Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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grow out of a literal interpretation, which natu- judgment; and whoso

11 i i • • ' a Vi. shall say to his brother,

rally came to be erroneous and injurious. A lit- Raka ^ shaU be liab] ;
eralist, an advocate, or pettifogger, takes up a to the sanhedrim ; and

, ,, -.-,7-, , , whoso shall say, Moreh,

passage m a statute and says, "What do these shnll be liable to the
words mean ? " Of course he soon comes to con- gehenna of fire, if,

., i , , i a j'-'i therefore, thou bring

sider what they may mean. A great jurist, thy ^ to the altari
especially if he have judicial responsibility, takes and thoro rememberest
u]i the same passage and says, "What did the leg-
islature mean when it enacted this statute and
framed this special passage \ " The former needs
only to have the very words before him. The
hitter must know the character and general in-

that thy brother has
something against thee,
leave there thy gift be-
fore the altar, and first
go, become reconciled
to thy brother, and
then coming offer thy
gift. Agree with thy

tcntions of the legislature, the occasion of the pas- a,lversar y quickly,

° ' x whilst thou art with

sage of the statute, the objections urged by the Mm on the road, lest
minority and how answered by the majority, the ^^versary deliver

J •> •> •> ' thee to the judge, and

whole animus of the law-makers as touching this the judge to the sheriff,
special matter. This is just what Jesus did. And nnd UwB _ be . 1 c f in '°-

* J prison, verily I say to

it is important now, for a fair understanding of tnc i i « r .. i -i thou canst not make

knowledge or deliberate conclusions ot the mind, „ m .h :i .;,. u i,it,o, iM.k.
saying so simply, so intelligently, and so firmly, li,lt lrt > ,,lir """' he
"Yes," or "No," lhat it will satisfy the hearer no:" for what is mow
quite as much as any oath could. than those i* from ova,

lie could not have intended to forbid the use of civil oaths, as
he himself paid respect to them, at least in one instance (see


Matthew xxvi. G3), as we shall find ; but the tenor of his teaching
certainly is adverse to the multiplication of civil oaths and the
frequency of their employment. A man of truth may be trusted
when he makes a deliberate assertion : a liar, not even when he
takes a solemn oath. Precision and firmness and simplicity,
first in thought and then in language, are commended by these
teachings of Jesus.

Of Revenge.

The fifth example of the Pharisaic misteaching is in regard to

the Law of Retaliation. Again we are to remind ourselves that

in interpreting the teachings of Jesus we are to

Ye have heard that it i • f

has been said, Eye for guard ourselves against that very vice of the
eye ana tooth /or tooth; p} iar i sces which he was endeavoring to correct,

but I say unto you, Not

to resist the evil man ; namely, a slavishly literal interpretation which
but whosoever shaii totally destroys the spirit and the meaning of the

smite thee on the right " •> ■*■ °

cheek, turn to him also words, whether of the law or of the great Teacher.
theother;andtohim The law certainly is a tooth for a tooth and

desiring to sue thee J J

and to take thine inner ail €]je foT 0,71 C]/e, aS We filld ill ExodllS Xxi.

garment, let go to him n< • T •.».• • or. i ■ "l^v

even thine outer robe; 2 f> m Leviticus xxiv. 20, and in Deuteronomy
and whosoever shaii xix. 21. And Jesns specifically asserts that he

compel thee to go one ... , , , T ,

mdc, go with him two. c ' l d not come to destroy that law. It stands.
To him that asketh of Whatever he teaches must be expository of the

thee, give: and from ..... », . „,-,..

himwishingto borrow law or an exhibition or the animus of the divine
of thee, turn thou not l aW oM Ver in this statute. The essential principle


of the law pervades the universe, so far as we can
discern, and appears under multiform phases. With what meas-
ure a man metes, it is meted to him again. The instruments of
sin are made instruments of retribution. In the administration
of government under Moses, the law is quite distinctly stated,
and was obviously meant to be acted upon, whatever men may
say of the cruelty of the procedure or of the difficulty of apply-
ing it in practice. It was the law. In the hands of those admin-
istering justice it was one thing : in the hands of private vengeance
it was another. This latter was the gloss of Pharisaism. Their
sin lay in quoting words, which the people believed to be of di-
vine origin, in order to defend vindictiveness of spirit. To what
terrible social results such teaching would lead among a con-
quered people, chafing under their political subjugation, we can
readily see. The law was intended to prevent private vengeance.


II was a merciful law. It advised the offender, in advance, of
what lie might expect : it would thus deter him. It kept the
offended party from taking vengeance into his own hands, by
assuring him that up to the exact line of retaliation the punish-
ment of the offender would be carried.

Against the wicked gloss of the Pharisees Jesus places his
interpretation of the spirit of the law. lie opposes their teaching,
not the law. And he does so adhering to his text, namely, char-
acter is everything.

Now, that he may set forth graphically what he means, he paints
three pictures of wrongs done to one — a personal, a legal, and a
political wrong — and shows the difference between the spirit of
his teaching and that of the Pharisees.

In the first place there is the instance of a personal assault in a
form exceedingly aggravating, a rap upon the right cheek. A
Pharisee standing by says to the person struck, " Hit him on his
right cheek." " No," says Jesus, " do not hit him at all, and rather
than indulge a vindictive spirit, let him strike you upon the other
cheek. Leave correction to the law, and vengeance to Jehovah."
This is what Jesus meant, and, so far as I can see, nothing more
was meant. To take his dramatic language for the terms of a
statute is absurd as criticism, and is utterly impracticable in
ordinary life, .and if attempted to be practised literally would
break up society as effectually as the private vengeance sought
by the Pharisees. It would invite outrage and embolden cow-
ardly villainy. Jesus never did so in practice, and it were unjust
to all the line sense of right which elsewhere appears in his teach-
ings to suppose that he uttered in theory what he abandoned in
practice. In John (xviii. 22, 23) we see just how Jesus behaved
under precisely the circumstances stated here, and that behavior
must be the best comment on this text. When an oflicer struck
him he neither took vengeance nor literally turned about inviting
a repetition of the indignity ; but solemnly expostulated with him
in the presence of the High-Priest.

This teaches us how to interpret the next case. Is a man by
his behavior to solicit the repetition of a legal wrong as well as of
a personal attack? Certainly not ; but rat/ierthan have a wicked^
revsngrful sju/'/'t, if a man sue for your shirt, give him your coat
In the mention of these garments comes out again, as it so fre-
quently does, that characteristic in the style of Jesus which made



him a popular while he was a profound teacher, namely, calling
things by their plain names, and taking all his illustrations from
things so open and familiar. The audience listening to him knew
that, according to the Mosaic law (Exodus xxii. 20), even when
the legal process gave the plaintiff the outer garment, he was com
polled to restore it to the defendant at nightfall. But Jesus sets
himself so strongly against the Pharisaic teaching of private ven-
geance, and against the modern point d'honnew, the code of
honor, the duel, and all kinds of vindictiveness, as to say that a

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 27 of 77)