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CHRISTIANITY stands to Judaism indubitably in a relationship at once of the closest affinity and yet of the most striking contrast. What did it take over from Judaism? What did it reject? It rejected the Jewish idea, the pivot on which Judaism turns. To all its other elements it stands in a positive relationship; although the part which it rejected, involved as a necessary consequence an inner transformation of the whole Jewish system.

What is the Jewish idea? It is the conception of religion as a legal, a national system. Nowhere else was it developed with such uncompromising severity. Speaking generally, religion is for the Jews a system of law (νόμος) which is definitely drawn up between a particular God and a particular people. In contrast to all the false religions of the Gentiles, the true religion is the Jewish law (or constitution). The God of the whole world, so it is said, granted to Israel alone its law in order to give them the whole earth for their inheritance, provided they were faithful citizens under this law, so that all other people might accept the law of Israel and become its subjects. Technically speaking, that is the formal 13principle of Judaism. The material may readily be inferred from the contents of the law. That is, it is nothing else than Jewish national custom conceived as the commandments of God. In other words, it is the sum of all the ceremonial judicial and social peculiarities whereby, in the course of time, the Jews imagined that they were differentiated from their neighbours. In the forefront they placed circumcision and claimed it to be the distinctive sign of the tribe. A bold claim, and one that rested on no historical foundation—the early Christians knew that already. Then followed prescriptions as to the taxes to be paid to God and His holy servants, the ceremonial regulating attendance at the Holy Place and the worship to be there tendered, penal laws and those regarding compensation, and commandments relating to moral and many other matters. All this together constituted the immensely complicated body of laws to which God had bound Himself and His people. To be religious meant to be a citizen of this state, to belong to the Jewish Church.

For the Church is simply the converse of this constitution. It is exactly the same thing if you call Judaism a Church or if you call it a constitution. The Church is the realization of the law which exists at first as an idea. There never was a time when the Church excluded true piety on the part of the individual, but the emphasis was laid on that which affected the community—nay, more, on that which affected it as a codified system of law. The Church is religion conceived as a spiritual State. Such was the position of Judaism from the exile onwards that it could only exist as a spiritual State 14in the midst of the world powers. In the time of Jesus religion meant a legal code and a Church.

It is well known that Jesus did not come forward as the opponent of the law or of the Church, but as the enemy of the Scribes and Pharisees. The simple reason of this is that they are the visible representatives of the Jewish law. For this law demanded a very minute acquaintance. It needed men to act as commentators and to develop it still further. It was not something that had been laid down once for all. It was constantly growing. Only one portion was committed to writing in the Thora. The greater part, the customary law, was handed down by oral tradition. And the written law itself was composed in a dead language. Besides this, the whole was very complicated and very learned. Hence the necessity of a learned caste—the theologians who are, of course, rather to be considered as lawyers. They formed a close corporation into which a man only entered, and that for life, after long years spent as disciple at the feet of honoured masters, and after due ordination. Nothing could possibly exceed the esteem in which this caste was held. The Scribes were God’s mediators and revealers—the only living authority in God’s stead. All others were laymen and in the position of minors. Such was Jesus. Hence His attitude of opposition.

Now the aim and object of the Pharisaic propaganda was to drive this learned system into the heads of the people. The Pharisees wanted to see the law, which the Scribes first of all distilled as pure theory, in a position of practical and universal supremacy. They were zealous in good works; they loved a typical 15ritual; 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 16of 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 17Providence, 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 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, 18but 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 it be thought of with the reverence due to the unspeakable. Angels stand between God and man, whole hierarchies 19of dominions and powers and thrones. Living 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 20simple piety of the Psalms. The Psalms of Solomon, which date from the age of Pompey, are in point of time our nearest documentary evidence. The greater part of the canonical Psalter is not much older. This simple, childlike faith in God Jesus presupposes as possessed by those to whom He addresses Himself, and it knows nothing of transcendency. But it is subject to the narrowest national limitations. The Lord of heaven and of earth was the Father of Israel. Only the Jew dare pray to “Our Father.” Yet there was no loss in this; the limitations of this faith were also a sign of its truth and power. The chief point, too, for these simple layfolk was that this God, the source of all life in this world, through His deeds and through His gifts, promised to found the kingdom of God. Then should He manifest Himself fully as the God of deeds who is bound by His love but by no order of nature.

The second great advantage of the Jewish religion is its moral character. Jahwe was not only the God of great deeds but the God of a lofty morality, who by His person was a pledge for the indissoluble connection between faith and life. Both Jews as well as early Christians realized how immensely important were the consequences implied by this connection, when they compared the Homeric gods with their Jahwe. They were indeed themselves aware that the work of the Greek thinkers and poets had arrived at a great purification and moralization of the polytheistic religion. This, however, they might safely ignore, as the influence of Homer never ceased, and could for them only be compared to the influence of their Bible. There were, it is true, not 21wanting in the Jahwe of the Old Testament features which betrayed the fact that He did not from the first possess all that lofty morality. Yet in the great collection of writings these features are a vanishing quantity by the side of His ethical character—though even thus they were only too visible to the gnostic critic. Or if they were once noticed they were immediately cleared of all contradiction with the moral consciousness by means of exegesis—especially allegorical. For the aim of Jewish theologians was to remove the offence caused by any instance of anthropomorphism, which already appeared to them as likely to be prejudicial to the purity of the idea of God.

It is a consequence of the strictly moral character of the Jewish God that the outer forms of worship in this religion are entirely subordinate to its moral elements. This statement would not appear to be consistent with the contents of the Law, the longest portions of which are devoted to the regulation of public worship, nor with the practice of the Pharisees, who placed the ceremonial law above all purely human duties. But it can be inferred, were it but from the following two facts, first, that the cessation of the Temple worship at Jerusalem had as good as no influence whatever upon Judaism; and next, that we find no disputes amongst the Christians as to questions of ceremonial or of abstention from public worship. Neither God nor His worshippers needed the sacrifices. At the most the priests were pleased when rich contributions thus fell to their share. If amongst religiously-minded people any importance was attached to public worship, then this was simply for the sake of obedience. They just 22accepted the fact that it had been ordered as a divine institution. It was a part of the will of God, the strict and punctual observation of which, according to the ritual under all circumstances, and simply as an act of moral submission, secured the divine favour. But it was not the chief part of God’s will. Whenever Jesus used the words “to do God’s will,” neither He nor those that heard Him ever thought of the sacrifices, but of the regulation of the daily life. It was a moral, not a ceremonial ‘doing.’ When St. Paul founded his churches amongst the Greeks, he noticed for the first time how alien to the Greek mind was that which he had assumed as a matter of course. For them the Christian congregation was an association for worship analogous to other similar associations. It neither ipso facto excluded the participation in other forms of worship, nor did it imply any pledge to regulate the life that lay outside of the services. It was therefore one of the chief tasks of the Christian teachers to impart a simple ethical meaning to the ceremonial prescriptions of the Old Testament which concerned sanctification.

It is true that Jewish ethics present us with an entirely contradictory picture in which the ugliest features are not wanting by the side of the most pleasing and sympathetic. Amongst the former one would reckon the preference given to the negative avoidance of sin over the positive doing of good, the equally important position assigned to morally indifferent and important commandments, the merely external summary of duties without any classification, the interest in sexual questions, casuistry, and the seeking for reward. It was not without reason that the 23Jew could find his pattern in the Pharisee, who merely exaggerated the tendency of the average morality of religious people themselves, and this the more readily, because every disposition thereto is contained in the written law itself. The seeds sown by the Priestly Code attain to their full growth in Pharisaism.

But, on the other hand, this transformation of morality into its opposite, is not the only characteristic that one notices in later Judaism. We are not justified in affirming that Jesus came to His simplification of the demands of religion through His opposition to the Pharisees. He would have delivered His message exactly as He did regardless of the Pharisees, and again not as something entirely new, but as containing the elements of sound vitality which He found already existing. Here, too, there is no lack of documentary evidence in Jewish writings. The ethical teaching of the Psalms and Proverbs, and of Jesus the Son of Sirach, points in this direction, and analogous elements may be found in the oldest form of the “Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs.” Even a Christian document such as the Epistle General of James, derives its life rather from the simple Jewish popular morality than directly from the Gospel of Jesus.

In the first place, we notice here that what is demanded is extremely simple. There is scarcely anything ceremonial or subject to national limitations. Jesus meets the tempter in the wilderness with the very simplest words from the Book of Deuteronomy. In the decisive moments of His ministry He appeals to the decalogue, the commandments of love, things that everyone knows to be axiomatic truths. Surely 24this presupposes an education in an entirely sound moral atmosphere. In the next place, even His spiritualization of the claim, His insistence on the motive, are not entirely unprecedented. Does not even the Talmud lay stress, only too much stress, upon sins of thought? The “Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs,” “The Two Ways,” “The Shepherd of Hernias,”—all writings which do not depend directly upon Jesus, emphasize inner purity and simplicity, just as much as external good works. Truly, then, there is no lack of parallels to the Sermon on the Mount. There is still enough and to spare of what is great and original in the work of Jesus, if we freely admit that He could only have arisen from this people, and that He found noble forerunners amongst them. The morality of a people must in deed have attained to a very high level if it strives in so resolute a fashion to pass beyond mere external legality in order to reach inner purity of motive.

And is not, after all, the Jewish eagerness to believe that good deeds will be rewarded, the distortion of a true and great thought—that the good seed will under all circumstances ultimately bring forth good fruit? If we admit that Jesus was a sounder and saner teacher than our modern schoolmen, we may well ponder over the fact that He did not reject the scheme of rewards and punishments, but made use of it. Was not the true conviction thereby strengthened that idle piety is something entirely bad, and that God is not mocked? But in so doing Jesus did of course lay such stress upon the thought of the coming judgment that all easy-going optimism was purified by the most terrible earnestness.


This brings us to the third great legacy which Judaism bequeathed to Christianity—eschatology. Just as the origin of the new religion cannot be conceived without the Jewish hope in the coming kingdom of God, so in the lifelong struggle with the Roman state the victory is won through the Jewish hope in the Resurrection. The fact that the early Christians did not adversely criticise the Jewish hope in any book of the New Testament, and that they were able to treat Jewish apocalypses without further addition as Christian, proves how deeply indebted they felt themselves to the Jews in this point above all others.

How confused a maze of eschatological conceptions could coexist often in one and the same person we can see most simply by a few instances from the New Testament. We have an eschatology of the synoptists, and that a twofold one (Mk. xiii. and Luke xvi.), we have a series of apparently contradictory eschatologies in St. Paul (1 Thess. iv., 2 Thess. ii., 1 Cor. xv., 2 Cor. v., Rom. xi., Phil. ii.), a whole bundle of eschatologies in the Apocalypse, and finally a peculiar variety in 2 Peter. It is far more difficult to find even two entirely parallel visions of the future state, when one looks through the Jewish apocalypses dating from the time immediately preceding or succeeding Jesus. The thoughts of the learned differed from those of the common people, and the ideas of the Jews of the dispersion were unlike those of their Palestinian brethren. It will be sufficient for our purpose if we examine the different groups of these conceptions.

The most important chapter in eschatology, especially for the populace, excited as it had been ever since the wars of the Maccabees by patriotic 26aspirations, is the national hope. The heading of the chapter is “Israel and the Gentile World.” The people of God—recipients of the promises, and who in spite of them serve the Gentiles, the kings of the earth, and the city of Babylon, shall be liberated and exalted to lordship, over the whole world, while the neighbouring peoples shall be humbled. It is just the chief ideas of the New Testament—the kingdom of God and the Messiah—that belong to this political group of conceptions. But first the great reign of terror must pass by—the time of tribulation and temptation when Israel shall be humiliated yet further, and the heathen shall deliver their fiercest assaults upon the whole city and the Temple, led at times by Anti-christ, the devilish king of the last days, the enemy of God. When the need is highest, God’s help is nighest: He confounds the enemy and establishes His kingdom. In all these pictures the kingdom of God is always conceived of as a political organization, in opposition to the kingdoms of the rulers of this earth and of the demons. It is placed upon the earth, or, with greater particularity, in Palestine, with Jerusalem for its capital. It denotes the supremacy of Israel over all the world. Her enemies and her tyrants are either rooted out or are subject to her as her slaves. They bring their tribute to Jerusalem and accept the Law of Israel. On the other hand, the patriarchs and the pious men of old, especially the martyrs, have now risen from the dead in order to participate in the joy of the kingdom which shall be—so men gradually tended to think—for everlasting. Either God Himself is 27regarded as the King, or He has raised the Messiah, the lawful descendant of David, to the throne, that He may judge and rule over His people in righteousness. While the older writings presuppose the continuation of the Davidic dynasty, the later accept the everlasting rule of the one descendant of David. Now all this is a continuation of earthly cirumstances under somewhat higher and more spiritual conditions. This vision of the future might be called a patriotic Jewish Utopia.

It is, however, characteristic of the age of Jesus that this political expectation seldom stands by itself, but has to suffer admixture with elements of an entirely different nature, with the eschatology of the whole world and of the individual. Two important questions, the fate of the world and the fate of the individual soul, are added to the previous subject: “Israel and the Gentile World.” They are of especial importance for the new religion, because though it arose from the midst of the national eschatology, it quickly freed itself from it and turned its attention to the other problems. In the first place, we find that in later Judaism the whole realm of action—heaven as well as earth and the world of spirits—are all drawn into the historical drama, until at length—though the transition is not yet quite clear to us—the conception of the essential similarity between the future and the present gives way to the conception of the new aeon which in many important points is to be the exact opposite of the present world. Here is death, there everlasting life; here flesh, there spirit; here sin, there innocence; here God is far away, there He shall be seen face to face. This vision embraces 28the fate of the whole of creation, of the whole human race, so that Israel’s glory merely appears as one special case amongst many. Of course it likewise furnishes us with evidence of the incapacity of the Jew to leave the world of phenomena behind him, for the future life never appears to him as the spiritual in our sense of the word, but always as the hyperphysical.

In the next place, men are now free to reflect upon the fate of the individual. The hope of salvation, first of the rescue of the individual in the great struggle that shall be in the last days, and then of his future blessedness—this hope takes its place beside that of the kingdom of God. The goal is one and the same, but many roads lead to it. Either the conception of the resurrection of the dead and of the day of judgment are accepted, and the emphasis is laid upon the judgment of the individual soul by God. The soul appears before the great judgment seat with the result of its whole life, there to receive everlasting joy or endless torment. In this case the old idea of the shadowy life of the soul in Sheol suffices to describe its condition until the day of the final resurrection. Or else the powerful light of the faith in retribution is flashed even into Hades itself, and that at once, so that for the individual death is followed immediately by judgment and the dead are portioned out between Gehenna and Paradise without waiting for the final judgment. But in this case the soul itself must be conceived of as something phenomenal, as sensible to bodily pain and pleasure.

In all this there is nothing clear and distinct—there is no unity of conception. The sources of all these ideas are so various that complete harmony is out of 29the question. Here we go back to the patriotic enthusiasm of the prophets and to their prophecies of the coming doom, and again to Animism, old as the human race itself, though it has been transformed by the dogma of retribution; and, lastly, to possibly Persian notions of the resurrection and the new world. It is true that attempts at reducing these varied elements into some sort of system are not entirely wanting. Such are the millennial theories of our Book of Revelation, parallels to which may be found in the fourth book of Ezra and in Baruch. First of all, room is found for the national Utopia, but then comes the final catastrophe, followed by the universal resurrection of the dead and the day of judgment; and so it turns out to be merely a provisional state of things preparatory to the new world. But for Jesus, the kingdom of God and the new world run into each other; there is no provisional state of things, but the most intimate blending of earthly and transcendental features. And after all, the most important point was not the manner of the realization, but the fact itself. Israel possessed the religion of Hope. No other people had anything like it. With the same battle-cry with which Christianity arose, “The kingdom shall yet be ours,” Israel itself went forth to the last dread war of destruction and after that into its desolation. But as for the kingdom itself, it is in God’s hand alone; that every Jew and every Christian knew. It is the gift of God, and He gives it when He will. Men cannot bring it about. Neither in Jewish nor in Christian writings is there the slightest suspicion of the thought that men’s, acts, their works, or their piety can cause the kingdom 30to come. Complete passivity is man’s duty. He must wait, and he must hope, and make ready in serious earnest. Between this world and the next stand the catastrophe and the resurrection of the dead and the judgment to come. It is perfectly immaterial whether this life and the next stand to each other, as they do in the popular conception, in the relation of the deed and its reward; or, as from a deeper point of view, in the relation of seed and harvest. In each case the strictly supernatural character of the promise is retained.

The early Christians clearly felt and expressed their dependence upon the Jewish religion. They called their God the God of the Fathers; they declared the Old Testament to be their sacred book; they took the prophecies and the apocalypses as the basis of their hope. It was only the Jewish idea, the law, that they decisively rejected after a short period of hesitation; and even this only with the help of allegorical explanations which served to hide the defection from their eyes. But from the second century onwards, Christianity separates into two great movements. The one endeavours to realize the theory that the Christians are the true Israel, and finally gives the Jewish Church a fresh lease of life in Roman Catholicism. The other movement proceeds in part with rapid strides, and in part gradually, to the Hellenization of Christianity, to its transformation into Greek philosophy and mysticism; but in so doing it clearly shows us that in disassociating itself from Judaism, it has disassociated itself from the Gospel, which has this in common with Judaism, that it is a religion of practical morality.

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