Jewish and Christian Ethics/Chapter IV

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

Chapter IV.

Christian Ethics.

Its Trials and its Pretentions.—Why Hebrew Ethics has not been duly appreciated.—Division of Ethics.—Dignity of Man, his Fall, his Regeneration.—Free Judgment and Grace.—Life.—General Maxims.—Pharisaical Plan.—Examples.—Testimony of the Gospels.

We judged that we could not proceed in our essay on Christian ethics better than by commencing with an examination of the theoretic foundations upon which this rests. Have we erred in our choice of method? Or have we, by chance, gone astray in our estimations? The reader must say.

However that be, another work, a new task awaits us. Whatever be the foundation of Christian ethics, whatever may be decided against their solidity, still a grand and imposing structure has been raised upon them. A thousand generations have been sheltered beneath its hospitable roof; a thousand sufferings and griefs have found there an almost divine alleviation; a thousand virtues have spread from it through the world, everywhere inspiring courage for the good, fear for the evil; a thousand intellects have bent in reverence before it; let us too bend before this masterpiece of half a dozen Jews, before this branch of the great Hebrew tree, grafted on the trunk of the Gentiles. We recognize there the footprints of Judaism, the spirit of the patriarchs, prophets and doctors; and are tempted to say with old Isaac: "Truly the hands are Esau's, but the voice is indeed Jacobs'."

Deplorable effect of an ever widening breach! It happened, however that, after many ages, Christianity and Judaism tired, the one of smiting, the other of suffering, met one day, and recognized each other, saluting with the address of father and son. But. O shame! the son did not bow before the white hair of his father, the father neither embraced nor blessed his son, the Joseph, whom, torn so young from the paternal hearth, he found in Egypt, great, rich, proud of his power. Whose the fault? History will say, when the father and son, reconciled, shall embrace.

Meantime, if there be anything which retards the advent of that great day, it is the superiority the son arrogates over his old father,—Christianity over the religion of Israel—as regarding morality. If there be any outrage which a father cannot endure without degradation, it is assuredly this. To truth, criticism and opinion, we leave the task of examining this pretension, and of terminating a demeanor that has prevailed for ages. Many a time, alas! Judaism has had to bear the stigma of this insult, and many a time has it realized the terrible prediction of Isaiah, that persecution would add slander to a secular martyrdom. Shall a day of justice, of impartiality, of right criticism ever come? Let us hope so. Already learned pens have wrought at the great work; already is opinion moved, shaken, and open criticism speaks of certain Jewish maxims (as the well known reply of Hillel to the proselyte) that preceded and inspired the founder of Christianity. Why it has not yet won a just and lawful victory, and why a full success has not crowned such efforts, we shall frankly tell. It is from two causes equally deplorable. The one, that a sufficient line of demarcation has not been drawn between Jewish civil polity and its ethics proper, an indispensable distinction, absolutely required, from the two fold nature of Judaism, as we have shown. The other, that too little importance has been attached to tradition, though I grant that the harangues of a hostile camp, or an affectation of Jewish Puritanism, not at all in accord with the traditional, rabbinical Judaism we profess, has given it sufficient. We shall do our best to avoid these two rocks; happy if we advance even one step this religious question, which, though not debated in the civil courts or journals, beats deeply, nevertheless, in the heart and brain of man.

We shall divide our work into several parts. Our starting point shall be man, the ideas that each side entertains respecting him, its ideas, also, of the world and life, and the general maxims that both have laid down, respecting morals. The duties that regard ourselves, humility, innocence, truth, self-denial, voluntary poverty; the duties that we owe to others, and above all, charity, that great word, which Christianity pronounced for the first time to an ignorant world; the forgiveness of injuries; love towards one's enemies; our ideas about sinners, the anxiety they cause; forbearance;—the duties, in fine, that connect us with God: the aim of our actions, the glory of God, faith, trust in God, love of God and perseverance,—such are the grand subjects that shall occupy us a little while, too sure that we cannot exhaust the least of them. But it will suffice, if we throw on each such light as may guide some one of greater power and inspiration to a complete performance.

In speaking of man, we shall here take occasion to state once more that to Judaism, unquestionably, belongs the glory of having first announced to men that they are children of the same father; of having, in a word, proclaimed a universal brotherhood. We believe that this glory will not be dimmed, if it takes precedence of that charity, whose brightest jewel and firmest stay it is. Nor shall we speak of the soul and its powers, and scarcely shall we touch, in passing, on free judgment and original sin. We do not discourse on the whole nature of man, but only on what has direct reference to practical morality.

Now, man's dignity possesses for man a most powerful attraction. Doubtless the Gospels have some traits that exalt to his view human nature, although other views and particularly ulterior theological speculations have placed him far beneath those calm hights to which Judaism had raised him. If we read in Luke that the kingdom of God is within us, if there is nothing more frequent than to hear the faithful called "members of Christ," if they will have it that "Christ dwells in us," if the believer ranks with the angels and even above them,—this, when well understood, is only the lost echo of ancient Jewish doctrines, that were yet alive in the days of Jesus. Judaism, as we know, declares man made after the image of God; he is the king and master of creation, he is the vicar and providence of God upon earth—I had almost said he was its God, as, according to the Rabbis, God said to Jacob, "I am God above, thou art god below." He is, according to the Midrasch, the love-knot uniting heaven and earth, for he has the spiritual nature of the one, and the corporeal nature of the other; by this precious combination he makes peace between the spirit and the body, between heaven and earth—ever at variance. And if we question the Cabalists about this, they tell us that man's influence, his thoughts, sentiments and actions have an echo and vibrate sensitively, like the rings of some subtle, delicate chain, in the farthest spheres of the universe. But what is this in-dwelling Kingdom of God if not the present Pharisaism? Moses said: "Build me a tabernacle that I may dwell in the midst of them." The Rabbis go much farther: by a slight and felicitous modification, of which the Mosaic words are quite susceptible, they change this wooden tabernacle, where God is about to dwell, to the soul, heart, and spirit of man,—a house a thousand times more worthy of Deity—and they make this great assertion, that God dwells in Israel, within him. This, however, is only the simple germ which we must see in its rich and powerful bloom from the hands of the Cabalists. This miserable body of man is nothing less than an august temple, whose parts are his members; and taking with one hand the plan of the Temple of Jerusalem, with the other, the descriptive anatomy of the human body, they trace, step by step, the parallel development of each, assigning to each member a function corresponding to some part of the Temple, and they end at last with this sublime statement, that the heart is the Holy of Holies, or the special and usual seat of the Glory ({{small-caps|Schechina), which is nothing else than the kingdom of God, as we have frequently affirmed, and as the passage from Luke plainly shows. Much more; the just man is the car the true car, that God guides, and the soul of the just is at once the car and the throne of his holiness.

We are—all of us—members of the Schechina, of the Kingdom (as the faithful are members of Jesus, the incarnate Word); and this is why all suffering and pain react on the heart of this tender mother, who fails not to moan at each blood drop or tear of even the impious, and to show herself wounded by the same stroke that has smitten a member-child.[1] After this shall we be surprised to hear the doctors and cabalists say that human souls are superior to angels, as the protected is superior to the protector; that they were the counselors of God at the time of the creation; that the just are God's coadjutants in forming the heavens and the earth; that they too have the title creators; that they are the support and foundation of the universe; that the angels will one day ask the just to disclose the mysteries of the eternal—which Paul expresses in his fashion by saying: "Know ye not, that we shall judge the angels;"[2] and which Peter also teaches, saying that the angels desire to look into the Gospel prediction (I Gen, Ep. i. 12)—that they rise to such a degree of holiness that the angels shall proclaim them thrice holy, as they do the Creator; and that, at last, God will deign to allow them His incommunicable name. Here, indeed, is an ideal, beyond imagination noble, attractive and sublime. Add, that all can attain this end; that each one may aspire to equal Moses or Aaron, and that he ought—and we can see what grand perspectives Judaism opens for the observant believer, and what superior ardor must animate the most apathetic soul, in the presence of a future so glorious, of possibilities so strange.

Nevertheless, man is fallen; this Judaism as well as Christianity teaches, with this difference always, that, in the Genesaic history of the Fall, the former gives us glimpses of a philosophy, far different in sense from the childish story of the apple and the serpent, while Christianity, on the contrary, ever regards sin, true sin, as the result of the unlucky fruit presented to Adam, and the Church shut the mouth of Origen, who tried to lift himself a little beyond the literal sense. In Judaism, every school of any importance, from the Cabalists downward, sees in the narrative of Genesis something above and beyond the drama of Paradise. Still, with all man is fallen; and how shall he rise? By the incarnate word, replies Christianity; by the incarnate Word, likewise replies Judaism and especially Cabalistic Judaism. But what is this incarnate Word? Here it is, that the diverse genius of each religion shows itself to every eye.

The Word, says Christianity, the eternal Logos, becomes flesh; is born, lives, speaks, teaches, sacrifices himself as a sin-expiation; and all mankind suffer, die, rise with him, and through him recover their primitive purity. Incarnation, sacrifice, virtue, merit, atonement, all quite exterior things, are applied to mankind by a single word, and that is imputation. Is it the same in Cabalistic Judaism? There, the Word, Logos, Tipheret, besides its eternal incarnation as substance in nature, incarnates itself also as thought in the Law; law, which under a thousand phases and a thousand applications, governs the universe, from the angel before God or the star that rolls in infinite space, to the worm that creeps on the earth, to man who is included also in the universal harmony, and for whom this thousand-faced, thousand-sided law circumscribes itself, adapts itself to the plan he occupies in creation, and becomes the law of Moses. This is the Word, the incarnate Law—this is the perpetual Eucharist upon which the holy feed, and this the redemption that has for its sphere the heart and mind of man—the Law, the Sinai, at the foot of which the Israelites were cleansed from the old stain of our first parents. We need not dwell upon the pernicious effects of a redemption quite external, offered us by Christianity; we have seen them but too well in all those fore-mentioned schools or heresies, that justified their apathy or licentiousness by the stupefaction of the moral faculties inevitably produced by the Christian theory of redemption. How, if we enter for a moment the sanctuary of conscience, and ask Christianity what use it has made of free judgment, the most precious, unquestionably, of God's gifts? Far are we from wishing, to involve ourselves in that dark labyrinth where graces of every sort are so lavished, that human liberty is at last stifled beneath the weight of so many benefits. If any fact come clearly forth from that grand discussion, dating from the birth of Christianity and continued almost to our day, it is, that with the Catholics (who, after all, grant the largest field to human liberty), man is led to good, to virtue, only through an inciting influence from on high. This is the decision of the Council of Orange in 529, against the semi-Pelagiens. What does Judaism teach about grace, and free Judgment? Doubtless it, too, recognizes the action of God upon man's liberty, it believes in a co-operation through which we are aided to rise towards Him. Doubtless it, too, offers a continual prayer for this grace, this invaluable help. But, let us haste to add, that the only doctrine at the roots of Christianity that is a true reflection of old Jewish orthodoxy is that one qualified by semi-Pelagianism. If nothing perfect can be accomplished by man without the aid of the Eternal; if He alone imparts courage, light, and perseverance to man's heart,—the first step withal, the initiative of every good work, the first aspiration towards goodness, truth and ineffable beauty must spring from the heart itself of man. He, himself, as say the doctors, must open to them the door,—were this but as small as a needle's point,—in order that God may throw open for him another as wide as the Temple's;[3] and to sum all with a Cabalistic saying: "The arousal is, first, from below, then from above."

Is not this to augment at once the responsibility and the grandeur of man?—to make him, instead of a passive instrument in God's hands, a force to which He has assigned its own sphere of action?—to condemn, in the same sentence, idleness, dissipation and neglect of duty?—and to give an increased impulse to man, who needs but a simple noble beginning to see himself instantly penetrated with light, courage and invincible strength—priceless gifts from on high. Man, about whom are such conflicting ideas, is cast on this earth, the theatre of his acts, under the mysterious conditions we call life. What idea does Christianity give us of life? It would be easy to appeal here to those great geniuses, ancient and modern, who have seen in Christianity, hate of the world, condemnation of life, contempt of all its charms and most precious gifts. Our task would be too easy, and we might seem to take refuge under imposing names. Doubtless a testimony almost unanimous would be no small presumption in favor of what we have said, and are about to say; but it is from the Gospels that we wish to ask the theory of life, the ideas we ought to entertain of the world, of its values, its conditions and its relations to life eternal. Now, if there be any thing proveable in the Gospels it is that the term world, invariably figures there as the synonym of vice, evil and sin. Could it be otherwise with a religion that terms itself exiled here below, and that cries: My kingdom is not of this world!

Indeed, it would be an endless task to examine and cite all the passages where the world is made the antithesis of virtue; and the transformation this word has undergone—to stand as the symbol of evil, instead of the Hebrew synonym of eternity (olam)—Is not the least injury Jewish thought has suffered at the hand of Christianity. We shall say only that what happened to the Law, has happened to the world. We have seen that the Law was identified with sin, and the world also is to be identified with it, with evil. Some decisive quotations will suffice to confirm the assertions of the most impartial criticisms. Jesus told his disciples that they were not of the world, even as he was not of the world;[4] and what proves that no interpretation but the most absolute and literal is admissible, is that the Prince of this world is always represented as the adversary of Jesus and his Church. And truly, it is impossible to say that the word world refers merely to the generation of that time, or yet again to what is evil and vicious here below. For the genius of evil would never have been personified by "the Prince of this world," if the world itself had not appeared to Jesus and his followers worthy only of the rule of a demon. See John xii. 31,—where the Prince of this world is about to be "cast out,"—and chapter xiv. 30,—where the Prince of this world advances against Jesus to destroy him—and the justness of our assertion, and of the opinion of Marcion (heretic though he was), will be seen, namely, that the God of the ancient law, though truly the God of Nature as well, is yet very different from the Deity of the Gospels.

With Judaism it is altogether different. We do not say the Judaism of the Bible; for, so far from falling into the extravagance of the Gospels, it seems to lean rather to the other side, in so favorable a light are presented the actual world, life, its worth, and conditions; and the inferential denial that it has any spirituality, any regard for another life, is the proof of this, So we shall imitate Mr. Salvador, who, following the Bible only, sees in Judaism nothing but matter and material advantages, in other words, a complete antithesis to the Christian conception. No! true Judaism lies not here, but in tradition and its instruments, that, while accepting the heritage of the Bible, dominate it, from the full height and superiority of eternal life, upon this ephemeral orb. Now, how speaks tradition regarding the world? It is not a prison, a hell, a purgatory, a place of banishment, as the religious or philosophic alternately teach. It is simply a vestibule. No longer the highroad, but not as yet the house; it is a place of initiation, of apprenticeship to a future life, where the guests prepare to enter the triclinium, or dining-hall palace.[5] It is the to-day, as eternity is the to-morrow; the time for labor, for action, for good works, for worship and piety, as eternity is the time for retribution;[6] it is the eve of the Sabbath, on which the repast is prepared for the Lord's Day;[7] it is the season of duty and submission, as the morrow shall be that of freedom, from every law.[8] Precious time! "wherein a single hour of virtue and repentance is worth more than an entire eternity," for the latter gives only in the degree that it receives;[9] and not without reason did Solomon pronounce the dead lion less happy than the living dog.[10]

One fact gives the whole difference between the two doctrines, namely, that while the Prince of this world is, for Christianity, the genius of evil, this title is given by the Cabalists to their kingdom, the Malchout, also styled the Prince of this world. A fact doubly significant! for while, on the one hand, it confirms our judgment on the present question, it makes us almost see the moral consequences of that omission in dogma of which we have spoken, I mean the obliteration and absorption of the Malchout (the present world), into the heart of the Bina (the world to come). In the place so made void, Christianity has enthroned a demon—the Prince of this world.

We shall but point out what renders Christianity incapable of governing the present life, condemning, spurning and vilifying as it does all its most precious gifts. Life itself is an incumbrance, a weight, of which we should desire to be quickly rid (Paul); the flesh, is "a flesh of sin," that can be reinstated only by death and resurrection. Could it find a place for the dearest and holiest affections? The rich and riches, the great, and all human grandeur, science, joy, get not a word indicative of the good use to which man may convert them here below. I know well that the Church tries hard to see, in the anathematizing of this use, a condemnation of abuses only. In vain! for not only does John exhort us not to love the world or the things it contains,[11]—he who loves it is not loved of God: in the world all is concupiscence of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life,—but Jesus himself cries to us,[12] "Woe to ye, rich men!" On account of their vices? No; "because ye have already had your consolation." "Woe to ye that are filled!" And why? Because a reverse of fortune awaits them? No; "because ye shall hunger:" "Woe to ye that laugh now, for ye shall lament and weep." Could there be a place for love? Doubtless charity is recommended; but those special and no less sacred ties, that adorn and sanctify life will be lost, I dare say, effaced and dissolved in universal charity, in the Church.

And first, could anything good, lawful or sacred exist in this world, this life, this sinful flesh, without being infected by nature and sharing their condemnation?

Could it be the family? But, he who will not leave father, mother, brothers, sisters, to follow the new doctrine shall not have done his whole duty; nor can the performance of even the last office for a parent make the disciple of Jesus relent a mite, for it is the dead who must bury their dead. Jesus himself, when told that his mother, brothers and sisters were waiting for him at the door: "These," said he, turning to his disciples, "are my mother, brothers and sisters;" and so well did he thenceforth identify himself with the era of the resurrection which, to his view, was also that of the Messiah, that he dares to say to his mother: "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" Is this the spectacle that Judaism presents? With it the family is not only the central point from whose expansion must come the state, but the domestic hearth is the first temple, the first altar for worship, and the model it gives us for imitation, is the patriarch surrounded by his family, adoring and sacrificing to the Most High.

Could it be marriage? We shall not repeat the assertion that the Gospel condemns it; but it is indisputable that neither Jesus nor his apostles encourage or bless it, and the most that we can infer from the words of Paul is but the simple toleration of an evil with which he could not wholly do away.

Thus life, health, riches, science, honor, glory, love, family, country, all that make existence great, holy and happy, these reflections of heaven below, the reminiscences of paradise, these foretastes of eternity, all vilified, spurned and sacrificed to that prospective life, to that kingdom not of this world,—all swept away by the same torrent that bore off into the region of dogma whatever gave value and position, in the divine economy, to the things of time—the kingdom, the Malchout, which is of this world indeed, nay—is the world itself (Olam haze) with which Jesus, by an unmistakable allusion, contrasts another kingdom not of this world.

Whatever be the value of life, of this world, of the existing society, in them man lives, and consequently should have some rule of conduct with respect to them; this rule is Morality. Let us haste to recognize it. The more Christianity subtracts from the private affections, and the more miserly it is at its roots, so much the richer and more lavish is it towards those general affections which the increase and concentration of the human race call forth, and it gives to the Church, to humanity, all that it takes from man, family and country. Must we not expect this? Is it not most natural that a religion announcing itself a stranger to this world, should exert its influence and lavish its benefits upon the abstractions and generalities of this very world, upon those hights that divide heaven from earth? In these regions, however, Christianity has a morality, a grand morality. But is it unknown or superior to that of Judaism? Must the master, after having given the pupil all, learn from him the very things that constitute his forte and speciality—the world, life, and humanity?

We shall soon examine in detail the greatest virtues that have illustrated the teachings of Christianity. For the present ws shall confine ourselves to general rules. Like all religions and philosophies, Christianity has general maxims or principles that seem the special features, the germs, the creative elements of its whole moral code. Judaism, as we are about see, is rich, very rich in generalizations of this kind. Everything, to the passage giving the Christian fundamental rule, shows this. On what occasion does Jesus give the summary of the whole law in the love of God and man? When the scribe, who had heard him dispute, asked him, which is the great commandment in the law?—a question indicating a habit of generalization on the part of the scribe—then Jesus replied: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, &c. ... And the second resembles the first: Love thy neighbor as thyself.[13] An analogous passage occurs in Matthew vii. 12: "Whatever ye would that men do to you, do ye likewise to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." Now is this method unknown to Judaism? Can the Gospel illustrations, in its echos from the Bible, compete for beauty, grandeur and holiness, with those given us by traditional Judaism? Have we no maxims, no examples to vie with the Christian ethics, and which can both explain the origin of those very Gospel ideas, and establish with still greater certainty the superiority of Hebrew ethics? The reader will answer for himself these questions. In the monuments of tradition, these recapitulations of the law, these general maxims comprehending all the parts with all their beauties, frequently occur. We shall spare the reader these precepts thus crowning the law as its full and last expression—the Sabbath, for example, the tzitzit, and many others. We shall limit ourselves to those—the most numerous—that are exclusively moral, and that are, according to the doctors, the key-stone of the law; not that they ever intended to subordinate and perhaps sacrifice, after the fashion of Jesus, the ceremonial law to the purely rational ethics, but because they regarded the latter as the base, the indispensable condition of a greater elevation; just as in physics, animal life, instinct, good sense, reason, genius, are the several steps of a ladder that we must use in succession to reach safely a summit. This is exactly the Cabalistic theory taught by R. Isaac Louria's greatest disciple in his Schaari Kedouscha, and, several centuries before, under somewhat more philosophic influences, by the author of Cozri. However, this method, these maxims abound with the doctors. And, what is remarkable, they not only make more admirable ones for themselves, but they carry the chain of their tradition, exclusively ethical of this generalizing process, back to the prophets, any one of whom almost, would have compressed the whole series of God's commands into a few striking maxims In this way would David present the whole law in eleven commandments: "Aim at perfection, do justice, speak truth according to your mind, slander not, injure no one, be not ashamed of your relations, be humble, honor those who fear God, swear to your own hurt and keep your oath, take no usury, take no bribe to destroy the innocent." And similarly Isaiah reduced the number to six: "Be just, speak rightly, shun unlawful gains, touch not a bribe, listen not to counsel for blood, look not at vice." And Micah simplifies still further the rules of salvation: "O man, what does God require of thee? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him." Are we done? Not yet. Amos advanced a step, and summed the whole law in a single precept, which indeed has a strong resemblance to Paul's system, but, to our view, simply a literal one; namely Faith.[14] And should the great Moses have been less synthetic than his disciples? "Do you remember" say the Pharisees, "when Moses said to Israel: 'You shall follow your God the Everlasting,' Israel replied: 'Who can walk the paths of the Eternal?' Is it not written, 'The whirlwind and the tempest go before him.'" And Moses replied, "No; I shall show you the ways of the Eternal; all his ways are charity and truth."[15] Let us pass to the doctors themselves. Should they be inferior to the prophets, to the examples set before them? We shall see. Simeon, the Just, prior by several centuries to the Master of Nazarath, and with whom the Rabbinical era just opens, declared (Torah), religious science, worship and charity, to be the three pillars that sustain all society.[16] Have we not here the archetypes of the three theological Christian virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity? I incline to think so. The Hebraic genius ever shows itself in this formula. Like Christianity, assigning to charity the highest rank, it ever associates this virtue with science and worship; science (knowledge of the Law) , which tends directly to action, as Hillel says: The ignorant (boor) cannot avoid sin, and his disciples say, Great truly is science that, leads to practice; science that leaves reason all its rights; science, fruitful, active, luminous, instead of that barren, passive, instinctive, not to say blind, faith that rules in Christianity;—worship, pious deeds, but always deeds instead of hope, a virtue purely contemplative and idle. Need we relate Hillel's celebrated answer to the proselyte? Criticism has already seized it and all know it. Only let us mark two circumstances that appear from a comparison of Hillel's saying with that of Jesus (Mat. vii. 12.) The thought, as we know, is in both cases the same; but the form is so too, and especially the closing epiphonemas are very similar. After Hillel said: What thou dislikest do not to thy neighbor, he added: In this is the whole Law—Jesus: It is the Law and the Prophets. But while Jesus (or perhaps Matthew, on account of the Gentiles, to whom Judaism was not to be preached) stops here, Hillel takes care to add: The rest is but the commentary, go and learn it. This is not all. Christianity, that took this saying from Jewish tradition, imitates the Pharisee Hillel not only in the sense of the doctrine, but also in its application, namely, to evangelize the Gentiles; for it was to a Gentile, desirous of becoming acquainted with Judaism, that Hillel summed it up in the precept, Love thy neighbor.

But years pass, every thing changes, dies; country, independence, peace, happiness, liberty—Jewish ethics alone survives unchanged. About two centuries after Hillel we get it once more from the lips of the most distinguished doctors. But what gives special value to the maxims we are about to read, is that their authors were two of the four celebrated doctors who entered Pardis, namely, two masters venerable in cabalistic science, whence Christianity has derived its dogmas and very probably its ethics also—Essenico-Cabalistic ethics. Those doctors are, first, the great Talmudist and martyr Akiba, who teaches: Love thy neighbor as thyself, this is the great principle of the Law; and then his colleague, Ben-Azai, who said: Man was made in the image of God, this is the great principle of the Law; Take care then not to say: As lam made nought of, be my brother also esteemed nought; as I am cursed, be my brother also cursed;—for if thou doest so, know that he whom thou despises and curses is the image of God himself.[17]

We have seen from the Gospel itself (Mark xii. 28) how the Pharisees could sum the whole Law in general maxims, and we shall now see, from the Gospels likewise, the same views exactly respecting those virtues by which the Law was so summed. In Mark as well as in Luke is this clearly shown. In the first, the scribe who comes to question Jesus,—probably to test his doctrine, as many other passages lead us to suppose—after listening to him to the end says (xii. 32, 33): "Master, thou hast said the truth, that there is but one only God. ... and that to love God with all the soul ... and one's neighbor as one's self, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." This, surely, is not the language of a man who questioned for instruction, but truly of one who wished to sound the doctrine of another, and who, finding it in accordance with his own ideas, repeats it under the form we have seen. And as far as this preeminence over holocausts and sacrifices, there is nothing that does not attest the originality of the Pharisaical maxim, for these are the very terms we find in the Talmud, as we are about to see when speaking of Charity.[18] The same conclusion, clearer still if possible, comes from Luke,[19] where the doctor of the Law, instead of questioning Jesus, is questioned himself. It is true that we read (x. 25): "Master, what should I do," &c., to test Jesus, as we are told; which indicates the scribe's object in Mark. But as to the maxim itself, the doctor of the Law in Luke takes it from himself, instead of confining himself to an approval, as in Mark; for when Jesus asks (verse 26): "What is written in the Law?" he answers, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, &c., and thy neighbor as thyself;" that is to say, two precepts which, considering the great distance that separates them in the Law (one in Leviticus, the other in Deuteronomy), could not have been brought into contiguity by the doctor if tradition had not anteriorly made them the two inseparable parts of one formula, which the doctor then only repeated for Jesus. Thus the Gospels themselves show the anteriority of generalization and of maxims in the Pharisaical school.

Notes[edit]

  1. Sanhederin, 46.
  2. I Cor. vi. 3.
  3. Midrasch Shirhashirim.
  4. John, xvii.
  5. Aboth, chap. iv.
  6. Tal., treatise Eroubin, chap-ii.
  7. Talmud, Aboda Zara, chap. i.
  8. Talmud, Schbabat, chap. ii.
  9. Aboth, loc. cit.
  10. Talmud, Schabbat, l. c.
  11. John, chap. i.
  12. Luc., chap. vi.
  13. Mark, xxii, 28-31.
  14. Talmud, Maccot, 23.
  15. Midrash.
  16. Abbot, chap. 1.
  17. Bereschit Rabba, sect. 24.
  18. Charity is greater than all the sacrifices.
  19. Luke x. 28.