The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE PREPARATION FOR THE GOSPEL:
THE JEWISH WORLD IN THE DAYS OF CHRIST
POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS LIFE
OF THE JEWISH DISPERSION IN THE WEST
THEIR UNION IN THE GREAT HOPE OF
THE COMING DELIVERER.
It was not only in the capital of the Empire that the Jews enjoyed
the rights of Roman citizenship. Many in Asia Minor could boast of the same
Seleucidic rulers of Syria had previously bestowed kindred privileges on the
Jews in many places. Thus, they possessed in some cities twofold rights: the
status of Roman and the privileges of Asiatic, citizenship. Those who enjoyed
the former were entitled to a civil government of their own, under archons of
their choosing, quite independent of the rule and tribunals of the cities in
which they lived. As instances, we may mention the Jews of Sardis, Ephesus,
Delos, and apparently also of Antioch. But, whether legally entitled to it or
not, they probably everywhere claimed the right of self-government, and
exercised it, except in times of persecution. But, as already stated, they also
possessed, besides this, at least in many places, the privileges of Asiatic
citizenship, to the same extent as their heathen fellow-citizens. This twofold
status and jurisdiction might have led to serious complications, if the archons
had not confined their authority to strictly communal interests,2
without interfering with the ordinary administration of justice, and the Jews
willingly submitted to the sentences pronounced by their own tribunals.
1. Jos. Ant. xiv. 10, passim; Acts xxii. 25-29.
2. Comp. Acts xix. 14 ix. 2.
But, in truth, they enjoyed even more than religious liberty
and communal privileges. It was quite in the spirit of the times, that
potentates friendly to Israel bestowed largesses alike on the Temple in
Jerusalem, and on the Synagogues in the provinces. The magnificent porch of the
Temple was 'adorned' with many such 'dedicated gifts.' Thus, we read of
repeated costly offerings by the Ptolemies, of a golden wreath which Sosius
offered after he had taken Jerusalem in conjunction with Herod, and of rich
flagons which Augustus and his wife had given to the Sanctuary.3
And, although this same Emperor praised his grandson for leaving Jerusalem
unvisited on his journey from Egypt to Syria, yet he himself made provision for
a daily sacrifice on his behalf, which only ceased when the last war against Rome
Even the circumstance that there was a 'Court of the Gentiles,' with marble
screen beautifully ornamented, bearing tablets which, in Latin and Greek,
warned Gentiles not to proceed further,5
proves that the Sanctuary was largely attended by others than Jews, or, in the
words of Josephus, that 'it was held in reverence by nations from the ends of
3. Jos. Ant. xii. 2. 5; xiii. 3. 4; Ag. Ap.ii. 5; Ant. xiv. 16. 4; War v. 13.
In Syria also, where, according to Josephus, the largest number
of Jews lived,7
they experienced special favour. In Antioch their rights and immunities were
recorded on tables of brass.8
7. War, vii. 3. 3.
8. War, vii. 5. 2.
But, indeed, the capital of Syria was one of their favourite
resorts. It will be remembered what importance attached to it in the early
history of the Christian Church. Antioch was the third city of the Empire, and
lay just outside what the Rabbinists designated as 'Syria' and still regarded
as holy ground. Thus it formed, so to speak, an advanced post between the
Palestinian and the Gentile world. Its chief Synagogue was a magnificent
building, to which the successors of Antiochus Epiphanes had given the spoils
which that monarch had brought from the Temple. The connection between
Jerusalem and Antioch was very close. All that occurred in that city was
eagerly watched in the Jewish capital. The spread of Christianity there must
have excited deep concern. Careful as the Talmud is not to afford unwelcome
information, which might have led to further mischief, we know that three of
the principal Rabbis went thither on a mission - we can scarcely doubt for the
purpose of arresting the progress of Christianity. Again, we find at a later
period a record of religious controversy in Antioch between Rabbis and
Christians.9 Yet the
Jews of Antioch were strictly Hellenistic, and on one occasion a great Rabbi
was unable to find among them a copy of even the Book of Esther in Hebrew,
which, accordingly, he had to write out from memory for his use in their
Synagogue. A fit place this great border-city, crowded by Hellenists, in close
connection with Jerusalem, to be the birthplace of the name 'Christian,' to
send forth a Paul on his mission to the Gentile world, and to obtain for it a
charter of citizenship far nobler than that of which the record was graven on
tablets of brass.
9. Comp. generally Neubauer, Géogr. du Talmud, pp. 312, 313.
But, whatever privileges Israel might enjoy, history records an
almost continuous series of attempts, on the part of the communities among whom
they lived, to deprive them not only of their immunities, but even of their
common rights. Foremost among the reasons of this antagonism we place the absolute
contrariety between heathenism and the Synagogue, and the social isolation
which Judaism rendered necessary. It was avowedly unlawful for the Jew even 'to
keep company, or come unto one of another nation.'10
To quarrel with this, was to find fault with the law and the religion which
made him a Jew. But besides, there was that pride of descent, creed,
enlightenment, and national privileges, which St. Paul so graphically sums up
as 'making boast of God and of the law.'11
However differently they might have expressed it, Philo and Hillel would have
been at one as to the absolute superiority of the Jew as such. Pretensions of
this kind must have been the more provocative, that the populace at any rate
envied the prosperity which Jewish industry, talent, and capital everywhere
secured. Why should that close, foreign corporation possess every civic right,
and yet be free from many of its burdens? Why should their meetings be excepted
from the 'collegia illicita?' why should they alone be allowed to export part of
the national wealth, to dedicate it to their superstition in Jerusalem? The Jew
could not well feign any real interest in what gave its greatness to Ephesus,
it attractiveness to Corinth, its influence to Athens. He was ready to profit
by it; but his inmost thought must have been contempt, and all he wanted was
quietness and protection in his own pursuits. What concern had he with those
petty squabbles, ambitions, or designs, which agitated the turbulent populace
in those Grecian cities? What cared he for their popular meetings and noisy
discussions? The recognition of the fact that, as Jews, they were strangers in
a strange land, made them so loyal to the ruling powers, and procured them the
protection of kings and Cæsars. But it also roused the hatred of the populace.
10. Acts x.28.
11. Comp. Rom. ii. 17-24.
That such should have been the case, and these widely scattered
members have been united in one body, is a unique fact in history. Its only
true explanation must be sought in a higher Divine impulse. The links which
bound them together were: a common creed, a common life, a common
centre, and a common hope.
Wherever the Jew sojourned, or however he might differ from his brethren, Monotheism, the Divine mission of Moses, and the authority of the Old
Testament, were equally to all unquestioned articles of belief. It may well
have been that the Hellenistic Jew, living in the midst of a hostile, curious,
and scurrilous population, did not care to exhibit over his house and
doorposts, at the right of the entrance, the Mezuzah,12
which enclosed the folded parchment that, on twenty-two lines, bore the words
from Deut. iv. 4-9 and xi. 13-21, or to call attention by their breadth to the Tephillin,13
or phylacteries on his left arm and forehead, or even to make observable the Tsitsith,14
or fringes on the borders of his garments.15
Perhaps, indeed, all these observances may at that time not have been deemed
incumbent on every Jew.16
At any rate, we do not find mention of them in heathen writers. Similarly, they
could easily keep out of view, or they may not have had conveniences for, their
prescribed purifications. But in every place, as we have abundant evidence,
where there were at least ten Batlanim - male householders who had
leisure to give themselves to regular attendance - they had, from ancient
times,17 one, and,
if possible, more Synagogues.18
Where there was no Synagogue there was at least a Proseuche,1920
open sky, after the form of a theatre, generally outside the town, near a river
or the sea, for the sake of lustrations. These, as we know from classical
writers, were well known to the heathen, and even frequented by them. Their
Sabbath observance, their fasting on Thursdays, their Day of Atonement, their
laws relating to food, and their pilgrimages to Jerusalem - all found
sympathisers among Judaising Gentiles.21
They even watched to see, how the Sabbath lamp was kindled, and the solemn
prayers spoken which marked the beginning of the Sabbath.22
But to the Jew the Synagogue was the bond of union throughout the world. There,
on Sabbath and feast days they met to read, from the same Lectionary, the same
Scripture-lessons which their brethren read throughout the world, and to say,
in the words of the same liturgy, their common prayers, catching echoes of the
gorgeous Temple-services in Jerusalem. The heathen must have been struck with
awe as they listened, and watched in the gloom of the Synagogue the mysterious
light at the far curtained end, where the sacred oracles were reverently kept,
wrapped in costly coverings. Here the stranger Jew also would find himself at
home: the same arrangements as in his own land, and the well-known services and
prayers. A hospitable welcome at the Sabbath-meal, and in many a home, would be
pressed on him, and ready aid be proffered in work or trial.
12. Ber. iii. 3; Meg. i. 8; Moed K. iii. 4; Men. iii. 7. Comp. Jos. Ant. iv.8.13; and the tractate Mezuzah in Kirchheim, Septem libri Talmud. parvi Hierosol. pp. 12-17.
13. St. Matt. xxiii. 5; Ber. i. 3; Shabb. vi. 2; vii. 3; xvi. 1; Er. x. 1, 2; Sheq. iii. 2; Meg. i. 8; iv. 8; Moed. Q. iii. 4; Sanh. xi. 3; Men. iii. 7; iv. 1; Kel. xviii. 8; Miqv. x. 3; yad. iii. 3. Comp. Kirchheim, Tract. Tephillin, u. s. pp. 18-21.
14. Moed K. iii. 4; Eduy. iv. 10; Men. iii. 7; iv. 1. Comp. Kirchheim, Tract. Tsitsith, u. s. pp. 22-24.
15. The Tephillin enclosed a transcript of Exod. xiii. 1-10, 11-16; Deut. vi. 4-9; xi. 13-21. The Tsitsith were worn in obedience to the injunction in Num. xv. 37 etc.; Deut. xxii. 12 (comp. St. Matt. ix. 20; xiv. 36; St. Mark v. 27; St. Luke viii. 44).
16. It is remarkable that Aristeas seems to speak only of the phylacteries on the arm, and Philo of those for the head, while the LXX. takes the command entirely in a metaphorical sense. This has already been pointed out in that book of gigantic learning, Spencer, De Leg. Heb. p. 1213. Frankel (Uber d. Einfl. d. Pal. Exeg., pp. 89, 90) tries in vain to controvert the statement. The insufficiency of his arguments has been fully shown by Herzfeld (Gesch. d. Volk. Isr. vol. iii. p. 224).
17. Acts xv. 21.
18. sunagwgh Jos. Ant. xix. 6. 3;
War, ii. 14. 4, 5; vii. 3. 3; Philo, Quod omnis probus liber, ed.
Mangey, ii. p. 458;sunagwgion Philo,
Ad Caj. ii. p. 591; sabbateion Jos.
Ant. xvi. 66. 2 proseukthrion Philo, Vita Mosis, lib. iii., ii. p. 168.
19. Acts xvi.13
20. proseuch Jos. Ant. xiv. 10 23,
life 54; Philo, In Flacc. ii. p. 523; Ad Caj. ii. pp. 565, 596; Epiphan. Haer. 1xxx. 1. Comp. Juven. Sat. iii. 296: 'Ede ubi consistas? in qua te quæro proseucha?'
21. Comp., among others, Ovid, Ars Amat. i. 76; Juv. Sat. xvi. 96, 97; Hor.
Sat. i. 5. 100; 9. 70; Suet. Aug. 93.
22. Persius v. 180.
For, deepest of all convictions was that of their common centre;
strongest of all feelings was the love which bound them to Palestine and to
Jerusalem, the city of God, the joy of all the earth, the glory of His people
Israel. 'If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning;
let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,' Hellenist and Eastern equally
realised this. As the soil of his native land, the deeds of his people, or the
graves of his fathers draw the far-off wanderer to the home of his childhood,
or fill the mountaineer in his exile with irrepressible longing, so the sounds
which the Jew heard in his Synagogue, and the observances which he kept. Nor
was it with him merely matter of patriotism, of history, or of association. It
was a religious principle, a spiritual hope. No truth more firmly rooted in the
consciousness of all, than that in Jerusalem alone men could truly worship.23
As Daniel of old had in his hour of worship turned towards the Holy City, so in
the Synagogue and in his prayers every Jew turned towards Jerusalem; and
anything that might imply want of reverence, when looking in that direction,
was considered a grievous sin. From every Synagogue in the Diaspora the annual
Temple-tribute went up to Jerusalem,24
no doubt often accompanied by rich votive offerings. Few, who could undertake
or afford the journey, but had at some time or other gone up to the Holy City
to attend one of the great feasts.25
Philo, who was held by the same spell as the most bigoted Rabbinist, had
himself been one of those deputed by his fellow-citizens to offer prayers and
sacrifices in the great Sanctuary.26
Views and feelings of this kind help us to understand, how, on some great
feast, as Josephus states on sufficient authority, the population of Jerusalem
- within its ecclesiastical boundaries - could have swelled to the
enormous number of nearly three millions.27
23. St. John iv. 20.
24. Comp. Jos. Ant. xiv. 7. 2; xvi. 6, passium; Philo, De Monarchia, ed. Mangey, ii. p. 224; Ad Caj. ii. p. 568; Contra Flacc. ii. p. 524.
25. Philo, De Monarchia, ii. p. 223.
26. Philo, in a fragment preserved in Euseb., Præpar. Ev. viii. 13. What the Temple was in the estimation of Israel, and what its loss boded, not only to them, but to the whole world, will be shown in a later part of this book.
27. War vi. 9. 3; comp. ii. 14. 3
And still, there was an even stronger bond in their common hope.
That hope pointed them all, wherever scattered, back to Palestine. To them the
coming of the Messiah undoubtedly implied the restoration of Israel's kingdom,
and, as a first part in it, the return of 'the dispersed.'28
Indeed, every devout Jew prayed, day by day: 'Proclaim by Thy loud trumpet our
deliverance, and raise up a banner to gather our dispersed, and gather us
together from the four ends of the earth. Blessed be Thou, O Lord! Who
gatherest the outcasts of Thy people Israel.'29
That prayer included in its generality also the lost ten tribes. So, for
example, the prophecy30
was rendered: 'They hasten hither, like a bird out of Egypt,' - referring to
Israel of old; 'and like a dove out of the land of Assyria' - referring to the
And thus even these wanderers, so long lost, were to be reckoned in the field
of the Good Shepherd.33
28. Even Maimonides, in spite of his desire to minimise the Messianic expectancy, admits this.
29. This is the tenth of the eighteen (or rather nineteen) benedictions in the daily prayers. Of these the first and the last three are certainly the oldest. But this tenth also dates from before the destruction of Jerusalem. Comp. Zunz,
Gottesd. Vortr. d. Juden, p. 368.
33. The suggestion is made by Castelli, Il Messia, p. 253.
It is worth while to trace, how universally and warmly both
Eastern and Western Judaism cherished this hope of all Israel's return to their
own land. The Targumim bear repeated reference to it;34
and although there may be question as to the exact date of these paraphrases,
it cannot be doubted, that in this respect they represented the views of the
Synagogue at the time of Jesus. For the same reason we may gather from the
Talmud and earliest commentaries, what Israel's hope was in regard to the
return of the 'dispersed.'35
It was a beautiful idea to liken Israel to the olive-tree, which is never
stripped of its leaves.36
The storm of trial that had swept over it was, indeed, sent in judgment, but
not to destroy, only to purify. Even so, Israel's persecutions had served to
keep them from becoming mixed with the Gentiles. Heaven and earth might be
destroyed, but not Israel; and their final deliverance would far outstrip in
marvellousness that from Egypt. The winds would blow to bring together the
dispersed; nay, if there were a single Israelite in a land, however distant, he
would be restored. With every honour would the nations bring them back. The
patriarchs and all the just would rise to share in the joys Patræ of the new
possession of their land; new hymns as well as the old ones would rise to the
praise of God. Nay, the bounds of the land would be extended far beyond what
they had ever been, and made as wide as originally promised to Abraham. Nor
would that possession be ever taken from them, nor those joys be ever succeeded
by sorrows.37 In view of
such general expectations we cannot fail to mark with what wonderful sobriety
the Apostles put the question to Jesus: 'Wilt Thou at this time restore the
kingdom to Israel?'38
34. Notably in connection with Ex. Xii. 42 (both in the Pseudo-Jon. And Jer. Targum); Numb. xxiv. 7 (Jer. Targ.); Deut. xxx.4 (targ. Ps.-Jon.); Is xiv. 29; Jer. xxxiii. 13; Hos. xiv. 7; Zech. x. 6. Dr. Drummond, in his 'Jewish Messiah,' p. 335, quotes from the Targum on Lamentations. But this dates from long after the
35. As each sentence which follows would necessitate one or more references to different works, the reader, who may be desirous to verify the statements in the text, is generally referred to Castelli, u. s. pp. 251-255.
36. Men. 53 b.
37. The fiction of two Messiahs - one the Son of David, the other the Son of Joseph, the latter being connected with the restoration of the ten tribes - has been conclusively shown to be the post-Christian date (comp. Schöttgen, Horæ Hebr. i. p. 359; and Wünsche, Leiden d. Mess. p. 109). Possibly it was invented to find an explanation for Zech. xii. 10 (comp. Succ. 52 a), just as the Socinian doctrine of the assumption of Christ into heaven at the beginning of His ministry was invented to account for St. John iii. 13.
38. Acts i.6.
Hopes and expectations such as these are expressed not only in
Talmudical writings. We find them throughout that very interesting Apocalyptic
class of literature, the Pseudepigrapha, to which reference has already been
made. The two earliest of them, the Book of Enoch and the Sibylline Oracles,
are equally emphatic on this subject. The seer in the Book of Enoch beholds
Israel in the Messianic time as coming in carriages, and as borne on the wings
of the wind from East, and West, and South.39
Fuller details of that happy event are furnished by the Jewish Sibyl. In her
utterances these three events are connected together: the coming of the
Messiah, the rebuilding of the Temple,40
and the restoration of the dispersed,41
when all nations would bring their wealth to the House of God.4243
The latter trait specially reminds us of their Hellenistic origin. A century
later the same joyous confidence, only perhaps more clearly worded, appears in
the so-called 'Psalter of Solomon.' Thus the seventeenth Psalm bursts into this
strain: 'Blessed are they who shall live in those days - in the reunion of the
tribes, which God brings about.'44
And no wonder, since they are the days when 'the King, the Son of David,'45
having purged Jerusalem46
and destroyed the heathen by the word of His mouth,47
would gather together a holy people which He would rule with justice, and judge
the tribes of His people,48
'dividing them over the land according to tribes;' when 'no stranger would any
longer dwell among them.'49
39. Book of En. ch. lvii.; comp. xc.33.
40. B. iii. 286-294; comp. B. v. 414-433.
41. B. iii. 732-735.
42. B. iii. 766-783.
43. M. Maurice Vernes (Hist. Des Idées Messian. pp. 43-119) maintains that the
writers of Enoch and Or. Sib. 3 expected this period under the rule of the
Maccabees, and regarded one of them as the Messiah. It implies a peculiar
reading of history, and a lively imagination, to arrive at such a conclusion.
44. Ps. of Sol. vxii. 50; comp. also Ps. xi.
45. Ps. Sal. xviii. 23.
46. v. 25.
47. v. 27.
48. v. 28.
49. vv. 30, 31.
Another pause, and we reach the time when Jesus the Messiah
appeared. Knowing the characteristics of that time, we scarcely wonder that the
Book of Jubilees, which dates from that period, should have been Rabbinic in
its cast rather than Apocalyptic. Yet even there the reference to the future
glory is distinct. Thus we are told, that, though for its wickedness Israel had
been scattered, God would 'gather them all from the midst of the heathen,'
'build among them His Sanctuary, and dwell with them.' That Sanctuary was to
'be for ever and ever, and God would appear to the eye of every one, and every
one acknowledge that He was the God of Israel, and the Father of all the
Children of Jacob, and King upon Mount Zion, from everlasting to everlasting.
And Zion and Jerusalem shall be holy.'50
When listening to this language of, perhaps, a contemporary of Jesus, we can in
some measure understand the popular indignation which such a charge would call
forth, as that the Man of Nazareth had proposed to destroy the Temple,51
or that he thought merely of the children of Jacob.
50. Book of Jub. Ch. i.; comp. also ch. xxiii.
51. St. John ii. 19.
There is an ominous pause of a century before we come to the
next work of this class, which bears the title of the Fourth Book of Esdras.
That century had been decisive in the history of Israel. Jesus had lived and
died; His Apostles had gone forth to bear the tidings of the new Kingdom of
God; the Church had been founded and separated from the Synagogue; and the
Temple had been destroyed, the Holy City laid waste, and Israel undergone
sufferings, compared with which the former troubles might almost be forgotten.
But already the new doctrine had struck its roots deep alike in Eastern and in
Hellenistic soil. It were strange indeed if, in such circumstances, this book
should not have been different from any that had preceded it; stranger still,
if earnest Jewish minds and ardent Jewish hearts had remained wholly unaffected
by the new teaching, even though the doctrine of the Cross still continued a
stumbling-block, and the Gospel announcement a rock of offence. But perhaps we
could scarcely have been prepared to find, as in the Fourth Book of Esdras,
doctrinal views which were wholly foreign to Judaism, and evidently derived
from the New Testament, and which, in logical consistency, would seem to lead
up to it.52 The
greater part of the book may be described as restless tossing, the seer being
agitated by the problem and the consequences of sin, which here for the first
and only time is presented as in the New Testament; by the question, why there
are so few who are saved; and especially by what to a Jew must have seemed the
inscrutable, terrible mystery of Israel's sufferings and banishment.53
Yet, so far as we can see, no other way of salvation is indicated than that by
works and personal righteousness. Throughout there is a tone of deep sadness
and intense earnestness. It almost seems sometimes, as if one heard the wind of
the new dispensation sweeping before it the withered leaves of Israel's autumn.
Thus far for the principal portion of the book. The second, or Apocalyptic,
part, endeavors to solve the mystery of Israel's state by foretelling their
future. Here also there are echoes of New Testament utterances. What the end is
to be, we are told in unmistakable language. His 'Son,' Whom the Highest has
for a long time preserved, to deliver 'the creature' by Him, is suddenly to
appear in the form of a Man. From His mouth shall proceed alike woe, fire, and
storm, which are the tribulations of the last days. And as they shall gather
for war against Him, He shall stand on Mount Zion, and the Holy City shall come
down from heaven, prepared and ready, and He shall destroy all His enemies. But
a peaceable multitude shall now be gathered to Him. These are the ten tribes,
who, to separate themselves from the ways of the heathen, had wandered far
away, miraculously helped, a journey of one and a half years, and who were now
similarly restored by God to their own land. But as for the 'Son,' or those who
accompanied him, no one on earth would be able to see or know them, till the
day of His appearing.5455
52. The doctrinal part of IV. Esdras may be said to be saturated with the dogma of original sin, which is wholly foreign to the theology alike of Rabbinic and Hellenistic Judaism. Comp. Vis. i. ch. iii. 21, 22; iv. 30, 38; Vis.
iii. ch. vi, 18, 19 (ed. Fritzsche, p. 607); 33-41; vii. 46-48; viii. 34-35.
53. It almost seems as if there were a parallelism between this book and the Epistle to the Romans, which in its dogmatic part, seems successively to take up these three subjects, although from quite another point of view. How different the treatment is, need not be told.
54. Vis. vi. ch. xiii. 27-52.
55. The better reading is 'in tempore diei ejus. (v. 52).'
It seems scarcely necessary to complete the series of testimony
by referring in detail to a book, called 'The Prophecy and Assumption of
Moses,' and to what is known as the Apocalypse of Baruch, the servant of
Jeremiah. Both date from probably a somewhat later period than the Fourth Book
of Esdras, and both are fragmentary. The one distinctly anticipates the return
of the ten tribes;56
the other, in the letter to the nine and a half tribes, far beyond the
Euphrates,57 with which
the book closes, preserves an ominous silence on that point, or rather alludes to
it in language which so strongly reminds us of the adverse opinion expressed in
the Talmud, that we cannot help suspecting some internal connection between the
56. Prophet. et Ass. Mos. iv. 7-14; vii. 20.
57. Ap. Bar. xxvii. 22.
Sanh. 110 b we read, 'Our Rabbis teach, that the Ten Tribes have no part
in the era to come, because it is written "The Lord drave them out of their land
in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another
land." "The Lord drave them from their land" - in the present era - "and cast
them into another land," in the era to come.' In curious agreement with this,
Pseudo-Baruch writes to the nine and a half tribes to 'prepare their hearts to
that which they had formerly believed,' least they should suffer 'in both eras
(ab utroque sœculo),' being led captive in the one, and tormented in the
other (Apoc. Bar. lxxxiii. 8)
The writings to which we have referred have all a decidedly
Hellenistic tinge of thought.59
Still they are not the outcome of pure Hellenism. It is therefore with peculiar
interest that we turn to Philo, the great representative of that direction, to
see whether he would admit an idea so purely national and, as it might seem,
exclusive. Nor are we here left in doubt. So universal was this belief, so
deep-seated the conviction, not only in the mind, but in the heart of Israel,
that we could scarcely find it more distinctly expressed than by the great
Alexandrian. However low the condition of Israel might be, he tells us,60
or however scattered the people to the ends of the earth, the banished would,
on a given sign, be set free in one day. In consistency with his system, he
traces this wondrous event to their sudden conversion to virtue, which would
make their masters ashamed to hold any longer in bondage those who were so much
better than themselves. Then, gathering as by one impulse, the dispersed would
return from Hellas, from the lands of the barbarians, from the isles, and from
the continents, led by a Divine, superhuman apparition invisible to others, and
visible only to themselves. On their arrival in Palestine the waste places and
the wilderness would be inhabited, and the barren land transformed into
for example, the assertion that there had been individuals who fulfilled the
commandments of God, Vis. i. ch. iii. 36; the domain of reason, iv. 22;
v. 9; general Messianic blessings to the world at large, Vis. i. ch. iv.
27, 28; the idea of a law within their minds, like that of which St. Paul
speaks in the case of the heathen, Vis. iii. ch. vi. 45-47 (ed.
Fritzsche, p. 609). These are only instances, and we refer besides to the
general cast of the reasoning.
60. De Execrat. ed. Frcf. pp. 936, 937.
Whatever shades of difference, then, we may note in the
expression of these views, all anticipate the deliverance of Israel, their
restoration, and future pre-eminent glory, and they all connect these events
with the coming of the Messiah. This was 'the promise' unto which, in their
'instant service night and day, the twelve tribes,' however grievously
oppressed, hoped to come.61
To this 'sure word of prophecy' 'the strangers scattered' throughout all lands
would 'take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place,' until the day
dawned, and the day-star rose in their hearts.62
It was this which gave meaning to their worship, filled them with patience in
suffering, kept them separate from the nations around, and ever fixed their
hearts and thoughts upon Jerusalem. For the 'Jerusalem' which was above was
'the mother' of them all. Yet a little while, and He that would come should
come, and not tarry - and then all the blessing and glory would be theirs. At
any moment the gladsome tidings might burst upon them, that He had come, when
their glory would shine out from one end of the heavens to the other. All the
signs of His Advent had come to pass. Perhaps, indeed, the Messiah might even
now be there, ready to manifest Himself, so soon as the voice of Israel's
repentance called Him from His hiding. Any hour might that banner be planted on
the top of the mountains; that glittering sword be unsheathed; that trumpet
sound. Closer then, and still closer, must be their connection with Jerusalem,
as their salvation drew nigh; more earnest their longing, and more eager their
gaze, till the dawn of that long expected day tinged the Eastern sky with its