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MESSIAS


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MESSIAS


Apocalyptic Ideal. — ^The status of the apocalyptic writers as regards the religious life of the Jews has been keenly disputed (cf. tSanday, "Life of Christ in Kocent Research ", pp. 4;i sci(i.). Though they had small influence in Jerusalem, the stronghold of Hab- biiiism, they probably both influenced and reflected the religious feeling of the rest of the Jewish world. Thus, the apocalyptic ideal of the Messias would seem not to be the sentiment of a few enthusiasts, but to ex- press the true hopes of a considerable section of the people. Before the Asmonean revival Israel had al- most ceased to be a nation, and thus the hope of a na- tional Messias had gro^\^l veiy dim. In the earliest apocal.yptic writings, consequently, nothing is saiil of the Messias. In the first part, of the Book of Henoch (i-xxxvi) we have an example of such a work. Not the coming of a human prince, but the descent of God upon Sinai to judge the world divides all time into two epochs. The just shall receive the gift of wisdom and become sinless. They will feed on the tree of life and enjoy a longer span than the Patriarchs.

The Machabean victories roused both the national and religious sentiment. The writers of the earlier Asmonean times, seeing the ancient glories of their race reviving, could no longer ignore the hope of a per- sonal Messias to rule the kingdom of the new age. The problem arose how to connect their present de- liverers, of the tribe of Levi, with the Messias who should be of the tribe of Juda. This was met by re- garding the present age as merely the beginning of the Messianic age. Apocalyptic works of this period are the Book of Jubilees, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Vision of Weeks of Henoch. In the Book of Jubilees the promises made to Levi, and fulfilled in the Asmonean priest-kings, outshadow those made to Juda. The Messias is but a vague fig- ure, and little stress is laid on the judgment. The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs is a composite work. The foundation portion, conspicuous from its glorification of the priesthood, dates from before 100 B. c. ; there are, however, later Jewish additions, hos- tile in tone to the priesthood, and numerous Chris- tian interpolations. Controversy has arisen as to the principal figure in this work. According to Charles (Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, p. xcviii) there is pictured as the Messias a son of Levi who realizes all the lofty spiritual ideals of the Christian Saviour. La- grange on the other hand (Le Messianisme chez les Juifs, pp. 69 sqq.) insists that, in so far as this is the case, the portrait is the result of Christian interpola- tions; these removed, there remains only a laudation of the part played by Levi, in the person of the Asmo- neans, as the instrument of national and religious liber- ation. A conspicuous instance in point is Test. Lev., Ps. xviii. While Charles says this ascribes the Messi- anic characteristics to the Levite, Lagrange and Bous- set deny that it is Messianic at all. Apart from the interpolations, it is merely natural praise of the new royal priesthood. There can be no question indeed as to the pre-eminence of Levi ; he is compared to the sun and Juda to the moon. But there is in fact a de- scription of a Messias descended from Juda in Test. Jud., Ps. xxiv, the original elements of which belong to the foundation part of the book. He appears also in the Testament of Joseph, though the passage is couched in an allegorical form difficult to follow. The Vision of Weeks of Henoch, dating probably from the same period, differs from the last-mentioned work principally in its insistence on the judgment, or rather judgments, to which three of the world's ten weeks are devoted. Messianic times again open with the prosperity of Asmonean days, and develop into the foundation of the Kingdom of God.

Thus, the .\smonean triumphs had produced an eschatology in which a personal Messias figured, while the present was glorified into a commencement of the days of Messianic blessings. Gradually, however, the


deepest religious sentiment of the nation became alien- ated from the Machabean dynasty, and, when the last of the line fell in 27 H. c, it was realized that a differ- ent interpretation of the promises was called for. In the new apocalyptists the Messias was not merely the central figure of the age to come: He is already exist- ing in heaven, waiting to appear at the entl of this order, atii>v oStos. The oppressors of Israel were now the Romans. The ultimate failure of the Macha- beans had shown the uselessness of human efforts at liberation, and the Jews could now only await the miraculous intervention that should usher in the Kingdom. To this era belongs the Assumption of Moses. In it there is no marked opposition between just and unjust. Israel is to be saved by a sudden and marvellous manifestation of Divine power. There is no gradual evolution of this age into the next: men will be transported in an instant to the already exist- ing Kingdom of Heaven. Similar is the book of the Similitudes of Henoch, where the Messias is called in the first parable "the Elect", and in the following ones sometimes "the Elect", and sometimes "the Son of Man". Lagrange considers the passages giving this latter title interpolations, whether the work of Christians or of Jews of the Christian era. Charles, however, considers them genuine, believing Christ's use of the title occasioned by its anterior use as in- stanced in this work. In any case we have the au- thor's mind on the Messias in the certainly authentic picture of "the Elect". No longer the son of David, he presides over the upper world, the abode of the saints, while the earth is under the domination of the wicked. This order will be terminated by the judg- ment, when the elect shall sit on His throne in glory and judge the actions of men. He does not help towards salvation, except in so far as men are sus- tained during their trials by the knowledge of His ex- istence. After the judgment as before He shall pre- side over the Kingdom of the holy ones, which shall now occupy not only heaven but also the transfigured earth. The whole concept bears the stamp of lofty spirituality. The resurrection of good and wicked alike marks the passage from the order of sin to that of absolute justice.

We may regard this as the culmination of the apoc- alyptic ideal. After the fall of Jerusalem the apoc- alyptic writers returned to more directly national hopes; the Messias must play some part in the tem- poral salvation of Israel. This is indeed the only as- pect treated in the fifth Sibylline Book. The Messias comes from Heaven, and establishes the reign of Israel in peace and holiness at Jerusalem, rebuilds the holy city and the Temple. There is no universal domination and the rest of the world is almost ignored. IV Es- dras is a work on a much grander scale. The writer combines a temporal Messianism with a most ad- vanced eschatology. He sees the whole world cor- rupted, even the chosen seed of Abraham, among whom, as among the Gentiles, many transgressors may be found. 'The name of God has thus lost that honour which is due to it. The world, therefore, must be destroyed to be replaced by a better one. But good must first triumph even in this world, which shall witness the victory of the Messias over the Ro- man Empire, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the union of all Israel in the Holy Land . The Messias, con- ceived as existing from the beginning of the world, comes in the clouds up from the sea, not down from heaven, and by the breath of His mouth destroys the armies of the world arrayed against Him. Then there appears the holy city, before invisible. At the end of time, however, the Messias saves merely Israel upon earth. He has no concern with the ultimate salvation of the just. After accomplishing His work of national restoration He disappears, and the final judgment is the work of the Mo.st High Himself. It Ls purely indi- vidual, not national. TThus this work combines the