the First Week of Advent
Click here to join the effort!
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Their Importance to Judaism.
The early teachers and defenders of Christianity. The most important of the fathers lived and worked in a period when Christianity still had many points of contact with Judaism, and they found that the latter was a splendid support in the contest against paganism, although it had to be combated in the development of Christian doctrine. So the Fathers of the Church are seen at one time holding to a Jewish conception of the universe and making use of Jewish arguments, at another rejecting a part of such teaching and formulating a new one. In the contest of Christianity against paganism the Church Fathers employ the language of the Hellenistic literature as found in Philo, Josephus, the Apocrypha, and the Sibylline Books, all of which draw upon the Prophets of the Old Testament. Thus, practically, only the polemic features in the activity of the Church Fathers directed against Judaism can be considered as new and original. But in order to wage successful war against paganism, they, as well as Christians in general, had to acquaint themselves with the religious documents of Judaism; and this was possible only if they entered into personal relations with the Jews: through these personal relations the Church Fathers become of signal importance to Judaism. The contemporaries and, in part, the coworkers of those men who are known from the Talmud and the Midrash as the depositaries of the Jewish doctrine, were the instructors who transmitted this doctrine to the Church Fathers also. Hence such a mass of haggadic material is found in the work of the fathers as to constitute an important part of Jewish theological lore. This article is primarily concerned with their interpreration of the texts of the Bible and of the Apocrypha, which differs in essential points from those of the Jews.
Personal Relations with Jews:
After the Bar Kokba war against the Romans, Ariston of Pella, a converted Jew, wrote, as is generally accepted, a dialogue in which the Christian Jason and the Jew Papiscus are made the speakers, and in which the nature of Jesus is discussed (Ιάσουος ιαμ Παπίσκου ἀυτιλογία Χριστοῦ). This dialogue, already mentioned by Celsus, may be wholly imaginary and without historical basis. But the famous dialogue of Justin Martyr with the Jew Tryphon, which took place at Ephesus (Eusebius, "Historia Ecclesiastica," 4:18) at the time of the Bar Kokba war, is strictly historical, as certain details show; for instance, the statement that on the first day no strangers were present, while on the second day some Jews of Ephesus accompanied Tryphon and took part in the discussion (Justin, "Dialogus cum Tryphone," ), a certain Mnaseas being expressly mentioned (ib. ). The Jewish auditors are not only able to follow the intricate discussion intelligently, but their demeanor also is seemly; Tryphon especially proves himself a true disciple of Greek philosophy, and his scholarship is freely acknowledged by Justin (ib. ). At the close of, the debate, Jew and Christian confess that they have learned much from each other, and part with expressions of mutual good-will (ib. at the end). Justin was born and reared in proximity to Jews; for he calls himself a Samaritan (ib. ), meaning thereby probably not that he professed the religion of the Samaritans, but that he came from Samaria.
Of the relations of Clement of Alexandria to Judaism nothing positive is known. During the persecutions of the Christians of Alexandria, in 202 or 203, Clement sought refuge for a short time in Syria (Eusebius, c. 6:11). Here he may have learned much at first hand from the Jews. He knew a little Hebrew, also some Jewish traditions; both of 'which facts point to personal relations with Jews.
Clement's contemporary, Origen, probably also born in Alexandria about 185, may possibly have been on his mother's side of Jewish descent, if one may judge from the fact that while his father is mentioned as Leonides, the name of his mother is passed over in silence. A Jewish mother could readily have taught her son the Hebrew language, so that they might sing the Psalms together (Jerome, "Epistola ad Paulam"). [Both his father and his motherwere, however, Christian in faith.
Clement and Origen.
In his capacity of presbyter at Cæsarea in Palestine, Origen must have come into frequent contact with learned Jews, as indeed appears from his writings. He mentions again and again his "magister Hebræus" (ὁ Εβραῖος in the Greek fragment), on whose authority he gives several haggadot ("De Principiis," 1:3,4; 4:26). His dependence on the Jews is sufficiently emphasized by Jerome ("Adversus Rufinum," I. ) in the passage wherein Clement and Eusebius are named among those who did not disdain to learn from Jews. Origen often mentions the views of Jews, meaning thereby not the teaching of certain individuals, but the method of exegesis prevalent among the Jews of his time. The Jews with whom he maintained personal intercourse were men of distinguished scientific attainments. The one Jew whom he mentions by name was no less a personage than Hillel, the patriarch's son, or "Jullos," as Origen calls him (Grätz,"Monatsschrift," 1881, 30:433 et seq.). His other Jewish acquaintances either were closely related to the patriarch's family, or occupied high positions on account of their erudition. Grätz ("Gesch. der Juden," 3d ed., 4:231) thinks indeed that some passages in Origen's writings are directed against the contemporary amora of Palestine, Simlaï. Origen seems, moreover, to have had intercourse with Hoshaya of Cæsarea (Bacher, "Agada der Palästinensischen. Amoräer," 1:92).
Eusebius, Ephraem Syrus, Epiphanius.
Eusebius, the celebrated Church historian, also learned from the Jews, as has already been mentioned, and was under the influence of Jewish tradition. In Cæsarea, where he lived, he met many Jews, with whom he had discussions. Nevertheless he uses the word "Jew" as a term of reproach, calling his opponent, Marcellus, "a Jew" ("De Ecclesiastica Theologia," 2:2,3). He likewise thinks it a disgrace to be one of the "circumcised" (τις τῶυ ἐκ περιτομῆς, "Demonstratio Evangelica," 1:6). This last expression is also used regularly by Ephraem Syrus to designate Jews (, "Opera Syriaca," 2:469). Ephraem distances all his ecclesiasticalpredecessors in his hatred of the Jews, displaying a bitterness that is explicable only on the ground that he at one time had personal relations with them, and had formed an adverse opinion of them. Epiphanius, too, shows his dependence on the Jews, especially in the book, perhaps wrongly ascribed to him, "De Prophetarum Vitis"; which contains, besides many extraneous inventions, numerous Jewish traditions of the lives of the Prophets. In this it was followed by a Syrian work ("The Book of the Bee," published in "Auecdota Oxoniensia," Semitic series, , part 2).
Jerome surpasses all other Church Fathers in his erudition as well as in his importance for Judaism. It must be emphasized, in spite of Christian assertions to the contrary (e.g., B. Baue, "Vorlesungen," 2:36), that he learned much not only from baptized but also from loyal Jews. He sought his information in many quarters, especially among the educated Jews (Preface to Hosea; compare "Epistola ad Evangelum"). Hence he always cites the opinions of several Jews ("quidam Hebræorum"), not that of one Jew; and these Jewish friends of his accompany him on his journeys (Preface to cles), though he has one particular guide ("circumducens," Preface to Nahum). Of only three of his Jewish teachers is anything known. A Jew from Lydda, whom Jerome calls "Lyddæus," explained to him the Book of Job, translating it into Greek, and expounding it in Latin. Although he has much to say in praise of this man, Jerome will not admit that he learned much from him (Preface to Job), designating him often as one who merely read the Scriptures to him ("Onomastica Sacra," xc. 12; commentary on Eccles. 4:14, 5:3). But from this Lyddan Jerome acquired not only the material for his philological notes, but also the Hebrew pronunciation that gives him a unique importance for Old Testament criticism (Siegfried, in Stade's "Zeitschrift," 1884, p. 34; Krauss, in "Magyár Zsidó Szémle," 1900, 7:513).
Jerome was more attached to his second teacher, Bar Ḥanina, who, however, can not be identical with R. Ḥama b. Ḥanina, as Rahmer insists (compare Weiss, in "Bet-Talmud," 1:131, note 3); nor can he possibly be identified until his Midrashim, quoted by Jerome, have been compared with the known sayings of the authors of the Talmud and the Midrash. This Bar Ḥanina must have been an eminent teacher of the Law, for Jerome spent much time and money before he could secure him as teacher. Since Jerome would not visit his teacher by day, for fear of the Jews, he went to Bar Ḥanina, by night ("Epistola ad Pammachium et Occanum"). Bar Ḥanina came from Tiberias, as is shown by the Hebrew traditions communicated by him to Jerome; for one particular prophecy was held to apply to Tiberias (Jerome, "Quæstiones Hebraicæ in Genesin," 49:21).
Jerome's third teacher, whom he required especially for the Aramaic portions of the Bible, knew both Hebrew and Aramaic, and was considered by the Jewish scribes as a "Chaldæus" (Preface to Tobit; compare "Epistola ad Damasum").
Jerome lived about forty years in Palestine, apparently studying all the time under Jews (commentary on Nahum 2:1: "a quibus non modico tempore eruditus"). His enemies severely censured him for his intercourse with the Jews, but he was proud of it. He asks how it could be held to impugn his faith in the Church, that he informs his readers in how many ways the Jews construe a single error. ("Adversus Rufinum," book ). "Why should I not be permitted to inform the Latins of what I have learned from the Hebrews. . . . It is most useful to cross the threshold of the masters, and to learn the art directly from the artists" (ib.).
Jerome's contemporary, the great teacher Angustine, did not fare so well in Africa. When he questioned the Jews on Biblical matters, they often either did not answer at all, or, at least from the standpoint of the Church Fathers, "lied" (Jerome, "Epistola ad Augustinum"), meaning probably that they gave an answer different from what the Christians desired ("Epistola Augustini ad Hieronymum"). An alleged letter from Jerome, probably forged by Rufinus, was sent to the Christian communities in Africa, in which Jerome professed to admit that, misled by the Jews, he had translated erroneously ("Adversus Rufinum," book , 2:554, ed. Vallarsi). It mortified Jerome that his translation of the Bible, the Vulgate, so famous later on, should be passed over in silence by all the Jews, and that there was no one who knew enough Hebrew to appreciate the merits of the new translation ("Epistola ad Augustinum"). He even believed that all the Jews of Africa had conspired to oppose him, as actually happened in one place. In a certain African town—so Augustine wrote to Jerome (Jerome's works, "Epistola Augustini ad Hieronymum")—the new translation was read in the church, by order of the bishop. When they came to the passage in Jonah containing the word "ḳiḳayon" (4:6), which differed from the interpretation hitherto accepted, such a tumult arose that the bishop had to ask the Jews for a verification, and they declared, to the great annoyance of both Jerome and Augustine, that Jerome's rendering did not agree with the He brew, or Greek, or (old) Latin codices. The bishop had to strike it out as "a lie," being in danger of losing his congregation. Before this, Tertullian of Carthage (165-245) had spoken of the impertinence and derision shown by a Jew ("Apologia,"; "Ad Nationes," 1:11; compare see see Assworship).
Chrysostom, Cyril, and Ambrose.
Among the Greek Church Fathers, Basil the Great hardly knew Hebrew (H. Weiss, "Die Grossen Kappadocier Exegeten," p. 32, Braunsberg, 1872); yet his ability to distinguish between Amos, the prophet, and Amoz, the father of Isaiah (whose names are written alike in the Septuagint), as well as other similar facts, points to his having received oral instruction from Jews [or from some one who knew Hebrew.—T.]. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 331-396), who did not recognize the rending of the garments on the occasion of a death as being a Jewish custom (περὶ τοῦ βίου τῆς Μακαρίας Μακαρίνης, in Oehler, "Bibliothek der Kirchenväter," 1:188), does not seem to have known much about Judaism. The same maybe said of the other Church Fathers who lived in Europe; that is, in sections sparsely settled by Jews. Irenæus, for instance, who suffered as a martyr in 202 in Lyons, knew nothing of Judaism outside of the Scriptures, although he was reared in Asia Minor. In the paschal controversy he advocated separation from Judaism. But the Greek fathers John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria (Byzantine Empire) potently affected the fate of the Jewish people, as did Bishop Ambrose of Milan (c. 340-397).
The Syrian Church, on the whole, was even in the fourth century dependent upon Jewish traditions (Wellhausen, in Bleek's "Einleitung in das Alte Testament," 4th ed., p. 601). This appears especially in the "Homilies" of Aphraates (c. 337-345). He complains (Hom. ) that the monks are led astray and ensnared by the Jewish arguments; he himself had a disputation with one "who is called a wise man among the Jews." Aphraates, who, under the name "Mar-Jacob," was abbot of the monastery of Mar Mattai, and a bishop, gives such a number of Jewish traditions as to place him, in this regard, beside Ephraem Syrus (Aphraates).
The Church Fathers adopted from the Jews a mass of interpolations, interpretations, and illustrative anecdotes, which may best be designated by the well-known term, "Haggadah," but which they themselves called variously. Goldfahn has counted in Justin Martyr ("Dialogus cum Tryphone") twenty-six Hebrew traditions and six polemico-apologetic Haggadot. Among these may be mentioned: the eating by the three angels who appeared to Abraham; the Messiah's concealment and anointment by Elijah; the violent death of Isaiah (a Haggadah found already in the oldest apocrypha, and in nearly all the earlier fathers); Melchizedek's identity with Shem (compare especially Epiphanius, "Adversus Hæreses," , and the Syriac "Cave of Treasures," translated by Bezold, p. 36).
Clement and Origen.
Clement calls the Jewish haggadists "mystæ" (μύσται "persons initiated"), a term that was probably current in Alexandria; for the writings of all the Church Fathers agree in regarding Jewish tradition as a kind of esoteric doctrine understood only by the initiated. Clement is acquainted with the old Haggadah to Exodus 2:14, according to which Moses killed the Egyptian by merely pronouncing the name of God. Moses is called also "Joiakim" and "Melch" by the mystæ ("Stromata," ed. Migne, 8:897), and "Melchiel" in Pseudo-Philo, "Antiq. Bibl." ("Jewish Quarterly Review," 10:228; compare 10:726). A relation between Clement and the Seder 'Olam Rabba is shown by the fact that both give the same figure, sixty years, as the period of the prophet Elisha's activity (ib. 5:138).
Origen's Debt to the Haggadah.
Origen derives still more from the Haggadot. For instance: the Garden of Eden is the center of the world ("Selecta in Genesin," 2:8; compare 'Erub. 19a; Zion is so called in Enoch, 26:1,2; and Jubilees, ); division of the Red Sea into twelve parts (homily to Exodus 5:5; see also Eusebius, commentary on Psalms 77:13, and Epiphanius, in the notes to "Adversus Hæreses," pp. 262 et seq.; compare Mekilta on Exodus 14:16, and other Jewish sources ["Jewish Quarterly Review," 5:151], and Ḳimḥi on Psalms 136); repentance of the sons of Korah (commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 10:7; compare Midrash on Psalms 45:4); Israel's strength lies in prayer (homily on Numbers 13:5; compare Sifre, Num. 157); Phineas and Elijah are identical (com. on John 6:7; Jerome adopts the same opinion from the Apocrypha [5:813, ed. Vallarsi; compare Yalḳ., Num. 772, but the earliest sources are lacking]); Daniel, Hananiah, Michael, and Azariah are eunuchs (commentary on Matthew 15:5; compare homily on Ezekiel 4:8; catena on Ezekiel 14:5; Jerome, "Adversus Jovin," book ,; com. on Daniel 1:3; Epiphanius, "De Vitis Prophetarum," ed. Migne, 44:424; further Sanh. 93b; Gen. R. ); Moses is the author of eleven Psalms ("Selecta" to Psalms 12, ed. Migne, p. 1055; so also Jerome ["Adversus Rufinum,"; compare Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, p. 198a]); wild beasts are the instruments of divine punishment, as in 2 Kings 17:2 (homily on Ezekiel 4:7, 14:4; compare Mishnah Ta'anit 3:6; Shab. 33a).
Eusebius recognizes Jewish tradition as an authority almost equal to the Scriptures, and calls it ἅγρσΦος παράδοσις; e., "unwritten tradition" ("Historia Ecclesiastica," 4:22). Its depositaries he terms "deuterotæ" (δευτερωταί, "Præparatio Evangelica," 11:5), and he characterizes them aptly as men of an uncommon strength of intellect, whose faculties have been trained to penetrate to the very heart of Scripture. The Hebrews, he says, call them δευτερωταί (e., "tannaim"), because they expound Holy Writ (ib. 12:1). "Deuterosis" (δευτύρωσις, "mishnah") is commonly used by the ecclesiastical writers for the Jewish tradition, and is also found in Justinian's novellæ.
Eusebius makes a distinction between esoteric and exoteric exegesis; the Haggadot he often classes with the exoteric interpretation, contrary to Clement and others, who see therein a secret doctrine. Among his Haggadot may be mentioned the following: Abraham observed the precepts of the Torah before it had been revealed ("Demonstratio Evangelica," 1:6; compare Yoma 28b); King Hezekiah's sin in omitting a hymn of praise to God after Sennacherib's defeat (commentary on Isaiah 39:1; Jerome, ad loc., quotes the same tradition; compare Sanh. 94a; Cant. R. 4:8; Lam. R. 4:15); Merodach-baladan's relations to Hezekiah (com. on Isaiah 39:1; the same Haggadah is given in Ephraem Syrus' commentary on 2 Kings 20:10 ["Opera Syriaca," 1:562], as in one of Jacob of Edessa's scholia; compare Sanh. 96a). The traitor Shebna was a high priest (compare Lev. R. ), treacherous (compare Sanh. 26a) and sensual (ib.), as Eusebius asserts in the name of δ Εβραῖος (com. on Isaiah 12:10,11; Jerome makes the same statement ad loc.). The passage Zechariah 11:8 received very early the following Christological interpretation: After the advent of Jesus, the three powerful estates, kings, priests, and prophets, disappeared from Israel ("Demonstratio Evangelica," 10:1). Jerome, on Zechariah 11:8, quotes it only to reject it, preferring the Jewishexegesis, which applies the text to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam; but he does not credit it to the Jews; compare also Pseudo-Philo ("Jewish Quarterly Review," 10:321), and Mekilta 16:35; Seder 'Olam Rabba; Ta'anit 9a. Something similar is found in Aphraates on Numbers 20:1.
Acceptance by Church Fathers of Haggadot.
Aphraates gives the above as a self-evident exegesis without mentioning its Jewish origin. He does the same with his numerous other Haggadot, which were doubtless derived from the Jews. Ephraem Syrus likewise gives his Haggadot in the name of scholars (, expounders , etc., but never in the name of Jews. The Haggadot, however, were so generally accepted, that their Jewish origin gradually came to be forgotten. Ephraem Syrus, for instance, says, on Genesis 11:29, that Sarah was called "Iscah" on account of her beauty; but this Haggadah is already found in Seder 'Olam R. His explanation of Genesis 36:24 is similar to that found in Onkelos and the Samaritan Version. On 2 Kings 4 he has the same Haggadah about Obadiah's wife that is found in the Targum Yerushalmi and in part in Ex. R. These and similar passages prove Ephraem's knowledge of Hebrew—a knowledge which many investigators have unjustly disputed.
Jerome's Wide Knowledge of Hebrew Tradition.
But the one most conversant with Jewish traditions, and their greatest admirer, is Jerome. His "Quæstiones Hebraicæ in Genesin" form an almost uninterrupted series of such traditions; and he quotes them frequently in his other writings also. They are mostly historical episodes as additions to Bible history, which he calls either "traditiones" or frequently "fabulæ." These Haggadot were not only imparted to him orally by his Jewish teachers, but, remarkably enough, he also read Midrashic works himself. He says, for example, on Jeremiah 29:21: "Nec legitur in synagogis corum"; on Zechariah 4:2: "Hæc ab Hebrís dicta reperimus." Yet he speaks of these traditions as if they were a secret doctrine, "arcanæ eruditionis Hebraicæ et magistrorum synagogæ recondita disciplina" (Zechariah 6:9). He is also the only Church Father who is acquainted with the technical terms of the Hebrew tradition; for instance: "hoc Scriptura nunc dicit" ; "hoc est quod dicitur" ; "non debemus legere," or "non legi potest" . He knows and applies the method of "notarikon" or "gemaṭria" (on Nahum 3:8, on Haggai 1:1). This technical knowledge has so far been noted only in Barnabas' writings.
The haggadic elements in Jerome are so numerous that they would fill volumes; some of the more noteworthy ones may be mentioned here. On Eccles. 4:13 he quotes a lost Midrash of R. Akiba, which has come down only anonymously (compare Eccl. R. 4:13; Abot de-R. Nathan, version , ch. 4; Midr. Psalms 9:5) and in secondary sources. He is entirely unsupported, however, in his view that Elihu (in Job) and Balaam are identical ("Quæst. Hebr. in Gen." 22:21).
On Ezekiel 45:13,14 Jerome quotes a halakic Midrash which treats of the heave-offering (compare Yer. Terumot 6:1,42d). Epiphanius also knew this; the Pharisees are said to have offered τριακοντάδες τε καὶ πεντηκοντάδες (Hilgenfeld, "Judenthum und Juden-Christenthum," p. 73, Leipsic, 1886). On Zechariah 11:13 he has a curious Haggadah on the number of the affirmative and negative precepts; a closer investigation shows that he has preserved this Haggadah more correctly than it is found in Jewish sources ("Jewish Quarterly Review," 6:258; Jacob Bernays, "Abhandlungen," 1:252).
The Church Fathers who lived after Jerome knew less and less about Judaism, so that, the history of the later periods is no longer of any interest in this connection.
The dialogue between Justin and the Jew Tryphon is remarkable for the politeness with which Jews and Christians speak of one another; later on, however, examples are not wanting of passionate and bitter language used by Christians and Jews in their disputations. Origen complains of the stubbornness of the Jews (Homily , on Jeremiah 8), and accuses them of no longer possessing sound knowledge (c. ). Ephraem Syrus assumes a very insulting tone toward the Jews; he calls them by opprobrious names, and sees in them the worthless vineyard that bears no good fruit. Like Eusebius, who used the misfortunes of the Jews for polemic purposes (com. on Psalms 58:7-12), Ephraem sees in their wretched condition the visitation of God (on Genesis 49:8); because the Jews "betrayed Christ," they were driven from their country and condemned to perpetual wandering (on 2 Kings 2, toward the end). After Jerome has enumerated all the countries whither the Jews had been dispersed, he exclaims: "Hæe est, Judæe, tuarum longitudo et latitudo terrarum" ("Epistola ad Dardanum").
What especially angered the Christians was the fact that the Jews persisted in their Messianic hopes. In his sermon against the Jews Ephraem says: "Behold! this people fancies that it will return; after having provoked God by all its ways, it awaits and expects a time when it shall be comforted." Ephraem, as well as Justin and Origen, mentions that at this period Judaism was receiving numerous accessions from the ranks of paganism, a phenomenon ascribed by the Church Fathers to the machinations of Satan.
Jerome, on the other hand, speaks with great eloquence of the Messianic hopes of the Jews. Many Messianic passages of the Bible were applied by the latter to the emperor Julian, others to the distant future, differences which resulted in interminable polemics. The Church Fathers looked upon the Jews as demons, upon their synagogues as houses of Satan; Rufinus mockingly styles Bar Ḥanina, Jerome's Jewish teacher, "Barabbas," and Jerome himself a rabbi. The one word "circumcisio" was used to condemn the whole of Judaism; the Jews, they said, took everything carnally (σωματικῶς), the Christians took all things spiritually (πνευματικῶς).
Disputations Between Jews and Christians.
The writings of Jerome vividly portray the character of the polemics of that period. The Christian who should undertake to dispute with the Jews hadto be learned in doctrine (Preface to Psalms). But these disputations must be held lest the Jews should consider the Christians ignorant (on Isaiah 7:14). The proceedings were very lively. Reference is made, even if only figuratively, to the planting of the feet against each other, to the pulling of the rope, etc. (c.). It is incredible that the Jews were so frantic as to "scream with unbridled tongues, foaming at the mouth, and hoarse of voice" (on the Epistle to Titus, 3:9). Nor is it probable that the Jews "regretted when they had no opportunity to slander and vilify the Christians" (Preface to Joshua), although the Jews of that age show no diffidence in sustaining their part in these discussions. They were accused of avoiding questions that arose on the more difficult passages of the Bible (on Isaiah 44:6), which proved simply that they wanted to avoid disputations altogether. But the Jews had allies in their opinions; for pagans and Christian sectaries agreed with them on many points, drawing upon themselves the polemics of the Church Fathers.
Avowed Attacks on Jews.
Of the numerous polemical works directed against the Jews, only a few can be mentioned here. Of Clement's work, "Canon of the Church, or Against the Judaizers" (Κανὼν 'Εκκλησιαστικὸς ἢ Πρὸς τονς 'Ιουδαιζοντας; Eusebius, "Historia Ecclesiastica," 6:13), only a few fragments have been preserved. Origen's famous work, "Contra Celsum," is directed no less against the Jews than against the pagans, since Celsus had brought forward many Jewish doctrines. Eusebius' "Demonstratio Evangelica" was avowedly a direct attack on the Jews (see 1:1,11). Aphraates' Homily is largely directed against the Jews, and Homilies , , denounce circumcision, the Sabbath, and the discrimination between clean and unclean food, "of which they are proud."
A little work of Novatian, formerly ascribed to Tertullian ("Epistola de Cibis Judaicis," Leipsie, 1898, ed. G. Landgraf and C. Weyman, reprinted from "Archiv für Lateinische Lexicographie und Grammatik," ), is also directed against the Jewish dietary laws. Isidore of Seville has copied this work almost verbatim in his "Quæstiones in Leviticum," Presumably also by Novatian, and thus of the fourth century, is the treatise "Adversus Judæos," often ascribed to Cyprian; this is, however, somewhat conciliatory in tone (Landgraf, in "Archiv," 11:1897). In Tertullian's works there is also found a treatise, "Adversus Judæos," similar in many ways to Cyprian's "Testimonia," both having drawn upon the older work, "Altercatio Simonis Judæi et Theophili Christiani" (P. Corssen, Berlin, 1890); in the "Altercatio" the Jew is converted.
After Julian's death Ephraem composed four hymns: against Emperor Julian the Apostate, against heresies, and against the Jews (in "S. Ephraemi Syri Carmina Nisibena," ed. Bickell, Latin transl., Leipsic, 1866; and Overbeck, "S. Ephraemi Syri Aliorumque Opera Selecta," Syriac text, Oxford, 1865). Connected with these in time as well as in subject are the six sermons of John Chrysostom against the Jews ("Homilies," ). In these he bitterly complains of the Christians for still clinging to Jewish customs, a circumstance mentioned by other Church Fathers as well. Jerome gives striking examples in his commentaries on Matthew 23:5 and on Ezekiel 33, and more characteristic still are the following words of his: "The Jewish laws appear to the ignorant and the common people as the very ideals of wisdom and human reason" ("Epistola ad Algasiam"). This attitude of the multitude was of course earnestly combated by the Church Fathers; thus an anonymous work mentioned by Photius ("Myriobiblion," ed. Migne, p. 390) is directed against the Jews and against those who, like the Jews, celebrated Easter on the 14th of Nisan. Epiphanius' celebrated work "Adversus Hæreses," as also his "Ancoratus," treats of the Jewish faith; regarding it only as a third religious system, to be reckoned alongside of Scythism and Hellenisin, while the only divine revelation is Christianity. The founder of Christian dogmatics, Augustine, in defiance of all dogmatic principles of classification, groups Jews, heathens, and Arians in one class ("Concio ad Catechumenos").
The points animadverted upon by the Church Fathers are manifold; they include such fundamental laws as those of the Sabbath, concerning the transfer of which to Sunday Justin already treats ("Dialogue," ch. 24)—a change which was opposed by Origen (compare Diestel, "Geschichte des Alten Testaments," p. 37), and which Origen (commentary on Romans 6:2) and Jerome ("Epistola ad Algasiam") seek to prove to be impossible of observance ("Grätz Jubelschrift," p. 191). Circumcision, which is also violently assailed by Origen (see Diestel, "Gesch. des Alten Testaments," p. 37), the dietary laws, and many minor matters, such, for instance, as the washing of the hands, are made in turn to serve as subjects of polemical writing (Origen, commentary on Matthew 11:8). Indeed, the Church Fathers even in the fourth century afford more information concerning the observance of the Levitical laws of purity than the rabbinical sources, Neubürger (in "Monatsschrift," 1873, p. 433) to the contrary notwithstanding.
Baseless Charges Against the Jews.
Jerome says ("Epistola ad Riparium") that the Samaritans and the Jews considered not only the bodies of the dead as unclean, but also the utensils in the house containing a corpse. Probably in consequence of the Levitical laws of purification the Jews, as well as the Samaritans and heretics, avoided contact with the Christians, a fact of which Jerome bitterly but most unjustly complains (on Isaiah 65:4). Equally preposterous is it when Justin accuses the Jews, even their rabbis and sages, of immorality ("Dialogus cum Tryphone," , ). A characteristic polemical sentence of Tertullian may well be added in this connection: "We have everything in common, except our women; you have community only in that respect" (see Hefele, "Beiträge zur Kirchengesch." 1:16, Tübingen, 1864).
Perhaps more plausible, though often discussed and denied in more recent times, is the charge of the Church Fathers Justin, Origen, Epiphanius, andJerome that the Jews revile and curse Jesus—that is, Christianity—three times a day in their prayers ("Jewish Quarterly Review," 5:130, 9:515; compare Wulfer, "Adnot. Theriaca Judaica," p. 305; Krauss, "Das Leben Jesu," p. 254, Berlin, 1902).
Dogmatic questions, of course, were the subject of controversy—never-ending questions on the abrogation of the Mosaic law, the person of the Messiah, etc. Yet there was some agreement between Christians and Jews in such matters as Antichrist (see Irenæus, passim; Hippolytus, "De Antichristo"; compare "Revue Etudes Juives," 38:28, and Bousset, "Der Antichrist," Göttingen, 1895), chiliasm (Ephraem Syrus on 2 Kings 4:35; compare Sanh. 97a; 'Ab. Zarah 9a; and other Church Fathers), angelology, the Resurrection, etc.
Skill of Jews in Controversy.
The ability of the Jews to cope successfully with the Christians in these controversies is due to the fact that they were well versed in all the questions under discussion. Jerome assumes that in Scriptural questions every Jew is able to give satisfactory replies (Preface to Samuel). The Jews, moreover, were acquainted not only with the original text, but also with the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, Aquila's version, and in general with all works relating to Holy Writ. No sooner had Apollinaris Laodicinus' writings appeared than the Jews read and discussed them (Jerome on Ecclesiastes 5:17).
Especially noteworthy is the fact that the Jews were as well versed in the New Testament as in the Old, being able to explain difficulties therein that puzzled even the officially appointed Christian teachers (idem on Isaiah 11:1). Ephraem Syrus asserts, curiously enough (Sermon , in Zingerle, "Bibliothek der Kirchenväter," 2:271), that the Jews admitted that John the Baptist really had appeared. Origen relates a Jewish tradition concerning Judas Iscariot (on Matt., Com. ser., § 78). Jerome is therefore to be believed when he says that the Jews were often in a position to applaud their own champions (on Ezekiel 33:33), which they did in a sensational way (ib. 34:3). Chrysostom also taxes the Jews with their theatrical manner ("Opera," ed. Montfaucon, 1:656), and before him the just and cautious Justin says the same thing ("Dialogus cum Tryphone," ).
The Old Testament and the Apocrypha:
Christians and the Jewish Hellenists.
The main object of the Christian endeavor was to wrest the Old Testament from the Jews and to make of it a Christian weapon. Therefore, as Jerome says (on Micah 7:9), the Jews were hoping that in the Messianic times the Law and the Prophets would be taken away from the Christians and given to the Jews exclusively (compare the polemic passage in Ex. R. ). To accomplish their purpose the Christians made use of the allegorical exegesis as developed by Philo and other Jewish Hellenists. The literal meaning, says Origen, is good enough only for the Jews, in order that nothing may be applied to Jesus. Only Isidor of Pelusium had sense enough to warn against applying the whole of the Old Testament to Jesus, lest the Jews and pagans find cause for ridicule (Epistles, , ep.; , ep. ). Nevertheless the whole Christian Church fell into this exaggeration; and into what absurdities they were led is shown by the following examples: Sarah and Hagar, already explained allegorically by Paul (Galatians 4:24), are, according to Clement ("Stromata," 1:5), wisdom and the world. The two women who appeared before Solomon symbolize the Synagogue and the Church; to the former belongs the dead child; to the latter, the living one, that is, the Jewish faith is dead; the Christian faith is living (Ephraem Syrus on 1 Kings 3:6). These might pass; but it becomes mere childishness when David is made to signify old and worn-out Israel, but Abishag Jesus (on 1 Kings 1:1). Equally unnatural is the assertion of Fulgentius in his "Epistola Synodica" (in Hefele, "Conciliengesch," 2d ed., 2:699), that Esau represents the "figura populi Judæorum," and Jacob the people destined to be saved. The Jews made things much more easy by looking upon themselves as Jacob, and upon the Christians as Esau or Edom. At disputations the Christians knew in advance how the Jews would interpret certain passages. "If we ask the Jews who that daughter is [Psalms 45], I do not doubt that they will answer: the synagogue" (Jerome, "Epistola ad Principiam"). The Jews therefore not only opposed the Christian exegesis with the literal sense, but also had ready allegorical interpretations of their own.
Only Tertullian and Irenæus were rational enough to follow the simple literal meaning. The so-called school of Antioch, whose most eminent representatives were Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret, also taught a wholly rational exegesis; although the disciples of this school, such as Cosmas Indicopleustes, used the allegorical and typical methods extensively (Barjean, "L'Ecole Exégétique d'Antioche," Paris, 1898). Still, it can not be denied that other Church Fathers, and above all Jerome, did excellent work in simple exegesis.
Corrupted Texts of the Bible.
Good exegesis depends upon a good text, and this the Christians did not possess; for the copies of the Bible circulating among them were corrupt in a number of passages. At a certain disputation between Jews and Christians, the former, naturally enough, referred to these mistakes, and mocked their opponents for allowing such obvious blunders. Jewish arguments of that kind are often quoted by Justin, Origen, Jerome, and other fathers. In order to free the Church from the just reproaches of the Jews on this score, Origen undertook his gigantic work, the Hexapla (Epiphanius, "De Ponderibus et Mensuris," ), in which he frequently restores the Jewish reading (e.g., homily on Numbers 16:4; Com. on Rom., books ,; compare Rufinus, "Apologia s. Invectiv. in Hieronymum," book , chap. ). Justin is honest enough to reject a manifest Christological gloss, the notorious ἀπῗ8 τοῦξύλου, which was said to be the reading in Psalms 96 (95:10), interpolated in the Greek version ("the Lord reigned from the wood"). Aside from Justin ("Dial. cum Tryphone," ), this interpolation is found only in the Latin fathers—Tertullian, Ambrose, Augustine, Leo, and Gregory the Great—who indulge in much nonsense concerningthe words "a ligno." Augustine ("De Civitate Dei," 16:3) had a text in Genesis 10:2 in which not seven but eight sons of Japheth were mentioned, a reading that is found in none of the known texts. Hence the Jews rejected all translations, recognizing at most Aquila's "secunda editio," because this was correct (κατὰ U7+1F00κρίβειαν; Jerome on Ezekiel 4:15). Jerome is the only Church Father who, as against the Septuagint, constantly refers to the "Hebraica veritas." At great cost he had a Bible copied for himself by his Jewish friend ("Adversus Rufinum," book ), who borrowed for him, although with "pia fraus," the copies belonging to the synagogue ("Epistola ad Damasum"). Nevertheless, even Jerome accuses the Jews of tampering with the text of the Bible (Malachi 2:2); and thereafter the accusation constantly recurs.
The Christians fared no better with the Apocrypha, which they rated altogether too high, although these at times offended good taste. Origen fared badly at the hands of the Jews with his apocryphon Susanna ("Epistola ad Africanum de Historia Susannæ," ) nor was Jerome's obscene legend to Jeremiah 29:21—a legend which is evidently connected with this apocryphon (see N. Brüll's "Jahrbücher," 3:2), favorably received by the Jews. Jerome (on Matthew 27:9) claims to have received an apocryphon on Jeremiah from a Jewish Nazarite, and to have found in a Hebrew book ("Epistola ad Damasum," "in quodam Hebræo volumine") a history of Lamech; but his Jewish teacher speaks contemptuously of the additions to Daniel, as having been written by some Greek (Preface to Daniel). See Bible Canons.
The importance of the Church Fathers for Jewish learning, already recognized by David Ḳimḥi and Azariah dei Rossi, becomes evident, if one considers that many sentences of Talmud and Midrash can be brought into the right perspective only by the light of the exegesis and the polemics of these Christian writers. Therefore modern Jewish learning turns, although not yet with sufficient eagerness, to the investigation of the works of the Church Fathers.
- M. Rahmer, Die Hebräischen Traditionen in den Werken des Hieronymos, : Quœstiones in Genesin, Breslau, 1861;
- idem, Die Hebräischen Traditionen in dem Bibelcommentar des Hieronymos, in Ben Chananja, 1864,;
- idem, Die Hebräischen Traditionen des Hieronymos, in Frankel's Monatsschrift, 1865, 1866, 1867, 1868;
- in the Grätz Jubelschrift, 1887;
- in Monatsschrift, 1897, pp. 625-639, 691-692; 1898, pp. 1-16;
- S. Krauss, Die Juden in den Werken des Heiligen Hieronymos, in Magyár Zsidó Szémle, , 1890;
- Grätz, Haggadische Elemente bei den Kirchenvätern, in Monatsschrift, 1854,;
- Goldfahn, Justin Martyr und die Agada, ib. 1873, , and reprinted;
- Gerson, Die Commentarien des Ephraem Syrus im Ihrem Verhältniss zur Jüdischen Exegese, Breslau, 1868;
- Grünwald, Das Verhältniss der Kirchenväter zur Talmudischen und Midraschischen Literatur, in Königsberger's Monatsblätter, and reprinted, Jung-Bunzlau, 1891;
- S. Funk, Die Haggadischen Elemente in den Homilien des Aphraates, des Persischen Weisen, Vienna, 1891;
- S. Krauss, The Jews in the Works of the Church Fathers, in Jewish Quarterly Review, 1892, 5:122-157; 1893, 6:82-99,225-261. A very thorough investigation is the treatise of L. Ginzberg, Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern und in der Apokryphischen Litteratur, in Monatsschrift, 1898, et seq., and reprinted, Berlin, 1900;
- idem, Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern, vol. , Amsterdam, 1809.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Church Fathers'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​c/church-fathers.html. 1901.