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The Difference Between Judaism and Christianity

(Continued from p. 306.)

By the Rev. Dr. W. Schlessinger

Equally striking and truthful is the citation of three other Bible passages, which are said to have seen their fulfilment in the time of Jesus. In Matthew ii. 15. reference is made to Hosea xi. 1. “When Israel was a lad, I loved him, and from Egypt I called my son.” Whoever drags verses which can be understood so readily by such violence into a discussion, have evidently a bad cause to defend. Either must such a defender be himself sunk into the deepest ignorance, or he must be able to rely on the ignorance of his public. But at the present age of the world, every child must know that Israel is called in the Bible the son, or even the first born son of God, and the first part of the verse of Hosea, cited by Matthew, leaves no doubt that in the second also, Israel alone can be meant. [consequently there could have no fulfilment of the prophecy by Joseph, Mary, and their infant flying into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod.

The whole story of the slaughter of children at Bethlehem, is considered by many intelligent Christians even as fabulous: that it is not to be expected that any Jew will give it the least credence. Much less are we able to discover in this narrative the fulfilment of the prophecy of Jeremiah, as the apostle falsely attempts to do in 17, 18. Let one merely take the trouble to refer to the verses of the Holy Scriptures, which are employed by the apostles to answer their ends, and to read them in connexion with what precedes and follows, and it will then be seen what an abuse the founders of Christianity were guilty of, in their quoting the Bible, and to what legerdemain and deceptive tricks they had recourse.

Jeremiah, in representing Rachel (xxxi. 15, as weeping on account of the loss of her children, also <<349>>shows us clearly from the comforting words, “Thy children shall come back again from the land of the enemy,” that the complaints of Rachel must have been on account of her descendants who had been carried away captive, but by no means could have any reference to children which were to be murdered at Bethlehem. The apostle ought, independently of this, not have forgotten that Leah, the mother of Judah, and not Rachel, ought to have wept for the slaughter of the innocents at Bethlehem, which belonged to the tribe of Judah: but this cautious proceeding would be asking too much from the author or authors of the book of Matthew.

But the crown of learning is due after all to the apostle for telling us at the conclusion of his second chapter, that Jesus had gone to live in the little town of Nazareth, in order that it might be fulfilled what the prophet had said, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” But so it happens that up to this day no man has ever been able to find this verse in Scripture. The hypothesis of some learned Christians is not, however, without probability, that the apostle may have been thinking on Jeremiah xxxi. 6, which says, “There shall yet be a day, when the watchers shall call on the mount of Ephraim,” which reads in the Hebrew text, קראי נצרים Kahre-oo Notz’rim  the notzrim or watchers shall call on the mount of Ephraim. Rise, and let us go up to Zion, unto the Lord our God,” which expression may, perhaps, have been understood by the totally or half ignorant to mean, they shall be called Notzrim, or Nazarenes.” Similar misconceptions are, by the way, not very rare in the New Testament.

The Unity of God.

Mr. Miller is perfectly right in saying, “Many Jews appear to think that it would be culpable in them to entertain the slightest doubt that they hold the whole and precise truth in the important point of the Unity of God. It is with reluctance and because the importunity of Christians force them, that they enter upon the investigation of this doctrine as it is held by Christians; <<350>>and then every step in the investigation is accompanied with the unpleasant impression that there is not a single attraction of either reason or interest in the whole subject.” Whoever is, in the true sense of the word, a professor of Judaism, cannot hold the idea at all possible, even for a moment, that there can be a second person in the Deity, and as little that there can be imagined an interpretation of the Scriptures which supports this idea.

It is a settled and indisputable fact that many of our laws have for their object to oppose polytheism, of which the doctrine of the Trinity is a remnant, say what you will. All the laws calculated to separate Israel from other nations, are intended to guard us against all heathenish elements. Judaism knows of no greater sin than to pay divine homage to any other being, excepting the invisible God alone. We cannot help this; the word of God revealed to us in Holy Writ so commands us; in the eyes of the Lord the belief in different persons in the Deity is as great a sin as incest and murder. Israelites believe that God has revealed his holy will through Moses; nevertheless they would consider all those as sinners who would dare to identify Moses with God. As now Moses must without any comparison stand infinitely higher, and be more valued than Jesus, with every Israelite: no one will blame him, if he takes the liberty to condemn the belief in the divinity of Christ, from the bottom of his heart, as a grievous sin.

It can, indeed, be proved from innumerable writings of orthodox Rabbins, that the Christians among whom we live at present, must on no account be regarded as pagans, and that the rules of conduct towards the heathens, laid down by the Rabbins, should by no means be employed against Christians, but that we are, on the contrary, bound to love them equally with our Israelitish brethren; I myself regard Christianity as an important progress compared with Paganism; and I declared already, elsewhere, (in a “Rabbi’s Reply,”) that I hold Protestantism again as an important progress; but all this does not prevent us to discover a refined idolatry in the divine homage paid to Christ, and to regard our Christian brothers as men who are ensnared in error respecting the most important reli<< 351>>gious questions.

The writer of this, and perhaps many, very many Jews are willing to acknowledge that God has deemed Jesus worthy of becoming a personage famous and important in the history of the world; but we are very far removed from regarding the belief in his divinity as a necessary condition for the attainment of salvation, on the contrary we are inclined to assume that this belief is very injurious to the attainment of this all-desirable end. The kingdom of God also cannot prevail on earth until the doctrine of the Trinity has yielded up the dominion to the pure monotheistic idea which is the basis of Judaism.

Christ said indeed, “My kingdom is not of this world;” but this held only true in the first three centuries after his birth, when Christianity maintained itself painfully against persecution and oppression. But how is it since it has obtained power and dominion? Has not his kingdom been since then of this world?

The two verses of the 31st chapter of Deuteronomy (17 and 18), which Mr. Miller so impressively urges us to reflect on, are not in sober truth even remotely calculated to make Christian ideas palatable to us. If we even are not so captivated by self-deception as to regard ourselves, acting in the manner we do now, as an exemplary people; if we must confess, that though our lot is still to be scattered among the nations, we have merited this fate through the multitude of our sins and transgressions: we are nevertheless not foolish and simple enough to regard the power and flourishing condition of the Christian states as the consequence of their virtue and piety.

If the argument of Mr. Miller could make the least impression on us; could we so far stray from truth and forget the teachings of our prophets to the extent to look for a true acknowledgment of God there only where outward splendour, earthly prosperity, and military power have attained their highest elevation: then would we be compelled to turn our view to the Greek church, which is professed by the mightiest kingdom on the earth—the Russian empire; for, in that case, the autocrat of so many millions of Russians would possess a much greater power o attraction than the small handful of Presbyterians. The followers of Moses, however, who did not bend the knee either to the Babylonian or <<352>>the Greek, or the Roman idols, possess yet at this day—notwithstanding all their faults, such a steady trust and faithfulness towards God, that they run no longer any risk, either to worship strange gods or a so-called god-man who was born in their own midst.

If even millions of non-Israelites feel deep obligations towards that mediator who rendered them susceptible for the moral laws of Moses and the prophets, so that they regard this instrument as the second person in the deity: still for us Israelites remains this alternative that either Jesus has never deemed himself a God, and the whole Trinity is a later invention, a consequence perhaps of the circumstance that he frequently answered those who inquired after his fathers name, which he could not mention out of a feeling of honour “I am a son of God,” with the same right which every other man has to the same appellation; or the conception of Mary without the approach of a man is a product of his own invention; and he declared himself as one with the Father, claiming at the same time honours due to God alone; in which case it will be well for him if his death on the cross has been received on High as his atonement and punishment for this daring blasphemy of the holy Name. In either case, however, must the thousands of millions who, for more than eighteen hundred years, have expected, and still expect, a forgiveness for their sins through this death on the cross be most pitiable in our estimation.

I am ready to acknowledge that the mere expression with the lips alone of our belief in the unity of God Goes not insure a man’s salvation; in order to be a Jew it is necessary also that, one should believe that God watches over the acts of every individual man; farther that He revealed to us his will through his servant Moses in a manner so solemn and impressive, as it has not been witnessed since that memorable time. We do not deem it in the least disagreeable that Mahomedans and Unitarians believe with us in the unity of God; it is also in the highest degree probable that the number of those is not inconsiderable, who outwardly, indeed, profess to believe in Christianity, whilst they nevertheless reject the Trinity at the bottom of their heart.

As once Moses spoke to his servant Joshua, “Would that all the <<353>>people of the Lord were prophets” (Numb. xi. 29), so do we also exclaim, “Would that all mankind were to acknowledge the Lord, and, filled with the divine spirit, might understand that when the prophets predicted, ‘On that day the Lord shall be one and his name ONE,’ they meant as clear as sunlight that neither the name of Jesus, nor that of any other being, can then be identical with the glorious name of the Eternal.”

We cannot repeat it often enough, and not enforce it energetically enough, that Jesus and his disciples may have been available teachers for the Pagans; but that Israelites who study with zeal Moses and the prophets do not stand in need of them, can learn nothing of them which can refresh the soul, but on the contrary they run the danger, through the study of the gospels, unless they have strength of mind and are firm in their faith, of being precipitated into an ocean of dark and confused ideas, and of doubting at length whether their reason be sound or not.

If we look at the subject with the best at our command, it must be conceded that a denial and suppression of reason belong to the characteristics of Christianity; and to regard as true what is incredible and opposed to reason was considered, according to the narrative of the gospels in the estimation of Christ, and latterly also in that of Christians in general, as in the highest degree meritorious. This proceeding will also be found quite natural if one reflects that Jesus himself commences his Sermon on the Mount, which has been entirely over-estimated by his followers, with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

What praise is here bestowed on the spirit? But as it is well-known that the poor in spirit have always been far more numerous than those who possess much of it, this surprising and agreeable message must necessarily have been highly welcome to the large masses. Whether Jesus counted himself among the poor in spirit we do not pretend to know, and cannot therefore determine whether he obtained the kingdom of heaven according to his own doctrine. But in truth one must renounce either reason or truth, when one reads the following passage from the Sermon on the Mount with attention, and nevertheless alleges to be a follower of Christ without practically fulfilling the Mosaic precept.          

“Think not that I am come <<354>>to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Whoever, therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven,” &c. (Matt. v. 17-19.)

If there is not pronounced here in clear and decisive words a judgment of condemnation over all those who, after Christ’s death, permitted themselves to intermeddle with the law of Moses: then must we give it up as a hopeless task ever to give our views, or form a judgment on any given subject. And may the Lord, before whom no falsehood can stand, and who loves truth and sincerity more than all other things besides, place very speedily a simplicity of ideas and love for truth in all mankind, the children of his creation, so that sophistry and pretended wisdom may appear in their nakedness and natural deformity, in order that no art of deception and perversion shall avail any longer to demonstrate from a proposition the opposite to what it ostensibly means.

The strict doctrine of Jesus concerning the institution of marriage in the same sermon, that whoever separates from his wife, from any other motive than incest causes her to commit adultery, and that he who marries a divorced woman commits that same crime, appears to Christians themselves so little of divine origin and practicable, that they never pay any attention to it.

The same holds good with respect to his doctrine concerning oaths; that also when one is smitten on one cheek, that he is to offer the other also to the smiter; and the admonition to give away the coat when the cloak is taken. We cannot possibly believe that any essential service has been rendered to mankind by the imparting of such exaggerated and impracticable doctrines, especially by one who pretends to be a god. The prettiest of all, however, and one entirely worthy of the deity of Christ, is the remark which may be found in Matthew, v. 43, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy,” but such a sentence is neither to be found in the Bible nor in the Talmud; on the contrary the Scriptures enjoin, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Levit. xix. 18.)

(To be continued.)