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The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

by 'Alfred Edersheim'

Book 6 — Appendix -

Chapter 5 —

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In the first class, or 'Halakhoth of Moses from Sinai,' tradition enumerates fifty-five, 1 which may be thus designated: religio-agrarian, four; 2 ritual, including questions about 'clean and unclean,' twenty-three; 3 concerning women and intercourse between the sexes, three; 4 concerning formalities to be observed in the copying, fastening, &c., of the Law and the phylacteries, eighteen; 5 exegetical, four; Psalm 1xviii. 22 (A.V:21); xxxvi. 7 (A.V:6); about the <i>Qeri velo Kethibh</i>, words <i>read</i> but <i>not written</i> in the text; and the <i>Kethibh velo Qeri</i>, <i>words</i> written but <i>not read</i> in the text. ">6 purely superstitious, one; 7 not otherwise included, two. 8 Eighteen ordinances are ascribed to Joshua, of which only one is ritual, the other seventeen being agrarian and police regulations. 9 The other traditions can only be briefly noted. Boaz, or else 'the tribunal of Samuel,' fixed, that Deut. xxiii. 3 did not apply to alliances with Ammonite and Moabite women. Two ordinances are ascribed to David, two to Solomon, one to Jehoshaphat, and one to Jehoida. The period of Isaiah and of Hezekiah is described as of immense Rabbinic activity. To the prophets at Jerusalem three ritual ordinances are ascribed. Daniel is represented as having prohibited the bread, wine and oil of the heathen (Dan. i. 5). Two ritual determinations are ascribed to the prophets of the Exile.

After the return from Babylon traditionalism rapidly expanded, and its peculiar character more and more clearly developed. No fewer than twelve traditions are traced back to the three prophets who flourished at that period, while four other important legal determinations are attributed to the prophet Haggai individually. It will readily be understood that Ezra occupied a high place in tradition. Fifteen ordinances are ascribed to him, of which some are ritual. Three of his supposed ordinances have a general interest. They enjoin the general education of children, and the exclusion of Samaritans from admission into the Synagogue and from social intercourse. If only one legal determination is assigned to Nehemiah, 'the men of the great Synagogue' are credited with fifteen, of which six bear on important critical and exegetical points connected with the text of the Scriptures, the others chiefly on questions connected with ritual and worship. Among the 'pairs' (Zugoth) which succeeded the 'Great Synagogue,' three 'alleviating' ordinances (of a very punctilious character) are ascribed to Jose, the son of Joezer, 10 and two, intended render all contact with heathens impossible, to him and his colleague. Under the Maccabees the feast of the dedication of the Temple was introduced. To Joshua the son of Perachya, one punctilious legal determination is ascribed. Of the decrees of the Maccabean High-Priest Jochanan we have already spoken in another place; similarly, of those of Simon the son of Shetach and of his learned colleague. Four legal determinations of their successors Shemayah and Abhtalion are mentioned. Next in order comes the prohibition of Greek during the war between the Maccabean brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobulus. This brings us to the time of Hillel and Shammai, that is, to the period of Jesus, to which further reference will have to be made in another place.

That the Rabbis entertained the same views of inspiration, appears not only from the distinctive name of 'Holy Writings' given to the Scriptures, but also from the directions that their touch defiled the hands, 14 and that it was duty on the Sabbath to save them from conflagration, and to gather them up if accidentally scattered, and that it was not lawful for heirs to make division of a sacred roll (Comp. Shabb. xvi. 1; Erub. x. 3; Kel. xv. 6; Yad. iii. 2-5; iv. 5 [where special reference is made to Daniel 6]). From what we know of the state of feeling, we might have inferred, even if direct evidence had not existed that a distinctive and superior place would be ascribed to the Books of Moses. In point of fact, the other books of Scripture, alike the Prophets and the Hagiographa, 15 are only designated as Qabbalah ('received,' handed down, tradition), which is also the name given to oral tradition. 16 It was said that the Torah was given to Moses (Jer. Sheq. vi. 1) 'in (letters of) white fire graven upon black fire,' although it was matter of dispute whether he received it volume by volume or complete as a whole (Gitt. 60 a). But on the question of its inspiration not the smallest doubt could be tolerated. Thus, to admit generally, that 'the Torah as a whole was from heaven, except this (one) verse, which the Holy One, blessed be He, did not speak, but Moses of himself' was to become an infidel and a blasphemer (Sanh. 99 a). 17 Even the concluding verses in Deuteronomy had been dictated by God to Moses, and he wrote them down - not repeating them, however, as before, but weeping as he wrote. It will readily be understood in what extravagant terms Moses himself was spoken of. It is not only that the expression 'man of God' was supposed to imply, that while as regarded the lower part of his nature Moses was man, as regarded the higher he was Divine, but that his glorification and exaltation amount to blasphemy. 18 So far as inspiration or 'revelation' is concerned, it was said that Moses 'saw in a clear glass, the prophets in a dark one' - or, to put it otherwise: 'he saw through one glass, they through seven.' Indeed, although the opening words of Ps. lxxv. showed, that the Psalms were as much revelation as the Law, yet, 'if Israel had not sinned, they would have only received the Pentateuch, and the Book of Joshua,' and, in the time to come, of all Scripture the Pentateuch alone would retain its place. It was somewhat contemptuously remarked, that the Prophets uttered nothing as regarded practice that had not already been told in the Pentateuch (Taan. 9 a). It was but natural for Rabbinism to declare that

the Law alone fully explained its meaning (at least according to their interpretation of it), while the Prophets left much in obscurity. 19 To mark the distinction, it was forbidden to put the Law in the same wrapper with the Prophets, so as not to place perhaps the latter on the top of the former (Tos. Meg. iv. 20). Among the Prophets themselves there was a considerable difference, not only in style and training but even in substance (Sanh. 89 a), although all of them had certain common qualifications (comp. Ab. de R. Nathan, 37). Of all the prophets Isaiah was greatest, and stood next to Moses. Ezekiel saw all that Isaiah saw - but the former was like a villager, the latter like a townsman who saw the king (Chag. 13 b). Jeremiah and Amos were, so to speak, scolding, owing to the violence of their temperament, while Isaiah's was the book of consolation, especially in response to Jeremiah.

The Hagiographa or 'Kethubhim' also bear in the Talmud the general designation of 'Chokhmah,' wisdom. It has been asserted that, as the Prophetic Books, so the Hagiographa, were distinguished into 'anterior' (Psalms, Proverbs, Job) and 'posterior,' or else into 'great' and 'small.' But the statement rests on quite insufficient evidence. 20 Certain, however, it is , that the Hagiographa, as we possess them, formed part of the Canon in the time of Jesus the son of Sirach - that is, even of the latest computation of his authorship, 21 about the year 130 b.c. 22 Even so, it would not be easy to vindicate, on historical grounds, the so-called Maccabean authorship of the Book of Daniel, which would fix its date about 105 b.c. For, if other considerations did not interfere, few students of Jewish history would be disposed to assert that a book, which dated from 104 b.c., could have found a place in the Jewish Canon. 23 But, as explained in vol. i. p. 26, we would assign a much earlier date to the Book of Sirach. The whole question in its bearing on the New Testament is so important, that one or two further remarks may be allowed. Leaving aside most serious critical objections, and the unquestionable fact, that no amount of ingenuity can conciliate the Maccabean application of Dan. ix. 24-27 with the chronology of that period, 24 while the Messianic interpretation fits in with it, 25 other, and seemingly insuperable difficulties are in the way of the theory impugned. It implies, that the Book of Daniel was not an Apocryphal, but a Pseudepigraphic work; that of all such works it alone has come down to us in its Hebrew or Chaldee original; that a Pseudepigraphic work, nearly contemporary with the oldest portion of the Book of Enoch, should not only be so different from it, but that it should find admission into the Canon, while Enoch was excluded; that a Pseudepigraphon younger that Jesus the Son of Sirach should have been on the Khethubhim; and, finally, that it should have passed the repeated revision of different Rabbinic 'Colleges' - and that at times of considerable theological activity - without the suspicion being even raised that its authorship dated from so late a period as a century an a half before Christ. And we have evidence that since the Babylonish exile, at least four revisions of the Canon took place within periods sufficiently distant from each other.

The question hitherto treated has been exclusively of the date of the composition of the Book of Daniel, without reference to who may have been its author, whether its present is exactly the same as its original form, and finally, whether it ever belonged to those books whose right to canonicity, though nor their age, was in controversy, that is, whether it belonged, so to speak, to the Old Testament antilegomena. As this is not the place for a detailed discussion of the canonicity of the Book of Daniel - or, indeed, of any other in the Old Testament canon - we shall only add, to prevent misunderstanding, that no opinion is here expressed as to possible, greater or less, interpolations on the Book of Daniel, or in any other part of the Old Testament. We must here bear in mind that the moral view taken of such interpolations, as we would call them, was entirely different in those times from ours; and it may perhaps be an historically and critically no unwarranted proposition, that such interpolations were, to speak moderately, not all unusual in ancient documents. In each case the question must be separately critically examined in the light of internal and (if possible) external evidence. But it would be a very different thing to suggest that there may be an interpolation, or, it may be, a re-arrangement in a document (although at present we make no assertions on the subject, one way or the other), and to pronounce a whole document a fabrication dating from a much later period. The one would, at any rate, be quite in the spirit of those times; the other implies, beside insuperable critical difficulties, a deliberate religious fraud, to which no unprejudiced student could seriously regard the so-called Pseudepigrapha as forming any real analogon.

But as regards the Book of Daniel, it is an important fact that the right of the Book of Daniel to canonicity was never called in question in the ancient Synagogue. The fact that it was distinguish as 'visions' (Chezyonoth) from the other 'prophecies' has, of course, no bearing on the question, any more than the circumstance that later Rabbinism, which, naturally enough, could not find its way through the Messianic prophecies of the book, declare that even Daniel was mistaken in, and could not make anything of the predictions concerning the 'latter days' (Ber. R. 98). 26 On the other hand, Daniel was elevated to almost the same pinnacle as Moses, while it was said that, as compared with heathen sages, if they were all placed

in one scale, and Daniel in the other, he would outweigh them all. We can readily understand that, in times of national sorrow or excitement, these prophecies would be eagerly resorted to, as pointing to a glorious future.

But although the Book of Daniel was not among the Antilegomena, doubts were raised, not indeed about the age, but about the right to canonicity of certain other portions of the Bible. Thus, certain expressions in the prophecies of Ezekiel were questioned as apparently incompatible with statements in the Pentateuch 27 (Men. 45 a), and although a celebrated Rabbi, Chananyah, the son of Chizkuyah, the son of Garon (about the time of Christ), with immense labour, sought to conciliate them, and thus preserved the Book of Ezekiel (or, at least, part of it) from being relegated among the Apocrypha, it was deemed safest to leave the final exposition of the meaning of Ezekiel, 'till Elijah come,' as the restorer of all things.

The other objections to canonicity apply exclusively to the third division of the Old Testament, the Kethubhim or Hagiographa. Here even the Book of Proverbs seems at one time to have been called in question (Ab. R. Nathan 1), partly on the ground of its secular contents, and partly as containing 'supposed contradictory statements' 28 (Shabb. 30 b). Very strong doubts were raised on the Book of Ecclesiastes (Yad. iii. 5; Eduy. v. 3), first, on that ground of its contradiction to some of the Psalms 29 (Shabb. 30 a); secondly, on that of its inconsistencies 30 (Shabb. 30 b); and thirdly, because it seemed to countenance the denial of another life, and, as in Eccl. xi 1,3, 9, other heretical views (Vayyikra R. 28, at the beginning). 31 But these objections were finally answered by great ingenuity, while an appeal to Eccl. xii. 12,13, was regarded as removing the difficulty about another life and future rewards and punishments. And as the contradictions in Ecclesiastes had been conciliated, it hopefully argued deeper study would equally remove those in the Book of Proverbs (Shabb. 30 b). 32 Still, the controversy about the canonicity of Ecclesiastes continue so late as the second century of our era (comp. Yad. iii. 5). That grave doubts also existed about the Song of Solomon, appears even from the terms in which its canonicity is insisted upon (Yad. u. s.), not to speak of express statements in opposition to it (Ab. de. R. Nathan 1). Even when by an allegorical interpretation it was shown to be the 'wisdom of all wisdom,' the most precious gem, the holy of holies, tradition still ascribed its composition to the early years of Solomon (Shir haSh. R. 1). It had been his first work, and was followed by Proverbs, and finally by Ecclesiastes. 33 But perhaps the greatest objections were those taken to the Book of Esther (Meg. 7 a). It excited the enmity of other nations against Israel, and it was outside the canon. Grave doubts prevailed whether it was canonical or inspired by the Holy Spirit (Meg. u. s.; Yoma 29 a). The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were anciently regarded as one - the name of the latter author being kept back on account of his tendency to self-exaltation (Sanh. 93 b). Lastly, the genealogical parts of the Book of Chronicles were made the subject of very elaborate secret commentation (Pes. 62 b).

Two points still require brief mention. Even from a comparison of the LXX. Version with our Hebrew text, it is evident that there were not only many variations, but that spurious additions (as Daniel) were eliminated. This critical activity, which commenced with Ezra, whose copy of the Pentateuch was, according to tradition, placed in the Temple, that the people might correct their copies by it, must have continued for many centuries. 34 There is abundant evidence of frequent divergences - though perhaps minute - and although later Rabbinism laid down the most painfully minute directions about the mode of writing and copying the rolls of the Law, there is such discrepancy, even where least it might be expected, 35 as to show that the purification of the text was by no means settled. Considering the want of exegetical knowledge and historical conscientiousness, and keeping in view how often the Rabbis, for Haggadic purposes, alter letters, and thus change the meaning of words, we may well doubt the satisfactory character of their critical labours. Lastly, as certain omissions were made, and as the Canon underwent (as will be shown) repeated revision, it may have been certain portions were added as well as left out, and words changed as well as restored.

For, ancient tradition ascribes a peculiar activity to certain 'Colleges' - as they are termed - in regard to the Canon. In general, the well-known Baraita (Baba B. 14 b, 15 a) bears, that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the book (Prophecies?) of Balaam, and Job; Joshua the work that bears his name, and the last eight verses of Deuteronomy; 36 Samuel the corresponding books, Judges and Ruth; David with the 'ten Elders,' Adam, Melchisedek, Abraham, Moses, Heman, Jeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah, the Psalter; Jeremiah wrote his prophecies, Lamentations, and Kings; King Hezekiah and his Sanhedrin compiled, or edited, the Prophecies of Isaiah, Proverbs, the Song, and Ecclesiastes; and the men of the 'Great Synagogue' the Prophecies of Ezekiel, of the twelve Minor Prophets, and the books of Daniel and Esther; Ezra wrote his own book and Chronicles, the work being completed by Nehemiah, the son of Chakaliah. The last verse of Joshua were written by Eleazar and Phinehas; the last chapters of Samuel by Gad and Nathan. 37

Loose and uncritical as these statements may appear, they so far help our investigations as to show that, according to tradition, certain portions of Scripture were compiled or edited by one or another Rabbinic 'College,' and that there were several 'Colleges' which successively busied themselves with the codification and revision of the Canon.

By these 'Colleges,' we are not to understand gatherings of certain members, who discussed and decided a question at one or more of their meetings. They rather indicate the learned activity of the authorities during a certain period, which are respectively designed by the generic names of 'the Sanhedrin of Hezekiah,' 'The men of the Synagogue,' the 'Legal Court of the Maccabees,' and finally, 'Chananayah and his College,' We have thus somewhat firmer historical ground. If in Prov. xxv. 1, we read of the activity about the Canon of 'the Men of Hezekiah,' and bear in mind the Scriptural account of the religious revival of that reign (for ex. 2Chron. xxix. 25-30; 2Chron. xxx. 1), we scarcely required the frequent and elaborate glorification of tradition to lead us to infer that, if the collection of the Book of Proverbs was due to their activity, they must have equally collated the other portions of Scripture then existing, and fixed the Canon as their time. Again, if we are to credit the statement that they equally collected and edited the Prophecies of Isaiah, we are obliged to infer that the continuance of that College was not limited to the life of Hezekiah, since the latter died before Isaiah (Tos. Baba Bathra; Yeb. 49 b).

What has just been indicated is fully confirmated by what we know of the activity of Ezra (Ezra vii. 6,10), and of his successors in the great Synagogue. If we are to attach credit to the notice in 2Macc. ii. 13, 38 it points to such literary activity as tradition indicates. That the revision and determination of the Canon must have been among the main occupations of Ezra and his successors of 'the Great Synagogue' - whatever precise meaning may be attached to that institution - seems scarcely to require proof. The same remark applies to another period of religious reformation, that of the so-called Asmonæan College. Even if we had not the evidence of their exclusion of such works as those of Ben Sirach and others, there could be no rational doubt that in their time the Canon, as presently existing, was firmly fixed, and that no work of comparatively late date could have found admission into it. The period of their activity is sufficiently known, and too near what may be called the historical times of Rabbinism, for any attempt in that direction, without leaving traces of it. Lastly, we come to the indications of a critical revision of the text by 'Chananyah and his College,' 39 shortly before the time of our Lord. Thus we have, in all, a record of four critical revisions of the Canon up to time of Christ.

The Sepher Yetsirah is properly a monologue on the part of Abraham, in which, by the contemplation of all that is around him, he ultimately arrives at the conviction of the Unity of God.

'We distinguish the substance and the form of creation; that which is, and the mode in which it is. We have already indicated that the original of all that exists is Divine. 1st, We have God; 2nd, God manifest, or the Divine entering into form; 3rd, That Divine in its form, from which in turn all original realities are afterwards derived. In the Sepher Yetsirah, these Divine realities (the substance) are represented by the ten numerals, and their form by the twenty-two letters which constitute the Hebrew alphabet - language being viewed as the medium of connection between the spiritual and the material; as the form in which the spiritual appears. At the same time, number and language indicate also the arrangement and the mode of creation, and, in general, its boundaries. "By thirty-two wonderful paths," so begins the Sepher Yetsirah, "the Eternal, the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, the Living God, the King of the World, the merciful and gracious God, the glorious One, He that inhabiteth eternity, Whose Name is high and holy, has created the world." But these ten numerals are in reality the ten Sephiroth, or Divine emanations, arranged in triads, each triad consisting of two opposites (flowing or emanating from a superior triad until the Divine Unity is reached), and being reconciled in a middle point of connection. These ten Sephiroth, in the above arrangement, recur everywhere, and the sacred number ten is that of perfection. Each of these Sephiroth flows from its predecessor, and in this manner the Divine gradually evolves. This emanation of the ten Sephiroth then constitutes the substance of word; we may add, it constitutes everything else. In God, in the world, in man, everywhere we meet these ten Sephiroth, at the head of which is God manifest, or the Memra (Logos, the Word). If the ten Sephiroth give the Substance, the twenty-two letters are the form of creation and of revelation. "By giving them form and shape,. and by interchanging them, God has made the soul of everything that has been made, or shall be made." "Upon those letters, also, has the Holy One, Whose Name be praised, founded His holy and glorious Name." These letters are next subdivided, and their application in all the departments of nature is shown. In the unit creation, the triad; world, time and man are found. Above all these is the Lord. Such is a very brief outline of the rational exposition of the Creation, attempted by the Sepher Yetsirah.' 41

We subjoin a translation of the book Yetsirah, only adding that much, not only as regards the meaning of the expressions but even their translation, is in controversy. Hence, not unfrequently, our rendering must be regarded rather as our interpretation of the mysterious original.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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