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1. And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
[Teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.] What kind of request is this, that this disciple, whoever he is, doth here make? Was he ignorant of, or had he forgot, that form of prayer which the Lord had delivered to them in his sermon upon the mount? If he had not forgot it, why then doth he require any other? Doth he mean, 'Lord, teach us to pray, for John hath taught his disciples?' or thus, 'Teach us a form and rule of prayer like that which John had taught his?' This latter is the most probable; but then it is something uncertain what kind of form that might be which the disciples of John were taught. As to this inquiry, we may consider these things:
I. It is said of the disciples of John, They fast often, and make prayers, Luke 5:33: where, upon many accounts, I could persuade myself that prayers ought to be taken here in its most proper sense for supplications. To let other things pass, let us weigh these two:
1. That the Jews' daily and common prayers, ordinary and occasional, consisted chiefly of benedictions and doxologies, which the title of that Talmudic tract, which treats of their prayers, sufficiently testifies, being called [Beracoth] benedictions, as also that tephillah, the general nomenclature for prayer, signifies no other than praising, i.e. benediction or doxology. To illustrate this matter, we have a passage or two not unworthy our transcribing:
"Perhaps, a man begs for necessaries for himself, and afterward prayeth. This is that which is spoken by Solomon, when he saith, To the prayer, and to the supplication." I omit the version, because the Gemarists interpret it themselves; rinna is tephillah, and tephillah is bakkashah. Their meaning is this: The first word of Solomon's rinnah, signifies prayer (as the Gloss hath it, i.e. prayer with praise, or doxology) the latter word, tephillah, signifies petition, or supplication; Gloss, begging for things necessary.
It cannot be denied but that they had their petitionary or supplicatory prayers; but then, the benedictory or doxological prayers were more in number, and more large and copious: especially those which were poured out occasionally or upon present emergency. Read the last chapter of the treatise I newly quoted, and judge as to this particular: read the whole treatise, and then judge of the whole matter.
2. It may be reasonably supposed that the Baptist taught his disciples a form of prayer different from what the Jewish forms were. It stands with reason, that he that was to bring in a new doctrine, (I mean new in respect to that of the Jewish) should bring in a new way of prayer too; that is, a form of prayer that consisted more in petition and supplication than the Jewish forms had done; nay, and another sort of petitions than what those forms which were petitionary had hitherto contained. For the disciples of John had been instructed in the points of regeneration, justifying faith, particular adoption, and sanctification by the Spirit, and other doctrines of the gospel, which were altogether unknown in the schools or synagogues of the Jews. And who would imagine, therefore, that John Baptist should not teach his disciples to pray for these things?
II. It is probable, therefore, that when this disciple requested our Saviour that he would teach his disciples as John had done, he had respect to such kind of prayers as these; because we find Christ so far condescending to him, that he delivers him a form of prayer merely petitionary, as may appear both from the whole structure of the prayer, as also in that the last close of all the doxology, "For thine is the kingdom," &c. is here left wholly out; he took care to deliver [a form] that was merely supplicatory. This is confirmed by what follows concerning the man requesting some loaves of his neighbour, adding withal this exhortation, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find." Which two things seem to answer those two things by which supplicatory prayer is defined; these are sheelah, asking, and bakkashah, seeking: for if there may be any difference in the meaning of these two words, I would suppose it thus, bakkashah, or seeking, may respect the things of God; so, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," &c.: and sheelah, or asking, may respect those things which are necessary for ourselves: which texture we find very equally divided in this present form of prayer, where the three first petitions are in behalf of God's honour, and the three last in behalf of our own necessaries.
It was in use amongst the Jews, when they fasted, to use a peculiar sort of prayer, joined with what were daily, terming it the prayer of the fast. This we have mentioned in Taanith, where it is disputed whether those that fasted for certain hours only, and not for the whole day, ought to repeat that prayer of the fast: as also, in what order and place that prayers is to be inserted amongst the daily ones. Now if it should be granted that John had taught his disciples any such form, that might be particularly adapted to their fastings, it is not very likely this disciple had any particular reference to that, because the disciples of Christ did not fast as the disciples of John did. It rather respected the whole frame of their prayers which he had instructed them in, which consisted chiefly of petitions and supplications.
Object. But probably this disciple was not ignorant that Christ had already delivered to them a petitionary form in that Sermon of his upon the Mount: and therefore what need had he to desire, and for what reason did he importune another?
Answer. It is likely he did know it; and as likely he did not expect the repetition of the same again: but being very intent upon what John had done for his disciples, did hope for a form more full and copious, that might more largely and particularly express what they were to ask for, according to what he had observed probably in the form that had been prescribed by John: but the divine wisdom of our Saviour knew, however, that all was sufficiently comprehended in what he had given them. And as the Jews had their short summary of those eighteen prayers epitomized, so would he have this form of his a short summary of all that we ought to ask for.
4. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
[And lead us not into temptation.] I am much deceived if this petition is not amongst other things, and indeed principally, and in the first place, directed against the visible apparitions of the devil, the evil one: as also his actual obsessions: by which the phrase of God's 'leading us into temptation' is very much softened.
The doxology, 'For thine is the kingdom,' &c., is left out, because it was our Saviour's intention in this place to deliver to them a form of prayer merely petitionary; for which very same reason also, Amen is omitted too. For he shall say Amen at thy giving of thanks: and indeed they commonly ended all their prayers, even those that consisted most of petition, with thanksgiving and benediction; concluding in this manner, "Blessed be thou, O Lord, who hast thus done, or thus commanded," or the like; and then was it answered by all, Amen. This we may observe in those Psalms that conclude any portion of that book, and end with Amen: upon what subject soever the Psalmist is engaged, either throughout the whole psalm, or immediately before the bringing forth of Amen, still he never doth mention Amen without some foregoing doxology and benediction, "Blessed be the Lord God, &c., Amen and Amen." In St. Matthew, therefore, we find Amen, because there is the doxology: in St. Luke it is wanting, because the doxology is so too. You may see more of this in notes upon Matthew 6.
15. But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.
[Through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.] I. As to this name of Beelzebub I have elsewhere discoursed, and do still assert the reading of it with the letter l in the end of it, viz. Beelzebul, against the Syriac, Persian, Vulgar, and other translations, which read it Beelzebub. The Italian, cautiously indeed, but not purely, Beelzebu, that he might not strike upon either the one or the other reading: but in the mean time I will not answer for the faithfulness and candour of the interpreter.
II. Amongst the Jews we may observe three devils called the chief, or prince of the devils: 1. 'The angel of death'; who is called Prince of all the Satans. 2. The devil Asmodeus: of him afterward. 3. Beelzebub, in this place. Now as to vindicating the writing of it by l in the end of the word, and not b:
III. It is a question whether there were such a thing as Beelzebub in rerum natura. Why should not the deity of the place take his farewell, when Ekron, the place of this deity, was wholly obliterated? When there was no more an idol nor oracle at Ekron, did not the demon cease to be Beelzebub any longer, although it did not cease to be a demon? Wherever, therefore, Ekron was under the second Temple, or the place where it had been under the first; you can hardly persuade me there was any idol or oracle of Beelzebub, and so not Beelzebub himself. I will not here dispute whether Achor, the Cyrenians' tutelar god against flies, hath any relation or affinity with the name of Ekron. Let it be granted that Beelzebub might change his soil upon some occasion, and remove from Ekron to Cyrene: but then how should he come to be the prince of the devils, when all his business and power was only among flies?
It may not be improbable, perhaps, that he might be first or chief of those demons, or Baalim, that Ahab brought among the Israelites; and so Ahaziah his son, in the midst of his affliction and danger, might fly for refuge to that idol as what had been the god of his father: but what is it could move the ages following at so long distance of time from this, that they should esteem this demon Beelzebub the prince of the devils? Here I confess myself not well satisfied: but as to Beelzebul, something may be said.
IV. I have already shewn, in notes upon Matthew 12, that the Jewish doctors (and such were these who contended with our Saviour) did give idolatrous worship the denomination of zebul, or dung, for the ignominy of the thing; and so was the nation generally taught by these Rabbins. I gave some instances for the proof of it, which I shall not here repeat, but add one more: "It is said of Joseph" [when his mistress would have tempted him to adultery], "that he came into the house to do his business. R. Judah saith, It was a day of fooling and of dunging, it was a day of theatres." Where the Gloss upon the word zebul, stercoration, saith thus: "It is a word of contempt, and so it is expounded by R. Solomon in the treatise Avodah Zarah, and Tosaphoth; viz. that fooling signifies to sacrifice [that is, to idols]; and they prove it out of Jerusalem Beracoth, where it is said, 'He that seeth a place where they dung [that is, offer sacrifice] to an idol, let him say, Whoso offereth sacrifice to strange gods, let him be accursed.'" Which words we have also alleged out of the Jerusalem Talmud.
V. Now therefore, when idolatry was denominated zebul amongst the Jews, and indeed reckoned amongst the most grievous of sins they could be guilty of, that devil whom they supposed to preside over this piece of wickedness they named him Beelzebub, and esteemed him the prince of the devils; or (if you will pardon the expression) the most devilized of all devils.
VI. They give the like title to the devil Asmodeus. Asmodeus the king of the devils. The devil, the prince of the spirits. Which elsewhere is expounded, the devil Asmodeus. For in both places we have this ridiculous tale: "There was a certain woman brought forth a son in the night-time, and said to her son [a child newly born you must know], 'go and light me a candle, that I may cut thy navel.' As he was going, the devil Asmodeus meeting him, said to him, 'Go and tell thy mother that if the cock had not crowed I would have killed thee,'" &c.
The very name points at 'apostasy,' not so much that the devil was an apostate, as that this devil provoked and enticed people to apostatize: Beelzebul amongst the Gentiles, and Asmodeus amongst the Jews, the first authors of their apostasy. Whether both the name and demon were not found out by the Jews to affright the Samaritans, see the place above quoted: "When as Noah went to plant a vineyard, the demon Asmodeus met him and said, Let me partake with thee," &c. So that it seems they suppose Asmodeus had a hand in Noah's drunkenness. "When he [that is, Solomon] sinned, Asmodeus drove him to it," &c. They call the angel of death by the name of prince of all Satans, because he destroys all mankind by death, none excepted.
31. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
[The queen of the south, &c.] I. I cannot but wonder what should be the meaning of that passage in Bava Bathra; Whoever saith that the queen of Sheba was a woman, doth no other than mistake. What then is the queen of Sheba? The kingdom of Sheba. Would he have the whole kingdom of the Sabeans to have come to Solomon? Perhaps what is said, that the queen of Sheba came with an exceeding great army (for so is that clause rendered by some), might seem to sound something of this nature in his ears. But if there was any kind of ambiguity in the word queen, as indeed there is none, or if interpreters doubted at all about it, as indeed none had done, the great oracle of truth hath here taught us that the queen did come to Solomon: but why doth he term her the queen of 'the south,' and not the queen of 'Sheba'?
II. There are plausible things upon this occasion spoken concerning Sheba of the Arabians, which we have no leisure to discuss at present. I am apt rather to apprehend that our Saviour may call her the queen of the south in much a like sense as the king of Egypt is called in Daniel 'the king of the south.' The countries in that quarter of the world were very well known amongst the Jews by that title: but I question whether the Arabian Saba were so or no. Grant that some of the Arabian countries be in later ages called Aliemin, or southern parts, yet I doubt whether so called by antiquity, or in the days of our Saviour.
Whereas it is said that the queen of the south came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, is it worth the patience of the reader to hear a little the folly of the Jews about this matter? Because it is said that she came to make a proof of his wisdom by dark sayings and hard questions, these doctors will be telling us what kind of riddles and hard questions she put to him. "She saith unto him, 'If I ask thee any thing, wilt thou answer me?' He said, 'It is the Lord that giveth wisdom.' She saith, 'What is this then? There are seven things go out and nine enter. Two mingle [or prepare] the cup, and one drinks of it.' He saith, 'There are seven days for a woman's separation, that go out; and nine months for her bringing forth, that come in. Two breasts do [mingle, or] prepare the cup, and one sucks it.' Again saith she, 'I will ask thee one thing more: What is this? A woman saith unto her son, Thy father was my father; thy grandfather was my husband; thou art my son, and I am thy sister.' To whom he answered, 'Surely they were Lot's daughters.'" There is much more of this kind, but thus much may suffice for riddles.
33. No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.
[No man, when he hath lighted a candle, &c.] The coherence of this passage with what went before seems a little difficult, but the connection probably is this: there were some that had reviled him as if he had cast out devils by the prince of the devils, others that had required a sign from heaven, verses 15,16. To the former of these he gives an answer, verse 17,18: and, indeed, to both of them, verse 19, and so on. This passage we are upon respects both, but the latter more principally: q.d. "You require a sign of me: would you have me light a candle, and put it under a bushel? would you have me work miracles, when I am assured beforehand you will not believe these miracles? Which, however of themselves they may shine like a candle lighted up, yet, in respect to you that believe them not, it is no other than a candle under a bushel, or in a secret place."
36. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.
[The whole shall be full of light.] This clause seems so much the same with the former, as if there were something of tautology; If thy whole body therefore be full of light, &c. Our Saviour speaketh of the eye, after the manner of the schools, where the evil eye, or the eye not single, signified the covetous, envious, and malicious mind: "Do not bring such a mind along with thee, but a candid, benign, gentle mind; then thou wilt be all bright and clear thyself, and all things will be bright and clear to thee. If you had but such a mind, O ye carping, blasphemous Jews, you would not frame so sordid and infamous a judgment of my miracles; but you would have a clear and candid opinion concerning them."
38. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
[That he had not first washed before dinner.] Had the Pharisee himself washed before dinner, in that sense wherein washed signifies the washing of the whole body? It is hardly credible, when there was neither need, nor was it the custom, to wash the whole body before meat, but the hands only. This we have spoken largelier upon elsewhere [Matt 15; Mark 7]; from whence it will be necessary for us to repeat these things; that there is a washing of the hands, and there is a dipping of the hands. This clause we are upon refers to this latter. The Pharisee wonders that Christ had not washed his hands; nay, that he had not dipped them all over in the water when he was newly come from the people that were gathered thick together.
Of how great esteem this washing their hands before meat was amongst them, besides what I have alleged elsewhere, take this one instance more: "It is storied of R. Akibah, that he was bound in prison, and R. Joshua ministered unto him as his reader. He daily brought him water by measure. One day the keeper of the prison met him, and said unto him, 'Thou hast too much water today.' He poured out half, and gave him half. When he came to R. Akibah, he told him the whole matter. R. Akibah saith unto him, 'Give me some water to wash my hands': the other saith unto him, 'There is not enough for thee to drink; and how then shouldest thou have any to wash thine hands?' To whom he, 'What shall I do in a matter wherein there is the guilt of death? It is better I should die [that is, by thirst] than that I should transgress the mind of my colleagues'": who had thus prescribed about washing of hands.
And a little after; Samuel saith, "At that time wherein Solomon instituted the 'Erubhin' and washing of the hands, there came forth 'Bath Kol,' and said, 'My son, if thy heart be wise, even mine shall rejoice.'" Observe here, (at least if you will believe it) that Solomon was the first author of this washing of hands. "Whosoever blesseth immediately after the washing of hands, Satan doth not accuse him for that time of his repast."
39. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
[Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, &c.] This our Saviour speaks of the persons, and not of the vessels; which is plain, in that,
I. He saith, your inward parts, &c.; so that the sense is to this purpose: You cleanse yourselves outwardly indeed by these kinds of washings; but that which is within you is full of rapine, &c.
II. Whereas he saith, he that made that which is without, he doth not speak it of the artificer that made the cup or the platter, but of God. Else what kind of argument is this? 'He that made the cups and the platters, made both the outside and the inside of them': what then? 'Therefore do ye make yourselves clean both outside and inside too.' But if we refer it to God, then the argument holds forcibly enough: 'Did not God, that made you without, make you within too? he expects, therefore, that you should keep yourselves clean, not only as to your outside, but as to your inside too.'
III. It is hardly probable that the Pharisees should wash the outside of the cup or platter, and not the inside too. Take but these two passages out of this kind of authors themselves: "Those dishes which any person eats out of over night, they wash them, that he may eat in them in the morning. In the morning they wash them, that he may eat in them at noon. At noon, that he may eat in them at the mincha. After the mincha, he doth not wash them again; but the cups, and jugs, and bottles, he doth wash, and so it goes throughout the whole day," &c. I will not give myself nor reader the trouble to examine the meaning of the words: it suffices that here is mention only of washing, and that the whole vessel, not of this or that part only: and the washing of such vessels was by dipping them in water.
"All vessels that have an outside and an inside, if the inside be defiled, the outside is also; but if the outside be defiled, the inside is not defiled." One would think this was to our purpose, and asserted the very literal sense of the words we have in hand, viz. that the cups and the platters, although they were unclean on the outside, yet in the inside they might be clean; and it was sufficient to the Pharisee, if he cleansed them on the outside only. But the vessels here mentioned (if the Gloss may be our interpreter) are such as they might use both the outside and the inside indifferently. Some of them are recited by the Gemarists, viz. sacks, wallets, nightcaps, pillowcases, &c.
Our Saviour, therefore, does not here speak according to the letter, neither here nor in Matthew 23:25, when he saith, "Ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter"; but by way of parable and similitude. 'You, while you are so very nice and officious in your external washings, you do nothing more than if you only washed the outside of the cup or dish, while there was nothing but filth and nastiness within.'
40. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?
[Ye fools.] A word very common to the nation. "Rabban Jochanan Ben Zacchai said to the Baithuseans, Ye fools, how prove you this?" "Esau said, Cain was a fool. Pharaoh said, Esau was a fool. Haman said, Pharaoh was a fool. Gog and Magog will say, They were all fools that are gone before us." Hence that common phrase, O thou most foolish thing in all the world.
41. But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.
[But rather give alms of such things as ye have.] This seems ironically spoken, and in derision to the opinion they had concerning alms.
1. As to the version of the word of such things, may we not suppose it signifies not only, that which is over and above, as the Vulgar, but also all that you have, as Beza: or not only something that may have respect to the riches of this world, but something also that may have respect to the doctrines and tenets of the Pharisees. As if the meaning was this, "'Those things which are amongst you,' i.e. which obtain commonly amongst you, are to this purpose, 'Give but alms, and all things are clean unto you.'" ...
II. However, that which is over and above, or that which you have, (for I will not be very tenacious in this) yet it is hardly probable that our Saviour utters this as his own, but rather as the words and opinion of the Pharisees. Nor do I think that he speaks these things directly, or by way of directions to them, but that he cites their tenets in mere scoff and displeasure. For indeed, this principle was the spawn of their own schools, that giving of alms had a value in it that served for atonement, justification, salvation, every thing. Hence that common term that reached so comprehensively, righteousness. And hence is it that, in those numberless places in the Holy Scriptures, where the praises of justice and righteousness are celebrated, and all the blessings of it pronounced, they apply it all to the giving of alms. Take on instance for all: "Rabh Asai saith, Alms is equivalent to all the other commandments." "R. Judah saith, Giving of alms is a great thing; for it hastens our redemption. It is written, righteousness, [i.e., giving of alms], delivers from death. Almsgiving, delivereth from sudden death, and from the judgment of hell. R. Meir saith, If any wicked man should make this objection, that if your God love the poor, why doth he not feed them? do thou make this answer; it is, that we by them might be delivered from the judgment of hell."
I fear, indeed, that the Greek interpreters have a touch of this, when they so oftentimes render justice by giving of alms. So that the reader may judge whether our Saviour either would teach, that rapine, injustice, and unrighteousness might be cleansed by giving of alms; or that he would give them any counsel of this nature, when he knew they were sufficiently tinctured with this kind of doctrine already.
45. Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.
[Then answered one of the lawyers.] Here seems a little difficulty, that whereas, in the foregoing verse it is said, "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees," it is not subjoined then answered one of the scribes, but one of the lawyers; which scruple perhaps the Vulgar observing, made him leave scribes and Pharisees wholly out. Our Saviour inveighs more peculiarly, and by name, against the Pharisees, verses 37,42,43; and at length joins the scribes with them, verse 44. Hence that lawyer cavils and complains, either that he had named the scribes in terms, or that he had accused the Pharisees of nothing but what the scribes might be equally accused of. As to this very scribe, did not he wash his hands before dinner as the Pharisees did? for it is said of all the Jews, "except they wash their hands oft, eat not." Did not the scribe tithe mint and rue as well as the Pharisee? when we find that the tithing of herbs was instituted by the Rabbins. In a word, the scribes and the Pharisees go hand in hand in that discourse of our Saviour's, Matthew 23; where he blameth both the one and the other for the same things. So that it is plain enough why this man complains; but it is not so plain why he should be termed "one of the lawyers," and not "one of the scribes."
I. It is not very easy distinguishing betwixt the scribe and the Pharisee, unless that Pharisaism was a kind of tumour and excrescence as to superstition and austerities of religion beyond the common and stated practice of that nation, even of the scribes themselves. Whether that distinction betwixt singular, and a disciple, hints any difference as to the austerity of religion, I cannot affirm; I will only lay a passage or two in the reader's eye for him to consider.
"The Rabbins have a tradition, Let no one say, I am a Disciple, I am not fit to be made a Singular." The Gloss hath it, "I am not fit to begin the fasts with the Singulars." And the Gemara a little after; "The Rabbins have a tradition: Every one that would make himself a Singular, let him not make himself so: but if any one would make himself a Disciple, let him." And at length; It is not lawful for a Disciple of the Wise to continue in fastings, because he diminisheth from the work of God: that is, he ceaseth from learning and teaching.
One would here think, that it is plainly distinguished betwixt a Pharisee and any other; and yet the Gemarists, in the very same place, say thus, All the Disciples of the Wise are Singulars. At length they query, "Who is a Singular, and who is a Disciple? A Singular is he that is worthy to be preferred to be a pastor of a synagogue. A Disciple is he, who if they ask him any thing concerning a tradition in his doctrine, he hath wherewithal to answer." So that by a Disciple they mean not him that is now learning, but him who hath already learned and now teacheth; but, in other places, they apply both these to the Disciple.
"R. Jochanan saith, Who is a Disciple of the Wise? he whom they prefer to be pastor of a synagogue: he who, if they ask him about any tradition in any place, hath wherewithal to answer." The difference between these, however confounded in this place, was this: that the Disciple could answer doubts and questions fetched out of that place or from that subject upon which he had taught or read; but the Singular, could answer all doubts raised from any place, even out of the treatise concerning marriages. That mention of the pastor and the teacher, Ephesians 4:11, we seem to have some shadow of it here: the Disciple is the teacher, and the Singular is the pastor of the synagogue: and perhaps if these things were observed, it might give some light into that place of the apostle.
II. As the Disciple and the Singular are sometimes confounded, sometimes distinguished, so also is the scribe and the Pharisee. They are sometimes confounded; for many of the Pharisees were scribes: and they are sometimes distinguished; for many of them were of the common people, and not scribes. Perhaps it may not be improperly said, that there were Pharisees that were of the clergy, and Pharisees that were of the laity. He whom we have now before us was a scribe, but not a Pharisee; but it is not easy to give the reason why he is termed a lawyer and not a scribe. Here is some place for conjecture, but not for demonstration. As to conjecture, therefore, let us make a little essay in this matter.
I. I conceive that the lawyer and teacher of the law, may be opposed to the Sadducees to whom the Pharisee is diametrically opposite; for they were contrary to them in their practice of the traditional rites as much as they could; and these again abundantly contrary to them in traditional doctrines. The Sadducees had, indeed, their scribes or their teachers, as well as any other party: and there is frequent mention of the scribes of the Sadducees. And from this antithesis, probably, is Rabban Gamaliel termed a doctor of law. For there was then an assembly of the 'sect of the Sadducees,' verse 17: and when Gamaliel, who was of the other sect, made his speech amongst them, it is easy to conceive why he is there termed a doctor of law. For the same reason we may suppose the person here before us might be called one of the lawyers, and not a scribe, because there were scribes even amongst the Sadducees.
II. I conceive, therefore, that the lawyers and teachers of the law were the traditionary doctors of the law. As to Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, the thing is without dispute: and if there were any difference between the lawyers and doctors of the law, yet as to this matter, I suppose there was none. Let us consider this following passage: "It is a tradition: R. Simeon Ben Jochai saith, He that is conversant, in the textual exposition of the law, hath a measure, which is not a measure. He that is conversant in Misna, hath a measure, from whence they receive a reward: but if he be conversant in the Talmud, there is not a greater measure than this. Always betake yourself to the Misna rather than the Talmud. But R. Jose Ben R. Bon saith, This which thou sayest, obtained before the Rabbi had mixed with it manifold traditions: but from the time that he mixed with it manifold traditions, always have recourse to the Talmud rather than to the Misna."
Now, I pray, who is he that, according to this tradition, merits most the title of a doctor of law? He that is conversant in the exposition and interpretation of the written law, and the context of it, alas! he doth but little; and for all the oil and labour he hath spent, hath only a measure, which is not a measure. But he that is conversant in the Misna and Talmud, in the traditional doctrine or exposition of the traditional law, he bears away the bell; he hath some reward for his pains, and is dignified with the title of doctor.
III. If there were any distinction betwixt doctors of tradition and doctors of law (which I hardly believe), we may suppose it might be this; either that the doctor of law had his school and his disciples, and the doctor of tradition had none; or that the doctor of tradition was conversant in the Misna, or the plain and literal exposition of traditions, and the doctor of law, in the Talmud, or a more profound and scholastic way of teaching.
However, be there this distinction betwixt them, or some other, or indeed none at all, yet I presume they were both doctors of traditions, and expounders of that which they called the oral law, in opposition to the scribes, whether amongst the Jews or the Sadducees, who employed themselves in the textual exposition of the law.
46. And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.
[And ye yourselves touch not (the burdens) with one of your fingers.] That the lawyers (as we have already said) were the doctors of traditions, is a little confirmed by this, that what our Saviour reproacheth them for were merely traditionals: this particularly, that they laded men with such 'yokes of traditions,' and yet they themselves would not touch or move them with one of their fingers.
This exposition indeed vulgarly obtains, 'You lay grievous burdens upon others, which in the meantime you indulge yourselves in, and will not undergo them by any means.' This interpretation I cannot but admit; but yet must inquire whether there be not something more included it. For whereas 'he that would prescribe light things to himself, and burdensome to others,' was commonly accounted and called a wicked cunning fellow: and whereas there is frequent mention of this or that Rabbin, who would lay this or that burden upon himself, which he would acquit others of; it may be a question, whether this exposition, so commonly received, doth indeed speak out the whole sense and meaning of these words.
I apprehend, therefore, our Saviour might not only rebuke the remissness and indulgence they gave themselves, but further their strictness and tenaciousness about their own decrees. They made light of the commandments of God, at their own pleasure; but would never diminish the least tittle of their own. That they might remove or take away any part of the divine law, they employ both hands; but as to their own constitutions, they will not move one finger.
49. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:
[Therefore also said the wisdom of God.] This form of speaking agreeth well enough with that so much in use, the rule of judgment saith. Amongst numberless instances, take that of the Targumist; "Is it fitting that the daughters of Israel should eat the fruit of their own womb? The rule of judgment [retributive justice] answered and said, Was it also fitting to kill a priest and a prophet in the sanctuary of the Lord, as ye killed Zacharias," &c.
51. From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.
[Unto the blood of Zacharias.] If our Saviour had not in the evangelist St. Matthew added "the son of Barachias," no one could have doubted that it referred to any other than Zacharias the son of Jehoiada, whose slaughter is recorded 2 Chronicles 24. It is certain the Jews own no other Zacharias slain in the Temple but himself: and what they say of his slaughter, I have already taken notice upon that place in St. Matthew out of both the Talmuds. We meet with the same things in Midras Echah, and Midras Coheleth: out of which last give me leave briefly to transcribe these passages:
"The blood of Zachary boiled up two hundred and fifty-two years, from the days of Joash to the days of Zedekiah. What did they do? They swept into it all the dust [of the court] and made a heap; yet it ceased not, but still boiled and bubbled up. The Holy Blessed God said to the blood, Behold the time is come that thou exact [that was, Let the Lord behold, and require it at your hands]. When Nebuzaradan came and inquired, what this matter was; they answered, That it was the blood of heifers, and rams, and lambs, which they had sacrificed. Afterward, when he came to understand what the matter was, he slew eighty thousand priests, and yet the blood would not stanch, but broke out and flowed as far as the tomb of Zachary. He brought together, therefore, the Sanhedrim, both the Great and Less, and slew them over that blood, and yet it did not cease," &c.
I hardly indeed think that those that relate this matter did really believe it to have been actually so; but only would by such flowers of rhetoric and strained hyperboles, paint out the horrible guilt of the murder of Zacharias; which by how much the more horrible it was, by so much the more did it agree with the guilt of the murder of our blessed Lord.
And however a great part of it in these relations of theirs may be mere flourish, yet by the whole framing of the thing, it must needs be observed, that the slaughter of this Zacharias was so famous and rooted in the minds of that people generally, that when our Saviour speaks of one Zacharias, slain between the Temple and the altar, it cannot be imagined that they could understand him pointing at any other than this very man. As for his father being here called Barachias, and not Jehoiada, we have spoken to that matter elsewhere.
If any one hesitate about the changing of the name, let him say by what name he finds Jehoiada recited in that catalogue of priests set down in 1 Chronicles 6. It must be either some other name, or else we must suppose him wholly left out of that number. If by another name, you will say (supposing he be also called Barachias) he was then a man of three names. This indeed is no unusual thing with that nation for some to have more names than one: nay, if you will believe the Jewish doctors, even Moses himself had no less than ten.
52. Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
[Ye have taken away the key of knowledge.] Should we render it, Ye have taken the key of knowledge, (that is, to yourselves) or, Ye have taken it away; there is not much difference. They took the key of knowledge to themselves, when they arrogated to themselves only all profoundness of wisdom and learning, hereby indeed taking it away from the people, because they taught them nothing but trifling and idle stuff.
The word for key in their language brings to mind the word which was so very much in use amongst them for one that was teaching. Instances of this were endless: there are enough of it in that long preface prefixed to that Midras Threnorum, that hath for its title, The opening of the wise; where (as indeed almost everywhere else), it is so frequently said, R. such a one 'opened'; for I cannot tell how better to render it...
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