
In fact, an analysis of 119 passages in the New Testament
where the expression ‘Kingdom’ occurs, shows that it means
the rule of God; [1 In this view the expression occurs.thirty-four times, viz: St. Matt. vi. 33; xii. 28; xiii. 38;
xix. 24; xxi. 31; St. Mark i. 14; x. 15, 23, 24, 25; xii. 34;
St. Luke i. 33; iv. 43; ix. 11; x. 9, 11; xi. 20; xii. 31;
xvii. 20, 21; xviii. 17, 24, 25, 29; St. John iii. 3; Acts i.
3; viii. 12; xx. 25; xxviii. 31; Rom. xiv. 17; 1 Cor. iv. 20;
Col. iv. 11; 1 Thess. ii. 12; Rev. i. 9.] which was
manifested in and through Christ; [2 As in the following
seventeen passages, viz.: St. Matt. iii. 2; iv. 17, 23; v. 3,
10; ix. 35; x. 7; St. Mark i. 15; xi. 10; St. Luke viii. 1;
ix. 2; xvi. 16; xix. 12, 15; Acts i. 3; xxviii. 23; Rev. i.
9.] is apparent in ‘the Church; [3 As in the following eleven
passages: St. Matt. xi. 11; xiii. 41; xvi. 19; xviii. 1; xxi.
43; xxiii. 13; St. Luke vii. 28; St. John iii. 5; Acts i. 3;
Col. i. 13; Rev. i. 9.] gradually develops amidst hindrances;
[4 As in the following twenty-four passages: St. Matt. xi.
12; xiii. 11, 19, 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52; xviii. 23; xx.
1; xxii. 2; xxv. 1, 14; St. Mark iv. 11, 26, 30; St. Luke
viii. 10; ix. 62; xiii. 18, 20; Acts i. 3; Rev. i. 9.] is
triumphant at the second coming of Christ [5 As in the
following twelve passages: St. Mark xvi. 28; St. Mark ix. 1;
xv. 43; St. Luke ix. 27; xix. 11; xxi. 31; xxii. 16, 18; Acts
i. 3; 2 Tim. iv. 1; Heb. xii. 28; Rev. i. 9.] (‘the end’);
and, finally, perfected in the world to come. [6 As in the
following thirty-one passages: St. Matt. v. 19, 20; vii. 21;
viii. 11; xiii. 43; xviii. 3; xxv. 34; xxvi. 29; St. Mark ix.
47; x. 14; xiv. 25; St. Luke vi. 20; xii. 32; xiii. 28, 29;
xiv. 15; xviii. 16; xxii. 29; Acts i. 3; xiv. 22; 1 Cor. vi.
9, 10; xv. 24, 50; Gal. v. 21; Eph. v. 5; 2 Thess. i. 5; St.
James ii. 5; 2 Peter i. 11; Rev. i. 9; xii. 10.] Thus viewed,
the announcement of John of the near Advent of this Kingdom
had deepest meaning, although, as so often in the case of
prophetism, the stages intervening between the Advent of the
Christ and the triumph of that Kingdom seem to have been
hidden from the preacher. He came to call Israel to submit to
the Reign of God, about to be manifested in Christ. Hence, on
the one hand, he called them to repentance, a ‘change of
mind’, with all that this implied; and, on the other, pointed
them to the Christ, in the exaltation of His Person and
Office. Or rather, the two combined might be summed up in the
call: ‘Change your mind’, repent, which implies, not only a
turning from the past, but a turning to the Christ in newness
of mind. [7 The term ‘repentance’ includes faith in Christ,
as in St. Luke xxiv. 47; Acts v. 31.] And thus the symbolic
action by which this preaching was accompanied might be
designated ‘the baptism of repentance.’
The account given by St. Luke bears, on the face of it, that
it was a summary, not only of the first, but of all John’s
preaching. [a iii. 18.] The very presence of his hearers at
this call to, and baptism of, repentance, gave point to his
words. Did they who, notwithstanding their sins, [1 I cannot,
with Schottgen and others, regard the expression ‘generation
of vipers’ as an allusion to the filthy legend about the
children of Eve and the serpent, but believe that it refers
to such passages as Ps. lviii. 4.] lived in such security of
carelessness and self-righteousness, really understand and
fear the final consequences of resistance to the coming.’Kingdom’? If so, theirs must be a repentance not only in
profession, but of heart and mind, such as would yield fruit,
both good and visible. Or else did they imagine that,
according to the common notion of the time, the vials of
wrath were to be poured out only on the Gentiles, [2 In proof
that such was the common view, I shall here refer to only a
few passages, and these exclusively from the Targumum: Jer.
Targ. on Gen. xlix. 11; Targ. on Is. xi. 4; Targ. on Amos ix.
11; Targ. on Nah. i. 6; on Zech. x. 3, 4. See also Ab. Z. 2
b, Yalkut i. p. 64 a; also 56 b (where it is shown how
plagues exactly corresponding to those of Egypt were to come
upon Rome).] while they, as Abraham’s children, were sure of
escape, in the words of the Talmud, that ‘the night’ (Is.
xxi. 12) was ‘only to the nations of the world, but the
morning to Israel’? [a Jer. Taan. 64 a.]
For, no principle was more fully established in the popular
conviction, than that all Israel had part in the world to
come (Sanh. x. 1), and this, specifically, because of their
connection with Abraham. This appears not only from the New
Testament, [b St. John viii. 33, 39, 53.] from Philo, and
Josephus, but from many Rabbinic passages. ‘The merits of the
Fathers,’ is one of the commonest phrases in the mouth of the
Rabbis. [3 ‘Everything comes to Israel on account of the
merits of the fathers’ (Siphre on Deut. p. 108 b). In the
same category we place the extraordinary attempts to show
that the sins of Biblical personages were not sins at all, as
in Shabb. 55 b, and the idea of Israel’s merits as works of
supererogation (as in Baba B. 10 a).] Abraham was represented
as sitting at the gate of Gehenna, to deliver any Israelite
[4 I will not mention the profane device by which apostate
and wicked Jews are at that time to be converted into
non-Jews.] who otherwise might have been consigned to its
terrors. [c Ber. R. 48; comp. Midr. on Ps. vi. 1; Pirke d. R.
Elies. c. 29; Shem. R. 19 Yalkut i. p. 23 b.] In fact, by
their descent from Abraham, all the children of Israel were
nobles, [d Baba Mez. vii. 1; Baba K. 91 a.] infinitely higher
than any proselytes. ‘What,’ exclaims the Talmud, ‘shall the
born Israelite stand upon the earth, and the proselyte be in
heaven?’ [e Jer. Chag. 76 a.] In fact, the ships on the sea
werepreserved through the merit of Abraham; the rain
descended on account of it. [f Ber. R. 39.] For his sake
alone had Moses been allowed to ascend into heaven, and to
receive the Law; for his sake the sin of the golden calf had
been forgiven; [g Shem R. 44.] his righteousness had on many
occasions been the support of Israel’s cause; [h Vayyikra R.
36.] Daniel had been heard for the sake of Abraham; [i Ber. 7
b.] nay, his merit availed even for the wicked. [k Shabb. 55
a; comp Beer, Leben Abr. p. 88.] [5 Professor Wunsche quotes
an inapt passage from Shabb. 89 b, but ignores, or is
ignorant of the evidence above given.] In its extravagance
the Midrash thus apostrophises Abraham: ‘If thy children were
even (morally) dead bodies, without bloodvessels or bones,
thy merit would avail for them!’ [a Ber. R. ed. Warsh. p. 80
b, par. 44.]
But if such had been the inner thoughts of his bearers, John.warned them, that God was able of those stones that strewed
the river-bank to raise up children unto Abraham; [b Perhaps
with reference to Is. ii. 1, 2.] [1 Lightfoot aptly points
out a play on the words ‘children’, banim, and ‘stones’,
abhanim. Both words are derived from bana, to build, which is
also used by the Rabbis in a moral sense like our own
‘upbuilding,’ and in that of the gift of adoption of
children. It is not necessary, indeed almost detracts from
the general impression, to see in the stones an allusion to
the Gentiles.] or, reverting to his former illustration of
‘fruits meet for repentance,’ that the proclamation of the
Kingdom was, at the same time, the laying of the axe to the
root of every tree that bore not fruit. Then making
application of it, in answer to the specific inquiry of
various classes, the preacher gave them such practical advice
as applied to the well-known sins of their past; [2 Thus the
view that charity delivered from Gehenna was very commonly
entertained (see, for example, Baba B. 10 a). Similarly, it
was the main charge against the publicans that they exacted
more than their due (see, for example, Baba K. 113 a). The
Greek, or wage of the soldiers, has its Rabbinic equivalent
of Afsanya (a similar word also in the Syriac).] yet in this
also not going beyond the merely negative, or preparatory
element of ‘repentance.’ The positive, and all-important
aspect of it, was to be presented by the Christ. It was only
natural that the hearers wondered whether John himself was
the Christ, since he thus urged repentance. For this was so
closely connected in their thoughts with the Advent of the
Messiah, that it was said, ‘If Israel repented but one day,
the Son of David would immediately come.’ [c For ex. Jer.
Taan. 64 a.] But here John pointed them to the
differencebetween himself and his work, and the Person and
Mission of the Christ. In deepest reverence he declared
himself not worthy to do Him the service of a slave or of a
disciple. [3 Volkmar is mistaken in regarding this as the
duty of the house-porter towards arriving guests. It is
expressly mentioned as one of the characteristic duties of
slaves in Pes. 4 a; Jer Kidd. i. 3; Kidd. 22 b. In Kethub. 96
a it is described as also the duty of a disciple towards his
teacher. In Mechilta on Ex. xxi. 2 (ed. Weiss, p. 82 a) it is
qualified as only lawful for a teacher so to employ his
disciple, while, lastly, in Pesiqta x. it is described as the
common practice.] His Baptism would not be of preparatory
repentance and with water, but the Divine Baptism in [4 Godet
aptly calls attention to the use of the preposition in here,
while as regards the baptism of water no preposition is used,
as denoting merely an instrumentality.] the Holy Spirit and
fire [5 The same writer points out that the want of the
preposition before ‘fire’ shows that it cannot refer to the
fire of judgment, but must be a further enlargement of the
word ‘Spirit.’ Probably it denotes the negative or purgative
effect of this baptism, as the word ‘holy’ indicates its
positive and sanctifying effect.], in the Spirit Who
sanctified, and the Divine Light which purified, [6 The
expression ‘baptism of fire’ was certainly not unknown to the
Jews. In Sanh. 39 a (last lines) we read of an immersion of
God in fire, based on Is. lxvi. 15. An immersion or baptism.of fire is proved from Numb. xxxi. 23. More apt, perhaps, as
illustration is the statement, Jer. Sot. 22 d, that the Torah
(the Law) its parchment was white fire, the writing black
fire, itself fire mixed with fire, hewn out of fire, and
given by fire, according to Deut. xxxiii. 2.] and so
effectively qualified for the ‘Kingdom.’ And there was still
another contrast. John’s was but preparing work, the Christ’s
that of final decision; after it came the harvest. His was
the harvest, and His the garner; His also the fan, with which
He would sift the wheat from the straw and chaff, the one to
be garnered, the other burned with fire unextinguished and
inextinguishable. [1 This is the meaning of . The word occurs
only in St. Matt. iii. 12; St. Luke iii. 17; St. Mark ix. 43,
45 (?), but frequently in the classics. The question of
‘eternal punishment’ will be discussed in another place. The
simile of the fan and the garner is derived from the Eastern
practice of threshing out the corn in the open by means of
oxen, after which, what of the straw had been trampled under
foot (not merely the chaff, as in the A.V.) was burned. This
use of the straw for fire is referred to in the Mishnah, as
in Shabb. iii. 1; Par. iv. 3. But in that case the Hebrew
equivalent for it is (Qash), as in the above passages, and
not Tebhen (Meyer), nor even as Professor Delitzsch renders
it in his Hebrew N.T.: Mots. The three terms are, however,
combined in a curiously illustrative parable (Ber. R. 83),
referring to the destruction of Rome and the preservation of
Israel, when the grain refers the straw, stubble, and chaff,
in their dispute for whose sake the field existed, to the
time when the owner would gather the corn into his barn, but
burn the straw, stubble, and chaff.] Thus early in the
history of the Kingdom of God was it indicated, that alike
that which would prove useless straw and the good corn were
inseparably connected in God’s harvest-field till the reaping
time; that both belonged to Him; and that the final
separation would only come at the last, and by His own Hand.
What John preached, that he also symbolised by a rite which,
though not in itself, yet in its application, was wholly new.
Hitherto the Law had it, that those who had contracted
Levitical defilement were to immerse before offering
sacrifice. Again, it was prescribed that such Gentiles as
became ‘proselytes of righteousness,’ or ‘proselytes of the
Covenant’ (Gerey hatstsedeq or Gerey habberith), were to be
admitted to full participation in the privileges of Israel by
the threefold rites of circumcision, baptism, [2 For a full
discussion of the question of the baptism of proselytes, see
Appendix XII.] and sacrifice, the immersion being, as it
were, the acknowledgment and symbolic removal of moral
defilement, corresponding to that of Levitical uncleanness.
But never before had it been proposed that Israel should
undergo a ‘baptism of repentance,’ although there are
indications of a deeper insight into the meaning of Levitical
baptisms. [3 The following very significant passage may here
be quoted: ‘A man who is guilty of sin, and makes confession,
and does not turn from it, to whom is he like? To a man who
has in his hand a defiling reptile, who, even if he immerses
in all the waters of the world, his baptism avails him.nothing; but let him cast it from his hand, and if he
immerses in only forty seah of water, immediately his baptism
avails him.’ On the same page of the Talmud there are some
very apt and beautiful remarks on the subject of repentance
(Taan. 16 a, towards the end).] Was it intended, that the
hearers of John should give this as evidence of their
repentance, that, like persons defiled, they sought
purification, and, like strangers, they sought admission
among the people who took on themselves the Rule of God?
These two ideas would, indeed, have made it truly a ‘baptism
of repentance.’ But it seems difficult to suppose, that the
people would have been prepared for such admissions; or, at
least, that there should have been no record of the mode in
which a change so deeply spiritual was brought about. May it
not rather have been that as, when the first Covenant was
made, Moses was directed to prepare Israel by symbolic
baptism of their persons [a Comp. Gen. xxxv.] and their
garments, [b Ex. xix. 10, 14.] so the initiation of the new
Covenant, by which the people were to enter into the Kingdom
of God, was preceded by another general symbolic baptism of
those who would be the true Israel, and receive, or take on
themselves, the Law from God? [1 It is remarkable, that
Maimonides traces even the practice of baptizing proselytes
to Ex. xix. 10, 14 (Hilc Issurey Biah xiii. 3; Yad haCh. vol.
ii. p. 142 b). He also gives reasons for the ‘baptism’ of
Israel before entering into covenant with God. In Kerith, 9 a
‘the baptism’ of Israel is proved from Ex. xxiv. 5, since
every sprinkling of blood was supposed to be preceded by
immersion. In Siphre on Numb. (ed. Weiss, p. 30 b) we are
also distinctly told of ‘baptism’ as one of the three things
by which Israel was admitted into the Covenant.] In that case
the rite would have acquired not only a new significance, but
be deeply and truly the answer to John’s call. In such case
also, no special explanation would have been needed on the
part of the Baptist, nor yet such spiritual insight on that
of the people as we can scarcely suppose them to have
possessed at that stage. Lastly, in that case nothing could
have been more suitable, nor more solemn, than Israel in
waiting for the Messiah and the Rule of God, preparing as
their fathers had done at the foot of Mount Sinai. [2 This
may help us, even at this stage, to understand why our Lord,
in the fulfilment of all righteousness, submitted to baptism.
It seems also to explain why, after the coming of Christ, the
baptism of John was alike unavailing and even meaningless
(Acts xix. 3-5). Lastly, it also shows how he that is least
in the Kingdom of God is really greater than John himself
(St. Luke vii. 28).]
(St. Matt. iii. 13-17; St. Mark i. 7-11; St. Luke iii.
21-23; St. John i. 32-34.).The more we think of it, the better do we seem to understand
how that ‘Voice crying in the wilderness: Repent! for the
Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,’ awakened echoes throughout the
land, and brought from city, village, and hamlet strangest
hearers. For once, every distinction was levelled. Pharisee
and Sadducee, outcast publican and semi-heathen soldier, met
here as on common ground. Their bond of union was the common
‘hope of Israel’, the only hope that remained: that of ‘the
Kingdom.’ The long winter of disappointment had not
destroyed, nor the storms of suffering swept away, nor yet
could any plant of spurious growth overshadow, what had
struck its roots so deep in the soil of Israel’s heart.
That Kingdom had been the last word of the Old Testament. As
the thoughtful Israelite, whether Eastern or Western, [1 It
may be said that the fundamental tendency of Rabbinism was
anti-sacrificial, as regarded the value of sacrifices in
commending the offerer to God. After the destruction of the
Temple it was, of course, the task of Rabbinism to show that
sacrifices had no intrinsic importance, and that their place
was taken by prayer, penitence, and good works. So against
objectors on the ground of Jer. xxxiii. 18, but see the
answer in Yalkut on the passage (vol. ii. p. 67 a, towards
the end) dogmatically (Bab. B. 10 b; Vayyikra R. 7, ed.
Warsh. vol. iii. p. 12 a): ‘he that doeth repentance, it is
imputed to him as if he went up to Jerusalem, built the
Temple and altar, and wrought all the sacrifices in the Law’;
and in view of the cessation of sacrifices in the
‘Athid.labho’ (Vay, u.s.; Tanch. on Par. Shemini). Soon,
prayer or study were put even above sacrifices (Ber. 32 b;
Men. 110 a), and an isolated teacher went so far as to regard
the introduction of sacrificial worship as merely intended to
preserve Israel from conforming to heathen worship (Vayyikra
R. 22, u. s. p. 34 b, close). On the other hand, individuals
seemed to have offered sacrifices even after the destruction
of the Temple (Eduy. viii. 6; Mechilta on Ex. xviii. 27, ed.
Weiss, p. 68 b).] viewed even the central part of his worship
in sacrifices, and remembered that his own Scriptures had
spoken of them in terms which pointed to something beyond
their offering, [2 Comp. 1 Sam. xv. 22; Ps. xl. 6-8; li. 7,
17; Is. i. 11-13; Jer. vii. 22, 23; Amos v. 21, 22; Ecclus.
vii. 9; xxxiv. 18, 19; xxxv. 1, 7.] he must have felt that
‘the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer
sprinkling the unclean,’ could only ‘sanctify to the
purifying of the flesh;’ that, indeed, the whole body of
ceremonial and ritual ordinances ‘could not make him that did
the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience.’ They
were only ‘the shadow of good things to come;’ of ‘a new’ and
‘better covenant, established upon better promises.’ [1 Hebr.
ix. 13, 9; x. 1; viii. 6, 13. On this subject we refer to the
classical work of Riehm (Lehrbegriff des Hebraerbriefes,
1867).] It was otherwise with the thought of the Kingdom.
Each successive link in the chain of prophecy bound Israel
anew to this hope, and each seemed only more firmly welded
than the other. And when the voice of prophecy had ceased,
the sweetness of its melody still held the people
spell-bound, even when broken in the wild fantasies of.Apocalyptic literature. Yet that ‘root of Jesse,’ whence this
Kingdom was to spring, was buried deep under ground, as the
remains of ancient Jerusalem are now under the desolations of
many generations. Egyptian, Syrian, Greek, and Roman had
trodden it under foot; the Maccabees had come and gone, and
it was not in them; the Herodian kingdom had risen and
fallen; Pharisaism, with its learning, had overshadowed
thoughts of the priesthood and of prophetism; but the hope of
that Davidic Kingdom, of which there was not a single trace
or representative left, was even stronger than before. So
closely has it been intertwined with the very life of the
nation, that, to all believing Israelites, this hope has
through the long night of ages, been like that eternal lamp
which burns in the darkness of the Synagogue, in front of the
heavy veil that shrines the Sanctuary, which holds and
conceals the precious rolls of the Law and the Prophets.
This great expectancy would be strung to utmost tension
during the pressure of outward circumstances more hopeless
than any hitherto experienced. Witness here the ready
credence which impostors found, whose promises and schemes
were of the wildest character; witness the repeated attempts
at risings, which only despair could have prompted; witness,
also, the last terrible war against Rome, and, despite the
horrors of its end, the rebellion of Bar-Kokhabh, the false
Messiah. And now the cry had been suddenly raised: ‘The
Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’ It was heard in the wilderness
of Judaea, within a few hours’ distance from Jerusalem. No
wonder Pharisee and Sadducee flocked to the spot. How many of
them came to inquire, how many remained to be baptized, or
how many went away disappointed in their hopes of ‘the
Kingdom,’ we know not. [2 Ancient commentators supposed that
they came from hostile motives; later writers that curiosity
prompted them. Neither of these views is admissible, nor does
St. Luke vii. 30 imply, that all the Pharisees who come to
him rejected his baptism.] But they would not see anything in
the messenger that could have given their expectations a rude
shock. His was not a call to armed resistance, but to
repentance, such as all knew and felt must precede the
Kingdom. The hope which he held out was not of earthly
possessions, but of purity. There was nothing negative or
controversial in what he spoke; nothing to excite prejudice
or passion. His appearance would command respect, and his
character was in accordance with his appearance. Not rich nor
yet Pharisaic garb with wide Tsitsith, [1 Comp. St. Matt.
xxiii. 5. The Tsitsith (plural, Tsitsiyoth), or borders
(corners, ‘wings’) of the garments, or rather the fringes
fastened to them. The observance was based on Numb. xv.
38-41, and the Jewish practice of it is indicated not only in
the N.T. (u. s., comp. also St. Matt. ix. 20; xiv. 36) but in
the Targumim on Numb. xv. 38, 39 (comp. also Targ.
Pseudo-Jon. on Numb. xvi. 1, 2, where the peculiar colour of
the Tsitsith is represented as the cause of the controversy
between Moses and Korah. But see the version of this story in
Jer. Sanh. x. p. 27 d, end). The Tsitsith were originally
directed to be of white threads, with one thread of deep blue
in each fringe. According to tradition, each of these white.fringes is to consist of eight threads, one of them wound
round the others: first, seven times with a double knot; then
eight times with a double knot (7 + 8 numerically = ); then
eleven times with a double knot (11 numerically = 😉 and
lastly, thirteen times (13 numerically = ; or, altogether ,
Jehovah One). Again, it is pointed out that as Tsitsith is
numerically equal to 600 ( ), this, with the eight threads
and five knots, gives the number 613, which is that of the
Commandments. At present the Tsitsith are worn as a special
undergarment (the ) or on the Tallith or prayer-mantle, but
anciently they seem to have been worn on the outer garment
itself. In Bemidbar R. 17, end (ed. Warsh, vol. iv. p. 69 a),
the blue is represented as emblematic of the sky, and the
latter as of the throne of God (Ex. xxiv. 10). Hence to look
upon the Tsitsith was like looking at the throne of glory
(Schurer is mistaken in supposing that the tractate Tsitsith
in the Septem Libri Talmud. par. pp. 22, 23, contains much
information on the subject).] bound with many-coloured or
even priestly girdle, but the old prophet’s poor raiment held
in by a leathern girdle. Not luxurious life, but one of
meanest fare. [2 Such certainly was John the Baptist’s. Some
locusts were lawful to be eaten, Lev. xi. 22. Comp. Terum. 59
a; and, on the various species, Chull. 65.] And then, all in
the man was true and real. ‘Not a reed shaken by the wind,’
but unbendingly firm in deep and settled conviction; not
ambitious nor self-seeking, but most humble in his
self-estimate, discarding all claim but that of lowliest
service, and pointing away from himself to Him Who was to
come, and Whom as yet he did not even know. Above all, there
was the deepest earnestness, the most utter disregard of man,
the most firm belief in what he announced. For himself he
sought nothing; for them he had only one absorbing thought:
The Kingdom was at hand, the King was coming, let them
Such entire absorption in his mission, which leaves us in
ignorance of even the details of his later activity, must
have given force to his message. [3 Deeply as we appreciate
the beauty of Keim’s remarks about the character and views of
John, we feel only the more that such a man could not have
taken the public position nor made such public proclamation
of the Kingdom as at hand, without a direct and objective
call to it from God. The treatment of John’s earlier history
by Keim is, of course, without historical basis.] And still
the voice, everywhere proclaiming the same message, travelled
upward, along the winding Jordon which cleft the land of
promise. It was probably the autumn of the year 779 (A. U.
C.), which, it may be noted, was a Sabbatic year. [1 The year
from Tishri (autumn) 779 to Tishri 780 was a Sabbatic year.
Comp. the evidence in Wieseler, Synopse d. Evang. pp. 204,
205.] Released from business and agriculture, the multitudes
flocked around him as he passed on his Mission. Rapidly the
tidings spread from town and village to distant homestead,
still swelling the numbers that hastened to the banks of the
sacred river. He had now reached what seems to have been the
most northern point of his Mission-journey, [2 We read of
three places where John baptized: ‘the wilderness of Judaea’,.probably the traditional site near Jericho; Aenon, near
Salim, on the boundary between Samaria and Judaea (Conder’s
Handbook of the Bible, p. 320); and Beth-Abara, the modern
Abarah, ‘one of the main Jordan fords, a little north of
Beisan’ (u. s.).] Beth-Abara (‘the house of passage,’ or ‘of
shipping’), according to the ancient reading, Bethany (‘the
house of shipping’), one of the best known fords across the
Jordon into Peraea. [3 It is one of the merits of Lieut.
Conder to have identified the site of Beth-Abara. The word
probably means ‘the house of passage’ (fords), but may also
mean ‘the house of shipping,’ the word Abarah in Hebrew
meaning ‘ferryboat,’ 2 Sam. xix. 18. The reading Bethania
instead of Bethabara seems undoubtedly the original one, only
the word must not be derived (as by Mr. Conder, whose
explanations and comments are often untenable), from the
province Batanea, but explained as Beth-Oniyah, the ‘house of
shipping.’ (See Lucke, Comment. u. d. Evang. Joh. i. pp. 392.
393.).] Here he baptized. [a St. John i. 28.] The ford was
little more than twenty miles from Nazareth. But long before
John had reached that spot, tidings of his word and work must
have come even into the retirement of Jesus’ Home-Life.
It was now, as we take it, the early winter of the year 780.
[4 Considerable probability attaches to the tradition of the
Basilideans, that our Lord’s Baptism took place on the 6th or
10th of January. (See Bp. Ellicott’s Histor. Lect. on the
Life of our Lord Jesus Christ, p. 105, note 2.] Jesus had
waited those months. Although there seems not to have been
any personal acquaintance between Jesus and John, and how
could there be, when their spheres lay so widely apart?, each
must have heard and known of the other. Thirty years of
silence weaken most human impressions, or, if they deepen,
the enthusiasm that had accompanied them passes away. Yet,
when the two met, and perhaps had brief conversation, each
bore himself in accordance with his previous history. With
John it was deepest, reverent humility, even to the verge of
misunderstanding his special Mission, and work of initiation
and preparation for the Kingdom. He had heard of Him before
by the hearing of the ear, and when now he saw Him, that look
of quiet dignity, of the majesty of unsullied purity in the
only Unfallen, Unsinning Man, made him forget even the
express command of God, which had sent him from his solitude
to preach and baptize, and that very sign which had been him
by which to recognise the Messiah. [a St. John i 33] [1 The
superficial objection on the supposed discrepancy between St.
Matthew iii. 14 and St. John i. 33 has been well put aside by
Bp. Ellicott (u. s. p. 107, note).] In that Presence it only
became to him a question of the more ‘worthy’ to the
misunderstanding of the nature of his special calling.
But Jesus, as He had not made haste, so was He not capable
of misunderstanding. To Him it was ‘the fulfilling of all
righteousness.’ From earliest ages it has been a question why
Jesus went to be baptized. The heretical Gospels put into the
mouth of the Virgin-Mother an invitation to go to that
baptism, to which Jesus is supposed to have replied by
pointing to His own sinlessness, except it might be on the.score of ignorance, in regard to a limitation of knowledge.
[2 Comp. Nicholson, Gospel according to the Hebrews, pp. 38,
92, 93.] Objections lie to most of the explanations offered
by modern writers. They include a bold denial of the fact of
Jesus’ Baptism; the profane suggestion of collusion between
John and Jesus; or such suppositions, as that of His personal
sinfulness, of His coming as the Representative of a guilty
race, or as the bearer of the sins of others, or of acting in
solidarity with His people, or else to separate Himself from
the sins of Israel; of His surrendering Himself thereby unto
death for man; of His purpose to do honour to the baptism of
John; or thus to elicit a token of His Messiahship; or to
bind Himself to the observance of the Law; or in this manner
to commence His Messianic Work; or to consecrate Himself
solemnly to it; or, lastly, to receive the spiritual
qualification for it. [3 It would occupy too much space to
give the names of the authors of these theories. The views of
Godet come nearest to what we regard as the true
explanation.] To these and similar views must be added the
latest conceit of Renan, [4 I must here, once for all,
express my astonishment that a book so frivolous and
fantastic in its treatment of the Life of Jesus, and so
superficial and often inaccurate, should have excited so much
public attention.] who arranges a scene between Jesus, who
comes with some disciples, and John, when Jesus is content
for a time to grow in the shadow of John, and to submit to a
rite which was evidently so generally acknowledged. But the
most reverent of these explanations involve a twofold
mistake. They represent the Baptism of John as one of
repentance, and they imply an ulterior motive in the coming
of Christ to the banks of Jordan. But, as already shown, the
Baptism of John was in itself only a consecration to, and
preparatory initiation for, the new Covenant of the Kingdom.
As applied to sinful men it was indeed necessarily a ‘baptism
of repentance;’ but not as applied to the sinless Jesus. Had
it primarily and always been a ‘baptism of repentance,’ He
could not have submitted to it.
Again, and most important of all, we must not seek for any
ulterior motive in the coming of Jesus to this Baptism. He
had no ulterior motive of any kind: it was an act of simple
submissive obedience on the part of the Perfect One, and
submissive obedience has no motive beyond itself. It asks no
reasons; it cherishes no ulterior purpose. And thus it was
‘the fulfilment of all righteousness.’ And it was in perfect
harmony with all His previous life. Our difficulty here lies,
if we are unbelievers, in thinking simply of the Humanity of
the Man of Nazareth; if we are believers, in making
abstraction of his Divinity. But thus much, at least, all
must concede, that the Gospels always present Him as the
God-Man, in an inseparable mystical union of the two natures,
and that they present to us the even more mysterious idea of
His Self-exinanition, of the voluntary obscuration of His
Divinity, as part of His Humiliation. Placing ourselves on
this standpoint, which is, at any rate, that of the Evangelic
narrative, we may arrive at a more correct view of this great
event. It seems as if, in the Divine Self-exinanition,.apparently necessarily connected with the perfect human
development of Jesus, some corresponding outward event were
ever the occasion of a fresh advance in the Messianic
consciousness and work. The first event of that kind had been
his appearance in the Temple. These two things then stood out
vividly before Him, not in the ordinary human, but in the
Messianic sense: that the Temple was the House of His Father,
and that to be busy about it was His Life-work. With this He
returned to Nazareth, and in willing subjection to His
Parents fulfilled all righteousness. And still, as He grew in
years, in wisdom, and in favour with God and Man, this
thought, rather this burning consciousness, was the inmost
spring of His Life. What this business specially was, He knew
not yet, and waited to learn; the how and the when of His
life-consecration, He left unasked and unanswered in the
still waiting for Him. And in this also we see the Sinless,
the Perfect One.
When tidings of John’s Baptism reached His home, there could
be no haste on His part. Even with knowledge of all that
concerned John’s relation to Him, there was in the
‘fulfilment of all righteousness’ quiet waiting. The one
question with Him was, as He afterwards put it: ‘The Baptism
of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?’ (St. Matt.
xxi. 25). That question once answered, there could be no
longer doubt nor hesitation. He went, not for any ulterior
purpose, nor from any other motive than that it was of God.
He went voluntarily, because it was such, and because ‘it
became Him’ in so doing ‘to fulfill all righteousness.’ There
is this great difference between His going to that Baptism,
and afterwards into the wilderness: in the former case, His
act was of preconceived purpose; in the latter it was not so,
but ‘He was driven’, without previous purpose to that effect,
under the constraining power ‘of the Spirit,’ without
premeditation and resolve of it; without even knowledge of
its object. In the one case He was active, in the other
passive; in the one case He fulfilled righteousness, in the
other His righteousness was tried. But as, on His first visit
to the Temple, this consciousness about His Life-business
came to Him in His Father’s House, ripening slowly and fully
those long years of quiet submission and growing wisdom and
grace at Nazareth, so at His Baptism, with the accompanying
descent of the Holy Ghost, His abiding in Him, and the heard
testimony from His Father, the knowledge came to Him, and, in
and with [1 But the latter must be firmly upheld.] that
knowledge, the qualification for the business of His Father’s
House. In that hour He learned the when, and in part the how,
of His Life-business; the latter to be still farther, and
from another aspect, seen in the wilderness, then in His
life, in His suffering, and, finally, in His death. In man
the subjective and the objective, alike intellectually and
morally, are ever separate; in God they are one. What He is,
that He wills. And in the God-Man also we must not separate
the subjective and the objective. The consciousness of the
when and the how of His Life-business was necessarily
accompanied, while He prayed, by the descent, and the abiding
in Him, of the Holy Ghost, and by the testifying Voice from.heaven. His inner knowledge was real qualification, the
forth-bursting of His Power; and it was inseparably
accompanied by outward qualification, in what took place at
His Baptism. But the first step to all was His voluntary
descent to Jordan, and in it the fulfilling of all
righteousness. His previous life had been that of the Perfect
Ideal Israelite, believing, unquestioning, submissive, in
preparation for that which, in His thirteenth year, He had
learned as its business. The Baptism of Christ was the last
act of His private life; and, emerging from its waters in
prayer, He learned: when His business was to commence, and
how it would be done.
That one outstanding thought, then, ‘I must be about My
Father’s business,’ which had been the principle of His
Nazareth life, had come to full ripeness when He knew that
the cry, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,’ was from God.
The first great question was now answered. His Father’s
business was the Kingdom of Heaven. It only remained for Him
‘to be about it,’ and in this determination He went to submit
to its initiatory rite of Baptism. We have, as we understand
it, distinct evidence, even if it were not otherwise
necessary to suppose this, that ‘all the people had been
baptized,’ [a St. Luke 21.] when Jesus came to John. Alone
the two met,probably for the first time in their lives. Over
that which passed between them Holy Scripture has laid the
veil of reverent silence, save as regards the beginning and
the outcome of their meeting, which it was necessary for us
to know. When Jesus came, John knew Him not. And even when He
knew Him, that was not enough. Not remembrance of what he had
heard and of past transactions, nor the overwhelming power of
that spotless Purity and Majesty of willing submission, were
sufficient. For so great a witness as that which John was to
bear, a present and visible demonstration from heaven was to
be given. Not that God sent the Spirit-Dove, or heaven
uttered its voice, for the purpose of giving this as a sign
to John. These manifestations were necessary in themselves,
and, we might say, would have taken place quite irrespective
of the Baptist. But, while necessary in themselves, they were
also to be a sign to John. And this may perhaps explain why
one Gospel (that of St. John) seems to describe the scene as
enacted before the Baptist, whilst others (St. Matthew and
St. Mark) tell it as if only visible to Jesus. [1 The account
by St. Luke seems to me to include both. The common objection
on the score of the supposed divergence between St. John and
the Synoptists is thus met.] The one bears reference to ‘the
record,’ the other to the deeper and absolutely necessary
fact which underlay ‘the record.’ And, beyond this, it may
help us to perceive at least one aspect of what to man is the
miraculous: as in itself the higher Necessary, with casual
and secondary manifestation to man.
We can understand how what he knew of Jesus, and what he now
saw and heard, must have overwhelmed John with the sense of
Christ’s transcendentally higher dignity, and led him to
hesitate about, if not to refuse, administering to Him the
rite of Baptism. [2 The expression (St. Matt iii. 14: ‘John.forbade Him’) implies earnest resistance (comp. Meyer ad
locum).] Not because it was ‘the baptism of repentance,’ but
because he stood in the presence of Him ‘the latchet of Whose
shoes’ he was ‘not worthy to loose’. Had he not so felt, the
narrative would not have been psychologically true; and, had
it not been recorded, there would have been serious
difficulty to our reception of it. And yet, withal, in so
‘forbidding’ Him, and even suggesting his own baptism by
Jesus, John forgot and misunderstood his mission. John
himself was never to be baptized; he only held open the door
of the new Kingdom; himself entered it not, and he that was
least in that Kingdom was greater than he. Such lowliest
place on earth seems ever conjoined with greatest work for
God. Yet this misunderstanding and suggestion on the part of
John might almost be regarded as a temptation to Christ. Not
perhaps, His first, nor yet this His first victory, since the
‘sorrow’ of His Parents about His absence from them when in
the Temple must to the absolute submissiveness of Jesus have
been a temptation to turn aside from His path, all the more
felt in the tenderness of His years, and the inexperience of
a first public appearance. He then overcame by the clear
consciousness of His Life-business, which could not be
contravened by any apparent call of duty, however specious.
And He now overcame by falling back upon the simple and clear
principle which had brought him to Jordan: ‘It becometh us to
fulfil all righteousness.’ Thus, simply putting aside,
without argument, the objection of the Baptist, He followed
the Hand that pointed Him to the open door of ‘the Kingdom.’
Jesus stepped out of the baptismal waters ‘praying.’ [a 1
St. Luke iii. 21.] One prayer, the only one which He taught
His disciples, recurs to our minds. [1 It seems to me that
the prayer which the Lord taught His disciples must have had
its root in, and taken its start from, His own inner Life. At
the same time it is adapted to our wants. Much in that prayer
has, of course, no application to Him, but is His application
of the doctrine of the Kingdom to our state and wants.] We
must here individualise and emphasise in their special
application its opening sentences: ‘Our Father Which art in
heaven, hallowed be Thy Name! Thy Kingdom come! They will be
done in earth, as it is in heaven!’ The first thought and the
first petition had been the conscious outcome of the
Temple-visit, ripened during the long years at Nazareth. The
others were now the full expression of His submission to
Baptism. He knew His Mission; He had consecrated Himself to
it in His Baptism; ‘Father Which art in heaven, hallowed be
Thy Name.’ The unlimited petition for the doing of God’s Will
on earth with the same absoluteness as in heaven, was His
self-consecration: the prayer of His Baptism, as the other
was its confession. And the ‘hallowed be Thy Name’ was the
eulogy, because the ripened and experimental principle of His
Life. How this Will, connected with ‘the Kingdom,’ was to be
done by Him, and when, He was to learn after His Baptism. But
strange, that the petition which followed those which must
have been on the lips of Jesus in that hour should have been
the subject of the first temptation or assault by the Enemy;
strange also, that the other two temptations should have.rolled back the force of the assault upon the two great
experiences He had gained, and which formed the burden of the
petitions, ‘Thy Kingdom come; Hallowed be Thy Name.’ Was it
then so, that all the assaults which Jesus bore only
concerned and tested the reality of a past and already
attained experience, save those last in the Garden and on the
Cross, which were ‘sufferings’ by which He ‘was made
But, as we have already seen, such inward forth-bursting of
Messianic consciousness could not be separated from objective
qualification for, and testimony to it. As the prayer of
Jesus winged heavenwards, His solemn response to the call of
the Kingdom, ‘Here am I;’ ‘Lo, I come to do Thy Will’, the
answer came, which at the same time was also the predicted
sign to the Baptist. Heaven seemed cleft, and in bodily shape
like a dove, the Holy Ghost descended on [1 Whether or not we
adopt the reading in St. Mark i. 10, the remaining of the
Holy Spirit upon Jesus is clearly expressed in St. John i.
32.] Jesus, remaining on him. It was as if, symbolically, in
the words of St. Peter, [a 1 St. Pet. iii. 21.] that Baptism
had been a new flood, and He Who now emerged from it, the
Noah, or rest, and comfort-bringer, Who took into His Ark the
dove bearing the olive-branch, indicative of a new life.
Here, at these waters, was the Kingdom, into which Jesus had
entered in the fulfilment of all righteousness; and from them
he emerged as its Heaven-designated, Heaven-qualified, and
Heaven-proclaimed King. As such he had received the fulness
of the Spirit for His Messianic Work, a fulness abiding in
Him, that out of it we might receive, and grace for grace. As
such also the voice from Heaven proclaimed it, to Him and to
John: ‘Thou art (‘this is’) My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well
pleased.’ The ratification of the great Davidic promise, the
announcement of the fulfilment of its predictive import in
Psalm ii. [2 Here the Targum on Ps. ii. 7, which is evidently
intended to weaken the Messianic interpretation, gives us
welcome help. It paraphrases: ‘Beloved as a son to his father
art Thou to Me.’ Keim regards the words, ‘Thou art my beloved
Son,’ &c., as a mixture of Is. xlii. 1 and Ps. ii. 7. I
cannot agree with this view, though this history is the
fulfilment of the prediction in Isaiah.] was God’s solemn
declaration of Jesus as the Messiah, His public proclamation
of it, and the beginning of Jesus’ Messianic work. And so the
Baptist understood it, when he ‘bare record’ that He was ‘the
Son of God.’ [a St. John i. 34.]
Quite intelligible as all this is, it is certainly
miraculous; not, indeed, in the sense of contravention of the
Laws of Nature (illogical as that phrase is), but in that of
having nothing analogous in our present knowledge and
experience. But would we not have expected the
supra-empirical, the directly heavenly, to attend such an
event, that is, if the narrative itself be true, and Jesus
what the Gospels represent Him? To reject, therefore, the
narrative because of its supra-empirical accompaniment seems,
after all, a sad inversion of reasoning, and begging the
question. But, to go a step further: if there be no the narrative, whence the invention of the legend? It
certainly had no basis in contemporary Jewish teaching; and,
equally certainly, it would not have spontaneously occurred
to Jewish minds. Nowhere in Rabbinic writings do we find any
hint of a Baptism of the Messiah, nor of a descent upon Him
of the Spirit in the form of a dove. Rather would such views
seem, a priori, repugnant to Jewish thinking. An attempt has,
however, been made in the direction of identifying two traits
in this narrative with Rabbinic notices. The ‘Voice from
heaven’ has been represented as the ‘Bath-Qol,’ or
‘Daughter-Voice,’ of which we read in Rabbinic writings, as
bringing heaven’s testimony or decision to perplexed or
hardly bestead Rabbis. And it has been further asserted, that
among the Jews ‘the dove’ was regarded as the emblem of the
Spirit. In taking notice of these assertions some warmth of
language may be forgiven.
We make bold to maintain that no one, who has impartially
examined the matter, [1 Dr. Winsche’s Rabbinic notes on the
Bath-Qol (Neue Beitr. pp. 22, 23) are taken from Hamburger’s
Real-Encykl. (Abth. ii. pp. 92 &c.).] could find any real
analogy between the so-called Bath-Qol, and the ‘Voice from
heaven’ of which record is made in the New Testament. However
opinions might differ, on one thing all were agreed: the
Bath-Qol had come after the voice of prophecy and the Holy
Ghost had ceased in Israel, [b Jer. Sot. ix. 14; Yoma 9 b;
Sotah 33 a; 48 b; Sanh 11a.] and, so to speak, had taken,
their place. [2 Hamburger, indeed maintains, on the ground of
Macc. 23 b, that occasionally it was identified with the Holy
Spirit. But carefully read, neither this passage, nor the
other, in which the same mistranslation, and profane
misinterpretation of the words ‘She has been more righteous’
(Gen. xxxviii. 26) occur (Jer. Sot. ix. 7), at all bears out
this suggestion. It is quite untenable in view of the
distinct statements (Jer. Sot. ix. 14; Sot. 48 b; and Sanh.
11a), that after the cessation of the Holy Spirit the
Bath-Qol took His place.] But at the Baptism of Jesus the
descent of the Holy Ghost was accompanied by the Voice from
Heaven. Even on this ground, therefore, it could not have
been the Rabbinic Bath-Qol. But, further, this
‘Daughter-Voice’ was regarded rather as the echo of, than as
the Voice of God itself [1 Comp. on the subject Pinner in his
Introduction to the tractate Berakhoth.] (Toseph. Sanh. xi.
1). The occasions on which this ‘Daughter-Voice’ was supposed
to have been heard are so various and sometimes so shocking,
both to common and to moral sense, that a comparison with the
Gospels is wholly out of the question. And here it also
deserves notice, that references to this Bath-Qol increase
the farther we remove from the age of Christ. [2 In the
Targum Onkelos it is not at all mentioned. In the Targum
PseudoJon. it occurs four times (Gen. xxxviii. 26; Numb. xxi.
6; Deut. xxviii. 15; xxxiv. 5), and four times in the Targum
on the Hagiographa (twice in Ecclesiastes, once in
Lamentations, and once in Esther). In Mechilta and Siphra it
does not occur at all, and in Siphre only once, in the absurd
lenged that the Bath-Qol was heard a distance of twelve times
twelve miles proclaiming the death of Moses (ed. Friedmann,.p. 149 b). In the Mishnah it is only twice mentioned (Yeb.
xvi. 6, where the sound of a Bath-Qol is supposed to be
sufficient attestation of a man’s death to enable his wife to
marry again; and in Abhoth vi. 2, where it is impossible to
understand the language otherwise than figuratively). In the
Jerusalem Talmud the Bath-Qol is referred to twenty times,
and in the Babylon Talmud sixty-nine times. Sometimes the
Bath-Qol gives sentence in favour of a popular Rabbi,
sometimes it attempts to decide controversies, or bears
witness; or else it is said every day to proclaim: Such an
one’s daughter is destined for such an one (Moed Kat. 18 b;
Sot. 2a; Sanh. 22 a). Occasionally it utters curious or
profane interpretations of Scripture (as in Yoma 22 b; Sot.
10 b), or silly legends, as in regard to the insect Yattush
which was to torture Titus (Gitt. 56 b), or as warning
against a place where a hatchet had fallen into the water,
descending for seven years without reaching the bottom.
Indeed, so strong became the feeling against this
supersitition, that the more rational Rabbis protested
against any appeal to the Bath-Qol (Baba Metsia 59 b).]
We have reserved to the last the consideration of the
statement, that among the Jews the Holy Spirit was presented
under the symbol of a dove. It is admitted, that there is no
support for this idea either in the Old Testament or in the
writings of Philo (Lucke, Evang. Joh. i. pp. 425, 426); that,
indeed, such animal symbolism of the Divine is foreign to the
Old Testament. But all the more confident appeal is made to
Rabbinic writings. The suggestion was, apparently, first made
by Wetstein. [a Nov. Test. i. p. 268.] It is dwelt upon with
much confidence by Gfrorer [3 The force of Gfrorer’s attacks
upon the Gospels lies in his cumulative attempts to prove
that the individual miraculous facts recorded in the Gospels
are based upon Jewish notions. It is, therefore, necessary to
examine each of them separately, and such examination, it
careful and conscientious, shows that his quotations are
often untrustworthy, and his conclusions fallacies. None the
less taking are they to those who are imperfectly acquainted
with Rabbinic literature. Wunsche’s Talmudic and Midrashic
Notes on the N.T. (Gottingen, 1878) are also too often
misleading.] and others, as evidence of the mythical origin
of the Gospels; [b Jahrh. des Heils, vol. ii. p. 433.] it is
repeated by Wunsche, and even reproduced by writers who, had
they known the real state of matters, would not have lent
their authority to it. Of the two passages by which this
strange hypothesis is supported, that in the Targum on Cant.
ii. 12 may at once be dismissed, as dating considerably after
the close of the Talmud. There remains, therefore, only the
one passage in the Talmud, [a Chag. 15 a.] which is generally
thus quoted: ‘The Spirit of God moved on the face of the
waters, like a dove.’ [b Farrar, Life of Christ, i. p. 117.]
That this quotation is incomplete, omitting the most
important part, is only a light charge against it. For, if
fully made, it would only the more clearly be seen to be
inapplicable. The passage (Chag. 15 a) treats of the supposed
distance between ‘the upper and the lower waters,’ which is
stated to amount to only three fingerbreadths. This is a reference to Gen. i. 2, where the Spirit of God is said
to brood over the face of the waters, ‘just as a dove
broodeth over her young without touching them.’ It will be
noticed, that the comparison is not between the Spirit and
the dove, but between the closeness with which a dove broods
over her young without touching them, and the supposed
proximity of the Spirit to the lower waters without touching
them. [1 The saying in Chag. 15 a is of Ben Soma, who is
described in Rabbinic literature as tainted with Christian
views, and whose belief in the possibility of the
supernatural birth of the Messiah is so coarsely satirised in
the Talmud. Rabbi Low (Lebensalter. p. 58) suggests that in
Ben Soma’s figure of the dove there may have been a Christian
reminiscence.] But, if any doubt could still exist, itwould
be removed by the fact that in a parallel passage, [c Ber. R.
2.] the expression used is not ‘dove’ but ‘that bird.’ Thus
much for this oft-misquoted passage. But we go farther, and
assert, that the dove was not the symbol of the Holy Spirit,
but that of Israel. As such it is so universally adopted as
to have become almost historical. [d Comp. the long
illustrations in the Midr. on Song i. 15; Sanh. 95 a; Ber. R.
39; Yalkut on Ps. 1v. 7. and other passages.] If, therefore,
Rabbinic illustration of the descent of the Holy Spirit with
the visible appearance of a dove must be sought for, it would
lie in the acknowledgment of Jesus as the ideal typical
Israelite, the Representative of His People.
The lengthened details, which have been necessary for the
exposure of the mythical theory, will not have been without
use, if they carry to the mind the conviction that this
history had no basis in existing Jewish belief. Its origin
cannot, therefore, be rationally accounted for, except by the
answer which Jesus, when He came to Jordan, gave to that
grand fundamental question: ‘The Baptism of John, whence was
it? From Heaven, or of men?’ [e St. Matt. xxi. 25.]
(St. Matt. iv. 1-11; St. Mark i. 12, 13; St. Luke iv. 1-13.)
The proclamation and inauguration of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’
at such a time, and under such circumstances, was one of the
great antitheses of history. With reverence be it said, it is
only God Who would thus begin His Kingdom. A similar, even
greater antithesis, was the commencement of the Ministry of
Christ. From the Jordan to the wilderness with its wild
beasts; from the devout acknowledgement of the Baptist, the
consecration and filial prayer of Jesus, the descent of the
Holy Spirit, and the heard testimony of Heaven, to the utter
foresakeness, the felt want and weakness of Jesus, and the
assaults of the Devil, no contrast more startling could be
conceived. And yet, as we think of it, what followed upon the.Baptism, and that it so followed, was necessary, as regarded
the Person of Jesus, His Work, and that which was to result
from it.
Psychologically, and as regarded the Work of Jesus, even
reverent negative Critics [1 No other terms would correctly
describe the book of Keim to which I specially refer. How
widely it differs, not only from the superficial trivialities
of a Renan, but from the stale arguments of Strauss, or the
picturesque inaccuracies of a Hausrath, no serious student
need be told. Perhaps on that ground it is only the more
dangerous.] have perceived its higher need. That at His
consecration to the Kingship of the Kingdom, Jesus should
have become clearly conscious of all that it implied in a
world of sin; that the Divine method by which that Kingdom
should be established, should have been clearly brought out,
and its reality tested; and that the King, as Representative
and Founder of the Kingdom, should have encountered and
defeated the representative, founder, and holder of the
opposite power, ‘the prince of this world’, these are
thoughts which must arise in everyone who believes in any
Mission of the Christ. Yet this only as, after the events, we
have learned to know the character of that Mission, not as we
might have preconceived it. We can understand, how a Life and
Work such as that of Jesus, would commence with ‘the
Temptation,’ but none other than His. Judaism never conceived
such an idea; because it never conceived a Messiah like
Jesus. It is quite true that long previous Biblical teaching,
and even the psychological necessity of the case, must have
pointed to temptation and victory as the condition of
spiritual greatness. It could not have been otherwise in a
world hostile to God, nor yet in man, whose conscious choice
determines his position. No crown of victory without previous
contest, and that proportionately to its brightness; no moral
ideal without personal attainment and probation. The
patriarchs had been tried and proved; so had Moses, and all
the heroes of faith in Israel. And Rabbinic legend, enlarging
upon the Biblical narratives, has much to tell of the
original envy of the Angels; of the assaults of Satan upon
Abraham, when about to offer up Isaac; of attempted
resistance by the Angels to Israel’s reception of the Law;
and of the final vain endeavour of Satan to take away the
soul of Moses. [1 On the temptations of Abraham see Book of
Jubilees, ch. xvii.; Sanh. 89 b (and differently but not less
blasphemously in Pirke de R. Elies. 31); Pirke de R. Elies.
26, 31, 32 (where also about Satan’s temptation of Sarah, who
dies in consequence of his tidings); Ab. de R. N. 33; Ber. R.
32, 56; Yalkut, i. c. 98, p. 28 b; and Tanchuma, where the
story is related with most repulsive details. As to Moses,
see for example Shabb. 89 a; and especially the truly
horrible story of the death of Moses in Debar R. 11 (ed.
Warsh. iii. p. 22 a and b). But I am not aware of any
temptation of Moses by Satan.] Foolish, repulsive, and even
blasphemous as some of these legends are, thus much at least
clearly stood out, that spiritual trials must precede
spiritual elevation. In their own language: ‘The Holy One,
blessed be His Name, does not elevate a man to dignity till.He has first tried and searched him; and if he stands in
temptation, then He raises him to dignity.’ [a Bemidb. R. 15,
ed. Warsh. vol. iv. p. 63 a, lines 5 and 4 from bottom.]
Thus far as regards man. But in reference to the Messiah
there is not a hint of any temptation or assault by Satan. It
is of such importance to mark this clearly at the outset of
this wonderful history, that proof must be offered even at
this stage. In whatever manner negative critics may seek to
account for the introduction of Christ’s Temptation at the
commencement of His Ministry, it cannot have been derived
from Jewish legend. The ‘mythical’ interpretation of the
Gospel-narratives breaks down in this almost more manifestly
than in any other instance. [2 Thus Gfrorer can only hope
that some Jewish parallelism may yet be discovered (!); while
Keim suggests, of course without a title of evidence,
additions by the early Jewish Christians. But whence and why
these imaginary additions?] So far from any idea obtaining
that Satan was to assault the Messiah, in a well-known
passage, which has been previously quoted, [b Yalkut on Is.
ix. 1, vol. ii. p. 56.] the Arch-enemy is represented as
overwhelmed and falling on his face at sight of Him, and
owning his complete defeat. [1 Keim (Jesu von Naz. i. b, p.
564) seems not to have perused the whole passage, and,
quoting it at second-hand, has misapplied it. The passage
(Yalkut on Is. lx. 1) has been given before.] On another
point in this history we find the same inversion of thought
current in Jewish legend. In the Commentary just referred to,
[a u. s. col. d.] the placing of Messiah on the pinnacle of
the Temple, so far from being of Satanic temptation, is said
to mark the hour of deliverance, of Messianic proclamation,
and of Gentile voluntary submission. ‘Our Rabbis give this
tradition: In the hour when King Messiah cometh, He standeth
upon the roof of the Sanctuary, and proclaims to Israel,
saying, Ye poor (suffering), the time of your redemption
draweth nigh. And if ye believe, rejoice in My Light, which
is risen upon you….. Is. lx. 1….. upon you only ….Is.
lx. 2….. In that hour will the Holy One, blessed be His
Name, make the Light of the Messiah and of Israel to shine
forth; and all shall come to the Light of the King Messiah
and of Israel, as it is written ….. Is. lx. 3….. And they
shall come and lick the dust from under the feet of the King
Messiah, as it is written, Is. xlix. 23…… And all shall
come and fall on their faces before Messiah and before
Israel, and say, We will be servants to Him and to Israel.
And every one in Israel shall have 2,800 servants, [2 The
number is thus reached: as there are seventy nations, and ten
of each are to take hold on each of the four corners of a
Jew’s garment, we have 70 x 10 x 4 =2,800.] as it is written,
Zech. viii. 23.’ One more quotation from the same Commentary:
[b u. s. 11 lines fur ther down.] ‘In that hour, the Holy
One, blessed be His Name, exalts the Messiah to the heaven of
heavens, and spreads over Him of the splendour of His glory
because of the nations of the world, because of the wicked
Persians. They say to Him, Ephraim, Messiah, our
Righteousness, execute judgment upon them, and do to them
what Thy soul desireth.’.In another respect these quotations are important. They show
that such ideas were, indeed, present to the Jewish mind, but
in a sense opposite to the Gospel-narratives. In other words,
they were regarded as the rightful manifestation of Messiah’s
dignity; whereas in the Evangelic record they are presented
as the suggestions of Satan, and the Temptation of Christ.
Thus the Messiah of Judaism is the Anti-Christ of the
Gospels. But if the narrative cannot be traced to Rabbinic
legend, may it not be an adaptation of an Old Testament
narrative, such as the account of the forty days’ fast of
Moses on the mount, or of Elijah in the wilderness? Viewing
the Old Testament in its unity, and the Messiah as the apex
in the column of its history, we admit, or rather, we must
expect, throughout points of correspondence between Moses,
Elijah, and the Messiah. In fact, these may be described as
marking the three stages in the history of the Covenant.
Moses was its giver, Elijah its restorer, the Messiah its
renewer and perfecter. And as such they all had, in a sense,
a similar outward consecration for their work. But that
neither Moses nor Elijah was assailed by the Devil,
constitutes not the only, though a vital, difference between
the fast of Moses and Elijah, and that of Jesus. Moses fasted
in the middle, Elijah at the Presence of God; [1 The Rabbis
have it, that a man must accommodate himself to the ways of
the place where he is. When Moses was on the Mount he lived
of ‘the bread of the Torah’ (Shem. R. 47).] Elijah alone;
Jesus assaulted by the Devil. Moses had been called up by
God; Elijah had gone forth in the bitterness of his own
spirit; Jesus was driven by the Spirit. Moses failed after
his forty days’ fast, when in indignation he cast the Tables
of the Law from him; Elijah failed before his forty days’
fast; Jesus was assailed for forty days and endured the
trial. Moses was angry against Israel; Elijah despaired of
Israel; Jesus overcame for Israel.
Nor must we forget that to each the trial came not only in
his human, but in his representative capacity, as giver,
restorer, or perfecter of the Covenant. When Moses and Elijah
failed, it was not only as individuals, but as giving or
restoring the Covenant. And when Jesus conquered, it was not
only as the Unfallen and Perfect Man, but as the Messiah. His
Temptation and Victory have therefore a twofold aspect: the
general human and the Messianic, and these two are closely
connected. Hence we draw also this happy inference: in
whatever Jesus overcame, we can overcome. Each victory which
He has gained secures its fruits for us who are His disciples
(and this alike objectively and subjectively). We walk in His
foot-prints; we can ascend by the rock-hewn steps which His
Agony has cut. He is the perfect man; and as each temptation
marks a human assault (assault on humanity), so it also marks
a human victory (of humanity). But He is also the Messiah;
and alike the assault and the victory were of the Messiah.
Thus, each victory of humanity becomes a victory for
humanity; and so is fulfilled, in this respect also, that
ancient hymn of royal victory, ‘Thou hast ascended on high;
Thou hast led captivity captive; Thou hast received gifts; yea, for the rebellious also, that Jehovah God, might
dwell among them.’ [a Ps. lxviii. 18.] [2 The quotation in
Eph. iv. 8 resembles the rendering of the Targum (see
Delitzsch Comm. u. d. Psalter, vol. i. p. 503).]
But even so, there are other considerations necessarily
preliminary to the study of one of the most important parts
in the life of Christ. They concern these two questions, so
closely connected that they can scarcely be kept quite apart:
Is the Evangelic narrative to be regarded as the account of a
real and outward event? And if so, how was it possible, or,
in what sense can it be asserted, that Jesus Christ, set
before us as the Son of God, was ‘tempted of the Devil’? All
subsidiary questions run up into these two.
As regards the reality and outwardness of the temptation of
Jesus, several suggestions may be set aside as unnatural, and
ex post facto attempts to remove a felt difficulty. Renan’s
frivolous conceit scarcely deserves serious notice, that
Jesus went into the wilderness in order to imitate the
Baptist and others, since such solitude was at the time
regarded as a necessary preparation for great things. We
equally dismiss as more reverent, but not better grounded,
such suggestions as that an interview there with the deputies
of the Sanhedrin, or with a Priest, or with a Pharisee,
formed the historical basis of the Satanic Temptation; or
that it was a vision, a dream, the reflection of the ideas of
the time; or that it was a parabolic form in which Jesus
afterwards presented to His disciples His conception of the
Kingdom, and how they were to preach it. [1 We refrain from
naming the individual writers who have broached these and
other equally untenable hypotheses.] Of all such explanations
it may be said, that the narrative does not warrant them, and
that they would probably never have been suggested, if their
authors had been able simply to accept the Evangelic history.
But if so it would have been both better and wiser wholly to
reject (as some have done) the authenticity of this, as of
the whole early history of the Life of Christ, rather than
transform what, if true, is so unspeakably grand into a
series of modern platitudes. And yet (as Keim has felt) it
seems impossible to deny, that such a transaction at the
beginning of Christ’s Messianic Ministry is not only
credible, but almost a necessity; and that such a transaction
must have assumed the form of a contest with Satan. Besides,
throughout the Gospels there is not only allusion to this
first great conflict (so that it does not belong only to the
early history of Christ’s Life), but constant reference to
the power of Satan in the world, as a kingdom opposed to that
of God, and of which the Devil is the King. [2 The former
notably in St. Matt. xii. 25-28; St. Luke xi. 17 &c. The
import of this, as looking back upon the history of the
Temptation, has not always been sufficiently recognised. In
regard to Satan and his power many passages will occur to the
reader, such as St. Matt. vi. 13; xii. 22; xiii. 19, 25, 39;
xxvi. 41; St. Luke x. 18; xxii. 3, 28, 31; St. John viii. 44;
xii. 31; xiii. 27; xiv. 30; xvi. 11.] And the reality of such
a kingdom of evil no earnest mind would call in question, nor.would it pronounce a priori against the personality of its
king. Reasoning a priori, its credibility rests on the same
kind of, only, perhaps, on more generally patent, evidence as
that of the beneficent Author of all Good, so that with
reverence be it said, we have, apart from Holy Scripture,
and, as regards one branch of the argument, as much evidence
for believing in a personal Satan, as in a Personal God.
Holding, therefore, by the reality of this transaction, and
finding it equally impossible to trace it to Jewish legend,
or to explain it by the coarse hypothesis of
misunderstanding,exaggeration, and the like, this one
question arises: Might it not have been a purely inward
transaction, or does the narrative present an account of what
was objectively real?
At the outset, it is only truthful to state, that the
distinction does not seem of quite so vital importance as it
has appeared to some, who have used in regard to it the
strongest language. [1 So Bishop Ellicott, Histor. Lectures,
p. 111.] On the other hand it must be admitted that the
narrative, if naturally interpreted, suggests an outward and
real event, not an inward transaction; [2 Professor Godet’s
views on this subject are very far from satisfactory, whether
exegetically or dogmatically. Happily, they fall far short of
the notion of any internal solicitation to sin in the case of
Jesus, which Bishop Ellicott so justly denounces in strongest
language.] that there is no other instance of ecstatic state
or of vision recorded in the life of Jesus, and that (as
Bishop Ellicott has shown), [3 U. s.p. 110, note 2.] the
special expressions used are all in accordance with the
natural view. To this we add, that some of the objections
raised, notably that of the impossiblity of showing from one
spot all the kingdoms of the world, cannot bear close
investigation. For no rational interpretation would insist on
the absolute literality of this statement, any more than on
that of the survey of the whole extent of the land of Israel
by Moses from Pisgah. [a Deut. xxxiv. 1-3.] [4 According to
Siphre (ed. Friedmann p. 149 a and b), God showed to Moses
Israel in its happiness, wars, and misfortunes; the whole
world from the Day of Creation to that of the Resurrection;
Paradise, and Gehenna.] All the requirements of the narrative
would be met by supposing Jesus to have been placed on a very
high mountain, whence south, the land of Judaea and far-off
Edom; east, the swelling plains towards Euphrates; north,
snow-capped Lebanon; and west, the cities of Herod, the coast
of the Gentiles, and beyond, the wide sea dotted with sails,
gave far-off prospect of the kingdoms of this world. To His
piercing gaze all their grandeur would seem to unroll, and
pass before Him like a moving scene, in which the sparkle of
beauty and wealth dazzled the eye, the sheen of arms
glittered in the far distance, the tramp of armed men, the
hum of busy cities, and the sound of many voices fell on the
ear like the far-off rush of the sea, while the restful
harmony of thought, or the music of art, held and bewitched
the senses, and all seemed to pour forth its fullness in
tribute of homage at His feet in Whom all is perfect, and to
Whom all belongs..But in saying this we have already indicated that, in such
circumstances, the boundary-line between the outward and the
inward must have been both narrow and faint. Indeed, with
Christ it can scarcely be conceived to have existed at such a
moment. The past, the present, and the future must have been
open before Him like a map unrolling. Shall we venture to say
that such a vision was only inward, and not outwardly and
objectively real? In truth we are using terms which have no
application to Christ. If we may venture once more to speak
in this wise of the Divine Being: With Him what we view as
the opposite poles of subjective and objective are absolutely
one. To go a step further: many even of our temptations are
only (contrastedly) inward, for these two reasons, that they
have their basis or else their point of contact within us,
and that from the limitations of our bodily condition we do
uot see the enemy, nor can take active part in the scene
around. But in both respects it was not so with the Christ.
If this be so, the whole question seems almost irrelevant,
and the distinction of outward and inward inapplicable to the
present case. Or rather, we must keep by these two landmarks:
First, it was not inward in the sense of being merely
subjective; but it was all real, a real assualt by a real
Satan, really under these three forms, and it constituted a
real Temptation to Christ. Secondly, it was not merely
outward in the sense of being only a present assault by
Satan; but it must have reached beyond the outward into the
inward, and have had for its further object that of
influencing the future Work of Christ, as it stood out before
His Mind.
A still more difficult and solemn question is this: In what
respect could Jesus Christ, the Perfect Sinless Man, the Son
of God, have been tempted of the Devil? That He was so
tempted is of the very essence of this narrative, confirmed
throughout His after-life, and laid down as a fundamental
principle in the teaching and faith of the Church. [a Heb.
iv. 15.] On the other hand, temptation without the inward
correspondence of existent sin is not only unthinkable, so
far as man is concerned, [b St. James i. 14.] but temptation
without the possibility of sin seems unreal a kind of
Docetism. [1 The heresy which represents the Body of Christ
as only apparent, not real.] Yet the very passage of Holy
Scripture in which Christ’s equality with us as regards all
temptation is expressed, also emphatically excepts from it
this one particular sin, [a Hebr. iv. 15.] notonly in the
sense that Christ actually did not sin, nor merely in this,
that ‘our concupiscence’ [b St. James i. 14.] had no part in
His temptations, but emphatically in this also, that the
notion of sin has to be wholly excluded from our thoughts of
Christ’s temptations.’
To obtain, if we can, a clearer understanding of this
subject, two points must be kept in view. Christ’s was real,
though unfallen Human Nature; and Christ’s Human was in
inseparable union with His Divine Nature. We are not
attempting to explain these mysteries, nor at present to.vindicate them; we are only arguing from the standpoint of
the Gospels and of Apostolic teaching, which proceeds on
these premisses, and proceeding on them, we are trying to
understand the Temptation of Christ. Now it is clear, that
human nature, that of Adam before his fall, was created both
sinless and peccable. If Christ’s Human Nature was not like
ours, but, morally, like that of Adam before his fall, then
must it likewise have been both sinless and in itself
peccable. We say, in itself, for there is a great difference
between the statement that human nature, as Adam and Christ
had it, was capable of sinning, and this other, that Christ
was peccable. From the latter the Christian mind
instinctively recoils, even as it is metaphysically
impossible to imagine the Son of God peccable. Jesus
voluntarily took upon Himself human nature with all its
infirmities and weaknesses, but without the moral taint of
the Fall: without sin. It was human nature, in itself capable
of sinning, but not having sinned. If He was absolutely
sinless, He must have been unfallen. The position of the
first Adam was that of being capable of not sinning, not that
of being incapable of sinning. The Second Adam also had a
nature capable of not sinning, but not incapable of sinning.
This explains the possibility of ‘temptation’ or assault upon
Him, just as Adam could be tempted before there was in him
any inward consensus to it. [2 The latter was already sin.
Yet ‘temptation’ means more than mere ‘assault.’ There may be
conditional mental assensus without moral consensus, and so
temptation without sin. See p. 301, note.] The first Adam
would have been ‘perfected’, or passed from the capability of
not sinning to the incapability of sinning, by obedience.
That ‘obedience’, or absolute submission to the Will of God,
was the grand outstanding characteristic of Christ’s work;
but it was so, because He was not only the Unsinning,
Unfallen Man, but also the Son of God. Because God was His
Father, therefore He must be about His Business, which was to
do the Will of His Father. With a peccable Human Nature He
was impeccable; not because He obeyed, but being impeccable
He so obeyed, because His Human was inseparably connected
with His Divine Nature. To keep this Union of the two Natures
out of view would be Nestorianism. [1 The heresy which
undulyseparated the two Natures.] To sum up: The Second Adam,
morally unfallen, though voluntarily subject to all the
conditions of our Nature, was, with a peccable Human Nature,
absolutely impeccable as being also the Son of God, a
peccable Nature, yet an impeccable Person: the God-Man,
‘tempted in regard to all (things) in like manner (as we),
without (excepting) sin.’
All this sounds, after all, like the stammering of Divine
words by a babe, and yet it may in some measure help us to
understand the character of Christ’s first great Temptation.
Before proceeding, a few sentences are required in
explanation of seeming differences in the Evangelic narration
of the event. The historical part of St. John’s Gospel begins
after the Temptation, that is, with the actual Ministry of
Christ; since it was not within the purport of that work to.detail the earlier history. That had been sufficiently done
in the Synoptic Gospels. Impartial and serious critics will
admit that these are in accord. For, if St. Mark only
summarises, in his own brief manner, he supplies the two-fold
notice that Jesus was ‘driven’ into the wilderness, ‘and was
with the wild beasts,’ which is in fullest internal agreement
with the detailed narratives of St. Matthew and St. Luke. The
only noteworthy difference between these two is, that St.
Matthew places the Temple-temptation before that of the
world-kingdom, while St. Luke inverts this order, probably
because his narrative was primarily intended for Gentile
readers, to whose mind this might present itself as to them
the true gradation of temptation. To St. Matthew we owe the
notice, that after Temptation ‘Angels came and ministered’
unto Jesus; to St. Luke, that the Tempter only ‘departed from
Him for a season.’
To restate in order our former conclusions, Jesus had
deliberately, of His own accord and of set firm purpose, gone
to be baptized. That one grand outstanding fact of His early
life, that He must be about His Father’s Business, had found
its explanation when He knew that the Baptist’s cry, ‘the
Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,’ was from God. His Father’s
Business, then, was ‘the Kingdom of Heaven,’ and to it He
consecrated Himself, so fulfilling all righteousness. But His
‘being about it’ was quite other than that of any Israelite,
however devout, who came to Jordan. It was His consecration,
not only to the Kingdom, but to the Kingship, in the
anointing and permanent possession of the Holy Ghost, and in
His proclamation from heaven. That Kingdom was His Father’s
Business; its Kingship, the manner in which He was to be
‘about it.’ The next step was not, like the first, voluntary,
and of preconceived purpose. Jesus went to Jordan; He was
driven of the Spirit into the wilderness. Not, indeed, in the
sense of His being unwilling to go, [1 This is evident even
from the terms used by St. Matthew ( ) and St. Luke ( ). I
cannot agree with Godet, that Jesus would have been inclined
to return to Galilee and begin teaching. Jesus had no
inclination save this, to do the Will of His Father. And yet
the expression ‘driven’ used by St. Mark seems to imply some
human shrinking on His part, at least at the outset.] or
having had other purpose, such as that of immediate return
into Galilee, but in that of not being willing, of having no
will or purpose in the matter, but being ‘led up,’
unconscious of its purpose, with irresistible force, by the
Spirit. In that wilderness He had to test what He had
learned, and to learn what He had tested. So would He have
full proof for His Work of the What, His Call and Kingship;
so would He see its How, the manner of it; so, also, would,
from the outset, the final issue of His Work appear.
Again, banishing from our minds all thought of sin in
connection with Christ’s Temptation, [a Heb. iv. 15.] He is
presented to us as the Second Adam, both as regarded Himself,
and His relation to man. In these two respects, which,
indeed, are one, He is now to be tried. Like the first, the
Second Adam, sinless, is to be tempted, but under the.existing conditions of the Fall: in the wilderness, not in
Eden; not in the enjoyment of all good, but in the pressing
want of all that is necessary for the sustenance of life, and
in the felt weakness consequent upon it. For (unlike the
first) the Second Adam was, in His Temptation, to be placed
on an absolute equality with us, except as regarded sin. Yet
even so, there must have been some point of inward connection
to make the outward assault a temptation. It is here that
opponents (such as Strauss and Keim) have strangely missed
the mark, when objecting, either that the forty days’ fast
was intrinsically unnecessary, or that the assaults of Satan
were clumsy suggestions, incapable of being temptations to
Jesus. He is ‘driven’ into the wilderness by the Spirit to be
tempted. [2 The place of the Temptation could not, of course,
have been the traditional ‘Quarantania,’ but must have been
near Bethabara. See also Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, p.
308.] The history of humanity is taken up anew at the point
where first the kingdom of Satan was founded, only under new
conditions. It is not now a choice, but a contest, for Satan
is the prince of this world. During the whole forty days of
Christ’s stay in the wilderness His Temptation continued,
though it only attained its high point at the last, when,
after the long fast, He felt the weariness and weakness of
hunger. As fasting occupies but a very subordinate, we might
almost say a tolerated, place in the teaching of Jesus; and
as, so far as we know, He exercised on no other occasion such
ascetic practices, we are left to infer internal, as well as
external, necessity for it in the present instance. The
former is easily understood in His pre-occupation; the latter
must have had for its object to reduce Him to utmost outward
weakness, by the depression of all the vital powers. We
regard it as a psychological fact that, under such
circumstances, of all mental faculties the memory alone is
active, indeed, almost preternaturally active. During the
preceding thirty-nine days the plan, or rather the future, of
the Work to which He had been consecrated, must have been
always before Him. In this respect, then, He must have been
tempted. It is wholly impossible that He hesitated for a
moment as to the means by which He was to establish the
Kingdom of God. He could not have felt tempted to adopt
carnal means, opposed to the nature of that Kingdom, and to
the Will of God. The unchangeable convictions which He had
already attained must have stood out before Him: that His
Father’s business was the Kingdom of God; that He was
furnished to it, not by outward weapons, but by the abiding
Presence of the Spirit; above all, that absolute submission
to the Will of God was the way to it, nay, itself the Kingdom
of God. It will be observed, that it was on these very points
that the final attack of the Enemy was directed in the utmost
weakness of Jesus. But, on the other hand, the Tempter could
not have failed to assault Him with considerations which He
must have felt to be true. How could He hope, alone, and with
such principles, to stand against Israel? He knew their views
and feelings; and as, day by day, the sense of utter
loneliness and forsakenness increasingly gathered around Him,
in His increasing faintness and weakness, the seeming
hopelessness of such a task as He had undertaken must have.grown upon Him with almost overwhelming power. [1 It was this
which would make the ‘assault’ a ‘temptation’ by vividly
setting before the mind the reality and rationality of these
considerations, a mental assensus, without implying any
inward consensus to the manner in which the Enemy proposed to
have them set aside.] Alternately, the temptation to despair,
presumption, or the cutting short of the contest in some
decisive manner, must have presented itself to His mind, or
rather have been presented to it by the Tempter.
And this was, indeed, the essence of His last three great
temptations; which, as the whole contest, resolved themselves
into the one question of absolute submission to the Will of
God, [1 All the assaults of Satan were really directed
against Christ’s absolute submission to the Will of God,
which was His Perfectness. Hence, by every one of these
temptations, as Weiss says in regard to the first, ‘ruttelt
er an Seiner Volkommenheit.] which is the sum and substance
of all obedience. If He submitted to it, it must be
suffering, and only suffering, helpless, hopeless suffering
to the bitter end; to the extinction of life, in the agonies
of the Cross, as a male-factor; denounced, betrayed, rejected
by His people; alone, in very God-forsakenness. And when thus
beaten about by temptation, His powers reduced to the lowest
ebb of faintness, all the more vividly would memory hold out
the facts so well known, so keenly realised at that moment,
in the almost utter cessation of every other mental faculty:
[2 I regard the memory as affording the basis for the
Temptation. What was so vividly in Christ’s memory at that
moment, that was flashed before Him as in a mirror under the
dazzling light of temptation.] the scene lately enacted by
the banks of Jordan, and the two great expectations of His
own people, that the Messiah was to head Israel from the
Sanctuary of the Temple, and that all kingdoms of the world
were to become subject to Him. Here, then, is the inward
basis of the Temptation of Christ, in which the fast was not
unnecessary, nor yet the special assaults of the Enemy either
‘clumsy suggestions,’ or unworthy of Jesus.
He is weary with the contest, faint with hunger, alone in
that wilderness. His voice falls on no sympathising ear; no
voice reaches Him but that of the Tempter. There is nothing
bracing, strengthening in this featureless, barren, stony
wilderness, only the picture of desolateness, hopelessness,
despair. He must, He will absolutely submit to the Will of
God. But can this be the Will of God? One word of power, and
the scene would be changed. Let Him despair of all men, of
everything, He can do it. By His Will the Son of God, as the
Tempter suggests, not, however, calling thereby in question
His Sonship, but rather proceeding on its admitted reality [3
Satan’s ‘if’ was rather a taunt than a doubt. Nor could it
have been intended to call in question His ability to do
miracles. Doubt on that point would already have been a
fall.], can change the stones into bread. He can do miracles,
put an end to present want and question, and, as visibly the
possessor of absolute miraculous power, the goal is reached!
But this would really have been to change the idea of Old.Testament miracle into the heathen conception of magic, which
was absolute power inherent in an without moral purpose. The
moral purpose, the grand moral purpose in all that was of
God, was absolute submission to the Will of God. His Spirit
had driven Him into that wilderness. His circumstances were
God-appointed; and where He so appoints them, He will support
us in them, even as, in the failure of bread, He supported
Israel by the manna. [a Deut. viii 3.] [1 The supply of the
manna was only an exemplification and application of the
general principle, that man really lives by the Word of God.]
And Jesus absolutely submitted to that Will of God by
continuing in His present circumstances. To have set himself
free from what they implied, would have been despair of God,
and rebellion. He does more than not succmb: He conquers. The
Scriptural reference to a better life upon the Word of God
marks more than the end of the contest; it marks the conquest
of Satan. He emerges on the other side triumphant, with this
expression of His assured conviction of the sufficiency of
It cannot be despair, and He cannot take up His Kingdom
alone, in the exercise of mere power! Absolutely submitting
to the Will of God, He must, and He can, absolutely trust
Him. But if so, then let Him really trust Himself upon God,
and make experiment, nay more, public demonstration, of it.
If it be not despair of God, let it be presumption! He will
not do the work alone! Then God-upborne, according to His
promise, let the Son of God suddenly, from that height,
descend and head His people, and that not in any profane
manner, but in the midst of the Sanctuary, where God was
specially near, in sight of incensing priests and worshipping
people. So also will the goal at once be reached.
The Spirit of God had driven Jesus into the wilderness; the
spirit of the Devil now carried Him to Jerusalem. Jesus
stands on the lofty pinnacle of the Tower, or of the
Temple-porch, [2 It cannot be regarded as certain, that the
was, as commentators generally suppose, the Tower at the
southeastern angle of the Temple Cloisters, where the Royal
(southern) and Solomon’s (the eastern) Porch met, and whence
the view into the Kedron Valley beneath was to the stupendous
depth of 450 feet. Would this angle be called ‘a wing’ ( )?
Nor can I agree with Delitzsch, that it was the ‘roof’ of the
Sanctuary, where indeed there would scarcely have been
standing-room. It certainly formed the watch-post of the
Priest. Possibly it may have been the extreme corner of the
‘wing-like’ porch, or ulam, which led into the Sanctuary.
Thence a Priest could easily have communicated with his
brethren in the court beneath. To this there is, however, the
objection that in that case it should have been. At p. 244,
the ordinary view of this locality has been taken.]
presumably that on which every day a Priest was stationed to
watch, as the pale morning light passed over the hills of
Judaea far off to Hebron, to announce it as the signal for
offering the morning sacrifice. [3 Comp. ‘The Temple, its
Ministry and Services,’ p. 132.] If we might indulge our
imagination, the moment chosen would be just as the Priest.had quitted that station. The first desert-temptation had
been in the grey of breaking light, when to the faint and
weary looker the stones of the wilderness seemed to take
fantastic shapes, like the bread for which the faint body
hungered. In the next temptation Jesus stands on the
watch-post which the white-robed priest had just quitted.
Fast the rosy morning-light, deepening into crimson, and
edged with gold, is spreading over the land. In the Priests’
Court below Him the morning-sacrifice has been offered. The
massive Temple-gates are slowly opening, and the blasts of
the priests’ silver trumpets is summoning Israel to begin a
new day by appearing before their Lord. Now then let Him
descend, Heaven-borne, into the midst of priests and people.
What shouts of acclamation would greet His appearance! What
homage of worship would be His! The goal can at once be
reached, and that at the head of believing Israel. Jesus is
surveying the scene. By His side is the Tempter, watching the
features that mark the working of the spirit within. And now
he has whispered it. Jesus had overcome in the first
temptation by simple, absolute trust. This was the time, and
this the place to act upon this trust, even as the very
Scriptures to which Jesus had appealed warranted. But so to
have done would have been not trust, far less the heroism of
faith, but presumption. The goal might indeed have been
reached; but not the Divine goal, nor in God’s way, and, as
so often, Scripture itself explained and guarded the Divine
promise by a preceding Divine command. [1 Bengel: ‘Scriptura
per Scripturam interpretanda et concilianda.’ This is also a
Rabbinic canon. The Rabbis frequently insist on the duty of
not exposing oneself to danger, in presumptuous expectation
of miraculous deliverance. It is a curious saying: Do not
stand over against an ox when he comes from the fodder; Satan
jumps out from between his horns. (Pes. 112 b.) David had
been presumptuous in Ps. xxvi. 2, and failed. (Sanh. 107 a.)
But the most apt illustration is this: On one occasion the
child of a Rabbi was asked by R. Jochanan to quote a verse.
The child quoted Deut. xiv. 22, at the same time propounding
the question, why the second clause virtually repeated the
first. The Rabbi replied, ‘To teach us that the giving of
tithes maketh rich.’ ‘How do you know it?’ asked the child.
‘By experience,’ answered the Rabbi. ‘But,’ said the child,
‘such experiment is not lawful, since we are not to tempt the
Lord our God.’ (See the very curious book of Rabbi So
oweyczgk, Die Bibel, d. Talm. u. d. Evang. p. 132.).] And
thus once more Jesus not only is not overcome, but He
overcomes by absolute submission to the Will of God.
To submit to the Will of God! But is not this to acknowledge
His authority, and the order and disposition which He has
made of all things? Once more the scene changes. They have
turned their back upon Jerusalem and the Temple. Behind are
also all popular prejudices, narrow nationalism, and
limitations. They no longer brethe the stifled air, thick
with the perfume of incense. They have taken their flight
into God’s wide world. There they stand on the top of some
very high mountain. It is in the full blaze of sunlight that
He now gazes upon a wondrous scene. Before Him rise, from out.the cloud-land at the edge of the horizon, forms, figures,
scene, come words, sounds, harmonies. The world in all its
glory, beauty, strength, majesty, is unveiled. Its work, its
might, its greatness, its art, its thought, emerge into clear
view. And still the horizon seems to widen as He gazes; and
more and more, and beyond it still more and still brighter
appears. It is a world quite other than that which the
retiring Son of the retired Nazareth-home had ever seen,
could ever have imagined, that opens its enlarging wonders.
To us in the circumstances the temptation, which at first
sight seems, so to speak, the clumsiest, would have been well
nigh irresistible. In measure as our intellect was enlarged,
our heart attuned to this world-melody, we would have gazed
with bewitched wonderment on that sight, surrendered
ourselves to the harmony of those sounds, and quenched the
thirst of our soul with maddening draught. But passively
sublime as it must have appeared to the Perfect Man, the
God-Man, and to Him far more than to us from His infinitely
deeper appreciation of, and wider sympathy with the good, and
true, and the beautiful, He had already overcome. It was,
indeed, not ‘worship,’ but homage which the Evil One claimed
from Jesus, and that on the truly stated and apparently
rational ground, that, in its present state, all this world
‘was delivered’ unto him, and he exercised the power of
giving it to whom he would. But in this very fact lay the
answer to the suggestion. High above this moving scene of
glory and beauty arched the deep blue of God’s heaven, and
brighter than the sun, which poured its light over the sheen
and dazzle beneath, stood out the fact: ‘I must be about My
Father’s business;’ above the din of far-off sounds rose the
voice: ‘Thy Kingdom come!’ Was not all this the Devil’s to
have and to give, because it was not the Father’s Kingdom, to
which Jesus had consecrated Himself? What Satan sought was,
‘My kingdom come’ a Satanic Messianic time, a Satanic
Messiah; the final realisation of an empire of which his
present possession was only temporary, caused by the
alienation of man from God. To destroy all this: to destroy
the works of the Devil, to abolish his kingdom, to set man
free from his dominion, was the very object of Christ’s
Mission. On the ruins of the past shall the new arise, in
proportions of grandeur and beauty hitherto unseen, only
gazed at afar by prophets’ rapt sight. It is to become the
Kingdom of God; and Christ’s consecration to it is to be the
corner-stone of its new Temple. Those scenes are to be
transformed into one of higher worship; those sounds to
mingle and melt into a melody of praise. An endless train,
unnumbered multitudes from afar, are to bring their gifts, to
pour their wealth, to consecrate their wisdom, to dedicate
their beauty, to lay it all in lowly worship as humble
offering at His feet: a world God-restored, God-dedicated, in
which dwells God’s peace, over which rests God’s glory. It is
to be the bringing of worship, not the crowning of rebellion,
which is the Kingdom. And so Satan’s greatest becomes to
Christ his coarsest temptation, [1 Sin always intensifies in
the coarseness of its assaults.] which He casts from Him; and
the words: ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only
shalt thou serve,’ which now receive their highest.fulfilment, mark not only Satan’s defeat and Christ’s
triumph, but the principle of His Kingdom, of all victory and
all triumph.
Foiled, defeated, the Enemy has spread his dark pinions
towards that far-off world of his, and covered it with their
shadow. The sun no longer glows with melting heat; the mists
have gathered or the edge of the horizon, and enwrapped the
scene which has faded from view. And in the cool and shade
that followed have the Angels [2 For the Jewish views on
Angelology and Demonology, see Appendix XIII.: ‘Jewish
Angelology and Demonology.’] come and ministered to His
wants, both bodily and mental. He has refused to assert
power; He has not yielded to despair; He would not fight and
conquer alone in His own strength; and He has received power
and refreshment, and Heaven’s company unnumbered in their
ministry of worship. He would not yield to Jewish dream; He
did not pass from despair to presumption; and lo, after the
contest, with no reward as its object, all is His. He would
not have Satan’s vassals as His legions, and all Heaven’s
hosts are at His command. It had been victory; it is now
shout of triumphant praise. He Whom God had anointed by His
Spirit had conquered by the Spirit; He Whom Heaven’s Voice
had proclaimed God’s beloved Son, in Whom He was well
pleased, had proved such, and done His good pleasure.
They had been all overcome, these three temptations against
submission to the Will of God, present, personal, and
specifically Messianic. Yet all His life long there were
echoes of them: of the first, in the suggestion of His
brethren to show Himself; [a St. John vii. 3-5.]of the
second, in the popular attempt to make Him a king, and
perhaps also in what constituted the final idea of Judas
Iscariot; of the third, as being most plainly Santanic, in
the question of Pilate: ‘Art Thou then a King?’
The enemy ‘departed from Him’, yet only ‘for a season.’ But
this first contest and victory of Jesus decided all others to
the last. These were, perhaps not as to the shaping of His
Messianic plan, nor through memory of Jewish expectancy, yet
still in substance the same contest about absolute obedience,
absolute submission to the Will of God, which constitutes the
Kingdom of God. And so also from first to last was this the
victory: ‘Not My will, but Thine, be done.’ But as, in the
first three petitions which He has taught us, Christ has
enfolded us in the mantle of His royalty, so has He Who
shared our nature and our temptations gone up with us,
want-pressed, sin-laden, and temptation-stricken as we are,
to the Mount of Temptation in the four human petitions which
follow the first. And over us is spread, as the sheltering
folds of His mantle, this as the outcome of His royal contest
and glorious victory, ‘For Thine is the Kingdom, and the
power, and the glory, for ever and ever!’ [1 This quotation
of the Doxology leaves, of course, the critical question
undetermined, whether the words were part of the ‘Lord’s
DISTINCTIVE DOCTRINES. [1 This chapter contains, among other
matter, a detailed and critical examination of the great
Jewish Sects, such as was necessary in a work on ‘The Times.’
as well as ‘The Life,’ of Christ.
(St. John i. 19-24.)
APART from the repulsively carnal form which it had taken,
there is something absolutely sublime in the continuance and
intensity of the Jewish expectation of the Messiah. It
outlived not only the delay of long centuries, but the
persecutions and scattering of the people; it continued under
the disappointment of the Maccabees, the rule of a Herod, the
administration of a corrupt and contemptible Priesthood, and,
finally, the government of Rome as represented by a Pilate;
nay, it grew in intensity almost in proportion as it seemed
unlikely of realisation. These are facts which show that the
doctrine of the Kingdom, as the sum and substance of Old
Testament teaching, was the very heart of Jewish religious
life; while, at the same time, they evidence a moral
elevation which placed abstract religious conviction far
beyond the reach of passing events, and clung to it with a
tenacity which nothing could loosen.
Tidings of what these many months had occurred by the banks
of the Jordan must have early reached Jerusalem, and
ultimately stirred to the depths its religious society,
whatever its preoccupation with ritual questions or political
matters. For it was not an ordinary movement, nor in
connection with any of the existing parties, religious or
political. An extraordinary preacher, or extraordinary
appearance and habits, not aiming, like others, after renewed
zeal in legal observances, or increased Levitical purity, but
preaching repentance and moral renovation in preparation for
the coming Kingdom, and sealing this novel doctrine with an
equally novel rite, had drawn from town and country
multitudes of all classes, inquirers, penitents and novices.
The great and burning question seemed, what the real
character and meaning of it was? or rather, whence did it
issue, and whither did it tend? The religious leaders of the
people proposed to answer this by instituting an inquiry
through a trust-worthy deputation. In the account of this by
St. John certain points seem clearly implied; [a i. 19-28.]
on others only suggestions can be ventured.
That the interview referred to occurred after the Baptism of
Jesus, appears from the whole context.[1 This point is fully
discussed by Lucke, Evang. Joh., vol. i. pp. 396-398.]
Similarly, the statement that the deputation which came to
John was ‘sent from Jerusalem’ by ‘the Jews,’ implies that it.proceeded from authority, even if it did not bear more than a
semi-official character. For, although the expression ‘Jews’
in the fourth Gospel generally conveys the idea of contrast
to the disciples of Christ (for ex. St. John vii. 15), yet it
refers to the people in their corporate capacity, that is, as
represented by their constituted religious authorities. [b
Comp. St. John v. 15, 16; ix. 18,22; xviii. 12,31.] On the
other hand, although the term ‘scribes and elders’ does not
occur in the Gospel of St. John, [2 So Professor Westcott, in
his Commentary on the passage (Speaker’s Comment., N.T., vol.
ii. p. 18), where he notes that the expression in St. John
viii. 3 is unauthentic.] it by no means follows that ‘the
Priests and Levites’ sent from the capital either represented
the two great divisions of the Sanhedrin, or, indeed, that
the deputation issued from the Great Sanhedrin itself. The
former suggestion is entirely ungrounded; the latter at least
problematic. It seems a legitimate inference that,
considering their own tendencies, and the political dangers
connected with such a step, the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem would
not have come to the formal resolution of sending a regular
deputation on such an inquiry. Moreover, a measure like this
would have been entirely outside their recognised mode of
procedure. The Sanhedrin did not, and could not, originate
charges. It only investigated those brought before it. It is
quite true that judgment upon false prophets and religious
seducers lay with it; [c Sanh. i. 5.] but the Baptist had not
as yet said or done anything to lay him open to such an
accusation. He had in no way infringed the Law by word or
deed, nor had he even claimed to be a prophet. [3 Of this the
Sanhedrin must have been perfectly aware. Comp. St. Matt.
iii. 7; St. Luke iii. 15 &c.] If, nevertheless, it seems most
probable that ‘the Priests and Levits’ came from the
Sanhedrin, we are led to the conclusion that theirs was an
informal mission, rather privately arranged than publicly
determined upon.
And with this the character of the deputies agrees. ‘Priests
and Levites’, the colleagues of John the Priest, would be
selected for such an errand, rather than leading Rabbinic
authorities. The presence of the latter would, indeed, have
given to the movement an importance, if not a sanction, which
the Sanhedrin could not have wished. The only other authority
in Jerusalem from which such a deputation could have issued
was the so-called ‘Council of the Temple,’ ‘Judicature of the
Priests,’ or ‘Elders of the Priesthood,’ [a For cx. Yoma 1.
5.] which consisted of the fourteen chief officers of the But
although they may afterwards have taken their full part in
the condemnation of Jesus, ordinarily their duty was only
connected with the services of the Sanctuary, and not with
criminal questions or doctrinal investigations. [1 Comp. ‘The
Temple, its Ministry and Services,’ p. 75. Dr. Geiger
(Urschr. u. Uebersetz. d. Bibel, pp. 113, 114) ascribes to
them, however, a much wider jurisdiction. Some of his
inferences (such as at pp. 115, 116) seem to me historically
unsupported.] It would be too much to suppose, that they
would take the initiative in such a matter on the ground that
they would take the initiative in such a matter on the ground.that the Baptist was a member of the Priesthood. Finally, it
seems quite natural that such an informal inquiry, set on
foot most probably by the Sanhedrists, should have been
entrusted exclusively to the Pharisaic party. It would in no
way have interested the Sadducees; and what members of that
party had seen of John [b St. Matt. iii. 7 &c.] must have
convinced them that his views and aims lay entirely beyond
their horizon.
The origin of the two great parties of Pharisees and
Sadducees has already been traced. [2 Comp. Book I. ch.
viii.] They mark, not sects, but mental directions, such as
in their principles are natural and universal, and, indeed,
appear in connection with all metaphysical [3 I use the term
metaphysical here in the sense of all that is above the
natural, not merely the speculative, but the supersensuous
generally.] questions. They are the different modes in which
the human mind views supersensuous problems, and which
afterwards, when one-sidedly followed out, harden into
diverging schools of thought. If Pharisees and Sadducess were
not ‘sects’ in the sense of separation from the unity of the
Jewish ecclesiastical community, neither were theirs
‘heresies’ in the conventional, but only in the original
sense of tendency, direction, or, at most, views, differing
from those commonly entertained. [4 The word has received its
present meaning chiefly from the adjective attaching to it in
2 Pet. ii. 1. In Acts xxiv. 5, 14, xxviii. 22, it is
vituperatively applied to Christians; in 1 Cor. xi. 19, Gal.
v. 20, it seems to apply to diverging practices of a sinful
kind; in Titus iii. 10, the ‘heretic’ seems one who held or
taught diverging opinions or practices. Besides, it occurs in
the N.T. once to mark the Sadducees, and twice the Pharisees
(Acts v. 17; xv. 5, and xxvi. 5).] Our sources of information
here are: the New Testament, Josephus, and Rabbinic writings.
The New Testament only marks, in broad outlines and
popularly, the peculiarities of each party; but from the
absence of bias it may safely be regarded [1 I mean on
historical, not theological theological grounds.] as the most
trustworthy authority on the matter. The inferences which we
derive from the statements of Josephus, [2 I here refer to
the following passages: Jewish War ii. 8. 14; Ant. xiii. 5.
9; 10. 5, 6; xvii. 2. 4; xviii. 1, 2, 2, 4.] though always to
be qualified by our general estimate of his animus, [3 For a
full discussion of thecharacter and writings of Josephus, I
would refer to the article in Dr. Smith’s Dict. of Chr.
Biogr. vol. iii.] accord with those from the New Testament.
In regard to Rabbinic writings, we have to bear in mind the
admittedly unhistorical character of most of their notices,
the strong party-bias which coloured almost all their
statements regarding opponents, and their constant tendency
to trace later views and practices to earlier times.
Without entering on the principles and supposed practices of
‘the fraternity’ or ‘association’ (Chebher, Chabhurah,
Chabhurta) of Pharisees, which was comparatively small,
numbering only about 6,000 members, [a Jos. Ant. xvii. 2. 4.]
the following particulars may be of interest. The object of
the association was twofold: to observe in the strictest.manner, and according to traditional law, all the ordinances
concerning Levitical purity, and to be extremely punctilious
in all connected with religious dues (tithes and all other
dues). A person might undertake only the second, without the
first of these obligations. In that case he was simply a
Neeman, an ‘accredited one’ with whom one might enter freely
into commerce, as he was supposed to have paid all dues. But
a person could not undertake the vow of Levitical purity
without also taking the obligation of all religious dues. If
he undertook both vows he was a Chabher, or associate. Here
there were four degrees, marking an ascending scale of
Levitical purity, or separation from all that was profane. [b
Chag. ii. 5, 7; comp. Tohor. vii. 5.] In opposition to these
was the Am ha-arets, or ‘country people’ (the people which
knew not, or cared not for the Law, and were regarded as
‘cursed’). But it must not be thought that every Chabher was
either a learned Scribe, or that every Scribe was a Chabher.
On the contrary, as a man might be a Chabher without being
either a Scribe or an elder, [c For ex. Kidd. 33 b.] so there
must have been sages, and even teachers, who did not belong
to the association, since special rules are laid down for the
reception of such. [d Bekh. 30.] Candidates had to be
formally admitted into the ‘fraternity’ in the presence of
three members. But every accredited public ‘teacher’ was,
unless anything was known to the contrary, supposed to have
taken upon him the obligations referred to. [1 Abba Saul
would also have freed all students from that formality.] The
family of a Chabher belonged, ss a matter of course, to the
community; [a Bekhor. 30.] but this ordinance was afterwards
altered. [2 Comp. the suggestion as to the significant time
when this alteration was introduced, in ‘Sketches of Jewish
Social Life,’ pp. 228, 229.] The Neeman undertook these four
obligations: to tithe what he ate, what he sold, and what he
bought, and not to be a guest with an Am ha-arets. [b Dem.
ii. 2.] The full Chabher undertook not to sell to an ‘Am
ha-arets’ any fluid or dry substance (nutriment or fruit),
not to buy from him any such fluid, not to be a guest with
him, not to entertain him as a guest in his own clothes (on
account of their possible impurity), to which one authority
adds other particulars, which, however, were not recognised
by the Rabbis generally as of primary importance. [c Demai
These two great obligations of the ‘official’ Pharisee, or
‘Associate’ are pointedly referred to by Christ, both that in
regard to tithing (the vow of the Neeman); [d In St. Luke
xi.42; xviii. 12; St. Matt. xxiii. 23.] and that in regard to
Levitical purity (the special vow of the Chabher). [e In St.
Luke xi. 39, 41; St. Matt. xxiii. 25, 26.] In both cases they
are associated with a want of corresponding inward reality,
and with hypocrisy. These charges cannot have come upon the
people by surprise, and they may account for the circumstance
that so many of the learned kept aloof from the ‘Association’
as such. Indeed, the sayings of some of the Rabbis in regard
to Pharisaism and the professional Pharisee are more
withering than any in the New Testament. It is not necessary
here to repeat the well-known description, both in the.Jerusalem and the Babylon Talmud, of the seven kinds of
‘Pharisees,’ of whom six (the ‘Shechemite,’ the ‘stumbling,’
the ‘bleeding,’ the ‘mortar,’ the ‘I want to know what is
incumbent on me,’ and ‘the Pharisee from fear’) mark various
kinds of unreality, and only one is ‘the Pharisee from love.’
[f Sot. 22 b; Jer. Ber. ix. 7.] Such an expression as ‘the
plague ofPharisaism’ is not uncommon; and a silly pietist, a
clever sinner, and a female Pharisee, are ranked among ‘the
troubles of life.’ [g Sot. iii. 4.] ‘Shall we then explaina
verse according to the opinions of the Pharisees?’ asks a
Rabbi, in supreme contempt for the arrogance of the
fraternity. [h Pes. 70 b.] ‘It is as atradition among the
pharisees [i Abhoth de R. Nathan 5.] to torment themselves in
this world, and yet they will gain nothing by it in the
next.’ The Sadducees had some reason for the taunt, that ‘the
Pharisees would by-and-by subject the globe of the sun itself
to their purifications,’ [k Jer. Chag. 79 d; Tos. Chag. iii.]
the more so that their assertions of purity were sometimes
conjoined with Epicurean maxims, betokening a very different
state of mind, such as, ‘Make haste to eat and drink, for the
world which we quit resembles a wedding feast;’ or this: ‘My
son, if thou possess anything, enjoy thyself, for there is no
pleasure in Hades, [1 Erub. 54 a. I give the latter clause,
not as in our edition of the Talmud, but according to a more
correct reading (Levy, Neuhebr. Worterb. vol. ii. p. 102).]
and death grants no respite. But if thou sayest, What then
would I leave to my sons and daughters? Who will thank thee
for this appointment in Hades?’ Maxims these to which, alas!
too many of their recorded stories and deeds form a painful
commentary. [2 It could serve no good purpose to give
instances. They are readily accessible to those who have
taste or curiosity in that direction.]
But it would be grossly unjust to identify Pharisaism, as a
religious direction, with such embodiments of it or even with
the official ‘fraternity.’ While it may be granted that the
tendency and logical sequence of their views and practices
were such, their system, as opposed to Sadduceeism, had very
serious bearings: dogmatic, ritual, and legal. It is,
however, erroneous to suppose, either that their system
represented traditionalism itself, or that Scribes and
Pharisees are convertible terms, [3 So, erroneously,
Wellhausen, in his treatise ‘Pharisaer u. Sadduc.’; and
partially, as it seems to me, even Schurer (Neutest.
Zeitgesch.). In other respects also these two learned men
seem too much under the influence of Geiger and Kuenen.]
while the Sadducees represented the civil and political
element. The Pharisees represented only the prevailing system
of, no traditionalism itself; while the Sadducees also
numbered among them many learned men. They were able to enter
into controversy, often protracted and fierce, with their
opponents, and they acted as members of the Sanhedrin,
although they had diverging traditions of their own, and
even, as it would appear, at one time a complete code of
canon-law. [a Megill. Taan. Per. iv. ed. Warsh. p. 8 a.] [4
Wellhausen has carried his criticisms and doubts of the
Hebrew Scholion on the Megill. Taan. (or ‘Roll of Fasts’) too.far.] Moreover, the admitted fact, that when in office the
Sadducees conformed to the principles and practices of the
Pharisees, proves at least that they must have been
acquainted with the ordinances of traditionalism. [5 Even
such a book as the Meg. Taan. does not accuse them of
absolute ignorance, but only of being unable to prove their
dicta from Scripture (comp. Pereq x. p. 15 b, which may well
mark the extreme of Anti-Sadduceeism).] Lastly, there were
certain traditional ordinances on which both parties were at
one. [b Sanh. 33 t Horay 4 a.] Thus it seems Sadduceeism was
in a sense than a practical system, starting from simple and
well-defined principles, but wide-reaching in its possible
consequences. Perhaps it may best be described as a general
reaction against the extremes of Pharisaism, springing from
moderate and rationalistic tendencies; intended to secure a
footing within the recognised bounds of Judaism; and seeking
to defend its principles by a strict literalism of
interpretation and application. If so, these interpretations
would be intended rather for defensive than offensive
purposes, and the great aim of the party would be after
rational freedom, or, it might be, free rationality.
Practically, the party would, of course, tend in broad, and
often grossly unorthodox, directions.
The fundamental dogmatic differences between the Pharisees
and Sadducees concerned: the rule of faith and practice; the
‘after death;’ the existence of angels and spirits; and free
will and pre-destination. In regard to the first of these
points, it has already been stated that the Sadducees did not
lay down the principle of absolute rejection of all
traditions as such, but that they were opposed to
traditionalism as represented and carried out by the
Pharisees. When put down by sheer weight of authority, they
would probably carry the controversy further, and retort on
their opponents by an appeal to Scripture as against their
traditions, perhaps ultimately even by an attack on
traditionalism; but always as represented by the Pharisees.
[1 Some traditional explanation of the Law of Moses was
absolutely necessary, if it was to be applied to existing
circumstances. It would be a great historical inaccuracy to
imagine that the Sadducees rejected the whole (St.Matt. xv.
2) from Ezra downwards.] A careful examination of the
statements of Josephus on this subject will show that they
convey no more than this. [2 This is the meaning of Ant.
xiii. 10. 6, and clearly implied in xviii. 1,3,4, and War ii.
8. 14.] The Pharisaic view of this aspect of the controversy
appears, perhaps, most satisfactorily because indirectly, in
certain sayings of the Mishnah, which attribute all national
calamities to those persons, whom they adjudge to eternal
perdition, who interpret Scripture ‘not as does the
Halakhah,’ or established Pharisaic rule. [a Ab.iii. 11; v
8.] In this respect, then, the commonly received idea
concerning the Pharisees and Sadducees will require to be
seriously modified. As regards the practice of the Pharisees,
as distinguished from that of the Sadducees, we may safely
treat the statements of Josephus as the exaggerated
representations of a partisan, who wishes to place his the best light. It is, indeed, true that the Pharisees,
‘interpreting the legal ordinances with rigour,’ [b Jos. War
i. 5.2.] [3 M. Derenbourg (Hist. de la Palest., p. 122, note)
rightly remarks, that the Rabbinic equivalent for Josephus’
is heaviness, and that the Pharisees were the or ‘makers
heavy.’ What a commentary this on the charge of Jesus about
‘the heavy burdens’ of the Pharisees! St. Paul uses the same
term as Josephus to describe the Pharisaic system, where our
A.V. renders ‘the perfect manner’ (Acts xxii. 3). Comp. also
Acts xxvi. 5: .] imposed on themselves the necessity of much
self-denial, especially in regard to food, [c Ant. xviii. 1.
3.] but that their practice was under the guidance of reason,
as Josephus asserts, is one of those bold mis-statements with
which he has too often to be credited. His vindication of
their special reverence for age and authority [a Ant. xviii.
1.3.] must refer to the honours paid by the party to ‘the
Elders,’ not to the old. And that there was sufficient ground
for Sadducean opposition to Pharisaic traditionalism, alike
in principle and in practice, will appear from the following
quotation, to which we add, by way of explanation, that the
wearing of phylacteries was deemed by that party of
Scriptural obligation, and that the phylactery for the head
was to consist (according to tradition) of four compartments.
‘Against the words of the Scribes is more punishable than
against the words of Scripture. He who says, No phylacteries,
so as to transgress the words of Scripture, is not guilty
(free); five compartments, to add to the words of the
Scribes, he is guilty.’ [b Sanh. xi. 3.] [1 The subject is
discussed at length in Jer. Ber. i. 7 (p. 3 b), where the
superiority of the Scribe over the Prophet is shown (1) from
Mic. ii. 6 (without the words in italics), the one class
being the Prophets (‘prophesy not’), the other the Scribes
(‘prophesy’); (2) from the fact that the Prophets needed the
attestation of miracles. (Duet. xiii. 2), but not the Scribes
(Deut. xvii. 11).]
The second doctrinal difference between Pharisees and
Sadducees concerned the ‘after death.’ According to the New
Testament, [c St. Matt xxii. 23, and parallel passages; Acts
iv. 1, 2; xxiii. 8.] the Sadducees denied the resurrection of
the dead, while Josephus, going further, imputes to them
denial of reward or punishment after death, [d War ii. 8.
14.] and even the doctrine that the soul perishes with the
body. [e Ant. xviii 1. 4.] The latter statement may be
dismissed as among those inferences which theological
controversialists are too fond of imputing to their
opponents. This is fully borne out by the account of a later
work, to the effect, that by successive misunderstandings of
the saying of Antigonus of Socho, that men were to serve God
without regard to reward, his later pupils had arrived at the
inference that there was no other world, which, however,
might only refer to the Pharisaic ideal of ‘the world to
come,’ not to the denial of the immortality of the soul, and
no resurrection of the dead. We may therefore credit Josephus
with merely reporting the common inference of his party. But
it is otherwise in regard to their denial of the resurrection
of the dead. Not only Josephus, but the New Testament and.Rabbinic writings attest this. The Mishnah expressly states
[g Ber ix. 5.] that the formula ‘from age to age,’ or rather
‘from world to world,’ had been introduced as a protest
against the opposite theory; while the Talmud, which records
disputations between Gamaliel and the Sadducees [2 This is
admitted even by Geiger (Urschr. u. Uebers. p. 130, note),
though in the passage above referred to he would emendate:
‘Scribes of the Samaritans.’ The passage, however, implies
that these were Sadducean Scribes, and that they were both
willing and able to enter into theological controversy with
their opponents.] on the subject of the resurrection,
expressly imputes thedenial of this doctrine to the ‘Scribes
of the Sadducees.’ In fairness it is perhaps only right to
add that, in the discussion, the Sadducees seem only to have
actually denied that there was proof for this doctrine in the
Pentateuch, and that they ultimately professed themselves
convinced by the reasoning of Gamaliel. [1 Rabbi Gamaliel’s
proof was taken from Deut. i. 8: ‘Which Jehovah sware unto
your fathers to give unto them.’ It is not said ‘unto you,’
but unto ‘them,’ which implies the resurrection of the dead.
The argument is kindred in character, but far inferior in
solemnity and weight, to that employed by our Lord, St. Matt.
xxii. 32, from which it is evidently taken. (See book v. ch.
iv., the remarks on that passage.)] Still the concurrent
testimony of the New Testament and of Josephus leaves no
doubt, that in this instance their views had not been
misrepresented. Whether or not their opposition to the
doctrine of the Resurrection arose in the first instance
from, or was prompted by, Rationalistic views, which they
endeavoured to support by an appeal to the letter of the
Pentateuch, as the source of traditionalism, it deserves
notice that in His controversy with the Sadducees Christ
appealed to the Pentateuch in proof of His teaching. [2 It is
a curious circumstance in connection with the question of the
Sadducees, that it raised another point in controversy
between the Pharisees and the ‘Samaritans,’ or, as I would
read it, the Sadducees, since ‘the Samaritans’ (Sadducees?)
only allowed marriage with the betrothed, not the actually
wedded wife of a deceased childless brother (Jer Yebam. i. 6,
p. 3 a). The Sadducees in the Gospel argue on the Pharisaic
theory, apparently for the twofold object of casting ridicule
on the doctrine of the Resurrection, and on the Pharisaic
practice of marriage with the espoused wife of a deceased
Connected with this was the equally Rationalistic opposition
to belief in Angels and Spirits. It is only mentioned in the
New Testament, [a Acts xxiii.] but seems almost to follow as
a corollary. Remembering what the Jewish Angelology was, one
can scarcely wonder that in controversy the Sadducees should
have been led to the opposite extreme.
The last dogmatic difference between the two ‘sects’
concerned that problem which has at all times engaged
religious thinkers: man’s free will and God’s pre-ordination,
or rather their compatibility. Josephus, or the reviser whom
he employed, indeed, uses the purely heathen expression.’fate’ ( ) [3 The expression is used in the heathen
(philosophical) sense of fate by Philo, De Incorrupt. Mundi.
section 10. ed. Mangey, vol. ii. p. 496 (ed. Fref. p. 947).]
to designate the Jewish idea of the pre-ordination of God.
But, properly understood, the real difference between the
Pharisees and Sadducees seems to have amounted to this: that
the former accentuated God’s preordination, the latter man’s
free will; and that, while the Pharisees admitted only a
partial influence of the human element on what happened, or
the co-operation of the human with the Divine, the Sadducees
denied all absolute pre-ordination, and made man’s choice of
evil or good, with its consequences of misery or happiness,
to depend entirely on the exercise of free will and
self-determination. And in this, like many opponents of
‘Predestinarianism,’ they seem to have started from the
principle, that it was impossible for God ‘either to commit
or to foresee [in the sense of fore-ordaining] anything
evil.’ The mutual misunderstanding here was that common in
all such controversies. Although [a In Jewish War ii. 8. 14.]
Josephus writesas if, according to the Pharisees, the chief
part in every good action depended upon fate [pre-ordination]
rather than on man’s doing, yet in another place [b Ant.
xviii. 1. 3.] he disclaims for them the notion that the will
of man was destitute of spontaneous activity, and speaks
somewhat confusedly, for he is by no means a good reasoner,
of ‘a mixture’ of the Divine and human elements, in which the
human will, with its sequence of virtue or wickedness, is
subject to the will of fate. A yet further modification of
this statement occurs in another place, [c Ant. xiii. 5. 9.]
where we are told that, according to the Pharisees, some
things depended upon fate, and more on man himself.
Manifestly, there is not a very wide difference between this
and the fundamental principle of the Sadducees in what we may
suppose its primitive form.
But something more will have to be said as illustrative of
Pharisaic teaching on this subject. No one who has entered
into the spirit of the Old Testament can doubt that its
outcome was faith, in its twofold aspect of acknowledgment of
the absolute Rule, and simple submission to the Will, of God.
What distinguished this so widely from fatalism was what may
be termed Jehovahism, that is, the moral element in its
thoughts of God, and that He was ever presented as in
paternal relationship to men. But the Pharisees carried their
accentuation of the Divine to the verge of fatalism. Even the
idea that God had created man with two impulses, the one to
good, the other to evil; and that the latter was absolutely
necessary for the continuance of this world, would in some
measure trace the causation of moral evil to the Divine
Being. The absolute and unalterable pre-ordination of every
event, to its minutest details, is frequently insisted upon.
Adam had been shown all the generations that were to spring
from him. Every incident in the history of Israel had been
foreordained, and the actors in it, for good or for evil,
were only instruments for carrying out the Divine Will. What
were ever Moses and Aaron? God would have delivered Israel
out of Egypt, and given them the Law, had there been no such.persons. Similarly was it in regard to Solomon. to Esther, to
Nebuchadnezzar, and others. Nay, it was because man was
predestined to die that the serpent came to seduce our first
parents. And as regarded the history of each individual: all
that concerned his mental and physical capacity, or that
would betide him, was prearranged. His name, place, position,
circumstances, thevery name of her whom he was to wed, were
proclaimed in heaven, just as the hour of his death was
foreordered. There might be seven years of pestilence in the
land, and yet no one died before his time. [a Sanh. 29 a.]
Even if a man inflicted a cut on his finger, he might be sure
that this also had been preordered. [b Chull. 7 b.] Nay,
‘wheresoever a man was destined to die, thither would his
feet carry him.’ [1 The following curious instance of this is
given. On one occasion King Solomon, when attended by his two
Scribes, Elihoreph and Ahiah (both supposed to have been
Ethiopians), suddenly perceived the Angel of Death. As he
looked so sad, Solomon ascertained as its reason, that the
two Scribes had been demanded at his hands. On this Solomon
transported them by magic into the land of Luz, where,
according to legend, no man ever died. Next morning Solomon
again perceived the Angel of Death, but this time laughing,
because, as he said. Solomon had sent these men to the very
place whence he had been ordered to fetch them (Sukk, 53 a).]
We can well understand how the Sadducees would oppose notions
like these, and all such coarse expressions of fatalism. And
it is significant of the exaggeration of Josephus, [2 Those
who understand the character of Josephus’ writings will be at
no loss for his reasons in this. It would suit his purpose to
speak often of the fatalism of the Pharisees, and to
represent them as a philosophical sect like the Stoics. The
latter, indeed, he does in so many words.] that neither the
New Testament, nor Rabbinic writings, bring the charge of the
denial of God’s prevision against the Sadducees.
But there is another aspect of this question also. While the
Pharisees thus held the doctrine of absolute preordination,
side by side with it they were anxious to insist on man’s
freedom of choice, his personal responsibility, and moral
obligation. [3 For details comp. Hamburger, Real-Encykl. ii.
pp. 103-106, though there is some tendency to ‘colouring’ in
this as in other articles of the work.] Although every event
depended upon God, whether a man served God or not was
entirely in his own choice. As a logical sequence of this,
fate had no influence as regarded Israel, since all depended
on prayer, repentance, and good works. Indeed, otherwise that
repentance, on which Rabbinism so largely insists, would have
had no meaning. Moreover, it seems as if it had been intended
to convey that, while our evil actions were entirely our own
choice, if a man sought to amend his ways, he would be helped
of God. [c Yoma 38 b.] It was, indeed, true that God had
createdthe evil impulse in us; but He had also given the
remedy in the Law. [a Baba B. 16 a.] This is parabolically
represented under the figure of a man seated at the parting
of two ways, who warned all passers that if they chose one
road it would lead them among the thorns, while on the other
brief difficulties would end in a plain path (joy). [b Siphre.on Deut. xi. 26, 53, ed. Friedmann, p. 86 a.] Or, to put it
in the language of the great Akiba [c Ab. iii. 15.]:
‘Everything is foreseen; free determination is accorded to
man; and the world is judged in goodness.’ With this simple
juxtaphysition of two propositions equally true, but
incapable of metaphysical combination, as are most things in
which the empirically cognisable and uncognisable are joined
together, we are content to leave the matter.
The other differences between the Pharisees and Sadducees
can be easily and briefly summed up. They concern ceremonial,
ritual, and juridical questions. In regard to the first, the
opposition of the Sadducees to the excessive scruples of the
Pharisees on the subject of Levitical defilements led to
frequent controversy. Four points in dispute are mentioned,
of which, however, three read more like ironical comments
than serious divergences. Thus, the Sadducees taunted their
opponents with their many lustrations, including that of the
Golden Candlestick in the Temple. [d Jer. Chag iii. 8; Tos.
Chag. iii., where the reader will find sufficient proof that
the Sadducees were not in the wrong.] Two other similar
instances are mentioned. [e In Yad, iv. 6, 7.] By way of
guarding against the possibility of profanation, the
Pharisees enacted, that the touch of any thing sacred
‘defiled’ the hands. The Sadducees, on the other hand,
ridiculed the idea that the Holy Scriptures ‘defiled’ the
hands, but not such a book as Homer. [1 The Pharisees replied
by asking on what ground the bones of a High-Priest
‘defiled,’ but not those of a donkey. And when the Sadducees
ascribed it to the great value of the former, lest a man
should profane the bones of his parents by making spoons of
them, the Pharisees pointed out that the same argument
applied to defilement by the Holy Scriptures. In general, it
seems that the Pharisees were afraid of the satirical
comments of the Sadducees on their doings (comp. Parah iii.
3).] In the same spirit, the Sadducees would ask the
Pharisees how it came, that water pouring from a clean into
an unclean vessel did not lose its purity and purifying
power. [2 Wellhausen rightly denounces the strained
interpretation of Geiger, who would find here, as in other
points, hidden political allusions.] If these represent no
serious controversies, on another ceremonial question there
was real difference, though its existence shows how far
party-spirit could lead the Pharisees. No ceremony was
surrounded with greater care to prevent defilement than that
of preparing the ashes of the Red Heifer. [3 Comp. ‘The
Temple, its Ministry and Services,’ pp. 309, 312. The rubrics
are in the Mishnic tractate Parab, and in Tos. Par.] What
seem the original ordinances, [a Parah iii,; Tos. Par. 3.]
directed that, for seven days previous to the burning of the
Red Heifer, the priest was to be kept in separation in the
Temple, sprinkled with the ashes of all sin-offerings, and
kept from the touch of his brother-priests, with even greater
rigour than the High-Priest in his preparation for the Day of
Atonement. The Sadducees insisted that, as ‘till sundown’ was
the rule in all purification, the priest must be in
cleanliness till then, before burning the Red Heifer. But,.apparently for the sake of opposition, and in contravention
to their own principles, the Pharisees would actually
‘defile’ the priest on his way to the place of burning, and
then immediately make him take a bath of purification which
had been prepared, so as to show that the Sadducees were in
error. [b Parah iii. 7.] [1 The Mishnic passage is difficult,
but I believe I have given the sense correctly.] In the same
spirit, the Sadducees seem to have prohibited the use of
anything made from animals which were either interdicted as
food, or by reason of their not having been properly
slaughtered; while the Pharisees allowed it, and, in the case
of Levitically clean animals which had died or been torn,
even made their skin into parchment, which might be used for
sacred purposes. [c Shabb. 108 a.]
These may seem trifling distinctions, but they sufficed to
kindle the passions. Even greater importance attached to
differences on ritual questions, although the controversy
here was purely theoretical. For, the Sadducees, when in
office, always conformed to the prevailing Pharisaic
practices. Thus the Sadducees would have interpreted Lev.
xxiii. 11, 15, 16, as meaning that the wave-sheaf (or,
rather, the Omer) was to be offered on ‘the morrow after the
weekly Sabbath’, that is, on the Sunday in Easter week, which
would have brought the Feast of Pentacost always on a Sunday;
[d Vv. 15, 16.] while the Pharisees understood the term
‘Sabbath’ of the festive Paschal day. [e Men. x. 3; 65 a;
Chag. ii. 4.][2 This difference, which is more intricate than
appears at first sight, requires a longer discussion than can
be given in this place.] Connected with this were disputes
about the examination of the witnesses who testified to the
appearance of the new moon, and whom the Pharisees accused of
having been suborned by their opponents. [f Rosh haSh. i. 7;
ii. 1; Tos. Rosh haSh. ed. Z. i. 15.]
The Sadducean objection to pouring the water of libation
upon the altar on the Feast of Tabernacles, led to riot and
bloody reprisals on the only occasion on which it seems to
have been carried into practice. [g Sukk. 48 b; comp. Jos.
Ant. xiii 13. 5.] [3 For details about the observances on
this festival I must refer to ‘The Temple, its Ministry and
Services.’] Similarly, the Sadducees objected to the beating
off the willow-branches after the procession round the altar
on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, if it were a
Sabbath. [a Sukk. 43 b; and in the Jerus. Talm. and Tos.
Sukk. iii. 1.] Again, the Sadducees would have had the
High-Priest, on the Day of Atonement, kindle the incense
before entering the Most Holy Place; the Pharisees after he
had entered the Sanctuary. [b Jer. Yoma i. 5; Yoma 19 b; 53
a.] Lastly, the Pharisees contended that the cost of the
daily Sacrifices should be discharged from the general Temple
treasury, while the Sadducees would have paid it from
free-will offerings. Other differences, which seem not so
well established, need not here be discussed.
Among the divergences on juridical questions, reference has
already been made to that in regard to marriage with the.’betrothed,’ or else actually espoused widow of a deceased,
childless brother. Josephus, indeed, charges the Sadducees
with extreme severity in criminal matters; [c Specially Ant.
xx. 9.] but this must refer to the fact that the ingenuity or
punctiliousness of the Pharisees would afford to most
offenders a loophole of escape. On the other hand, such of
the diverging juridical principles of the Sadducees, as are
attested on trustworthy authority, [1 Other differences,
which rest merely on the authority of the Hebrew Commentary
on ‘The Roll of Fasts,’ I have discarded as unsupported by
historical evidence. I am sorry to have in this respect, and
on some other aspect of the question, to differ from the
learned Article on ‘The Sadducees,’ in Kitto’s Bibl. Encycl.]
seem more in accordance with justice than those of the
Pharisees. They concerned (besides the Levirate marriage)
chiefly three points. According to the Sadducees, the
punishment [d Decreed in Deut. xix. 21.] againstfalse
witnesses was only to be executed if the innocent person,
condemned on their testimony, had actually suffered
punishment, while the Pharisees held that this was to be done
if the sentence had been actually pronounced, although not
carried out. [e Makk. i. 6.] Again, according to Jewish law,
only ason, but not a daughter, inherited the father’s
property. From this the Pharisees argued, that if, at the
time of his father’s decease, that son were dead, leaving
only a daughter, this granddaughter would (as representative
of the son) be the heir, while the daughter would be
excluded. On the other hand, the Sadducees held that, in such
a case, daughter and granddaughter should share alike. [f
Baba B. 115 b; Tos. Yad.ii. 20.] Lastly, the Sadducees argued
that if, according to Exodus xxi. 28,29, a man was
responsible for damage done by his cattle, he was equally, if
not more, responsible for damage done by his slave, while the
Pharisees refused to recognise any responsibility on the
latter score. [g Yad. iv. 7 and Tos. Yad.] [2 Geiger, and
even Derenbourg, see in these things deep political
allusions, these things deep political allusions, which, as
it seems to me, have no other existence than in the ingenuity
of these writers.
For the sake of completeness it has been necessary to enter
into details, which may not posses a general interest. This,
however, will be marked, that, with the exception of dogmatic
differences, the controversy turned on questions of
‘canon-law.’ Josephus tells us that the Pharisees commanded
the masses, [a Ant. xiii. 10. 6.] and especially the female
world, [b Ant. xvii. 2. 4.] while the Sadducees attached to
their ranks only a minority, and that belonging to the
highest class. The leading priests in Jerusalem formed, of
course, part of that highest class of society; and from the
New Testament and Josephus we learn that the High-Priestly
families belonged to the Sadducean party. [c Acts v. 17; Ant.
xx. 9.)] But to conclude from this, [1 So Wellhausen, u. s.]
either that the Sadducees represented the civil and political
aspect of society, and the Pharisees the religious; or, that
the Sadducees were the priest-party, [2 So Geiger, u. s.] in
opposition to the popular and democratic Pharisees, are.inferences not only unsupported, but opposed to historical
facts. For, not a few of the Pharisaic leaders were actually
priests, [d Sheqal. iv. 4; vi. 1; Eduy. viii. 2; Ab. ii. B
&c.] while the Pharisaic ordinances make more than ample
recognition of the privileges and rights of the Priesthood.
This would certainly not have been the case if, as some have
maintained, Sadducean and priest-party had been convertible
terms. Even as regards the deputation to the Baptist of
‘Priests and Levites’ from Jerusalem, we are expressely told
that they ‘were of the Pharisees.’ [e St. John i. 24.]
This bold hypothesis seems, indeed, to have been invented
chiefly for the sake of another, still more unhistorical. The
derivation of the name ‘Sadducee’ has always been in dispite.
According to a Jewish legend of about the seventh century of
our era, [f In the Ab. de R. Nath. c. 5.] the name was
derived from one Tsadoq (Zadok), [3 Tseduqim and Tsadduqim
mark different transliterations of the name Sadducees.] a
disciple of Antigonus of Socho, whoseprinciple of not serving
God for reward had been gradually misinterpreted into
Sadduceeism. But, apart from the objection that in such case
the party should rather have taken the name of Antigonites,
the story itself receives no support either from Josephus or
from early Jewish writings. Accordingly modern critics have
adopted another hypothesis, which seems at least equally
untenable. On the supposition that the Sadducees were the
‘priest-party,’ the name of the sect is derived from Zadok
(Tsadoq), the High-Priest in the time of Solomon. [4 This
theory, defended with ingenuity by Geiger, had been of late
adopted by most writers, and even by Schurer. But not a few
of the statements hazarded by Dr. Geiger seem to me to have
no historical foundation, and the passages quoted in support
either do not convey such meaning, or else are of no
authority.] But the objections to this are insuperable. Not
to speak of the linguistic difficulty of deriving Tsadduqim
(Zaddukim, Sadducees) from Tsadoq (Zadok), [5 So Dr. Low, as
quoted in Dr. Ginsburg’s article.] neither Josephus nor the
Rabbis know anything of such a connection between Tsadoq and
the Sadducees, of which, indeed, the rationale would be
difficult to perceive. Besides, is it likely that a party
would have gone back so many centuries for a name, which had
no connection with their distinctive principles? The name of
a party is, if self-chosen (which is rarely the case),
derived from its founder or place of origin, or else from
what it claims as distinctive principles or practices.
Opponents might either pervert such a name, or else give a
designation, generally opprobrious, which would express their
own relation to the party, or to some of its supposed
peculiarities. But on none of these principles can the origin
of the name of Sadducees from Tsadoq be accounted for.
Lastly, on the supposition mentioned, the Sadducees must have
given the name to their party, since it cannot be imagined
that the Pharisees would have connected their opponents with
the honoured name of the High-Priest Tsadoq.
If it is highly improbable that the Sadducees, who, of
course, professed to be the right interpreters of Scripture,.would choose any party-name, thereby stamping themselves as
sectaries, this derivation of their name is also contrary to
historical analogy. For even the name Pharisees, ‘Perushim,’
‘separated ones,’ was not taken by the party itself, but
given to it by their opponents. [a Yad. iv. 6 &c.] [1The
argument as against the derivation of the term Sadducee
would, of course, hold equally good, even if each party had
assumed, not received from the other, its characteristic
name.] From 1 Macc. ii. 42; vii. 13; 2 Macc. xiv. 6, it
appears that originally they had taken the sacred name of
Chasidim, or ‘the pious.’ [b Ps. xxx. 4; xxxi. 23; xxxvii.
28.] This, no doubt, on the ground that they were truly those
who, according to the directions of Ezra, [c vi. 21; ix. 1;
x. 11; Neh. ix. 2.] had separated themselves (become
nibhdalim) ‘from the filthiness of the heathen’ (all heathen
defilement) by carrying out the traditional ordinances. [2
Comp. generally, ‘Sketches of Jewish Social Life,’ pp. 230,
231.] In fact, Ezra marked the beginning of the ‘later,’ in
contradistinction to the ‘earlier,’ or Scripture-Chasidim. [d
Ber. v. 1; comp. with Vayyikra R. 2, ed. Warsh. t. iii. p. 5
a.] If we are correct in supposing that their opponents had
called them Perushim, instead of the Scriptural designation
of Nibhdalim, the inference is at hand, that, while the
‘Pharisees’ would arrogate to themselves the Scriptural name
of Chasidim, or ‘the pious,’ their opponents would retort
that they were satisfied to be Tsaddiqim, [3 Here it deserves
special notice that the Old Testament term Chasid, which the
Pharisees arrogated to themselves, is rendered in the Peshito
by Zaddiq. Thus, as it were, the opponents of Pharisaism
would play off the equivalent Tsaddiq against the Pharisaic
arrogation of Chasid.] or ‘righteous.’ Thus the name of
Tsaddiqim would become that of the party opposing the
Pharisees, that is, of the Sadducees. There is, indeed, an
admitted linguistic difficulty in the change of the sound i
into u (Tsaddiqim into Tsadduqim), but may it not have been
that this was accomplished, not grammatically, but by popular
witticism? Such mode of giving a ‘by-name’ to a party or
government is, at least, not irrational, nor is it uncommon.
[1 Such by-names, by a play ona word, are not unfrequent.
Thus, in Shem. R. 5 (ed. Warsh. p. 14 a, lines 7 and 8 from
top), Pharaoh’s charge that the Israelites were ‘idle,’ is,
by a transposition of letters made to mean that they were.]
Some wit might have suggested: Read not Tsaddiqim, the
‘righteous,’ but Tsadduqim (from Tsadu,), ‘desolation,’
‘destruction.’ Whether or not this suggestion approve itself
to critics, the derivation of Sadducees from Tsaddiqim is
certainly that which offers most probability. [2 It seems
strange, that so accurate a scholar as Schurer should have
regarded the ‘national party’ as merely an offshoot from the
Pharisees (Neutest. Zeitgesch. p. 431), and appealed in proof
to a passage in Josephus (Ant. xviii. 1.6), which expressly
calls the Nationalists a fourth party, by the side of the
Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. That in practice they
would carry out the strict Judaism of the Pharisees, does not
make them Pharisees.]
This uncertainty as to the origin of the name of a party.leads almost naturally to the mention of another, which,
indeed, could not be omitted in any description of those
times. But while the Pharisees and Sadducees were parties
within the Synagogue, the Essenes ( or , the latter always in
Philo) were, although strict Jews, yet separatists, and,
alike in doctrine, worship, and practice, outside the Jewish
body ecclesiastic. Their numbers amounted to only about
4,000. [a Philo, Quod omnis probus liber, 12, ed, Mang. ii.
p. 457; Jos. Ant. xviii. 1.5.] They are not mentioned in the
New Testament, and only very indirectly referred to in
Rabbinic writings, perhaps without clear knowledge on the
part of the Rabbis. If the conclusion concerning them, which
we shall by-and-by indicate, be correct, we can scarcely
wonder at this. Indeed, their entire separation from all who
did not belong to their sect, the terrible oaths by which
they bound themselves to secrecy about their doctrines, and
which would prevent any free religious discussion, as well as
the character of what is know of their views, would account
for the scanty notices about them. Josephus and Philo, [3
They are also mentioned by Pliny (Hist. Natur. v. 16).] who
speak of them in the most sympathetic manner, had, no doubt,
taken special pains to ascertain all that could be learned.
For this Josephus seems to have enjoyed special
opportunities. [4 This may be inferred from Josephus Life, c.
2.] Still, the secrecy of their doctrines renders us
dependent on writers, of whom at least one (Josephus) lies
open to the suspicion of colouring and exaggeration. But of
one thing we may feel certain: neither John the Baptist, and
his Baptism, nor the teaching of Christianity, had any
connection with Essenism. It were utterly unhistorical to
infer such from a few points of contact, and these only of
similarity, not identity, when the differences between them
are so fundamental. That an Essene would have preached
repentance and the Kingdom of God to multitudes, baptized the
uninitiated, and given supreme testimony to One like Jesus,
are assertions only less extravagant than this, that One Who
mingled with society as Jesus did, and Whose teaching, alike
in that respect, and in all its tendencies, was so utterly
Non-, and even Anti-Essenic, had derived any part of His
doctrine from Essenism. Besides, when we remember the views
of the Essenes on purification, and on Sabbath observance,
and their denial of the Resurrection, we feel that, whatever
points of resemblance critical ingenuity may emphasise, the
teaching of Christianity was in a direction opposite from
that of Essenism. [1 This point is conclusively disposed of
by Bishop Lightfoot in the third Dissertation appended to his
Commentary on the Colossians (pp. 397-419). In general, the
masterly discussion of the whole subject by Bishop Lightfoot,
alike in the body of the Commentary and in the three
Dissertations appended, may be said to form a new era in the
treatment of the whole question, the points on which we would
venture to express dissent being few and unimportant. The
reader who wishes to see a statement of the supposed analogy
between Essenism and the teaching of Christ will find it in
Dr. Ginsburg’s Article ‘Essenes,’ in Smith and Wace’s
Dictionary of Christian Biography. The same line of argument
has been followed by Frankel and Gartz. The reasons for the.opposite view are set forth in the text.]
We posses no data for the history of the origin and
development (if such there was) of Essenism. We may admit a
certain connection between Pharisaism and Essenism, though it
has been greatly exaggerated by modern Jewish writers. Both
directions originated from a desire after ‘purity,’ though
there seems a fundamental difference between them, alike in
the idea of what constituted purity, and in the means for
attaining it. To the Pharisee it was Levitical and legal
purity, secured by the ‘hedge’ of ordinances which they drew
around themselves. To the Essene it was absolute purity