CHRISTIANITY IN ITS RELATION TO JUDAISM:
By: Kaufmann Kohler
- The Messianic Movement.
- John the Baptist.
- Jesus as a Man of the People.
- The Risen Christ.
- Jesus' Teachings.
- Paul's Antinomistic and Gnostic Views.
- Early Christianity a Jewish Sect.
- Paganism Predominant.
- Woman's Part in the Early Church.
- Persecution of Unitarians.
- Medieval Image-Worship.
- Mediatorship of Christ.
- The Doctrine of Original Sin.
- Faith and Reason.
- Asceticism in the Monasteries.
- Medieval Jewish Views of Christianity.
- Christianity Compared with Islam.
- Christianity's Historic Mission.
- Messianic Promises Not Fulfilled.
Christianity is the system of religious truth based upon the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was the expected Messiah, or Christ, and that in him all the hopes and prophecies of Israel concerning the future have been fulfilled. While comprising creeds which differ widely from one another in doctrine and in practise, Christianity as a whole rests upon the belief in the God of Israel and in the Hebrew Scriptures as the word of God; but it claims that these Scriptures, which it calls the Old Testament, receive their true meaning and interpretation from the New Testament, taken to be the written testimonies of the Apostles that Jesus appeared as the end and fulfilment of all Hebrew prophecy. It furthermore claims that Jesus, its Christ, was and is a son of God in a higher and an essentially different sense than any other human being, sharing in His divine nature, a cosmic principle destined to counteract the principle of evil embodied in Satan; that, therefore, the death of the crucified Christ was designed by God to be the means of atonement for the sin inherited by the human race through the fall of Adam, the first man; and, consequently, that without belief in Jesus, in whom the Old Testament sacrifice is typified, there is no salvation. Finally, Christianity, as a world-power, claims that it represents the highest form of civilization, inasmuch as, having made its appearance when the nations of antiquity had run their course and mankind longed for a higher and deeper religious life, it regenerated the human race while uniting Hebrew and Greek to become the heir to both; and because it has since become the ruling power of history, influencing the life of all nations and races to such an extent that all other creeds and systems of thought must recede and pale before it.
These three claims of Christianity, which have frequently been asserted in such a manner as directlyor implicitly to deny to Judaism, its mother religion, the purpose, if not the very right of its continued existence, will be examined from a historical point of view under three heads: (1) the New Testament claim as to the Christship of Jesus; (2) the Church's claim as to the dogmatic truths of Christianity, whether Trinitarian or Unitarian; and (3) the claim of Christianity to be the great power of civilization. The attitude taken by Jews toward Christianity in public debates and in literary controversies will be treated under Polemics and Polemical Literature; while the New Testament as literature and the personality of Jesus of Nazareth will also be discussed in separate articles.The Messianic Movement.
I. It is a matter of extreme significance that the Talmudic literature, which is based on tradition at least a century older than Christianity, has not even a specific name for the Christian belief or doctrine, but mentions it only occasionally under the general category of "Minim" (literally, "distinctive species of belief"), heresies, or Gnostic sects. As one of these it could only be regarded in the second century, when Christianity was in danger of being entirely absorbed by Gnosticism. At first it was viewed by the Jews simply as one of the numerous Messianic movements which, aimed against Roman rule, ended tragically for their instigators, and from which it differed only in one singular fact; viz., that the death of the leader, far from crushing the movement, gave, on the contrary, rise to a new faith which gradually, both in principle and in attitude, antagonized as none other the parent faith, and came to manifest the greatest hostility to it. There is no indication in Jewish literature that the appearance of Jesus, either as a teacher or as a social or political leader, made at the time a deep or lasting impression on the Jewish people in general. Outside of Galilee he was scarcely known. This at least seems to be the only explanation of the fact that the Talmudic passages, some of which are old, confound Jesus, on the one hand, with Ben Sṭada, who was tried in Lydda—probably identical with Theudas "the magician," the pseudo-Messiah who appeared in 44 (Josephus, "Ant." xx. 5, § 1; Acts v. 36)—and, on the other, with the Egyptian "false prophet" who created a Messianic revolt a few years later ("Ant." xx. 8, § 6; idem, "B. J." ii. 13, § 5; Acts xxi. 38; see Tosef., Sanh. x. 11; Sanh. 67a, 107b; Shab. 104b; Soṭah 47a; compare Matt. xxiv. 11 and 24). As to Jesus ben Pandera, or Jesus the pupil of R. Joshua ben Peraḥyah, see
The only reference to Jesus in contemporary Jewish literature is found in Josephus, "Antiquities" xviii. 3, § 3, a passage which has been interpolated by Christian copyists, but appears to have originally contained the following words (see Theodore Reinach, in "Rev. Etudes Juives," xxxv. 1-18; A. v. Gutschmid, "Kleine Schriften," 1893, iv. 352): "There was about that time [a certain] Jesus, a wise man; for he was a worker of miracles, a teacher of men eager to receive [new (revolutionary) tidings], and he drew over to him many Jews and also many of the Hellenic world. He was [proclaimed] Christ; and when, on denunciation by the principal men amongst us, Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those that were first [captivated] by him did not cease to adhere to him; and the tribe of Christians, so named after him, is not extinct at this day."John the Baptist.
The Gospel records agree upon one essential point confirmed by Josephus (l. c. 5, § 2; compare Matt. iii. 1-13; Mark i. 2-9; Luke iii. 1-21; John iii. 22 et seq.; Acts xiii. 24); viz., that the main impulse to the Christian movement was given by John the Baptist, an Essene saint, who—among the many that, by penitence, fasting, and baptisms, prepared themselves for the coming of the Messiah (Luke ii. 25, 36 et seq.; Mark xv. 43; compare ib. ii. 18; Matt. ix. 14, xi. 18; compare Pesiḳ R. xxxiii., xxxiv.; Josephus, "Vita," § 2)—stood forth as the preacher of repentance and "good tidings," causing the people to flock to the Jordan to wash themselves clean of their sins in expectation of the Messianic kingdom. Some of his followers were known afterward as a class of Baptists under the name "Disciples of John" (Acts viii. 25; xix. 3, 4), and seem partly to have joined the Mandæaus (Brandt, "Die Mandäische Religion," pp. 137 et seq., 218 et seq., 228; see also Hemerobaptists). Jesus, however, being one of John's disciples, the moment the latter had been put in prison stepped to the front as a preacher of the "Kingdom of Heaven" in the very language of his master (Matt. iv. 12 et seq., xiv. 3-5; Mark i. 14). Still, to the very last he had to admit in his argument with the elders (Matt. xx. 26; Mark xi. 32; compare ib. viii. 28) that John was universally acknowledged prophet, while he was not. Indeed, Herod Antipas, upon learning of Jesus' miraculous performances, expressed the belief that John the Baptist had risen from the dead (Matt. xiv. 2, xvi. 14; Mark vi. 14). Nor did Jesus himself, according to the older records, lay claim to any title other than that of a prophet or worker by the Holy Spirit, like any other Essene saint (Matt. xiii. 57; xxi. 11, 46; Luke vii. 16, 39; xiii. 33; xxiv. 19; John iv. 19, 44; compare Josephus, "B. J." i. 3, § 5; ii. 8, § 12; idem, "Ant." xiii. 10, § 7; Luke ii. 25, 36). Gradually, however, the fame of Jesus as "healer" and "helper" of those stricken with disease so eclipsed that of John, at least in Galilean circles, that the latter was declared to have been only the forerunner of the one destined to subdue the whole kingdom of Satan—that is, the Elijah of the Messianic kingdom—and a declaration to this effect was finally put into the mouth of John as though made by him at the very start (Mark i. 2, ix. 13, xi. 2-19; Luke i. 17).Jesus as a Man of the People.
Jesus, as a man of the people, deviated from the practise of the Essenes and Pharisees in not shunning contact with the sinners, the Publicans and the despised '
That the movement did not end with the crucifixion, but gave birth to that belief in the risen Christ which brought the scattered adherents together and founded Christianity, is due to two psychic forces that never before had come so strongly into play: (1) the great personality of Jesus, which had so impressed itself upon the simple people of Galilee as to become a living power to them even after his death; and (2) the transcendentalism, or other-worldliness, in which those penance doing, saintly men and women of the common classes, in their longing for godliness, lived. In entranced visions they beheld their crucified Messiah expounding the Scriptures for them, or breaking the bread for them at their love-feasts, or even assisting them when they were out on the lake fishing (Luke xxiv. 15, 30, 31, 36; John xx. 19, xxi.). In an atmosphere of such perfect naïveté the miracle of the Resurrection seemed as natural as had been the miracle of the healing of the sick. Memory and vision combined to weave the stories of Jesus walking on the water (compare Matt. xiv. 25, Mark vi. 49, and John vi. 19 with John xxi. 1-14), of the transfiguration on the Mount (compare Matt. xvii. 1-13, Mark ix. 2-13, and Luke ix. 29-36 with Matt. xxviii. 16 et seq.), and of his moving through the air to be near the divine throne, served by the angels and the holy (not "wild") beasts ("ḥayyot"), and holding Scriptural combats with Satan (Mark i. 12, 13; Matt. iv. 1-11; compare with Acts vii. 15, vii. 55). The Messiahship of Jesus having once become an axiomatic truth to the "believers," as they called themselves, his whole life was reconstructed and woven together out of Messianic passages of the Scriptures. In him all the Testament prophecies had "to be fulfilled" (Matt. i. 22; ii. 5, 15, 17; iii. 3; iv. 14; viii. 17; xii. 17; xiii. 14, 35; xx. 14; xxvi. 56; xxvii. 19; John xii. 38; xiii. 18; xv. 25; xvii. 12; xviii. 9; xix. 24, 36). Thus, according to the Jewish view, shared by many Christian theologians, there grew up, through a sort of Messianic Midrash, the myths of Jesus' birth from a virgin (after Isa. vii. 14), in Bethlehem, the city of David (after Micah v. 1 et seq.; there was a town of Bethlehem also in Galilee, which Grätz identifies with Nazareth; see "Monatsschrift," xxix. 481); the genealogies in Luke iii. 23-38 andin Matt. i. 1-17, with the singular stress laid upon Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, the converted sinners and heathens, as mothers of the elect one (compare Gen. R. ii.; Hor. 10b; Nazir 23b; Meg. 14b); likewise the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding upon a young ass (after Zech. ix. 9), and of his being hailed by the people's "Hosanna" (after Ps. cxviii. 26; compare Midr. Teh. to the passage; also Matt. xxi. 1-11, and parallels).
Similarly, his healing powers were made proofs of his Messiahship (after Isa. xxxv. 5, 6; compare Gen. R. xcv. and Midr. Teh. cxlviii.), also his death on the cross was taken, with reference to Isa. liii. and old Essene tradition of the suffering Messiah (Pesiḳ. R. xxxiv.-xxxvii.), to be the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God slain for man's sin (John i. 29; Acts viii. 32. Rev. xiii. 8; compare Enoch xc. 8), and his resurrection the beginning of a new life (after Zech. xiv. 5: I Chron. iii. 24; Sibyllines, ii. 242; Matt. xxiv. 30; I Thess. iv. 16). Men held their love-feasts in his memory—turned into paschal feasts of the new covenant (Matt. xxvi. 28, and parallels; John xix. 33 et seq.)—and led lives of voluntary poverty and of partial celibacy (Acts ii. 44; Matt. xix. 12).Jesus' Teachings.
Out of these elements arose the life-picture of Jesus, shaped after later events and to a great extent reflecting the hostile sentiments entertained against the Jewish people by the new sect when, in the final struggle with Rome, the latter no longer shared the views and destinies of the former. Many antinomistic views put into the mouth of Jesus have their origin in Pauline—i.e., anti-Judean—circles. Thus the saying, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man" (Matt. xv. 11, and parallels), is irreconcilable with Peter's action and vision in Acts xi. 1-10. What Jesus actually said and did is difficult to determine. Many of his teachings can be traced to rabbinical sayings current in the Pharisaic schools; and many sentences, if not entire chapters, have been taken over from Essene writings (see Didascalia; Essenes; Golden Rule; Jesus of Nazareth; Matthew).
On the other hand, there are utterances of striking originality and wondrous power which denote great genius. He certainly had a message to bring to the forlorn, to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. x. 6, xv. 24), to the outcast, to the lower classes, to the "'am ha-areẓ," to the sinners, and to the publicans. And whether the whole life-picture is reality or poetic imagination, in him the Essene ideal reached its culmination. But it is not correct to speak, as Christian theologians do, of a possible recognition or an actual rejection of Jesus' Christship by the Jews. Whatever his greatness as teacher or as friend of the people, this could not establish his claim to the Messianic title; and whether his Galilean followers were justified in according it to him, or the authorities at Jerusalem in denying it and in denouncing him to the Roman prefect—probably more from fear than from spite (John xix. 15)—is not a matter that can be decided from the scanty records (compare Matt. xxvi. 5; Luke xiii. 31; xix. 47, 48; xx. 19; xxiii. 43 with Matt. xxvii. 25-28; Mark xv. 14; Luke xxiii. 23 (see Crucifixion). The vehement language of Jesus, in denouncing Sadducean misrule and the hypocrisy and narrowness of the Pharisaic leaders, was not altogether new and unheard of: it was the privilege of the Essene preachers, the popular Haggadists (See Pharisee and Sadducees). Most of his teachings, a great number of which echo rabbinical sayings, and have been misunderstood or misapplied altogether by the late Gospel compilers (see Gospels, The Four), were addressed to a circle of men who lived in a world of their own, far away from the centers of commerce and industry. His attitude toward Judaism is defined by the words: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" (Matt. v. 17). The rejection of the Law by Christianity, therefore, was a departure from its Christ, all the New Testament statements to the contrary notwithstanding. He himself declined even the title of "good master," because he wanted to reserve this epithet for God alone ("Matt. xix. 17): Christianity, contrary to all his teaching, turned him into a God.Paul's Antinomistic and Gnostic Views.
II. This radical change was brought about by Saul of Tarsus or Paul, the real founder of the Christian Church, though Peter formed the first community of the risen Christ (Matt. xvi. 16; Acts i. 15; I Cor. xv. 5). Having, under the influence of a vision, turned from an earnest persecutor of the new sect into its vigorous champion (Acts ix. 1-14, xxii. 3-16, xxvi. 9-18; I Cor. ix. 1, xv. 8 et seq.; Gal. i. 16), he construed the belief in the atoning death of Christ held by the rest into a system altogether antagonistic to Judaism and its Law, claiming to have received the apostleship to the heathen world from the Christ he beheld in his visions. Operating with certain Gnostic ideas, which rendered the Messiah as Son of God a cosmic power, like Philo's "logos," aiding in the world's creation and mediating between God and man, he saw both in the Crucifixion and in the Incarnation acts of divine self-humiliation suffered for the sake of redeeming a world polluted and doomed by sin since the fall of Adam. Faith alone in Christ should save man, baptism being the seal of the belief in God's redeeming love. It meant dying with Christ to sin which is inherited from Adam, and rising again with Christ to put on the new Adam (Rom. vi. 1-4; I Cor. xv.; Gal. iii.-iv.). See Baptism.
On the other hand, Paul taught, the law of Moses, the seal of which was Circumcision, failed to redeem man, because it made sin unavoidable. By a course of reasoning he discarded the Law as being under the curse (Gal. iii. 10 et seq.), declaring only those who believed in Christ as the Son of God to be free from all bondage (Gal. iv.). In opposition to those who distinguished between full Proselytes and "proselytes of the gate," who only accepted the Noachidian laws (Acts xv. 20), he abrogated the whole Law; claiming God to be the god of the heathen as well as of the Jews (Rom. iii. 29). Yet in enunciating this seemingly liberal doctrine he deprived faith, as typified by Abraham (Gen. xv. 6; Rom. iv. 3), of its naturalness, and forged theshackles of the Christian dogma, with its terrors of damnation and hell for the unbeliever. God, as Father and the just Ruler, was pushed into the background; and the Christ—who in the Gospels as well as in the Jewish apocalyptic literature figured as judge of the souls under God's sovereignty (Matt. xvi. 27, xxv. 31-33; compare Enoch, iv. xiv. et seq.; II Esd. vii. 33 with Rom. xiv. 10; II Cor. v. 10)—was rendered the central figure, because he, as head and glory of the divine kingdom, has, like Bel of Babylonian mythology fighting with the dragon, to combat Satan and his kingdom of evil, sin, and death. While thus opening wide the door to admit the pagan world, Paul caused the influx of the entire pagan mythology in the guise of Gnostic and anti-Gnostic names and formulas. No wonder if he was frequently assailed and beaten by the officials of the synagogue: he used this very synagogue, which during many centuries had been made the center of Jewish propaganda also among the heathen for the pure monotheistic faith of Abraham and the law of Moses, as the starting-point of his antinomistic and anti-Judean agitations (Acts xiii. 14, xiv. 1, xvii. 1 et seq., xxi. 27).Early Christianity a Jewish Sect.
For a long time Christianity regarded itself as part of Judaism. It had its center in Jerusalem (Irenæus, "Adversus Hæreses, i. 26); its first fifteen bishops were circumcised Jews, they observed the Law and were rather unfriendly to heathenism (Sulpicius Severus, "Historia Sacra," ii. 31; Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." iv. 5; compare Matt. xv. 26), while they held friendly intercourse with the leaders of the synagogue (see Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," iv. 373 et seq.; and Ebionites,
Three causes seem to have been at work in making the Pauline system dominant in the Church. First, the pagan world, particularly its lower classes, having lost faith in its old gods, yearned for a redeemer, a manlike god, and, on the other hand, was captivated by that work of redeeming love which the Christian communities practised, in the name of Jesus, in pursuance of the ancient Essene ideals (see Charity). Secondly, the blending of Jewish, Oriental, and Hellenic thought created those strange mystic or Gnostic systems which fascinated and bewildered the minds of the more educated classes, and seemed to lend a deeper meaning to the old beliefs and superstitions.Woman's Part in the Early Church.
Thirdly, woman appeared on the scene as a new factor of Church life. While the women of Syria and of Rome were on the whole attracted by the brightness and purity of Jewish home life, women in the New Testament, and most of all in Paul's life and letters, are prominent in other directions. Aside from those visions of Mary Magdalene which lent support to the belief in the Resurrection (Matt. xxviii. 1, and parallels), there was an undisguised tendency on the part of some women of these circles, such as Salome; Thecla, the friend of Paul; and others (see "Gospel of the Egyptians," in Clement, "Stromata," iii. 964; Conybeare, "Apology and Acts of Apollonius and Other Monuments of Early Christianity," pp. 24, 183, 284), to free themselves from the trammels of those principles upon which the sanctity of home rested (see Eccl. R. vii. 26). A morbid emotionalism, prizing love as "the greatest of all things" in place of truth and justice, and a pagan view of holiness which tended to make life oscillate between austere asceticism (demanding virginity and eunuchism) on the one side, and licentiousness on the other (see Matt. xix. 12; Sulpicius Severus, "Dialogi Duo," i. 9, 13, 15; Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." vi. 8; Clement, l.c. iii. 4; Cyprian, Ep. iv.; Rev. ii. 14), went hand in hand with Gnosticism. Against this exaggeration of the divine attribute of love and the neglect of that of justice, the Rabbis in the ancient Mishnah seem to utter their warning (Meg. iv. 9; Yer. Ber. i. 3). When, finally, the reaction set in, and Gnosticism both as an intellectual and as a sexual degeneracy (compare Sifre on Num. xv. 39) was checked by a strong counter-movement in favor of positive Christianity, two principles of extraordinary character were laid down by the framers of the Church: (1) the Trinitarian dogma with all its corollaries; and (2) a double code of morality, one for the world-fleeing monks and nuns and the clergy—called the really religious ones—and another for the laity, the men of the world.Trinitarianism.
The Trinitarian formula first occurs in Matthew (xxviii. 19, R. V.) in the words spoken by the risen Christ to the disciples in Galilee: "Go ye therefore,and make disciples of all the [heathen] nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"; but it appears to have been still unknown to Paul (I Cor. vi. 11; Acts ii. 38).
It is quite significant for the historian to observe that, while in the older Gospel (Mark xii. 29) Jesus began reciting the first commandment with the Jewish confession, "Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one," this verse is omitted in Matt. xxii. 37. Christ, the preexistent Messiah (Gen. R. i.), being either identified with the Shekinah or divine glory (Rom. ix. 4; Col. i. 27; see Mayor, "Epistle of James," p. 75, notes), or with the "Memra" or "Logos," Philo's second god ("Fragments," ed. Mangey, ii. 625; compare "De Somniis," i. 39-41, ed. Mangey, i. 655 et seq.), was raised by Paul to the rank of a god and placed alongside of God the Father (I Cor. viii. 6, xii. 3; Titus ii. 13; compare I John v. 20); and in II Cor. xiii. 14 the Trinity is almost complete. In vain did the early Christians protest against the deification of Jesus ("Clementine Homilies," xvi. 15). He is in Paul's system the image of God the Father (II Cor. iv. 4; compare I Cor. viii. 6); and, being opposed "to Satan, the god of this world," his title "God of the world to come" is assured. However repugnant expressions such as "the blood," "the suffering," and "the death of God" (Ignatius, "Ad Romanos," iii., v. 13; idem, "Ad Ephesios," i. 1; Tertullian, "Ad Praxeam") must have been to the still monotheistic sentiment of many, the opponents of Jesus' deification were defeated as Jewish heretics (Tertullian, l.c. 30; see Arianism and
The idea of a Trinity, which, since the Council of Nice, and especially through Basil the Great (370), had become the Catholic dogma, is of course regarded by Jews as antagonistic to their monotheistic faith and as due to the paganistic tendency of the Church; God the Father and God the Son, together with "the Holy Ghost ["Ruaḥ ha-Ḳodesh"] conceived of as a female being," having their parallels in all the heathen mythologies, as has been shown by many Christian scholars, such as Zimmern, in his "Vater, Sohn, und Fürsprecher," 1896, and in Schrader's "K. A. T." 1902, p. 377; Ebers, in his "Sinnbildliches: die Koptische Kunst," 1892, p. 10; and others.Persecution of Unitarians.
There was a time when the Demiurgos, as a second god, threatened to becloud Jewish monotheism (see Gnosticism and Elisha ben Abuyah): but this was at once checked, and the absolute unity of God became the impregnable bulwark of Judaism. "If a man says: 'I am God,' he lies, and if 'Son of man,' he will repent," was the bold interpretation of Num. xxiii. 18, given by R. Abbahu with reference to Christianity (Yer. Ta'an. ii. 1, 65b). "When Nebuchadnezzar spoke of the 'Son of God' (Dan. iii. 25), an angel came and smote him on the face," saying: "Hath God a son?" (Yer. Shab. vi. 8d). In the Church, Unitarianism was suppressed and persecuted whenever it endeavored to assert its birthright to reason; and it is owing chiefly to Justinian's fanatic persecution of the Syrian Unitarians that Islam, with its insistence on pure monotheism, triumphed over the Eastern Church. Henceforth Moslem and Jewish philosophy stood together for the absolute unity of God, not allowing any predicate of the Deity which might endanger this principle (see Attributes); whereas Christian philosophers, from Augustine to Hegel successively, attempted to overcome the metaphysical difficulties involved in the conception of a Trinity (see David Friedrich Strauss, "Glaubenslehre," i. 425-490).
The next radical deviation from Judaism was the worship of the Virgin Mary as the mother of God; the canonical and, still more, the apocryphal writings of the New Testament offering the welcome points of support to justify such a cult. The Jew could only abhor the medieval adoration of Mary, which seemed to differ little from the worship of Isis and her son Horus, Isthar and Tammuz, Frig and Balder. Yet this was but part of the humanization of the Deity and deification of man instituted in the Church in the shape of image-worship, despite synods and imperial decrees, prohibitions and iconoclasm. The cross, the lamb, and the fish, as symbols of the new faith, failed to satisfy the heathen minds; in the terms of John of Damascus, they demanded "to see the image of God, while God the Father was hidden from sight"; and consequently the second commandment had to give way (see "Image-Worship," in Schaff-Herzog, "Encyc."). It is no wonder, then, that the Jews beheld idolatry in all this, and felt constrained to apply the law, "Make no mention of the name of other gods" (Ex. xxiii. 13; Mek. to the passage and Sanh. 63b), also to Jesus; so that the name of one of the best and truest of Jewish teachers was shunned by the medieval Jew. Still, the Jewish code of law offered some toleration to the Christian Trinity, in that it permitted semi-proselytes ("ger toshab") to worship other divine powers together with the One God (Tosef., Sanh. 63b; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 156, Moses Isserles' note).Medieval Image-Worship.
It was, indeed, no easy matter for the Jew to distinguish between pagan idolatry and Christian image-worship (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 141). Moreover, image-worship went hand in hand with relic-worship and saint-worship; and so the door was opened wide to admit in the guise of saints the various deities of paganism, the policy of the medieval Church being to create a large pantheon of saints, apostles, and angels alongside of the Trinity in order to facilitate the conquest of heathen nations. In contrast to the uncompromising attitude of Judaism, the Church was ever ready for compromise to win the great multitudes. It was this spirit of polytheism which led to all those abuses the opposition to which was the chief factor of the Reformation—whose aim and purpose were a return to Pauline Christianity and the New Testament with the help of a deeper study of the Old Testament at the hand of Jewish scholarship (see Luther; Reformation; Reuchlin).Mediatorship of Christ.
But the Trinitarian dogma rested mainly upon Paul's conception of the mediatorship of Christ. For no sooner was the idea of the atoning powerof the death of the righteous (Isa. liii. 4-10; see Atonement) applied to Jesus (Matt. xx. 28; Luke xxii. 37; Acts viii. 32) than Christ became the necessary mediator, "delivering man from the power of Satan and the last enemy—death" (I Tim. ii. 5; Col. i. 13; I Cor. xv. 26). While Judaism has no room for dualism, since God spoke through the seer, "I formed the light and created the darkness: I make peace and create evil" (Isa. xlv. 7); and while the divine attributes of justice and love, punitive wrath and forgiving mercy, are only contrasted (, Ber. 7a; Philo, "Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit," xxxiv.; Siegfried, "Philo," pp. 213 et seq.), but never divided into separate powers, the world of Satan and the world of Christ are arrayed against each other, and an at-one-ment by the blood of the cross is necessitated in the Pauline system (Col. i. 20; Rom. iii. 25).
God had to reconcile the world to Himself through the death of Jesus (II Cor. v. 18) and render "the children of wrath" children of His grace (Ephes. ii. 3; Rom. iii. 25, v. 10). "The love of God required the sacrifice of his own begotten Son" (John iii. 16). This view is regarded as repugnant by the pure monotheistic sentiment of the Jew, itself grounded upon the spirituality and holiness of God, and was opposed by R. Akiba when he, with direct reference to the Christian doctrine, said: "Happy are ye, Israelites! Before whom do ye purify yourselves, and who is the one who purifieth you but your Father in heaven, for it is said: 'Israel's hope ["miḳweh," also interpreted as "source of purification"] is God'" (Jer. xvii. 13; Mishnah Yoma, end). But the whole dogma of Jesus' incarnation and crucifixion has for its background a world of sin and death ruled by Satan and his hosts of demons (II Cor. iv. 4; Ephes. ii. 1, vi. 12 et seq.; II Tim. ii. 26). In fact, the whole coming of Christ is viewed in the New Testament as a battle with Satan (see Matt. iv. 1 et seq., xii. 29; Luke x. 18; John xii. 31; John iii. 8). The story of Adam's fall, which caused the Book of Wisdom to say (ii. 24) that "through the envy of the devil death came into the world" (compare Ecclus. [Sirach] xxv. 24), was made by Paul (compare II Esdras iii. 7, 21, and Apoc. Baruch, xvii. 3) the keynote of the entire human history (Rom. v. 12). For those of the Rabbis who accepted this view the Law was an antidote against "the venom of the Serpent"—that is, the germ or the inclination to sin ('Ab. Zarah, 22b; Shab. 146a); to Paul, who antagonized the Law, the "breath of the serpent" became a power of sin and everlasting doom of such a nature that none but God Himself, through Christ His son, could overcome it.The Doctrine of Original Sin.
In adopting this view as the doctrine of Original Sin the Church deprived man of both his moral and his intellectual birthright as the child of God (Tertullian, "De Anima," xvi., xl.; Augustine, "De Nuptiis et Concupiscentiis," i. 24, ii. 34; Strauss, "Glaubenslehre," ii. 43 et seq.), and declared all the generations of man to have been born in sin—a belief accepted also by the Lutherans in the Augsburg Confession and by Calvin ("Institutes," II. i. 6-8; Strauss, l.c. ii. 49). In vain did Pelagius, Socinus, and the Arminians protest against a view which deprived man of his prerogative as a free, responsible person (Strauss, l.c. p. 53). No longer could the Christian recite the ancient prayer of the Synagogue: "My God, the soul which Thou gavest unto me is pure" (Ber. 60b). And while, in all Hellenistic or pre-Christian writings, Enoch, Methuselah, Job, and other Gentiles of old were viewed as prototypes of humanity, the prevailing opinion of the Rabbis being that "the righteous among the heathen have a share in the world to come" (Tosef., Sanh. xiii. 2; Sanh. 105a; see all the passages and the views of a dissenting minority in Zunz, "Z. G." pp. 373-385), the Church, Catholic and Protestant alike, consigns without exception all those who do not believe in Jesus to the eternal doom of hell (Strauss, l.c. ii. 686, 687). Christ's descent into hell to liberate his own soul from the pangs of eternal doom became, therefore, one of the fundamentals of the Apostolic creed, after I Peter iii. 18, iv. 6 (see Schaff-Herzog, "Encyc." art. "Hell, Christ's Descent into"). It is obvious that this view of God could not well inculcate kindly feelings toward Jews and heretics; and the tragic fate of the medieval Jew, the persecutions he suffered, and the hatred he experienced, must be chiefly attributed to this doctrine.Faith and Reason.
Paul's depreciation of the Law and his laudation of faith (in Christ) as the only saving power for Jew and Gentile (Rom. iii. 28, x. 4; Gal. iii. 7 et seq.) had, in the Middle Ages, an injurious effect upon the mental progress of man. Faith, as exhibited by Abraham and as demanded of the people in the Old Testament and rabbinical writings, is a simple, childlike trust in God; and accordingly "littleness of faith"—that is, want of perfect confidence in the divine goodness—is declared by Jesus as well as by the Rabbis in the Talmud as unworthy of the true servant and son of God (Gen. xv. 6; Ex. xiv. 31; Num. xiv. 11, xx. 12; Hab. ii. 4; II Chron. xx. 20; Mek. to Ex. xiv. 31; Matt. vi. 30; Soṭah 48b). Paul's theology made faith a meritorious act of saving quality (Rom. i. 16); and the more meritorious it is the less is it in harmony with the wisdom of the wise, appearing rather as "foolishness" (I Cor. i. 18-31). From this it was but one step to Tertullian's perfect surrender of reason, as expressed in, "Credo quia absurdum," or, more correctly, "Credibile quia ineptum; certum est quia impossibile est" (To be believed because it is foolish; certain because impossible"; "De Carne Christi," v.). Blind faith, which renders the impossible possible (Mark ix. 23, 24), produced a credulity throughout Christendom which became indifferent to the laws of nature and which deprecated learning, as was shown by Draper ("History of the Conflict between Science and Religion") and by White ("History of the Warfare of Science with Theology"). A craving for the miraculous and supernatural created ever new superstitions, or sanctioned, under the form of relic-worship, old pagan forms of belief. In the name of the Christian faith reason and research were condemned, Greek philosophy and literature were exterminated, and free thinking was suppressed. Whereas Judaismmade the study of the Law, or rather of the Torah—which is learning, and included science and philosophy as well as religion—the foremost duty of each member of the household (Deut. vi. 7, xi. 19; Josephus, "Contra Ap." ii. §§ 18, 26, 41), medieval Christianity tended to find bliss in ignorance, because knowledge and belief seemed incompatible (Lecky, "History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne," ii. 203-210; idem, "History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe," i. 1-201).
It was the resuscitated pagan thinkers, it was the Mohammedan and the Jew, who kept the lamps of knowledge and science burning; and to them in large measure the revival of learning, through scholastic philosophy in the Catholic cloisters and afterward in western Europe in general, is due. Not merely the burning of witches and heretics, but the charges, raised by priests and mobs against the Jews, of having poisoned the wells, pierced the consecrated host, and slain innocent children in order to use their blood, can mainly be traced to that stupor of the mind which beholds in every intellectual feat the working of Satanic powers, alliance with which was believed to be bought with blood. On the other hand, the Church was ever busy infusing into the popular mind the belief that those rites which served as symbolic expressions of the faith were endowed with supernatural powers, "sacrament" being the Latin word used for "mysterion," the name given to forms which had a certain magic spell for the believer. Both baptism and the eucharist were regarded as miracle-working powers of the Christian faith, on participation in which the salvation of the soul depended, and exclusion from which meant eternal damnation (see the literature in Schaff-Herzog, "Encyc." s.v. "Sacrament").Asceticism in the Monasteries.
The expectation by early Christianity of a speedy regeneration of the world by the reappearance of Jesus exerted a strange influence also on the whole moral and social state of humanity. The entire Christian life being a preparation for the world to come (and this change being expected to take place soon; Matt. x. 23; I Cor. i. 7; I Peter i. 13), only those that renounced the joys of the flesh were certain of entering the latter. This view gave rise to asceticism in the monasteries, for which genuine religiosity was claimed; while marriage, home, and state, and all earthly comforts, were only concessions to the flesh. Henceforth the ideal life for the priest and recluse was to differ from that for the people at large, who were to rank as inferiors (Strauss, l.c. i. 41 et seq.). Whereas in Judaism the high priest was not allowed to officiate on the Day of Atonement unless he had a wife that made home sacred to him (Yoma. i. 1, after Lev. xvi. 11, 17), celibacy and virginity were prized as the higher virtues of the Christian elect, contempt of the world with all its material, social, and intellectual pursuits being rendered the ideal of life (see Ziegler, "Gesch. der Ethik," 1886, pp. 192-242). Thus, to the Jew Christendom, from the days of the emperor Constantine, presented a strange aspect. The Church, formerly the declared enemy of Rome-Babel (Rev. xvii.), had become her ally, accepting Edom's blessing, "By thy sword shalt thou live" (Gen. xxvii. 40), as her own; and, on the other hand, there appeared her priests ("gallaḥ" = hair-clipped) and monks ("kummarim"), in the guise of the old Hebrew Nazarites and saints, claiming to be the true heirs to Israel's prophecy and priesthood. Indeed, medieval Judaism and Christianity formed the greatest contrast. Children of the same household, invoking the same God and using the same Scriptures as His revealed word, they interpreted differently life and its meaning, God and religion. Their Bible, Sabbath, and festivals, their whole bent of mind and soul, had become widely divergent. They no longer understood each other.Medieval Jewish Views of Christianity.
Yet, while neither Augustine nor Thomas Aquinas, the chief framers of the Church dogma, nor even Luther and Calvin, the Reformers, had any tolerance for Jew or Moslem, the authorities of the Synagogue accorded to Christianity and Islam a high providential mission in human history. Saadia (died 942), the first to examine the Christian dogma, says (in his "Emunot we-De'ot," ii. 5) that, unconcerned by the sensual Trinitarian belief of the common crowd, he would discuss only the speculative value given by Christian thinkers to the Trinity; and so, with penetrating acumen and profound earnestness and love of truth, he endeavors to lay bare either the metaphysical errors of those who, as he says, make of such attributes as life, power, and knowledge separate parts of the Deity, or the defects of the various philosophical constructions of the divinity of Jesus (see Kaufmann, "Gesch. der Attributenlehre," pp. 38-52; Guttmann, "Die Religionsphilosophie des Saadia," pp. 103-113).
Grander still is the view of Christianity taken by Judah ha-Levi in the "Cuzari." After having rejected as incompatible with reason all the claims of the Trinity and of Christ's origin (i. 5), and remarked that both Christianity and Islam accepted the roots, but not the logical conclusions, of Israel's faith, (iv. 11)—rather amalgamating the same with pagan rites and notions—he declares (iv. 23) that both form the preparatory steps to the Messianic time which will ripen the fruit in which adherents of those faiths, too, will have a share, all the branches thus proving to be "the one tree" of Israel (Ezek. xxxvii. 17; see D. Cassel, "Das Buch Kuzari," 337). This view is shared by Maimonides, who writes in "Yad," Melakim, xi. 4: "The teachings of the Nazarene and the Ishmaelite [Mohammed] serve the divine purpose of preparing the way for the Messiah, who is sent to make the whole world perfect by worshiping God with one spirit: for they have spread the words of the Scriptures and the law of truth over the wide globe; and, whatever of errors they adhere to, they will turn toward the full truth at the arrival of the Messianic time." And in his Responsa (No. 58) he declares: "The Christians believe and profess in common with us that the Bible is of divine origin and given through Moses, our teacher; they have it completely written down, though they frequently interpret it differently."
The great rabbinical authorities, R. Gershom of Mayence (d. 1040; see "Ha-Ḥoḳer," i. 2, 45); Rashiand his school; the French Tosafists of the twelfth century ('Ab. Zarah, 2a); Solomon ben Adret of Barcelona, of the thirteenth century; Isaac b. Sheshet of the fourteenth century (Responsa No. 119); Joseph Caro (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 156, end; Yoreh De'ah, 148; and Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 266), and Moses Isserles of the sixteenth century declare that Christians are to be regarded as Proselytes of the Gate and not as idolaters, in spite of their image-worship. Still more emphatic in the recognition of Christianity, as teaching a belief in the Creator, revelation, retribution, and resurrection, is Joseph Yaabeẓ, a victim of Spanish persecution (1492), who, in his "Ma'amar ha-Aḥdut," iii., goes so far as to assert that "but for these Christian nations we might ourselves have become infirm in our faith during our long dispersion."Christianity Compared with Islam.
The same generous view is taken by his contemporary Isaac Arama ("Aḳedat Yiẓḥaḳ," lxxxviii.). Eliezer Ashkenazi (sixteenth century) warns his coreligionists, in his "Ma'ase ha-Shem," written in Turkey, "not to curse a whole Christian nation because a portion wrongs us, as little as one would curse one's own brother or son for some wrong inflicted." Jacob Emden at the middle of the eighteenth century wrote: "Christianity has been given as part of the Jewish religion by the Apostles to the Gentile world; and its founder has even made the moral laws stricter than are those contained in Mosaism. There are, accordingly, many Christians of high qualities and excellent morals who keep from hatred and do no harm, even to their enemies. Would that Christians would all live in conformity with their precepts! They are not enjoined, like the Israelites, to observe the laws of Moses; nor do they sin if they associate other beings with God in worshiping a triune God. They will receive reward from God for having propagated a belief in Him among nations that never heard His name; for 'He looks into the heart.' Yea, many have come forth to the rescue of Jews and their literature" ("Resen Mat'eh," p. 15b, Amsterdam, 1758, and "Leḥem ha-Shamayim" to Ab. v. 17). Leone del Bene (Judah Asahel Meha-Ṭob) also may be mentioned, who, in his "Kis'ot le-Bet David," 1646, xxiv., xxvi., xlvi., xlviii., compares Mohammedanism with Christianity, and declares the latter as superior, notwithstanding its Trinitarian dogma. A highly favorable opinion of Jesus is expressed also in a Karaite fragment noted in Steinschneider, "Oẓerot Ḥayyim," Catalogue of the Michael Library, pp. 377 et seq., Hamburg, 1848. Compare
The persistent attacks of Christian controversialists against the Jewish belief gave rise, of course, to a number of polemical works, written in self-defense, in which both the Christian dogmas and the New Testament writings are submitted to unsparing criticism. Foremost among these—not to mention Naḥmanides' published disputation with Pablo Christiani—is that of Ḥasdai Crescas, who, in a Spanish "tratado" on the Christian creeds (1396), showed the irrationality of the doctrines of Original Sin, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Virginity of Jesus' Mother, and Transubstantiation, and who investigated the value of baptism and of the New Testament compared with the Old; beginning with the following three axioms: "(1) Reason can not be forced into belief; (2) God Himself can not alter the laws of a priori truth and understanding; (3) God's justice must comprise all His children." Another vigorous defender of Judaism against Christianity was Simon ben
III. To offer to the great Gentile world the Jewish truth adapted to its psychic and intellectual capacities—this was the providential mission of Christianity. Yet, in order to become a unifying power for all the nations on the globe, shaping and reshaping empires, and concentrating the social, political, and spiritual forces of humanity in a manner never before attempted or dreamed of, it required an inspiring ideal of sublime grandeur and beauty, which should at once fascinate and stir souls to their very depths and satisfy their longings. Nothing less than the conquests of Cyrus the Lord's "anointed," called "to subdue nations and to break their prison doors" (Isa. xlv. 1, 2), than Alexander's great empire over the earth, still more than a kingdom that would encompass all that for which Rome and Alexandria and Jerusalem stood—"a kingdom of the people of the saints of the Most High" (Dan. vii. 17-27)—nothing less than this was the goal which they that were told to "go forth and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. xxviii. 19) had in view. The Jewish propaganda, begun in the Babylonian Exile (Isa. xlv. 6; xlix. 6; lvi. 6, 7; lxvi. 21), and systematically pursued in Alexandria and Rome (Matt. xxiii. 15; Schürer, "Gesch." iii. 302 et seq., 420 et seq.), was to be left far behind, and, by battering down the barriers of the Law and the Abrahamic faith, was to be rendered elastic enough to suit the needs of a polytheistic world. Such was the view of the missionary of Tarsus.
But it was, after all, the glad tidings of the Jew Jesus which won humanity for Abraham's God. Jewish righteousness, "Ẓedaḳab," which is the power of helpful love readjusting social inadequacies, was destined to go forth from the Synagogue in order to lift the burden of wo from suffering humanity and to organize everywhere works ofcharity. By this the Church, "the congregation of the Lord," conquered the masses of the vast Roman empire, and, as she learned the better to apply the Jewish system (see Essenes) to the larger field opened, achieved ever-increasing wonders with the mighty resources at her disposal. The poorhouse, or hospital, "transplanted as a branch of the terebinth of Abraham to Rome." (See Charity), became a mighty factor of human beneficence, and moved the deepest forces of the Church to glorious activity. Christianity, following the matchless ideal of its Christ, redeemed the despised and outcast, and ennobled suffering. It checked infanticide and founded asylums for the young; it removed the curse of slavery by making the humblest bondsman proud of being a child of God; it fought against the cruelties of the arena; it invested the home with purity and proclaimed, in the spirit of Ezek. xviii. and Yer. Sanh. iv. 22a, the value of each human soul as a treasure in the eyes of God; and it so leavened the great masses of the empire as to render the cross of Christ the sign of victory for its legions in place of the Roman eagle. The "Galilean" entered the world as conqueror. The Church became the educator of the pagan nations; and one race after another was brought under her tutorship. The Latin races were followed by the Celt, the Teuton, and the Slav. The same burning enthusiasm which sent forth the first apostle also set the missionaries aglow, and brought all Europe and Africa, and finally the American continent, under the scepter of an omnipotent Church. The sword and the cross paved the way through vast deserts and across the seas, and spread the blessings of a civilization claimed to be Christian because its end was the rule of Christ.Messianic Promises Not Fulfilled.
Judaism, however, denies the validity of this claim. As Isaac Troki (in his "Ḥizzuḳ Emunah," i. 2, 4a, 6) says, "none of the Messianic promises of a time of perfect peace and unity among men, of love and truth of universal knowledge and undisturbed happiness, of the cessation of all wrong-doing, superstition, idolatry, falsehood, and hatred [Isa. ii. 1 et seq., 18; xi. 1-9, lxv. 19, 23; Jer. iii. 17; Ezek. xxxiv. 25, xxxvi. 25 et seq., xxxvii. 26; Zech. xiii. 2, xiv. 9; Zeph. iii. 13] have been fulfilled by the Church." On the contrary, the medieval Church divided men into believers and unbelievers, who are to inherit heaven and hell respectively. With the love which she poured forth as the fountain of divine grace, she also sent forth streams of hatred. She did not foster that spirit of true holiness which sanctifies the whole of life—marriage and home, industry and commerce—but in Jewish eyes seemed to cultivate only the feminine virtues, love and humility, not liberty and justice, manhood and independence of thought. She has done much in refining the emotions, unfolding those faculties of the soul which produce the heavenly strains of music and the beauties of art and poetry; but she also did all in her power to check intellectual progress, scientific research, and the application of knowledge. Her tutorship sufficed as long as the nations under her care were in the infant stage; but as soon as they awoke to self-consciousness and longed for freedom, they burst the shackles of dogma and of ecclesiastical authority. Thus the Church was broken up into churches. Under the influence of Judaism and of Arabic philosophy, Scholasticism arose, and then came the Reformation; and the process of disintegration continues throughout Protestantism. The tendency of historical inquiry and Biblical criticism is to leave nothing but the picture of the man Jesus, the Jew, as a noble type of humanity, and to return to simple monotheism (see Renan, "Le Judaisme et le Christianisme," 1883; idem, "L'Eglise Chrétienne," 1879, p. 248; Alexander von Humboldt, in Samter, "Moderne Judentaufen," and in A. Kohut, "Alexander von Humboldt und das Judenthum," 1871, p. 176; Berner, "Judenthum und Christenthum," 1891, p. 31; Alphonse de Candolle, in Jellinek, "Franzosen über Juden," 1880, p. 27; Singer. "Briefe Berühmter Christ. Zeigenossen," p. 114. No human individual, however great in his own environment, can, according to the Jewish view, present a perfect ideal of humanity for all ages and phases of life. "No one is holy but God": to this Jewish conception of man Jesus also gave expression (Matt. xix. 17). Man as the image of God requires all the ages and historical conditions of progress to unfold the infinite possibilities of the divine life planted in him. "Each age has its own types of righteousness" (Tan., Miḳeẓ, Vienna ed., p. 48), and only by the blending of all human efforts toward the realization of the true, the good, and the beautiful can the highest perfection be attained at the end of history, "each mount of vision forming a stepping-stone to Zion as the sublime goal" (Midr. Teh. to Ps. xxxvi. 6).
Christianity is not an end, but the means to an end; namely, the establishment of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God. Here Christianity presents itself as an orb of light, but not so central as to exclude Islam, nor so bright and unique as to eclipse Judaism, the parent of both. Moreover, room is left for other spiritual forces, for whatever of permanent value is contained in Brahmanism, especially its modern theistic sects, and in Buddhism (see Eucken, "Der Wahrheitsgehalt der Religion," Leipsic, 1901; Happel, "Die Religiösen und Philosophischen Grundanschauungen der Inder," 1902), and in the theosophic principles derived from it, and for all religious and philosophical systems that may yet be evolved in the process of the ages. In fact, whatever constitutes humanity and bears the image of God, whatever man does in order to unfold the divine life (Gen. i. 27; Lev. xviii. 5; Ps. viii. 6; Job xxviii. 28; Eccl. xii. 13)—that helps to make up the sum of religion.
- Graetz, Hist. of the Jews, ii., iii., iv., passim;
- Hamburger, R. B. T. ii., s.v. Christenthum;
- Geiger, Das Judenthum und Seine Gesch. 1865, i., ii., Supplement;
- M. Schreiner, Die Jüngsten Urtheile über das Judenthum, 1902;
- Perles, What Jews May Learn from Harnack, in Jew. Quart. Rev. 1902;
- M. Güdemann, Das Judenthum, 1902;
- Toy, Judaism and Christianity, 1890;
- Harnack, History of Dogma, i.-v., Eng. transl. by N. Buchanan;
- D. Strauss, Die Christliche Glaubenslehre, 1840-41, i., ii.;
- Chwolson,Die Blutanklage und Sonstige Mittelalterliche Beschuldigungen, pp. 1-78, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1901;
- Lecky,History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne, 1874, i., ii.;
- Ziegler, Gesch. der Christlichen Ethik, 1886.
- David Einhorn, Unterscheidungslehre Zwischen, Judenthum und Christenthum, in Sinai, 1860, pp. 193 et seq., and 1861, pp. 100 et seq.