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The following lecture is brought before the British public, not as the means of furthering the project of the lecturer, but rather as a specimen of the state of mind in which a goodly and increasing number of the most learned and eminent Jews are at the present time, respecting Christ and Christianity. It is a most pleasing and encouraging fact, that there is, now of late, a material change taking place in the minds of Christians towards the Jews, and in the minds of Jews towards Christians and Christianity. To point out the principles that have been at work in bringing about this reciprocal change of opinion and feelings, and to review their development, would require a too lengthened discussion for our present limits: we shall, however, present a few quotations from Jewish authors, of accredited orthodoxy and celebrity, as an illustration of the present state of the Jewish mind.
Mr. Cohen, in his work called “ Elements of Faith, for the use of Jewish Youth of both sexes," and published under the auspices of the late Chief Rabbi, Dr. Hirschell, has, in his preface, the following passage :-“Whereas all religions, the foundations of which are constituted on moral principles, qualify man to guide himself in a proper path, and to render him happy both here and hereafter, what avails it what way he arrives at the desired end ? It follows hence that man is destined, by the circumstances of his birth and education, to adhere to the religion of his fathers.”
Dr. Raphall, of Birmingham, one of the most intelligent Jews of the age, in his lectures “On the Past-Biblical History of the Jews," has the following remarks :-“ I have spoken at some length of Pontius Pilate, not because his administration was important in itself, but chiefly because you may deem it interesting to know what I think of the character and sway of the man, before whose tribunal the Great Teacher of Nazareth was arraigned. I feel that I am treading on slippery ground, for on this, and beyond all other subjects, your opinions and mine must be expected to differ. But I stand before you this evening, as an historian, not as a polemic; and as an historian, I have only to remark that, in its first origin, Christianity does not appear to have exercised any direct or immediate influence on the polity and public affairs of the Jews. Their traditions preserve but few memorials of the founder of Christianity ; indeed it is more than doubtful whether he be the Jesus spoken of in the Talmud, and who is stated to have been the contemporary of Joshua Ben Perachia, more than one hundred years before the period at which the Gospels place the birth of the son of Mary. Thus, the Jews, like yourselves, have no other authentic account of his life and teaching than the Gospels, and with these you are doubtless better acquainted than I can pretend to be. I am, therefore, not called upon to speak of his life and actions. But if you are desirous of knowing the opinion of a Jew, ay, of a teacher in Israel, respecting the proceedings against, and the condemnation of the master from Nazareth, I do not hesitate to tell you, that I do not by any means feel bound to identify myself, or my brethren in faith, with those proceedings, or to uphold that condemnation. The Sanhedrin of those days, composed both of Sadducees and partly-coloured Pharisees, of timid, time-serving, and, therefore, unprincipled men, does not sufficiently command our confidence; what we know of the motives of some of their acts is not of such a nature as to inspire us with that firm reliance in their integrity and piety, that we should at all feel bound to identify ourselves with them, or to maintain the justice of a sentence, solely because they pronounced it. On the
* It was delivered at the Tabernacle, New York, October
contrary, in the absence of any Jewish account of the proceedings, and taking the account of the trial in the Gospels as entitled to that credence which contemporary history generally claims, I, as a Jew, do say, that it appears to me, Jesus became the victim of fanaticism, combined with jealousy and lust of power in Jewish hierarchs, even as, in later ages, Huss and Jerome of Prague, Latimer and Ridley, became the victims of fanaticism, combined with jealousy and lust of power, in Christian hierarchs. And while I, and the Jews of the present day, protest against being identified with the zealots who were concerned in the proceedings against Jesus of Nazareth, we are far from reviling his character, or deriding his precepts, which are indeed, for the most part, the precepts of Moses and
You have heard me style him the “Great Teacher of Nazareth, for that designation I and the Jews take to be his due. No enlightened Jew can or will deny that the doctrines taught in his name have been the means of reclaiming the most important portion of the civilized world from gross idolatry, and of making the revealed word of God known to nations, of whose very existence the men who sentenced him were probably ignorant; nor do I, and the Jews of the present day, stand alone in this view, since it was held by the great Maimonides six hun
years ago. Dr. Samuel Hirsch, in his “Religious system of the Jews,” says, “Judaism does not stand inimically towards Christianity, and never has done so. Judaism rather regards Christianity as its most beloved child; as a fair fruit over which it has to rejoice. It was not until long after the death of Jesus, that Christianity set itself in hostile opposition to Judaism ; and though this rude ingratitude of the spoilt child has cost the mother tears of blood, still material love
* Jercish Herald, April, 1848. + Quoted in Voice of Israel, April, 1845.