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CHAP. II.

SONS OF HEROD.

53

Sons of

.

aversion to the perpetuation of the Idumean tyranny in the

persons of the sons of Herod. Yet to those who contemplated only the political signs of Herod. the times, nothing remained but the degrading alternative, either to submit to the line of Herod, or to sink into a Roman province. Such was to be the end of their long ages of national glory, such the hopeless termination of the national independence. But, notwithstanding the progress of Grecian opinions and manners, with which the politic Herod had endeavoured to counterbalance the turbulent and unruly spirit of the religious party, the great mass of the people, obstinately wedded to the law and to the institutions of their fathers, watched with undisguised jealousy the denatíonalising proceedings of their king. This stern and inextinguish able enthusiasm had recently broken out into active resistance, in the conspiracy to tear down the golden eagle, which Herod had suspended over the gate of the Temple. The signal for this daring act had been a rumour of the king's death; and the terrific vengeance, which, under a temporary show of moderation, Herod had wreaked on the offenders, the degradation of the High-priest, and the execution of the popular teachers, who were accused of having instigated the insurrection, could not but widen the breach between the dying sovereign and the people. The greater part of the nation looked to the death of Herod with a vague hope of liberation and independence, which struck in with the more peculiar cause of excitement predominant in the general mind.

For the principle of this universal ferment lay deeper

• Hist. of the Jews, vol. ii. p. 87.

54

GENERAL EXPECTATION OF THE MESSIAH.

BOOK I.

General

of Messiali,

d

than in the impatience of a tyrannical government,

which burdened the people with intolerable expectation exactions, or the apprehension of national de

gradation if Judæa should be reduced to the dominion of a Roman proconsul. It was the confidence in the immediate coming of the Messiah, which was working with vague and mysterious agitation in the hearts of all orders. The very danger to which Jewish independence was reduced, was associated with this exalted sentiment; the nearer the ruin, the nearer the restoration of their Theocracy. For there is no doubt, that among other predictions, according to the general belief, which pointed to the present period, a very ancient interpretation of the prophecy, which declared that the sceptre, the royal dominion, should not depart from the race of Israel until the coming of the Shiloh, one of the titles uniformly attributed to the Messiah, connected the termination of the existing polity with the manifestation of the Deliverer.e This expectation of a wonderful

d Whoever is curious in such in- | shall be sent forth. The third, the quiries will find a fearful catalogue famine shall be grievous, and men and of calamities which were to precede, women and children, holy men and according to the Rabbinical autho- men of good works, shall die; and rities, the coming of the Messiah, there shall be a forgetfulness of the either in Lightfoot's Harmony, vol. v. Law among those that learn it. The p. 180 (8vo. edit.), or in Schoetgen, fourth year fulness and not fulness. Horæ Hebraicæ, vol. ii. p. 509, or The fifth year great fulness: they Eisenmenger, das entdecktes Juden- shall eat, and drink, and rejoice, and thum, ii. p. 711. The notion may the Law shall return to its scholars. have been grounded on the last chapter The sixth year, voices.” (The gloss of the Prophecy of Daniel. Compare is, “a fame shall be spread that the Bertholdt, c. 13.- The Rabbins de Son of David comes," or

they shall liver, “ In the first year of that week sound with the trumpet.”) (of years), that the Son of David is to seventh year, wars; and in the going come, shall that be fulfilled, 'I will out of that year, the Son of David rain upon one city, but I will not shall come.” Lightfoot, xi. 421. rain upon another."

Amos, iv. 7.- e Casaubon Exercit, anti-Baron. ii, “ The second year the arrows of famine

" The

CHAP. II.

NATURE OF THE BELIEF IN THE MESSIAH,

55

66

revolution to be wrought by the sudden appearance of some great mysterious person, had been so widely disseminated, as to excite the astonishment, perhaps the jealousy of the Romans, whose historians, Suetonius and Tacitus, as is well known, bear witness to the fact. “Among many," writes the latter, “there was a persuasion, that in the ancient books of the priesthood it was written, that at this precise time, the East should become mighty, and that the sovereigns of the world should issue from Judæa." g In the East, an ancient and consistent opinion prevailed, that it was fated there should issue, at this time, from Judæa, those who should obtain universal dominion.” h

Yet no question is more difficult than to ascertain the origin, the extent, the character of this Nature of the belief, as it prevailed at the time of our Sa- Messiah. viour's coming ;-how far it had spread among the surrounding nations; or how far, on the other hand, the original Jewish creed, formed from the authentic prophetical writings, had become impregnated with Oriental or Alexandrian notions. It is most probable, that there was no consistent, uniform, or authorised opinion on the subject. All was vague and indefinite; and in this vagueness and indefiniteness lay much of its power over the general mind. Whatever purer The Proor loftier notions concerning the great Deliverer phets. and Restorer might be imparted to wise and holy men,

belief in the

? 2 Esdras, vi. 25.

Judæorum. Bertholdt is what may 8 Tac. Hist. v. 13.

be called a moderate Rationalist. To b Suet. Ves. p. 4.

his work, and to Lightfoot, Schoetgen, i The Jewish opinions concerning Meuschen, and Eisenmenger, I am the Messiah have been examined with indebted for most of my Rabbinical great diligence and accuracy by Pro- quotations. fessor Bertholdt, in his Christologia

56

TRADITION.

BOOK I.

a

in whatever sense we understand that “ Abraham rejoiced to see the day” of the Messiah, the intimations on this subject in the earlier books of the Old Testament, though distinctly to be traced along its whole course, are few, brief, and occurring at long intervals. But from the time, and during the whole period of the Prophets, this mysterious Being becomes gradually more prominent. The future dominion of some great king, to descend from the line of David, to triumph over all his enemies, and to establish an universal kingdom of peace and happiness, of which the descriptions of the golden age in the Greek poets are but a faint and unimaginative transcript: the promise of the Messiah, in short, comes more distinctly forward. As early as the first chapters of Isaiah, he appears to assume a title and sacred designation, which at least approaches near to that of the Divinity; and in the later prophets, not merely does this leading characteristic maintain its place, but under the splendid poetical imagery, drawn from existing circumstances, there seems to lie hid a more profound meaning, which points to some great and general moral revolution, to be achieved by this mysterious Being. But their sacred books, the Law and the Prophets,

were not the clear and unmingled source of

the Jewish opinions on this all-absorbing subject. Over this, as over the whole system of the Law, tradition had thrown a veil; and it is this traditionary notion of the Messiah, which it is necessary here to

k

Tradition.

k Such is the opinion of Rosen- same passages, espouses the opposite müller (on Isaiah ix, 5. Compare opinion. Neither of these authors, it likewise, on Psalm xlv. 7). On a may be added, discusses the question on point much contested by modern theological, but purely on historical scholars, Gesenius, in his note on the and critical grounds.

CHAP. II.

FOREIGN CONNEXIONS OF THE JEWS.

57

m

develope : but from whence tradition had derived its apparently extraneous and independent notions, becomes a much more deep and embarrassing question. It is manifest from the Evangelic history," that although there was no settled or established creed upon the subject, yet there was a certain conventional language: particular texts of the sacred writings were universally recognised, as bearing reference to the Messiah ; and there were some few characteristic credentials of his title and office, which would have commanded universal assent.

There are two quarters from which the Jews, as they ceased to be an insulated people, confined in Foreign conthe narrow tract of Palestine, and by their the Jews. captivity and migrations became more mingled with other races, might insensibly contract new religious notions, the East and the West, Babylonia and Alexandria. The latter would be the chief, though not

m Bertholdt, p. 8.

somewhat suspicious from the uncerThe brief intimations in the Gos- tainty of their date : still, in this as pels are almost the only absolutely in other points of coincidence, where certain authorities for the nature of their expressions are similar to those this belief, at that particular period, of the Christian records, there seems except, perhaps, the more genuine part so manifest an improbability that of the Apocrypha. Josephus, though these should have been adopted after he acknowledges the existence and the the two religions had assumed as influence of this remarkable feature in hostile position towards each other, the national character, is either in that they may be fairly considered as clined to treat it as a popular delusion, | vestiges of an earlier system of opinions, or to warp it to his own purposes, its retained from ancient reverence, and fulfilment in the person of Vespasian. indelible even by implacable animosity. For his own school, Philo is a valuable It is far more likely that Christianity witness; but among the Alexandrian should speak the current language of Jews, the belief in a personal Messiah the time, than that the Synagogue was much more faint and indistinct should interpolate their own tradithan in Palestine. The Rabbinical tionary records, with terms or notions books, even the oldest Targumin or borrowed from the Church. comments on the Sacred Writings, are

a

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