Table of Contents | Chapter
The Life and Times of
Jesus the Messiah
THE PREPARATION FOR THE
THE JEWISH WORLD IN THE DAYS OF CHRIST
THE JEWISH WORLD IN
THE DAYS OF CHRIST
THE JEWISH DISPERSION IN THE EAST
Among the outward means by which the religion of Israel was
preserved, one of the most important was the centralisation and localisation of
its worship in Jerusalem. If to some the ordinances of the Old Testament may in
this respect seem narrow and exclusive, it is at least doubtful, whether
without such a provision Monotheism itself could have continued as a creed or a
worship. In view of the state of the ancient world, and of the tendencies of
Israel during the earlier stages of their history, the strictest isolation was
necessary in order to preserve the religion of the Old Testament from that
mixture with foreign elements which would speedily have proved fatal to its
existence. And if one source of that danger had ceased after the seventy years'
exile in Babylonia, the dispersion of the greater part of the nation among
those manners and civilisation would necessarily influence them, rendered the
continuance of this separation of as great importance as before. In this
respect, even traditionalism had its mission and use, as a hedge around the Law
to render its infringement or modification impossible.
Wherever a Roman, a Greek, or an Asiatic might wander, he could
take his gods with him, or find rites kindred to his own. It was far otherwise
with the Jew. He had only one Temple, that in Jerusalem; only one God, Him Who
had once throned there between the Cherubim, and Who was still King over Zion.
That Temple was the only place where a God-appointed, pure priesthood could
offer acceptable sacrifices, whether for forgiveness of sin, or for fellowship
with God. Here, in the impenetrable gloom of the innermost sanctuary, which the
High-Priest alone might enter once a year for most solemn expiation, had stood
the Ark, the leader of the people into the Land of Promise, and the footstool
on which the Shechinah had rested. From that golden altar rose the cloud in
incense, symbol of Israel's accepted prayers; that seven-branched candlestick shed
its perpetual light, indicative of the brightness of God's Covenant Presence;
on that table, as it were before the face of Jehovah, was laid, week by week,
'the Bread of the Face1,'
a constant sacrificial meal which Israel offered unto God, and wherewith God in
turn fed His chosen priesthood. On the great blood-sprinkled altar of sacrifice
smoked the daily and festive burnt-offerings, brought by all Israel, and for
all Israel, wherever scattered; while the vast courts of the Temple were
thronged not only by native Palestinians, but literally by 'Jews out of every
nation under heaven.' Around this Temple gathered the sacred memories of the
past; to it clung the yet brighter hopes of the future. The history of Israel
and all their prospects were intertwined with their religion; so that it may be
said that without their religion they had no history, and without their history
no religion. Thus, history, patriotism, religion, and hope alike pointed to
Jerusalem and the Temple as the centre of Israel's unity.
1. Such is the
literal meaning of what is translated by 'shewbread.'
Nor could the depressed state of the nation alter their views
or shake their confidence. What mattered it, that the Idumæan, Herod, had usurped
the throne of David, expect so far as his own guilt and their present
subjection were concerned? Israel had passed through deeper waters, and stood
triumphant on the other shore. For centuries seemingly hopeless bondsmen in
Egypt, they had not only been delivered, but had raised the God-inspired
morning-song of jubilee, as they looked back upon the sea cleft for them, and
which had buried their oppressors in their might and pride. Again, for weary
years had their captives hung Zion's harps by the rivers of that city and
empire whose colossal grandeur, wherever they turned, must have carried to the
scattered strangers the desolate feeling of utter hopelessness. And yet that
empire had crumbled into dust, while Israel had again taken root and sprung up.
And now little more than a century and a half had passed, since a danger
greater even than any of these had threatened the faith and the very existence
of Israel. In his daring madness, the Syrian king, Antiochus IV. (Epiphanes)
had forbidden their religion, sought to destroy their sacred books, with
unsparing ferocity forced on them conformity to heathen rites, desecrated the
Temple by dedicating it to Zeus Olympios, what is translated by 'shewbread.' a
constant sacrificial and even reared a heathen altar upon that of
burnt-offering.2 Worst of
all, his wicked schemes had been aided by two apostate High-Priests, who had outvied
each other in buying and then prostituting the sacred office of God's anointed.3
Yet far away in the mountains of Ephraim4
God had raised for them most unlooked-for and unlikely help. Only three years
later, and, after a series of brilliant victories by undisciplined men over the
flower of the Syrian army, Judas the Maccabee, truly God's Hammer5
had purified the Temple, and restored its altar on the very same day6 on which the 'abomination of desolation'7
had been set up in its place. In all their history the darkest hour of their
night had ever preceded the dawn of a morning brighter than any that had yet
broken. It was thus that with one voice all their prophets had bidden them wait
and hope. Their sayings had been more than fulfilled as regarded the past.
Would they not equally become true in reference to that far more glorious
future for Zion and for Israel, which was to be ushered in by the coming of the
2. 1 Macc. i.
54, 59; Jos. Ant. xii. 5. 4.
3. After the
deposition of Onias III. through the bribery of his own brother Jason, the
latter and Menelaus outvied each other in bribery for, and prostitution of, the
4. Modin, the
birthplace of the Maccabees, has been identified with the modern El-Medyeh,
about sixteen miles northwest of Jerusalem, in the ancient territory of
Ephraim. Comp. Conder's Handbook of the Bible, p. 291; and for a full
reference to the whole literature of the subject, see Schürer (Neutest.
Zeitgesch. p. 78, note 1).
5. On the
meaning of the name Maccabee, comp. Grimm's Kurzgef. Exeget. Handb. z.
d. Apokr. Lief. iii., pp. ix. x. We adopt the derivation from Maqqabha,
a hammer, like Charles Martel.
6. 1 Macc. iv.
52-54: Megill. Taan. 23.
7. 1 Macc. l. 54.
Nor were such the feelings of the Palestinian Jews only. These
indeed were now a minority. The majority of the nation constituted what was
known as the dispersion; a term which, however, no longer expressed its
original meaning of banishment by the judgment of God,8
since absence from Palestine was now entirely voluntary. But all the more that
it referred not to outward suffering,9
did its continued use indicate a deep feeling of religious sorrow, of social
isolation, and of political strangership10
in the midst of a heathen world. For although, as Josephus reminded his
countrymen,11 there was
'no nation in the world which had not among them part of the Jewish people,'
since it was 'widely dispersed over all the world among its inhabitants,'12
yet they had nowhere found a real home. A century and a half before our era
comes to us from Egypt13
- where the Jews possessed exceptional privileges - professedly from the
heathen, but really from the Jewish14
Sibyl, this lament of Israel -
8. Alike the
verb hlg in Hebrew, and diaspeirw in
Greek, with their derivatives, are used in the Old Testament, and in the
rendering of the LXX., with reference to punitive banishment. See, for example,
Judg. xviii. 30; 1 Sam. iv. 21; and in the LXX. Deut. xxx. 4; Ps. cxlvii. 2;
Is. xlix. 6, and other passages.
9. There is
some truth, although greatly exaggerated, in the bitter remarks of Hausrath
(Neutest. Zeitgesch. ii. p. 93), as to the sensitiveness of the Jews in the diaspora, and the loud outcry of all
its members at any interference with them, however trivial. But events
unfortunately too often proved how real and near was their danger, and how
necessary the caution 'Obsta principiis.'
10. St. Peter
seems to have used it in that sense, 1 Pet. i. 1.
11. Jew. W ii. 16. 4.
12. vii. 3.3.
13. Comp. the remarks
of Schneckenburger (Vorles ü. Neutest. Zeitg. p. 95).
14. Comp. Friedlieb,
D. Sibyll. Weissag. xxii. 39.
thy numbers every ocean and country -
Yet an offense
to all around thy presence and customs!15
Sibyll. iii. 271,272, apud Friedlieb, p. 62.
years later the Greek geographer and historian Strabo bears the like witness to
their presence in every land, but in language that shows how true had been the
complaint of the Sibyl.16
The reasons for this state of feeling will by-and-by appear. Suffice it for the
present that, all unconsciously, Philo tells its deepest ground, and that of
Israel's loneliness in the heathen world, when speaking, like the others, of
his countrymen as in 'all the cities of Europe, in the provinces of Asia and in
the islands,' he describes them as, wherever sojourning, having but one
metropolis - not Alexandria, Antioch, or Rome - but 'the Holy City with its
Temple, dedicated to the Most High God.'17
A nation, the vast majority of which was dispersed over the whole inhabited
earth, had ceased to be a special, and become a world-nation.18
Yet its heart beat in Jerusalem, and thence the life-blood passed to its most
distant members. And this, indeed, if we rightly understand it, was the grand
object of the 'Jewish dispersion' throughout the world.
apud Jos. Ant. xiv. 7.2: 'It is not easy to find a place in the world
that has not admitted this race, and is not mastered by it.'
in Flaccum (ed. Francf.), p. 971.
18. Comp. Jos.
Ant. xii. 3; xiii. 10. 4; 13. 1; xiv. 6. 2; 8. 1; 10. 8; Sueton. Cæs. 85.
What has been said applies, perhaps, in a special manner, to
the Western, rather than to the Eastern 'dispersion.' The
connection of the latter with Palestine was so close as almost to seem one of
continuity. In the account of the truly representative gathering in Jerusalem
on that ever-memorable Feast of Weeks,19 the division of the 'dispersion' into
two grand sections - the Eastern or Trans-Euphratic, and the Western or
Hellenist - seems clearly marked.20
In this arrangement the former would include 'the Parthians, Medes, Elamites,
and dwellers in Mesopotamia,' Judæa standing, so to speak, in the middle, while
'the Bretes and Arabians' would typically represent the farthest outrunners
respectively of the Western and the Eastern Diaspora. The former, as we know
from the New Testament, commonly bore in Palestine the name of the 'dispersion
of the Greeks,'21 and of
'Hellenists' or 'Grecians.'22
On the other hand, the Trans-Euphratic Jews, who 'inhabited Babylon and many of
the other satrapies,'23
were included with the Palestinians and the Syrians under the term 'Hebrews,'
from the common language which they spoke.
19. Acts ii. 9-11
(Clavis N.T. p. 113) quotes two passages from Philo, in one of which he
contradistinguishes 'us,' the Hellenist Jews, from 'the Hebrews,' and speaks of
the Greek as 'our language.'
21. St. John vii. 35.
22. Acts vi. 1; ix. 29; xi. 20.
ad Cajum, p. 1023; Jos. Ant. xv. 3.1.
But the difference between the 'Grecians' and the 'Hebrews' was
far deeper than merely of language, and extended to the whole direction of
thought. There were mental influences at work in the Greek world from which, in
the nature of things, it was impossible even for Jews to withdraw themselves,
and which, indeed, were as necessary for the fulfillment of their mission as
their isolation from heathenism, and their connection with Jerusalem. At the
same time it was only natural that the Hellenists, placed as they were in the
midst of such hostile elements, should intensely wish to be Jews, equal to
their Eastern brethren. On the other hand, Pharisaism, in its pride of legal
purity and of the possession of traditional lore, with all that it involved,
made no secret of its contempt for the Hellenists, and openly declared the
Grecian far inferior to the Babylonian 'dispersion.'24
That such feelings, and the suspicions which they engendered, had struck deep
into the popular mind, appears from the fact, that even in the Apostolic
Church, and that in her earliest days, disputes could break out between the
Hellenists and the Hebrews, arising from suspicion of unkind and unfair
dealings grounded on these sectional prejudices.25
24. Similarly we
have (in Men. 110a) this curious explanation of Is. xliii. 6: 'My sons
from afar' - these are the exiles in Babylon, whose minds were settled, like
men, 'and my daughters from the ends of the earth' - these are the exiles in
other lands, whose minds were not settled, like women.
25. Acts vi. 1.
Far other was the estimate in which the Babylonians were held
by the leaders of Judaism. Indeed, according to one view of it, Babylonia, as
well as 'Syria' as far north as Antioch, was regarded as forming part of the
land of Israel.26 Every other
country was considered outside 'the land,' as Palestine was called, with the
exception of Babylonia, which was reckoned as part of it.27
For Syria and Mesopotamia, eastwards to the banks of the Tigris, were supposed
to have been in the territory which King David had conquered, and this made
them ideally for ever like the land of Israel. But it was just between the
Euphrates and the Tigris that the largest and wealthiest settlements of the Jews
were, to such extent that a later writer actually designated them 'the land of
Israel.' Here Nehardaa, on the Nahar Malka, or royal canal, which
passed from the Euphrates to the Tigris, was the oldest Jewish settlement. It
boasted of a Synagogue, said to have been built by King Jechoniah with stones
that had been brought from the Temple.28
In this fortified city the vast contributions intended for the Temple were
deposited by the Eastern Jews, and thence conveyed to their destination under
escort of thousands of armed men. Another of these Jewish treasure-cities was
Nisibis, in northern Mesopotamia. Even the fact that wealth, which must have
sorely tempted the cupidity of the heathen, could be safely stored in these
cities and transported to Palestine, shows how large the Jewish population must
have been, and how great their general influence.
26. Ber. R. 17.
27. Erub. 21 a Gritt. 6 a.
28. Comp. Fürst,
Kult. u. Literaturgesch d. Jud. in Asien, vol. i. p. 8.
In general, it is of the greatest importance to remember in
regard to this Eastern dispersion, that only a minority of the Jews, consisting
in all of about 50,000, originally returned from Babylon, first under
Zerubbabel and afterwards under Ezra.29
Nor was their inferiority confined to numbers. The wealthiest and most
influential of the Jews remained behind. According to Josephus,30
with whom Philo substantially agrees, vast numbers, estimated at millions,
inhabited the Trans-Euphratic provinces. To judge even by the number of those
slain in popular risings (50,000 in Seleucia alone31),
these figures do not seem greatly exaggerated. A later tradition had it, that
so dense was the Jewish population in the Persian Empire, that Cyrus forbade
the further return of the exiles, lest the country should be depopulated.32
So large and compact a body soon became a political power. Kindly treated under
the Persian monarchy, they were, after the fall of that empire,33
favoured by the successors of Alexander. When in turn the Macedono-Syrian rule
gave place to the Parthian Empire,34
the Jews formed, from their national opposition to Rome, an important element
in the East. Such was their influence that, as late as the year 40 a.d., the Roman legate shrank from
provoking their hostility.35
At the same time it must not be thought that, even in these favoured regions,
they were wholly without persecution. Here also history records more than one
tale of bloody strife on the part of those among whom they dwelt.36
29. 537 b.c., and 459-'8 b.c.
30. Ant. xi. 5. 2; xv. 2. 2; xviii. 9.
31. Jos. Ant. xviii. 9. 9.
32. Midrash on Cant. v. 5, ed. Warsh. p. 26 a.
33. 330 b.c.
34. 63 b.c.
35. Philo ad Caj.
following are the chief passages in Josephus relating to that part of Jewish
history: Ant. xi. 5. 2; xiv. 13. 5; xv. 2. 7; 3. 1; xvii. 2. 1-3; xviii. 9. 1,
&c.; xx. 4. Jew. W. i. 13. 3.
To the Palestinians, their brethren of the East and of Syria -
to which they had wandered under the fostering rule of the Macedono-Syrian
monarchs (the Seleucidæ) - were indeed pre-eminently the Golah, or
'dispersion.' To them the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem intimated by fire-signals from
mountain-top to mountain-top the commencement of each month for the regulation
of the festive calendar,37
even as they afterwards despatched messengers into Syria for the same purpose.38
In some respects the Eastern dispersion was placed on the same footing; in
others, on even a higher level than the mother country. Tithes and Terumoth,
or first-fruits in a prepared condition,39
were due from them, while the Bikkurim, or first-fruits in a fresh
state, were to be brought from Syria to Jerusalem. Unlike the heathen
countries, whose very dust defiled, the soil of Syria was declared clean, like
that of Palestine itself.40
So far as purity of descent was concerned, the Babylonians, indeed, considered
themselves superior to their Palestinian brethren. They had it, that when Ezra
took with him those who went to Palestine, he had left the land behind him as
pure as fine flour.41
To express it in their own fashion: In regard to the genealogical purity of
their Jewish inhabitants, all other countries were, compared to Palestine, like
dough mixed with leaven; but Palestine itself was such by the side of
Babylonia.42 It was even
maintained, that the exact boundaries could be traced in a district, within
which the Jewish population had preserved itself unmixed. Great merit was in
this respect also ascribed to Ezra. In the usual mode of exaggeration, it was
asserted, that, if all the genealogical studies and researches43
had been put together, they would have amounted to many hundred camel-loads.
There was for it, however, at least this foundation in truth, that great care
and labour were bestowed on preserving full and accurate records so as to
establish purity of descent. What importance attached to it, we know from the
action on Ezra44 in that
respect, and from the stress which Josephus lays on this point.45
Official records of descent as regarded the priesthood were kept in the Temple.
Besides, the Jewish authorities seem to have possessed a general official
register, which Herod afterwards ordered to be burnt, from reasons which it is
not difficult to infer. But from that day, laments a Rabbi, the glory of the
37. Rosh. haSh.
ii. 4; comp. the Jer. Gemara on it, and in the Bab. Talmud 23 b.
38. Rosh. haSh. i. 4.
39. Shev. vi. passim; Gitt. 8 a.
40. Ohol. xxiii. 7.
41. Kidd. 69 b.
42. Cheth. 111 a.
43. As comments
upon the genealogies from 'Azel' in 1 Chr. viii. 37 to 'Azel' in ix. 44. Pes. 62 b.
44. Chs. ix. x.
45. Life i.; Ag Apion i. 7.
46. Pes. 62 b;
Sachs, Beitr. vol. ii. p. 157.
Nor was it merely purity of descent of which the Eastern
dispersion could boast. In truth, Palestine owed everything to Ezra, the
Babylonian,47 a man so
distinguished that, according to tradition, the Law would have been given by
him, if Moses had not previously obtained that honor. Putting aside the various
traditional ordinances which the Talmud ascribes to him,48
we know from the Scriptures what his activity for good had been. Altered
circumstances had brought many changes to the new Jewish State. Even the
language, spoken and written, was other than formerly. Instead of the
characters anciently employed, the exiles brought with them, on their return,
those now common, the so-called square Hebrew letters, which gradually came
into general use.4950
The language spoken by the Jews was no longer Hebrew, but Aramæan, both in
Palestine and in Babylonia;51
in the former the Western, in the latter the Eastern dialect. In fact, the
common people were ignorant of pure Hebrew, which henceforth became the
language of students and of the Synagogue. Even there a Methurgeman, or
interpreter, had to be employed to translate into the vernacular the portions
of Scripture read in the public services,52
and the addresses delivered by the Rabbis. This was the origin of the so-called
Targumim, or paraphrases of Scripture. In earliest times, indeed, it was
forbidden to the Methurgeman to read his translation or to write down a Targum,
lest the paraphrase should be regarded as of equal authority with the original.
It was said that, when Jonathan brought out his Targum on the Prophets, a voice
from heaven was heard to utter: 'Who is this that has revealed My secrets to
Still, such Targumim seem to have existed from a very early period, and,
amid the varying and often incorrect renderings, their necessity must have made
itself increasingly felt. Accordingly, their use was authoritatively sanctioned
before the end of the second century after Christ. This is the origin of our
two oldest extant Targumim: that of Onkelos (as it is called), on the
Pentateuch; and that on the Prophets, attributed to Jonathan the son of Uzziel.
These names do not, indeed, accurately represent the authorship of the oldest
Targumim, which may more correctly be regarded as later and authoritative
recensions of what, in some form, had existed before. But although these works
had their origin in Palestine, it is noteworthy that, in the form in which at
present we possess them, they are the outcome of the schools of Babylon.
47. According to
tradition he returned to Babylon, and died there. Josephus says that he died in
Jerusalem (Anti. xi. 5. 5).
has given a very clear historical arrangement of the order in which, and the
persons by whom, the various legal determinations were supposed to have been
given. See Gesch. d. V. Isr. vol. iii. pp. 240 &c.
49. Sanh. 21 b.
thus introduced under Ezra, the ancient Hebrew characters, which resemble the
Samaritan, only very gradually gave way. They are found on monuments and coins.
(u. s. vol. iii. p. 46) happily designates the Palestinian as the
Hebræo-Aramaic, from its Hebraistic tinge. The Hebrew, as well as the Aramæan,
belongs to the Semitic group of languages, which has thus been arranged: 1.
North Semitic: Punico-Phoenician, Hebrew, and Aramaic (Western and Eastern
dialects). 2. South Semitic: Arabic, Himyaritic, and Ethiopian. 3. East
Semitic: The Assyro-Baylonian cuneiform. When we speak of the dialect used in
Palestine, we do not, of course, forget the great influence of Syria, exerted
long before and after the Exile. Of these three branches the Aramaic is the
most closely connected with the Hebrew. Hebrew occupies an intermediate
position between the Aramaic and the Arabic, and may be said to be the oldest,
certainly from a literary point of view. Together with the introduction of the
new dialect into Palestine, we mark that of the new, or square, characters of
writing. The Mishnah and all the kindred literature up to the fourth century
are in Hebrew, or rather in a modern development and adaptation of that
language; the Talmud is in Aramæan. Comp. on this subject: DeWette-Schrader,
Lehrb. d. hist. kr. Eink. (8 ed.) pp. 71-88; Herzog's Real-Encykl. vol.
i. 466, 468; v. 614 &c., 710; Zunz, Gottesd. Vortr. d. Jud. pp. 7-9;
Herzfeld, u.s. pp. 44 &c., 58&c.
52. Could St.
Paul have had this in mind when, in referring to the miraculous gift of
speaking in other languages, he directs that one shall always interpret (1 Cor.
xiv. 27)? At any rate, the word targum in Ezra iv. 7 is rendered in the
LXX. by ermhneuw. The following
from the Talmud (Ber. 8 a and b) affords a curious illustration
of 1 Cor. xiv. 27: 'Let a man always finish his Parashah (the daily lesson from
the Law) with the congregation (at the same time) - twice the text, and once
53. Megill. 3 b.
But Palestine owed, if possible, a still greater debt to
Babylonia. The new circumstances in which the Jews were placed on their return
seemed to render necessary an adaptation of the Mosaic Law, if not new
legislation. Besides, piety and zeal now attached themselves to the outward
observance and study of the letter of the Law. This is the origin of the Mishnah,
or Second Law, which was intended to explain and supplement the first. This
constituted the only Jewish dogmatics, in the real sense, in the study of which
the sage, Rabbi, scholar, scribe, and Darshan,54
were engaged. The result of it was the Midrash, or investigation, a term
which afterwards was popularly applied to commentaries on the Scriptures and
preaching. From the outset, Jewish theology divided into two branches: the Halakhah
and the Haggadah. The former (from halakh, to go) was, so to
speak, the Rule of the Spiritual Road, and, when fixed, had even greater
authority than the Scriptures of the Old Testament, since it explained and
applied them. On the other hand, the Haggadah55
(from nagad, to tell) was only the personal saying of the teacher, more
or less valuable according to his learning and popularity, or the authorities
which he could quote in his support. Unlike the Halakhah, the Haggadah
had no absolute authority, either as to doctrine practice, or exegesis. But all
the greater would be its popular influence,56
and all the more dangerous the doctrinal license which it allowed. In fact,
strange as it may sound, almost all the doctrinal teaching of the Synagogue is
to be derived from the Haggadah - and this also is characteristic of Jewish traditionalism.
But, alike in Halakhah and Haggadah, Palestine was under the deepest obligation
to Babylonia. For the father of Halakhic study was Hillel, the Babylonian, and
among the popular Haggadists there is not a name better known than that of
Eleazar the Mede, who flourished in the first century of our era.
54. From darash,
to search out, literally, to tread out. The preacher was afterwards called the Darshan.
55. The Halakhah
might be described as the apocryphal Pentateuch, the Haggadah as the
56. We may here
remind ourselves of 1 Tim. v. 17. St. Paul, as always, writes with the familiar
Jewish phrases ever recurring to his mind. The expression didaskalia seems to be equivalent to
Halakhic teaching. Comp. Grimm, Clavis N. T. pp. 98, 99.
After this, it seems almost idle to inquire whether, during the
first period after the return of the exiles from Babylon, there were regular
theological academies in Babylon. Although it is, of course, impossible to
furnish historical proof, we can scarcely doubt that a community so large and so
intensely Hebrew would not have been indifferent to that study, which
constituted the main thought and engagement of their brethren in Palestine. We
can understand that, since the great Sanhedrin in Palestine exercised supreme
spiritual authority, and in that capacity ultimately settled all religious
questions - at least for a time - the study and discussion of these subjects
should also have been chiefly carried on in the schools of Palestine; and that
even the great Hillel himself, when still a poor and unknown student, should
have wandered thither to acquire the learning and authority, which at that
period he could not have found in his own country. But even this circumstance
implies, that such studies were at least carried on and encouraged in
Babylonia. How rapidly soon afterwards the authority of the Babylonian schools
increased, till they not only overshadowed those of Palestine, but finally
inherited their prerogatives, is well known. However, therefore, the
Palestinians in their pride or jealousy might sneer,57
that the Babylonians were stupid, proud, and poor ('they ate bread upon
bread'),58 even they
had to acknowledge that, 'when the Law had fallen into oblivion, it was
restored by Ezra of Babylon; when it was a second time forgotten, Hillel the
Babylonian came and recovered it; and when yet a third time it fell into
oblivion, Rabbi Chija came from Babylon and gave it back once more.'59
57. In Moed Q.
25 a. sojourn in Babylon is mentioned as a reason why the Shekhinah
could not rest upon a certain Rabbi.
58. Pes. 34 b;
Men. 52 a; Sanh. 24 a; Bets. 16 a - apud Neubauer,
Géog. du Talmud, p. 323. In Keth. 75 a, they are styled the 'silly
Babylonians.' See also Jer. Pes. 32 a.
59. Sukk. 20 a.
R. Chija, one of the teachers of the second century, is among the most
celebrated Rabbinical authorities, around whose memory legend has thrown a
Such then was that Hebrew dispersion which, from the first,
constituted really the chief part and the strength of the Jewish nation, and
with which its religious future was also to lie. For it is one of those
strangely significant, almost symbolical, facts in history, that after the
destruction of Jerusalem the spiritual supremacy of Palestine passed to
Babylonia, and that Rabbinical Judaism, under the stress of political
adversity, voluntarily transferred itself to the seats of Israel's ancient
dispersion, as if to ratify by its own act what the judgment of God had
formerly executed. But long before that time the Babylonian 'dispersion' had
already stretched out its hands in every direction. Northwards, it had spread
through Armenia, the Caucasus, and to the shores of the Black Sea, and through
Media to those of the Caspian. Southwards, it had extended to the Persian Gulf
and through the vast extent of Arabia, although Arabia Felix and the land of
the Homerites may have received their first Jewish colonies from the opposite shores
of Ethiopia. Eastwards it had passed as far as India.60
Everywhere we have distinct notices of these wanderers, and everywhere they
appear as in closest connection with the Rabbinical hierarchy of Palestine.
Thus the Mishnah, in an extremely curious section,61
tells us how on Sabbaths the Jewesses of Arabia might wear their long veils,
and those of India the kerchief round the head, customary in those countries,
without incurring the guilt of desecrating the holy day by needlessly carrying
what, in the eyes of the law, would be a burden;62
while in the rubric for the Day of Atonement we have it noted that the dress
which the High-Priest wore 'between the evenings' of the great fast - that is,
as afternoon darkened into evening - was of most costly 'Indian' stuff.63
60. In this, as
in so many respects, Dr. Neubauer has collated very interesting
information, to which we refer. See his Géogr. du Talm. pp. 369-399.
61. The whole
section gives a most curious glimpse of the dress and ornaments worn by the
Jews at that time. The reader interested in the subject will find special
information in the three little volumes of Hartmann (Die Hebräerin am
Putztische), in N. G. Schröder's some-what heavy work: De Vestitu
Mulier. Hebr., and especially in that interesting tractate, Trachten d. Juden,
by Dr. A. Brüll, of which, unfortunately, only one part has appeared.
62. Shabb. vi. 6.
63. Yoma iii. 7.
That among such a vast community there should have been
poverty, and that at one time, as the Palestinians sneered, learning may have
been left to pine in want, we can readily believe. For, as one of the Rabbis
had it in explanation of Deut. xxx. 13: 'Wisdom is not "beyond the sea" - that
is, it will not be found among traders or merchants,'64
whose mind must be engrossed by gain. And it was trade and commerce which
procured to the Babylonians their wealth and influence, although agriculture
was not neglected. Their caravans - of whose camel drivers, by the way, no very
flattering account is given65
- carried the rich carpets and woven stuffs of the East, as well as its
precious spices, to the West: generally through Palestine to the Phoenician
harbours, where a fleet of merchantmen belonging to Jewish bankers and shippers
lay ready to convey them to every quarter of the world. These merchant princes
were keenly alive to all that passed, not only in the financial, but in the
political world. We know that they were in possession of State secrets, and
entrusted with the intricacies of diplomacy. Yet, whatever its condition, this
Eastern Jewish community was intensely Hebrew. Only eight days' journey -
though, according to Philo's western ideas of it, by a difficult road66
- separated them from Palestine; and every pulsation there vibrated in
Babylonia. It was in the most outlying part of that colony, in the wide plains
of Arabia, that Saul of Tarsus spent those three years of silent thought and
unknown labour, which preceded his re-appearance in Jerusalem, when from the
burning longing to labour among his brethren, kindled by long residence among
these Hebrews of the Hebrews, he was directed to that strange work which was
his life's mission.67
And it was among the same community that Peter wrote and laboured,68
amidst discouragements of which we can form some conception from the sad boast
of Nehardaa, that up to the end of the third century it had not numbered among
its members any convert to Christianity.69
In what has been said, no notice has been taken of those wanderers of the ten
tribes, whose trackless footsteps seem as mysterious as their after-fate. The
Talmudists name four countries as their seats. But, even if we were to attach
historic credence to their vague statements, at least two of these localities
cannot with any certainty be identified.70
Only thus far all agree as to point us northwards, through India, Armenia, the
Kurdish mountains, and the Caucasus. And with this tallies a curious reference
in what is known as IV. Esdras, which locates them in a land called Arzareth, a
term which has, with some probability, been identified with the land of Ararat.71
them as an innumerable multitude, and vaguely locates them beyond the Euphrates.
The Mishnah is silent as to their seats, but discusses their future
restoration; Rabbi Akiba denying and Rabbi Eliezer anticipating it.7374
Another Jewish tradition75
locates them by the fabled river Sabbatyon, which was supposed to cease its
flow on the weekly Sabbath. This, of course, is an implied admission of
ignorance of their seats. Similarly, the Talmud76
speaks of three localities whither they had been banished: the district around
the river Sabbatyon; Daphne, near Antioch; while the third was overshadowed and
hidden by a cloud.
64. Er. 55 a.
65. Kidd. iv. 14.
66. Philo ad Cajum, ed. Frcf. p. 1023.
67 Gal. i. 17;
68. 1 Pet. v. 13.
69. Pes. 56 a,
apud Neubauer, u. s., p. 351.
70. Comp. Neubauer,
pp. 315, 372; Hamburger, Real-Encykl. p. 135.
71. Comp. Volkmar,
Handb. d. Einl. in d. Apokr. iite Abth., pp. 193, 194, notes. For
the reasons there stated, I prefer this to the ingenious interpretation
proposed by Dr. Schiller-Szinessy (Journ. of Philol. for 1870, pp. 113, 114),
who regards it as a contraction of Erez achereth, 'another land,'
referred to in Deut. xxix. 27 (28).
72. Ant. xi. 5.2.
73. Sanh. x. 3.
74. R. Eliezer
seems to connect their return with the dawn of the new Messianic day.
75. Ber. R. 73.
76. Jer. Sanb 29 c.
Later Jewish notices connect the final discovery and the return
of the 'lost tribes' with their conversion under that second Messiah who, in
contradistinction to 'the Son of David' is styled 'the Son of Joseph,' to whom
Jewish tradition ascribes what it cannot reconcile with the royal dignity of
'the Son of David,' and which, if applied to Him, would almost inevitably lead
up to the most wide concessions in the Christian argument.77
As regards the ten tribes there is this truth underlying the strange
hypothesis, that, as their persistent apostasy from the God of Israel and His
worship had cut them off from his people, so the fulfilment of the Divine
promises to them in the latter days would imply, as it were, a second birth to
make them once more Israel. Beyond this we are travelling chiefly into the
region of conjecture. Modern investigations have pointed to the Nestorians,78
and latterly with almost convincing evidence (so far as such is possible) to
the Afghans, as descended from the lost tribes.79
Such mixture with, and lapse into, Gentile nationalities seems to have been
before the minds of those Rabbis who ordered that, if at present a non-Jew weds
a Jewess, such a union was to be respected, since the stranger might be a descendant
of the ten tribes.80
Besides, there is reason to believe that part of them, at least, had coalesced
with their brethren of the later exile;81
while we know that individuals who had settled in Palestine and, presumably,
elsewhere, were able to trace descent from them.82
Still the great mass of the ten tribes was in the days of Christ, as in our
own, lost to the Hebrew nation.
77. This is not
the place to discuss the later Jewish fiction of a second or 'suffering'
Messiah, 'the son of Joseph,' whose special mission it would be to bring back
the ten tribes, and to subject them to Messiah, 'the son of David,' but who
would perish in the war against Gog and Magog.
78. Comp. the
work of Dr. Asahel Grant on the Nestorians. His arguments have been well
summarised and expanded in an interesting note in Mr. Nutt's Sketch of
Samaritan History, pp. 2-4.
79. I would
here call special attention to a most interesting paper on the subject ('A New
Afghan Question'), by Mr. H. W. Bellew, in the 'Journal of the United
Service Institution of India,' for 1881, pp. 49-97.
80. Yebam 16 b.
81. Kidd. 69 b.
82. So Anna from
the tribe of Aser, St. Luke ii. 36. Lutterbeck (Neutest. Lehrbegr. pp.
102, 103) argues that the ten tribes had become wholly undistinguishable from
the other two. But his arguments are not convincing, and his opinion was
certainly not that of those who lived in the time of Christ, or who reflected
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