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A review of Dr. J.P. Smith's Scripture testimony to the Messiah online

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observe one which is really inconsistent with merely figurative personality.
If the WORD is called God, so, more than once, is the creative power : all
such expressions as the shadow, image, express image of the seal of God, are
peculiarly appropriate to the view we have given of Philo's doctrine : the
word angel is often used by this writer to signify only a manifestation
or medium of action, and affords no proof whatever of real personal exist-
ence : other personal titles are merely figurative, illustrating the action or
office of the personified JV^ord in particular instances, and forming parts of
particular allegories.

Upon the whole, the philosophy which appears in the writings of Philo
may have been common among his more learned countrymen, especially at
Alexandria ; it may possibly have had some influence on the language of
the New Testament, and we do not doubt its having been the original source
of those corruptions of Christianity which now assume the name of ortho-
doxy ; but that in the hands of the Jewish philosopher, or even of the earlier
Christian fathers, it meant any thing resembling the modern doctrine, we
must altogether deny, and we think we have justified this denial by abundant

Dr. S.'s remaining section is on the Rabbinical writings :

*' That the Jews," he says, " in the middle ages, and their successors of
the present day, have looked for only a human Messiah, it would be super-
fluous to prove But it is not impossible that in the writings of this

unhappy people, some remains may be discoverable of their better and earlier

It may be readily granted, that if we are determined to believe that their
earlier faitb was different from their present, and was more to our taste, we
may in the examination of writings so mystical and obscure as theirs, find
something like support for almost any doctrine which pleases us ; but the
consideration that the modern Jews, who respect these writings and have
much better means for understanding them than we have, find notliing in
them inconsistent with their own opinions, ought surely to have some little
weight with us. Dr. S. proceeds to give an account of the hook Zohar or
book of light, said to have been compiled from the sayings of Rabbi Simeon,
the son of Jochai, a celebrated Jew, supposed to have been born before the
destruction of Jerusalem. " Being unable," he tells us, " to read this book
with sufficient intelligence, I have recourse to the more easy method of ex-
tracting passages from the ample collections of Schoettgenius." Our own
acquaintance with the Zohar being derived from the same source as Dr. S.'s,
we shall not say a word on the controversy respecting its real age, or tiie
extent to which it has been interpolated, but we are prepared to maintain,
on his own evidence, that Schoettgenius was mistaken in attributing to the


author of this book, and to other Jewish writers, a belief in the Divine Na-
ture of the Messiah, or in any of the mysteries of modern Christian ortho-
doxy. We take as a fair specimen of the whole the evidence of the appli-
cation of the names Jehovah^ Shechinahf and Holy and blessed God, to the
Messiah. 1. Jehovah. " This essential name of God is apphed to the Mes-
siah, Jerem. xxiii. 6, (Jehovah our righteousness,) upon which place see
what is said in the 2nd book."*

** Zohar Deuter, fol. 119, col. 473, * In another place the learned in our
traditions have taught that THE temple and the name of ^^e Messiah
maij be called by the name of the Tetragrammaton (i. e. Jehovah).' " —
(Schoettgenius, Horse Hebr. et Talm., Vol. II. p. 4.) It is strange that the
application of a name equally to the temple and the name of the Messiah,
should be thought to prove any thing respecting the Messiah's nature.
" Zohar, in Exod. fol. 21, col. 33. The words of Exod. xiii. 21, ' ^nd
Jehovah will go before them,'' are explained of the matron and the angel
of the covenant, which I shall shew to be names of the Messiah.' " — (Schoettg.
loc. cit.) We need not now inquire into the meaning of the mystical term
matron in the Zohar. The object of the comment is the remark that it was
not Jehovah himself, who could not be more in one place than another, but
some symbol of his presence, or perhaps, in the estimation of the metaphy-
sical commentator, some emanation from him which really accompanied the
people. The next argument is a very strange one. " Midrasch Tehillim
ad Ps. cvii. fol. 40, 1, in reference to the words of Isaiah xxxv. 10, ' Jnd
the redeemed of Jehovah shall return,^ He does not say, the redeemed of
Ellas, nor the redeemed of the Messiah : but the redeeined of Jehovah, It
is evident here that the redeemed of the Messiah and the redeemed of Jeho-
vah are considered as synonymous." — (Schoettg. loc. cit.) Doubtless the
same persons would be intended by the redeemed, whether of Elias, the
Messiah, or Jehovah, either of the former being able to redeem only by the
aid and authority of Jehovah ; but the identity of the Messiah and Jehovah
no more follows than that of Elias and Jehovah. Lastly, *' Midrasch
TehilHm, fol. bl, 1, Rabbi Huna said, the Messiah is called by eight names,
which arc, Jinnon, Jehovah, our righteousness, &c. ; because the words
IJplJf mrr (Jehovah our righteousness) are here counted as two names.

* Oil tiiniiii^ to the passage referred to we find several extracts from Jewish
books. Echa rabbatlii, fol. 5y, 2 : " What is the name of the king INiessiah ? Rabbi
Abbas, the son of Cahana, said, Jehovah is his name." It is diflicult to judge of thi.s
without seeing what precedes and follows it, but it probably refers to this very pas-
sage of Jeremiah, understood as explained in the following extracts : Rabbi Joseph
Albo in Sepher Ikkarim : " The Scripture calls the name of the Messiah, Jehovah
our righteousness, because he is the mediator of God, through whom we obtain justi-
fication from God." Kimchi : " The Israelites shall call tlieir Messiah by the name
Jehovah our righteousness, because in his times the righteousness of God towards us
will be firm and well established." Midrasch Tehillim ad Psa. xxi. 1 : *' God calls
tlie king Messiah by his own name. But what is his name } The answer is found
Exod. XV. 3, Jehovah is a man of tvar. But it is said concerning the king Messiah,
and this is his name" (referring to Jer. xxiii. 5). The meaning of this evidently is,
that God himself could not properly be called a warrior; but the expected Messiah,
expected by the Jews as a warlike deliverer, is said by Jeremiah to be called Jehovah
our righteousness ; he may, therefore, be mii^wii^iWiy JcJiovah the toarrior, it being
understood, of course, in both places, not that the Messiah ?/;(w Jeiiovah, but that
Jehovah acted by him. Tlie argument for the application of the passage rests eu-
tiiely on the Messiah not tjeing Jehovah^ but honoured with his name as his repre-


whereas in reality they are but one, perhaps the modern Jews have expunged
one which might be ascertained by a collation of copies." — (Schoettg. loc.
cit.) If this remark be correct, the whole force of the passage is destroyed,
since the object is to prove that the Messiah is called Jehovah, not by the
symbolical name " Jehovah our righteousness," which would not convey
the least hint of identity with Jehovah. And whether the passage has been
altered or not, it is evident from what has been already said, that the appli-
cation of the name could not be intended to express participation in nature.
This is the whole Rabbinical evidence adduced by Schoettgenius to prove
that the Jews expected their Messiah to be Jehovah : it is perfectly worth-

The word Shechinah was used by the Jews to express any manifestation
of the Divine presence or energy. It is not a name of God, but of the
symbols of his presence on earth, and might without impropriety be applied
to men enabled by him to act in an extraordinary manner, as well as to a
bright cloud or a burning bush. It will be enough for us to notice one pas-
sage from the Zohar, upon which Schoettgenius chiefly relies. " Zohar,
Gen. fol. 88, col. 343 : " This son is the faithful shepherd. Concerning
thee it is said, Ps. ii. 12, * kiss the son,' and ver. 7, ' thou art my son.'
But he is the Prince of Israel, the Lord of things below, the chief of minis-
tering angels, the Son of the Most High, the Son of the holy and blessed
God, and the gracious Shechinah.'' — (Schoettg. Horse Heb. et Talm. Vol.
II. p. 6.) The last expression means the gracious manifestation of God's
favours to his people. It is not a personal appellation, and is therefore no
proof of the Messiah's participation in divine names. With respect to the
third title, " Zohar, Genes, fol. 63, col. 249," is quoted thus : " And the
King Messiah, who is called by the name of the holy and blessed God.'*
(Sclioettg. Horse Heb. et Talm. Vol. II. p. 8.) It may be enough in illus-
tration of the sense in which this is said, to quote from Bava-bathra, fol. 75,
2, words elsewhere alleged by Schoettgenius : " There are three things
which receive the name of the holy and blessed God himself, namely, the
Just, the Messiah, and Jerusalem." — (Apud Schoettg. Vol. II. p. 205.)
After reading this, will any man in his senses suppose that Jewish writers
understood being called by the name of the Most High to imply any partici-
pation in his nature .^

We conclude that there has been no proof afforded either from the Zohar
or from other Rabbinical works, that the Jews at any period expected their
Messiah to be a partaker in the Divine Nature. We think we have shewn
that Dr. S. has totally failed in his endeavours to deduce, either from the Old
Testament or from Jewish writings of a later date, any evidence favourable
to his doctrine ; and that he cannot carry forward to the examination of the
Christian Scriptures themselves, even the slightest reasonable presumption in
behalf of the views which he so ingeniously and learnedly labours to es-

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Dr. S.'s third book, which occupies the whole of his second volume, is
employed in considering the " Information to be obtained concerning the
Person of THE Christ from the Narratives of the Evangelical History, and
from our Lord's own Assertions and Intimations." It is not possible for us
to enter as minutely into the examination of the remaining as we have done
of the preceding parts, nor do we think that it is at all required. We shall
produce sufficient specimens relating to important points, and bringing into
view, in some instances at least, the claims of Mr. Belsham, as well as the
general merits of the controversy.

Among Dr. S.'s introductory observations we find the following :

" That Jesus Christ was and is really and properly a man, is maintained by
the orthodox as strenuously as by the Unitarians. To bring evidence in
proof of this point is, on either side, unnecessary ; unless it were conceded
that proper humanity implies necessarily a mere humanity; or in other
words, that it is impossible for the Deity to assume the human nature into an
indissoluble union with himself. Such a union, let it be carefully remem-
bered, is not a transmutation of either nature into the other ; nor a destruc-
tion of the essential properties of either ; nor a confusion of the one with
the other. The question of such a union is a question of fact : and its pro-
per, its only evidence, is Divine Revelation.'*

The question of such a union is a question of fact : by Unitarians it is
always so treated. They cannot be blind to the strangeness and antecedent
improbability of the doctrine, but their difficulties will be overcome by the
clear and direct evidence of Divine Revelation. What they allege is, that
no such evidence has been or can be produced, that in fact the contrary
doctrine is as plainly taught in Scripture as any thing can be taught which
had never been denied, and can therefore only be incidentally recognized as
true. When they quote passages in which our Lord is spoken of as a
man, they produce them not merely as testimonies to real and proper hu-
manity, but as instances in which, from the nature of the case, it is impos-
sihle to conceive of one who believed him to have also had a divine nature,
having withheld the expression of that belief, and therefore as proofs that
no such belief was entertained by those to whom alone we can look for in-
formation. The argument is not merely that Jesus is called a man, but
that, whilst God-man and all equivalent expressions are unknown to Scrip-
lure, he is called a man in immediate reference to his most extraordinary
powers and most exalted offices, without a hint being added in those
places of any superior nature united with the human ; and this we contend


is absolutely inconsistent with the reputedly orthodox doctrine. We may
distinguish as nicely as we please what is or is not implied in the union of
natures, but it is evident that either all that is ascribed to Jesus belongs to
his whole person including both natures, which is altogether inconsistent
with his declared ignorance respecting the day of judgment, his inability to
do any thing of himself, the merely human affections at times attributed to
him, and, in short, with almost every page of his history ; or else we need
some sufficient test for distinguishing what belongs to each nature, and
must in every instance apply it so as to determine whether one or the
other or both together be in that place intended — a position which involves
the Scriptures in inextricable confusion, and would almost reduce to non-
sense some of its most interesting and instructive pages. To offer separate
proofs of the divine and human natures of our Lord, even if it were possible,
would not be sufficient. Such passages standing by themselves could only
be considered as either unintelligible or contradictory. We are bound to
require direct and positive evidence of the union of the two natures, and we
reasonably expect this to be accompanied by abundant indirect indications
of the influence of that doctrine on the minds of those who have recorded
our Lord's actions and discourses. Nothing, certainly, of this kind has
been produced, and without it there is no other species of evidence, even if
much better in quality than it actually is, which can be sufficient to esta-
blish the orthodox doctrine.

We must now direct the reader's attention to the 4th section of our au-
thor's 3rd chapter. It is intended to shew that " the person of Christ,
equally with that of the Father, surpasses human knowledge." The argu-
ment is drawn from Matt. xi. 27, thus translated by Dr. S. : " All things
have been committed to me by my Father ; and no one knoweth perfectly
the Son except the Father ; neither doth any one know perfectly the Fa-
ther, except the Son, and he to whom the Son may be pleased to unveil
[this knowledge] ;" and John x. 15, " As the Father knows me, even so
I know the Father."

From the passage in the Gospel of Luke parallel to that here quoted from
Matthew, (" No man knoweth ivJio the Son is except the Father, and who
the Father is except the Son,") Dr. S. concludes that the knowledge
spoken of " refers primarily to the nature ?Lndi person of the Father and the
Son," which, he says, " nullifies the Calm Inquirer's interpretation of the
words." He considers the passages quoted as " including statements of
truth, '^ of which we shall endeavour to give the substance.

** 1. That the communication to mankind of the doctrines which refer to
their highest interest in knowledge, holiness, and happiness, is, i)y a consti-
tution of Divine Wisdom, made the province of the Messiah, as the Mediator
between God and man." " 2. That this knowledge of the Father and know-
ledge of Christ are expressed in the way of a perfect reciprocity. The de-
scription and properties of the one are the description and properties of the
other; without limitation on the one side, or extension on the other.'* " 3.
That in relation both to the Father and the Son this knowledge is not attain-
able by the ordinary means of human investigation; it is fundamental to a
saving and practical knowledge of true religion ; it has its seat in the affec-
tions as well as in the intellect ; and it is here affirmed to be a special com-
munication of Divine influence." *' 4. That this knowledge, as existing in
the state of communication from Christ to any of mankind to whom the Son
may be pleased to reveal it, though the same in kind, cannot he imagined to
he the same in degree or extent ; unless it be assumed that the capacity an<l
attainment of the instructed must, as a matter of course, be equal to those of


the Instructor." " 5, Had the member of the sentence which introduces
tlie Son as the object of kno\vledii;e been wantinsc," the remainino^ part of
the passage would have been supposed to refer " to the peculiar olories of
the Divine Being*, or that which distinctively constitutes him God." It
would have been understood " that the Infinite Majesty and Perfection of
the Adorable Supreme, as distinguished from the imaginary deities of the
Heathen world, were revealed and demonstrated by the Christian religion
alone. Restore, then, the clause which has been withdrawn ; and will not
fairness of interpretation require us to accept it as equally attributing to the
Son the same Infinite Majesty and Perfection ?"

On a very slight foundation a considerable superstructure is here raised.
We admire the ingenuity of the artist, but it is our business to try the sta-
bility of the work. In the first place, let us refer to the nullified comment
of Mr. Belsham on Matt. xi. 27, and Luke x. 22.

" It is plain that he to whom the Son reveals the Father, knows the Fa-
ther. But what can a man thus learn of God ? Nothing, surely, but his re-
vealed will. In the same sense, precisely, the Son knows the Father, i. e.
he knows his will, his thoughts, and purposes of mercy to mankind. And
the Father alone knows the Son, knows the nature, the object, and the ex-
tent of his mission. See John i. 18, x. 14, 15.''

Mr. Belsham here manifestly uses will rather to express the design of
God's providence, that which he intends to accomplish, than what he re-
quires from his creatures, or at least be includes what Dr. S. calls the de-
cretive as well as ihe preceptive part of the Divine will. To the objection
that this is not all which a man can learn of God by revelation, we might
reply, that the knowledge of the excellencies and perfections of God's na-
ture being only interesting and useful to us in connexion with his com-
mands and his designs respecting us, and being only in this way necessary
to piety and happiness, it is not to be accounted distinct from the will of
God in the general sense in which the Calm Inquirer used that term, and
was in fact included by him, revealed will being opposed to metaphysical
nature and essence; but it is sufficient to shew that Mr. Belsham's interpre-
tation of the Evangelist's meaning is approved by the most judicious com-
mentators, and is not in the least affected by our author's objections to it.
We quote first from Rosenmiiller's Scholia :

*' Uavra [aoi itapsdoOrj vith ts Trarpb? jwoy (All things are delivered unto me
of my Father) — All things which are to be done or taught for the salvation
of men, my Father hath made known unto me. I have no doubt that -Trapa-
tiitovobi in this place means to teach, to reveal, [in which sense the Heb. friD
very frequently occurs in the Rabbinical writings,] on account of the fol-
lowing words, for Christ says that the revelation of all mysteries relating to
human salvation is entrusted to him : hvliiq rhv vlhv, ii p/j o Trar^p
(and no man knoweth the Son but the Father) — No one hath yet understood
the nature of the office committed to the Messiah hut the Father. Tlh(; (the
Son) is here put concisely for that which was committed by the Father to
the Son to be done or taught : and enxiyivuxTv.ztv here denotes accurate know-
ledge. 'OfSe rhv n:ari§a ti? liriyivcca-Aei ii fx'ri o vlhq (neither knoweth any
man the Father save the Son) — Nor does any man except the Son fidly un-
derstand the decrees and counsels of the Father, relating to the salvation of
the human race. Respecting the sense of rov Ticcrkpa, (the Father) the same
thing is to be remarked which we have before observed of the Son. Even
the prophets had but a very imperfect view of the things which they pre-
dicted on these subjects : Koi a lav ^ovXrirai o vlhq diroyiaXtxpai (and he to
whomsoever the Son will reveal him). This is to be referred equally to what


is known of the Father and of the Son. For it was left to the wisdom of the
bon both to what persons, and to what extent, and at what time, he would
communicate this knowledge."— J. G. Rosenmuller, Schol. in Nov. Test. ed.
3d, Vol. II. p. 169.

We shall next give the principal points in Kuinoers annotation :

*' Ml} Father hath delivered all things to me. The discourse is here con-
cernintr divine instruction and the explanation of the divine counsels, as the
whole connexion shews— the sense of the words is, ' those things which I
teach I owe entirely to my Father : he hath delivered to me his own instruc-
tion in all its parts.' And no one hath so accurately/ knoicn the Son, what
sort of a person I am, and what is the nature of the office entrusted to me,
except the Father ; nor hath any one so accurately knotvn the Father y what
is the deo-ree of intercourse between me and my Father, what are the plans
of my Father concerning- the salvation of men to be effected through me,
except the Son, and he on ichom the Son shall choose to bestow this hmdedge,
which last words must be referred to each of the preceding clauses. No
one, Jesus declares, can know these things unless taught by me. Whence
he establishes that he is the true teacher, from whom every one is able, and
ought, to receive salutary instruction."— Kuinoel, Comm. in Nov. Test. Vol.
I. pp. 355, 356.

And in like manner Wetstein :

" Although those Jewish doctors despise my humble condition, you think
more justly : you believe that I am the only partaker in the secret things of
God, and have been sent by him that I might shew the way of salvation ;
that those who depart from me depart from the light, and cannot truly un-
derstand God the Father, though they boast that they know him."*

But Dr. S. thinks that the words of the parallel passage in Luke, who the
Son is, who the Father is, prove that the text must be understood of know-
ledge of the nature and person of the Father and the Son. Cannot then
the words, who the Son is, be at least as readily understood — what are his
character, office, and the nature of his mission, as what are his nature and
person ? Does not the context direct us to that interpretation > And is
not the other evidently suggested, not by the words and connexion, but by
the opinion received as true, that there is some mystery respecting the per-
son of Christ ? A judicious and learned commentator, whom we have
quoted above, thus explains the words of Luke : " Who the Son is, for
what purpose and with what power he is sent. JVIio the Father is, how
good, how just, how wise he is, what are his plans in giving salvation to
men, or at least depriving them of excuse, if they should reject it." — J. G.
Rosenmiiller, Scholia in Nov. Test. Vol. II. p. 102.

In the passage quoted from John x. 15, the word know is most probably
to be understood in the sense of love, regard with distinguishing affection,
a sense derived from the Hebrew, (see Bloomfield, Recens. Synopt. and
Kuinoel in loc.,) and the 15th verse must be taken in connexion with the
14th, thus: " I am the good shepherd : and I know my sheep, and am
known of mine, as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father : and I
lay down my life for the sheep."

* We add Grotius's note : " A^o one knoweth the Son but the Father — the Fatlier
only who hath ordained it from eternity, knoweth what the Sou is to do and
suffer, and what glory is reserved for him. Nor doth any one know the Father saoe
the Son — the Son only partakes in the counsels of the Fatlier as to the manner in
which lie will arrange the calling of tlie Jews first, and then of the Gentiles."



It appears, then, that Mr. Belsham^s note gives an excellent sense, such
as the connexion would seera to require, is confirmed by a fair considera-
tion of the parallel passage, and is in accordance with the sentiments of the
most judicious and generally approved commentators, whilst it is our author

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Online LibraryBritish and Foreign Unitarian AssociationA review of Dr. J.P. Smith's Scripture testimony to the Messiah → online text (page 10 of 15)