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to the Syrian rule in Palestine. This explanation shows us that Zunz took this
reference to the Redeemer as words of prayer. But it is opposed to the whole
arrangement of the Shemone Esreh to insert a prayer in the first three Benedictions
This arrangement was scrupulously observed in the Talmud, and
although we add passages of Prayer in these Benedictions during the ten
penitential days, they have no Talmudical authority. These passages were
instituted by the G-eonim and the first reference to them is in Tractate Soferim
(xix. 8), where permission is given to say them only on the New Year and Day of
Atonement. Maimonides (Tefillah II., 19,) mentions that it was customary in some
places to add them, so that they were not general in his days. To take the words
}K1J SUO1 as a prayer for the coming of the Redeemer is foreign to the spirit of
the Benediction which is strictly Praise and not Prayer. The passage must be taken
in a general sense, and as such forms a fitting conclusion to the DISK.

The second Benediction J"N"*'13J is generally considered to be the composition of
the Men of the Great Synagogue, but it is supposed by Landeshut that it was of a

shorter form, merely consisting of DTIOil iVnO *n"K"l yniT> 1133 nntf. The

passage ?3?3O is taken as a later addition which was added to counteract the heresies
of Zadok and Boethus, two disciples of Antigonus, who denied the truth of the
doctrines of the immortality of the soul and of future reward and punishment
(Aboth de R. Nathan, ch. vi.). The two sects which they originated were not content
to hold heretical opinions themselves, but insisted like most agitators, on the general
adoption of their teachings. In order to achieve their ends these traitors to their
religion became also traitors to their country. For during the wars of the Maccabees
they were mean enough to lend an assisting hand to those who desired to uproot
their religion. Fanatics generally proceed in this way. They commence either by
rejecting some doctrine of belief generally accepted or by introducing some idea of their
own fertile imagination, which they endeavour, generally by the most unholy means,
to force upon the whole community. It is possible that such a secession may have
suggested this addition to the ni"113J, for it was by no means unusual to make public
worship the means of discountenancing heretical views. The Talmud informs us
that the daily recitation of the Ten Commandments in the Temple was abolished
(Berachoth, 12a) and the wording of the Benedictions altered (ibid 54a) in order to
impress upon the minds of the multitude that the views of the Sadduoees were erro-
neous and must be discouraged. But it cannot be said with certainty that the origin
of D v n ?D?3D was due to the same circumstances. If the idea be correct, we cannot
but confess that these unfortunate events have been the means of vastly improving
the second Benediction of our Prayer.

It is the opinion of Landeshut that the Benedictions in which we pray for
Repentance, Foregiveness of Sin, for Health and for Heaven's blessing on the work
of our hands, likewise those referring to the Restoration, were composed at the
time of the wars of the Maccabees. His conclusions are based on the subjects of
these Benedictions which were particularly applicable to this period. But although
there was special necessity for such prayers during these wars, when divine service
was interrupted, the observance of the Law forbidden, and life and property en-
dangered, it is by no means proved that these Benedictions owe their origin to this crisis.
I have already remarked this it is impossible to trace the origin of every Benediction,


but a view which entirely ignores tradition and leads us to believe that our nation
was without a fixed form of prayer till the second century B.C., and then adopted one
only by accidental means as it were, cannot possibly be accepted. Time will not
allow me to discuss each Benediction, but I may be allowed to remark that the plan
adopted by some scholars of endeavouring to find the date and composition of Hebrew
prayers from internal evidence is most unreliable. Even English prayers are written
in Biblical language and generally in an antiquated style : so that if a new prayer
were adopted by the English Church to-day its composition, if internal evidence
were to be relied upon, would have to be referred to the year 1611. This argument
tells much more forcibly with compositions written in the Hebrew language. It is
always the aim of the Hebrew writer to use as many Biblical expressions as possible
BO that his compositiom may have a classical appearance. When the Chief Rabbi
issues a special prayer for the celebration of the Queen's Jubilee we may rest assured
that the composition, if its age be not betrayed by pen, ink and paper, may be
referred, as far as style and diction be concerned, to the golden age of the Hebrew

I shall only refer to two other Benedictions. To one because it illustrates how
the same ancient Benediction was adapted to altered circumstances without
changing its import ; to the other, because, having a special history of its own, it
demands special consideration.

The first is n~), called in the Mishnah (Rosh Hashona iv. 5 ; Tamid vi. 1)
mi3y JT3~Q. This is one of the three Benedictions which the priests recited every
day in the Temple (Berachoth 1 lb.). The Talmud (Taanith 27b) informs us that
the "lOyD ^CWX, those of the Israelites who represented the nation at the Temple
Service used to pray that the offerings of their brethren might be favourably accepted.
Rashi (Berachoth lib.) gives us the original form of this Benediction as follows :
" Be pleased Lord our God with the service of Thy people Israel, and the burnt
offerings of Israel and their prayers receive with favour, blessed is He who receives
the service of His people Israel with favour." A second conclusion given by Rashi
(ibid.) is : "Blessed are Thou Lord whom we alone serve," and there is little doubt
that this was the original conclusion. It is introduced (HXV3 113J7J VJD^ 3 ) in the
abbreviated form of prayer used en Sabbath evenings as the Reader's repetition
(Rashi, Shabboth, 24b.) and is still retained when the priests recite the Benediction
on the Festivals. After the destruction of the Temple this Benediction was altered
so as to introduce a prayer for the restoration of the Temple Service. The form
used on the Festivals in connection with the recitation of the priestly Benediction
(Midrash Shochar Tob Pa. 17) appears to be of more ancient date than the
form now in general use which runs as follows : " Be pleased Lord
our God with Thy people Israel and with their prayer, and restore the service to the
oracle of Thy house, and the burnt offerings of Israel and their prayer in love Thou
wilt receive with favour and may the service of Thy people Israel be always accept-
able. And may our eyes behold Thy return to Zion, Blessed are Thou Lord
who will restore His divine presence to Zion." It is interesting to point out
that the original form of this Benediction has been but little altered by the passage
which was added after the destruction of the Temple. Israel is still referred to in
the third person, showing that this Benediction was said on bcfialf f the people and
not by them, while in all the other Benedictions the first person plural is used. And
further, the word pVT originally referred to the sacrifices (Lev. xxii. 20, 27) is men-
tioned three times in this passage.

The next Benediction to be considered isO^VDH H313. This Benediction is sur-
rounded with so many difficult Talmudical questions that a Jewish writer (Weiss, Bik-
kurim 5625) has said of it : " I believe that even in the days of the Amoraim they were
in as much doubt concerning this Benediction as we are at the present time." It would


indeed require a special paper to collect and discuss all that has been written on
this Benediction alone. The chief tradition we have concerning it runs thus :
' Simon Hapekuli arranged the Eighteen Benedictions before E. Gamaliel II. in
Jamnia according to their order. Then E. Gamaliel said to the wise men, ' is there
any one who is able to introduce the Benediction against the Sadducees ? ' Then
Samuel Hakaton stood up and introduced it. The next year he forgot it, and he
waited for some time and could not recall it to memory" (Berachoth 28a). It is,
however, not quite certain whether the term 13pH used here denotes a new institution
or a reintroduction. This may not have been the first occasion that the Benediction
was composed, it may have been for some time in abeyance, and it was now thought
necessary to re-introduce it. The difficulty concerning the number of the Bene-
dictions is generally ascribed to the later introduction of the Benediction we are
now considering, but it is the opinion of some that a Benediction corresponding to
our D'3B'7D?1 always formed one of the Eighteen Benedictions, and that it was
riD FIX that was the later addition which gave rise to the difference of numbers
between the two Talmuds. I must confess that I have not been able to cut the
Gordian knot which has so sorely perplexed Talmudical scholars. Neither Lande-
shut nor Baer has considered the question whether our tradition refers to the first
introduction or to a reintroduction of the Benediction. They pass over the difficulty
and proceed to consider more interesting questions, and we will follow their
example. But it may be well to give the view of a Christian scholar on the subject.
I omit passages which refer to the number of the Benedictions which the author
discusses in this connection. "The story of this much misunderstood prayer" says Gins-
burg (Kitto's Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature *ub voce Synagogue) "which has been
used as a watchword by Christians in their persecutions and massacres of the Jews is as
follows : After the Babylonian captivity, when the revival of religious life in the syna-
gogue, like the periodical revivals of religion in the Church, brought in its train a
number of heretical sects e.g., the Samaritans, the Hellenists, the Sadducees, &c.
who alternately disturbed both the political and religious peace of the Common,
wealth, the orthodox community, who had suffered so much in the defence of their
ancestral faith, demanded a public reprobation of those heresies. To comply with
this pious wish the spiritual heads of the people compiled this prayer, which is no
more than what St. Paul did when he declared those accursed who promulgated
heresies (I. Cor. xvi. 22 ; Gal. i. 8, 9) and what we do at the present day when, in the
Athanasian creed, we exclude from salvation all who reject the doctrines therein
enunciated. As it was more especially directed against the Sadducees, who were
rampant during the period of the Second Temple, this prayer is called the invocation

against the Sadducees (Q'pYIX D3 n 3, Berachoth 28b.) E. Simon Hapekuli,

who introduced the present order pHDi"l) of the benedictions, was for omitting the
prayer against the heretics altogether, maintaining that it was no longer applicable,
since the heretics, with the destruction of the Temple, had lost their political power,
whilst E. Gamaliel II. of Jamnia, who was patriarch at that time, was for retaining
it with some slight alterations, so as to adapt it to the altered circumstances and to
the new heretics. Having carried his point, Gamaliel asked E. Samuel the Younger,
who supported him in his opinion on this question, to make the necessary altera-
tions. . . . This sufficiently shows how unfounded is the charge that the twelfth
benediction, which was recited several centuries before the rise of Christianity, was
originally composed against Christians, and how much Eisenmenger (Entdecktes
Judenthum II. 107, ff.), and the more genial M'Caul, who repeats him (Old Paths,
ch. xvii. xix.), have to answer for perpetuating the enmity against the Jews by
th false description of this prayer." If this passage has little critical value, it de-
serves recognition as coming from one well able to give an unbiassed opinion on the
gubject. But some surprise may be felt that the ancient Jews should have given utter-
ance to a prayer which appears to have been prompted by a feeling of vindictiveness
against those of their brethren who happened to differ from them on religious


questions. But we must bear in mind that the Sadducees against whom this prayer
was mainly directed, not only denied the truth of several important doctrines of the
Jewish creed, but they did all in their power to spread this disbelief, and were the
means of misleading many who were not strong enough to withstand their influ-
ence. In addition to this they acted as spies and informers to the Romans, and
brought much trouble upon their countrymen. The Rabbis endeavoured in every
way to heal the wound which was fast eating away the very life of the nation, but
all efforts on their part were unsuccessful. Things must indeed have been in a
critical state if such a peace-loving and God-fearing man as Samuel the Younger,
whose motto it is said (Aboth iv.) was the verse from Proverbs (xxiv, 1 7), " Rejoice
not when thy enemy falleth." considered that it was in the interests of the nation
and the religion to institute a special prayer against any section of his people. And
although he instituted this special benediction, we find that in the following year
he was not able to recite it, so that he could not have been prompted by feelings of
revenge. It must be confessed that the benediction D^E*5D?1 contains expressions
which appear harsh and unkind, but to quote the words of our learned Chairman,
" It was a Christian who observed that ' we are commanded to forgive our enemies,
but we are nowhere commanded to forgive our friends.' " " I do not endorse the
sentiment," continued Mr. Singer, " but it explains in a measure the harshness with
which we judge the misdeeds of those to whom we stand in some sort
of personal and direct relation." It would have been better if the censor's ink had been
more indelible and the expressions in this benediction that have provoked so much
bad feeling against our nation had been omitted. The form of this benediction has
been greatly altered, the number of words varying in different MSS. from
twenty-two to forty -two. I will only add that according to Baer, the first word
probably was DHOV^C?, and not D^J'SJ'PDPI as our version commences.

The last Benediction to which I have to refer is one which, strangely enough,
has not yet found its way into any English edition of the Prayer-book. Foreigners
do not seem ashamed to confess that occasions sometimes occur when for some reason
or another they are unable to say the full form of the Shemone Esreh. The majority
of English Jews, no doubt, are not aware that there is an abbreviated form of the
Shemone Esreh which they may say in cases of emergency when they are unable to
say the longer form. The occasions when this short form may be substituted are
worthy of notice. It may be said when one is on the road and when one does not
feel sufficiently devotional to utter a longer prayer. It should also be said by
labourers when working for one who only pays for work done and who even deducts
the time spent in meals by his workmen. Hence religion cannot be made a plea for
laziness. This Short Benediction has full Talmudical authority. In the Mishnah
(Berachoth iv. 3), R. Gamaliel says that the Shemone Esreh must be said every day,
but R. Joshua says the abstract of the Shemone Esreh is sufficient. R. Akiba takes the
middle course and says if he is fluent in the prayer he should say the Shemone Esreh, if
not, the abstract of the Shemone Esreh is sufficient. In the Talmud (Berachoth 29a) a
discussion arises as to what R. Joshua meant by the abstract of the Shemone Esreh.
Rav explains R. Joshua to mean that each Benediction must be said, but in cases
of urgency in a shorter form, e.g., " Thou endowest man with knowledge ; Blessed
art Thou, Lord, who graciously bestowest knowledge." " Forgive us, our Father ;
Blessed art Thou, Lord, who art gracious and dost abundantly pardon." Samuel
says that R. Joshua meant that the first and last three benedictions must be said in
full, but for the thirteen intermediate benedictions, one containing references to
all, and concluding " Blessed art Thou, Lord, who hearkenest to prayer," might be
subtituted. Both Talmuds give a form of such a benediction (Babli Berachoth 29a.
Jerushalmi Taanith II 2), and the one given in the Babylonian Talmud, which is to be
found in every prayer-book except in those published in England, is considered by Zunz,
Rapoport and Sachs to be the composition of Samuel himself. As most of the sen-


tences in this short form of the Shemone Esreh end in the syllable "|n which Sachs
(Relig. Poesie in Spanien, p. 173), considers to be intentional, it forms a kind of
rough rhyme which is reproduced in the following version, and with which I
conclude :

Cause us, O Lord ! to understand Thy ways

And fill our hearts with rev'rent fear, all our days.

Forgive us, we entreat Thee, each sin,

That redemption we may hope to win.

In Thy merciful goodness pain and suff'ring allay,

And satisfy us with Thine abundance, we pray.

Wi'.h Thine all-powerful and tremendous hand

Our scattered ones gather together to our own land.

Transgressors, O mighty Being, judge Thou,

Sinners to Thy just wrath shall submissively bow.

When Thy sacred city with juy we rebuild

And Thy Sanctuary with Thy glorious presence be fill'd

Then with a loud and exultant voice

Will the righteous, O God of Israel rejoice.

Let it be Thy divine will speedily to restore

The H ouse of David, Thy servant, as of yore.

And may the light of the son of Jesse blaze

As in reverence Thy hallowed name we praise.

P'or Thou who hearkenest to the voice of Prayer

Art blessed, Thy people, O Lord I declare.




A great historian has said that a good way of avoiding the reproach of qui
s'excuse s'accuse is to quote the adage against oneself. The excuse I have to plead
this evening is for the inadequacy with which I shall treat my subject ; and the
ground on which, in addition to my own ignorance, I ask you to forgive me is the
limited time within which a single lecture must be confined. But some of you may
be inclined to question the relevancy of my excuse. The Wisdom of Solomon, you
may fairly say, is a little book of nineteen short chapters. An hour ought in all
seriousness to be enough to tell us all we want to know about such an insignificant
fragment of literature. First, then, let me point out to you why, if time were no
object, so much might be said about so short a treatise. The Wisdom of Solomon
forms one of a collection of books which are now generally known as the Apocrypha.
A lecture on any one of them might fitly point out the origin of this collection and
its relation to the Canon of the Old Testament. In the second place, the Wisdom of
Solomon forms one of a class of literary compositions that are full of peculiarly
difficult and interesting features. For " Wisdom," as everybody knows, belongs to
the Hellenistic literature. And, lastly, the little Wisdom of Solomon is a book
which within its own small compass reflects so much thought that had gone before,
and foreshadows so much thought that was to come. It is a meeting place of old
and new ; and the two elements are not yet fused together in perfect harmony, but
are sometimes merely placed alongside each other in curious, if not consistent, juxta-
position. Of that old thought some was destined to pass away, and some has re-
mained and will, we may hope, abide amongst us for ever ; of the new thought,
which was itself the product of two mingling streams of old, it would be foolhardy
to risk a forecast of its permanency, but impossible to exaggerate ite influence upon
the spiritual history of mankind.

The true lecturer upon the Wisdom of Solomon must be one to whom the litera-
tures of two different nations are equally familiar. He would have to point out the
nature and origin of the old thought and indicate the development and the value of
the new. His Vorstudien must have been large and varied, his Nach&tudicn might
go far before they found a limit. The present lecturer can but touch upon the Vor-
studien, while as to the Nanhstudien he must skip them altogether.

The old thought in the Wisdom of Solomon is, as I have already implied, two-
fold in character. Two spiritual currents meet and mingle in its pages, as they
meet and mingle with varying degrees of successful fusion in all the Hellenistic


Jewish Hellenism might, and I hope some day will, form a suitable subject for
a subsequent lecture of this Society. Its interest for us lies in this, that the mixture
of Greek and Hebrew elements of which it ia composed, and which give to it
its peculiar and distinctive characteristics, is a religious and a moral mixture ;
the component parts on both sides are moral and religious. If the mixture con-
cerned politics or science, or if the religious elements were drawn from one side
and the mere literary form from the other, the result would be less interesting and
less likely to disturb our sensibilities or to cause a passing qualm to some not
infrequent prejudices ; but as the final outcome is religious, so also are both the
sources which helped to make it what it is.

We are therefore compelled, in conducting an enquiry into Jewish Hellenism or
into any of its leading examples, such as the Wisdom of Solomon, to raise and
answer either in a direct or an indirect form such questions as these. Was the
attempted fusion desirable ; that is to say, was there anything to modify in, or to
add to, the one element ; was there anything novel and also worth appropriating in
the other ? Secondly, from the historic point of view the momentous question pre-
sents itself, was the fusion successful, or, again, were the two elements of such a
kind as to make a real and permanent fusion within the limits of possibility ?

Such problems are interesting because they may throw a side light upon
religious difficulties of our own day, and also because it is upon the truthful and
impartial solution of them at least as much as upon any a priori theological system
that our answer must be based to the great and deeply interesting question, whether
that ordered and articulate system of religious doctrine, which we religionists of
to-day may hold as true, has been discovered by, or revealed to, one race alone, or
whether many saints and sages, of many peoples and many ages, have contributed
in widely different proportions their several quota to the total store.

It is this central question which, to my mind, constitutes the main interest in
the detailed consideration of such a book as the Wisdom of Solomon.

The object of this lecture is not to discuss, far less to answer, that question,
but to offer a very unpretending contribution towards the material for its solution.

And now, without further preface, let us come to the real subject of the lecture.
The Wisdom of Solomon, a product of Hebrew and Hellenic thought, was written in
Greek by a Jew, whose native language was Greek as ours is English, and who was
influenced both directly and indirectly by the religious and ethical doctrines of
Greek philosophers.

The name of our author is unknown. His birthplace, or at all events the
locality in which he wrote, was without reasonable doubt Alexandria. His exact
date is uncertain, and is variously estimated from about 150 before to about 50 after
Christ. It will be here sufficient to remember that our author lived at a time when
the current of Jewish Hellenism was running strongly. The character of spiritual
influences in Alexandria did not greatly vary in their general characteristics during
the two hundred years between either limit of which the book was written, and,
consequently, so far as the effect of environment extends, the precise date of the
treatise is not a matter of any considerable importance.*

I have boon unable to find space for a discussion of the difficult question when Wisdom was
written. Thoro are three main views. First that of Grimm, who puts the date between 145-KH) B.C.
Secondly, that of Graetz (whoso opinion is shared by Hausrath), who thinks the author was Philo'n
con torn i>orary, and wrote under the influence of the persecution at Alexandria under Caligula

Online LibraryEngland). Literary Society Jews' College (LondonPapers read before the Jews College Literary Society during the session 1886-7 → online text (page 21 of 32)