Again, Jesus (Mat. xiii.) cites the prophecy of Isaiah (Is. vi. 9,) "By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand;" and he assures us, that it was fulfilled in his time in those to whom he spake in parables, (which, by the way, he did, it is said, in order to fulfil a passage of the Psalms) though it is manifest that the prophecy of Isaiah quoted, according to its literal sense, undoubtedly relates to the obstinate Jews who lived in the time of Isaiah.
In fine, these, and the many other passages cited as prophecies from the Old Testament by the authors of the New, do so plainly relate, in their obvious and primary sense to other matters than those which they are adduced to prove, that it is allowed by the most learned defenders of Christianity, that to pretend that they prove in a literal sense what they are adduced to prove, is to give up with both hands the cause of Christianity to the enemies thereof, who can so easily show in so many undoubted instances, the Old and New Testament to have no manner of connection in that respect, but to be in an irreconcilable state.
These proofs from the prophets being so different from what we should expect, it behoves us to enquire what could induce Jesus and his apostles to quote the Old Testament in such a manner?
The Jews shortly answer this question, by saying, that they did so, because they did not understand the meaning of the books they quoted. But it has been answered by some learned Christians, that Jesus and the apostles did not quote in the manner they did through caprice or ignorance bat according to certain methods of interpretation, which were in their times of established authority among the Jews.
The rules of interpretation, which were supposed to be irrecoverably lost afterwards recovered to the world by the learned Surenhusius, professor of the Hebrew language in the illustrious school of Amsterdam. He made an ample discovery to the world of the rules by which the apostles cited the Old Testament, and argued from thence, wherein the whole mystery of the apostles applying scripture in a secondary, or typical, or allegorical sense, seems to be unfolded. I shall, therefore, state this matter from Surenhusius.
He (Surenhusius) says, "that when he considered the various opinions Of the learned about the passages of the Old Testament quoted in the New, He was filled with grief, not knowing where to set his foot; and was much concerned, that what had been done with good success upon profane authors, could not be so happily performed upon the sacred."
He tells us, "that having had frequent occasions to converse with the Jews (on account of his application to Hebrew literature from his youth) who insolently reflected upon the New Testament, affirming it to be plainly corrupted, because it seldom or never agreed with the Old Testament, some of whom were so confident in this opinion, as to say, they would profess the Christian religion, if any one could reconcile the New Testament with the Old. "I was the more grieved, because, (says this honest and well meaning man) I knew not how to apply a remedy to this evil." But the matter being of great importance, he discoursed with several learned men about it, and read the books of others, being persuaded that the authors of the books of the New Testament had written nothing but what was suited to the time wherein they lived, and that Christ and his apostles had constantly followed the method of their ancestors. After he had long revolved this hypothesis in his mind, at last he met with a Rabbi well skilled in the Talmud, the Cabbala, and the allegorical books of the Jews. This Rabbi had once embraced the Christian religion, but was again relapsed to Judaism on account of the idolatry of the Papists, yet not perfectly disbelieving the integrity of the New Testament. Surenhusius asked him, what he thought of the passages of the Old Testament quoted in the New, whether they were rightly quoted or not, and whether the Jews had any just reason to cavil at them, and at the same time proposed to him two or three passages, which had very much exercised the most learned Christian commentators.
The Rabbi having admirably explained those passages, to the great surprise of Surenhusius, and confirming his explications by several places of the Talmud, and other writings of the Jewish commentators, and allegorical writers, Surenhusius asked him what would be the best method to write a treatise in order to vindicate the passages of the Old Testament quoted in the New? The Rabbi answered, that he "thought the best way of succeeding in such an undertaking would be to peruse a great part of the Talmud, and the allegorical and literal commentators; to observe their several ways of quoting and interpreting scripture, and to collect as many materials of that kind, as would be sufficient for that purpose."
Surenhusius took the hint immediately: he read such books as were recommended, observed every thing that might be subservient to his design, and made a book upon the subject. And in the third part of that book he gives us the rules so long sought after, viz., the ten ways# used, he says, by the Jewish doctors in citing scripture. And here they are:—
1. The first rule is—"reading the words of the Hebrew bible, not according to the points placed under them, but according to other points substituted in their stead," as is done by Peter, Acts iii. 3; by Stephen, Acts vii. 43, and by Paul, 1 Cor. xv. 54; 2 Cor. viii. 16, and Heb. iii. 10; ix. 21; xii. 6.
2. The second rule is—"changing the letters, whether those letters be of the same organ (as the Hebrew grammarians speak,) or not," as is done by Paul, Rom. ix. 33; 1 Cor. xi. 9; Heb. viii. 9, and x. 6; and by Stephen, Acts vii. 43.
3. The third is—"changing both letters and points," as is done by Paul, Acts xiii. 41, and 2 Cor. viii. 15.
4. The fourth is—"adding some letters, and taking away others."
5. The fifth is—"transposing words and letters."
6. The sixth is—"dividing one word into two."
7. The seventh is—"adding other words to those in the text, in order to make the sense more clear, and to accommodate it to the subject they we upon."
8. The eighth is—"changing the order of words."
9. The ninth is—"changing the order of words, and adding other words."
10. The tenth is—"changing the order of words, adding words, and retrenching words," which, (says he) is a method often used by Paul. Of the application of all these rules, he gives examples taken from the New Testament.
It is not necessary to make many observations upon these rules, they speak for themselves most significantly; for what is there that cannot be proved from the Old Testament, or any other book, yea, from Euclid's Elements! or even an old almanac! by the help of "altering words and sentences; adding; retrenching; and transposing, and cutting words in two," as is stated above by a learned and good man, and sincere Christian who found out, and brought forward, these rules, as the best means of getting the authors of the New Testament out of a difficulty, which had long shocked and grieved their best friends.
EXAMINATION OF THE MEANING OF THE PHRASE "THIS WAS DONE THAT IT MIGHT BE FULFILLED."
It may be objected from divers learned authors, who have been very sensible of the difficulties stated in the preceding chapters, and have, sensible of the difficulties stated in the preceding chapters, therefore, taken other ground than their predecessors, in order to defend themselves the better; I say, it may be objected to what I have advanced, that Christianity is not in fact grounded on the prophetical, or other, quotations made from the Old, in the New, Testament; but that those quotations being allegorically applied by the authors of the New Testament, are merely arguments ad hominem, to convince the Jews of the truth of Christianity, who allowed such a method of arguing to be valid, and are not arguments to the rest of mankind.
To which I answer—That this distinction is the pure invention of those who make the objection, and not only has no foundation in the New Testament, but is utterly subverted by its express declarations; for the authors of the books of the New Testament always argue absolutely from the quotations they cite as prophecies out of the books of the Old Testament. Moses and the prophets are every where represented to be a just foundation for Christianity; and the author of the Epistle to the Romans expressly says, ch. xvi. 26, 26, "The gospel, which was kept secret since the world began, was now made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets (wherein that gospel was secretly contained) to all nations," by the means of the preachers of the gospel who gave the secret or spiritual sense of those scriptures; for to the ancient Jews, according to them, the gospel was preached by the types of their law, and, therefore, must have been considered as truly contained in it.
Besides, the authors of the books of the New Testament were convinced long before the publication of them, that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, to both of whom, therefore, they reasoned allegorically in their books, as Peter and others did in their sermons, though with greater success on Gentiles than on Jews; and as Paul did before Felix, when he said he took his heresy, or Christianity, from the law, and the prophets. Acts xxiv., as also he did before Agrippa. It would, therefore, seem strange, that books written to all the world by men equally concerned to convert Gentiles as well as Jews, and that discourses made expressly to Gentiles as well as to Jews, should be designed to be pertinent only to Jews, much less to a very few Jews! Indeed, I am ashamed at being thus long engaged in showing what must be self evident; and did I not fear being further tedious to my readers, I would undertake to bring together passages from the New Testament, where the meaning and intention of the writers is obvious, in such abundance, as would immediately and entirely put the hypothesis of our opponents out of countenance.
These quotations from the. Old Testament are certainly urged, and spoken of as direct proofs, as absolute proofs in themselves, and not as mere proofs ad hominem to the Jews; for if these prophecies are only urged by the apostles as proofs to the Jews, and intended only as proofs founded on the mistaken meanings of the Old Testament of some Jews of their time, what sense is there in appealing upon all occasions to the prophets, and recommending the reading and search of the Old Testament for the trial and proof of what was preached? for that was to proceed on weakness itself, knowing it to be so. Certainly nothing, but a real persuasion, that the prophecies of the Old Testament were really fulfilled in Jesus, could make them every where inculcate and appeal to the fulfilling of prophecy. In order to support their hypothesis, Christians have been forced to seek evidence to prove, that the phrase—"this was done that it might be fulfilled," so frequent in the New Testament, meant no such thing, but was only a habit the Jews had got of introducing by such phrases a handsome quotation, or allusion, from the Old Testament. But this evasion must be given up, upon two accounts. 1. Because most of the European biblical critics of the present day (the learned annotator on Michaelis' Introduction to the New Testament, Dr. Marsh, among others) frankly acknowledge it not to be tenable; and 2. Because it can be proved not to be so from the New Testament itself. For example, when John represents (Jo. xix. 28,) Jesus upon the cross saying, "'I thirst' that the scripture might be fulfilled," doth he not plainly represent Jesus as fulfilling a prophecy which foretold that the Messiah should thirst, or say, "I thirst," upon the cross? Nay, does he not suppose him to say so, in order to fulfil, or that he might fulfil, a prophecy? Is it not also suitable to the character of Jesus, who founded his Messiahship on the prophecies in the Old Testament, and could not but have the accomplishment of those prophecies constantly in view to fulfil, and to intend to fulfil them? And is it not unsuitable in John, in describing his master dying upon the cross, to represent him as saying things, whereby he only gave occasion to observe, that he fulfilled, i. e., accommodated a phrase! not a prophecy!!
Besides, they who set up this accommodating principle of accommodation, do, in some cases, take the term fulfilled in its proper sense, and do allow it, (when convenient) to relate to a prophecy really fulfilled. But I would ask them, what rule they have to know when the apostles mean a prophecy fulfilled, and when a phrase accommodated, since they are acknowledged to use the strong expression of fulfilling in the latter case no less than in the former?
In a word, unless it be granted, that the citations were intended by the authors of the New Testament, to be adduced, and applied, as prophecies fulfilled; if you do suppose them not intended to be adduced, and applied, as prophecies; then, the whole affair of Jesus being foretold as the Messiah, is reduced to an accommodation of phrases! and it will, assuredly, follow, that the citations of Jesus and his apostles out of the Old Testament, are like and no better than the work of, the Empress Eudoxia, who wrote the History of Jesus in verses put together, and borrowed out of—HOMER! or that of Proba Palconia, who did the same, in verses, and words taken out of—Virgil!
In fine, one of two things must be allowed, either (which is most probable) the authors of the New Testament conceived their citations to be indeed prophecies concerning Jesus, and then they were ignorant and blundered, and, therefore; were not inspired; or, they knowingly used them as means to deceive the simple and credulous into a belief of their being testimonies sufficient to prove what they themselves knew they had no relation to;—and then they were deceivers: there is no other alternative, and each horn of the dilemma, must prove as fatal as the other.
Perhaps it may be said, "It is to no purpose for you to object to the quotations or the arguments of Jesus and his apostles, for God was with them confirming their doctrine by signs following, they had from God the power of working miracles, and, consequently, their interpretations of Scripture, however strange they may appear to your minds, must be infallible, they being men inspired."
To this argument it can be justly answered, first, that the question whether Jesus be the Messiah, entirely depends, as proved before, upon his answering the characteristics given of that personage by the Jewish prophets; and all the miracles in the world could never, from the nature of the case, prove him to be so, unless his character does entirely agree with the archetype laid down by them, as had been already abundantly proved.
Secondly,—That whether these miracles were really performed, or not, depends entirely upon the credibility of the authors themselves who have thus quoted! which, as shall be shown hereafter, may be disputed; and, thirdly, it could be retorted upon Protestants, that this same argument is the same in principle with the often refuted popish argumentation. The Papists pretend to derive all their new invented and absurd doctrines and practices from the scriptures by their interpretations of them; but yet, when their interpretations are attacked from scripture, they immediately fly from thence to the miracles wrought in their church, and to the visions of their holy men and saints, for the establishment of their interpretations, by which they support those very doctrines and practices. And particularly they endeavour to prove thus the doctrine of transubstantiation, from the numerous miracles affirmed to have been wrought in its behalf, which reasoning Protestant Christians assert to be an argument absurd and inconclusive, therefore, they should not use it themselves.
We allow, that if these interpretations of the sense of the Old Testament had been in existence before the Christian era, it might be something. But we beg leave to remind them, that it is certain, that these interpretations were not published till after the events to which they are referred took place, which is a circumstance of obvious significancy.
In fine, to this argument I would answer, as in Cicero (de Natura Deor. Ed. Dav. p. 209) Cotta did to Balbus—"rumoribus mecum pugnas, ego autem a te roitones requiro."
EXAMINATION OF THE ARGUMENTS ALLEGED FROM THE HEBREW PROPHETS, TO PBOVE THAT JESUS WAS THE MESSIAH.
But it may be asked, how it was possible, that wise and good men could have been led to embrace the religion of the New Testament, if there were not in the Old Testament some prophecies which might be conceived by them to supply, at least, plausible arguments to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah? Are there no other passages in the prophets besides those quoted in the New Testament, and are there not a few passages quoted in the New Testament, which appear more to the purpose than those we have been considering? To this I candidly answer that there are, and this chapter will be devoted to the consideration of them.
Two of these prophecies, one from Genesis, and the other from Daniel, are thought by the advocates of Christianity, (because they conceive them to point out and to limit the time of the coming of the Messiah,) to be stronger in their favour than any of those quoted in die New Testament. If so, it is a very singular circumstance, that the inspired authors of the New Testament did not make use of them, instead of others not so much to the purpose. This circumstance of itself should teach us to examine the prophecies in question with caution, and also with candour, since many worthy and religious men have thought them sufficient to prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. These prophecies I shall reserve last for consideration, and shall now begin with the others usually adduced, taking them up pretty much in the order in which they stand in the Old Testament.
The first passage is taken from Deut. xviii. 15, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, like unto me, unto him ye shall hearken. According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb, in the day of the assembly, saying. Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see his great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, they have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and I will put my words into his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my, words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him."
This passage is pertinaciously and solely applied to Jesus, by many Christian writers, because it is so applied by Peter in the 2 chap. of Acts, in his sermon to the Jews, just after he had received the full inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and of course must be considered as infallible. Nevertheless, these words of Moses are supposed by many learned men, both Jews and Christians, to be spoken of Joshua, whom Moses himself afterwards, at the command and appointment of God, declared to be his successor, and who was endowed with the spirit which was upon Moses, (see Deut. xxxi. 33, xxxiv. 17,) and to whom the Jews then promised to hearken, and pay obedience to, as they had done before to Moses. But others understand them to be a promise of a succession of prophets, to whom the Jews might upon all occasions have recourse; and one or the other of these seems to be the certain meaning of the place. From this consideration, that from the context it appears Moses was giving the Jews directions of immediate use; and, therefore, in promising a prophet to them, to whom they should hearken, he seems to intend an immediate prophet who might be of use to the Jews, and answer their common exigencies, and not a prophet two thousand years to come.
But I take the words to promise a succession of prophets, and for that sense wherein Grotius and Le Clerc, and most of the Jews, take them. I shall give my reasons, for this, and show that they do not necessarily refer to Jesus Christ.
Moses, in the verses preceding this prophecy in the same chapter, (Deut. xviii. 9—14) tells the Israelites from God, that "when they came into Canaan, they should not learn to do after, the abominations of the people thereof; and, particularly, that there should not be found among them any one that useth divination, or an observer of times, &c., or a consulter with familiar spirits, &c. For all, says he, "that do these things are an abomination to the Lord; and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive these people out from before thee. For these nations which thou shalt possess hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners. But as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee to do so." Then follow the words about the prophet, "The Lord thy God will raise unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee of thy brethren like unto me, unto him ye shall hearken." All which is as much as to say, "When you come into Canaan, do not hearten to a diviner, &c., as the Canaanites do, for the Lord will give you a prophet of your own brethren inspired like me, to guide any instruct you, to whom ye shall hearken." Or rather, "Do not hearken to diviners, &c., but to prophets, who shall be raised up among you."
Now that the words cited must relate to a succession of prophets to begin upon the Israelites taking possession of the land of Canaan, is manifest; because, the raising up of a prophet, to whom they were to hearken, is the reason given why they should not hearken to a diviner, &c., when they came to that land; which reason could have no force unless they were to have, 1st,—an immediate prophet in Canaan; for what sense is there, or would there be, in saying, "Don't hearken to such diviners as are in Canaan, when you come there, for you shall have a prophet of your own, to whom ye shall hearken two thousand years after you come there!"
Secondly,—As the context shows that the prophet to be raised up, was an immediate prophet, so it also shows, that the singular number here stands for the plural, according to the frequent custom of the Hebrew language, as is shown by Le Clerc and Stillingfleet, in loco; for one single prophet to be raised up immediately, who might soon die, could not be a reason why Jews of succeeding generations should not harken to diviners in Canaan.
Finally,—The words of God by Moses, which follow the promise of a prophet, evidently show that by that promise prophets were intended, in laying-down a rule for the test or trial of the prophets before mentioned, in such a manner as implies, that that rule was to be applied to all prophets pretending to come from him. See the words in Deut. xviii., 19—22.
I shall conclude this explication, by adducing, in confirmation of it, the paraphrase of the words given in the Targum of Jonathan. "The nations you are about to possess, (says the Jewish paraphrast) hearken to jugglers and diviners; but you shall not be like them; for your priests shall enquire by Urim and Thummim, and the Lord your God shall give you a true prophet." And this explication is the one adopted by Origen,—[Contra Celsum, p. 28.]
As to the difficulty that is raised against this explication from the words at the end of Deuteronomy—"that there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses whom the Lord knew face to face. In all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do," &c.— it is nothing at all. For every one perceives, that the word "like" may be, and frequently is, used in scripture, and in common language, to signify, similarity in some, though not in every, particular; and every prophet, who speaks by God's direction, is a prophet "like unto Moses," who did the same, though he be not like, or equal to, him "in doing signs and wonders," which is all that is affirmed in the last chapter of Deuteronomy.
And, finally, there is nothing to limit this prophecy to Jesus of Nazareth, if we allowed (what we reject) the Christian interpretation; since God might to-morrow, if such were his will, raise up a prophet like unto Moses in every respect, which Jesus certainly was not; therefore, it cannot be applied and restrained to the purpose for which it is quoted by Peter.
There is in the same sermon, in the 2 chap. of Acts, another passage quoted by Peter from the Psalms, and applied by him to prove the resurrection of Jesus, and on which he lays very great stress, which after all seems to be nothing to the purpose. Peter says, "Him (i. e., Jesus) God hath raised up, having loosed the pains [or bands] of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it." And why? "For [because] David speaketh concerning him, ' I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope. Because thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, [the place of departed Spirits] nor suffer thy holy one to see corruption, thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.' Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit upon his throne. He, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in Hades, neither did his flesh see corruption."
How imposing is this argument! How plausible it appears! And yet it is irrelevant, as Dr. Priestly frankly confesses, who tries to save the credit of the apostle by the convenient principle of accommodation! The whole force of Peter's reasoning depends upon the word "corruption." David did see corruption; therefore, he could not mean himself, but "being a prophet," &c., he meant Jesus Christ. Now, the whole of Peter's argument is grounded upon two mistakes; for, 1st, the Hebrew word translated "corruption," here signifies "destruction, perdition;" and in the next place, instead of being "thy holy One," in the singular, it is in the Hebrew "thy saints," in general. The passage is quoted from the 16th Psalm; and I will give a literal translation of it from the original, which will make the propriety or impropriety of Peter's quotation perfectly obvious. The contents and import of the Psalm, according to the English version, are as follow; "David, in distrust of his merits, and hatred of idolatry, fleeth to God for preservation, He showeth the hope of his calling, of the resurrection, and of life everlasting." And the passage in question, according to the original, reads thus:—"I have set the Lord always before me: Because he is on my right hand, I shall not be moved: Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory [i. e., tongue] rejoiceth: My flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, neither wilt thou suffer thy saints to see destruction. Thou wilt show me the path of life: In thy presence is fullness of joy, and at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore." That is—"Because I have ever trusted in thee, and experienced thy constant protection, therefore I will not fear death; because thou wilt not for over leave my soul in the place of departed spirits, nor suffer thy saints to perish from existence. Thou wilt raise me from the dead, and make me happy for ever in thy presence."#
In the 4th chap. of the Acts, the apostles are represented as praying to God, and referring in their prayer to the 2d Psalm "why did the heathen rage," &c., as being a prophecy of the opposition of the Jews to Jesus; with how much justice may be seen from these circumstances.
1. That "the nations," as it is in the original, did not assemble together to crucify Jesus, as this was done by a few soldiers. 2. The "kings of the earth" had no hand in it, for they knew nothing about it. And 3rdly, Those who were concerned did by no means "form vain designs," since they effected their cruel purposes. And lastly, From that time to the present, God has not set Jesus as his king upon the "holy hill of Sion," as the Psalm imports, nor given him "the nations for his inheritance, nor the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession."
The next prophecy usually adduced to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, is The passage quoted from Micah v. 2, in the 2d chapter of Mat.—"But from Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the chiefs of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is, to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from old, from the days of hidden ages." This passage probably refers to the Messiah, but by no means signifies that this Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, as asserted by Matthew; but only, that he was to be derived from Bethlehem, the city of Jesse, the father of David of famous memory, whose family was venerable for its antiquity, " being of the days of hidden ages." And this interpretation is known, and acknowledged, by Hebrew scholars. But in order to cut short the dispute, w will permit the passage to be interpreted as signifying that Bethlehem was to be the birth place of the Messiah. What then? Will a man's being born in Bethlehem be sufficient to make him to be the Messiah foretold by the Hebrew prophets? Surely it has been made plain in the beginning of this work, that many more characteristic marks than this must meet in one person in order to constitute him the Messiah described by them!
In Zechariah ix. 9, it is written, "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Sion, Shout, O Daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy king cometh unto thee, the righteous one, and saved, or preserved [according to the Hebrew] lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass." This has been applied by the evangelists to Jesus, who rode upon an ass into Jerusalem.
But in the first place, it is to be observed, that there seems to have been a blunder in this transaction; for according to the Hebrew idiom of the passage quoted above, the personage there spoken of, was to ride upon "an ass' colt;" whereas, the apostles, in order to be sure of fulfilling the prophecy, represent Jesus as riding upon an ass, and the colt, too! "They spread their garments upon them, and set him upon them."[See the evangelists in loc.] In the next place, a man may ride into Jerusalem upon an ass, without being thus necessarily demonstrated to be the Messiah. And unless, as said before, every tittle of the marks given by the prophets to designate their Messiah, be found in Jesus, and in any other claiming to be that Messiah his being born in Bethlehem, and riding upon an ass into Jerusalem, will by no means prove him to be so. Besides, those who will take the trouble to look at the context in Zechariah, will find, that the event spoken of in the quotation, is spoken of as contemporaneous with the restoration Israel, and the establishment of peace and happiness, which seems to cut up by the roots the interpretation of the evangelists. And to conclude the argument,—Jesus being born in Bethlehem, and riding into Jerusalem, allowing it to be true, would not, we think, frustrate these prophecies of a future fulfillment—for no one can disprove, that if so be the will of God, such a person as the Messiah is described to be, might be born in Bethlehem to-morrow, and ride in triumph into Jerusalem, twenty years afterwards.
The next passage which has been offered, as a prophecy of Jesus, is to be found in the 12th chap. of Zech. v. 10, and part of it has been misquoted by John. "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications, and they shall look on me whom they have pierced." So it stands in the English version; but, before I state what it ought to be, I would observe, that before the evangelist, (who in his account of the crucifixion applies this passage as referring to Jesus' being pierced with a spear) could make this passage fit his purpose, he had to substitute the word "him" for "me," as it is in the Hebrew; confirmed by, I believe, all the versions, ancient and modern, without exception. Yet, with this change, it will by no means answer his purpose; for the Hebrew word here translated "pierced," in this place signifies "blasphemed," or "insulted," as it is understood by Grotius, who confirms this rendering from the Hebrew of Levit. xxiv. 11, where in this passage "the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord." The Hebrew word translated "blasphemed" is from the same root with the Hebrew word translated "pierced" in the passage in Zechariah quoted above. So that the passage ought to be translated thus:—"I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications, and they shall look towards me whom they have blasphemed." [To "look towards God" is a phrase frequently met with, and well understood.] Now, to enable us to understand more perfectly this passage, let us consider the context, where we shall find that it states, that there was to be a war in Judea, and a siege of Jerusalem, and then a deliverance of the Jews, by the destruction of all the nations, that should come up at that time, against Jerusalem. Immediately after which matters, follows the prophecy under consideration—"I will pour upon the house of David," &c. Now, from these things thus laid together, I crave leave to argue in the words of Dr. Sykes [Essay, &c., p. 268]—"Did any one circumstance of all this happen to the Jews about the time of the death of Jesus? Or rather, was not every thing the reverse of what Zechariah says; and instead of all nations being destroyed that came about Jerusalem, Jerusalem itself was destroyed: instead of a spirit of grace and supplications, the Jews have had their hearts hardened against the Christ; instead of mourning for him whom they have pierced, they condemn him and his followers even until this day."
But it is tiresome thus to waste time in proving that parts and ends of verses, disjointed from their connexion, and even the words quoted, some of them changed and some transposed, (though even done according to the rules given by the venerable Surenhusius) prove nothing. We must, therefore, devote the remainder of this long chapter to the consideration of the three famous prophecies, on which Christians have not hesitated, with triumphing confidence, to rest the issue of their cause. These are the prophecy of Shiloh, Gen. 49; the 53d ch. of Isaiah; and Daniel's prophecy of the "seventy weeks." I will consider them in order, and thus wind up the chapter.
I have some where read in a catechism, the following question and answer:—Q. "How can you confound the Jews, and prove, from prophecy, that the Messiah is already come?" A. "From these two prophecies—'The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,' &c.—Gen. xlix.; and this—'Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people,'" &c.—Dan. ix. 24.
But, notwithstanding these overwhelming proofs, the stubborn Jews refuse to be confounded! on the contrary, they in fact laugh at Christians for being so easily imposed upon.
The prophecy concerning Shiloh, the Jews acknowledge, refers to their Messiah. But they do not allow that it defines or limits the time of his coming.
And that it in fact does not, will be perfectly, evident to all who will look at the place in the Hebrew bible, which they will find pointed to read not—"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, and a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come," &c.; but thus—"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, for ever; for Shiloh shall come, and to him shall the gathering of the people be." So that the prophecy does not intimate that the Messiah should come before the sceptre be departed from Judah; but that it should not depart for ever, but shall be restored when Shiloh comes. This is the plain and obvious sense of the prophecy; and, moreover, is the only one that is consistent with historical fact. For, in truth, the sceptre had departed from Judah several hundred years before Jesus of Nazareth was born. For from the time of the Babylonish captivity "Judah" has never been free, but in subjection to the Persians, the Syrians, the Romans, and all the world.
If my readers desire further satisfaction with regard to this interpretation of this famous prophecy, I refer them to the dispute upon this subject between the celebrated Rittangelius, and a learned Jew, (preserved in Wagenseils' "Tela Ignea,") where he will find Rittangelius first amicably inviting the Hebrew to discuss the point, who does so most ably and respectfully toward his Christian antagonist, and unanswerably establishes the interpretation above stated, by the laws of the Hebrew language, by the ancient interpretation of the Targum, by venerable tradition, and by appealing to history. Rittangelius begins his defence by shuffling, an ends by getting into a passion, and calling names; which his opponent, who is cool, because confident of being able to establish his argument, answers by notifying to Rittangelius his compassion and contempt.
The next prophecy proposed to be considered, is the celebrated prophecy of Isaiah, consisting of part of the 52nd, and the whole of the 53rd, chapter. It is the only prophecy which Paley thinks worth bringing forward in his elaborate defence; and it must be confessed, that if this prophecy relates to the Messiah, it is by far the most plausible of any that are brought forward in favour of Jesus Christ. It merits, therefore, a thorough discussion, and I shall endeavour that it shall be a candid one. This prophecy is quoted by Jesus himself in Luke xxii. 39, and by Philip, when he converted the Eunuch, (Acts 8,) for "beginning at this prophecy, he preached unto him Jesus."
It will not be necessary to cite the passage at length, it being one perfectly familiar to every Christian. I will, then, before I consider it, first premise, that since it has been heretofore abundantly made evident, that the Messiah of the Old Testament was not to suffer, and die, but to live and reign, it is according to the rules of sound criticism, and I think sound theology too, to interpret this solitary passage, so that it may not contradict very many others of a directly contrary import. Now, if this passage can relate only to the Messiah, it will throw into utter confusion the whole scheme of the prophetical scriptures. But if it can be made to appear, that it does not necessarily relate to him; if it can, consistently with the context, be otherwise applied, the whole difficulty vanishes. Now, the authors of the New Testament have applied this prophecy to the Messiah, and to Jesus as the Messiah; and for doing so, they have been accused of misapplication of it-from the earliest times; since we know from Origen, that the Jews of his time derided the Christians for relying upon this prophecy; alleging that it related to their own nation, and was a prophecy of their suffering and persecuted state, and of their ultimate emancipation and happiness. And this interpretation of the prophecy the learned Vitringa, in his commentary upon Is. in loc., allows to be the most respectable he had met with among the Jews, and, according to him, "to be by no means dispised."
In order that the fitness or unfitness of this application of the prophecy may be made apparent, and evident, we will new lay before the reader this famous prophecy, part by part, each part accompanied by the Jewish interpretation.
Isaiah lii. 13, "Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted, and extolled, and be very high." Interpretation—My servant Israel, though he be in great affliction for a time, yet hereafter shall be released from captivity, and be honoured and raised to elevation very high among the nations of the earth. [That the Jewish nation is spoken of, in the singular number and under the title of God's servant frequently in the Old Testament, is well known, and will be here made certain by a few examples. Isaiah xli. (the chapter preceding the prophecy,) "But thou Israel my servant, thou, Jacob, whom I have chosen," presently afterwards, "saying to thee, thou art my servant." Again, chapter xliv.— "Now, therefore, hear Jacob my servant," and so frequently in the same chapter. See also ch. xlv., and Jer. ch. xxx., and Ps. cxxxvi., and Isaiah throughout, for similar examples.]
"And many were astonished at thee (his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.)" That is—And many were astonished at thee, on account of thy abject state, and miserable condition, being squalid with misery, and suffering more than any men.
"So shall he sprinkle many nations, the kings shall shut their mouths at him; for that which had not been told them, shall they see, and that which they had not heard, shall they consider."
Interpretation—As the Gentiles wondered at their abject state, so as to make them a proverb of reproach, so shall they admire at their wonderful change of circumstances, from the depth of degradation to the height of prosperity and honour. So that they shall lay their hands upon their mouths, which had beforetime reproached them, when they shall see their felicity to be so far beyond what had been told them, and they shall attentively consider it, and they shall say to each other—
"Who hath believed our report, and the arm of the Lord to whom was it revealed? For he grew up [Hebrew, not "he shall grow up," as in the English version] before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry soil; he had no form nor comeliness; and when we saw him, there was no beauty that we should desire him."
The sense is—The Gentiles shall say to each other in wonder, "Who believed what we heard concerning them? And to whom was the interest the Lord took in them made known? For it was a dispised people, feeble, and wretched, like a tender plant springing up out of a thirsty soil. Their appearance was abject, and there was nothing attractive in their manners."
"He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
That is—They were despised, and held in abhorrence: they were men of sorrow, and familiar with suffering. We looked upon them with dislike: we hid our faces from them, and esteemed them not.
"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows."
Interpretation—Surely their sufferings are as great as if they had borne the sins of the whole world; or, they are, nevertheless, the means appointed to remove the sufferings of an afflicted world, for God hath connected universal happiness with their prosperity; and the end of their sufferings, is the beginning of our joys.
"Yet did we esteem him smitten of God, and afflicted."
Interpretation—Nevertheless, we considered them as a God- abandoned race, and devoted to wretchedness by him, for having crucified their king.
"But he was wounded for [or by] our transgressions, he was bruised [for or by] our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and through his stripes we are healed."
That is—But, instead of being the victims of God's wrath, they were wounded through our cruelty, they were bruised by our iniquitous treatment, we being suffered to do so, to chastise them for their sins, and to prove their obedience; and this chastisement is that by which our peace is to be effected; for their chastisement and probation being finished. God will by them impart and diffuse peace and happiness.
"All we like sheep have gone astray, we, have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath caused to meet upon him the iniquity of us all."
But it is we who have sinned more than they: we have all gone astray in our ignorance, being without the knowledge of God, or of his law. Yet the Lord hath permitted us to make them the subjects of our oppressive iniquity.
"He was oppressed, [or "exposed to pecuniary exactions"] and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened, not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who shall declare his generation, ["into his manner of life, who stoopeth to look?" according to the Hebrew] for he was cut off out of the land of the living; for, [or by] the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked; but with the rich were his deaths, [or tomb] because he had done no violence, neither was deceit in his mouth."
Interpretation—How passive and unresisting were they, when oppressed!—They were afflicted, and they complained not; when through false accusations, and mistaken cruelty they were plundered, and condemned to die, they went like a Iamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so they opened not their mouth. They were taken from the dungeon to be slain, they were wantonly massacred, and every man was their foe; and the cause of the sufferers who condescended to examine; for by the thoughtless crimes of my people, they suffered. Yet notwithstanding their graves were appointed with the wicked; yet they were rich in their deaths. This did God grant them, because they had not done iniquity.
Rabbi Isaac, author of the famous Munimen Fidei#, renders the original—"on account of impieties was he given to his sepulchre, and on account of his riches was his death, because he did no violence, neither was deceit in his mouth"—which he interprets thus:—We (the former speakers) raised against them false accusations of impiety, on account of their religion, and refusing to worship our idols; but their riches was the real cause why we put them to death. Nevertheless, they used no violence in opposition to our oppressions, neither would they forsake their religion, and deceitfully assent to ours in hypocrisy.*
"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him: he hath put him to grief. When thou shalt make his soul a propitiation for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands." [This proves that this prophecy cannot refer to any individual, but may refer to the Jewish nation, because one individual cannot be put to death, and yet "see his seed," and "prolong his days."] "After [or on account of] the travail of his soul, seeing he shall be satisfied, by his knowledge shall my righteous servant make many righteous [or show them righteousness,] and he shall bear the burden of their iniquities."
That is—After and for their sufferings, they shall be abundantly rewarded; by their superior knowledge of religious truth, shall they make many wise, "for many nations shall go, and say, come ye, and let us ascend to the mount of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways"—Mic. iv. ch.
"Wherefore, I will give him a portion with the great, and with the mighty shall he divide the spoil, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors, and himself bear the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors."
Interpretation—Therefore, their reward shall be exceeding great, because for the sake of their duty, they willingly exposed themselves to death, and were accounted as transgressors, and bore the cruel afflictions inflicted by many, and made intercession for them who afflicted them.
Such is the explication given by the Jews of this prophecy. I have made no important alterations of the common English translation; except, that in some passages, I have made it more conformable to the original by substituting a verb in the past tense, instead of leaving it in the future, as in the English version. Those translators have taken certain liberties in this respect to make this prophecy (and several others) more accordant to their own views, which are not supported by the Hebrew: many of these expressions, however, we have left unaltered, as they are quite harmless. But if any of our readers desire further information with regard to the propriety of this interpretation of this prophecy of Isaiah, we refer him to the "Munimen Fidei," contained in Wagenseil's "Tela Ignea," where he will find it amply illustrated, and defended. Here, in this work, we shall content ourselves with proving, that this prophecy can by no means relate to Jesus, from these circumstances:—1. Jesus certainly was not exalted and magnified, and made very great upon earth, which, as has been shown, was to be the scene of the exaltation of the Old Testament Messiah; but was put to a cruel and disgraceful death. 2. He was not oppressed by pecuniary exactions, as is said of the subject of this prophecy. 3. He was never taken from prison to die, for he was never in one. 4. He did not "see his seed," nor "prolong his days," since he died childless; and we will not permit the word "seed" to be spiritualized on this occasion, for the word "seed" in the Old Testament, means nothing else, than literally "children," which it is not pretended he ever had; and how could he "prolong his days," when he was cut off in his 33d year. 5. Besides, who were "the strong and mighty," with whom he divided the spoil? Were they the twelve fishermen of Galilee? and what was the spoil divided? In a word, the literal application of this prophecy to Jesus is now given up by the most learned Hebrew scholars, who allow, that the literal sense of the original can never be understood of him. [See Priestley's notes on the scriptures, in loco; and the context before and after.]
We have now come to the last subject proposed to be considered in this chapter, viz., Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks, the "instar omnium" of the prophetical proofs of Christianity, and which was for ages held up to the view of "the unbelieving race," as cutting off beyond doubt their "hope of Israel" from ever appearing, since the time so distinctly foretold had elapsed. But such is the instability of human opinions, that it was at length suspected, and at last ascertained-by the learned, that "the stubborn Israelites" had some reason for denying that prophecy, any voice in the affair.
During many years, one learned man after another, had amused himself with destroying the system of his predecessor, and replacing it with his own, not a whit better, but tending to the same end, viz., to make the prophecy of the seventy weeks tally and fit with the event of the crucifixion. At length Marsham, a learned Englishman, declared, and demonstrated, that his predecessors, in this enquiry, had been grossly mistaken, for that the prophecy in all its parts was totally irrelevant and irreconcileable with the time of the crucifixion. The appearance of his book put all the theologians of that age in an uproar! But many learned Christians in the last, and present, century, now freely acknowledge, that Daniel is not on their side, but as much a Jew as his brethren.
This celebrated prophecy, literally translated from the original, is as follows:—Dan. ix. 24, &c.—"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy, [i. e., the sanctum sanctorum, or Holy of Holies.] Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem, unto the anointed prince, shall be seven weeks; and (in) threescore and two weeks, the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall the anointed (one) be cut off, and be without a successor; (Heb. "and not, or none to him") and the city and the sanctuary shall be destroyed# by the people of the prince that shall come; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week, and half the week (i. e., in the midst of the week) he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation and that (is) determined, be poured upon the desolate?"
This is the prophecy on which such stress has been laid, as pointing out the precise time of the coming of the Messiah; and I shall fully demonstrate that it hath not the most distant reference to that event. And for the better explanation of the prophecy, it is proper that we attend a little to the context.
*In the preceding chapter of Daniel it is said, that when Daniel was informed of the vision of the two thousand and three hundred days, he sought for the meaning; but not rightly understanding it, he judged, that that great number was a contradiction to the word of God as delivered by Jeremiah, concerning the redemption at the end of seventy years; (Jer. xxv. 11, 12, and ch. xxix. 10) and from thence he concluded that the captivity was prolonged on account of the sins of the nation. This doubt arose from his not understanding the prophecy, and, therefore, the angel said unto him,—"I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding." And he proceeds to inform him, that as soon as he began to pray, and God saw, his perplexity, the royal command went forth from him, that he should come to Daniel to make him understand the truth of those matters, that were to come to pass in future time. And as the angel Gabriel had explained to him the vision from whence his doubt arose, it was incumbent on him to perfect the explanation; and that is what is meant by the expression "to show," i. e., as I began the explanation, the commandment was, that I should finish it.
Before I proceed to give the Jewish explanation of the prophecy, it is proper to show in what manner the answer of the angel in it, agreed to Daniel's question, and also the reason of his using the term weeks, and not years, or times, as in the other visions.
It appears, that Daniel, from the words of Jeremiah, perceived that God. would visit all the nations, and punish them for their sins, as may be observed from the following words:—"Thus saith the Lord God of Israel unto me, Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations to whom I send thee, to drink it"— Jer, xxv. 15. He then mentions first Jerusalem, afterwards the king of Egypt, Tyre, Sidon, and all the Isles beyond the sea, and many others; and at last the king of Sheshak, or Babylon.
He also further perceived, that the visitation of each nation would be at the end of seventy years, as Isaiah observes of Tyre: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years." Isaiah xxiii. 15, the same of Babylon: "And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, I will punish the King of Babylon." Jer. xxv. 12, And as it is observed in the next verse: "All that is written in this book which Jeremiah hath prophecied, against all the nations." From whence it appears, that as the visitation of Babylon was to be seventy years, so was that of the other nations to be; for so had the wisdom of God decreed to wait according to this number. For which reason, and because the prophets say that the restoration of Israel is to be contemporaneous with the destruction of their enemies, Daniel appears to have. judged, that the sins of his nation would be done away by the seventy years of the captivity of Babylon; and, therefore, the angel informed him of his error, by telling him, that this was not to be the case with his nation, for that their wickedness was come up before God, and their sin was very grievous; and that, therefore, their sins would not be atoned for by seventy years, as in the case of the rest of the nations, to whom he allowed seventy years to see if they would repent; and, if not, then he would punish them. But as for Israel, he would not only wait seventy years, but seven times seventy years; (for thus it is literally, in the Hebrew, the words translated "seventy weeks," are, literally, "seventy sevens") after which, if they had not repented and reformed, their kingdom should be cut off, and they return into captivity, to finish an atonement for their transgressions. Hence the cause of Daniel's question is evident; and the propriety of the angel's answer to the question, is manifest; as also the expression of weeks or sevens.
These seventy weeks are, without doubt, four hundred and ninety years, the time elapsed from the destruction of the first temple, till the destruction of the second.
This, it seems, was the more necessary for the angel to inform him of; because Daniel judged, that after their return from Babylon, by means of that visitation only, all their sins would be done away. For which reason the angel showed him that it would not be so, [for the return from Babylon was not a perfect redemption, because there was not a general collection of all that were in captivity, even all the tribes, save only a few of Judah and Benjamin, and those not the most respectable. And after their return, they were not free, but were under the dominion of the Persians, Greeks and Romans. And although they, at one time, threw off their yoke, and had kings of the Asmonean and Herodean families, yet was there no king among them of the seed of David, neither had they the Shechinah, nor the Urim and Thummim, all which is a manifestation that it was not a perfect redemption, but only a visitation, with which God was pleased to visit them; so that they were allowed to build a temple to the Lord, by the permission of Cyrus, and according to the measure given by him. This was that they might be the better enabled to do the works of repentance during the time allowed, and thus "make atonement, and thus finish the transgression, and make an end of sins, and make reconciliation for iniquity;" and thus, at the end of the time assigned, even "seventy weeks," they would bring in "everlasting righteousness," i.e., universal virtue and felicity, throughout the world, when the Eternal should be known, worshipped, and obeyed by all mankind. But if they did not repent, and amend, if they did evil, as their fathers, then their kingdom was to be cut off at the expiration of the seventy weeks; which, in fact, took place.]
After the angel had thus expressed himself in general terms, he descended to particulars; and laid down three propositions (if I may be allowed the term,) or periods.
First. "Know, therefore, and understand, (that) from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem, unto the anointed prince, (shall be) seven weeks."
That is, it shall be seven weeks or forty nine years from the destruction of the first temple, to Cyrus, "the anointed prince," who shall give leave to build the second. [With regard to the import of the phrase "the going forth of the word," I refer the reader to Levi's Letters to Priestley, and shall here only concern myself with settling the meaning of the expression of "the anointed prince."] Many Christians have objected to the term Messiah, or anointed, being applied, as in our interpretation to Cyrus a heathen prince; and they apply it themselves to Jesus of Nazareth. But that the term, or appellation, Messiah, can be applied to Cyrus, is evident; since we find it so applied by God himself in the xlv. ch. of Isaiah. "Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus. 2. It is a singular fact, that the appellation "Messiah" is never applied to the expected deliverer of the Israelites in the whole bible, except, perhaps, in ii. Psalm. It is an appellation indifferently applied to kings, and priests, and prophets; to all who were anointed, as an induction into their office, and has nothing in it peculiar and exclusive; but the application of it to the expected deliverer of Israel, originated in and from the Targums. 3. In order to make this prophecy, and this phrase, "Messiah the prince," or "the anointed prince," apply to Jesus of Nazareth, Christians connect, and join together, this first member of the prophecy with the second, in open defiance of the original Hebrew; and after all, they can reap no benefit from this manoeuvre; for the term "Messiah Nagid," or "the anointed prince," can never apply to Jesus, in this place, at any rate; because he certainly was no prince or "Nagid," a word which in the Hebrew bible always, without exception, denotes a prince, or ruler, one invested with temporal authority, or supreme command. Now, as it is allowed on all hands, that Jesus had no such temporal power, as a prince, or ruler; it, consequently, follows, that he can by no means be the "anointed prince" mentioned in the prophecy.
Second Period. "And (in) threescore and two weeks, the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times,"
Here the angel gave him to understand, that after the seven weeks before mentioned, there would come a time in which the building would be hindered, (and which was on account of the letter written by Rheum and Shimshai to Artaxerxes, who, in consequence thereof, made the building to cease-See Ezra and Nehemiah) till the second year of Darius, who gave leave to finish the building: which continued till the destruction by the Romans, sixty-two weeks, beside the last week, at the beginning of which, the Romans came, and warred against them, and at length entirely destroyed the cities of Judah, Jerusalem, and the temple. For, from the time that Cyrus first gave leave to build the temple, till its completion, was twenty-one years; and its duration, four hundred and twenty; in the whole, sixty-three weeks, or four hundred and forty one years. But the angel made his division at sixty-two weeks, as he afterwards described what was to come to pass in the last week (and with reason, for the horrible Jewish war lasted seven years!) And by the words, "in troublous times," he informed Daniel, that during the building of the temple, they would have continual trouble and alarms from their enemies, as is mentioned in Ezra and Nehemiah, where we find, that while some worked, the others held the shield and spear. And even after finishing it, they were almost continually in trouble, and persecuted, as is evident from the books of Maccabees, and from Josephus.
Third Period. "And after threescore and two weeks shall the anointed be cut off, and have no successor—[Heb. "and not, or, none, to him"]—and the city and the sanctuary shall be destroyed by the people of the prince that shall come; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined."
That is, and after that period, shall the High Priest (or "the anointed one") be cut off—[The High Priest is called "Messiah," witness Lev. iv. 3—"If the Messiah Priest, (or anointed priest) doth sin," &c.]—and have no successor; and the city and the temple shall be destroyed by Titus and the Romans, and until the end of the war, your country shall be swept with the besom of destruction.
The angel finishes the prophecy with these words:—"And he (the prince that shall come) shall strengthen the covenant with many, for one week. And in the midst of the week (i. e., the seventieth and last week,) he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease."
This prediction was fully accomplished; for 1. Titus, "the prince that should come," was continually offering peace to the Jews, and tried to "strengthen the covenant"—i. e., their old treaties made with the Romans, and in fact did bring over many. 2. On account of the distress of the siege, the daily sacrifice did in fact cease to be offered in the temple some time before its destruction; and the angel further observes, that all this was to come upon them for their sins, "for the overspreading of abominations, it should be made desolate."
This is what appears to be a plain and fair explication of this prophecy; but since Christians, seeing mention made in it of a Messiah to be cut off, have eagerly endeavoured to press it into their service, it remains for me to show, that it is impossible to make this prophecy refer to "the cutting off" of Jesus.
The difficulty that learned Christians have met with, in their attempts to do this, will be easily conceived by any person, when he knows, that more than a dozen different hypotheses have been framed by them for that purpose; but that they have lost their labour, will be obvious from this single observation, that "the anointed one, or Messiah," who, the prophet says, was to be "cut off," was to be cut off "AFTER the threescore and two weeks," i. e., at the destruction of Jerusalem, or within the seven years preceding that event! Now, we know from the Evangelists, and; from profane history, that Jesus was crucified more than forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem. In addition to this, nothing need be said, for this circumstance lays flat their interpretation at one stroke.
Those who desire to see a more elaborate discussion of this prophecy, and an ample defence of this interpretation, are referred to "Levi's Letters, to Priestly;" and those who are desirous of seeing an account of the various, contradictory, perplexed and multitudinous contrivances, by which it has been endeavoured to apply this prophecy to Jesus, are referred to Prideaux, Michaelis, and Blayney.
We have now gone through an examination of the evidence adduced from the prophets of the Old Testament, to prove that Jesus is the Messiah of the Old Testament; and those of our readers who love truth, are, we trust, now made sensible that the religion of the New Testament, if built upon such proofs as these, is, evidently, founded on—a mistake.
STATEMENT OF ARGUMENTS WHICH PROVE THAT JESUS WAS NOT THE MESSIAH OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
Most of our readers have, no doubt, heard from the pulpit, many exclamations and declamations against the "blindness of the Jews," in not recognizing their Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth. The reasons of this "blindness" are made, I think, by this time pretty intelligible.
Nevertheless, for the further satisfaction of the reader, I will here set down the principal reasons given by Rabbi Isaac, in his "Munimen Fidei," which cause the Jews to deny the Messiahship of Jesus.
"At a certain time, (says he,) a certain learned man of the wise men of the Christians said unto me:—'Wherefore are you Jews unwilling to believe Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah, when yet your veritable prophets testified of him, whose words you profess to have faith in.'
"I gave him this answer. 'How, I require, could we believe him to be the Messiah, when you can produce no genuine proof from the prophets in his favour, since all those things adduced by the evangelists from them, to prove Jesus the Messiah, are nothing to the purpose? And we have many and evident reasons to prove that he was not the Messiah. And of these, I will bring forward a few, arising, 1, From his genealogy. 2. From his works. 3. From the time of his appearing. 4. From the prophecies of the things to take place in the time of the Messiah not having seen fulfilled in his age. And in these things are contained the genuine marks characteristic of our Messiah.'
"1. As to what concerns his genealogy; it does not prove this necessary thing, that Jesus was the son of David, because he was not begotten by Joseph, as the Gospel of Matthew testifies; for in the first chapter of it, it is written, that Jesus was born of Mary when she was yet a virgin, and had not been known by Joseph; which things being so, the genealogy of Joseph has nothing to do with Jesus. The descent and origin of Mary, is still less known, but it seems from Luke's calling Elizabeth, who was of Levi, her cousin, that Mary was of the tribe of Levi, and not of Judah, and, consequently, not of David; and, if she were, still Jesus is not the more the son of David; descents being reckoned from the males only. Neither is the genealogy of Joseph rightly deduced from David, but labours under great difficulties. Matthew, and Luke also, not only disagree, but irreconcilably and flatly contradict each other, in their genealogies of Joseph. Now, it cannot be that the testimony of two witnesses, who directly contradict each other in the matter to be proved by them, can be received as true. But the prophets have directed us to expect no Messiah but one born of the seed of David.
"2. As to the works of Jesus, we object to what he said concerning himself:—'Do not consider me as come to establish peace on earth, for I have come to send a sword, and to separate the son from the father, and the daughter from her mother, and the daughter-in-law from her mother-in-law,' which words are written in Mat. ch. x. But we find the prophecies concerning the Messiah to attribute to him very different works from these; nay, the very opposite. For, whereas Jesus testifies concerning himself, that he did not come to establish peace in the earth, but 'division,' 'fire' and 'sword,' Zechariah says, concerning the expected Messiah, ch. ix.:—'He shall speak peace to the nations.' Jesus says he came to send 'fire and sword' upon the earth, but Micah says, ch. ii., that in the times of the true Messiah they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.' Jesus says that he came 'to put division between the father and the son,' &c. But in the time of the true Messiah, Elias, the prophet, shall come, of whom Malachi prophecied 'that he shall convert the heart of the fathers unto the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers.' Jesus says 'that he came to serve others, not to be served by them' - Mat. xx. 29. But of the true Messiah it is said, Psalm lxxii.:—'All kings shall bow themselves before him, all nations shall serve him.' The same also is said by Zechariah, ch. ix.:— 'His dominion shall be, from one sea to the other, and from the river unto the ends of the earth;' and so Dan., ch. vii.:—'All dominions shall serve and obey him.'
"3. As to the time, we object to the Christians, that Jesus did not come at the time designated by the prophets; for the prophets testify, that the coming of the Messiah should be 'in the end of days' or, in the latter days, (which, surely, have not yet arrived) as it is in Isaiah ch. ii.:—'It shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and all nations shall flow unto it;' and it immediately follows, concerning the king Messiah, 'that he shall judge among the nations, and rebuke many peoples, and they shall beat their words into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.' See also Hosea, ch. iii, and also Dan., ch. ii., where it is written:—'God hath made known unto king Nebuchadnezzar what shall come to pass in the latter days,' (or, in the end of days.) And this pertains to what follows, viz., to this:—'In the days of those kings, (i. e., of the kingdoms that arose out of the ruins of the Roman Empire) the God of heaven will raise up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed.' Thus you see, that the prophets predicted, that the kingdom of the Messiah should be after the destruction of the Roman Empire, not while it was in its vigour; when Jesus came; in 'the latter days,' and not before.*
"4. Besides all these difficulties, neither were the promises made to us by the prophets, concerning the things to come to pass at the coming of the Messiah, fulfilled in the time of Jesus. For examples, take the following:—'1. In the time of the king Messiah, there was to be one kingdom only, and one only king upon earth, viz., the king Messiah—see Daniel, ch. ii.; but behold, we see with our eyes, many independent kingdoms, distinct, and distinguished by different laws and customs, religious and political, which things being so, it follows, that the Messiah is not yet come.
"2. In the time of the king Messiah, there was to be only one religion and one law throughout the world; for, it is written in Isaiah, ch. lii. and lxvi., that all nations shall come at stated times to worship the Eternal at Jerusalem. See also Zechariah, ch. xiv. and ch. viii., and indeed throughout the writings of the prophets.
"3. In the time of the king Messiah, idols were to be cut off, and utterly to perish from the earth; as it is said in Zechariah, ch. xiii., and so in Isaiah, ch. ii., it is written, 'And the glory of idols shall utterly pass away;' and so in Zephaniah, ch. ii., 'The Lord shall be terrible among them, when he shall make lean (i. e., bring to nothing) all the gods of the earth; and all the countries of the nations shall bow themselves to Him, each out of his place.'
"4. In the times of the Messiah, there shall obtain no more sins and crimes in the earth, especially among the children of Israel, as is affirmed in Deut. xxx., Zephaniah, ch. iii and in Jeremiah, ch. iii. And l., and so in Ezekiel, ch. xxxvi. and xxxvii.
"5. In the times of the Messiah, there shall be peace between man and beast, and between the tiger and the tame beast; and the little child shall stroke, with impunity, the variegated skin of the serpent, and,—as one of our own poets has beautifully said,—'and with his forked tongue shall innocently play.' See in Isaiah, ch. xi. and lxv., the original from whence he derived his beautiful poem.
"6. In the time of the king Messiah, there are to be no calamities, no afflictions, no lamentations throughout the world. But the inhabitants thereof are to lead joyful lives in gratitude to the good God, and in the enjoyment of his bounties. See Isaiah lxv.
"Lastly. In the time of the king Messiah, the glory of God was again to return to Israel, and the spirit of the most High God was to be liberally poured out upon them, and they were to be endowed with the spirit of prophecy, and with wisdom, and knowledge, and understanding, and virtue; and God will no more hide his face from them; but will bless them, and give them a ready heart and a willing mind to obey his laws, and enjoy the felicities consequent thereupon. And the Shechinah shall inhabit the temple for ever, and the glory of God shall never depart from Israel; but they shall walk amid the splendours of the glory of the Eternal, and all the earth shall resound with his praise, as is written in Ezekiel, ch. xxxvii., and xxxix., and xliii.; and in Joel, ch. ii., and in Zech., ch. ii., and Isaiah, ch. xi., and throughout the latter part of his prophecies, and in Jer. xxxi."
And now, reader, let me ask you this question, has any one of the foregoing prophecies been yet fulfilled, either in the days of Jesus, or ever since? Thou canst not say it! Now, then, hear the conclusion, which, in sincerity, and with the hand upon the heart, I am compelled to draw from these precedents. "Since these distinctive characteristics predicted by the Hebrew prophets, as to be found in their Messiah, were certainly, and evidently, never found in Jesus; and since these conditions and circumstances, and many others beside, which, to avoid prolixity, have been omitted, most assuredly did not take place in the time of Jesus, nor ever since, and since they were according to those prophets, certainly to be expected in the time of their Messiah; therefore, from all this, it seems to be demonstrable (allowing the prophets to be true,) that Jesus of Nazareth was not this true Messiah." And I would ask the candid Christian, in which link of this chain of proofs he can find a flaw? And I would ask him, too, as a moral and honest man, whether any Jew, in his right mind, could, without setting at nought what he conceived to be the word of God, receive him as the Messiah? The honest and upright answer, I believe, will be, that he could net. And, accordingly, it is very well known, that the Jewish nation have never done so. And this their obstinacy, as it is called, will not by this time, I think, appear unreasonable to any sensible man; and he will now be able to appreciate the justice of that idle cant about "the carnal Jews," and their "worldly-minded" expectation of a temporal prince, as their Messiah. Certainly, the Jews had very good reason, from their prophecies, to expect no Messiah but a Messiah who should sit on the throne of David, and confer liberty and happiness upon them, and spread peace and happiness throughout the earth, and communicate the knowledge of God, and virtue, and the love of their fellow-men to every people. Whether this (carnal or not,) would have been better than a spiritual kingdom, and a throne in heaven; together with the ample list of councils, dogmas, excommunications, proscriptions, theological quarrels, and frauds, and an endless detail of blood and murder, I leave to the judgment of those capable of deciding for themselves.
Neither, in fact, is it true, that the Jews were so "carnally minded" as to refuse Jesus as their Messiah, because he was poor and in a low estate. On the contrary, did they not ask him not to evade, but to speak plainly? "How long (said they) dost thou mean to keep us in suspense? If thou be the Messiah, tell us plainly." These very men were willing to hazard, in his favour, their fortunes, their families, and their lives, in his cause, against the whole power of the Roman empire. Nay, so urgent were they, that they were going to make him their king by force, and he concealed himself from the honour. The evasions he used to avoid their pressing questions upon the subject, are known to all who have read the evangelists; and so timed was he in acknowledging himself as the Messiah, that he did not do so, till Simon Peter told him that he was. And can any candid man, after all this, wonder at, or condemn, "the blindness," as it is called, of the Jews? or can he refrain from smiling at the frothy declamations in which divines load that nation with so much unmerited reproach? These Jews had just reason, we think, to doubt his Messiahship; and they had a right to satisfactory and unambiguous proof of his being so: even the proofs laid down, by their prophets. And this, it must be now acknowledged, they wanted; and, certainly, the wise and learned of the Jewish nation, might be allowed to have understood their sacred books upon the subject, as well, at least, if not better, than the illiterate apostles, who manifestly put new interpretations upon them, and those, confessedly, not agreeable to the obvious and literal meaning of those books; but contrary to the sense of the Jewish nation. And for this scepticism they might plead the example of the apostles themselves, who, at first, like other unbelieving Jews, expected a temporal prince; and did disbelieve Jesus to be the Messiah on account of his death, notwithstanding his miracles. And they continued in these thoughts, till it seems they come to understand the spiritual sense of the scriptures; which spiritual sense, it is said, they obtained by "the traditionary rules of interpretation in use among the Jews." Yet, it is rather inconsistent and singular, that they should place so much dependence upon these traditionary rules, and yet pay so little regard to the traditionary explication of the scriptures, with respect to the temporal kingdom of the Messiah—inconsistent and singular is it, that they should "cry aloud" for that which would support their peculiar views, but reject it when militating against these views.*
ON THE CHARACTER Of JESUS OF NAZARETH AND THE WEIGHT TO BE ALLOWED TO THE ARGUMENT Of MARTYRDOM AS A TEST OF TRUTH IN THIS QUESTION.
I am now about to consider a subject, to which, notwithstanding the harsh ness of my language in some of the preceding chapters, I approach with feelings of great respect. Far be it from me to reproach the meek, the compassionate, the amiable Jesus; or to attribute to him, the mischiefs occasioned by his followers*. No, I look upon his character with the respect which every man should pay to purity of morals: though mingled with something like the sentiments which we naturally feel for the mistaken enthusiast. Jesus of Nazareth appears to have been a man of irreproachable purity, of great piety, and of great mildness of disposition. Though the world has never beheld a character exactly parallel with his, yet it has seen many, greatly similar. Contemplative, and melancholy, it is said of him by his followers, "he was often seen to weep, but never to laugh." He retired to solitary places, and there prayed: he went into the wilderness to sustain and to vanquish the assaults of the devil: In a word, he appears by such means to have persuaded himself, as hundreds have done since, that he was the chosen servant of God, raised up to preach righteousness to the hypocrites, and sinners of his day. It is remarkable, that he never claimed to be the Messiah, till encouraged to assume that character by Peter's declaration. And it is observable, that in assuming that name, he could not assume the characteristics of the august personage to whom it belongs; but infused into the character all that softness, meekness, humility, and passive fortitude, which were so eminently his own. The natural disposition, and character of Jesus, could not permit him to attempt the character of a princely Messiah, a mighty monarch, the saviour of an oppressed people, and the benefactor of the human race. He could not do this, but he could act as much of the character as was consistent with his own. He could not indeed bring himself to attempt to be the saviour of his countrymen from the Romans, their fleshly foes; but he undertook to save them from the tyranny of their spiritual enemies. He could not undertake to set up his kingdom upon earth; but he told them that he had a kingdom in another world. He could not pretend to give unto his followers the splendid rewards of an earthly monarch: but he promised them instead thereof, forgiveness of sins, and spiritual remuneration.
In a word, he was not a king fit for the, then, 'carnal Jews,' but he was, from his mildness, and compassionate temper, worthy of their esteem, at least, of their forbearance. The only actions of his life which betray any marks of character deserving of serious reprehension, are his treatment of the woman taken in adultery; and his application of the prophecy of Malachi concerning Elias, to John the Baptist.
As to his conduct to the woman, it was the conduct of a mild, and merciful man, but not that of one who declared, "that he came to fulfil the law." For God commanded concerning such, "that they should surely be put to death." Now though Jesus was not her judge, and had no right to pronounce her sentence; yet the contrivance by which he deterred the witness from testifying against her, was a contrivence directly calculated totally to frustrate the ends of justice; and which, if acted upon at this day, in Christian countries, would infallibly prevent the execution of the criminal law: For what testimony would be sufficient to prove a fact, if the witnesses were required to be "without sin?" Instead, therefore, of saying unto them, "whosoever of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her;" he should have said, 'Men! who made me a judge, or a ruler over you? carry the accused to the proper tribunal.'
As to his conduct about the matter of Elias, it was as follows. It is said, in the 17th chapter of Matthew, that at his transfiguration, as it is called, Moses, and Elias appeared to his disciples on the mount, talking with Jesus. Upon coming down from the mount, the disciples asked Jesus, "how say the scribes that Elias must come first, (that is, before the Messiah.) Jesus answered, Elias truly cometh first, and restoreth all things; but I say unto you, that Elias has come already and they have done unto him what they would;" meaning John the Baptist, who was beheaded by Herod. (See the parallel place in Mark.) And he says concerning John, (Mat. vi. 14,) "And if ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come."
Now certainly no one will pretend that John was the Elias prophecied of by Malachi, as to come before "the great, and terrible day of the Lord," which has not yet taken place. And besides, that he was not Elias is testified of, and confirmed by, John himself, who in the gospel of John, chapter 1, to the question of the Scribes, asking him, "if he was Elias?" answers "I am not." It is pretty clear that Jesus was embarrassed by the question of the Apostles, "how say the Scribes, that Elias must come first?" for his answer is confused; for he allows the truth of the observation of the Scribes, and then refers them to John, and insinuates that he was "the Elias to come." However, it must be acknowledged, that he does it with an air of hesitation, "If you will receive it," &c.
But are these all the accusations you have to bring against him? may be said by some of my readers. Do you account as nothing, his claiming to forgive sins? his speeches wherein ho claims to be considered as an object of religious homage, if not to be God himself? Do you consider these impieties as nothing? I answer by asking—the following questions: What would you think of a man who, in our times, should set up those extraordinary claims? and who should assert, that "eating his flesh, and drinking his blood" were necessary to secure eternal life? Who should say, that "he and God were one?" and should affirm (as Jesus does in the last chapters of John) that "God was inside of him, and dwelt in him; and that "he who had seen him, had seen God?" What should we think of this? Should we consider such a man an object of wrath, or of pity? Should we not directly, and without hesitation, attribute such extravagancies to hallucination of mind? Yes, certainly! and therefore the Jews were to blame for crucifying Jesus. If Christians had put to death every unfortunate, who after being frenzied by religious fasting and contemplation, became wild enough to assert, that he was Christ, or God the Father, or the Virgin Mary, or even the Holy Trinity, they would have been guilty of more than fifty murders; for I have read of at least as many instances of this nature; and believe that more than two hundred such might be reckoned up from the hospital records of Europe alone. And that the founder of the Christian religion was not always in one coherent consistent mind, I think will appear plain to every intelligent physician who reads his discourses; especially those in the gospel of John. They are a mixture of something that looks like sublimity, strangely disfigured by wild, and incoherent words. So unintelligible indeed, that even the profoundest of Christian divines have never been able to fathom all their mysteries. To prove that I do not say these things rashly, wickedly, or out of any malignity towards the character of Jesus, which I really respect and venerate, I will establish my assertions by examples. For instance—