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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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hooks : and nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither
shall they learn war any more" (4:1-3). Isaiah 42:6-7 is equally
explicit: "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will
hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and will give thee for a
covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the
blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them
that sit in darkness out of the prison house."

^ Jeremiah voices this conception : "Behold, the days come, saith
the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel,
and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I
made witli their fathers, in the days that I took them by the hand,
to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they
break, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord; But
this shall be the covenant that I will make unto the house of Israel;
After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward
parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they
shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his
neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for

The Development of the Idea 41

Together with this lofty conception of the Kingdom, and, no
doubt, because of it, there comes a nobler view of the coming
King. It is felt that if the nature of the Kingdom is lofty and
spiritual, the King of the Kingdom should bear a very close
relationship to God. Thus the founder of the Kingdom was
regarded with an ever-increasing reverence by Israel. His
person and His prerogatives were constantly magnified.^ It
ought to be remembered, however, that throughout the Old
Testament, the chief interest is the Kingdom of God. The
importance of the Messiah, or the coming King, lay in the
fact that he was to be the medium of the Kingdom. Great as
he was, he was only of importance in relation to the Kingdom
of God. This truth has been lost sight of by the Christian
Church to a great extent. The relationship, indeed, has been
reversed. The Person of the Messiah is everything, the King-

they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest
of them, saith the Lord" (31 :3i-34). Ezekiel speaks in the sarne
strain : "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will
I put within you ; and I will take away the stony heart out of your
flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my
spirit within you; and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye
shall keep my judgments, and do them" (36:25-27). Joel also
gives us a passage of emphatic significance. "And it shall come to
pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your
sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream
dreams, your young men shall see visions : And also upon the
servants, and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out
my Spirit" (2:28, 29).

* Of this tendency, Micah affords an interesting illustration : "But
thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thou-
sands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that
is to be ruler in Israel ; whose goings forth have been from of old,
from everlasting" (5:2). The coming King is, according to a com-
mon interpretation, referred to thus by Daniel : "I saw in the
night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the
clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they
brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion
and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages
should serve him : his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which
shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be
destroyed" (7:13, 14). Malachi declares: "Behold, I will send my
messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord,
whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger
of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith
the Lord of hosts" (3:1).

42 Jesus^ Idea

dom somewhat subordinate.

There entered at this time, also, from a due appreciation
of the inward and spiritual character of the new Covenant, or
Kingdom, a keen and painful sense of the great labor and diffi-
culty involved in its introduction. Because of the presence of
human sin and human opposition, the heralds of the Kingdom,
despite their relation to God and His majestic attributes, must
perform their task at the expense of toil and suffering. Their
life, indeed, was to be a path of thorns. So we have the con-
ception of the Suffering Servant of God, that "in which all the
prophetic force of the genius of Israel seemed concentrated"
(Isa. 52:14; 53). The idea is that he who would do God's
will, and seek to persuade men to God's allegiance, must ex-
pect to suffer. This truth, indeed, had already been most
signally illustrated in the history of God's Chosen People, and
in the persons of their most illustrious men, — Joseph, Moses,
David, and many of the Prophets.^

As to the form of the Kingdom, with that seemingly irre-
sistible tendency of human nature to idealize the past, often
to the sad neglect of the present, the coming Kingdom was
viewed as assuming Davidic splendor. The nation would be
restored and re-united, so Ezekiel fondly painted (Ez. 37) ;
Isaiah sees the nation purified and converted with all former in-
stitutions in full vigor and effectiveness (Isaiah 1 125-27). Israel,
indeed, w^ould attain the zenith of her glory, while the sur-
rounding nations, to whom had been given the knowledge of
the true God, would be incorporated with the Chosen people
(Isaiah 2:23), or tributary to them (Isaiah 60). Such, sub-
stantially, was the prophetic conception, although different
prophets might emphasize individual aspects or characteristics
of the Kingdom, according to their individuality or the time in
which they lived. To Isaiah, the great prophet-statesman of
the turbulent times of Ahaz and Hezekiah, the Kingdom ap-
peared as a state in the very height of political and material
prosperity. To Jeremiah, in the sad and evil days of Judah's
decline and fall, the Kingdom assumed a decidedly ethical
character: his dream was of a reformed people. While to the
brightening vision of the Second Isaiah, in the happy days of the

^ This aspect of God's service is also most pathetically set forth
in the 22nd Psalm.

The Development of the Idea 43

return from exile, the Kingdom seemed to be distinctively reli-
gious — Israel, fulfilling her high destiny as the religious teacher
of the nations.

There appeared, however, during the Prophetic Period, an
idea of great importance to our study. In the early days of
the Hebrew people, the state or nation as a whole, was identi-
fied w^ith the Kingdom of God. The bounds of the one were
the bounds of the other. Every Hebrew^, as a Hebrew, was a
member of the theocracy. The Kingdom was the entire na-
tion. Later in their history, however, and especially in the era
of the prophets, this idea experienced a novel development.
We find the conception of a theocracy within a theocracy, a
church within a church, a Kingdom of God within the sup-
posed Kingdom of God. This is a peculiarity of even the earlier
prophets. Amos and Hosea, for instance, while they predict in
unsparing terms, a due and dire punishment for the people's
sins, yet, as emphatically declare that a remnant would survive
and be true to Jehovah. This doctrine of a remnant, indeed, is
a marked characteristic of the prophetic waitings. No matter
how dark and threatening the impending night, a brighter day
would dawn, with at least a remnant true to God.

While this idea is met with in the earlier prophets, Elijah,
for instance, it received a more pronounced development in the
closing years of the nation's history as a Kingdom. To the
enlightened vision of the prophets, their people, as a whole,
seemed to be doomed. God's patience was exhausted. Hence
we notice that their efforts are bent toward the salvation of a
remnant of the people, this remnant to do the work for God.
Thus was the idea introduced that the Kingdom of God was
not co-extensive with the nation, and not rightly the possession
of every Hebrew in virtue of his birth. Rather was the King-
dom restricted to a portion of the nation, and the possession of
those Hebrews alone, whose integrity of heart and life en-
titled them to it.^ This narrowing of the conception seems
strangely prophetic of Our Lord's action in choosing His band

^ This tendency to restrict the idea of the Kingdom is conspicu-
ously exemplified in the conduct of Isaiah (8:i6-i8) : "Bind up the
testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon
the Lord that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will
look for him. Behold, I, and the children whom the Lord hath

44 Jesus' Idea

of disciples from the midst of a nation which, as a whole, would
not heed His call. It is eternally prophetic also of the truth
that "great achievements made by any people are generally the
work of the minority."

The Babylonian Exile of the Chosen People did not in any
way crush the expectation of the Kingdom of God. Rather did
it strengthen and intensify the conception. The prophecies of
Daniel, Ch. 2 and 7, whether we accept the traditional date
of the Book, or that which modern scholarship accords to it,
amply attests the undimmed splendor of the Messianic hope.
His vision of a Kingdom of God, which should succeed the
four great world-kingdoms, — human, not brutish in character,
a Kingdom inaugurated of Heaven, universal in extent, and
everlasting in time, is of prime importance to our study both
in its present stage and in its future development. This vision
of Daniel, indeed, did more to stereotype the Jewish idea of
the coming Kingdom than any image, figure, or utterance of
any earlier prophet. Because of the great significance of Dan-
iel's contribution to the idea of the Kingdom of God, it is well
to quote the passage at length. "I saw in the night visions,
and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of
heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him
near before him. And there was given him dominion, and
glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages,
should serve him : his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which
shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be
destroyed. I (Daniel) was grieved in my spirit in the midst
of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came
near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth
of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpreta-
tion of the things. These great beasts, which are four, are
four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints
of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the

given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord
of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion." Malachi (3:16) also
refers to the intimate association, binding together those who
feared the Lord : "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one
to another, and the Lord barkened and heard it, and a book of
remembrance was written before him for them that feared the
Lord, and that thought upon his name."

The Development of the Idea 45

kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. And the kingdom
and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole
heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most
High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all domin-
ions shall serve and obey him." (Daniel 7:13-19 and vs. 27).

Resuming now the thread of our narrative, and for the
time being, according to the Book of Daniel its traditional date,
it remains to say that after the Exile we have the teaching of
the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah.^ These, however, add
nothing that is new or distinctive to the conception of the king-
dom. On the other hand, Malachi, who is the last of the
prophetic voices of the Old Testament, speaks of the coming
Kingdom, and adds that before the advent of that day, Elijah
would be sent to prepare the way. "Behold, I will send my
messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me" (3:1).
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming
of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn
the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the
children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a
curse" (4:5-6).

Thus the development of the idea of the Kingdom of God
closes in the Old Testament. We have endeavored to trace that
development in brief, concise outline, noting only the salient
steps of progress, until all doubt has been dispelled, and it is
apparent that that which called the Hebrew nation into being,
and which alone can explain the remarkable history of that
still more remarkable people, is the Idea of the Kingdom of
God. Without this thread, the Old Testament, in its multitude
of details, is utterly unintelligible ; with it, the Old Testament is
not only intelligible but exceedingly fascinating. This people,
their history, and their idea, indeed, are the most striking phe-
nomena of Universal History. However, men may seek to explain
its significance, the fact that such a people, such a history, and
such an idea were developed, is indisputable. Explanations, nat-
uralistic, diverse, and ingenious, have been offered by the subtle
minds of brilliant and acute thinkers and students; but no one
has been able to convince the mass of mankind that any ex-
planation which fails to see throughout the entire development
the finger of God pointing and directing to a fulfilment which

^ See Appendix E, "The Character of The Book of Daniel."

46 Jesus^ Idea

bespeaks human redemption, is worthy of acceptation or can ade-
quately explain so marvelous a history and so magnificent a con-
ception. However, much that is foul, degrading and unseemly
may be found in the lives of the great men, and in the institu-
tions of Israel — and there is a great deal — justice demands an
admission of the presence of Divinity. The words of the late
President Harper, of the University of Chicago, express clearly
the sanest conclusion as to the history of Israel. "It is the
history of a nation, starting on the level of other nations, and
gradually rising, through the influence of great leaders, to a
more and more noble, more and more true, conception of God,
and with every step upward, leaving behind some belief or cus-
tom inherited from paganism, which has become inconsistent
with the higher ideal of God. This history exhibits the in-
fluence of the divine spirit — an influence exerted with all the
strength of Almighty power acting in consistency with other at-
tributes, and working in the hearts of a people held down by
sin. It is, in short, the story of a nation, lifted little by little
from the lowest condition of nomadism, and exhibiting at
each stage of progress, the weaknesses and sins common to
people at that stage of advancement."

We are compelled, therefore, to ask, Is not such a history
prophetic? Has the end been attained? Does the develop-
ment of this august conception cease where we have left it? Is
no new chapter to be added? It seems to us inevitable that
something must follow. Order should not issue in chaos, cause
must have its effect, means must attain its end. The words
of John Fiske are applicable here: "God is not like a child that
builds a house of cards to blow it down again." The Old
Testament, indeed, is incomplete, inexplicable, and unintelligible
without the New Testament; the New Testament is incomplete,
inexplicable, and unintelligible without the Old Testament.
The one is preparatory, the other complementary; both are
essential to a harmonious whole. We should not expect, there-
fore, our development of the idea of the Kingdom of God
to close with the Prophet Malachi. Hence, we are prepared
to inquire, What is the next step? For an answer, we must
look elsewhere than to either the Old Testament or the New.



Between the death of Malachi and the birth of Jesus
Christ, several centuries of history, replete with interest and
significance, but unrecorded in the pages of the Old Testament,
intervened. Had we access to all the events of this period,
they would be found of great importance to this study. Un-
fortunately, the period is not well known. During these cen-
turies, however, there arose many, if not all, of the ideas, con-
ceptions, and parties which formed the background of Jewish
life in the time of our Lord, and which, passively and actively,
waged incessant warfare against Jesus and the ideas He sought
to inculcate. The Scribes, the Pharisees the Sadducees, the
Essenes, the definite conception of a personal Messiah, and
many of the familiar institutions of the New Testament are
the offspring of this era. This period is rightly called **The
Night of Legalism," and it witnessed the rise of what is com-
monly known as Judaism, which represents the latest and extra-
Old Testament developments of Jewish ideas and conceptions.
Let us now note some of the tendencies of thought and life
which characterized it, and which affect our study.

It would be both interesting and profitable to trace in de-
tail the formative influences of this era but space does not per-
mit us to do so. We shall have to content ourselves with the
chief fruits of the period, the fruits of life and thought that
bear upon the idea of the Kingdom of God. We shall be
concerned for the most part with the Scribes and Pharisees, and
the tendencies which they represent, and with the marked de-
velopment of the conception of the Kingdom of God and its

The Babylonian Exile, as may be supposed, had influenced
the Jews strongly and in many directions. One effect of this
experience was to develop in the remnant of the exiles who re-


48 Jesus' Idea

mained faithful to Jehovah and the Holy City an unpre-
cedented devotion to their ancestral religion. Indeed every cus-
tom, reminiscent of the former life, was assiduously observed;
prayer must be offered with the face toward Jerusalem; the
Sabbath, the rite of circumcision, and fasting, assumed in-
creased importance. In every way the ancient faith and prac-
tices were stressed. In thus emphasizing and safe-guarding
their religion, the Jews were obeying a rational impulse. They
felt fully and keenly that the humiliation of the exile was
a deserved punishment for their disobedience to God's law,
their failure to be God's Kingdom. Hence the only way to
regain and to retain the favor of their jealous God was by
scrupulous devotion to, and exact compliance with, all the re-
quirements of His law. Consequently, while tvtiy detail of the
law would be highly valued, especial stress and emphasis would
be placed upon those points of the law in which Israel had been
remiss in the past.^ It thus happened that the very essence of
Judaism, i. e., the religion of the Jews after the Babylonian
exile, was a slavish adherence to the letter of the law.

Accompanying this tendency to exalt the law, we find
another tendency of far-reaching import. Persons were needed
to collect, edit, and preserve the sacred books. This caused
the rise of the literary class known to us as the Scribes. The
Scribes, however, were not only to study and to edit the
sacred literature, force of circumstances compelled them to
become the law's interpreters and expounders. Consequently,
in the Scribes we have the teachers and preachers of the time.
They were the successors of the prophets of an earlier era.
From the earliest period of their history, the influence of the
Scribes increased steadily, until, in process of time, they became
the powerful and arrogant leaders of Jewish thought and
opinion. Soon they were organized into bands or guilds for
the furtherance of their work. Indeed, they were the first
to inaugurate the movement for the general education of the
Jewish masses. And it must be remembered that their aim was

^ Schurer says, in speaking of this tendency : "Its every require-
ment was a requirement of God from His people; its most scrupu-
lous observance v/as, therefore, a religious duty; nay, the supreme,
and in truth the sole religious duty. The v^hole piety of the Israelite
consisted in obeying with fear and trembling, with all the zeal of an
anxious conscience, the law given him by God in all its particulars."

The Night of Legalism 49

npt primarily intellectual but practical: to influence their
brethren to practice the law. In fact, by the strenuous efforts of
the Scribes, the entire Jewish people became thoroughly ac-
quainted with the details, requirements, and minutiae of the
law, and of the law as interpreted and applied by them. In
this endeavor they were greatly assisted by the synagogue, an-
other outgrowth of this era.

While the Scribes were perfectly honest in their purposes,
they availed themselves of a method which bore within itself
the seeds of death, and which was most admirably adapted
to defeat the very end they had in view — the preservation
of the integrity and the purity of their ancestral religion.
In interpreting the law and its requirements, the Scribes were
not direct, forceful, and convincing; their method was not
simple and natural, but forced, circuitous, and artificial; re-
minding us of much of the interpretation of the New Testa-
ment that has been current in past ages and in certain quarters.
Their exegesis, indeed, consisted of a detailed and elaborate
definition and exposition of each command of the law, and an
application of these definitions to the needs of daily life by
means of excessive "amplification, illustration, and embellish-
ment." The inevitable result of their method was a slavish
literalism which often ignored the true meaning and intent of
the law, and a heartless and senseless casuistry, which obscured
the beauty and reasonableness of the inner spirit of the law.

The Pharisees, another interesting product of this era, were
the body of Jews who claimed to live in accordance with the
very letter of the law. They composed a party of orthodox
Jews, who were more strict in their observance of the law than
the great mass of their brethren, and who valued the law
more highly than life itself. Little need be said in explana-
tion of the close relationship of the Scribes and Pharisees,
which is so evident on many pages of the New Testament,
inasmuch as the interpreters of the law, and those who sought
to live in accordance with the law, would be from the first
very closely allied. They represented, in fact, the same mental
tendency, and were animated by the same purpose — the ex-
altation of the law. The name, Pharisaioi, whence the word
"Pharisees," is derived from an Aramaic word, and means "the
separated ones." Whether this name was self-chosen and self-

50 Jesus' Idea

applied, as some assert, or whether it was an opprobrious
epithet bestowed by their opponents, it is impossible to say.
However, the separation referred to was something more than
that which characterized the ordinary Jew. The Pharisee
was like his fellow-Jew in all points save one: he was not con-
tent with the strictest separation from the Gentiles, but sought
to separate himself from the mass of his fellow-countrymen.
And his reason was that the great mass of the people, either
from disinclination or inabilit>^, did not comply with all the
minute demands of the law, especially in matters of food and
cleansings. Hence, in the minds of the Pharisees, they were
unclean, and to escape the defilement likely to ensue from
intercourse with them, the Pharisees avoided association with
them as far as possible. Thus they were "the separated ones."

One would naturally suppose that such supercilious self-
sufficiency would have rendered the Pharisees obnoxious to
the people generally. Yet such w^as not the case. The Pharisees
were the popular and influential party of Judaism — more in-
fluential in fact than the kings or the priests. The reasons for
this have been succinctly summarized as follows: "They had
more regard to the public than the Sadducees; they were
milder as judges; they shared, and indeed nourished, the national
hatred against the Romans; the doctrines they held and taught,
their scrupulous observance of the law, and their outwardly
strict and severe manner of life caused them to be revered as
pattern Israelites."^

Nevertheless, the tendency of the party, and its fruits,
were subversive of true religion. While the Pharisees might
regard themselves as pre-eminently the embodiment of the

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