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

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serve a purpose.

The passage in ^licah, which is treated of in the xxviith Section, contains
the words, (according to Dr. S.'s translation,) " whose comino;s forth are
from eternity, from the days of the everlasting period," which he calls *' a
clear assertion (respecting the Messiah) of prior and eternal existence.''
The literal version is, " whose descent* is from ancient times,t from the
days of old. "^ The passage is interpreted by Grotius, Dathe, and others, as
applying primarily to Zerubbabel, affirming the ancient glory of his family.
If belonging strictly and solely to the Messiah, it affirms his designation to
his mission in the counsels of God, or perhaps, as it is connected with the
mention of Bethlehem, his derivation from the family of David. What then
becomes of the clear assertion of our Saviour's prior and eternal existence ?

Section xxx. Zech. xii. 8 — 10. " They shall look unto me (Jehovah, as
appears from the connexion) whom they have pierced." The words are
applied to our Lord, John xix. 37, where they are quoted, " They shall look
upon him whom they have pierced." Dr. S. concludes that Christ is Je-
hovah. We hold it to be very evident that the Apostle John only accom-
modates to his purpose the words of Zechariah, as, according to the most
judicious critics, he has done other passages of Scripture in the same narra-
tive of our Lord's death. With Grotius we understand the prophet to use
the word pierced figuratively for " treated with insult and injury ;" but if it
should be thought that the passage in Zechariah is prophetic of the circum-
stances attending the death of Christ, many MSS., by the addition of only a
letter, read " look on him," instead of " on me," which reading is pre-
ferred by Kennicott, Newcome, &c. One distinguished critic (Dr. Blayney,
see his translation of Zechariah) thinks the present Hebrew words may be
translated " look on him," and others render them *' look to me (i. e. for
pardon) with respect to him whom they pierced," So that there can be no
necessity for supposing the prophet to have spoken of Jehovah being lite-
rally pierced, a sentiment which would have excited the indignation and
horror of all his countrymen.

Section xxxi. Zech. xiii. 7. " Sword 1 awake against my shepherd,
against the man of my resemblance, saith Jehovah of hosts." So Dr. S. ;
our Common Version has " the man that is my fellow ;" Archbishop New-
come, " the man that is near unto me;'' Dr. Blayney, " that is next unto
me," observing in a note that it means " next unto me in power and au-
thority, and corresponds with my shepherd in the parallel line ; one that
rules his flock or people under rae by virtue of my commission," and he
quotes Calvin to the same purpose. The Hebrew word is explained in the
lexicons di friend, neighbour, or companion. The radical meaning is parti-

* Vnt^yiD ortus, orighies ejus.

t t31p the root, signifies to precede or go before; as a noun, tvhat is before ; as
1, the east, whence the sun seems to corae ; 2, former times, antiquity to an indefi-
nite extent, but witliout the idea of eternity, except incideutally from the nature of
the subject with which it is connected.

X aVlI? eternity, indefinite duration, past or future, often signifying former
times : thus U2h^V n"lD» " the days of old," Deut. xxxii. 7 ; aViir CD^ " the
people of former times," Ezek, xxvi. 20 ; Cd'?")!? 'nD3 " as the dead of former
times," those who have been long dead, Psalm cxliii. 3, &c.



4\

vipation, having sotnelliing in common. Dr. S., as might be expected,
contends for equaliti/ of rank and ickntiti/ of nature. More modestly and
justly Dr. Boothroyd :

" I adhere to the version, my felUnr, hecause I think there is the same am-
hhjrmftj in the term, as in the original : it may mean * his intimate friend and
associate;' one enirao-ed in that work which his wisdom had planned from
eternity; or it mav signify the man who is at the same time a Divine person,
* mil equal,'' as enjoyinq- the sanie nature " — Boothroyd, as quoted by Smith,
^^ Script. Test, p 477, note, 2nd ed.

The words, in truth, may be accommodated to, but can never prove, the
doctrine of Christ's deiiy, and it is proof which we require.

We have now examined everif text adduced by Dr. S. from the Old Tes-
tament, which, as translated and interpreted by him, contains any thing in-
consistent with the Unitarian doctrine, and we submit our remarks to the
inquiring and candid reader with great confidence as to the result. There
mav be a few pas?ao;es which, supposing the Deity of Christ, and his parti-
cipation in the peculiar and saci ed name Jehovah, to be independently and
incontestably established, might admit of interpretation conformably with
- those doctrines, but there is not one which does not admit of ready and na-
tural explanation on other principles, and the greater number may perhaps
seem to be incapable of hearing the sense which has been assigned to them.
We have a few observations yet to offer on the remaining portions of Dr.
S.'s Second Book. But we think we have already established solid ground
for the conclusion, not only as has been admitted by many learned defend-
ers of the Trinity, that no proof of that doctrine can he found in tlie Old
Testament, but that nothing at all plausible can be thence produced in fa-
vour of the reputedly orthodox views respecting our Lord's person, and
therefore that an examination of the evidence of the Xew Testament is
abundantly sufficient to determine the controversy, and Mr. Belsham was by
no means called upon to say any thing more on the passages appealed to
from the Old Teslament, than he has had the opportunity of saying con-
formably with the plan he has adopted.

" In several parts of the Old-Testament Scriptures," says Dr. Smith, *' a
person is introduced under the name angel of Jehovah, in circumstances
and with attributes and ascriptions so remarkable as to require a peculiar
consideration."

We need not at present enumerate the passages selected. Our author
states that three modes for their explanation are proposed :

" 1st. That the angel of the Divine presence was souie eminent, celestial
creature ; sent to convey the messages of the Divine will to those who were
the immediate subjects of revelation ; acting, therefore, on the behalf of the
Deity, and allowed to personate the Deity in the assumption of the attributes
and forms of address which are distinctive of him."

This, the hypothesis of Episcopius, Le Clerc, Dr. S. Clarke, and Henry
Taylor, in Ben Mordecai's Letters, is examined and rejected by Dr. S.,
but it does not seem necessary for us, in reference to the object we have at
present in view, to detain our readers by its discussion.

" 2. That the expression is nothing but a Hebraism to denote God him-
self, or any peculiar token of the Divine presence, such as the burning bush
was, or the pillar of cloud and fire, or the ark of the sanctuary. Thus IMr.
Belsham says, ' The phrase ang-el of Jehovah means either the visible symbol
of the Divine presence, or Jehovah hims df.' (Calm Inquiry, p. 30S.; But

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42

this^ hypothesis utterly fails, by its leaving unaccounted for the very strong
attributions of mteUlg'ence, will, power, moral action, and all personal pro-
perties ; which it would be perfectly absurd to apply to a visible splendour,
or any symbolical phenomenon whatever; and by its overlooking the essential
part of the case, the clear and marked distinction which is preserved be-
t\veen this personal angel and him who sent him. It is this distinction so
widely different from the idea of either a symbolical token or a personal
periphrasis, which makes the insuperable difficulty upon the Unitarian hy-
pothesis."

" 3 That the being eminently called tlie angel of Jehovah, is one who is
in certain respects or properties distiyict irom Qo& ; and yet is at the same
time truly and essentially the same with God."

To our rainds this latter hypothesis is encumbered with difficulties in-
comparably greater than any which can be supposed to belons; to either of
the others. It is in fact perfectly unintelligible, predicating distinctness or
difference, and sameness or identity, at one' time, of the same subjects,
which, if words have their ordinary meaning, is absurd and contradictory,
and if otherwise, can convey no useful instruction ; but we must inquire a
little into the alleged utter failure of the Unitarian hypothesis. It fails,
according to our author, 1st, by leaving unaccounted for the attributions of
intelligence, &c., which it would be perfectly absurd to apply to a visible
splendour or any symbolical phenomenon. But is it absurd to apply them
to the being whose immediate interference the outward symbol was intended
to manifest, and to whom alone the acts and words accompanying it were
alleged to belong ? The question we apprehend to be, whether it can be
shewn by sufficient examples that the phrase angel of Jehovah is used to
signify any agent, animate or inanimate, which is specially employed to ac-
complish the Divine Will, or any sensible manifestation of his presence
visible, audible, or both, in human form or otherwise, which God was
pleased to make in accomplishing his purposes. It is nothing to our pre-
sent argument if the word angel is sometimes applied to human messengers,
sometimes to a superior order of created intelligences. If we can shew that
it is used in the manner stated above, Dr. Smith's objection is answered, and
his own explanation of the passages he has cited is rendered needless and
improbable. Now, in Isa. xxxvii. 36, we read, " The avgel of Jehovah
went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred and four-
score and five thousand : and when they arose early in the morning, they
were all dead corpses," where, although there is some difference of opinion
among the commentators whether God made use for the accomplishment of
his purpose of a sudden plague, or of the Simoom, the pestilential wind of
the desert, it is generally agreed that he employed some natural agent which
is denominated the " angel of Jehovah," Ps.'xxxv. 5. The angel of the
Lord signifies any instrument of Divine vengeance. In Exod. iii. 2, the
angel of Jehovah niost plainly means the "flame of fire in the midst of the
bush." It was a visible symbol of the Divine pres'ence intended to fix the
attention of Moses on the spot from which the voice was to proceed. An-
other indisputable instance of the symbol of the Divine presence being
called the angel of God, is found Exod. xiv. 19, compared with xiii. 21, 22,
" And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed
and went behind them, and (rather evenj the pillar of cloud went from
before their face and stood behind them." " And Jehovah went before
them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them the way, and by night in a
pillar of fire to give them light, to go by day and night." Compare also
Exod. xxiii. 20—22, xl. 33—38. The former of these passages is quoted



43

by Dr. S., and the clause, " for my name is within him," seems to be
properly understood by him as identifying the angel with Jehovah ; but he
does not seem to be aware that this angel means the pillar of cloud and Jire
from which Jehovah talked with Moses, and gave manifestations of his
peculiar presence and agency, not in any respect a distinct being or person.
In the cases of the angel of Jehovah appearing to Hagar, to Abraham, and
to Manoah and his wife in human form, the angel is in each case identified
in the narrative with Jehovah himself; we therefore conclude that the
human form was only a manifestation of the peculiar presence of God, not
a being commissioned by him. Our author indeed affirms that the Uni-
tarian hypothesis " overlooks the essential part of the case, the clear and
marked distinction which is preserved between this personal angel and
him who sent him." The assertion is positive, but it is unsupported by
evidence. We have shewn that the use of the word angel is not of itself
sufficient to establish such distinction ; and after the most careful examination
of all the passages we can find nothing else which even appears to indicate
it. Dr. S. has himself quoted the words of Rosenmiiller : " Thus very
frequently in these books the names Jehovah, and angel of Jehovah, are
used interchangeably, the latter signifying that visible symbol under which
God allowed himself to be seen by men."

Dr. S., rightly we think, considers the passage in Gen. xviii., where
three human figures appeared to Abraham, as of the same kind with the
others which he produces, although the expression angel of Jehovah is not
there employed ; but we are at a loss to conceive how he could regard it as
favouring his own views. The sacred historian commences by saying that
Jehovah appeared to Abraham ; the man who remained conversing with
him spoke to him as Jehovah himself, not any distinct or inferior being ;
and the same thing may be observed of the one who spoke to Lot. As
there were several different purposes to be accomplished, different mani-
festations of Divine agency were employed, strikingly representing to ig-
norant men the idea of sovereign power acting in different places and upon
different affairs at the same time ; but the language of the historian, taken
strictly, identifies all the appearances with Jehovah ; and upon the whole,
this seems to us to be the explanation of the passage attended with least
difficulty. Dr. S. quotes some of the Jewish commentaries, in order, as
we understand him, to shew that the person who remained with Abraham,
usually considered as the chief of the three, had a peculiar relation to
Jehovah, yet a distinct personality.

** Upon this passage the Jerusalem Targum says, * the ivord (mimra) of
Jehovah appeared to him (i. e. Abraham) in the valley of vision' Other
Jewish writings have the following explications : — * The Shekinah was asso-
ciated irith them, and detained Abraham till the angels departed. He said not
tvho he ivas. Out in all these (appearances) it ivas the angel of the covenant' "

To understand these comments we must bear in mind that mimra, the
word of any person, in the dialect of the Targums is only a fuller expression
for the person himself, and is so used continually both of God and men, so
that the words of the Jerusalem Targum express precisely the same as the
words of the book of Genesis itself : " Jehovah appeared to him." A single
example of this idiom we shall give for the satisfaction of our readers : the
words a covenant betwixt me and thee are rendered in the Targum " a
covenant between my word and thy word.'' So " the word of Jehovah"
is a famihar expression for Jehovah himself. In like manner the word

f2



'.44

Shekinali is constantly used in tlie viewlsh writings for God hinlself — the
-manifestation of his presence any where on earth ; and the meaning of the
second passage quoted is, that one of the persons was a manifestation of God
himself, the other two were angels. With respect to the expression angel
pf the covenant, which our author would no doubt have us refer to our
Lord Jesus Christ, we have the express testimony of an ancient Jewish
writer, thi-t wherever it occurs " the holy and blessed God himself is spoken
of." This testimony is taken from the same book as Dr. S.'s quotation ;
{Sohar, Genes, fol. 63, col. 268;") but this is not all — will the reader be-
lieve it ? the very passage which Dr. S. produces, and which it will be ob-
served is broken off abruptly as he gives it, concludes, somewhat awkwardly
for his argument, " and all these things are spoken of the holy and blessed
God himself," clearly shewing that the Jewish writer understood the angel
of the covenant, as a name of God himself in reference to his manifestation
of himself in establishing a covenant with his people. Lest our readers
should, too naturally, conclude that Dr. S. intentionally suppressed the im-
portant explanatory clause, which we have here given — a subterfuge of
which we hope he is incapable, we will mention that in the authority to
;which he refers, (Schoettg. Horse Hebr. et Talm. Vol. IL p. 442,) the words
of the original being inserted between the parts of the translation, the final
clause would be very easily overlooked by one hastily consulting the pas-
sage, which, we conclude, must have been our author's case. Dr. S. refers
to passages in the prophecies of Zechariah, i. 8, 10 — 13, ii. 8 — 11, iii. 1 —
10, vi. 12, 13, 15,) in which, according to him, we find the great angel
who is at once the messenger of Jehovah and Jehovah himself, " depicted in
the appropriate and exclusive characteristics of the Messiah, the Saviour,
the Priest upon his throne, the Intercessor : and not less certainly described
as possessing the attributes, exercising the sovereignty, and wearing the holy
and incommunicable name of Jehovah." Unfortunately he has not stated
how he derived all this from the words of the prophet, and as we can form
no conception of the process we know not what remarks to offer, but Dr. S.
requests " the serious inquirer to examine the whole" — and if he will do
this, he will, we think, participate in our curiosity to know what the parti-
cular clauses are upon which the imagination of our author has been at
work, and how his ingenuity could find in them any semblance of a founda-
tion for his assertions.

In the passage quoted from Mai. iii. 1, we think it very clear that the
last clause, " Behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts," does not
prove the person coming to be really or personally distinct from Jehovah
himself. The prophecy is, that God will manifest himself amongst his
people. They had vainly said, *' Where is the God of judgment?"
(Mai. ii. 17.) In due time they should be brought to acknowledge his pre-
sence, and special interference in their affairs. This manifestation may be
rightly explained of the coming and kingdom of the Messiah, vvho exhibited
the most convincing proofs of Divine power accompanying his works, and
Divine authority sanctioning his words, but it by no means follows that he
must be personally spoken of : on the contrary, that " the Sovereign pl^n
whom ye seek," means God himself, seems to be justly inferred from the
uniform use of ]ni< with the emphatic n, and we have already given Jewish
authority for understanding the *' angel of the covenant in the same sense,
as the parallelism seems to require. We would compare with this expres-
sion Isa. Ixiii. 9, *' the angel of his presence saved them," where the angel of



45

his presence is God himself, niaiiifestino; himself by some sensible sign, aiul
cannot possibly be understood of any distinct being; and Gen. xlviii. 15,
16, " God before whom my fathers did walk, the God which fed me all my
life long unto this day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the
lads" — where no one can doubt that the angel means God himself, in refe-
rence to his sensible manifestations of himself to Jacob. Upon the whole,
we do not hesitate to pronounce our author's attempt to identify our Lord
Jesus Christ with the angel of Jehovah, and thence with Jehovah himself, to
be a total failure, and incapable of affording satisfaction to any inquiring
mind ; whilst the general view of the nature of the passage" referred to on
the subject, which Mr. Belsham has given, is at once rational and consistent
in itself, and abundantly established by their examination in detail.

The section on the pluralisms is highly creditable to Dr. S. for the can-
dour and caution as well as the learning and ingenuity which it displays, and
we think he has made the most that is possible of a very dubious and obscure
argument. We must observe, however, that as he only contends for an
intimation of jjlurality of persons, which may not, he acknowledges, have
been understood by the majority of the Jewish people, which even inspired
prophets may not have frilly comprehended, and which he cannot prove to
have been so understood by any of the ancient Jews, his argument at best
is only applicable in confirmation of other evidence : b'Jt we deny that he
has produced, or that any one can produce, any such evidence from the
Old Testament, and we feel fully authorized in contenting ourselves with
the information which is directly afforded us, without disturbing ourselves
about fancied intimations, that is, obscure and uncertain hints, which we
find opposed to the j^lain and (setting aside these supposed hints) uniform
Ianguao;e of the Jewish sacred writings. And, moreover, though we think
Dr. S. has shewn that the rule of Hebrew syntax respecting the use of the
plural number to express dominion, dignity, or honour, is not very defi-
nitely established, or of very general application, we can by no means allow
that he has sufficiently explained on other principles all the alleged instances,
or even satisfactorily shewn, supposing that the idiom were observable only
in the names of the true God, how it can support the Trinitarian doctrine,
since if plurality is at all implied, it must be plurality of beings — plurality
of Gods. The notion of different persons in one essence is one which would
never occur to any mind without being very distinctly expressed, and of
which no conception whatever could be obtained in the way oi intiination.

Tiie explanation proposed by our author of the frequent use of the word
CDOIK, (adonim,) lords, (the plural for the singular,) as applied to human
beings is, that the word was originally a name of God, and being secondarily
applied to human possessors of authority, retained the form which belonged
to lis primary use : but no reason or authority whatever can be adduced to
shew that the word was at first a peculiar name of the Supreme Being : its
meaning would render it equally applicable to God and man, and it is applied
to both in the singular form also; we are therefore justified in concluding,
that whatever may have been the origin of the anomaly of the use of the
plural form in a singular sense, it was something not peculiar to one applica-
tion of the word, but common to all the cases in which the anomaly is
observed.

The use of Baalim, (owners, masters, husbands,) in the plural, with a
singular sense, is so exactly analogous to that of Adonim, that no one could
have thought of finding a different explanation for it, except under the influ-
ence of a favourite hypothesis. That which our author has devised, how-



46

ever ingenious, will hardly be thought, by any competent judge, sufficiently
probable to answer his purpose.*

Dr. S.'s observations do not materially affect the probability that Tannim,
the crocodile, Ezek, xxix. 3, is a plural form with a singular sense, and
though he readily adopts the opinion of some modern Hebrew scholars that
DIDDn, (Chochmoth,) wisdom is singular, it seems to us that this opinion
rests on very slight foundation, and that the generally-received doctrine of its
being a plural form is by far the most probably correct. Behemoth we will
lay no stress upon, though the Coptic derivation is not certainly established,
but other instances of the use of a plural for a singular noun to give emphasis,
or to produce ttie effect of a sort of superlative degree, all seem to belong to
the same idiom. Thus blindnesses for total blindness, Gen. xix. 11 ; 2 Kings
vi. 18. Salvations for complete salvation, Ps, xlii. 5, 11, liii. 6. Vanities
for much vanity, Eccles. v. 7, &c. There seems, then, good reason for
believing that the use of a plural for a singular was one of the various modes
of giving emphasis, or marking eminence resorted to by the Hebrews ; and
that though not applied generally to all words expressive of authority or dig-
nified office, but confined by early custom to a small number, selected in a
way which appears to us arbitrary, it does occur in cases where the sense is
indisputably singular, and might be used by the people to whom the idiom
belonged without suggesting any idea of plurality.

In several of the instances of the application of plural names to the Supreme
Being, the intention of augmenting the force of the epithet is suflficiently
evident, as Prov. ix. 10, " The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Jeho-
vah, and the knowledge of the holy ones, i. e. most holy, (as it has been pro-
perly rendered by Dathe,) is understanding." So in Hos. xii. 1 . Of the
same nature seems to be the Chaldee plural ]>3vV)/ (Elionin), Dan. vii. 18.
The word in the singular means very high, or might even be rendered most
high ; but the plural form increases the force of the epithet.


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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 7 of 15)