(Several Chapters From Book II of Life and Times of Jesus the
Messiah by Alfred Edersheim, 1886)
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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 Virgin-born 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 unbelief 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. The golden 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 incensing, 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 unbelieving 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.]
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 men.
Thus, in its final, as in its initial, [c Gen. iii. 15] stage it was the establishment of the Kingdom of God upon earth, 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 one sided 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 people.
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. 12-16.]
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 shining splendour 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 themselves the Law at Mount Sinai, the description in Psalm cxxxii. 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 direction.]
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 captivity 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 the language 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 unanswerable.
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 bottom).
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 Rabbinic 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 omitted all 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, conclusively 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 the 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.] exactly as in the 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 blessing of 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 expressly 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 back to 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, the horns 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 version) 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 noteworthy as, 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 can understand, 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 out the 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 would take 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 loosest.]
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 controversy 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 Who 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 cumulative 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.]
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 in the 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 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. A counting 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 called the orthodox side have, from different points of view, been so often and well stated, latterly by Wieseler, Huschke, Zumpt, and Steinmeyer, and on the other side 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 Roman 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 'feels sure' 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 sheep ground 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 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 plains. 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 the emphatic 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 Bethlehem 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 the 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 third 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 third night. Night the fourth: 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.)]
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 behind, 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 wisdom 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 that 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 Incarnation, 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 earthward, 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 will prove 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. Hence it was, that 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 significance 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 to be observed. The firstborn 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 Rabbinic 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 that 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 precise spot 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,' etc. 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 was no 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 occurrence (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.
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 harmony.
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 against 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 asto 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 Jewish diaspora, through which they might, and probably would, gain knowledge 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 habet et 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 occurred 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 matter would 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 to the quotations from the Old Testament in the New. [2 The general principle, 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 authoritatively 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 origin 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 that any 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 must be 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] and the (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 'natal affinity,' 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. Similarly, 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 it 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 the star and the Advent of the Messiah would have been emphasized, instead of being, as now, rather matter of inference.]
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 Pisces, 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, before 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 the Divine Plant, has traced in the gold the emblem of His Royalty; in the 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 martyrdom' ('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.
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. Tormented 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 silenced by 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 by Braun (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 abstraction.
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 them.
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 Deut.vi. 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's homes, 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.'
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 herself of 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 B.C.to 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] It was, 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 allegorical 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' is often 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 have distinct 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 philosophical 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 yield themselves to the spiritual thoughts kindled by such words.
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 of Pentecost 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 on the 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 Nazareth-Sun.
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 the son 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 painful [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 Latin.
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 outwardly 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.'
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 deification 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 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 thrown to 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 Babylonian 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 time.
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 happy.
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 Kingdom of 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 occurs thirty-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, which was 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
(Chapter 11 continues . . .)
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