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THE OLD PATHS BY ALEXANDER MCCAUL (Excerpted from the London edition of 1844) SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS Among all the religions existing in the world, there are only two deserving of careful consideration, and they are both of Jewish origin, and were both once confined exclusively to the Jewish nation. They are now known by the names of Judaism and Christianity; but it must never be forgotten that the second is as entirely Jewish as the first. The founder of Christianity was a Jew. The first preachers of Christianity were Jews. The first Christians were all Jews; so that, in discussing the truth of these respective religions, we are not contrasting a gentile religion with a Jewish one, but comparing one Jewish creed with another Jewish creed. Neither in defending Christianity, do we wish to diminish anything from the privileges of the Jewish people; on the contrary, we candidly acknowledge that we are disciples of the Jews, converts to Jewish doctrines, partakers of the Jewish hope, and advocates of that truth which the Jews have taught us. We are fully persuaded that the Jews whom we follow were in the right--that they have pointed out to us the “old paths”, “the good way”, and “we have found rest to our souls”. And we, therefore, conscientiously believe, that those Jews who follow the opposite system are as wrong as their forefathers who, when God commanded them to walk in the good old way, replied, “We will not walk therein”. But “Thus says the Lord, Stand you in the way, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find peace for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16) BY WHOSE AUTHORITY? The sages have said, “The fear of your Rabbi is as the fear of God”. They endeavor to prove the validity of such an extravagent claim by such passages as Exodus 16:8, “Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord.” But they have taken for granted what they can never prove, and that is, that every Rabbi is invested with the same office and authority as Moses. But where, in all the law of Moses, is there any warrant for such an assumption? Moses could with all propriety say, “Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord,” for he held a special commission from God, and had proved to the people the reality of his commission by a series of miracles. But this the Rabbis never pretended to do. In the absense of such evidence, the advocates of Tradition flee for refuge to Deut. 17:8 and following: “If there arise a matter too hard for you in judgement, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within your gates; then you shall arise, and get you up into the place which the Lord shall choose; and you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge that shall be in those days, and inquire, and they shall show you the sentence of judgement. And you shall do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall show you; and you shall observe to do according to all that they inform you; according to the sentence of the law which they shall teach you, and according to the judgement which they shall tell you, you shall do; you shall not decline from the sentence which they shall show you to the right hand nor to the left.” Here, say the Traditionalists, is a plain and clear unequivocal command. And there is no doubt, here God plainly declares what is to be done in a difficult case. He commands the Israelites to go to the place which the Lord chose, that is, to the place where the Ark of the Covenant was to be found; and to inquire, not of the Rabbis, but of the priests, the Levites, and the judge. But this passage, instead of proving that “the fear of the Rabbi is as the fear of God”, proves the opposite. It supposes first, that the Rabbis and learned men may differ in judgement, that there may be a controversy, and consequently that one party may be in the wrong. This therefore, at once, effectively overthrows Rabbinical infallibility. It shows secondly, that in a case of difficulty, the Israelites were not to appeal to the Rabbis, but to the priests, and to the judge, and even to them only in the place which the Lord should choose. There is not one word said about Rabbis or the sages, and, therefore, this passage completely destroys all their lofty pretensions. The word Sanhedrin is Greek, and this would lead us to believe that it was not instituted until some time after the end of the Exile, and the Greek occupation of the Land, when the Jews had become acquainted with the Greek pratices and tongue. Hilchoth Sanhedrin c.ii.2 says: The command is, that there should be a great Sanhedrin, priests and Levites, for it is said, You shall come to the priests, the Levites. But if they find none, yea, though they all be mere Israelites, this is lawful. According to this, the Sanhedrin was to consist of three classes: priests, Levites, and Israelites. But Moses does not say one word about there being Levites as distinguished from priests. He does not say, “The priests and the Levites”, but simply, “the priests, the Levites”, from which it is plain that he is speaking only of that one class of the sons of Levi, who had the office of the priesthood. Further, of Israelites, Moses does not say one more word than he does of the Levites. Besides the priests, Moses mentions none but the judge (not the judges), so that if the judge was an Israelite, there could at the very most be only one Israelite among those whom Moses designates as the highest court of appeal in Israel. (And if the judge himself were also a priest, then there would not be even one member of the court who was not a priest). [Israel was for a time to be ruled by a single judge, as was the case with Samson, and the others enumerated in the book of Judges; just as Rome was at one time ruled by two consuls, and some Canaanite cities were ruled by two judges.] But the Oral law says that even though the Sanhedrin might not have even one priest among its number, yet it is still lawful. Ergo, this court cannot be the same as that of Moses, which says, “You shall come to the priests, the Levites.” Indeed, the sad perplexity of the rabbis to find out some passage or other on which to base their own later invention, and the desperate necessity which they felt of appealing to this passage, proves to us most satisfactorily, that the Sanhedrin is not a Mosaic institution at all. It is impossible that there could have been two supreme courts of appeal--Moses’ court of priests, and one other. Moses ordained a court to consist exclusively of priests; the rabbis not only ignore this command, but actually abrogated his institution, and set up another instead of it.(They were probably enabled to do this in the time of confusion which followed the Greek conquest.) The Sanhedrin was thus established, not by the upholders of the tradition of Moses, but by those who usurped it; and it was perpetuated by those whose ambition led them to want to retain power in their own hands. But someone may say, that even if this passage does not prove the authority of the Rabbis, does it not at least warrant the Jews in continuing to reject the claims of Jesus, since he was condemned by the priests, and in Jerusalem, the place which the Lord chose? And we agree that this suggestion is plausible--but we can easily prove that it is nothing more. In order to do this, we must first ask, whether the command to abide by the sentence of the priests is, in every case, and without any exception, binding? To this question there are but two answers possible: Yes, or No. If the answer is No, then it is admitted that the priests might sometimes be wrong; and so, of course, it would then be possible that they had been wrong about Jesus, and that their decision ought not to be binding. But the answer could be Yes, the sentence is binding in every case, and the command is not to deviate from it, either to the right hand or to the left. In that case we would beg the reader to turn to Jeremiah chapter 26, and to consider the case set before them. We find there that the prophet had delivered a message from God, very similar to Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem. We find, further, that for this message the priests condemned Jeremiah to death. “Now it came to pass. . . that the priests, and the prophets, and all the people took him, saying, You shall surely die.” We find, further, that this sentence was pronounced “in the place which the Lord had chosen”, in the Temple itself. “And the people were gathered together against Jeremiah in the House of the Lord.” We find, further, that the sentence was no rash sudden act, but the deliberate judgement of the priests. For when the princes of Judah came afterwards to inquire into the matter, “Then spoke the priests and the prophets to the princes and to all the people, saying, “This man is worthy to die, for he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears.” Now, we must ask again, whether the people of Israel was in duty bound to abide by this sentence, and not to deviate from it, either to the right hand or to the left? We reply, that they were not bound by this sentence, and that, if they had executed it, they would have been guilty of murder, as Jeremiah himself declares, “But know you for certain, that if you put me to death, you shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city. . . “ We infer, therefore, that it was possible for the priests, assembled in solemn deliberation in the House of the Lord, to err in judgement, and to pronounce an unrighteous sentence. We infer, further, that in such a case the people was not bound by this mistaken judgement, but that it was their duty to deviate from it, both to the right hand, and to the left. And we infer, lastly, that as the priests might mistake, and unjustly condemn to death a true prophet, their sentence against Jesus of Nazareth forms no more argument against the Messiahship of Jesus, than the similar sentence did against the true prophetic character of Jeremiah. But now it may be asked, if the judgement of the priests was not infallible, and if men were sometimes justified in refusing it, what was the meaning of the above commandment in Deuteronomy? The answer to this is very simple. The priest that stood to minister before the Lord had it in his power to inquire of the Lord and to receive a direct answer from God Himself--whose answer was, of course, infallible and universally obligatory, without the possibility of exception. We find many examples in which the Israelites availed themselves of this and inquired of the Lord. But when the priests did not inquire of the Lord, their judgement was only that of fallible men, and, therefore, not binding on the people. Of this type was the sentence upon Jeremiah. Being wicked men, they did not choose to ask the counsel of the Lord, but pronounced sentence according to the devices of their own hearts. DEUTERONOMY 13: THE FALSE PROPHET The favorite Jewish objection to the claims of Jesus of Nazareth is that passage at the beginning of the thirteenth chapter of Deuteronomy: If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, and he says, Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them, you shall not hearken to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you really love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. In citing this passage, the Jews take for granted that the religion of Jesus is essentially different from that of Moses; that it leads to the worship of strange gods; and that it is in fact a species of heathenism; while the religion of the Oral Torah, which they now profess, is utterly free of all heathen elements, and identical with the religion of the prophets. All this they assume; but the subject should be looked into. Our focus in this section will be to point out, in astrology, yet another feature of heathenism. The Talmud and its doctors all agree in asserting the influence of the stars over the fates and fortunes of men. In the first place, the Talmud lays down these general maxims: Life, children, and a livelihood depend not upon merit, but on the influence of the stars. (Moed Katan, fol. 28, col. 1) The influence of the stars makes wise, the influence of the stars makes rich. (Shabbath, fol. 156, col. 1) But it also tells us the following: He that is born on the first day of the week, will be a man excelling, but in one quality only. . . He that is born on the second day of the week will be an angry man. . . He that is born on the fifty day of the week will be a benevolent man. What is the reason? Because on it were created the fishes and the fowls. . . . He that is born on the sabbath, on the sabbath he shall also die, because on his account they profaned the great day of the sabbath. Rabba bar Rav Shila says, he shall possess an eminent degree of holiness. (Shabbath, fol. 156, col. 1) Here is completely the heathen doctrine of fate. Not only the external circumstances of fortune, but the moral qualities of the soul are made to depend upon the day of a man’s birth. Whether a man be profligate or holy, according to this doctrine, does in on way depend upon himself, his own choice, or conscience, but simply upon the circumstance of his birth happening on a Tuesday or a Saturday. There is indeed a difference of opinion among the doctors, as to the nature of this influence, but all agree as to the fact, as may be further seen from the opinion of R. Huna: These things do not depend upon the sidereal influence of the day, but upon the sidereal influence of the hour. He that is born under the influence of the sun will be a splendid man. . . he that is born under Venus (Nogah) will be a rich and profligate man. . . He that is born under Mercury (Kochav) will be a man of strong memory, and wise, for Mercury is secretary to the sun. He that is born under the influence of the moon will suffer much. . . if a thief, he will prosper. He that is born under Saturn (Shabthai) will be a man whose thoughts come to naught. . . he that is born under Mars (Maadim) will be a shedder of blood. . . Rabbah said, I was born under Mars. Abbai answered, Therefore you are fond of punishing and killing. (Shabbath, ibid.) It is well-known that the ancient Greeks and Romans considered Venus as the patroness of profligacy, Mercury as the god of eloquence and learning, and Mars as the god of war, and behold! here in the Oral Torah you have the very same doctrine. It will be countered, that the Talmud says that Israel is not under the influence of the stars. Rabbi Chanina says, the influence of the stars makes wise, the influence of the stars makes rich, and Israel is under that influence. Rabbi Jochanan says, Israel is not under the influence of the stars. . . Because it is said, Thus says the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. (Jeremiah 10:2). The heathen, not Israel. . . Abraham answered [to God] , I have consulted my astrology, and am not fit to bear a son. God said, Go forth from your astrology, for Israel is not under the influence of the stars. (Shabbath, ibid.) Now this passage, if taken in the most favorable light, proves only that Israel is not under the influence of the stars; but this exception proves to demonstrate that the Oral Torah teaches, that all other nations are under that influence. According to this doctrine, all the gentiles are given up to unchanging and unalterable fate. A gentile thief or murderer is not so, because he yielded to temptation, but because he happened to be born under the influence of the moon, or Mars, or Venus. This is the religion of the Oral Torah, and consequently God is represented as an unjust judge, who punishes the gentiles for doing things which the irresistible influence of the stars compelled them to do. This doctrine is of itself sufficient to prove that the Oral Torah is not of God, and that as a religion it stands level with heathen and pagan systems of fate. The New Testament, on the other hand, recognizes no such system, but represents God as a just Judge, “who will render to every man according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). “There is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.” (Rom. 2:11,12). This is a view worthy of the Divine character, whereas the astrological system of the Oral Torah, which represents God as giving up all nations to the influence of the stars, is nothing short of paganism and not at all akin to the doctrine of Moses and the prophets. Further, as Rashi tells us, Abraham and Sarah escaped from their sidereal destiny only by changing their names. God said to Abraham, Go forth from your astrology, for you have seen in the stars that you are not to have a son. Abram is not to have a son, but Abraham is to have a son. Sarai is not to bear a child, But Sarah shall bear a child. I call you by another name, and thus the influence of the stars will be changed. (Com. in Gen. 15:5) Here it is plainly intimated, and in the name of God himself, that Abraham and Sarah were both under the influence of the stars, and that if they had not changed their names, they never could have had a child. This was evidently Rashi’s opinion. (And perhaps some of the readers may even know of instances of modern Jews who, led by this interpretation, have actually changed their name, in the hope of bettering their luck.) And there are many other passages in the Talmud as well, which refer to this belief in the power of the stars. And so we see the influence that the Oral Torah has had in leading away both learned and unlearned from the Word of God, and of spreading among them, as a tradition from Moses, what is merely one of the numerous errors of heathen idolatry. But where will you find in the New Testament any warrant for such doctrines or wishes? The New Testament is entirely free from all shadow and tincture of heathenism. Your Oral Torah has taught you that the course of events depends upon the stars. Jesus of Nazareth teaches that the ordering of all events, even the minutest, proceeds from our Heavenly Father. He says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father’s consent. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matt. 10:29,30). Jesus of Nazareth, therefore, of whom you are afraid to follow, lest he should lead you after other gods, directs all his followers to the one living and true God, the Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer of all things. Those men, on the contrary, who crucified Jesus, have led you away from the doctrines of Moses and the prophets to the doctrines of heathenism. But there is more. In treating of the virtues of amulets, the following passage occurs: Rav Papa says, I am certain in the case of three amulets for three men; where three copies of one amulet have cured three times, then both the writer [of the amulet] and the amulet are approved. In the case of three amulets for three men, where each performs only one cure, the amulet is not approved. . . but Rav Papa asks, What is to be the decision when there are three amulets for one man? The amulet is certainly not approved, the writer may or may not be. Shall we say that he cured him? Or was it perhaps the influence of the stars, belonging to that man, that had an affinity for that which was written? That must remain undecided. (Shabbath, fol. 61, col. 2) Here we have the influence of the stars again, and not in the case of the heathen, but of the Israelites. The question, from which this discussion about amulets arose, was whether it was lawful to wear amulets on the sabbath day, a question concerning the Jews, and them only. And in this question, then, we find the doctrine of sidereal influence also included. But we also find another doctrine which is equally startling, and that is, that the Oral Torah sanctions the use of amulets or charms, as a cure for or defense against sickness and other evils. What, is it possible, that those Jews who think that their religion is the true religion revealed by God to Moses, and whose chief objection to Jesus is the fear lest he should lead them to strange gods--is it possible that this people should still entertain the old heathen notion concerning amulets? Yes, while the followers of Jesus of Nazareth have learned from him to renounce this superstitious practice, those schools of those scribes and teachers of the Oral Torah, who crucified him, still teach the manner of making and using charms. The Oral Torah sends sick men to seek help in amulets and charms, but not to the God of Israel. Now what difference is there between this and the conduct of Ahaziah? “He sent messengers, and said to them, Go inquire of Beelzebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease. But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite,Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the King of Samaria, and say to them, Is it because there is not a God in Israel, that you go to inquire of Beelzebub, the god of Ekron?” (II Kings 1:2,3) When the widow’s son was sick, Elijah did not give her an amulet; Elijah’s trust was not in such heathen nonsense, but in the God of Israel. When Hezekiah was sick, we read not that he sent for an approved amulet, but that he turned his face towards the wall, and prayed unto the Lord. Jesus wrought many miracles of healing, but he never directed the people to amulets. His teaching is, “Be not afraid, only believe”. (Mark 5:36). This is the doctrine of the New Testament, exactly agreeing with that of Moses and the prophets, so that you need not fear that Christianity will lead you to heathenism. It appears from the undisguised statements of the New Testament, that the doctors and rabbis, the scribes and the Pharisees, were the implacable enemies of Jesus of Nazareth, and that they were the main concurring and assisting in his condemnation. The modern Jews consider this fact as a sufficient apology for their rejection of his claims to the Messiahship. They take it for granted that the great and learned men of that day were also good men, and that they had valid reason for their conduct. They think if Jesus of Nazareth had been the true Messiah, that the Sanhedrin, the great Jewish council of the time, would have acknowledged him, and conclude that, as they rejected him, he cannot be the Messiah. But the great emphasis of Jesus was to show the people the apostasy of their Oral Torah, and to lead the people back from Tradition to the path of the Holy Scriptures. Was he right or wrong? Which is more agreeable to the religion revealed by Moses: the teachings of Jesus, or the teachings of the Oral law? The failure of the scribes and Pharisees to follow after Jesus, then, becomes a further evidence of the truth of the doctines which he taught. For if the the transgressors of the Law of Moses had followed after Jesus, then it must have cast a shade of susupicion over the whole of Jesus’ work. But when such men appear as the enemies and prosecutors of Jesus, it testifies that he was not one of them. FORGIVENESS OF SINS Let us consider the case of Moses. Very few, if any, even of the most devoted friends of the Oral law, can imagine that he has so many merits as Moses his master; and yet the merits of Moses did not outweigh one apparently trifling transgression. Because of one sin, he was sentenced to die with the disobedient generation in the wilderness, and not permitted to enter into the land of Israel. If Moses’ merits, then, could do nothing for him, how vain must be the hope of others, who think that, by abounding in good works and almsgiving for ten days, they can turn the scale of God’s righteous judgement. Neither the law nor the prophets know of any intermediate class between the righteous and the wicked. Those who fulfill all God’s commandments belong to the one, and those who transgress any of God’s commandments belong to the other. let every man, then, examine his own heart and life, and it will not require much time nor trouble to ascertain to which class he belongs. Cursed be he that confirms not all the words of this law to do them. (Deut. 27:26) Moses holds out no hope, except to those who yield to a perfect and universal obedience. But some will reply, if this be true, then no man can be accounted righteous, on account of his deeds. For there is not a just man upon the earth, that does good, and sins not. (Eccl. 7:20) We must come to the same conclusion as Job did: I know that this is true: but how should a man be righteous before God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one time out of a thousand. (Job 9:2,3) Job did not think that his merits exceeded his sins, but knew well that if God entered into judgement with him, he could not answer even for the thousandth part of his transgressions. David, the man after God’s own heart, had the same conviction, and had, therefore, no wish that his merits should be weighed with his sins: Do not bring your servant into judgement, for no one living is righteous before you.(Psalm 143:2) And when Daniel prayed, he did not venture base his petitions on the basis of his own merits, or to expect an answer on the basis of his own righteousness, but cast himself simply on the mercy of God: We do not make requests because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. (Dan. 9:18) How, then, can the modern Jews hope to stand before God, and not only escape condemnation, but obtain a reward because their merits exceed their sins? Are they more pure than Job, more holy than David, more righteous than Daniel? Or were those three holy men mistaken, or ignorant of the way of salvation? Certain it is that there must be some mistake somewhere. Either the rabbis were right, and then Job, David, and Daniel were in error, or else these three men were right, and the rabbis are fearfully and awfully mistaken. If the law requires perfect obedience, and pronounces a curse against all disobedience, then the former were right in seeking to cast themselves only upon God’s mercy, and not their own merits. But if the law requires only that a man’s merits should exceed his sins, and says that all deficiencies can be made up by almsgiving and good works in the ten days between the New Year and the Day of Atonement, then they were wrong. Among all the commandments, there is not one that is equivalent to the study of the law. Whereas the study of the law is equivalent to all the commandments; for study leads to practice. Therefore, study always goes before good deeds. (Hilchoth Talmud Torah) But what is to become of the poor laboring classes, who have no money to buy righteousness with almsgiving, or to purchase books, and no time for study, which is equivalent to all the other commandments? For them to turn the balance is impossible--they have not the means, and therefore, according to the Oral Torah, they stand but a poor chance when the final account is made up. This of itself would prove that the doctrine of the Oral Law cannot be true. God is a righteous judge, and he accepts no man’s money and no man’s learning. He takes no bribes, and will not lodge judgement against the poor. The true mode, therefore, of standing before God, must be some other than that pointed out in the Oral Torah, and one by which the poor sinner will stand on equal terms with his rich brother. When Jacob was on his death bed, he had another hope. He could say: I have waited for your salvation, O Lord. (Gen. 49:18) He died in a foreign land, but he died happy, not trusting in his own righteousness, but in the salvation of God. He had learned by experience that man cannot deliver himself from mere temporal trouble, but that even there God is his only refuge and hope, and still more so in the hour of death and the day of judgement. But there is another possibility put forward by the Traditionalists: perhaps the merit of the Patriarchs will prove sufficient to obtain redemption also for their descendants. Many prayers in the prayerbooks reflect this: . . Regard the merit of your ancestors who were born on this day, and the three barren ones, who were visited on this day; justify, through their righteousness, those who hope in You, O You, who are tremendous Attentively view the ashes of Isaac, heaped upon the altar; and remember this day his seed, his being bound on the altar. And so on. Such passages show plainly that, after all, the rabbis felt their own doctrine of justification by merits very unsafe ground on which to build their hope of salvation; and that they were glad to flee to merits of those more adequate, which they hoped to find among their ancestors. But we must notice, that the patriarchs, though we revere them as pious and holy men, were after all only sinful men like ourselves. They did not, and could not, save themselves by their own righteousness, and if they did not save themselves, it is folly to think that they can save us. Abraham, though by grace of God the father of all the faithful, was yet himself so weak in faith, and so distrustful of the goodness and mercy of God, as to endeavor to save himself from the Egyptians by means of a deliberate falsehood. Sarah had so little faith as to laugh within herself at the promise of God, and then to defend herself with a lie. Isaac was guilty of similar conduct, and Jacob’s sin in deceiving his brother plainly shows, that he also was a poor sinful man. Where then are their superabundant merits, with which they are to justify all their posterity? The Word of God expressly says: No man can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him. (Pslam 49:8) How then are these three men to redeem all their posterity? If they have such merits as can redeem their posterity, then the Word of God is not true. But if the words of the Psalm are true, then the patriarchs have no such superabundant merits, and cannot offer a ransom for all their children, and any hope built on their merits must fail. Moreover, whoever trusts in the merits of another to deliver him is clearly trusting in man, and making flesh his arm. If the merits of the patriarchs can save their posterity, then God is not the Savior of Israel, but the patriarchs are Israel’s redeemers. Yet the prophet says: Cursed be the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord. But it has pleased God to make the case even more clear than this. In Ezekiel God says, “If a man be just. . . he shall surely live. If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood. . . shall he live? He shall not live. he has done all these abominations, he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. (Ezek. 18:5-13). God sets the matter at rest, and declares that the righteousness of a father is of no use to an unrighteous son, and cannot deliver him from the punishment due for his evil deeds. The doctrine, then, of justification by the merits of ancestors, is directly contradicted in the plain declaration of God himself; and therefore the Oral Torah teaches error when it instructs Jews to trust in that which can do them no good. But every error must be built upon some truth for its foundation, and it will be well to inquire what truth it was that gave rise to this error of justification by the merits of ancestors. It was certainly not the invention of human reason, for reason can discover no connection between the merits of one righteous man and the pardon of another who is guilty. A robber is not and cannot be pardoned because another member of the community is a good and righteous man. We must therefore look for the origin of this principle elsewhere; and we find it in the revealed will of God. We see it in the appointment of sacrifice and atonement, according to which a guilty man was pardoned by the suffering of an innocent (spotless) animal. Here is the example of the substitution of the innocent for the guilty; and human reason, when it thus has the foundation, can easily proceed to erect the rest of the building. In the present case, it can be naturally argued, that if the death of a dumb animal could effect so much, how much more would the merits of a righteous man avail, if such a one could be found? The error, then, is not in the principle, but in its application. According to the scripture, it is true that the innocent may be substituted for the guilty; but the rabbis were wrong in applying this truth to the case of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and other men, who were only sinners just as themselves. The Word of God, which gave the principle, also directs us to the right application. It tells us of one for whose righteousness’ sake the Lord will forgive sin: The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law and make it honorable. (Isaiah 42:21) Who, then, is this person? The preceding verses tell us that it is the servant of the Lord. Who, then, is this servant? Kimchi says, on this verse, that it is the prophet himself; but this cannot possibly be so, for the prophet was not righteous, but a sinner, as he himself tells us in the sixth chapter --”I am a man of unclean lips”. The servant mentioned in the nineteenth verse is the same as he who is called My servant in the first verse of the chapter, “Behold, My servant, whom I uphold, Mine elect, in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon him. He shall bring forth judgement to the gentiles. “ But here Kimchi says, “This is the King Messiah, as we have interpreted.” If, then, in the first verse, “The servant of the Lord” means the Messiah, it must mean the same thing through the chapter, and the Messiah is the person for whose righteousness’ sake the Lord is well pleased. The same prophet tells us again, concerning this servant: By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11). That the Messiah is meant here cannot be doubted by anyone who uses the synagogue prayers; for on the Day of Atonement and at Passover this chapter is applied to him. (See the Machsor for the Day of Atonement.) Here, then, it is expressly stated, that the Messiah, by his righteousness, shall justify the guilty. And therefore, the prophet calls the Messiah “The LORD our Righteousness”. (Jeremiah 23:6) Again, that the Messiah is here intended there can be no doubt, for he is described as “the righteous branch” of David, and thus all the commentators explain it. In these three passages, then, of the Word of God, sinners are pointed to the Messiah as their hope and their righteousness. He is God’s righteous servant (a phrase never elsewhere used in the scripture), and his sufferings and his merits are all-sufficient to do that which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob cannot do. The great mistake of the Oral law is to point to wrong persons, who have no righteousness, and almost totally to pass by him whom God has set forth as the hope of sinners. ATONEMENT And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation. (Leviticus 16:33) Now, this ordinance implies that all Israel, the high priest, the priests, and the people, are all sinners, and all need an atonement; and therefore utterly destroys the idea of justification by merits. If Israel could have been justified by their own merits, or by the merits of their forefathers, the solemn act of annual atonement would have been unnecessary. But if this atonement is necessary, then there is no room for the assertion of human merits. But the truth is, as we have already seen, that the rabbis felt that their doctrine was insufficient to quiet the awakened conscience, and gladly fled to any refuge they could discover; it is no wonder then that they have clung to the shadow of that hope which was held out in the teachings of Moses. In spite of their doctrine of merit, they are glad to have even the appearance of a Day of Atonement to reconcile them to the Almighty. It is true that they have no high priest and no sacrifice, yet so convinced are they of the need of atonement, that rather than confess that they have absolutely none, they teach that repentance and the day itself will atone for all sin. At this time, when there is no Temple, and we have no altar, there is no atonement but repentance. Repentance atones for all transgressions, yes, even though a man be wicked all his days, and repent at last, none of his wickedness is mentioned to him, for it is said, “As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby, in the day that he turns from his wickedness.” (Ezekiel 33:12) The Day of Atonement itself also atones for them that repent, for it is said, “For on that day he shall make an atonement for you.” (Lev. 16:30) (Hilchoth T’shuvah c.i.2) This is the last refuge of Jewish hope, and we therefore propose to consider whether it is a refuge on which a reasonable man may hazard his hope of salvation. But in this statement we find that one part contradicts the other part. It tells us first, that in this present time, there is no atonement but repentance; and yet, immediately after this, it adds, that the Day of Atonement itself atones for them that repent. Yet if repentance alone atones for all sins, then when a man repents, his sins are forgiven, and he has no need of the Day of Atonement. But more than this, the statement contradicts the law of Moses. If repentance atones for all transgressions, then the atonement prescribed by Moses is useless, in fact, it was no atonement at all. Moses says, that these two goats were appointed by God for atonement, but here it is said that repentance is in itself sufficient. If this be true, if repentance alone can now atone without any sacrifice, why did Moses appoint such a useless, and even cruel rite, as the taking away of the lives of innocent animals? If repentance is sufficient now, then it was always sufficient, and then it follows, that God commanded what was worthless. But if the slaying of the one goat, and the sending away of the other, laden with the sins of the people, into the wilderness, was necessarily in former times to secure forgiveness, then it must equally be so now; unless it is to be asserted that God is an arbitrary master, who, to forgive sins, requires at first one thing and then later another. Rambam himself says: The goat that was sent away atoned for all the transgressions mentioned in the law, whether light or grave. Whether a man transgressed presumptuously or ignorantly, consciously or unconsciously, all was atoned for by the goat that was sent away, if a man repented. But if a man did not repent, then the goat atoned only for the light offenses. (Hilchoth T’shuvah) We do not agree with the whole of this doctrine, but we cite it to show, that formerly repentance was not a sufficient atonement for sin, but that besides repentance, the goat, as appointed by God, was also necessary. And we infer, that as an atonement, besides repentance, was once necessary, it is necessary still, unless the rabbis will affirm that God has changed his mind, and abrogated the law of Moses. If repentance without any sacrifice is now sufficient to procure forgiveness of sin, then beyond all doubt, the law of Moses is abrogated or changed. But the Oral Torah attempts to prove its assertion, through a citation from Ezekiel: As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turns from his wickedness. And it might be further urged, that Ezekiel mentions repentance only, and omits all notice of sacrifice and the Day of Atonement. But the answer is easy. Either Ezekiel meant, in this declaration, to repeal the law of Moses, or he did not. If he meant to repeal the law of Moses, then the law is repealed, and a new way of obtaining forgiveness, not taught by Moses, has been introduced, and the whole Jewish nation is therefore palpably wrong in adhering to that which is repealed. But if he did not repeal the law of Moses, then he made this assertion with the implied restriction which the law of Moses required; that is, he implied the necessity of sacrifice; and then this passage does not prove what the Oral law asserts. It is evident, however, that the rabbis were themselves dissatisfied with their own assertion, for they immediately add to it a second, “The Day of Atonement itself atones for them that repent.” Despite the confidence of their assertion about repentance, they did not feel at rest without some appearance of an atonement, and as they had no priest and no victim, they say that the day itself atones, and endeavor to prove this assertion by a citation from Moses. But Moses did not say, “This day will atone for you”, but he says, “On that day he (the priest) shall atone for you.” Moses ascribes no value whatever to the day itself, but only to the rites on that day to be observed, and the person by whom they were performed. Moses prescribes first, a high priest; secondly, a goat, whose blood was to be brought into the Holy of Holies; and thirdly, a goat to be sent away; so that without these three things the day itself has no virtue, and is nothing different from the commonest day of the year. The assertion about the day itself is only an invention of the rabbis, and shows how deeply they felt the insufficiency of repentance alone, and the necessity of a real atonement. But the rabbis always betray themselves by adding something to make up for the deficiency, of which they are aware. We have seen this in their assertion about merits, and so we find it here in their assertion about atonement. They assert, that “The Day of Atonement itself atones for the penitent”:, but in spite of this, they have felt the need of something more; and hence has arisen the custom of sacrificing a cock on the eve of that solemn day. The Tradition is: On the eve of the Day of Atonement. . . a cock is taken for a man, and a hen for a woman; and for a pregnant woman a hen and also a cock, on account of the child. the father of the family first makes the atonement for himself, for the high priest first atoned for himself, then for his family, and afterwards for all Israel. . . While moving the atonement [cock] around his head, he says, “This is my substitute. This is my commutation. This cock goes to death, but may I be gathered and enter into a long and happy life, and into peace.” . . . As soon as one has performed the order of the atonement, he should lay his hands on it, as the hands used to be laid on the sacrifices, and immediately afterward give it to be slaughtered. This custom proves abundantly the internal dissatisfaction of the Jewish mind with their own doctrines, and the deeply rooted conviction of their heart, that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. If they really believed that repentance, or the Day of Atonement itself, or almsgiving, or merits--either their own or their forefathers’--atoned for sin, they would never have devised a custom such as this. But the spirit of the Mosaic law has been remembered too well in the nation to suffer the people to rest satisfied with anything short of actual sacrifice; and as they have no high priest and no altar now, they make a sad and desperate attempt to tranquilize the mind with this invention. But should a man rest his hopes on this self-devised sacrifice of a cock? God nowhere promises pardon to this observance; and how can any man of sense be satisfied without a sure promise of acceptance from God? How, then, is a Jew to obtain pardon for his sins? This custom expresses the Jewish opinion as to the nature of sacrifice, that the sins are laid upon the victim, and that the victim is substituted for the guilty. Nothing can be plainer than the words, “This is my substitute. This is my commutation. This is my atonement.” It demonstrates further, that he who offers an atonement for another must himself be free of guilt, for it requires the father of the family first to atone for himself, and then for those of his house. These are the recorded sentiments of the Jewish nation, expressed not only in words, but embodied in a solemn religious observance on the eve of their most sacred season. By this act, the Jews declare that an atonement by blood is absolutely necessary. the law of Moses makes the same declaration. Is it then likely, that the God of Israel would leave his people without that which their hearts desire, and his law declares to be necessary? Judaism says, Yes. It affirms, by an act repeated every year, that sacrifice is necessary, and yet confesses, in its solemn prayers, that they have none. It asserts, therefore, that God has left them without that which is indispensable to obtain forgiveness. Christianity presents a more merciful view. It does, indeed, acknowledge the need of atonement, but it presents a victim and a high priest, whose one offering is sufficient for the sins of the whole world. It says, that God has left neither his own people nor the gentiles without the means of forgiveness, but sent his righteous servant, the Messiah, to bear our sins in his own body on the tree. Our hope, then, is not in the cock, but in the great atonement which God provided. And this hope is involuntarily confirmed by the rabbis themselves in the very custom we have just considered. Even the nature of the victim is pointed out in the selection of the animal. “Gever” signifies both “a man” and “a cock”, and thereby signifies, that a righteous man must be the sinful man’s substitute; and so some of the rabbis say, that this animal, the cock, was selected “because, as the name signifies ‘a man’, there is a substitution of a man for a man.’ (Orach Chaim, 605). THE NATURE OF GOD Another common objection frequently encountered is that the Christians have anthropomorphized God; that is, they have made him seem too human. But let us examine what the Rabbis have to say on this point. The day has twelve hours. The first three, the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and occupies himself in the Torah. The second, he sits and judges the whole world. When he perceives that the world deserves utter destruction, he stands up from his throne of judgement and sits on his throne of mercy. The third, he sits, and feeds all the world, from the horns of unicorns to the eggs of the vermin. In the fourth, he sits and plays with Leviathan, for it is said, (Psalm 104:26), “The Leviathan whom you have formed to play therewith.” (Avodah Zarah, fol. iii, col. 2) Rabbi Eleazor taught, the night has three watches, and at every watch, the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion, for it is said, “The Lord shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; roaring, he shall roar upon his habitation.” (Jeremiah 25:30) (Berakoth 3a) Rabbi Isaac ben Samuel says, in the name of Rav, The night has three watches, and at every watch the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion, and says, Woe is me that I have laid desolate my house, and burned my sanctuary, and sent my children into captivity among the nations of the world. (Berakoth, fol. iii, col. 1) Now we ask every reasonable man whether this is a representation worthy of the Creator of heaven and earth? We are told here, first, that God is like a man in observing day and night--that he has set times for different employments, and a time for amusement. We are told, secondly, that instead of comprehending all things past, present, and future, at all times, and instead of upholding all things, that he is obliged to consider each thing in succession; and that, like a poor frail child of man, he can only do one thing at a time. And thirdly, we are informed that the Divine Being sits all night, and mourns like a child, over an act which he rashly committed, but now wishes to have undone. Is this a fit representation of the Deity, or it is an awful blasphemy? How different is the description given by the religion of Moses--”Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” (Psalm 90:1-4). And again, in that other beautiful passage of the Psalmist, “Of old You have laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They shall perish, but you shall endure. . . you are the same, your years have no end.” (Psalm 102:25-27). In both these passages, unchangeableness, entire freedom, is presented as the prominent feature in the character of God. Whereas, the God whom the rabbis describe, is a being subject to the same changes as ourselves, and also subject to change in its worst form, that is, to that change of will which comes after disappointed expectations. They say, that their God destroyed his Temple and sent his children into captivity, and that now he is very sorry for it, and vents the bitterness of his grief in lamentations compared to the roaring of a lion. Such a deity is no more like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob than Jeroboam’s calves. He may not be graven as an image, but he is nevertheless as false as one, a false image of the imagination. And yet on this very point, where the Oral law errs so grievously, Christianity maintains the truth. He New Testament declares, “Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) But the rabbis falsely ascribe to God not only variableness, but imperfect knowledge, also. They say, that He spends a forth part of the day in the study of the law. Now, either God knows the law, or he does not. If he does know the law, then study is useless; and if he does not, then his knowledge is imperect, and either supposition is altogether unworthy of the Deity. We put it to the good sense of every Israelite, and ask him whether he can believe that the God of all knowledge studies his own law? Is not such an assertion a blasphemy? And does it now demonstrate that those who made it were themselves devoid of all true knowledge of God? But some will say, that the words are not meant to be taken literally, and that the rabbis employed oriental imagery. But this will not save the credit of the Oral law. No man that has any reverence for his Creator would venture to use such language. But further, if these passages are figurative only, then what is their real meaning? What is meant by studying in the law, or playing with Leviathan? Or uttering complaints at the beginning of every watch in the night? Or what is intended by ascribing to God one sort of employment in the day and another in the night? It is not enough to say that these are all figures conveying the most profound wisdom; this assertion must be proved by showing what this wisdom is. Let the Traditionalists explain these figures satisfactorily, and they will then have some chance of being believed. But it is a certain fact that many of the rabbis have understood these and similar passages literally. In the commentary on the assertion, “That in the second hour God sits and judges the world”, we are told, that some believed this so firmly as to think that on this very account the additional form of prayer, called Musaf, was prescribed: Some say, that this account the words, “Let him turn from his place”, have been appointed in the sanctification of the Musaf, for this part of the prayer generally occurs in the second three hours, when he is sitting in judgement, and that we pray that he may turn from the throne of judgement, and sit on the throne of mercy. And consider the included anecdote told by R. Jose. He recounts that he once went into the ruins of Jerusalem to pray, and that while there, he met the prophet Elijah, who very civilly waited for him to finish his prayers. Afterwards, they spoke: And he [Elijah] said to me, What sort of a voice did you hear in the ruin? I said to him, I heard a Bat Kol [Voice from heaven] cooing like a dove, and saying, Woe is me, that I have desolated my house, and burnt my sanctuary, and sent my children into captivity among the nations. And he said to me, by your head and your life, it is not at this hour only, but three times every day the Voice says these words. And not only so, but when the Israelites enter the synagogues, and the houses of study, and say, “Amen, may his great name be blessed”, the Holy One, blessed be He, shakes his head, and says, “Blessed is the King who is praised in his house; but what profit has the father who sends his children into captivity. .” (Berakoth 3a) Here we have the testimony of R. Jose that God does indeed complain in the manner described above, and we have the Prophet Elijah swearing that this happens three times every day. It is plain, therefore, that the authors of the Talmud knew of no mystical interpretation and intended none. It was their simple belief that God observed the three watches of the night. This one passage is quite enough to show that the rabbis were utterly ignorant of the nature of God, and that they ignored the real meaning of their own scriptures. But there is another feature in this passage which has to be explored. R. Jose says that when he went into the ruin to pray; suppose he fell asleep, and dreamed that he heard the Bath Kol and had this conversation with Elijah. But either supposition will equally destroy the credit of the Talmud. If it be a lie, it is one of the most profane lies imaginable. We have here a professed teacher of the law telling not only a falsehood, but daring to assert that he heard the voice of God mourning over the ruins. This introduces God himself into the lie and trifles with his character. On the other hand, if R. Jose mistook a dream for reality, then what shall we say of a religion whose teachers tell their dreams as sacred truths? And what shall we say of the compilers of the Talmud, who were unable to detect the folly and profanity of this narrative, and actually inserted it into their Oral law as an undoubted fact? This supposition may save R. Jose from the unhappy description of a liar, but it will not do much towards proving the truth of the Talmud; for there it is not given as a dream, but as a fact. We do not mean to ascribe any particular degree of folly to the rabbis. Persons calling themselves Christians have been just as foolish, have believed stories just as absurd, and have handed them down as religious truths. But then, we did not receive these legends as part and parcel of our religion. We are as free to say of them, as of the Talmudic fables, that they are wicked falsehood. But some modern Jews would tell us that the Talmud is a divine book--that it contains their religion, and that without it Moses and the Prophets are unintelligible; and therefore we point out these fables as plain proofs of the falsehood of such an assertion. We wish to direct the Jewish attention to that system which they have called their religion for the last eighteen hundred years, and which they have preferred to Christianity. The god of the Talmud is certainly not the God of the Bible, but rather a strange god, invented by the imagination of the rabbis. Israelites are often shocked at the folly and wickedness of those whom they see falling down before sticks and stones; and yet, if they receive the Oral law, and believe in a Deity who plays with Leviathan, then the object of their worship is not a bit more rational. It is, then, a most melancholy sight, to behold the nation, which was once the sole depository of the truth, now enslaved by a system so senseless; but it is more melancholy still, to think that there are among them so few who would undertake to denounce its falsehoods and to seek to vindicate the truth as taught by Moses. A FALSE MESSIAH? Rambam says, “All Israel, and the greatest of their wise men, imagined him [Bar Kochba] to be the Messiah”, and we know that the famous Rabbi Akiva was among them. Here, then, we have practical proof that the judgement of those rabbis, who rejected Jesus, was not to be relied upon. If they had succeeded in their efforts, they would have taught all Israel to believe in an impostor; instead they were destroyed after following after a false prophet. And yet these are the men who have handed down the Oral law, and compiled the precepts of the Rabbinic religion; men, whom we are told, were the followers of a false prophet and the dupes of an impostor. How should one follow a system which has such men for its authors, men who seduced thousands and tens of thousands of Israel to plunge themselves into ruin? If Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues had not championed the cause of Bar Kochba, he could never have succeeded in deluding such numbers of Israelites; they, therefore, must share responsibility for the calamity which followed. Israel remembers that prior to the destruction of the first Temple, the learned and unlearned of the nation rejected the true God and turned to dumb idols. There can be no greater folly and wickedness than to reject God and worship a stick or a stone; but of this Israel had been guilty; and because of this sin the first Temple was destroyed. Were the priests and the people of the second Temple better and wiser than those of the first? If this be true, then why was the second Temple destroyed? Why were those who were so much wiser and better punished with a more dreadful punishment than those who were so much more foolish and wicked? If we are to judge the comparative wisdom and piety of the two by the measure of punishment, then we must say, that the idolatrous priests and people of the first Temple were a great deal wiser and better than the priests and people of the second Temple, for the former escaped, after a captivity of seventy years, while the latter exile lasted many centuries. The tremendous nature of the punishment would show, that the priests and people who rejected Jesus were more wicked than their idolatrous forebearers, and if so, then their testimony against Jesus is of no value. CHAIN OF TRADITION? To prove the genuineness of the Oral Torah, it is necessary not only to point out a succession of persons, but a succession of Sanhedrins, for, as we have seen, the Sanhedrin was regarded as the foundation and the pillar of tradition. If a single chasm in history exists, where a Sanhedrin cannot be pointed out, then the claims of the Oral Torah are invalidated, and the Jewish nation is seen as the victim of a pious fraud, or else the unwitting dupes of an imposture. Now we have already seen that the Sanhedrin was not instituted by Moses, and was never heard of until after the Greek conquest of Israel. From Moses to the Maccabees there is one continuous chasm, an immense and impassable abyss, which separates the two. But was the rabbis have endeavored to fill up the yawning gulf, or rather to build a bridge in the air for the purpose of passing it, we think it necessary to examine the results of their efforts. They say, that a chain of testimony, such as is wanted, actually does exist, and have tried to point out its various links. If this proves erroneous, then the last and only hope of Traditional Judaism is gone; and to prove the error does not require much argument. The chain of testimony as pointed out by the rabbis is inconsistent with history, and lacks continuity even at the very start. The first part of the succession is described: Although the Oral law was not written, Moses our master taught it all in his council to the seventy elders; Eleazor, also, and Phinehas, and Joshua, all three, received it from Moses. But to Joshua, who was the disciple of Moses our master, he delivered the Oral law, and gave him a charge concerning it. In like manner Joshua taught it by word of mouth all the days of his life; and many elders received it from Joshua, and Eli received it from the elders, and from Phinehas. (Preface to Yad Hachazakah) Now here the want of continuity begins, immediately after the third link in the chain. That Joshua should inherit the Oral law is very likely, if there was any to be inherited, but who was Joshua’s successor? The rabbis cannot tell us.It is not enough to say that the elders received it from Joshua; who were the elders, and who was the next president of the Sanhedrin, and who was the president after that? To make out a chain of witnesses, we must at least have their names, but ought to know, besides, their character, their piety, their probity, before we can depend on their testimony. The absence of this detail shows that the rabbis had no information on the subject, and were merely trying to make up a story to impose upon the credulous. It is self-evident that if they had possessed any accurate detail, they would have given it; but as they do not, we must infer that they did not have it; and as the scripture gives no information on the subject, we must assert, that the chain of testimony ends at the second link. So far, in fact, are the rabbis from being able to prove a succession of Sanhedrins from the time of Joshua to their own, that they are compelled to make a grand leap from Joshua to Eli, and thus to leave a chasm of more than two hundred years, which of itself is sufficient to overthrow the claims of the Oral Torah. It is true that the rabbis attempt to close up this great cavity with a large falsehood. They say that Eli received the Oral law from Joshua’s elders, and from Phinehas; which assertion implies that all these persons lived to be about three hundred years old. And yet, even if this were true, it would not be enough to seal up the gap. For from the book of Judges it appears, that in the interval between Joshua and Eli, the people forsook the law of Moses and gave themselves up to idolatry. Thus we read, “And Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died. . . And also all that generation were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim.” (Judges 2:8-11). Now, here the scripture says that Joshua and all that generation died; and further, it says that the Israelites turned aside to idols. Where was the Sanhedrin at that time? Why did it not stop the torrent of corruption, and punish the transgressors? And why was it necessary for God to raise up judges to do the Sanhedrin’s work? We do not once read of the Sanhedrin, or any other council, helping Israel. Indeed, the saying so often repeated in the book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did what was right in his own eyes,”shows that there was no Sanhedrin either. If any council of the kind, armed with such despotic power, had existed, the children of Israel could not have done what was right in their own eyes. Whether then we look at the Bible or at the Rabbinic account, we have a period of more than two hundred years, during which there is no evidence at all either for the existence of the Sanhedrin or of the Oral law. The chain of testimony, therefore, offered by the rabbis, is not complete; and is, moreover, unworthy of credit, as it contains a gross error concerning the age to which Joshua’s elders lived. But a little more examination is necessary: After telling us that David received the Oral law from Samuel and his council, we are told: Ahijah the Shilonite was one of those who came out of Egypt, and a Levite, and he heard the Oral law from Moses; but he was little in the days of Moses, and received the Oral law from David and his council. And Elijah received from Ahijah the Shilonite and his council. Now, in the first place, this statement is very absurd. To suppose that one who had heard from Moses should at last receive it from David, is not only contrary to the probability; but to assert that Ahijah was a little boy in the time of Moses, and that he lived until the reign of Solomon, or for more than five hundred years, is manifestly a falsehood. But this Rabbinic chain of testimony goes on to tell us that, among other things, the Oral law passed through Jeremiah the prophet: Jeremiah received from Zephaniah and his council, and Baruch the son of Neriah received from Jeremiah and his council. Now, if this means that Jeremiah was the Nasi, or president of the Sanhedrin, it is plainly false. The whole history of Jeremiah shows us that he was not the powerful head of a despotic and irresistible council, but an unprotected and persecuted man. Had he been president of a tribunal so dreadful, and whose sentence of excommunication was in itself sufficient to protect him, the people and the princes would never have dared to reject his words as they did, much less to make an attempt on his life. But the purported chain of evidence is even inconsistent with the Oral law itself, for it asserts that two proselytes form a part of the chain of transmission: Shemaiah and Abtalion, proselytes of righteousness, and their council received from Judah and Simon and their council. Hillel and Shammai and their council received from Shemaiah and Abtalion and their council. Now, according to the Oral law, it is unlawful for proselytes to be members of any council or tribunal. Respecting the Sanhedrin, it is expressly said: None are to be made members of the Sanhedrin except priests and Levites, and Israelites of so good a genealogy as to be fit to intermarry with the priests; for it is said, “And they shall stand there with you”. (Numbers 11:16), i.e., like you in wisdom, piety, and in genealogy.” (Hilchoth Sanhedrin c.ii.1) And even of a lesser tribunal it is said: A tribunal of three, one of whom is a proselyte, is unlawful. (Ibid. 9) If, then, it was unlawful for a proselyte to be a member of the Sanhedrin, or any other tribunal, how is it that we find two at the head of one of those councils through which the Oral law was transmitted? If the decisions of the Oral law be valid, that council was illegitimate, and therefore totally incompetent to the transmission of tradition. The sum of what we have said is this: that even if we were to give up our other arguments against the authority of the Sanhedrin and the Oral law, the defectiveness, inconsistency, and falsehoods manifested in the testimony of the rabbis about their Tradition would be sufficient to throw discredit on all these claims. They have not only no proof from scripture, but are not able themselves to find an unbroken chain of testimony. They fail at the very outset. The Sanhedrin was merely the engine, whereby the rabbis hoped to get all the power, both of Church and State, into their hands; and this strikingly distinguishes the rabbinical religion from that of Jesus of Nazareth: When he perceived that they would come and take him by force to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. (John 6:15) “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) “You know that they which are accounted to rule over the gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45) The teachers of the Oral law had, and even now have, a temptation to uphold its doctrines, because they make them the absolute rulers of the Jewish people; and this very fact must create a strong ground of suspicion. The doctrine of the Sanhedrin reveals but too plainly the motives by which the authors of the Oral law were moved. Were Moses to come among them, he could never recognize them as his disciples. He would not find among them one of his institutions remaining as he leff it. Of course we do not mean to ascribe the same motives to all the advocates of the Oral law in the present day. Our object is not to condemn modern Jews, but to open their eyes to a true view of that system by which they have been so long led into error. And if they should then ask, where is the truth to be found, we reply, in Moses and the Prophets. The only real obstacle in the way of a Jew’s receiving Jesus as the Messiah, is the prejudice that his fathers, who rejected him, must have been in the right; and this obstacle we are endeavoring to remove. Jesus was not condemned by the friends of Moses, but by his enemies. Jesus showed a scrupulous regard for the commandments of Moses. Concerning the priests, for instance, when he healed the leper, he said to him, “Go your way, show yourself to the priests, and offer the gift that Moses commanded.” And this conduct is perfectly conformable to the professed object of Jesus, which was to vindicate the authority of the Torah against the unauthorized additions of men. He professed himself the defender of the Mosaic law, and opposed the whole system of the Rabbinists, on the ground that they made it void with their traditions. Jesus never opposed the priests, never interfered with their office, never diminished anything from their authority. In these most important respects, Jesus is thusly more in accord with the law of Moses than are the Pharisees, who have forcibly alterted that law, and have themselves unlawfully taken over the office and rights of the priests by establishing the Sanhedrin. The religion of Jesus was persecuted, not by those who conscientiously kept Moses’ commands, but by those who had first defaced every feature of the Mosaic law. The men who condemned Jesus were the usurpers of an authority which Moses gave to others. Those Jews of the present day, then, who approve of the condemnation of Jesus, unite with the enemies of Moses; but those who are lovers of the Mosaic law must approve the efforts of Jesus to deliver it from the corruptions of ambitious men. An unlawful tribunal condemned him for doing what every faithful adherent of Moses must acknowledge to be right. Whether, then, they acknowledge him as the Messiah or not, they must confess that he died a martyr to his zeal for the law of Moses, and they are, therefore, bound to reconsider his claims. Jesus was put to death, not because he violated the Mosaic precepts, but because he reproved others for their transgressions--not because he sought to overturn the religion of Moses, but because he resolutely defended its truth against those who were introducing a new religion upon its ruins.
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