Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Apologetic/An Answer to the Jews/Argument from the Destruction of Jerusalem and Desolation of Judea
Chapter XIII.—Argument from the Destruction of Jerusalem and Desolation of Judea.
Therefore, since the sons of Israel affirm that we err in receiving the Christ, who is already come, let us put in a demurrer against them out of the Scriptures themselves, to the effect that the Christ who was the theme of prediction is come; albeit by the times of Daniel’s prediction we have proved that the Christ is come already who was the theme of announcement. Now it behoved Him to be born in Bethlehem of Judah. For thus it is written in the prophet: “And thou, Bethlehem, are not the least in the leaders of Judah: for out of thee shall issue a Leader who shall feed my People Israel.” But if hitherto he has not been born, what “leader” was it who was thus announced as to proceed from the tribe of Judah, out of Bethlehem? For it behoves him to proceed from the tribe of Judah and from Bethlehem. But we perceive that now none of the race of Israel has remained in Bethlehem; and (so it has been) ever since the interdict was issued forbidding any one of the Jews to linger in the confines of the very district, in order that this prophetic utterance also should be perfectly fulfilled: “Your land is desert, your cities burnt up by fire,”—that is, (he is foretelling) what will have happened to them in time of war “your region strangers shall eat up in your sight, and it shall be desert and subverted by alien peoples.” And in another place it is thus said through the prophet: “The King with His glory ye shall see,”—that is, Christ, doing deeds of power in the glory of God the Father; “and your eyes shall see the land from afar,”—which is what you do, being prohibited, in reward of your deserts, since the storming of Jerusalem, to enter into your land; it is permitted you merely to see it with your eyes from afar: “your soul,” he says, “shall meditate terror,”—namely, at the time when they suffered the ruin of themselves. How, therefore, will a “leader” be born from Judea, and how far will he “proceed from Bethlehem,” as the divine volumes of the prophets do plainly announce; since none at all is left there to this day of (the house of) Israel, of whose stock Christ could be born?
Now, if (according to the Jews) He is hitherto not come, when He begins to come whence will He be anointed? For the Law enjoined that, in captivity, it was not lawful for the unction of the royal chrism to be compounded. But, if there is no longer “unction” there as Daniel prophesied (for he says, “Unction shall be exterminated”), it follows that they no longer have it, because neither have they a temple where was the “horn” from which kings were wont to be anointed. If, then, there is no unction, whence shall be anointed the “leader” who shall be born in Bethlehem? or how shall he proceed “from Bethlehem,” seeing that of the seed of Israel none at all exists in Bethlehem.
A second time, in fact, let us show that Christ is already come, (as foretold) through the prophets, and has suffered, and is already received back in the heavens, and thence is to come accordingly as the predictions prophesied. For, after His advent, we read, according to Daniel, that the city itself had to be exterminated; and we recognise that so it has befallen. For the Scripture says thus, that “the city and the holy place are simultaneously exterminated together with the leader,”—undoubtedly (that Leader) who was to proceed “from Bethlehem,” and from the tribe of “Judah.” Whence, again, it is manifest that “the city must simultaneously be exterminated” at the time when its “Leader” had to suffer in it, (as foretold) through the Scriptures of the prophets, who say: “I have outstretched my hands the whole day unto a People contumacious and gainsaying Me, who walketh in a way not good, but after their own sins.” And in the Psalms, David says: “They exterminated my hands and feet: they counted all my bones; they themselves, moreover, contemplated and saw me, and in my thirst slaked me with vinegar.” These things David did not suffer, so as to seem justly to have spoken of himself; but the Christ who was crucified. Moreover, the “hands and feet,” are not “exterminated,” except His who is suspended on a “tree.” Whence, again, David said that “the Lord would reign from the tree:” for elsewhere, too, the prophet predicts the fruit of this “tree,” saying “The earth hath given her blessings,”—of course that virgin-earth, not yet irrigated with rains, nor fertilized by showers, out of which man was of yore first formed, out of which now Christ through the flesh has been born of a virgin; “and the tree,” he says, “hath brought his fruit,”—not that “tree” in paradise which yielded death to the protoplasts, but the “tree” of the passion of Christ, whence life, hanging, was by you not believed! For this “tree” in a mystery, it was of yore wherewith Moses sweetened the bitter water; whence the People, which was perishing of thirst in the desert, drank and revived; just as we do, who, drawn out from the calamities of the heathendom in which we were tarrying perishing with thirst (that is, deprived of the divine word), drinking, “by the faith which is on Him,” the baptismal water of the “tree” of the passion of Christ, have revived,—a faith from which Israel has fallen away, (as foretold) through Jeremiah, who says, “Send, and ask exceedingly whether such things have been done, whether nations will change their gods (and these are not gods!). But My People hath changed their glory: whence no profit shall accrue to them: the heaven turned pale thereat” (and when did it turn pale? undoubtedly when Christ suffered), “and shuddered,” he says, “most exceedingly;” and “the sun grew dark at mid-day:” (and when did it “shudder exceedingly” except at the passion of Christ, when the earth also trembled to her centre, and the veil of the temple was rent, and the tombs were burst asunder? “because these two evils hath My People done; Me,” He says, “they have quite forsaken, the fount of water of life, and they have digged for themselves worn-out tanks, which will not be able to contain water.” Undoubtedly, by not receiving Christ, the “fount of water of life,” they have begun to have “worn-out tanks,” that is, synagogues for the use of the “dispersions of the Gentiles,” in which the Holy Spirit no longer lingers, as for the time past He was wont to tarry in the temple before the advent of Christ, who is the true temple of God. For, that they should withal suffer this thirst of the Divine Spirit, the prophet Isaiah had said, saying: “Behold, they who serve Me shall eat, but ye shall be hungry; they who serve Me shall drink, but ye shall thirst, and from general tribulation of spirit shall howl: for ye shall transmit your name for a satiety to Mine elect, but you the Lord shall slay; but for them who serve Me shall be named a new name, which shall be blessed in the lands.”
Again, the mystery of this “tree” we read as being celebrated even in the Books of the Reigns. For when the sons of the prophets were cutting “wood” with axes on the bank of the river Jordan, the iron flew off and sank in the stream; and so, on Elisha the prophet’s coming up, the sons of the prophets beg of him to extract from the stream the iron which had sunk. And accordingly Elisha, having taken “wood,” and cast it into that place where the iron had been submerged, forthwith it rose and swam on the surface, and the “wood” sank, which the sons of the prophets recovered. Whence they understood that Elijah’s spirit was presently conferred upon him. What is more manifest than the mystery of this “wood,”—that the obduracy of this world had been sunk in the profundity of error, and is freed in baptism by the “wood” of Christ, that is, of His passion; in order that what had formerly perished through the “tree” in Adam, should be restored through the “tree” in Christ? while we, of course, who have succeeded to, and occupy, the room of the prophets, at the present day sustain in the world that treatment which the prophets always suffered on account of divine religion: for some they stoned, some they banished; more, however, they delivered to mortal slaughter,—a fact which they cannot deny.
This “wood,” again, Isaac the son of Abraham personally carried for his own sacrifice, when God had enjoined that he should be made a victim to Himself. But, because these had been mysteries which were being kept for perfect fulfilment in the times of Christ, Isaac, on the one hand, with his “wood,” was reserved, the ram being offered which was caught by the horns in the bramble; Christ, on the other hand, in His times, carried His “wood” on His own shoulders, adhering to the horns of the cross, with a thorny crown encircling His head. For Him it behoved to be made a sacrifice on behalf of all Gentiles, who “was led as a sheep for a victim, and, like a lamb voiceless before his shearer, so opened not His mouth” (for He, when Pilate interrogated Him, spake nothing); for “in humility His judgment was taken away: His nativity, moreover, who shall declare?” Because no one at all of human beings was conscious of the nativity of Christ at His conception, when as the Virgin Mary was found pregnant by the word of God; and because “His life was to be taken from the land.” Why, accordingly, after His resurrection from the dead, which was effected on the third day, did the heavens receive Him back? It was in accordance with a prophecy of Hosea, uttered on this wise: “Before daybreak shall they arise unto Me, saying, Let us go and return unto the Lord our God, because Himself will draw us out and free us. After a space of two days, on the third day”—which is His glorious resurrection—He received back into the heavens (whence withal the Spirit Himself had come to the Virgin) Him whose nativity and passion alike the Jews have failed to acknowledge. Therefore, since the Jews still contend that the Christ is not yet come, whom we have in so many ways approved to be come, let the Jews recognise their own fate,—a fate which they were constantly foretold as destined to incur after the advent of the Christ, on account of the impiety with which they despised and slew Him. For first, from the day when, according to the saying of Isaiah, “a man cast forth his abominations of gold and silver, which they made to adore with vain and hurtful (rites),”—that is, ever since we Gentiles, with our breast doubly enlightened through Christ’s truth, cast forth (let the Jews see it) our idols,—what follows has likewise been fulfilled. For “the Lord of Sabaoth hath taken away, among the Jews from Jerusalem,” among the other things named, “the wise architect” too, who builds the church, God’s temple, and the holy city, and the house of the Lord. For thenceforth God’s grace desisted (from working) among them. And “the clouds were commanded not to rain a shower upon the vineyard of Sorek,”—the clouds being celestial benefits, which were commanded not to be forthcoming to the house of Israel; for it “had borne thorns”—whereof that house of Israel had wrought a crown for Christ—and not “righteousness, but a clamour,”—the clamour whereby it had extorted His surrender to the cross. And thus, the former gifts of grace being withdrawn, “the law and the prophets were until John,” and the fishpool of Bethsaida until the advent of Christ: thereafter it ceased curatively to remove from Israel infirmities of health; since, as the result of their perseverance in their frenzy, the name of the Lord was through them blasphemed, as it is written: “On your account the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles:” for it is from them that the infamy (attached to that name) began, and (was propagated during) the interval from Tiberius to Vespasian. And because they had committed these crimes, and had failed to understand that Christ “was to be found” in “the time of their visitation,” their land has been made “desert, and their cities utterly burnt with fire, while strangers devour their region in their sight: the daughter of Sion is derelict, as a watch-tower in a vineyard, or as a shed in a cucumber garden,”—ever since the time, to wit, when “Israel knew not” the Lord, and “the People understood Him not;” but rather “quite forsook, and provoked unto indignation, the Holy One of Israel.” So, again, we find a conditional threat of the sword: “If ye shall have been unwilling, and shall not have been obedient, the glaive shall eat you up.” Whence we prove that the sword was Christ, by not hearing whom they perished; who, again, in the Psalm, demands of the Father their dispersion, saying, “Disperse them in Thy power;” who, withal, again through Isaiah prays for their utter burning. “On My account,” He says, “have these things happened to you; in anxiety shall ye sleep.”
Since, therefore, the Jews were predicted as destined to suffer these calamities on Christ’s account, and we find that they have suffered them, and see them sent into dispersion and abiding in it, manifest it is that it is on Christ’s account that these things have befallen the Jews, the sense of the Scriptures harmonizing with the issue of events and of the order of the times. Or else, if Christ is not yet come, on whose account they were predicted as destined thus to suffer, when He shall have come it follows that they will thus suffer. And where will then be a daughter of Sion to be derelict, who now has no existence? where the cities to be exust, which are already exust and in heaps? where the dispersion of a race which is now in exile? Restore to Judea the condition which Christ is to find; and (then, if you will), contend that some other (Christ) is coming.
- Mic. v. 2; Matt. ii. 3–6. Tertullian’s Latin agrees rather with the Greek of St. Matthew than with the LXX.
- See Isa. i. 7.
- Comp. John v. 43; x. 37, 38.
- Isa. xxxiii. 17.
- Isa. xxxiii. 18.
- Comp. the “failing eyes” in the passage from Deuteronomy given in c. xi., if “eyes” is to be taken as the subject here. If not, we have another instance of the slipshod writing in which this treatise abounds.
- As His name “Christ” or “Messiah” implies.
- Comp. Ex. xxx. 22–33.
- i.e., in Jerusalem or Judea.
- The Jews.
- Comp. 1 Kings (3 Kings in LXX.) i. 39, where the Eng. ver. has “an horn;” the LXX. τὸ κέρας, “the horn;” which at that time, of course, was in David’s tabernacle (2 Sam.—2 Kings in LXX.—vi. 17,) for “temple” there was yet none.
- Dan. ix. 26.
- See Isa. lxv. 2; Rom. x. 21.
- Ps. xxii. 16, 17 (xxi. 17, 18, in LXX.), and lxix. 21 (lxviii. 22 in LXX.).
- i.e., displaced, dislocated.
- See c. x. above.
- See Ps. lxvii. 6 (lxvi. 7 in LXX.), lxxxv. 12 (lxxxiv. 13 in LXX.).
- “Lignum,” as before.
- See Joel ii. 22.
- See c. xi. above, and the note there.
- See Ex. xv. 22–26.
- See Acts xxvi. 18, ad fin.
- See Jer. ii. 10–12.
- See Amos viii. 9, as before, in c.x.
- See Matt. xxvii. 45, 50–52; Mark xv. 33, 37, 38, Luke xxiii. 44, 45.
- ὑδατος ζωῆς in the LXX. here (ed. Tischendorf, who quotes the Cod. Alex. as reading, however, ὑδατος ζῶντος). Comp. Rev. xxii. 1, 17, and xxi. 6; John vii. 37–39. (The reference, it will be seen, is still to Jer. ii. 10–13; but the writer has mixed up words of Amos therewith.)
- Comp. The τὴν διασπορὰν τῶν ῾Ελλήνων of John vii. 35; and see 1 Pet. i. 1.
- See Isa. lxv. 13–16 in LXX.
- Hujus ligni sacramentum.
- Helisæo. Comp. Luke iv. 27.
- The careless construction of leaving the nominative “Elisha” with no verb to follow it is due to the original, not to the translator.
- See 2 Kings vi. 1–7 (4 Kings vi. 1–7 in LXX). It is not said, however, that the wood sank.
- This conclusion they had drawn before, and are not said to have drawn, consequently, upon this occasion. See 2 Kings (4 Kings in LXX.) ii. 16.
- “Sæculi,” or perhaps here “heathendom.”
- For a similar argument, see Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo? l. i. c. iii. sub fin.
- Mortis necem.
- Comp. Acts vii. 51, 52; Heb. xi. 32–38.
- See Gen. xxii. 1–14.
- See Matt. xxvii. 11–14; Mark xv. 1–5; John xix. 8–12.
- See Isa. liii. 7, 8.
- Oehler refers to Hos. vi. 1; add 2 (ad init.).
- See Luke i. 35.
- For this sense of the word “approve,” comp. Acts ii. 22, Greek and English, and Phil. i. 10, Greek and English.
- See Isa. ii. 20.
- See Isa. iii. 1, 3; and comp. 1 Cor. iii. 10; Eph. ii. 20, 21; 1 Pet. ii. 4–8, and many similar passages.
- Comp. Isa. v. 2 in LXX. and Lowth.
- Comp. Isa. v. 6, 7, with Matt. xxvii. 20–25, Mark xv. 8–15, Luke xxiii. 13–25, John xix. 12–16.
- Matt. xi. 13; Luke xvi. 16.
- See John v. 1–9; and comp. de Bapt. c. v., and the note there.
- See Isa. lii. 5; Ezek. xxxvi. 20, 23; Rom. ii. 24. (The passage in Isaiah in the LXX. agrees with Rom. ii. 24.)
- See Isa. lv. 6, 7.
- See Luke xix. 41–44.
- See Isa. i. 7, 8, 4.
- Isa. i. 20.
- See Ps. lix. 11 (lviii. 12 in LXX.)
- See Isa. l. 11 in LXX.