Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

. (page 52 of 77)
Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 52 of 77)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

plays of dispositions of which this parable is a corrective. Because
1 cannot satisfy myself of any better place for the insertion of
the parable, I give it here.

It was intended to teach humility in prayer, as the parable of
the Unjust Judge was to teach persistence.' The parable is this: —

"Two men went up into the Temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the

other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee, standing, prayed these [words] : ' God, I

thank Thee that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners,

Parable of the Than- . ' .

•ee and the Publican, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax-gatherer. I fast twice
in the week. I give tithes of all that I get.' — And the
tax-gatherer, standing afar off, would not even lift up eyes to heaven, but
smote on his breast, saying, 'Be merciful to me, the sinful one.' I tell you
this man went down to his house justified beyond that one : for every one
who exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he who humbleth himself shull
be exalted."

Luke says that this parable was levelled against those who
trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised
others. It is a graphic lesson. The Pharisee went into the Tem-
ple, lie stood to pray. That was no evidence of pride. The


Jews generally stood when they prayed, and the exceptions were
when they became excitedly devout, so that to kneel would have
been rather a display of ostentation. The tax-gatherer also stood.
In several Greek editions occur words which in the common
English version are translated " with himself," which some have
connected with the standing as indicative of the " Separatists," " he
stood by himself." St. Bernard alludes to this apparently proud
isolation in prayer. But the words do not occur in the oldest
texts, and are doubtless an interpolation. There was no intention
to ridicule the man nor to exaggerate Pharisaism, but to contrast
it with the simplicity of faith, and teach what Jesus from the
beginning until this the closing period of his ministry constantly
insisted upon, the superiority of simple faithfulness to one's con-
victions over all devotion to mere forms of worship, — so that men
might feel how much better it is to be the Penitent than the

This self-complacent worshipper addressed God in terms of thank-
fulness which soon show themselves to be the thin veil covering

his pride. lie separated himself from all nian-

i • i it i ii .1.1 i i.i The Pharisee's

kind. Jle was one class, all other people another;

7 A x ' prayer.

and lie was better than all others, whom he pro-
ceeds to classify as extortioners, unjust, and unclean, — and then as
his eye fell upon the tax-gatherer, whose business he regarded as the
"sum of all villanies," he added — "or even as this tax-gatherer?"
And having purged himself of all charges that might be brought
against his moral character, he proceeds to glorify lnmself to * rod
in vaunting his discharge of religious duties, and even the per-
formance of works of supererogation. "I fast twice in the week.''
Moses had appointed only an annual fast, the great day of atone-
ment (Levit. xvi. 20-81 ; Numb. xxix. 7). But this man superadded
two private weekly fasts. "I give tithes of my whole income."
The law tithed only the products of the earth and the offspring
of the cattle (Numb, xviii. 21; Dent. xiv. 22; Levit. \xvii. 30)
Bui he was del ermined to exceed even the requirements of the
law, so he tithed all thai came to him in his business. Me dwells

fondly on these things, showing that he was doing them not for

tin' glory of (bid, but for his own pleasure. lie had no sins to

confess. Lie had no worship to offer God. He had contompl lor
his fellow-men, even for his fellow-worshippers.

But the tax gatherer Btood afar off. lie had as mueh right tc


the Temple as the Pharisee, for he was neither heathen ncir prose

lyte. His reverence for God's holiness and holy places was such

that it was enough for him to stand even in the

e pu ican s p rec j nc t a of the holy Temple. Perhaps he saw
prayer. r ,.. ,,

the Pharisee standing m a reserved but conspicu-
ous place, and almost envied his fellow-worshipper the holiness
which made him worthy of such a position, and felt that he him-
self was not fit to breathe the same air with that man of God. All
sights about him and all thoughts of himself conspired to humili-
ate him. He would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven,
lie called himself " the sinner," by a word which means hardened
in sin. Jesus did not depreciate the Pharisee. lie gave him his
full dues. But God is represented to have sent such a comfort
into the breast of the publican, that, being forgiven, he left the
Temple a happier man than the Pharisee, whose only comfort was
in his self-complacency.

It is supposed that now Jesus left Galilee, crossing the Jordan

into Perea. His plan seems to have been to join himself to the

great caravans of pilgrims thronging the Jordan

Final departure valley in their progress to the Holy City from all

' , the towns about the Sea of Galilee. If we may

thew xix.; Mark _ J

x rely upon Josephus, the multitudes that attended

this feast were enormous. He tells that at one
Passover, by actual count, 250,500 paschal lambs were slain. The
smallest number of worshippers which the law allowed to each
lamb was ten, which would make the number of participants in
this feast to have been at least 2,565,000. It seems incredible ;
but if allowance be made for exaggeration, still the number must
have been immense ; and the roads that led to Jerusalem must
have been thronged for several days before the feast and after.

It was on this tour that the subject of divorce was brought to
the attention of Jesus. He found the Pharisees everywhere his
Di orce enemies, and everywhere ready to entrap him.

This makes this interview deeply interesting,
since the case of Herod Antipas, who had put away his wife and
taken a married woman to his bed during the life of her husband,
made it politically dangerous for any teacher to discuss the law
of marriage in the days and under the government of Herod. If
Jesus should utter stringent sentiments and lay down strict rules
of morality on the subject of marriage and divorce, he should


probably meet a fate similar to that of John Baptist; but if his
utterances should indicate laxity of sentiment he should lose the
confidence of the more moral and pious class of the commu-

In the reply of Jesus the attention of the reader is called to
the fact that he does not answer as a judge or a legislator. lie
will not take up personal cases for decision. He will not lay
down a canon for ecclesiastical discipline. He speaks as a moral
teacher, and only as such.

The importance of the utterances on this occasion, and the
moral power of Jesus over mankind, is seen in the fact that we
have a bare statement of his views spoken authori-
tatively as a moral teacher should speak, who has f j
the right to speak, and yet those few words have
exerted a greater power over the whole course of human history
and destiny, over literature, over political and social and domestic
progress, than all the words of any other one man since the world
began/ Is not that a sober historical statement? Let any man
reflect upon monogamy, the sacredness of marriage, the purity
of the domestic circle, and this lifting of the family to a position
which it never held in Greek or Latin or Hebrew civilization,
from which it has had such power over the destinies of the State
and the progress of religion, — and then let there be allowed to
Jesus only such influence as he is plainly entitled to have acknowl-
edged, — and who has, by so few words, sent his influence so widely
and so deeply down into the heart of man, and down into the

Certain Pharisees of the school of Tiillel came to Jesus with
the question, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for
every cause ? "

Let us look at what the Mosaic law of divorce really was. It
is recorded in Deuteronomy xxiv. 1-4.

"Winn ;i man bath taken a wife, ami married her, ami it come to pass thai

Bhe (mil m> favor in liis eyes, because lie lias found some uncleanncss in Iter,

then let bim write ber a 1 # i 1 1 of divorcement, ami give it in

her hand, ami send her out of his house. And when The Umb1 ° tow "'

Bhe is departed out of Iris bouse, she may go and be another

man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a hill of di

vorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house; or if the

latter hu>l»and die, which took her to be his wife ; her former huslmnd. which
•lent her away, may not take her again to he his wife, after that she ifl defiled/


It is to be noticed that provision is made for the husband to
put away the wife, but not for the wife to put away the husband.
She had no relief, unless her husband committed adultery with
another married woman, and then elsewhere the law of Mosea
provided that he should be put to death. Again, there is great
uncertainty as to the meaning of the phrase "some nnclcanncss."
This Avas a notorious subject of controversy between the schools
of Sliammai and Hillel in the days of Jesus. The former, it is
generally thought, taught that it meant an act of lewdness on the
part of the wife ; but this could hardly be, as that was punishable
with death. Winer,* however, asserts that the Gemara represents
the view of Shammai as less strict: "Even public violations of
decorum might furnish ground for divorce according to his doc-
trine." Josephus represents the views of Hillel. lie says {Antiq.,
iv. 8, 23), " He who wishes to be separated from his wife for any
reason whatever — and many such are occurring among men —
must affirm in writing his intention of no longer cohabiting with
her." Knobel, in his Commentary on Deuteronomy, says, "Ervath
dabar [in the common version translated 'some uncleanness'] is
used of human excrement in Dent. xxui. 13, and is properly a
shame or disgrace (Is. xx. 4) from anything ; that is, anything
which awakens the feeling of shame and repulsion, inspires aver-
sion and disgust, and nauseates in contact — for instance, a bad
breath, a running sore," etc. lie adds, "In the time of Christ
[Jesus] the expression was in controversy. The school of Sham-
mai took it as being the same with Dabar ervath [a thing of un-
cleanness or disgust], and understood it of unchaste demeanor and
shameless lewd behavior. The school of Hillel, which the Rab-
bins follow, explained it as something disgusting, or any other
caiise." This was, of course, giving the largest license.f

To the question from the Pharisees, whether a man might put
away his wife for any cause whatever that seemed to him sufficient,
Jesus makes the following reply: "Have you not read that he

* Quoted in President Woolsey's very
valuable Essay on Divorce.

f In the Tract. Gittin, fol. 90, it is ex-
pressly said, "Even if she had only over-
Baited his soup; " nay, with shameless
license, " even if he should find a fairer
one, in whom he has more pleasure." The
repeated rule in the Talmud runs : Hillel

loosens what Shammai binds. Josephus
shows the laxity of the times by coolly
telling us that his first wife left him ;
and that he put away the second, al-
though the mother of three children
by him, that he might take the third
— Stier.


who made them from the beginning made them male and female,
and said, ' On this account shall a man leave father and mother, and
shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall bo m

The original law.
one neshr bo that they are no more two, but one

flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put


The Pharisees retorted with this question : "Why therefore did
Moses command to give a bill of divorcement and to put hei
away ? "

Jesus replied, " Moses, because of your hard-heartcdness, suf-
fered you to put away your wives : but from the beginning it was
not so. But I say to you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, ex-
cept for fornication, and shall marry another, eommitteth adultery."

It is noticed that frequently after a public discourse, Jesus was
questioned by his disciples as to his meaning. For obvious pru-
dential reasons they refrained from asking, in the presence of the
captious enemies of their Master, questions the answers to which
would relieve their perplexities. On this occasion when they
were in private, the disciples reviewing his reply to the Pharisees
said to him : " If thus it is the defect of the man with the wife, it
does not profit to marry! " He said, "All receive not this saying,
but those to whom it has been given. There are eunuchs that are
bora so from the womb of their mother, and there are eunuchs
who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who made
themselves for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens. lie who
is able to receive it, let Mm receive it."

Now if: we recall what Jesus said on this subject in the Ser-
mon on the Mount, we shall have before us all his teaching on
this important subject. " I say unto you, That whosoever shall put
away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causeth her to
commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry the divorced coin-
mittfith adultery."

The first thing to notice is that Jesus criticises the Mosaic law
as not being perfect, as not absolute, as not perpetual. It was an
i xpedient. It was the strictest schoolmaster the

, iii mi . • t> i Jesus criticises

|)Ci)T)Ie could endure. there are certain fixed .,
1 l ... . tin 1 Mosaic law.

principles, certain high ideals in Monotheism, to

which Moses did not reach. But he did the best that could D3

done for them with that people. Jesus ascends above Moses, lie

goes up to the origin of the race. He announces whal God did


and what God intended. The Fatlier of all made man to be
wedded. The oldest history of creation says: " God created man
in his own image, in the image of God created He him, male
and female created He them." (Gen. i. 27.) It is observable
that it does not say that God created them a man and a woman,
but " masculine and feminine," after the image of the God, who
is at once both masculine and feminine. It requires the union of
the masculine and feminine to make oneness in humanity as it
does in divinity. God would be only a half-God, therefore no
God, if He were either masculine only or feminine only. There
is no completeness in any man or woman. The two are required
to make one. The tie between husband and wife is closer than
that between parent and child. In the beginning there was a
single pair. The devotion of the one to the other, the absolute
necessity of each to the other for personal relief and comfort,
and for the propagation of the race, and the indissolubleness of
the union thus contracted, was demonstrated by their very posi-
tion in the universe. They could never part. Whichever did any-
thing that made any separation between them committed a wrong.
That represents the normal condition of the estate of wedlock.

When men and women multiplied, and there arose a multipli-
cation of possibilities of violating the original law, the most that
Moses seemed to do was to put in form certain ar-
rangements for regulating, as far as possible, the
irregularities which had sprung up in society.
Hard-hearted men would put their wives away. Moses interposed
in behalf of the woman. Jesus goes back to first principles, and
thence deduces the law of divorce. 1. The married pair are one
in flesh and heart and life ; and neither should do anything which
shall weaken or soil this blessed union. 2. No man shall divorce
his wife unless he know her to have first violated the law of
chastity, otherwise he wrongs her and drives her to do wrong.
3. If to that unlawful putting away he superadd the marrying of
another woman, he commits adultery with that second woman.*

The true law of

* The statement in Mark, who is as
remarkable for his attention to details
as he is for his lack of attention to
chronological order, is : " Whosoever
shall put away his wife, and marry an-
other, committeth adultery against
her." The original Greek is t~' avri(V t

and this, I believe, refers to the second
wife ; and the classical use of this pre-
position with the accusative, I think,
justifies my interpretation. Of course,
at the same tune, he is an adulterei
quoad his former wife.


4. The woman who is separated from her husband for her own
fault is an adulteress afresh, if she marry again. A form of mar-
riage cannot annul the wrong of the transaction. 5. If the hus-
band be innocent and the wife guilty, a divorce may ensue, the
husband may marry, but the wife may not. A second marriage
would be but a continuance of her sin. These five particulars
seem to reside in the original law of marriage, as stated by

Dr. Wbolsey {Essay on. Divorce, p. 59) sums up this teaching
very clearly in the following sentence : " The general principle,
serving as the groundwork of all these declarations, is, that le^al
divorce does not, in the view of God, and according to the correct
rule of morals, authorize either husband or wife thus separated to
marry again, with the single exception that when the divorce oc-
curs on account of a sexual crime, the innocent party may, without
guilt, contract a second marriage."

Wliether these views of Jesus were fundamentally right, we are
not now to discuss. This is what he taught. This teaching has
through ages controlled the opinions of the best minds, and thor-
oughly changed domestic life from what we know it to have been
in Greece, and Rome, and Palestine, in the times of Jesus, to what
we know it is in the best parts of America and Europe to-day. It
is noticeable that wherever these views have prevailed there has
been a better state of society in every other particular, and that
departure from these principles has marked social decay, all legis-
lation not conformed to these principles having the effect of rap-
idly damaging the moral tone of society. No society i- so good
as that in which a divorced man, unless he be parted from his
wife tor reasons not implying immorality on his part, is held as
an acknowledged adulterer; and in which a divorced woman,
unless she be parted from her husband by reason of his inconti-
nence, is treated a- an unfortunate woman.

What Jesus said to his disciples on the objection which they
started and the inference which they made that marriage was un-
profitable, it must he admitted is a passage of

ditl'hMiltv. Marriage is the normal condition of je . J on

° tin: diaoiplee.

man. That we know. It is always honorable.

No celibacy is equal to chastity in marriage. lint there may be
celibates. Jesus Bpeaks of three kinds, those who are such hy
nature, hy compulsion, and hy choice. 1. Some have congenital


disqualifications ; they arc bora with physical defects which make
it impracticable for them to marry. 2. There are those who have
been mutilated by men ; and this was a large class in the days of
Jesus. In our day the servants who guard the harems in the East
are eunuchs, and the Roman Church, it is said, makes eunuchs
for the benefit of sacred art, those who sing the Miserere at the
Sistine Chapel at Rome retaining the peculiar characteristics of
their voices at the expense of their manhood. In the class of
forced celibates also may be reckoned those whom "society," the
artificial rules of conventional life, exclude from such a union as
nature demands and God sanctions. 3. Those who decline mar-
riage for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens, a phrase by
which Jesus always seems to set forth his work in the world, be-
cause he believed that his work was founded on the principles
which maintain the harmonies of the universe, and that his work
promulgated and expanded those principles. For the sake of
promoting this great work, if he can remain chaste, in some ex-
ceptional circumstances, a man may remain in celibacy. Other-
wise marriage is better. Xo man dare be a celibate for his own
ease and convenience. The rule is that it is better to marry. It
must be a mournful exception which justifies a man to abstain.
Such an exception occurred, perhaps, in the case of Paul. Such
a celibate was Jesus.

But, of course, in this case Jesus spoke figuratively. History
o-ives us a horrible instance of these words having been taken lit-
erally. Origen, in the mistaken excess of his ardent youthful
zeal for the cause of Jesus, so mutilated himself that he was dis-
qualified for marriage. This act was properly condemned by the
ancient church, and for it he was excommunicated from the
church of Alexandria.*

The liberal rule of Jesus comes out at the close of the inter-
view. You are not to adopt celibacy as a rule. You are not to
teach it as a doctrine. You are not to enforce it on others.
" Let him receive it who is able to receive it." But let him bo
sure he is able. You cannot be sure in respect of another, there-
fore you must not lay so grievous and unnatural a burden on

* On the whole subject of marriage i compare Schaff s History of the Apoa"
and celibacy in the New Testament, | folic Church, § 112, pp. 448-454.



It was about this time that the blessing of little children must
have taken place. As the Passover approached the people knew
that the time of his departure for Jerusalem was j ,, ' i:*.
drawing near. It reveals to us much of the ehar- tie children.
acter and behavior of Jesus during this trying Matt, xix., xx. ;
and depressing period of his life, to learn that Mark x - > Luke
the mothers of the country were so impressed
with his sanctity and benignity that they brought their young chil-
dren, even their babes, to him, that he might merely put his hands
upon them and pray over them. But the disciples were becoming
rigorists. It is painful to sec how rapidly men — who at first take
advanced ground, become pioneers in moral progress, and make
themselves the differentia of their age — do begin to lapse into
blindest conservatism so soon as they consolidate their organiza-
tion ; do begin to have certain ideas of dignity; do suppose that
they are improving their state and position by as great a remove
as possible from naturalness. In this case the disciples probably
felt a fresh accession of dignity, as their Master was manifestly
about to make a public display of himself, ami their hopes of a
Messianic inauguration probably began to be augmented.

The disciples offered to forbid these mothers as obtrusive. It
was below the dignity of their Master. They had nothing to say
when the Pharisees were holding him to the discussion of such
profound and important questions as the divorce law. They Pelt
that thai was employmenl worthy his noble character and mission;
but that he should be asked to waste his time on babes Beemed to
them past endurance. So they rebuked these revering mothers.

But desus, in turn, rebuked the disciples. He had other views
and another temper. He was much displeased at the conduct >>i
his friend-. It was cutting him off from that portion of the com-
niunity least offensive to his simple and pure nature. It ah


upon their part sw;h stubborn adherence to their prejudices ir.
favor of a sensuous, civil, political Messiahship, such wrong viewa
of the kingdom of the heavens, as though its insignia should be
the trappings of worldly pomp, that Jesus was much displeased,
and said to them, "Suffer the little children to come to me, and
forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of the heavens. I
most assuredly say to you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom
of God as a little child, he shall not enter into it." And, having
taken them in his arms, he blessed them, placing his hands upon

The whole picture is simple, natural, beautiful, and sublime.
The discourse on marriage crimes stands as a dark background

to this brilliant tableau of a great Teacher lifting
A beautiful scene. . r . i , . . , . P

up infants into ins arms, coming near the foun-
tains of humanity, airing his soul in the free atmosphere of unso-
phisticated childhood. It was an occasion seized to make a lesson

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 52 of 77)