« PreviousContinue »
stant tendency to literalize the figurative expressions of the prophets must have helped his view along. Such a tendency, by itself, would be sufficient to account for the change from the symbolic resurrection of Isaiah to the literal one of Daniel. The exclusive character of the book may be accounted for by the hatred which long oppression must have engendered. Again, it was not possible for the pious Jew to think that the prediction of an earlier prophet had altogether failed. Now, though his genius for criticism would hardly lead him to detect the intrinsic fallacy in Jeremiah's seventy years, still the events which followed the Restoration were any thing but such as were promised. Zerubbabel fell far short of the humblest Messianic standard; and, that the prophet's word might still be true, an arbitrary numerical arrangement was agreed upon, and the years became sabbatical weeks. Much of the arithmetic of Daniel and the other Apocalyptic writers is determined by the prevalent custom of assigning, for the duration of the world, a period analogous to that employed in its creation. This reckoning formed the basis of all the later Rabbinical and early Christian eschatologies. In the fif teenth chapter of Barnabas we read, "God made in six days the works of his hands. He finished them on the seventh day, and rested on the seventh day and sanctified it. Consider, my children, what is the meaning of 'He finished them in six days.' The meaning is this: that in six thousand years the Lord God will bring all things to an end; for with him one day is a thousand years," &c.
To a certain degree a prophecy like that of Daniel tends to fulfil itself. It was a brand in the midst of the dry stubble. The generous fire was kindled in the hearts of the heroic Maccabees, and through them in the hearts of the people; but how little of fulfilment was there in what they achieved! "The time and times and half a time" went by, nor yet the golden age began. Intervals of precarious independence indeed there were; but they ended in vassalage, even as they had begun.
The Apocalyptic writings, which succeed the book of Daniel, are variations of the same general type. What is now
VOL. LXXXVII. -NEW SERIES, VOL. VIII. NO. I.
the third book in the Sibylline collection seems to have been written in the early part of the Maccabean times. It does not differ from Daniel in its general conception, except as being more extravagant. Nothing. can be more terrible than the period here which corresponds to the "day of the Lord" in the prophets. Pestilence and war shall spread over the world: the earth shall be neither ploughed nor sown, but shall be covered with the unburied dead. "Then shall God send forth from the sun a king who shall cause every land to cease from evil war, slaying some and fulfilling a faithful covenant with others." The House of David has, of course, no place in this conception, any more than in Daniel; and the notion of personal instrumentality is almost forgotten in the simple recollection of the theocracy. The Ahriman of the Persians takes more distinctive form as Beliai. "But when the threats of the mighty God draw near, a flaming power shall come in a billowy flood upon the earth, and consume Beliai, and all the haughty men who placed their trust in him. God shall roll the heaven as a book is rolled, and the whole spangled firmament shall fall on the glorious earth and ocean. . . . And no longer shall the laughing globes of the heavenly lights roll on. There shall be no night, no dawn, no many days of care." *
It would seem that scarcely any epoch of importance in the history of this people was without its prophetic voice of warning or encouragement. Ever anew the dreadful hour came on, but with it came the man! Ever anew from out the ashes of their disappointment rose, Phoenix-like, the bird of Hope!
The alternations of joy and sorrow which marked the period of John Hyrcanus and his immediate successors find expression in the Apocalypse of Enoch. The hopes of the Palestinian Jews at this time were raised to the highest pitch by the successes of this leader, only to be shattered again in the tumult of conflicting sects, originating in the weak and criminal dispositions of those who followed him.
* Vide Westcott's Introduction.
The Sibylline writer had contemplated the destruction of the Grecian empire, the rise of the Roman, and the destruction of that also, preparatory to the coming of the Messianic king. The writer of Enoch, on the contrary, ignores the Roman empire, and, with Daniel, regards Greece only as the centre of irreligious, secular power. The seventy years of Jeremiah, and the seventy sabbatical weeks of Daniel, are seventy shepherds; and again a mystical period of ten weeks. The supernatural character of the Messiah is, if possible, more strongly marked than in Daniel. "I saw," he says, "in heaven One, Ancient of Days, and his head was white as wool; and with him was another, whose countenance was as the appearance of a man, and full of grace like to one of the holy angels. And I asked one of the angels who went with me and showed me all hidden things, of that Son of Man, who he was, and whence he was, and wherefore he went with the Ancient of Days." Again, however, the Messiah is imaged forth as the "horn of a white bullock." If Hilgenfelt is right, this is the only Messianic passage in the original book. And all the beasts of the field, and all the birds of the air, feared this white bullock and worshipped him alway. "And I looked till all their races were changed, and they all became white bullocks." The character of this apocalypse seems more nearly allied to that of the Apocalypse in the New Testament than either of the others.
In the fourth book of Esdras, we have the final development of the Jewish Apocalypse. Its character is determined by the dreadful and humiliating circumstances of the time. It would almost seem that we might say of this with more truth than of Ecclesiastes, that "it is the saddest of all sad books." The reference to Cæsar's death is so distinct, that it must have been written after that event, and not far from the beginning of our era. At the risk of disturbing greatly the theories of Daniel and Enoch, the present writer finds himself compelled to fully recognize the influence of Rome. The Messianic kingdom is to be ushered in by the death of Augustus, who is to be destroyed by the Messiah in person. This is according to Hilgenfelt's interpre
tation of the vision of the great eagle in the eleventh chapter. So, then, in the midst of his despairing, the seer is full of hope. But his hope has no basis or justification in any thing which his eyes can see. It rests upon nothing less than the conviction that, sooner or later, God will redeem his people. Another consequence of the disastrous character of the times is the stern exclusiveness which marks the composition. The blessings of the Messianic kingdom are to be for Jews alone. From the Talmud and other contemporary sources, it would appear that this spirit characterized all the thought of the time. "And how, O Lord, if the world be made for our sakes only, do we not possess an inheritance in the world? How long shall this endure?" And again, "The Most High hath made this world for many, but the world to come for few. There be many created, but few shall be saved. Therefore ask no more questions concerning the multitude that perish; rather inquire how the righteous shall be saved, whose the world is, and for whom the world is created." The conception of the Messiah is somewhat confused, and it is difficult to say how it compares with the types of Daniel and Enoch. The supernatural element is still strongly marked; but, whether consistently or not, his lineage is again traced back to David. He is no teacher of righteousness, no prince of peace. His reign is to be inaugurated by a period of ruthless devastation and slaughter. It shall continue for a period of four hundred years. "After these years shall my Son Christ die, and all that have breath; and the earth shall be turned into the old silence seven days, like as in the beginning, and no man shall remain. But at the end of that time there shall be a resurrection of the faithful."
The exegetic literature of these times does not add much to the clearness of our conception. The Septuagint may throw some light on the views of the time and place at which it was made, from the fact that scarcely any passage brings forward the person of the Messiah in stronger light than the original text; and in some places the original ambiguity between a race and a person is decided by the selection of the race as the source of the divine blessings. The targums,
next to the New Testament, furnish the best contemporary testimony to the character of the Messianic views of the period. That of Onkelos is exceedingly literal. He gives a Messianic turn to the passage in Jacob's blessing, and also to the proph ecy of Balaam. The targum of John closely follows the Davidical type. The later targums on the Pentateuch are not so simple. Thus in Genesis iii. 15: "Then shall the serpent strive to sting him on the heel, but the sons of the woman shall secure their deliverance in the heel of time," the days of the Messiah. It is here, for the first time, that we have two distinct Messiahs; one the son of Ephraim, the other the son of David: we have the notion repeated in the targum on the Canticles. In Ecclesiastes, the day of the Messiah's coming is a mystery as the day of death, and who is he who shall discover it by wisdom? Although the Talmud was for the most part gathered in its present form a century or two later, it is generally agreed that its contents must, even before Christ, have formed the staple of learning in the Jewish schools. So, too, it must, more nearly than any thing else, have expressed the popular creed, unless we except with Westcott the Psalms of Solomon, in which the temporal and kingly character of the Messiah is strongly marked. In view of the slavish method of the Rabbinical interpretations, we should not expect from them any higher conception than we have already met. "Is it not written in the law," says one of these to his pupil," that thou shalt meditate therein day and night? Whatever hour, therefore, thou canst find belonging neither to the day nor night, in that thou mayest study Grecian wisdom." And with the masses, though the words of the law were weighty and light, the words of the Scribes were all weighty. Weighty indeed! They were the most miserable travesties upon the sublimest and most sacred utterances of those who went before them. "Behold the bough bearing flowers, berries, and fruits together!" "Behold the hen who lays eggs daily!" These were Rabbinical arguments for supposing that in the Messianic kingdom women would bear children every day. From a similar extravagance arose the common form of oath, "If I lie, let me never eat of the wild ox."