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CHAPTER XXIV.

DEFINITIVE SEPARATION OF THE CHURCH AND THE SYNAGOGUE.

Fanaticism knows no repentance. The monstrous error of 117 scarcely left more than the recollection of a festivity in the Jewish mind. Amongst the number of days when fasting was forbidden, and mourning must be suspended, figures the 12th December, the iom Traïanos or “day of Trajan,” not because the war of 116-117 gave reason for any anniversary of victory, but because of the tragic end which the agada ascribed to the enemy of Israel. The massacres of Quietus remained, on the other hand, in tradition, under the name of polémos schel Quitos. A progress of Israel in the way of mourning was attached to it:—

After the polémos schel Aspasionos, crowns and the use of tambourines are forbidden to bridegrooms.

After the polémos schel Quitos, crowns were forbidden to brides, and the teaching of the Greek language to one’s son was prohibited.

After the last Polémos, the bride was forbidden to go out of the town in a litter.

Thus every folly brought about a new sequestration, a new renunciation of some part of life. Whilst Christianity became more and more Greek and Latin, and its writers conformed to a good Hellenic style, the Jew interdicted the study of Greek, and shut himself up obstinately in his unintelligible Syro-Hebraic dialect. The root of all good intellectual culture is cut off for him for a thousand years. It is especially in this period that the decisions were given which present Greek education as an impurity, or at best as a frivolity.

The man who announced himself at Jabneh, and grew from day to day as the future chief of Israel, 264was a certain Aquiba, pupil of the Rabbi Tarphon, of obscure origin, unconnected with the great families who held the chairs and filled the great offices of the nation. He was descended from proselytes, and had had a poverty-stricken youth. He was, it would seem, a sort of democrat, full at first of a ferocious hatred against the doctors in the midst of whom he might one day sit. His exegesis, and his casuistry, were the height of subtlety. Every letter, every syllable of the Canonical texts, became significant, and attempts were made to draw meanings from them. Aquiba was the author of the method which, according to the expression of the Talmud, “from every feature of a letter draws whole bushels of decision.” We can only admit that in the revealed Code there was the least that was voluntary, the smallest liberty of style, or of orthography. Thus the particle which is the simple mark of the objective case, and which may be inserted or omitted in Hebrew, furnished puerile inductions.

This touched madness; we are only two steps from the Cabbala and the Notarikon, silly combinations, in which the texts represent no longer the language of humanity, but is taken for a divine book of magic. In detail the consultations of Aquiba are recommended by their moderation, the sentences which are attributed to him have even the marks of a certain liberal spirit. But a violent fanaticism spoiled all his qualities. The greatest contradictions spring up in those minds which are at once subtle and uncultivated, whence the superstitious study of a solitary text had banished the right sense of language and of reason. Incessantly travelling from synagogue to synagogue in all the countries of the Mediterranean, and perhaps even amongst the Parthians, Aquiba kept up amongst his co-religionaries the strange fire with which he himself was filled, and which soon became so melancholy for his country.

A monument of the mournful sadness of these times 265appears in the apocalypse of Baruch. The work is an imitation of the apocalypse of Esdras, and, like it, is divided into seven visions. Baruch, secretary to Jeremiah, receives from God the order to remain in Jerusalem, to assist in the punishment of the guilty city. He curses the fate which has given him birth, only that he may witness the outrages offered to his mother. He prays God to spare Israel. But for Israel, who wilt praise him? Who will explain his law? Is the world then destined to return to its primitive silence? and what joy for the Pagans if they are able to go into the countries of their idols to rejoice before them over the defeats which they have inflicted upon the true God.

The divine interlocutor answers that the Jerusalem which had been destroyed was not the Eternal Jerusalem, prepared since the times of Paradise, which was shown to Adam before his fall, and a glimpse of which was seen by Abraham and Moses. It was not the Pagans who destroyed the city; it was the wrath of God which annihilated it. An angel descends from heaven, carries all the sacred objects from the Temple, and buries them. The angels then demolish the city. Baruch sings a song of mourning. He is indignant that nature should continue her course, that the earth smiles, and is not burned up by an eternal midday sun.

Labourers, cease to sow, and thou, O Earth, cease to bring forth harvests; wherefore dost thou waste thy wine, O thou Vine, since Zion is no more? Bridegrooms, denounce your rights; virgins, deck yourselves no more with crowns; women, cease to pray that ye may become mothers. Henceforth the barren shall rejoice, and the fruitful mothers shall weep; for why bring forth children in sorrow, whom ye must bury with tears? Henceforth, speak no more of charms; neither discuss beauty. Take the keys of the sanctuary, O priests, cast them towards heaven, return them to the Lord, and say to him,—“Preserve now thine own house!” And ye, O virgins, who sew your linen and your silk with the gold of Ophir, hasten and cast all into the fire, that the flames may carry all these things to him 266that hath made them, and that our enemies may not rejoice in them. Earth, attend! Dust take heart, to announce in Sheol and say to the dead: “Happy are ye as compared with ourselves!”

Pseudo-Baruch, no better than pseudo-Esdras, can render account of the conduct of God towards his people. Assuredly the turn of the Gentiles will come. If God has given to his people such severe lessons, what will he do with those who have turned his benefits against him? But how explain the fate of so many of the just who have scrupulously observed the Law and have been exterminated? Why has not the Eternal had pity upon Zion for their sakes? Why has he taken account only of the wicked? “What hast thou done with thy servants?” cries the pious writer. “We can no longer understand why thou art our Creator. When the world had no inhabitants, thou didst create man as minister of thy works, to show that the world existed only for man, and not man for the world. And now, behold, the world which thou hast made for us lasts, and we, for whom thou hast made it, disappear.”

God answers that man has been made free and intelligent. If he has been punished, it is only his desert. This world for the just man is a trial; the world to come will be a crown. Length of time is a relative matter. Better to have commenced by ignominy and finished with happiness than to have begun in glory and finished in shame. Time is, moreover, pressing on, and will go by much more quickly in the future than in the past.

“If man had but this life,” answers the melancholy dreamer, “nothing could be more bitter than his fate. How long shall the triumph of impiety continue? How long, O Lord! wilt thou leave it to be believed that thy patience is weakness? Arise; close Sheol; forbid it henceforward to receive fresh dead men; and cause limbo to give up the souls that are enclosed therein. Behold how long Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the others, who sleep in the earth, have been waiting, those for whom thou hast 267said that the world was created! Show thy glory; delay it no longer.”

God contents himself with saying that the time is fixed and that the end is not far distant. The Messianic sorrows have already begun; but the signs of the catastrophe will be isolated, partial, so that men shall scarcely be able to see them. At the moment when it shall be said, “The Almighty has forgotten the earth,” when the despair of the just shall be at its height, this shall be the hour of awakening. Signs shall stretch forth over the whole universe. Palestine alone shall be safe from calamity. Then the Messiah shall be revealed. Behemoth and Leviathan shall serve as food to those who shall be saved. The earth shall yield up ten thousand for one; a single stem of the vine shall have a thousand branches; every branch shall bear a thousand grapes, and every grape shall yield a hogshead of wine. Joy shall be perfect. In the morning a breath shall leave the bosom of God, bearing the perfume of the most exquisite flowers; in the evening, another breath bearing a wholesome dew. Manna shall fall from Heaven. The dead who sleep in hope of the Messiah shall rise. The receptacles of the souls of the just shall open; the multitude of happy souls shall be all of one mind; the first shall rejoice and the last shall not be sad. The impious shall be consumed with rage, seeing that the moment of their punishment is come. Jerusalem shall be renewed, and crowned for Eternity.

The Roman Empire then appears to our seer like a forest which covers the earth; the shadow of the forest veils the truth; all that there is of evil in the world hides itself there and finds a shelter. It is the harshest and the worst of all the Empires which succeed each other. The Messianic Kingdom, on the contrary, is represented by a vine under whose shadow a sweet and gentle spring arises which runs towards 268the forest. In approaching this last, the current changes into impetuous waves which uproot it as well as the mountains which surround it. The forest is carried away, until there remains of it nothing but a cedar. This cedar represents the last Roman sovereign remaining standing when all the legions shall have been exterminated (according to us, Trajan, after his reverses in Macedonia). He is overthrown in his turn. The vine then says to him:—

Is it not thou, O Cedar! who art the relic of the forest of malice; who seizest upon what does not belong to thee; who never hast pity upon that which is thine own; who wouldest reign over that which was far from thee; who boldest in the nets of impiety all that approacheth thee; and who art proud as though thou couldest never be uprooted? Behold thine hour is come. Go, O Cedar; share the fate of the forest which has disappeared before thee, and let thine ashes mingle with it.”

The cedar is short, is cast down to the earth, and fire is kindled. The chief is enchained and brought upon Mount Sion. There the Messiah convicts him of impiety, shows him the wickedness which has been wrought by his armies, and kills him. The vine then extends itself on all sides and covers the earth; the earth reclothes itself with flowers which never fade. The Messiah will reign until the end of the corruptible world. The wicked, during this time, shall burn in a fire where none shall pity them.

Oh, blindness of man, who will not discern the approach of the Great Day! On the eve of the event they will live calm and careless. They will see miracles without understanding them; true and false prophecies shall grow in all parts. Like pseudo-Esdras, our visionary believes in the small number of the elect, and in the enormous number of the damned. “Just men rejoice in your sufferings; for a day of trial here below, ye shall have an eternity of glory.” Like pseudo-Esdras again he disquiets himself with 269great naïveté concerning the physical difficulties of the Resurrection. In what form shall the dead arise? Will they keep the same body that they had before? Pseudo-Baruch does not hesitate. The earth will restore the dead which have been entrusted to her, as she has received them. “She shall give them back,” saith God, “as I have given them to her.” That will be necessary to convince the sceptical of the resurrection; they must have ocular evidence of the identity of those whom they have known.

After the judgment, a marvellous change will be wrought. The damned shall become more ugly than they were; the just shall become beautiful, brilliant, glorious; their figures shall be transformed into a luminous ideal. The rage of the wicked shall be frightful, seeing those whom they have persecuted here below glorified above them. They will be forced to assist at this spectacle, before being taken away for punishment. The just shall see marvels; the invisible world shall be unrolled before them; the hidden times shall be discovered. No more old age; equal to the angels: like the stars; they may change themselves into whatever form they will; they will go from beauty to beauty, from glory to glory; all Paradise shall be open to them; they shall contemplate the majesty of the mystical beasts which are under the throne; all the armies of angels shall await their arrival. The first who enter shall receive the last, the last shall recognise those whom they knew to have preceded them.

These dreams are pervaded by some glimpses of a sufficiently lucid good sense. More than pseudo-Esdras, pseudo-Baruch has pity on man, and protests against a theology which has no bowels. Man has not said to his father, “Beget me,” nor has he said to Sheol, “Open to receive me.” The individual is responsible only for himself; each of us is Adam for his own soul. But fanaticism leads him soon to the 270most terrible thoughts. He sees rising from the sea a cloud composed alternately of zones of black and of clear water. These are the alternations of faith and unfaith in Israel. The angel Ramiel, who explains these mysteries to him, has judgments of the most sombre rigorism. The fine epochs are those in which they have massacred the nations which sinned, and burned and stoned the heterodox, when they dug up the bones of the wicked to burn them, when every sin against legal purity was punished with death. The good King “for whom the celestial glory was created,” is he who does not suffer an uncircumcised man upon the earth.

After the spectacle of the twelve zones a deluge of black water descends, mingled with stenches and with fire. It is the period of transition between the kingdom of Israel and the coming of the Messiah—a time of abominations, of wars, of plagues, of earthquakes. The earth seems to wish to devour its inhabitants. A flash of lightning (the Messiah) sweeps out all, purifies all, cures all. The miserable survivors of the plagues shall be given over to the Messiah, who will kill them. All who have not oppressed Israel shall live. Every nation which has governed Israel with violence shall be put to the sword. In the midst of these sufferings the Holy Land alone shall be at peace and shall protect its people.

Paradise shall then be realised upon earth; no more pain, no more suffering, no more sickness, no more toil. Animals shall serve man spontaneously. Men will still die, but never prematurely; women shall feel no more the pangs of travail; the harvest shall be gathered without effort; the houses shall be built without fatigue. Hatred, injustice, vengeance, calumny, shall disappear.

The people received the prophecy of Baruch with delight. But it was only right that the Jews dispersed in distant countries should not be deprived 271of so beautiful a revelation. Baruch wrote, therefore, to the ten tribes and a half of the dispersion, a letter which he entrusted to an eagle, and which is an abridgment of the entire book. There, even more clearly than in the book itself, may be seen the fundamental idea of the author, which is to bring about the return of the dispersed Jews to the Holy Land, that land alone during the Messianic crisis being able to offer them an assured asylum. The day is approaching when God will return to the enemies of Israel the evil which they have done to his people. The youth of the world is past; the vigour of creation is spent. The bucket is near to the well; the ship to the port; the caravan to the city; life to its end.

We see the infidel nations prosperous, although they act with impiety; but their prosperity is like a vapour. We see them rich although they act with iniquity; but their riches will last them as long as a drop of water. We see the solidity of their power, although they resist God; but it is worth no more than spittle. We contemplate their splendour whilst they do not observe the precepts of the Most High; but they shall vanish away like smoke. . . . Let nothing which belongs to the present time enter into your thoughts; have patience, for all that has been promised shall happen. We will not stop over the spectacle of the delights which foreign nations may enjoy. Let us beware lest we be excluded at once from the heritage of two worlds; captives here, tortured hereafter. Let us prepare our souls that we may rest with our fathers and may not be punished with our enemies.

Baruch receives the assurance that he will be taken to heaven like Enoch without having tasted death. We have seen that favour granted, in like manner, to Esdras, by the author of the apocalypse which is attributed to this last.

The work of the pseudo-Baruch, like that of the pseudo-Esdras, was as successful amongst the Christians as amongst the Jews—perhaps even more so. The original Greek was soon lost, but a Syriac translation was made which has come down to us. The final letter alone, however, was adapted for the use 272of the Church. This letter forms an integral part of the Syriac Bible, at least amongst the Jacobites, and lessons are taken from it for the Burial Office. We have seen pseudo-Esdras also furnish for our office for the dead some of its most gloomy thoughts. Death, in fact, appears to reign as mistress in these last fruits of the wandering imagination of Israel.

Pseudo-Baruch is the last writer of the apocryphal literature of the Old Testament. The Bible which he knew is the same as that which we perceive behind the Epistle of Jude and the pretended Epistle of Barnabas, that is to say, the canonical books of the Old Testament. The author adds, whilst putting them on the same footing, books recently fabricated, such as the Revelations of Moses, the Prayer of Manasseh, and other agadic compilations. These works, written in a biblical style, divided into verses, became a sort of supplement to the Bible. Often even, precisely because of their modern character, such apocryphal productions had greater popularity than the ancient Bible, and were accepted as Holy Scripture on the day of their appearance, at least by the Christians, who were more easy in that respect than the Jews. For the future there will be no more of these books. The Jews compose no more pasticcios of the Sacred Text; we feel amongst them even fears and precautions on this subject. Hebrew religious poetry of a later date seems to be expressly written in a style which is not that of the Bible.

It is possible that the troubles in Palestine, under Trajan, may have been the occasion for transporting the Beth-din of Jabneh to Ouscha. The Beth-din, as far as possible, must be fixed in Judea; but Jabneh, a mixed town, sufficiently large, not far from Jerusalem, might become uninhabitable for the Jews after the horrible excesses which they had committed in Egypt and Cyprus. Ouscha was an altogether obscure part of Galilee. The new patriarchate was of much less 273importance than that of Jabneh. The patriarch of Jabneh was a prince (nasi); he had a sort of court; he drew a great prestige from the pretensions of the family of Hillel to descend from David. The supreme council of the nation was now going to reside in the obscure villages of Galilee. “The institutions of Ouscha”—that is to say, the rules which were settled by the doctors of Ouscha—had none the less an authority of the first order: they occupied a considerable place in the history of the Talmud.

What was called the Church of Jerusalem continued its tranquil existence a thousand leagues removed from the seditious ideas which animated the nation. A great number of Jews were converted, and continued to observe strictly the prescriptions of the Law. The chiefs of that Church were, moreover, taken from amongst the circumcised Christians, and all the Church, not to wound the rigorists, constrained itself to follow the Mosaic rules. The list of these bishops of the circumcision is full of uncertainties. The best-known appears to have been one named Justus. The controversy between the converted and those who persisted in pure Mosaism was active but less acrimonious than after Bar Coziba. A certain Juda ben Nakouza appears to have played an especially brilliant part. The Christians endeavoured to prove that the Bible did not exclude the divinity of Jesus Christ. They insisted upon the word Elohim, upon the plural employed by God upon several occasions (for example, in Genesis i. 26), upon the repetition of the different names of God, etc. The Jews had no difficulty in showing that the tendencies of the new sect were in contradiction with the fundamental doctrines of the religion of Israel.

In Galilee, the relations of the two sects appear to have been friendly. A Judeo-Christian of Galilee, Jacob of Caphar-Shekaniah, appears about this time to have been much mixed up with the Jewish world 274of Sephoris, of the little towns of the neighbourhood. Not only did he converse with the doctors and quote to them pretended words of Jesus, but he practised, like James, the brother of the Lord, spiritual medicine, and pretended to cure the bite of a serpent by the name of Jesus. Rabbi Eliezer was, it is said, persecuted as inclined to Christianity. Rabbi Joshua ben Hanania died preoccupied with the new ideas. Christians repeated to him in every tone that God had turned away from the Jewish nation: “No,” he answered, “His hand is still stretched out over us.” There were conversions in his own family. His nephew Hananiah being come to Caphar-Nahum, “was bewitched by the minim” to such a point that he was seen on an ass on the Sabbath day. When he came to the house of his uncle Joshua, he cured him of the sorcery by means of an ointment, but insisted upon his retirement to Babylon. At another time the Talmudist narrator appears to desire that it shall be believed that amongst Christians infamies existed like those which were laid to the charge of the pretended Nicholas. Rabbi Isaiah of Cæsarea included in the same curse the Judeo-Christians who supported these polemics and the heretical population of Caphar-Nahum, the primary source of all the evil.

In general the minim, especially those of Caphar-Nahum, passed for great magicians, and their successes were attributed to spells and to ocular illusions. We have already seen that until the third century at least Jewish doctors continued to work their cures in the name of Jesus. But the Gospel was cursed: reading it was strictly forbidden; the very name of Gospel gave rise to a play upon words which made it signify “evident iniquity.” A certain Eliza ben Abouyah, surnamed Aher, who professed a species of gnostic Christianity, was for his former co-religonists the type of a perfect apostate. Little by little the Judeo-Christians were placed by the Jews in the same rank 275as the Pagans, and much below the Samaritans. Their bread and their wine were held to be unclean; their means of cure proscribed; their books considered as repertoires of the most dangerous magic. Hence, the Churches of Paul offered to the Jews who wished to be converted a more advantageous position than the Judeo-Christian Churches, exposed as they were on the part of Judaism to all the hatred of which brothers who have quarrelled are capable.

The truth of the apocalyptic image was striking. The woman protected by God, the Church, had truly received two eagles’ wings to fly into the desert far from the crises of the world and from its sanguinary dramas. There she grew in peace, and all that was done against her turned to her. The dangers of her first childhood are passed; her growth is henceforward assured.

END OF THE GOSPELS.

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