Jewish and Christian Ethics/Chapter VI

Jewish and Christian Ethics by Elijah Benamozegh, translator not mentioned
Chapter VI

Chapter VI


Accusations of Jesus.—They Strike at the Bible as well as well at at the Pharisees.—Civil Law and Moral Law; Necessity of Distinguishing.—Cupidity and Anger Condemned by the Pharisees.—Their Expansion of the Decalogue.—Supposed Superiority of Gospel Charity.—God is Charity.—Hebrew Charity; Distinct from Alms which it Excludes.—The Three Enemies.—Who the Enemy According to the Gospel.—Country and Society in Christianity.—Parable of the Samaritan.

We have written the word charity. If there be any pretention dating from the founder of Christianity, it is unquestionably that of having supplanted the Law, the faith of Israel, by charity. One has but to glance at the fifth chapter of Matthew to see this pretention to superiority, so lauded since. It is curious to see how the emphasized protestations of Jesus against a desire to abolish the Law blend with his assumption of superiority to it; a tendency not to be denied, and one which he hides with difficulty under the idea of a moral progress. "Think not I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets; I am come not to destroy, but to fulfill them" (verse 17). He explains this in detail in verse 21: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill ... &c; but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, (wicked one) shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." And further on (verses 27 and 28): "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit adultery; but I say unto you, &c." It is this perpetual opposition, established by Jesus, between the requirements of the Old Law and those of the new Covenant, that we are about to examine. Is not the design of this Law to protect the life, the character, or the property of man in the social state? And would not an injury to them be a flagrant violation of the simplest duties of charity? Ought we not see if Judaism be really guilty of so grave omissions, before asking it how it has provided for the performance of the positive duties of charity? Should not accusations be rebutted before preferring one's claims to the gratitude of mankind? We are sorry to say that these charges could not be more formally made than in the words of Jesus; Judaism could not be more directly accused, or its honor more assailed. Is it only tradition and the Pharisees that are struck at? Impossible; the 20th verse, that seems to warrant this doubt, is but a bait for the ignorant. The idea of progress, and consequently of imperfection, about which we have spoken, above all those solemn words, "You have heard what they said in old time," exclude the supposition of the Pharisees merely; and the Bible texts themselves, cited as proof of imperfection, cap the impossibility of a construction that sometimes seems favorable for a Christian apology. It is then, beyond doubt, that the Bible, Moses, God himself are arraigned, and we might be tempted to let Christian ethics kill itself by that surcharge of vanity which mines beneath itself a pit, wherein its own titles and very foundation can forever disappear. The imputation is, however, so bold and so opposed to the plainest facts, that it will not be without use in this long-vexed question to see how they have managed to foist upon the world notions that, even to-day, are not quite dissipated.

As we have said before, we must, if we would avoid error, carefully distinguish between two things in Judaism. There is the civil law, that shields the life, honor, and property of the citizen, and whose administration is confined to the Courts. And there is the moral law, the duties whereof, a thousand times recalled in the Bible, are naturally set forth in tradition and in the teachings of the doctors. A double law corresponding to the two-fold character of the Jews, to their polity and to their religion. The one is best represented by the Mosaic code, the other by the prophets first and by the doctors afterwards. Would it be right to judge of Jewish ethics by the law of Moses? As well expect ,to find French morality in the Code civil, or English morality in the Magna Charta! No conclusion, then, could be come to against Judaism as long as we limited ourselves solely to the Mosaic code.

But even within those just limits, can we say that Jesus is right? Is the superiority of his ethics to the Mosaic Law well established? No. If there be any point where these two constituents of Israelitic life, Justice and Charity intersect, where the character of the former is more closely moulded to that of the latter, where, in short, the law is eminently charitable, it is precisely, we must say, where Jesus selects the battle-ground for the two contending systems. Assuredly he could have made no worse choice. Let us see.

Matt. V: 25:—"Ye have heard what was said by them of old time: thou shalt not commit adultery; but I say unto you whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Now, we need not search far to find in the decalogue itself, the Tenth Commandment interdicting the desire spoken of by Jesus. Was it calumny, or forgetfulness on his part? We think, neither. The key to the enigma is, we think, this: Tradition, while preserving the full force of the said commandment, while giving the widest and most absolute interpretation to that of Deuteronomy, subjected, however, that of Exodus (expressed differently) to one condition (so that the violator could be prosecuted, which for a mere desire or intention could not have been done), namely: to that of actual commission. Then and then only could the civil law interpose; then only could there be adultery, and not after a mere desire, as Jesus asserts. This is the strange abuse which the Gospel makes of the Pharisaical exposition. Far from abating the severity of the Mosaic Code, the doctors only regulated the action of the Courts, established impassable limits for human laws by carefully distinguishing what is cognizable by the interior Court, where God alone presides, from the overt act cognizable by the magistrate. Have they subtracted, thereby, aught from the weight of the precept of Deuteronomy, where the verbage assumes, to their view, quite a different latitude? In no wise; and the proof is the rigor of their own morals as to all kinds of impudicity. To look on a woman with lust, to look at one of her fingers even, her hair, to listen to her song, &c., all this was for the Pharisees not indeed adultery, but grave sin; which still gives but a faint idea of their austerity in this respect. What precept can be more severe than this: If thy right eye make a slip, tear it out and cast it from thee; for it is better that one of thy members perish than that thy whole body be cast into hell. Well, before this precept was even written, before Origen's strange application of it, Judaism venerated the chief Pharisee at Rome, the hero Rabbi Mathia Ben Haras, who, tormented by temptation, tore his eyes out, to be rid of it.

Were there no other proofs, Jesus himself could give us some. For the worst accusation that Pharisaism could imagine against its formidable foe, was that he one day said of some lovely Madeline, "What fine eyes that girl has."[1] When one sees in this a grave fault, a crime, one is far from a moral laxity. One remark still remains as to the term adultery which Jesus gives to a mere desire. What we are about to read will prove that, forgetting the civil character of the Mosaic code, he not only charges this code with the crime of neglecting to legislate for ethics, but, by a deplorable confusion of ideas, he substitutes ethics and intention or desire for the Law and the overt act, giving them the gravity and even the penal obligation of the latter, just as, on the other hand, he absolves the actual adulteress by a mere word; a double and grave abuse which Jesus' successors but too well perpetuated.

Thus (Mat. V, 21, 22) he says: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment; but I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother Raca shall be punished by the Council, but whosoever shall say thou fool, shall be punished by hell fire." Before examining the injustice of this, let us see what it has too much or too little. Causeless anger is forbidden; and should provoked anger be not so too? Pharisaical morality avoids well this restriction—that would allow every one to justify his anger—by forbidding all anger. But what is there too much in the sentence of Jesus? Clearly a disregard of the most natural distinction (one that Judaism never omits to make) between justice and charity, between the civil code and the ethics. Jesus will not have it. He sends the passionate man to the judgment, just as he does the homicide in the preceding verse. The man who says Raca to his brother, shall be punished by the Council. Where is the code that would sanction such enormities? Where is the law that would prosecute anger or cite to its bar him who should call any one a fool or empty-head (Raca)? And is this the fault in the law of Moses? In truth, it should be proved that it provided not against such dispositions. But it is not alone the excess, but also the confusion of punishments for which the verse is remarkable. Prison and hell are there thrown pell-mell from a hand that seems in haste to punish, to refine on the old Mosaic justice, rather than guided by prudence or justice. For anger and the epithet raca, the civil courts; for the epithet fool, hell-fire. What confusion, what a jumbling of religion and the penal code, of demons and policemen, of hell and prison? And the last jumble already marks the future and is the first step to the auto-da-fes, to the dungeons of the Inquisition. In short, Jesus, as far as sending to hell the man who calls his neighbor a fool is concerned, is not mistaken as to jurisdiction. But having come to this, what we should examine is, if Judaism, making the proper distinction between the civil code and the ethical, has anything to learn, to envy in an ethics that wants, at any price, to be thought new. We think not. Doubtless the Mosaic code could not legislate against evils of a purely spiritual character. Moral derelictions are so well condemned by the examples of our great men, by general precepts to love, charity, justice, &c., that one could not accept or love the Bible without hating all kinds of vice or passion. But we should seek in vain for special condemnations of them; for the Pentateuch is, as we have said, but (chiefly) a civil code, while ethics is the concern of tradition and the doctors. And is this last, taken in its own proper sphere, less pure and elevated than that of the Gospels? Are moral vices and faults less severely condemned there than in the Gospels? But there are none of those minutiae, of those refinements on ethics wherein the Gospel affects pre-eminence, of which the types and origins may not be found in the old Pharisaical morality. Needless to say that the term impious given to a man, is sufficient cause for citation before the Council;[2] that the mere lifting of one's hand against another, without striking, is called impiety, and is punishable by the courts;[3] that anger is, on one side, compared to suicide,[4] for, as says the Talmud, it is of the passionate man that the prophet has said: "Depart from him who wounds himself by anger," and that, on the other side, it is ranked with homicide (not always cognizable by the Courts), if it is carried so far as to make its object blush, so that, as say the doctors, "the white and red alternate on his face,"[5] even though the reproaches had reference to the guilt of some great crime. But what is truly remarkable, and what wrests from the hands of Christian ethics the scepter it has usurped, is that, of all enormous crimes, the only ones that form an exception to the great Jewish principle of non-eternity of punishment, are three against morality, and the first two are the objects of these evangelical imprecations. "Though one were the greatest sinner in the world," say the Pharisees, "hell cannot hold him forever; all shall one day see the light of Heaven and Paradise." Do you know who shall never see it? He who calls his neighbor a bad name, he who makes his neighbor blush by scandalous proposals, and the adulterer. This is the ethics of those formulistic Pharisees, those adorers of the letter, of those heartless men whom the Gospel paints for us. This is the mould from which the Gospel ethics copied the raca, the fool, sent by it to the galleys or hell's-fire. Is this all? No; Pharisaical ethics is so refined, so delicate, has such exquisite shades that no rival whatever could be found for it. "Better that a man throw himself into a burning furnace than make his fellow-man blush before the world."[6] And who is the author of this saying? He who is the best representative of the school from which Christianity, as we have reiterated, has drawn its dogmas and ethics—Rabbi Simeon Ben Jochai. "Whosoever shall make his brother blush, shall himself blush when the angels repel him from the mansion of the Most High."[7] The most precious benediction which the Pharisees gave their disciples was: "God be thanked that thou never hadst reason to blush or madest another do so."[8] And an old rabbinical text, says: "He who profanes holy things, who despises solemnities, who annuls the covenant of Abraham, our father, who gives a false sense to the law, who makes his neighbor blush (literally, grow pale) in public, shall have no part in the world to come. Not from Jesus but from the Pharisees comes this.

There are several other points in which Jesus attempts to establish the superiority of his code to the old. Though our preceding remarks are no less applicable to the whole tenor of his teaching, we shall not examine the latter at this moment, as not bearing directly upon charity. The laws of divorce, oaths, and retaliation must then wait their turn; but we would now compare the ideas of the old law with those of the new respecting the love of one's neighbor.

We would first ask, why does Jesus—taking the second part of the Decalogue in his comparisons as to homicide, adultery, false swearing—omit to mention theft, commercial deceit? In this case, as he has done in the others, he could have refined upon the legal enactments of the Pentateuch, and gained the easy victory that even the poorest moralist can, over the dry prescriptions of the civil and criminal code. Perhaps he saw tradition lifting itself with full force to supply amply the needs of the strict Mosaic law. However that be, we ought to show the reader the wonderful expansion, or rather fecundation effected by tradition upon the law of Moses. We must see what those dry, bare formulas, steal not, cheat not, become under the breath of tradition, as we have had a specimen in the two commandments—thou shalt not kill, and thou shalt not commit adultery.

In the eye of tradition, he who gains the public favor by feigned virtue, by imposture, is a thief. To press your hospitality on any one without seriously meaning to give it, to make great offers, knowing that they will not be accepted, is always, as the ancient Tossifta declares, to steal in some fashion. Would it be more excusable, perchance, in the sight of the Eternal? Error to think so. "Whosoever steals the esteem, the good opinion of his creatures, steals the esteem of the Most High;" to take advantage of an ambiguity, to get a credit one does not deserve, is just simply to steal. "If thou hast a torn garment, take care not to head a funeral procession; for it may be thought you share in the grief of relatives and friends; it would be to steal both from the living and the dead." (Moed Kathan, 26). Shouldst thou leave the town to take the air, take care not to accept the thanks of any visiting friend who supposes that thou wast going to meet him. Otherwise thou wilt be far from following the example of Rab Safra, who, in such a case, hastened to undeceive his friend by telling him that he knew not at all of his arrival. Dost thou think that this strict sincerity is imposed on thee with reference to thy co-religionists only? The Pharisee, Samuel, the physician of Juda the Holy, the friend of Plotinus, is at hand to undeceive thee. He requires the greatest sincerity in our dealings with all men, whether Jews or Gentiles, and he is the first to illustrate personally that we cannot, without sin, act otherwise; as witness the anecdote wherein Samuel reproaches his servant for having offered a boatman a mixture of wine and water, as pure wine. So much as to theft.

And as to deceit—to take advantage of your brother's mean or Pagan origin, of his dishonorable past, or unfortunate present, to say to him, remember your past life, your ancestors; your mouth that now utters the truth and the praise of the Everlasting, was formerly polluted with blood, strangled meats, impure food; your sufferings are but the just punishment of your former faults. "And which of the two is worse?" asks the great doctor of the Cabalistic school, R. Simeon Ben Jochai. "It is the former who is a hundred times more guilty. For does he not attack a man's honor, a thousand times more precious than money? Is it not a far more irreparable loss than the most flagrant fraud, which may at any time be repaired with money."

This sincerity, this perfect magnanimity, were so well rooted in .the Jewish heart, that all the splendor of the tiara could not dazzle them, when that tiara was stained by such baseness as the foregoing. Thus the memory of a Pontiff, whose generosity equaled not his dignity, remained forever disgraced in Israel. He had just performed the majestic ceremonies of the Day of Atonement. Followed by the crowd, he was almost borne in triumph to their abode. Suddenly the crowd opened to let two men in foreign dress and of strange tongue, pass; they were proselytes! Schemaia and Abtalion, two masters venerated in Israel, the teachers of Hillel and Schammai. The indiscreet and proud Pontiff thus addressed them: Let the sons of the Gentiles come in peace. "Yes," replied the doctors, lowering their eyes, "let the sons of the Gentiles come in peace if they do the works of Aaron; but let not the sons of Aaron come in peace, if they have not also his virtues and his works."[9] And Israel has ever repeated: Let the sons of the Gentiles come in peace, if they practice the virtues of Aaron.

We see that the most indirect offence to Charity is most severely condemned by the Hebrew ethics. But is Charity itself there? There seems a doubt about the matter, so accustomed are people to make the terms Christianity and Charity synonymous. We repeat that there are sublime traits of character in the Gospels. But is this to say that it is there as a new precept, as, to our great astonishment, the Gospel declares? It is perhaps unjust to say so even respecting Paganism; but it is absurd as regards Hebraism. In vain would Christianity lift itself into the regions of an almost mystical morality; it is on the wings of Hebraism that it soars to these heights. In vain does it assert "God is Charity,"—this sublime saying that deeply stirred the whole Pagan world lapped in sensuality—it got this from Judaism. "God is Charity, God is Love," says the Cabala, and also the Midrasch. And what have the doctors made of the Mosaic precept, "Love thy neighbor as thyself?" They have made it the great principle of the law, according to Akiba, or, according to Hillel, that, of which the whole law is but the commentary. They have changed the concluding words of the verse, I am the Eternal, into an oath of righteous justice against all who practiced not this precept. They have given Charity this comprehensive appellation, Ghemilouth hassadim. Now, at what do they hold this? No ideas more noble could be entertained. It is, with Doctrine and Religion, one of the three pillars of the Universe. It is the beginning, middle, and end of the law; for this last shows us at its commencement God giving man a companion; secondly, God visiting Abraham; and, finally, still God appointing a tomb for Moses. Without this, science, faith, worship, will never make aught but a man without God, without that God of truth of whom it is written: "Israel shall remain many days without the God of truth."[10] (Hence the practice of truth spoken of by the Gospels.) Without this, possess what virtues he may, a man can be at best but badly righteous; he alone being perfect who is good towards both God and men, while the other is so only towards the Lord. On the other hand, with Charity, all other virtues go; for Rabban Johanan Ben Zaccai having challenged all his disciples to say which virtue they thought the greatest, and Eleazar having said that it was a good heart, the master said: I think the judgment of Eleazar better than yours, for all yours are contained in his.[11] Had Sodom and its sisters this, they would have found mercy at the bar of the Eternal, idolatrous and corrupt though they were—had only the incense of a little Charity perfumed the rankness of their vices. Thanks to this, Micha, the idolatrous Jew, was tolerated a long time, though the angels accused him before God, saying: "See Lord, the smoke from thy altars mingles with that of the offerings to Micha's idol!" And God replied, "Leave him in peace; his bread is offered to poor travelers."[12] This is more than all the sacrifices in the world; more than holocaust or sin-offering; and consoles us[

70] in exile for the overthrow of temple and altar. It did so for an eye witness of his country's fall! Rabbi Johanan Ben Zakkai was walking one day through the streets of Jerusalem, and Rabbi Jehoschoua followed him. All at once they came upon the ruins of the temple. Rabbi Jehoschoua sighing, said: "Woe to us! Who henceforth shall atone for our sins?" "Be comforted, my son," said the master, "we have still a substitute in Charity, for it is written, 'I love Charity more than sacrifice.'"[13] And after the fall of the first temple, did not Daniel, in Babylon, offer to God Charity, in place of sacrifice, by rejoicing at the weddings of the poor, by burying the dead, and giving alms;[14] in short, by this is the true Israelite recognized. Whoever possess the three following virtues are of the lineage of our father Abraham; who lack them, are not his children; his true children are compassionate, modest, and charitable. (Gomle chassodim.)[15]

Is this Charity alms? We have seen how different it is from this; and in that difference lies not the least noble trait of Pharisaical morality. Is it to be wondered at that primitive Christianity should have made so much of it, putting Charity above all special benevolence of which it is the soul and spring? Paul and Clement, of Alexandria, have, they too, well said: "Works, even for a good purpose, have no merit for salvation, except through Charity; and this is the measure of their actual worth." But is not the Pharisaical doctrine taught in express terms? Not only is Charity carefully distinguished from simple alms- giving, and from every other good work, but it is declared far superior to all special benevolence, to Tzedaka, for instance, which it surpasses, they add, in many respects; for the one has to do but with things exterior to man; the other, with man's whole nature, body and soul; the one serves the living only; the other, the dead as well; the one concerns itself for the poor only; the other, for the rich also; for with them, too, Charity finds wounds to heal, tears to dry, griefs to ease.[16] And more: alms-giving itself is rewarded only so far as it is transfused by Charity; for it is written, "Sow alms, and you can reap only according to Charity." (Hos. x, 12). And if he who gives his mite to the poor deserves six blessings, he who soothes an affliction, who gives not his bread but, (as the Doctors finely comment on the text) his soul, the latter shall have the eleven blessings named by the prophet Isaiah.[17]

This Charity, that doubtless found with the Pharisees its widest application, may be understood as having limits, as applying to friends only, as excluding enemies, whether personal, religions, or political. Does Jewish Charity recognize this distinction? A delicate question as between Judaism and Christianity! Not observing the capital distinction between the Jewish State and the Jewish faith, but taking Hebraism as a homogeneous whole, some consider Hebrew Charity quite equal to the Christian, and some, far inferior. But, by observing the distinction, we can see wherein Hebrew Charity is similar to, diverse from, or superior to the other.

As regards the personal enemy, we must reserve for that a special consideration. What does Judaism teach as to the remaining two? By this classification we can better appreciate the merit Christianity decrees itself, and the airs it has put on from the evangelical era to the present time , on the score of its unlimited Charity. With respect to this comparison, Matthew (v, 43 and seq.) writes: "Ye have heard, adds Jesus, that it was said: Thou shall love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, love your enemies and bless those who curse you." By the words, ye have heard, Jesus doubtless refers to the Law of Moses. There is not, I dare say, one of the precepts named in this chapter, upon which an improvement is pretended, that does not belong to the Mosaic code. We are forced, then, to refer verse 43 to the Mosaic code, and must, for other reasons, consider it a textual citation from the Law, its form being different from the style of Jesus, whenever the tradition of men clashes (as he thinks) with the word of God. This being established, it is not easy to detect the origin and true meaning of this imputation, so expressly does it seem forged to give the new law pre-eminence, and so little root does it appear to have in either the text or spirit of the Scriptures. What first strikes us is, that while the preceding citations from the Pentateuch, in this chapter, are almost literal extracts from the text, in vain shall we search the whole five books to discover any verse that tallies, in either the letter or spirit, with that given us by Jesus. In Leviticus, indeed, we have the first half of the verse, Thou shalt love thy neighbor; but where, in the name of wonder, shall we find the other half, thou shalt hate thine enemy? Can we doubt that Jesus has assigned to Hebrew Charity the limits that his imagination only and his prejudices suggested? That he has brought false, not to say malicious, suit against it? Before examining whether there be anything in the spirit of the Mosaic code to warrant this charge, let us turn to another Gospel text, which may throw light on our subject.

A Doctor of the Law, as Luke says (x, 25 and seq.), came to Jesus, and, in Pharisaical fashion, of which examples abound in the Talmud, asked him, Master, what must I do to gain eternal life? To which Jesus replied: "What is written in the Law?" and he said, Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, &c. ... and thy neighbor as thyself. To which Jesus replied, "Thou hast answered well; do this and thou shalt live." But, wishing to justify himself, the Doctor asks furthermore: "And who is my neighbor?" To which Jesus replies, "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho," &c. Nothing improbable in the Doctor's question, whether he asked it for the sake of instruction, or, as is more likely, to test Jesus. But scarcely have we taken the first step, when the probability of the occurrence diminishes and we cannot but suspect that we have to do merely with a dramatic scene, drawn by an awkward hand, for the purpose of displaying the superiority of Christian to Jewish ethics. The whole character of this narrative from Luke, and the passage from Matthew, lead us to the conclusion that Hebrew Charity stopped at a fixed point, the enemy, whether we understand this word in a general sense or in the special one intimated by the Samaritan of the Gospel parable.

But who, according to the Gospel itself, is this enemy? It is first, the personal enemy. Can we doubt it. The antitheses of neighbor and enemy, in Matthew (v, 43), of phrases such as these,—Do good to those who hate you; pray for those who persecute you; for if you love only those who love you, &c.—and the conclusion drawn from the parable of the Samaritan, all show that it is the personal enemy whom we must hate according to Judaism and love according to the Gospel. But the political enemy is no less clearly designated by the Samaritan of the parable. This enemy too, then, we must hate, according to one system, and love according to the other. But is this the actual teaching of Judaism? Are we to take this gross caricature for the true portrait of Hebrew ethics? Omitting, for the moment, what regards the personal enemy, our task is very simple here. We shall ask ourselves if the love of one's neighbor, commanded by the law of Moses, allows us to exclude the stranger, the non-Israelite; or if, indeed, within the limits necessary to political existence, the Charity of Israel knows no bounds, but, like that of God himself, includes all mankind.

But let us first notice two points wherein Jewish Charity far surpasses Christian. These are Country and Society. If Jesus preaches love to all men, if Christianity plumes itself more than does any religion, on its humanitarianism, it is at the expense of a love no less sacred, that of country and society. Christianity knows but one country, the world, or rather Heaven; and but one society, spiritual society. One's country, its rights, its needs, the limitations it sometimes sets to universal charity, as one right limits another; civil society, truly human, as including bodies and souls muted, its special rights, its requirements, the relation between its members, the laws governing these relations, &c.; all these things are ignored by Christianity. Does Christianity recognize the political enemy? No. Does it, a social justice? Nor yet this. Now, without a political enemy, there can be no country; without social penalties, no society, no justice. A striking example of charity supplanting the rights of justice, is the pardon of the adulteress under the pretext that there was no one who, as being guiltless, could stone her; and it is precisely upon the ruins of both the political and the social necessities that Christianity is based—by snapping the ties that bind man to earth, it takes its flight to spheres where man cannot follow. We shall not, just now, dilate on the menstruum Christianity proves for a social organization. We shall but consider it in its political tendency. While Judaism never omits any of the lower steps that lead to universal charity, but lets the individual, the family, the city, the country, each play its proper part, Christianity leaps over all these, burying them in the abstract gulph it calls the world, humanity, or the Church. Let it, then, be no longer asserted that Christianity has taught men greater charity than Judaism. If it has effected this illusion, it is by taking away from the individual, family, and, above all, country, those rights which Judaism, with more equity had distributed to each class, to give them all to humanity, thereby losing in intensity what it gained in extent.

This truth results not alone from many passages and the general spirit of the Gospels, but it takes a special form in the parable of the Samaritan. What a name! And why has it not attracted the attention of the savants? They might have asked, why this particular choice; why not select rather a Gentile, a Greek, a Roman—names much better calculated to show off the superiority of the Christian to the Jewish ethics? If we ask this question perhaps we shall obtain a glimpse of the object of the parable, of the ties it wishes to sever for the benefit of the Church, of that central stay it would to efface from the bosom of mankind; perhaps we shall find the final word as to this parable, the abolition of country. Yes, we ask, why a Samaritan? Is it that Jesus, far from troubling himself yet about his scheme for all humanity, far from extending his views beyond Palestine, sought only to establish in the very heart of his country, equality of all races, of all nations, to stifle the country, so to speak, upon its bed of suffering. Did he also share the detestation of his co-patriots, for the tyranny and cruelty of the Gentiles?

We see but one motive in this choice of the Samaritan, viz: to personify in him the political enemy, and him only. And truly, if there ever sprang from the bosom of Judaism an implacable political enemy it was the Samaritan. No more fit emblem of this could Jesus have selected. For why does he not choose the idolater, the faithless Israelite, the Roman, at once a religious and political enemy? He wishes to confine himself to the pure political enemy, monotheistic in his creed, no less than the Israelite. Can we doubt the political object Jesus had in view?—the suppression of the spirit of nationality, of the interests and needs of patriotism.

This is not all. Is it the simple idea of duty which Jesus substitutes for this? Does he show us a Samaritan suffering on the highway, neglected, abandoned by a priest, a Levite, and succored by a Pagan or a simple Israelite who knew his duty as to charity better than those of the national hierarchy?

Such an exhibition could mean only that charity and help should be extended to all the unfortunate, be they Samaritans, Jews, or Pagans, and Judaism could have naught to gainsay. But this is not what Jesus presents to us. It is not virtue, duty, absolute charity, that he substitutes for national egotism; it is another egotism, personal egotism, the self-love, taken as a rule of conduct in our dealings with others, that he puts in place of the far nobler love of country. For, in this parable, it is a suffering Israelite whom he presents to Israelites, neglected by his own people, and tenderly cared for by a Samaritan. And after having traced a picture, wherein any one of his hearers might at any time play the chief part,—after having touched the most sensitive chords of egotism, of personal preservation; after having shown in the political enemy a personal friend, and created this perilous variance and artificial perplexity, not based on truth, but which might easily escape the notice of his inexperienced audience—he presses the conclusion: Which of those three is thy neighbor? And the anti-political object of Jesus is so much his concern, that the great danger in which he places his own ethics, escapes his notice. In his impatience to give the Samaritan the title neighbor, he takes it away from the Israelite; in his haste to put egotism under obligation to the benefactor, he forgets to curb it towards the enemy; he forgets that love of one's enemy, the cherished theme of another antagonism which he raises between the old law and the new. For if the Samaritan is my neighbor solely on account of his services, the priests and the levites, though they have done me no positive injury, cannot get this title, as they refused me what the Samaritan lavishly bestowed.


  1. Talmud Sanhed, f. 107.
  2. Talmud.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Talmud and Zohar, sct. Tetzave.
  5. Talmud, Baba Metzia, f. 58.
  6. Ib., Sota, fol. 10.
  7. Massechet, Kalla.
  8. Moed Katan, f. 9.
  9. Talmud, Yoma, f. 71.
  10. Aboda Zara, from 10 Chron. xv. 3.
  11. Aboth, Chap. 2.
  12. Talmud, tr. Sanhedr, 103.
  13. Maghen aboth, from Talmud, tr. Soucca, 49.
  14. Talmud Yebomath, 79.
  15. Massechet Kala.
  16. check notes for this page: 3 †s, no ‡
  17. Baba Bathra.