« PreviousContinue »
ritual; their energy was tireless; they were critical and censorious. Such were their characteristics. In Jesus' time they posed publicly as the pattern of what a religious man ought to be. He that did not accept their propaganda counted as a sinner or as “am-ha-'arets, country-folk that knew not the law. The Pharisees are the incarnation of the Jewish law. They represent an ideal of life which is distinct from everything else. One can realize it best by taking note of the judgments they pass on things of the world, of their estimate of the actions and destiny of men.
All external things are either clean or unclean, , sacred or common. The duty of the religious man is to keep himself undefiled by all unclean things, kinds of food, vessels, etc.
The actions of men are of different value in God's sight. All “extraordinary’works are especially pleasing to God; such, for instance, are, first and foremost, acts of worship, sacrifices, the paying of tithes, fasting, pilgrimages.
The end of man is holiness. He is nearest God who holds himself aloof from publicans, sinners, and Samaritans, and renounces the wicked world.
We need no further evidence to see that in opposing the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus indirectly set Himself against the whole Jewish idea, law, and Church, and that St Paul rightly understood Jesus when he said “ Christ is the end of the law.”
And herein it is especially instructive to observe how the layman Jesus and the Scribe Paul attack different sides of the Jewish idea and thus complete each other in their criticism. It is the content of the Jewish ideal of life that arouses the indignation
of Jesus--the terrible externalization of religion, the essential being completely buried beneath hypocrisy and folly. St Paul, on the other hand, fights against the form of the Jewish religion which is fitting but for hirelings and slaves, and reverses the true religious relationship, the sonship of man to God. It is only when we combine the two lines of attack that we have a complete criticism of the Jewish idea.
And then, after all, the same Jewish idea in its modified Christian form enters upon a new lease of power—a magnificent dominion destined to last for centuries. Would that it had been otherwise.
But even in the time of its degeneracy the Jewish religion was pre-eminent, surpassing every other upon earth. Christianity could only arise in Jewish soil. Nowhere else did such faith in God, so high a moral standard, and so lofty a hope for the future, lie full of promise side by side, waiting to be unified and exalted into a world-religion.
It is important to realize clearly the distinctive feature in the Jewish faith in God. It cannot be monotheism. For a long time past that had become the common property of the enlightened Greek world, as far as it had any understanding for religion, , and even in Israel itself it had been modified by a belief in angels which bears clear marks of its polytheistic origin. One need but read, for instance, the Epistle to the Colossians if one would form some idea of the weakness of Jewish monotheism, not to mention the Greek prologue to the Fourth Gospel, which places 'a'God, the Logos, by the side of the’ God. Neither, however, is it the simple belief in
Providence, in a God that punishes and rewards, that constitutes the peculiarity of the Jewish religion. The Christian apologist Lactantius was able to postulate an individual Providence as an elementary truth current among all the better heathens. When the Jews in Jesus' time
time pictured the world to themselves as a kind of household instituted by God, and superintended by Him, then the Greeks presented them with the word for the idea-dioikesis. It is only the historical and teleological character of this faith in God that marks the pre-eminence of the Jewish religion. While with the Stoics the belief in Providence is based upon the order of nature—that is, on the impression afforded by the world of a rational whole bound together by laws of cause and effect—with the Jews it is built up on the foundation of the deeds of Jahwe, of His promises and of His designs. Jahwe is free, in subjection to nothing but His own will; therefore religion never turns into philosophy amongst this people, but becomes faith in the God that creates things anew.
To the Jews God never appears as the being who merely sets the world in motion and regulates its course, though that is a part of His government, but He is the free creator, the creator in every moment of time. All is history, even nature. Wherever they arrive at the idea of a necessary causation there it immediately finds its place in history as predestination, as the act of God before the beginning of time. And even where particular provinces of this history are assigned to the supervision of intermediary beings, they do not count as in anywise independent powers,
but merely as the executors of the commands of God. The first of God's acts was the creation of the world, the last shall be the restitution of Israel and of the fallen world by the violent destruction of the present evil condition of things. The beginning and the end are united by an unbroken chain of divine acts. So far removed is the thought that the God that creates the new world is perchance another than He that created the old world, that it is just the apocalypses that are especially fond of singing the praises of God the Creator. It is none other than John, author of our book of the Apocalypse, who sings : “ Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power; for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are, and were created.” So, too, we read in the “ Shepherd of Hermas” from the true Jewish point of view : “Behold the Lord of all power, He that created the world and established the heavens and founded the earth above the waters; behold He removeth heavens and mountains and high places and seas, and all paths are made straight for His elect.”
One frequently meets with the expression nowadays, “the transcendency of the Jewish idea of God,” but in employing these words sufficient caution is not always observed. It is quite true that to later Judaism God has become a far-off, mysterious being. Everyone who reads in succession the theophanies of an Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and John realizes that. A further proof may be found in the awe with which the utterance of the name of Jahwe is avoided. “ Hallowed be Thy name”—that is, may
that is, may it be thought of with the reverence due to the unspeakable. Angels stand between God and man, whole hier
archies of dominions and powers and thrones.
Liv. ing religion is often concerned with them instead of with God. One finds indications that God will only fully reveal Himself in the future, that at present He is visible to none, and no man can approach Him. This can be proved by many passages in the writings of St Paul and St John. For Paul, the whole present evil world is fallen away from God and is under the dominion of hostile powers, sin, death and demons. Satan is called the God of this world. It is only in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus that we have irrefutable evidence of God and His love. John, too, calls Satan the prince of this world, and God, so it is said, no man hath ever yet seen, not even the prophets of the Old Testament. All our knowledge of God comes to us through Jesus that revealed Him. That, it is true, is a complete transcendency of the idea of God. But then we remember that St John and St Paul are theologians, they are not simple representatives of the popular belief, and that both of them, as Christian apologists, are interested in removing the world without Christ very far from God. Their writings prove nothing as to the belief of the laity in the time of Jesus. If in Jesus we meet with a faith in God of unexampled freshness and ingenuousness, which nevertheless is nowhere bound up with any claim to novelty, then the foundations for this must have already been securely laid among the Jews. Nor is it difficult to find proof of this. For Jesus, it is God that gives the rain and the sunshine, that feeds the fowls of the air and clothes the flowers of the field, that hears all prayers, that protects the sparrow on the roof, and much more man himself. That is the