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בס"ד

The Resurrection

(Continued from p. 264.)

By Julius Eckman

The endeavour to keep the minds of sincere believers undisturbed, and the harmony and conformity of our body uninterrupted.—neither of which can continue if such irreverent attacks are made on one side insidiously and scurrilously on the other sneeringly and superciliously, on tenets and doctrines sacred to the whole religious world,—this, our practical tendency, independently of other considerations, will apologize for drawing so largely on the indulgence of the intelligent reader.

The force of the texts quoted. pp. 152-154. 258, 259 is, in itself, sufficient to effect our purpose with believers; and, for those who do not believe, we do not write. The main object being gained, we beg to be excused for not copiously commenting on the passages adduced, as the limits of a periodical will not admit it, nor can we expect to enlist    the attention of the general reader to disquisitions on subjects which have so little practical tendency, and which to comprehend fully, no mortal man can expect.* All that we know is, that an Almighty Power which could produce a universe from nothing, is able to reproduce man from something,† as some particles of our mortal body, upon which such a change might be effected, must always be in existence. The possibility cannot at all be questioned with those who believe in God: the only question is, Can we find it promised in Scripture? and that we do find it is shown above.

* Ikkarim. iv. 35.

אמר ליה (גביהה בן פסיסא להאי צדוקי) ווי לכון חייביא דאמריתון מיתי לא חיין דלא בוו חיי דהוי חיי לא כל שכן He Gebiha ben Pessissah replying unto that Sadducee who had objected against the belief in the resurrection said unto him: “O! ye iniquitous men, who say the dead cannot revive; if those who have never lived, live now, how much easier can those be made to live again, who had lived before.” Sanhedrin. fol. 181a.

And so we can now proceed to reply to some objections that might be made relative to the subject under consideration.

<<349>>
a. Why is Scripture not more explicit? Why have the sacred authors not spoken so clearly, as to place the question beyond all controversy?

To this we reply; the promise is explicit; the manner in which it will be realized cannot be explicit. And Scripture speaks of it in as brief a manner as it does on every subject which does not fall under the cognizance of our senses, but under that of the mind.

(See above, page 151, text and notes.) Spiritual existences  or states cannot be correctly described by names borrowed from material objects; and as all our terms, the most abstract even, are taken from sensual objects, we have no expressions to convey an adequate idea of such beings as God, angels, soul, heaven; etc.

All that we know is the certainty of their existence; the idea is given us in Scripture, and thus we know that our belief is not imaginary. Yet these ideas cannot be received by us, except under certain shapes, certain forms,—the human mind being incapable of conceiving any pure ideas, quite devoid of form. The form then in which we clothe those ideas, the manner in which we think of those existences, the image which we bear of them in our mind, is our ideal conception of them. This ideal view may be correct or not; it depends on the state of our men­tal faculties, and on the accessibility of the object of which we form the ideal. Of the metaphysical objects mentioned above, we properly can form no true ideal conception; hence the bre­vity of Scripture on such subjects. Now, as Scripture is brief in the explanation of pure spiritual existences, it is so, in a like manner, on such that are partly so. Of such a nature are the ideas the Messiah and of the Resurrection. We know no more than that such events will take place, but how, and when, we cannot know. The very prophets* that foretold and foresaw <<350>>these events, beheld them by the medium of their own faculties: hence each of them taught the same doctrine, yet under the influence of different impressions, and thus from different ideal points. Good men imitate the example given by Sacred Writ. If they are desirous of affording consolation, of establishing their faith, they will briefly hint at such ideal truths but they will never start doubts, or trouble the church, by questions on subjects purely ideal or bordering on the ideal. Disputes exist among mankind about such topics these 2000 years, and as they hare not been settled till now, good men will exercise their powers in the furtherance of practical virtues, and allow ideal truths to rest upon their own strength.

* סיגנון אחד עולה לכמה נביאים ואין שני נביאים מתנבאים בסיגנון אחד Many prophets may see the same sign (סיגנון signifies type, argument, extra­ordinary event), but no two prophets see it under the same form or image. (Sanhedrin, fol. 81a). Nay, one prophet often had the same object presented to him under different figures or signs. פעמים שהנבואה באה בפיו היום בסיגנון אחד ולאחר זמן בסיגנון אחר Yarchi to Isaiah, xxi. 1. This was according to the object for which the prophecy was communicated to him. Was Israel oppressed by enemies from without, the promise of a future deliverer given under the figure of a conqueror: were his Israel’s kings wicked, and did they oppress the nation, then a just and equitable king would be promised. Who should deliver them from the hands of wickedness and oppression. Thus, whatever property the prophet wished to represent, he took his images from objects endowed with such properties. This will reconcile many difficulties in reading the prophets.

Another difficulty arises from the different degrees of light in the minds of i.e. prophets themselves:

כל הנבאיים נסתברי בספקלריא שאינה מאירה משה רבנו נסתבר בספקלריא המאירה׃ יבמות מ״ט

The humble and faithful reader will be satisfied with the certainty promised and not indulge his curiosity in minute inquiries, and in the application of texts. Our wise men teach us a different method. See Ikkarim. iv. 42.

And men of learning and genius will spare us metaphysical queries. Are the laws of the Bible binding no that we can pass by the non-observance of them with silence? Let us, therefore, teach our laws first. Are all our hearers acquainted with the Bible—with its archaeology—with the history of our nation—of our literature—that we need have that most at heart which may profit them least? Scriptures and humanity teach us what we have to do: let us follow the example and advice given to all those who are well-wishers to mankind.

b. If it be alleged, that some of the passages quoted in proof of our argument have no immediate reference to the final resurrection of the body, we say, as the greater number of them has <<351>>such an immediate application, and as they do explicitly promise the event, the argument is settled. One single explicit passage in the sacred writings is sufficient to establish our belief. The repetition of a truth does not render that truth more true.

c. Should it be asked which are these passages, we refer to Isaiah xxv. 8, xxvi. 19, as also Ezek. xxxvii., in which the terms “Thy dead shall live;” “death shall be overcome eternally” (or by victory); “tears shall be wiped from every face;” and Ezek., “Shall these bones live? And the Lord said, Prophesy unto these bones, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord unto these bones, Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live (v. 5), and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath into you, that ye shall live and know that I am the Lord.”

Some will have that all this is to be applied metaphorically to the restoration of Israel from the Babylonian captivity. Thy dead is to mean those who were politically deprived of their land, their privileges; the grave is to mean Babylon, etc. We will admit this interpretation to some extent, and say it does apply metaphorically to the captivity. But every word and every sentence, before it is used figuratively, must be fully understood in its proper sense, else we cannot understand the figure. For example, when the prophet speaks of the state of Assyria, under the figure of an unmanageable vessel, that is quite in disorder, and not fit for use,—he says, “Thy ropes hang loose;” “They cannot secure the mast;” “No sails can be spread,” &c. All this is used figuratively of a ruined state; but it would have been unintelligible, if we had not fully known. such objects as a vessel, masts, sails, and ropes. The whole idea of a vessel, with its properties and situations and appendages, must be quite familiar to us, before we understand the figure.

This, applied to our texts, proves that the idea of a literal resurrection was fully known to and quite familiar among the nation to whom these prophets address themselves, else they would not have understood what he meant: Moreover, if promises are made here by means of metaphors, the literal import <<352>>must not only be fully understood, but firmly believed; for if we do not believe the one we cannot believe the other, and the whole promise is then a mere nothing. The prophet promises the restoration of Israel, under the figure of the resurrection of the body, meaning,—As your physical bodies shall live again after their decay, so shall your body politic revive after its fall; as your actual dead shall be raised from their graves, so shall your dead (the captivity) be called forth from their political grave (Babylon). Acquainted they must have been with the idea of the resurrection; this we have shown just now,—but they must else have believed it: if not,—had they considered it unfounded or a fable,—they would have considered the promise equally fabulous and unfounded, and the whole prophecy would have been futile.          

Therefore, if we take these passages to the letter, as promising the resurrection, we have the words of the prophet in favour of our tenet. If we apply them metaphorically, we have the assurance, 1st, that the idea was then fully known and familiar; 2d, that it was universally believed and received; 3d, that the prophets themselves supported this doctrine, and confirmed the nation in it. And as they were true and faithful prophets, those who do just the contrary, who impugn what the prophets have taught and encouraged, are just the reverse of true and faithful prophets. ומה לתבן את הבר אמר ה׳ צבאות “Why interferes the straw with the corn? saith the Lord Zebaoth.”

But the courteous reader will allow me to request his atten­tion to this our subject, a little longer. We said before, we will allow this metaphorical application to some extent. The prophet Isaiah (xxv. 7, 8, xxvi. 19) might have had, as we admitted. some reference to the state of affairs during the invasion of Sennacherib (2 Kings xviii. 18, &c., xix. 39, &c., 2 Chron. xxxii., Isaiah xxxvii.), and to the Babylonian captivity. This might have been the primary sense. But the perusal of Isaiah xxv., xxvi., xxvii., will convince the unbiassed reader that the prophet carries his views to considerably more glorious events, and to a happier future. From chapter xiii. to xxv., judgment is de<<353>>nounced against different states and cities, enemies to the Israelites, by whom the latter are to suffer much; yet from all these troubles we are to issue forth gloriously,—a remnant, a glorious remnant, is to be saved, to which chapters xxv., xxvi., and xxvii., refer. And though some of the promises might have had a partial fulfilment already, the whole train of these prophecies waits yet for a plenary accomplishment. This is the accepted opinion about these passages among all denominations.

It is but a few cold, soulless commentators, called rationalists, whose disaffected mind is net at all attuned to the spirituality of the sacred writers, and who have not at all drawn from the spiritual sources of the living waters; it is but such that contract their views to the past, with the exclusion of the future. We will allow them to understand the words, but they never can find out the spirit of these words. Some might be good philologists, but surely none of them has an idea of theology. They can but exercise their minor criticism on the minutiae of grammatical niceties, but never can they enjoy the mental repast of true theological sentiments, and that of sanctifying truths. It is but such as these who seek to confine noble rolling spheres within the palm of their cold hand. But not like unto those men is the portion of Jacob. True believers never read those and similar passages, without being impressed with the glorious burden that they bring to Israel and to mankind at large, and the awful end of wickedness which they foretell.

It is only under the most distant focus that the scenes presented from chapter xiii. to xxviii. can be seen in their true light. This is the concurrent opinion of all Jewish and Christian commentators who understood Scripture, and the language and import of prophecy. The names, countries, and events before us are fully known to those who understand the symbolic language of the prophets. We find here Babel (chap. xiii., xiv., xx., etc.), Edom (xxi.), Moab (xv., xvi.), Jerusalem in trouble, and the final redemption. (see the remarks pp. 262-264.)*

* Abarbanel, in his משמיע ישועה justly observes, on chapter xxiv. to xxvi. 6, “I have no doubt but that the commentators erred in applying this (chap. xxiv.) <<354>> to the captivity of the ten tribes, for nothing is mentioned of the tribes in the chapter; and since it is followed by the chapter מכנף הארץ ‘from the end of the earth’ which all agree in referring to the days of the Messiah; and hence as the comment in question would materially interfere with the connexion of the chapters, I therefore prefer the opinion of the Nazarenes, who apply the whole chapter, ‘Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty,’ &c., to the latest future.”

By a strange coincidence, Jerome, on this chapter, refers to the Jewish exegesis, and adopts hence the approval of Abarbanel.

A group of words occur in these chapters, which will convince the initiated reader of the correct view of our commentators. We will name just a few: קריה בצורה read בצרה vide Abarb. ad Is. lxiii. 1; and on Obadiah. ארמון זרים the combination of these two words ארמון from רום (Rome) to be high; זר זרים often instead of אל זר (Isa. lxiii. 12,  Deut. xxxii. 16) ארמון זרים where strangers, foreigners rule; זמיר עריצים (Zemir); critics justly observe that it ought to be זמר (Zamer) song, to correspond with שאון (tumult); but the Masorites, knowing better what it meant, read זמיר the branch.

לוט is to be found only in this chapter; root לוט lateo, לוטה curse laedo, to hurt, leid, in German, trouble.

And יין המשומר מששת ימי הבראשית—משתה שמרים This may suffice: Vide משמיע ישועה and our humble lines, p. 264.

(To be continued.)