Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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* It cannot be necessary to go into the
question of demoniacal possession every
time an incident of tins species of ail-

ment appears. The reader is referred
to the ample discussion given thia sub*
ject on p. 172.



Pharisaic conspirators.

work of laying snares for Jesns that they might with impunity
put him out of the way. Affairs had now reached a climax.
lie had raised the son of the widow of Nam ; he
had made a circuit through Galilee, increasing
his train and his fame ; and he had returned to find the people re-
garding him with greater reverence and wonder than before ; and
he had cured the " possessed " man, opening his eyes and ears and
restoring him to mental sanity. He had thus aroused the popu-
lar enthusiasm to a degree that they were ready to crown him king
and accept him as the Messiah. As he would not rank himself
with the ruling class, hut had set his influence directly against
their authority, the hour had come when something must he said.

The unfortunate expression which the other sons of Mary had
used in kindly meaning toward Jesus, namely, "He is heside him-
self," was probably suggested, if not it was seized, They ch ars^ that
by the hierarchic party and employed against him. Jesus has a demon.
" You see that his own mother's sons say that he is deranged. The
truth is that this fellow has Beelzebul,* and casts out devils only
through Beelzebul, the prince of the devils." It is to he noticed
that they do not deny the apparently hopeless condition of the
patient, nor the greatness of the miracle which Jesus had openly
performed in the presence of them all. They did as other men
do when a great good deed has been performed by one whose
goodness they do not desire to admit: they assigned the good deed
to a had motive and a wicked source.

This accusation roused Jesus. He called them nearer to him
and addressed them first in a parable. "Every kingdom divided
against itself is desolated, and every city or house divided against
itself shall not stand. If the Satan cast out the Satan, he is
divided against himself. How then shall his kingdom stand?"
Whatever anarchy there may be in this kingdom of the Satan,
there is this point of unity, that all its energies are directed
toward marring where he cannot destroy the kingdom of God.
He shows how this perverse captiousness is caught in its own net.

* This is the word iu the original, not
Beelzebub. The name of the Philistine
god was Baal-zebul, god of the fly, wnr-
phipped as represented by the Scara-
bivtiH jnUubirius, or dunghill beetle.
Beel zebul, which means dung-god, is a
form given according to a custom the

Jews had of changing a letter so as to
convert a word into another having a
contemptible signification. As it does
not appear earlier in Jewish literature,
may it not have been invented to deride
Jesus ou this special occasion ?



The reply of Jesus.

There is certainly one course of conduct which cannot be said to
be instigated by Satan, and that is such conduct as shows tho
actor's determination to do all he can to overthrow Satan. This
is the brief and conclusive reply.

But Jesus furthermore said, " If I -by Beelzebul cast out de-
mons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they
shall be your judges." lie calls attention to tho
fact that he was not the only healer of these ter-
rible maladies ; that there were those among the sons or disciples
of the Pharisees who had been healers, and whose success had
always been attributed to the aid of the Spirit of God." His
works in this department surpassed those of their sons in the
greater malignity of the cases cured, in the suddenness of the re-
lief afforded, and in the authority with which he spoke the word
of power. The people testified (Matt. ix. 33) on one occasion
that " it was never so seen in Israel." Some milder forms had
yielded to the spiritual influence of some of the healers, but never
in such a manner had they seen such a case so thoroughly cured.
If the one had no collusion with Beelzebul, the other must not be
so charged. If not of the Evil One it must be of God. " But
if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of
God has come upon you." A celestial surprise had come upon
that generation. Without their expectation the kingdom of God
had come in on them. And whether the Pharisees believed it or
not, the long prayed for kingdom had come. And this was the
king of that kingdom.

Jesus represents himself as more powerful than Satan. " How
can one enter the house of the strong and carry off his instruments f
He is more powerful except he first bind the strong ? and then he can
than Satan. plunder his house." In these words. Jesus claims

to have the power to bind the Evil One and wrench the prey from
him. When a man of power, able to defend himself against or-
dinary robbers, is openly deprived of his goods in broad day by

* See in Acts xix. 13 an account of
travelling exorcists, the seven sons of
a high -priest. The argument of Jesus
lias the same force whether the ordinary
Jewish exorcists did really cast out
demons or were only believed to have
doue so. In either case their success
Was always spoken of f avorably, and that

the greater deeds of Jesus should be
attributed to a bad source shows the
malignity of his accusers: and that was
all his argument was intended to estab-

f The word means all the furniture
which constitutes the outfit of a house,
all the vessels and instruments.


one whom lie sees, then no one is so much a fool as to say that the
strong man robbed himself. All say that some one who was able
to bind the strong man had done so, and then spoiled him. Jesua
declared that a stronger than Satan had come. The Messiah was
to be the hero of God. All such prophecies as are represented by
the passages in Isaiah (xlix. 24, and more particularly Til I - 12,
" He shall have the strong ones for a prey ") were attributed to
him. Now Jesus declares himself that Mighty One. Then he
pushes the ecclesiastical clique of inquisitors and persecutors a
little harder. He plants himself against Satan. These two
champions are at war for the empire of the world. One is to con-
quer. All must take sides. There is no neutrality. The tight
is over the surface of the universe. Satan is to be destroyed, or
Jesus. All who are not for Jesus are for Satan. And thus he
swiftly retorts the charge, and shows them to be in league with
Satan by opposing him? There is no passivity possible to a
rational being. "Whoever does not collect* in aid of me,
scatters." He that does not help the work of Jesus breaks down
and scatters the work of God. Opposition to Jesus is allegiance
to Satan.

Jesus then uttered one of the most profound and mysterious
sentences which ever .fell from his lips. Few people have been
able to read it without shuddering. It is so im- Bia^hemy against
portant that I shall present a careful translation, the Ho] y Ghost
hoping to be helped thereby to a better understanding of the
words. The passage in Matthew is, " Because this is the case, I
say to you, Every (kind of, or form of) sin and blasphemy shall
be forgiven to men. But the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be
forgiven. If one speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall
be forgiven him ; but if one speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall
not be forgiven him, in this aire nor in the coining." In Mark it
is: " Assuredly (amen) I say to you, That all sins shall be for-
given to the sons of men, and the blasphemies, whatever they
shall have blasphemed. But whoso shall blaspheme in reference
to the Holy Spirit has not forgiveness for an age (during the aeon),
but is held hound by a perpetual loss. 1 " Mark says that he
littered these words because the Pharisees had said, " He has a fil-
thy spirit." The passage in Luke gives no variati< hi fr< >m these two.

* The word does not mean coming I street, but rather conveys the idea of
together, as a crowd collects upon the I gathering a harvest.



, "We ma}' be helped to the meaning of this utterance by recol-
lecting that it is a warning, and that the Pharisees had not yet
committed this fatal offence ; and also, that whatever this destruc-
tive sin may be, it is a sin of words, of speech rather than of action
or of thought. The perpetrator of this hopeless sin must have
said it ! It is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, not a sin against
the Holy Spirit. It seems to be an open, outspoken vituperation
of the Holy Spirit of God, deliberately uttered by a man when
he knows what he says to be false, and says it for the distinct pur-
pose of committing spiritual suicide. The enemies of Jesus had
not yet done this. They had said that Jesus had an unclean
spirit ; but this they had uttered in the heat of passion. Never-
theless, that speech had come out of bad hearts, and he kindly
warns them to beware lest they come to such a state as to be able
to commit this fatal crime. They were blaspheming the Son of
Man in their anger, and, because the Holy Spirit of God was in
him, as he claimed, they might by persistent wicked intent against
him come to some such state as to be able to do what would be
endlessly destructive to their souls.

The sense in which Jesus uses the word "reon," age, it is im-
portant to know. In the lexicons it has different meanings, as
has the corresponding adjective, "seonial," which

The word " seou." m L .

seems to signify " continuous duration throughout
the period referred to," and that period, the duration indicated
by " reon," must be understood by the context.* One of the most

* Thus the phrase (is rov aiwa, which
I have translated by the two phrases
for an age, or, during the a>on, is precise-
ly the phrase which occurs in 1 Cor.
viii. 13, where Paul says that if meat
make his brother to offend, he will eat
no more meat sis rov aiovva, for an age,
during the reon, but in the common
version, " while the world standeth,"
which seems to me a good translation ;
but a better rendering would be, " as
long as I live," as Paul simply meant to
make a strong assertion in regard to his
total abstinence from meat, not in
eternity but in his lifetime. We find
in Eph. iii. 9, and in Col. i. 20, the
phrase, anb rwv aliivuv^ and in Romans

xvi. 25, xp">""* olwvioit. The common
version renders the first passage " from
the beginning of the world ;" the second,
"from ages;" and the third, '♦since the
world began ; " but the phrase in the
first two instances is the same in the
original, and strictly translated means,
" from the ages," and the third signifies
'' through age-long times." These ci-
tations are made that the reader may
see that the signification of the word is
limiied by its connections. The Hebrew
word which the Septuagint translates
by these Greek words, is one applied to
many things which have passed away,
such as the Jewish priesthood, the time
for which a person whose ears had been



striking characteristics of the teaching of Jesus is the absence of
all metaphysical terms. Thus he has no word for eternity, or
eternal, nor apparently any phrase to convey the idea of never-
beginningness and never-endingness. Whatever he speaks of
is mentioned as if its duration were connected with an aeon, or
the aeons, an age, or the ages. So here, " in this ason, or age,"
may mean the age before the establishment of the Messianic king-
dom, and the " ason, or age to come" may mean the Messianic age ;
or the former may mean the duration of the human race, or any
part of them, on the earth, and the latter the duration of the
human race, or any part of them, elsewhere and hereafter. Or
the whole phrase may be taken hyperbolically, to give the utmost
strength to the expression'; or it may be taken literally. If liter-
ally, whatever may be the interpretation given to the special
phrases, the statement must have meant, to any intelligent and
attentive hearer, that it was possible to commit a sin, from the
direful and spiritually ruinous results of which ^iere could never
be any escape. But if taken literally, and " the age to come " be
understood to mean the state of human existence beyond the
grave, then the words also imply that there are sins and blasphe-
mies that may be forgiven after death ; nay, that every kind may
be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. No less
a person than Augustine* does actually make that inference, and
the Roman Catholic Church teaches it for a dogma.

" Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make
the tree rotten and its fruit rotten : for the tree is known by its
fruits." This was the proposition with which

, _ , Tho tree and its fruits.

Jesus closed the reply to his enemies. It is the
announcement of a well-known fact in nature, that the outer is a
representative of the inner. Good fruits come only from good

bored might be held in slavery, the
doors of the temple, landmarks, waste
places, etc. The Aramaic word which
Jesus used iii his discourses was doubt-
less the best possible representative of
the Hebrew and Greek words employed
in the Hebrew Bible, and in the Greek
translation of the Evangelists, and there-
fore subject to the same interpretations
as those words.

* He says, in a passage of which the
following is a literal translation, "Aa

in the resurrection of the dead there
will be some who, after the punishmeut
which the spirits of the dead suffer, will
receive mercy, so that they will not be
cast into everlasting fire. For it could
not with truth be said of some that
their sins would not be forgiven in this
world, or in that which is to come, un-
less there were others who would be
forgiven in the world to come, though
not in this world." I think the phrase
is not to be taken literally.


trecSj and bad fruits from had trees. lie probably designed this
statement to tell both ways. As if he had said, So far as I am
concerned, take all my life that men can see. Does that look as
though it were the product of a had soul? So far as you are con-
cerned, the fact that you speak such vile things should alarm you
as to your real character.

And then he broke upon them with language of great severity.

" Offspring of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things?

For the mouth utters the overflowings of the

Severe words. °

heart. A good man throws good things out of
the good treasure, and an evil man throws evil things out of the
evil treasury. But I say unto you, That every idle word men speak
they shall render an account thereof in the day of separation.
For from thy words thou shalt be declared right, and from (thy)
words thou shalt be condemned." This is a broad and deep say-
ing for one whose whole teaching seems to dwell upon character
and its proper cultivation. Commentators have generally endeav-
ored to explain it away. But the truth lies open on the plain
surface of the statement, if it be only considered that a man's
words invariably show his real character; not a word here and
there, detached speeches, but the whole body of all his utterances,
all his words spoken through all his life. Speech is the overflow
of the heart. A man's heart is full of that kind of thing which
drops from his tongue and pen. It is utterly impracticable for
any man to misrepresent himself in the whole body of his speech.
It is the forgetful ness of this which allowed one of the most
sagacious of commentators* to say that such a criterion " would
be absurd, and put it in the power of any man to settle his own
destiny by sheer talking or profession." Not at all. Suppose a
bad man, intending thus to settle his destiny, should utter, from
day to day even, words which in themselves are good, but with
the intent to deceive his fellow-men as to his real character.
Those words are then bad. Men might be deceived ; but the
Judge knows his heart, and knowing that he uttered hypocritical
words, from those very words he shall be condemned as a hypo-
crite. Even idle words, words that cany no meaning and go on
no mission, come out of a meaningless and empty soul and con-
demn the man as worthless. Or, if the word be one of wanton
thoughtless calumny the utterer shall not escape condemnation.
* Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander.



Jesus had commenced to act so vigorously on the offensive that
the hierarchic clique felt compelled to make some movement
which should divert the force of his vigorous

° . A sign demanded.

blows. The crowd was increasing and growing
excited. It was known that the wonder-loving multitude looked
for displays of miracles on the part of the Messiah when he
should come. So their leader said, " Teacher, we wish to see a
sign from you." That is, a sign showing yourself the Messiah.
He replied, "A wicked and idolatrous* generation seeks a sign!
!No sign shall be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for
as Jonah was three days and three nights f in the belly of the
great fish,:}: thus shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the
earth three days and three nights."

lie charged them that they had gone into heathenism ; that
they were worshippers of signs and wonders. This

.: , ,. .. , -it . ■. ! i. The sign of Jonah

evil disposition should not be nurtured by anything

he should do. The Messianic signs should come in their seasons,

* The word here used signifies ' ' adul-
terous" when applied as usual, but
when employed to signify things spirit-
ual it means "idolatrous." There would
have been no point in the application of
the former epithet to the Jews. But
they were familiar with the idea of the
Lord God being the husband of His
people, and with the application of the
words " adultery" and " whoredom " to
idolatry, which was represented as com-
ing from an unclean love. This proper
translation of the word has the advan-
tage of affording a key to the connec-
tion of this discourse. Jesus charged
tin in with being idolaters, heathen,
because they worshipped visible tilings,
such as signs. This suggested his two
illustrations drawn from heathen na-
tions, Ninevites and Arabians (or per-
haps Abyssinians).

f That is, by the Jewish reckoning.
In the Tctim. Hieroa. it is written : " Day
and night make together a space of
time, and a part of it is aa Hie w7tole. n
That "space of time" is called in He-
brew ttJiy, which literally means an
evening-morning. The Septuagint trans-

lation gives wx^v^oov as the equivalent.
See Daniel viii. 14, and the same word
used by Paid in 2 Cor. xi. 20 , and trans-
lated in the common version " a night
and a day." From Monday afternoon to
Wednesday morning would be repre-
sented as three of these spaces of time,
thveci>vxdr),ufpa, three evening-mornings,
three nights and days. Olshausen makes
the following fine remark: " The accu-
racy of Scripture never degenerates into
minute and anxious precision. Like
nature, it combines regularity with free-
dom ; and hence it affords scope to lib-
erty, and states and fulfils all prophecies
ill such a manner that they may cither
he believed or contradicted. The Holy
Scriptures would altogether miss their
aim if, by mathematical precision and
strictness, they should compel belief."

\ In the Mediterranean Sea there is
found to this day a shark, the squalus
carc/iarias, called also lamia, sometimes
as long as sixty feet. Lange says that
i relates tin' instance of a sailor
who was swallowed by a shark and yet



but slnuld not be advanced to gratify a mere curiosity. Jonah
was a type of the Messiah. His wonderful adventure 'shall be
paralleled in the history of the Son of Man. What he meant
must have been wholly unintelligible to all his hearers, learned
and illiterate. Not one of his disciples understood it to intimate
a resurrection from the dead. It was a perplexing answer.

The mention of their idolatrous tendency, and of Nineveh, led
him to say that Ninevite men, heathens, who were despised by
The Ninevitea and the supercilious Jews, should rise in judgment
the Queen of the south. ^ or se p ara tion) against the men of the generation
of Jesus, and condemn them ; that whenever any moral discrim-
inations should be made, the men among the heathen who repented
when such a man as Jonah warned them shall be considered bet-
ter than the Jewish churchmen who heard Jesus, a greater than
Jonah, and rejected him. He added another illustration. A
Queen came from the South* to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
She was " from the ends of the earth," from the people who were
most removed from the true religion. Without invitation, against
frightful risks, a woman was so moved with a desire to be in-
structed in religion f that she made the long, painful, and peril-
ous journey from barbaric regions to Jerusalem. Whenever a
discrimination or judgment is made on moral grounds, she shall
be declared better than the people of the Jewish church, who, pro-
fessing to desire to know the truth, reject a teacher who had per-
formed greater deeds and spoken greater words than Solomon
ever did, and whom following generations would pronounce a
man superior to great David's splendid son.

lie closed his address with a description of the condition of

the Jewish nation, contained in a parable founded upon their

notions in regard to demoniacal possession. This

peroration cannot probably be rendered better

than in the paraphrase by Professor Strong : " According to your

* From the southern portion of the
Arabian peninsula, or from the Cushite
kingdom of Seba in Ethiopia. Jose-
phus (Ant, viii. 5, 5) says the latter.
The Ethiopian (or Abyssian) church has
a tradition to the same effect. It is not
at all material to the argument of Jesus.
He was contrasting the conduct of
heathens with that of the churchmen of

his day, to the disparagement of the lat-
ter. •

f It is merely fair to attribute this
motive to her, since the history which
records her visit says, ' ' When the Queen
of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon,
concerning the name of Jehovah, she
came," etc. 1 Kings x. 1.


owr belief, a foul fiend, upon his expulsion from the {assessed,
ranges disconsolate through some barren region, in cmest of relief
from the anguish of guilt that torments him, by a shelter in some
human tenement ; and to save your credit, upon the relapse of a
demoniac whom you profess to have rendered sane, you say of
the exorcised demon in such a case that, being unsuccessful in the
search, he resolves to return to his late victim, and take up his
quarters there. Be that as it may, such a fiend, if at his return
he find that former abode untenanted by any better occupant, but
swept clean and put in order as if for his reception ; he will then
assuredly go forth to the general rendezvous of his comrades, and
associate with him perhaps seven other demons, worse, it may be,
than himself, for the secure possession of such an inviting resi-
dence, and these all repairing thither will enter and permanently
occupy that mansion. In the state of him whose mind is tho
theatre of such an occupancy, ' the latter evil is greater than the
former.' Precisely such will become the condition of the aban-
doned race who now hear me ; the incipient conviction forced
upon them by my previous preaching and miracles, by being re-
sisted, will but increase their guilty obduracy, which not even tho
required miracle would remove."

As he spoke these words a woman in the crowd, an enthusias-
tic admirer of the young Rabbi, broke out into the exclamation,
" Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the
breasts which thou hast sucked ! " lie answered ment
this womanly but commonplace compliment by
correcting her low ideas. " Rather are they blessed who hear
and keep the word of God." As if he had said, " Even Mary's
blessedness does not lie in the historic fact that I became son of
her flesh, but that she was so humble and faithful a keeper of the
word of God as to be selected to be my mother." Biographical
circumstances are so little when compared with real loftiness of
character !

All this while the mother and brothers of Jesus were outside
the door, and could not reach him for the press, but sent word in
to him. They had heard, and perhaps partly bc-

J i i i j Mury and her sons.

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 33 of 77)