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JesiTs oplsl aza^th,







babbi of the congregation anshe emeth, albany, n. y.


NOV 1876

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1876,

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.




" In a matter so solemn as that of religion, all men
whose temporal interests are not involved in existing
institutions earnestly desire to find the truth." * If
this be so, as it surely ought to be, I need no apology
for sending out the following pages to do their share in
assisting men to find the truth.

Ours is prominently a practical age ; the discoveries
and inventions of every branch of science, no sooner
made, are appHed to the practical aims of daily life ;
every new idea is popularized and made the property of
the millions. Only theology seems to make an excep-
tion. She, once the presiding mistress in the halls of
science, is now scarcely recognized as entitled to admis-
sion. Yet, the discoveries of theology during the last de-
cades are not less startling and suprising than those made
in any other department of science. That they are less
known is due partly to the theological bias of society,
partly to the lack of popularization — or, rather, to both,
for the one can only be eradicated by the other.

It is especially the origin of Christianity over which
a fiood of light has been poured by the exertions of
modern scientific theology, and of which a more inti-
mate knowledge must be desirable to every thinking

* Draper, History of the Conflict between Religion and SdeTice, p. vi.


To give a brief survey of these discoveries, and at tli6
same time to introduce the uninitiated into the very
laboratory where they are distilled — of course, after re-
moving every indication of the sweat and toil they have
caused — is the aim of these pages.

1. The origin of Christianity is contained in the Mes-
sianic idea of Israel ; the one cannot be understood with-
out a full appreciation of the other. We have, therefore,
to trace the development of this idea from its incipient
stages down to the time of Jesus.

2. Of Jesus and his time the New Testament alone
gives us any records, which we must necessarily submit
to a careful examination before forming any judgment
of what they contain.

3. Having done this, we shall be enabled to sum up
what a thorough and conscientious sifting has left as the
truth, and finally conclude with the foundation of Chris-
tianity by Paul.

With this brief delineation of the course we intend to
pursue, we mean to give timely warning to all those to
whom it may be offensive. Not to offend, but humbly
to contribute to the general enlightenment in so great and
solemn a matter as religion, is our desire.

We have yet to state that, in citing the Scriptures, we
were often compelled, for the sake of truth, to deviate
from the authorized version of King James' Bible, and
give our own translation from the original Hebrew and
Greek. To assist the ordinary reader, however, we fol-
low the division of chapters and verses of the common

Albany^ October, 1875.



The peculiarity of Israel, so often noticed, but never
fully explained, consists mostly in its Messianic idea.
It is a people that cannot perish, because it is a people
that lives for and by an ideal ; an ideal, which, suf-
ficiently grand and inspiring in its very beginning, did
not shrink or fade with the intellectual advance and
development of the people, but always evinced the capa-
bility of widening and expanding in grandeur with the
widened and more advanced views of the people. The
faith in the final realization of this ideal has endowed
this people with that vitality and elasticity by which it
defies and outlasts the ages.

What is the Messianic idea of Israel ? Before we
answer this question, we have to premise that, originally
and fundamentally, it was not coupled with the idea of
personality. The Messianic idea of Israel is but the
outgrowth of the entirely optimistic bend of mind of the
old Hebrews, which forced upon them the conviction
that every thing God has made is " very good." Real-
ity, the actual state of the world and society, con-
tradicted, but could not shake, this conviction. The


defective state of the world and society was too obvious
not to be admitted, but only led to the proud thought
that it was their (Israel's) destiny to lead the nations to
a more perfect condition. This is distinctly announced
at the very beginning of their history (Genesis xii. 3) :
" in thee all the generations of the earth shall be blest."
All the laws, statutes and institutions of Moses are repre-
sented as given for the same purpose (Deut. iv. 6):
" that they be your wisdom and your understanding in
the eyes of the nations, who shall hear of all these stat-
utes and say. Truly, it is a wise and understanding nation,
this great people."

The Messianic idea, therefore, consists in this:
that the jpeople of Israel^ by proj^agating their laios
and institutions among the nations, will become the
savior of this world. But the course of events did
not justify this conception. The nations remained
as they were, and, instead of being influenced, often
influenced Israel by their idolatrous laws and insti-
tutions. To sustain the old liopes, it became neces-
sary to call in the supernatural for their realization. It
became the popular belief that this imperfect world would
be destroyed and a new and perfect one be created. Be-
fore this was to take place, a day of judgment was
expected, on which all those who did not accept the
laws and institutions of Israel were to be judged.

The first account of this conception we find in the
prophet Joel, who prophesied at the beginning of the
reign of King Usia .of Judah (about 800 B.C.) Pales-
tine had been visited by unheard-of calamities : there
was an earthquake which made the inhabitants reel on
their feet, and the hills and mountains waver ; thunder
and lightning, together with the roaring and howling of


the sea, caused a deafening and maddening uproar ; the
rising vapors darkened the snn and moon and stars ; it
seemed as if their light had been withdrawn. This
violent outburst passed ; but those who survived were to
learn that the quietl}' destructive elements were still
more to be dreaded. In consequence of the earthquake,
the rain on which Palestine's fruitfulness depended
failed, all the wells, and brooks, and rivulets were
dried up, the people and their flocks languished, and
even the wild beasts perished on the fields. The
scorching sun sent down its fiery rays, and turned the
fields, and meadows, and gardens into a ^vilderness.
As if this were not enough, the hosts of locusts which
generally haunt the Hauran, the northeast of Palestine,
swarmed over like so many invincible armies, and
greedily devoured every green leaf that was left. All
liope was gone. But suddenly one of those tropical
thunder-storms came, the terrible army of locusts was de-
stroyed — washed away, or driven into the sea — and at
the same time the land was refreshed, the wells were filled,
the fields and gardens and meadows clad in fresh ver-
dure, and men and beasts rejoiced over this sudden and
unexpected deliverance.

If this world were to be destroyed — if " the last
days " were to c me — after this experience the popu-
lar expectation could take shape and form. And,
indeed, the prophet Joel, who during these calami-
ties had upheld the courage of the inhabitants in Judea,
saw in all this but the faint promise of what would come
to pass at " the end of days," which end of days was
always considered near at hand. He describes it (Joel
iv. 1 ff".), " For behold, in those days and at that time, I
shall bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem.


And I will gather all nations and bring them down to
the valley of Josaphat, and will plead with them there.''
(Iv. 9), "Proclaim ye this among the nations, prepare
the war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of
war draw near and go up." (Iv. 14), "Multitudes, mul-
titudes in the valley of decision, for near is the day of
the Lord in the valley of decision. Sun and moon shall
be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shin-
ing. For the Lord roars out of Zion, and from Jerusa-
lem he sends fortli his voice, and the heavens and the
earth shall shake, but the Lord is refuge to his people
and shelter to the children of Israel." And then (iii.
1 ff.), " I will pour out my spirit over all flesh, and
your sons and daughters shall prophesy ; your old men
shall dream dreams, and your young men shall have
visions. And also upon the servants and the hand-
maids in those days will I pour out my spirit." This
oldest description of the approach of " the end of days "
became typical, and was only modified with the modi-
fication of the Messianic idea. In general it was ex-
pected that days of great and unprecedented trouble and
misery would come, followed by the day of judgment,
when all nations would be summoned to the valley of Josa-
phat {i.e., " the Lord judges") ; fierce battles would then
take place, but the Lord's people would be victorious, and,
thenceforth, the Lord would reign on Mount Zion, and
his spirit rest upon every child of man.

The Messianic idea was first modified by Israel's polit-
ical difiiculties. The northern ten tribes had seceded
from the southern tribes, and, consequently, from the
national sanctuary in Jerusalem. This secession, together
with the ambition to form political alliances, opened the
gates to the abominations of the surrounding nations. The


consequence was that the inhabitants of tlie northern
kingdom, the kingdom of Israel, soon became estranged
from the faith of their fathers. This state of things had
reached the climax under the magnificent reign of Jero-
boam II. (830-769 B.C.), when religious decay and moral
rottenness progressed so rapidly that all hopes were pre-
cluded. Joel's contemporaries, the prophets Amos and
Hosea, who lived and prophesied in the kingdom of
Israel, turned their eyes to the " fallen tabernacle of
David," as their only hope. The breach which had rent
the nation into two separate and often hostile parts, and
which had become so fatal, not only to their political,
but also to their religious, development, seemed irrepar-
able ; but it would be healed. When ? Of course, in
those days that were to come. Then the nation would
again be reunited under the house of David. The Lord
would raise up a second David, who, like the first, would
unite all Israel under the banner of the Lord of Hosts;
and, as this was to happen at "the end of days," he was
expected to rule over all nations. The Messianic idea
thus underwent the first great and important modification.
Thenceforth it was assumed that, though the Lord was
and would be the sole sovereign, he would transfer the
ruling power of the mundane world to his anointed
King (^.6., Messiah). Here the personal Messiah came in,
who was to be a descendant of David, the king who
united all the tribes of Israel and ruled so gloriously
that he lived in the memory of the people as " the man
after the Lord's own heart." Now, only by the restor-
ation of this house to the government of the whole
nation, by '^ the sprouting of a branch out of Jesse's
house," salvation was to be expected.

Amos prophesies (ix. 11 ff.): " In that day will I raise up


the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the
breaches thereof ; and I will raise up his ruins and I will
build it as in the days of old. . . . And I will bring
again the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall
build the waste cities and inhabit them, and they sliall
plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof, they shall
also make gardens and eat the fruit thereof. And I
will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more
be pulled up out of their land which I have given them,
saith the Lord."

And Hosea cannot often enough exhort Israel : (vi. 1),
" Come, let us return " ; (xiv 1.), "Return, O Israel, to the
Eternal, thy God, for thou stumblest over thy iniquity " ;
(iii. 5), " At last the children of Israel will retm-n and
seek the Eternal, their God, and David, their king, at the
end of days" ; (i. 10, 11), " And it shall come to pass,
instead of being called ^ not my people,' they shall be
called ' children of the living God ' ; then shall the
children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered
together and appoint themselves one head, and they shall
come up out of the land, for great shall be the day of

This modification of the Messianic idea, introduced by
the northern prophets, was readily adopted by those
prophesying in the kingdom of Judah, without, however,
influencing their broader and more cosmopolitical con-
ception. The grand old prophecy, as cited by Isaiah
(ii. 2 ff.) and Micah (iv. 1 ff.), which some critics ascribe to
Joel, always remained the basis on which the later
prophets builded ; viz.: "It shall come to pass at the end
of days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be
established on the top of the mountains, and shall be
exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.


And many nations shall go and say, Come ye and let us
go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the
God of Jacob ; and he will teach us of his ways and we
will walk in his paths ; for out of Zion shall go forth
the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke
among many people, and they shall beat their swords
into plouglishares and their spears into pruning hooks ;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither
shall they learn war any more." It was a proud but
ennobling and elevating thought that out of Zion —
i.e., out of the midst of Israel — the law was to go forth
which was to make the earth an habitation of peace and
good-will under the divine rule ; and, since the Messianic
king out of the house of David was to be the visible head
of the government, he became the king of peace and
justice and love, the ideal of meekness and humility.

This somewhat-changed hope we find already dis-
tinctly stated by Zechariah I." (ix. 1 ff.) : " The word
of the Lord : in the land of Hadrach and Damask will be
iiis [the Lord's] resting-place, for to the Lord is turned
the eye of all men, as that of all the tribes of Israel.
Also in Hamath, which borders on it, and in Tyre and
Zidon, which is veiy wise." Having announced the

* The book of Zechariah, as is well known, is not the work of
one author ; there are three little books compiled into one, proba-
bly because the prophets of all tliese speeches had the name of
Zechariah, Chaps, i.-ix. are prophecies of Zechariah III., a prophet
who returned with the Babylonian exiles and prophesied between
520-518 B.C. Chaps, ix.-xii. contain two speeches of Zechariah L,
who lived and pro^jhesied between 748-727 B.C. Chaps, xii.-xiv.
form the separate little book of Zechariah II. , who lived and proph-
esied immediately before the destruction of Jerusalem, between
590-588 B.C.


Lord's rebuke to the wicked of these nations, the prophet
continues (ix. T ff.) : " Their bloody deeds I take away
out of their mouth, and their abominations from between
their teeth, and it will also remain to our Lord, and it
will be like a tribe of Judah, and Ekron like Jebusi [i.e.,
Jerusalem], . . . Kejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion !
shout, O daughter of Jerusalem ! behold, thy king com-
eth unto thee ; he is just and victorious, lowly, and riding
upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass. For I
will cut oif the chariot from Eplu'aim, and the horse from
Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he
shall speak peace to the nations, and his dominion shall
be from sea to sea, and from the river [Euphrates] to the
ends of the earth."

Isaiah I.,* the most influential of all the prophets, went
still further ; he, for the first time, connected these hopes
with a distinct personality ; viz. ; King Hezekiah (724-
696 B.C.). Time and circumstances seemed to justify his
hopes. Under Hezekiah's father, the weak Ahaz (739-
725 B.C.), the surrounding nations, led by Rezin, king of
Damask, and Pekah, king of Israel, had conspired, not
only to make war against Judah, but to dethrone the
house of David and put in its place a certain Ben-Tol)al
(Isaiah vii. 1-7). Ahaz was in despair, the population
trembled, only the prophet Isaiah was confident of the

* The book of Isaiah is likewise composed of the products of va-
rious authors, which, however, can be divided in two parts, chaps.
i.-xl. and xh-lxvi. The first part, chaps, i.-xxxv. , contains mostly
the speeches of Isaiah I., who prophesied between 755-709 B.C.,
though some parts of these speeches must be of later date ; to this
are added the historical chapters xxxv.-xl. The second part, chaps,
xl.-lxvi., belongs mostly to an unknown prophet, probably like-
wise of the name of Isaiah, who lived among the Babylonian ex-
iles shortly before their return to Palestine ; he is called Isaiah IL


assistance of tlio Lord. In liis speech to the wavering
and nnbelieving king, lie gives him as a sign (Isaiah
vii. 14 ff.) : " Behohl, this young woman" [pointing to a
yonng woman in tlie crowd; the erroneous translationof
tlie Hebrew Ahnah witli virgin is too well known as
such to need correction] ''shall conceive and bear a son,
whose name she shall call Emanuel" [God with us], "for
1)6 shall witness tlie misery breaking upon the people and
also tlie salvation of the Lord." The salvation came ;
Aliaz was delivered from his enemies ; but, instead of
strengthening himself by the national faith, he thought
it more political to introduce the Assyrian idolatry ; the
gods of his master were also to be his gods, and Judah
became as idolatrous as Ephraim. The faithful would
have been driven to despondency if it had not been for
the hopes they placed in the coming king, the young,
hopeful, and promising prince Llezekiah, who probably
was under Isaiah's tuition. He was to be the Messiah,
and of him Isaiah sings (ix. 2 if.) : " The people that
walked in darkness have seen a great light ; they that
dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has
light risen. . . . For unto us a child is born, unto us
a son is given, and the government is on his shoulder, and
his name is called Wonder, Counsellor, Mighty One of
the Lord, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. To
increase the government and never-ending peace upon
the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to establish
it and found it on judgment and justice for evermore.
Tlie zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this." It
seemed as if the prophet's hopes were literally to be ful-
filled, for soon the great catastrophe, so long foretold by
the former prophets, took place. The kingdom of Israel
was destroyed (720 B.C.) — "the land had spewed out the


people on account of their wickedness." The faithful
that were left of Israel now joined Judah ; in Judah and
Jerusalem the Jehovistic party came into ascendancy,
and, to a certain extent, Ephraim and Judah were
indeed reunited under one just and rigliteous king of
the liouse of David. But, alas ! it was not even the
shadow of all those bright liopes entertained hj tlio
people and their prophets. Hezekiah w^as a good, pious
and virtuous king, l)ut not equal to the many adverse
circumstances that surrounded him ; he w^as not what
Isaiah had hoped and expected.

Tlie prophet's and tlie people's hopes, liowever, re-
mained unshaken ; they were only pushed forward to a
more distant future. To this the prophet gives utter-
ance in one of liis latest prophecies (xi. 1 if.) : " A rod
shall come forth out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch
shall grow out of his roots. And the spirit of the
Lord shall rest upon liim, the spirit of wisdom and un-
derstanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit
of knowh dge and of the fear of the Lord, . . . and
he sliall not judge after the sight of liis eyes, neither re-
prove after the hearing of his ears. But w^ith righteous-
ness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity the
meek of the earth ; and he shall smite the earth with the
rod of his mouth, and w^ith the breath of liis lips shall
he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the
girdle of his loins, and faithfulness tlie girdle of
his reins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and
the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and
the young lion and the fatling together, and a little
child shall lead them. They shall not hurt nor destroy
on all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of
the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."


The same hopes inspired Isaiah's younger contempo-
rary, Micah, who shows himself a worthy pupil of the
master he imitates. As Isaiah, so does he refer to the
old prophecy of the general kingdom of peace (Micah
iv. 1 ff.); he even enlai-ges upon it by adding " and then
every man shall sit under his vine and under his fig-tree,
and none shall disturb, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts
hath spoken it. For let all the nations walk every one
in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name
of the Eternal, our God, forever and ever" [that is to
say, though on different roads, all nations will at last
meet at the same goal]. "In that day I will gather
those that halt, and bring in those who were east
off, and those I have afflicted, and the Eternal shall
reign over them on Mount Zion from then to evermore."
As Isaiah prophesies of the child that is yet to be
born, Micah likewise speaks (v. 3) : " how they are
delivered up until she that travaileth shall have brought
forth." As Isaiah looks for the branch that is to rise
out of the stem of Jesse, whose original domicile was
Bethlehem in Judah, Micah likewise exclaims (v. 2) :
" And thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be
little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee
shall he come forth that is to be ruler in Israel,
whose going forth hath been from old, from everlast-
ing. " We need not say that these prophecies of Isaiah
and Micah which speak of King Hezekiah greatly influ-
enced the views of later generations about the Mes-
siah. It became part and parcel of the Messianic
belief that the Messiah was not only to be a branch
out of the root of Jesse, but was also to be born in
Bethlehem ; hence the legends in the New Testament
of the descent and birth of Jesus. Nor is it necessary


to mention that the Almah of Isaiah was afterward
employed to justify the later Christian doctrine of a
Yirgin-mother of God.

How tenaciously the Messianic idea clung to Israel is
best seen in their greatest calamity. Jeremiah (627-
570 B.C.), the gloomiest of the prophets, who had seen
the misery of his people, which he was doomed to an-
nounce for many years to an infatuated and unbe-
lieving crowd — even he had confidence in a glorious
restoration. He describes it (xxxiii. 14 if.) : " Behold, the
days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good
thing which I have promised unto the house of Judah.
In those days, and at that time^ I will cause the branch
of righteousness to grow up unto David, and he shall
execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In
those days shall Judah be saved and Jerusalem shall
dwell safely ; and this is the name wherewith he shall be
called, ' the Lord our righteousness.' For thus saith the
Lord, David shall never want a man to sit upon the
throne of the house of Israel." Notwithstanding the
derision of the people (xxxiii. 20-1), he remains hopeful:
" Thus speaks the Lord, if ye can break my covenant of
the day, and my covenant of the night, that there should
not be day and night in their season, then may also
my covenant be broken with David, my servant, that he
should not have a son to reign upon his throne." But
the woe and misery of the Captivity which was then

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