Chapter 4 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 6
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
FROM THE MANGER IN BETHLEHEM TO THE BAPTISM IN
WHAT MESSIAH DID THE JEWS EXPECT?
It were an extremely narrow, and, indeed, false view, to regard
the difference between Judaism and Christianity as confined to the question of
the fulfillment of certain prophecies in Jesus of Nazareth. These predictions
could only outline individual features in the Person and history of the
Messiah. It is not thus that a likeness is recognised, but rather by the
combination of the various features into a unity, and by the expression which
gives it meaning. So far as we can gather from the Gospel narratives, no
objection was ever taken to the fulfillment of individual prophecies in Jesus.
But the general conception which the Rabbis had formed of the Messiah, differed
totally from what was presented by the Prophet of Nazareth. Thus, what is the
fundamental divergence between the two may be said to have existed long before
the events which finally divided them. It is the combination of letters which
constitute words, and the same letters may be combined into different words.
Similarly, both Rabbinism and - what, by anticipation, we designate -
Christianity might regard the same predictions as Messianic, and look for their
fulfillment; while at the same time the Messianic ideal of the Synagogue might
be quite other than that, to which the faith and hope of the Church have clung.
1. The most important point here is to keep in mind the organic
unity of the Old Testament. Its predictions are not isolated, but
features of one grand prophetic picture; its ritual and institutions parts of
one great system; its history, not loosely connected events, but an organic
development tending towards a definite end. Viewed in its innermost substance,
the history of the Old Testament is not different from its typical institutions,
nor yet these two from its predictions. The idea, underlying all, is God's
gracious manifestation in the world - the Kingdom of God; the meaning of all -
the establishment of this Kingdom upon earth. That gracious purpose was, so to
speak, individualized, and the Kingdom actually established in the Messiah.
Both the fundamental and the final relationship in view was that of God towards
man, and of man towards God: the former as expressed by the word Father; the
latter by that of Servant - or rather the combination of the two ideas:
'Son-Servant.' This was already implied in the so-called Protevangel;1
and in this sense also the words of Jesus hold true: 'Before Abraham came into
being, I am.'
1. Gen. iii. 13.
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.'2
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.'
2. St. John viii. 56.
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.3 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.'4 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.'5
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.
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.'
4. St. Matt. ii. 15.
5. Phil. ii. 6-11.
Thus, in its final, as in its initial,6
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 onesided
view to regard the Babylonish exile as only a punishment for Israel's sin.
There is, in truth, nothing in all God's dealings in history exclusively punitive.
That were a merely negative element. But there is always a positive element
also of actual progress; a step forward, even though in the taking of it
something should have to be crushed. And this step forward was the development
of the idea of the Kingdom of God in its relation to the world.
6. Gen. iii. 15.
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,'7 and 'The
world was created only for the Messiah.'8
7. Sanh. 99 a.
8. 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.9 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.10
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.
9. 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.
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.
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
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 comment12
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
11 For these, see Appendix IX.
12. Yalkut on Is. ix. 1.
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.13
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.14
13. This is the view expressed by all Jewish dogmatic writers. See also Weber,
Altsynag. Theol. p. 217.
14. Comp. on the subject. Ber. R. 12-16.
The fall of Adam is ascribed to the envy of the Angels15
- 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.16
The instrument employed was the serpent, of whose original condition the
strangest legends are told, probably to make the Biblical narrative appear more
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.18
Six things Adam is said to have lost by his sin; but even these are to be
restored to man by the Messiah.1920
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.21
But although the fate which overtook Adam was to rest on all the world,22
and death came not only on our first father but on his descendants, and all
creation lost its perfectness,23
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,24
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.25
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,26
but they had refused to submit to it.27
But when Israel took on themselves the Law at Mount Sinai, the description in
Psalm 1xxxii. 6 applied literally to them. They would not have died, and were
'the sons of God.'28
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.29
Thus there were two divergent opinions - the one ascribing death to personal,
the other tracing it to Adam's guilt.30
15. 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.
16. Pirqé de R. El. c. 13; Yalkut i. p. 8 c.
17. Comp. Pirqé de R. El. and Yalkut, u.s.; also Ber. R. 19.
18. Ber. R. 19, ed. Warshau, p. 37 a.
19. Bemidb. R. 13.
20. 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).
21. Vayyikra R. 27.
22. Ber. R. 16, 21, and often.
23. Ber. R. 5, 12, 10; comp. also Midr. on Eccl. vii. 13; and viii. 1, and Baba B. 17 a.
24. Ber. R. 9.
25. Bemidb. R. 19.
26. According to Deut. xxxiii. 2; Hab. iii. 3.
27. Ab. Zar. 2 b.
28. Ab. Z. 5 a.
29. 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.
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 Siphré 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;31 the first
working in him from the beginning, the latter coming gradually in the course of
time.32 Yet, so
far from guilt attaching to the Yetser ha-ra, its existence is
absolutely necessary, if the world is to continue.33
In fact, as the Talmud expressly teaches,34
the evil desire or impulse was created by God Himself; while it is also
asserted35 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.36
On the other hand, as it is in the power of each wholly to overcome sin, and to
gain life by study and works;37 as Israel at Mount Sinai had actually
got rid of the Yetser ha-ra; and as there had been those, who were
- 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
31. Targum Ps.-Jon. on Gen. ii. 7.
32. Nedar. 32 b; Midr. on Eccl. iv. 13, 14, ed. W. p. 89 a; ix. 15; ib. p. 101 a.
33. Ber. R. 9.
34. Ber. 61 a.
35. Sukk. 52 a, and Yalkut ii. p. 149 b.
36. Comp. also Jer. Targum on Ex. xxxii. 22.
37. Ab. Z. 5 b; Kidd. 30 b.
38. For example, Yoma 28 b; Chag. 4 b.
39. Comp. IV. Esd. iii. 21, 22, 26; iv. 30; and especially vii. 46-53.
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 sin41 - national
sin; the idolatry of former times;42
the prevalence of crimes and vices; the dereliction of God's ordinances;43
the neglect of instruction, of study, and of proper practice of His Law; and,
in later days, the love of money and party strife.44But the seventy years' captivity had ceased, why not the present dispersion?
Because hypocrisy had been added to all other sins;45
because there had not been proper repentance;46
because of the half-heartedness of the Jewish proselytes; because of improper
marriages, and other evil customs;47
and because of the gross dissoluteness of certain cities.48
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.49
As significantly summed up, Israel was without Priesthood, without law, without
Nay, the world itself suffered in consequence of the destruction of the Temple.
In a very remarkable passage,51
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.52
Indeed, but for the intercession of the Angels the world would now be
destroyed.53 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,5455
and the very Angelic hosts had since been diminished.56
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.57
It is a touching legend, which represents the Shekhinah as still lingering over
the western wall of the Temple58
- the only one supposed to be still standing.59
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.60
He weeps over His children and their desolateness,61
and displays in the heavens tokens of mourning, corresponding to those which an
earthly monarch would show.62
41. Men. 53 b. 42. Gitt. 7 a. 43. Gitt. 88 a.
44. Jer. Yoma i. 1; Yoma 9 a, and many other passages.
45. Yoma 9 b.
46. Jer. Yoma i. 1.
47. Nidd. 13 b.
48. Yoma 19 b.
49. For all these points comp. Ber. 58 b; 59 a; Sot. 48 a; Shabb.
138 b; Baba B. 12 a, b.
50. Vayyikra R. 19.
51. Sukk. 55 b.
1 ed. Buber, p. 145 a, last lines.
53. Midr, on Ps. cxxxvii.
54. Pesiqta 148 b.
55. This is the Pesiqta, not that which is generally quoted either as Rabbathi or Sutarta.
56. Chag. 13 b.
57. This in very many Rabbinical passages. Comp. Castelli, II Messia, p. 176, note 4.
58. Shemoth R. 2. ed. Warsh. p. 7 b, lines 12 &c.
59. 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.
60. The passage from Yalkut on Is. lx. 1 is quoted in full in Appendix
61. Ber. 3 a; 59 a.
62. Pesiqta 119 b; 120 a.
All this is to be gloriously set right, when the Lord turneth
the captivity of Zion, and the Messiah cometh. But when may He be expected,
and what are the signs of His coming? Or perhaps the question should thus
be put: Why are the redemption of Israel and the coming of the Messiah so
unaccountably delayed? It is here that the Synagogue finds itself in
presence of an insoluble mystery. The explanations attempted are, confessedly,
guesses, or rather attempts to evade the issue. The only course left is,
authoritatively to impose silence on all such inquiries - the silence, as they
would put it, of implicit, mournful submission to the inexplicable, in faith
that somehow, when least expected, deliverance would come; or, as we would put
it, the silence of ever-recurring disappointment and despair. Thus the grand
hope of the Synagogue is, as it were, written in an epitaph on a broken tombstone,
to be repeated by the thousands who, for these long centuries, have washed the
ruins of the Sanctuary with unavailing tears.
5. Why delayeth the Messiah His coming? Since the brief
and broken sunshine of the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the sky overhead has ever
grown darker, nor have even the terrible storms, which have burst over Israel,
reft the canopy of cloud. The first capitivity passed, why not the second? This
is the painful question ever and again discussed by the Rabbis.63
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,64
we are told, that Israel will not repent till Elijah comes.65
Besides, bold as the language is, there is truth in the expostulation, which
the Midrash66 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.
Yoma i. 1, ed. Krot. p 38 c, last part, Sanh. 97 b, 98 a.
on Cant. v. 2, ed. Warsh. p. 25 a; Sanh. 98 a.
65. Pirqé de R. Eliez. 43 end.
66. On Lam. v. 21, ed. Warsh. vol. iii. p. 77 a.
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.67
Similarly beautiful is the thought,68
that, when God redeems Israel, it will be amidst their weeping.69
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 suggestions7071
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 Talmud72
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!73
67 Tanch. on Ex. xv. 1, ed. Warsh. p. 86 b.
68. On Jer. xxxi. 9.
69. Tanch. on Gen. xiv. 2, ed. Warsh.
70. Sanh. 97 b 98 a.
71. The reader will find these discussions summarised at the close of Appendix
72. Sanh. 98 a and b.
73. 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
Guesses on the subject could only be grounded on imaginary symbolisms. Of such
we have examples in the Talmud.75
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;76
others again expected it at the beginning, or end, of the eighty-fifth Jubilee
- with this proviso, that 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,77
and the Messiah come, after a terrible war between Rome and Ishmael (the West and
the East).78 But as the
rule of these monarchies was to last altogether one day (= 1000 years), less
two-thirds of an hour (1 hour = 83 ½ years);79
it would follow, that their domination would last 944 4/9 years.80
Again, according to Jewish tradition, the rule of Babylon had lasted 70, that
of Medo-Persia 34, and that of Greece 180 years, leaving 660 4/9 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
74. 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).
75. See, in Appendix IX. the extracts from Sanh.
76. Sanh. 97 b.
77. Pirqé de R. Ehes. 32.
78. u. s. 30.
79. Comp. Pirqé de R. El. 48.
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
81. 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
or when all the souls, predestined to inhabit bodies, had been on earth.84
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,85
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.86
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.8788
82. Sanh. 98 b.
83. See Appendix IX.
84. Ab. Z. 5 a, Ber. R. 24.
85. Targum Pseudo-Jon on Gen. xlix. 1.
86. Midrash on Ps. xxxi. ed. Warsh. p. 41 a, lines 18 to 15 from bottom.
87. Pesikta, ed. Buber, 47 b. 48 a, Sopher. xxi. Hal. 2. Shir. haShir. R. ii. 8. ed. Warsh. vol. iii. p. 15 a.
88. 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'89
(ek merouV profhteuomen).90
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
89. 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.
90. 1 Cor. xiii. 9.
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 Messiah91
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,92
before the morning-star93),
and eternal,94 and His
Person and dignity as superior to that of men and Angels: 'the Angel of the
probably 'the Angel of the Face' - a view fully confirmed by the rendering of
the Targum.97 The
silence of the Apocrypha about the Person of the Messiah is so strange, as to
be scarcely explained by the consideration, that those books were composed when
the need of a Messiah for the deliverance of Israel was not painfully felt.98
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,99
dates from more than a century and a half before Christ - presents a picture of
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.'101
Similarly, the vision of Messianic times opens with a reference to 'the King
Whom God will send from the sun.'102103
That a superhuman Kingdom of eternal duration, such as this vision paints,104
should have a superhuman King, seems almost a necessary corollary.105
91. No reasonable doubt can be left on the mind, that the LXX. translators have
here the Messiah in view.
92. Ps. lxxii.
93. Ps. cx.
94. Ps. lxxii.
95. Is. ix. 6.
96. The criticism of Mr. Drummond on these three passages (Jewish Messiah, pp. 290, 291) cannot be supported on critical grounds.
97. 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.)
98. 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.
99. 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.
100. vv. 652-807.
101. vv. 285, 286.
102. v. 652.
103. Mr. Drummond defends (at pp. d 274, 275) Holtxmann's view, that 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.
104. vv. 652-807.
105. I have purposely omitted all references 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 it106
dates from between 150 and 130 b.c.107
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
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,'109 'the Son
of Man,'110 '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').111
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'112
- Whom 'all the beasts of the field and all the fowls of heaven dread, and to
Whom they cry at all times.'
106. ch. i.- xxxvi. and lxxii.-cv.
107. 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.
108. Schürer (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 His 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.).
109. lxii. 5.
110. For Ex. xlviii. 2: lxii. 7; lxix 29.
111. cv. 2.
112. xc. 38.
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.' A chaste anticipation of the Messianic Kingdom113
is followed by a full description of its need and its blessings,114
to which the concluding Psalm115
forms an apt epilogue. The King Who reigns is of the house of David.116
He is the Son of David, Who comes at the time known to God only, to reign over
Israel.117 He is a
righteous King, taught of God.118
He is Christ the Lord. (CristoV KurioV,119
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.120
'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.121 'This is
the beauty of the King of Israel, Whom God hath chosen, to set Him over the
house of Israel to rule it.'122
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.123
Manifestly, this is not an earthly Kingdom, nor yet an earthly King.
113. in Ps. xi.
114. in Ps. xvii.
116. xvii. 5.
117. v. 23.
118. v. 35.
119. v. 36.
120. v. 41.
121. vv. 42, 43.
122. v. 47.
123. vv. 25-35.
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.124
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
estimate of the Messiah may be gathered from IV Esdras,126127
with which the kindred picture of the Messiah and His reign in the Apocalypse
of Baruch128 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. 9129
expressly mentions the Messiah among the seven things created before the world.130
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.131132133134
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 Talmud135 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
In general, the idea of the Messiah's appearance and concealment is familiar to
But the Rabbis go much farther back, and declare that from the time of Judah's
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.'140
In another passage the Messiah is expressly identified with Anani,141142
and therefore represented as pre-existent long before his actual manifestation.143
The same inference may be drawn from His emphatic designation as the First.144
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 Gehenna145
Whatever else may be inferred from it, this passage clearly implies not only
the pre-existence, but the premundane existence of the Messiah.146
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
125. 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.
126. xii. 32; xiii. 26, 52; xiv. 9.
127. 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.
129. Ed. Lemb. p. 7 a
130. These are: the Throne of Glory, Messiah the King, the Torah, (ideal) Israel, the Temple, repentance, and Gehenna.
131. Pirqé de R. E. 3; Midr.on Ps. xciii.1; Ps. 54 a; 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.
132. In Pirqé 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.
133. In Ber. R. six things are mentioned: two actually created (the Torah and the Throne of Glory), and four which came into His Mind to create them (the Fathers, Israel, the Temple, and the Name of the Messiah.
134. In Tanch., seven things are enumerated (the six as in Ber. R., with the addition of repentance), 'and some say: also Paradise and Gehenna.'
135. Jer. Ber. ii. 4, p. 5 a.
136. Sanh. 98 a; comp. also Jerus. Targ. on Ex. xii. 42; Pirqé de R. El. 30, and other passages.
137. See for example Pesiqta, ed Buber, p. 49 b.
138. In that passage the time of Messiah's concealment is calculated at forty-five days, from a comparison of Dan. xii. 11 with v. 12.
139. Gen. xxxviii. 1, 2.
140. Ber. R. 85, ed. Warsh. p. 151 b.
141. Mentioned in 1 Chr. iii. 24 6.
142 The comment on this passage is curiously mystical, but clearly implies not only the pre-existence, but the superhuman character of the Messiah.
143. Tanch. Par. To edoth, 14. ed. Warsh. p. 37 b.
144. Ber. R. 65 ed. Warsh. p. 114 b; Vayyikra R. 30, ed. W. vol. iii. p. 47 a; Pes 5 a.
145. Yalkut ii. p. 56 c.
146. 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.147 Like Moses
He comes, withdraws, and comes again.148
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 sin149
- 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.150
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).151
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.152 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;153
as the first Deliverer had made a spring of water to rise, so would the second.154
147. Shem. R. 1, ed. W. vol. ii. p. 5 b; Tanch. Par. Tazrya, 8, ed. W. vol. ii. p. 20 a.
148. Pesiqta, ed. Buber, p. 49 b; Midr. Ruth. Par. 5, ed. W. p. 43 b.
149. Sanh. 98 a.
150. Pirqé de R. El. 31, ed. Lemb. p. 38 a.
151. Pirqé de R. El. u. s., p. 39 a, close.
152. Bemid. R. 18, close of the Phar.
153. Ps. lxxii. 16.
154. According to the last clause of (English verson) Joel iii. 18 (Midr. on Eccles. i. 9 ed. Warsh, vol. iv. p. 80 b.)
But even this is not all. That the Messiah had, without any
instruction, attained to knowledge of God;155
and that He had received, directly from Him, all wisdom, knowledge, counsel,
and grace,156 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
Messiah would be 'greater than the Patriarchs,' higher than Moses,158
and even loftier than the ministering Angels.159
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.'160
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;161
the second of 'majesty,' at the Red Sea;162
the third of 'strength,' at the giving of the Law;163
the fourth 'white,' when He blotteth out the sins of Israel;164
the fifth of 'zeal,' when He avengeth them of their enemies;165
the sixth of 'righteousness,' at the time when the Messiah should be revealed;166
and the seventh 'red,' when He would take vengeance on Edom (Rome).167
'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:168
"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:169
"How manifold is Thy goodness, which Thou hast reserved to them that fear
Thee."'170 Such a
King Messiah might well be represented as sitting at the Right Hand of God,
while Abraham was only at His left;171
nay, as throwing forth His Right Hand, while God stood up to war for Him.172
155. Bemid. R. 14, ed. Warsh. p. 55 a.
156. Bemid. R. 13.
157. Yalkut on Numb. xxvii. 16, vol. i. p. 247 d.
158. 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.
159. Tanch., Par. Toledoth 14.
160. Midr. Tehill. ed. Warsh. p. 30 b.
161. Ps. civ. 1.
162. Ps. xciii. 1.
163. Ps. xciii. 1.
164. Dan. vii. 9.
165. Is. lix. 17.
166. Is. lix. 17.
167. Is. lxiii.
168. Is. lxi. 10.
169. Ps. xxxi. 19.
170. Pesiqta. ed. Buber. pp. 149, a, b.
171. Midr. on Ps. xviii. 36, ed. Warsh. p. 27 a.
172. 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.'173
The second appears in the narrative of the crime of Lot's daughters:174
'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.'175176
173. Ber. R. 23, ed Warsh p. 45 b.
174. Gen. xix. 32.
175. Ber. R. 51 ed. Warsh. p. 95 a.
176. 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.'177178
Whether this implies some activity of the Messiah in connection with creation,179
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
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.182
177. Ber. R. 2; and 8; Vayyikra R. 14, ed. Warsh. vol. iii. p. 21 b.
178. 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.
179. 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.
180. Midr. on Lament. i 16, ed Warsh. p. 64 a, last line comp. Pesiqta, p. 148 a;
Midr. on Ps. xxi. and the very curious concessions in a controversy with a
Christian recorded in Sanh. 38 b.
181. The whole of this passage, beginning at p. 147 b, is very curious and deeply
interesting. It would lead too far to quote it, or other parallel passages
which might be adduced. The passage in the Midrash on Lament. i. 16 is also extremely interesting. After the statement quoted in the text, there follows a
discussion on the names of the Messiah, and then the curious story about the Messiah having already been born in Bethlehem.
182. 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.183
183. 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.
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