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The relations of these altogether Hebrew Churches of Batanea and of Galilee with the Jews must have been frequent. It is to the Judeo-Christians that an expression frequent in Talmudic traditions, that of minim, corresponding to “heretics,” belongs. The minim are represented as a species of wonder-workers and spiritual doctors, curing the sick by the power of the name of Jesus and by the application of holy oil. It will be remembered that this was one of the precepts of St James. Cures of this sort, as well as exorcisms, were the great means of conversion employed by the disciples of Jesus, especially with regard to the Jews. The Jews appropriated to themselves these marvellous receipts, and until the third century we find the doctors curing in the name of Jesus. No one was astonished. The belief in daily miracles was such that the Talmud ordains the prayer that every one 33must make when “private miracles” happen to him. The best proof that Jesus believed that he could work miracles is, that the members of his family and his most authentic disciples had in some sort the speciality of performing them. It is true that by the same argument we must also believe that Jesus was a strict Jew, which is repugnant to our ideas.

Judaism, besides, included two tendencies which put it into opposite relations with regard to Christianity. The Law and the Prophets continued always the two poles of the Jewish people. The Law gave occasion to that bizarre scholasticism which was called the halaka, out of which the Talmud sprang. The prophets, the psalms, the poetic books inspired an ardent, popular preaching, brilliant dreams, unlimited hopes; what was called the agada, a word which embraces at once passionate fables like that of Judith and the apocryphal apocalypses which agitated the people. Just as the casuists of Jabneh showed themselves contemptuous of the disciples of Jesus, so the agadists sympathised with them. The agadists, in common with the Christians, had a dislike for the Pharisees, a taste for Messianic explanations of the prophetic books, an arbitrary exegesis which recalls the fashion in which the preachers of the Middle Ages played with texts, a belief in the approaching reign of a descendant of David. Like the Christians, the agadists sought to connect the genealogy of the patriarchal family with that of the old dynasty. Like them, they sought to diminish the burden of the Law. Their system of allegorical interpretation which transformed a code of laws into a book of moral precepts was the avowed abandonment of doctrinal rigorism. On the other hand, the halakists treated the agadists (and Christians were agadists in their eyes) as frivolous people, strangers to the only serious study, which was that of the Thora. Talmudism and Christianity became in this way the two antipodes of the moral world, and 34the hatred between them grew from day to day. The disgust which the subtle researches of the casuists of Jabneh inspired in the minds of the Christians, is written in the Gospels in letters of fire.

The inconvenience of the Talmudic studies was the confidence which they gave and the disdain which they inspired for the profane. “I thank Thee, O Eternal God!” said the student, on coming out of the house of study, “for that by Thy grace I have frequented the school instead of doing as those do who visit the market place. I rose up like them, but it was for the study of the law, and not from frivolous motives. I labour like them, but I shall be rewarded. We both run, but I for life eternal, whilst they can but fall into the pit of destruction.” This it was which wounded Jesus and the authors of the Gospels so deeply; this which inspired those beautiful sentences, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” those parables wherein the man who is simple but pure of heart is preferred to the haughty Pharisee. Like St Paul, they saw in the casuists only people who sought to damn the greater part of the world by exaggerating obligations beyond the strength of man. Judaism, having at its basis the fact which was taken for granted that man is treated here below according to his merits, set itself to judge without ceasing, since the justice of God’s ways could be proved only under that condition. Pharisaism has its profoundest roots in the theories of the friends of Job and of certain Psalmists. Jesus, by postponing the application of the justice of God to the future, rendered those criticisms of the conduct of others futile. The Kingdom of Heaven would set all things straight: God sleeps until then; but commit yourselves to him. Out of horror of hypocrisy Christianity arrived at even the paradox of preferring a world openly wicked but susceptible of conversion to a bourgeoisie which made a parade of its apparent honesty. Many features of the legend, 35conceived or developed under the influence of Jesus, arose out of this idea.

Between people of the same race, partakers of the same exile, admitting the same divine revelations and differing only upon a single point of recent history, controversy was inevitable. Sufficiently numerous traces of it are found in the Talmud and in the writings connected with it. The most celebrated doctor whose name appears mixed up in these disputes, is Rabbi Tarphon. Before the siege of Jerusalem he had filled various sacerdotal offices. He loved to recall his memories of the Temple, particularly how he had assisted upon the platform of the priests at the solemn service of the Day of Atonement. The Pontiff had for that day permission to pronounce the ineffable name of the Most High. Tarphon tells how, notwithstanding his efforts, he was unable to hear it, the song of the other officiants having drowned the priest’s voice.

After the destruction of the Holy City he was one of the glories of the schools of Jabneh and Lydda. To subtlety he joined what was better—charity. In a year of famine it is said that he married three hundred women so that they might, thanks to their title of future spouses of a priest, have the right to share in the sacred offerings. Naturally, the famine having passed over, nothing more was heard of his espousals. Many sentences of Tarphon recall the Gospel. “The day is short, the work is long; the workmen are idle, the reward is great, the master urges on.” “In our time,” he adds, “when one says to another, ‘Take the straw out of thine eye,’ the answer is, ‘Take the beam out of thine own.’” The Gospel places such a reply in the mouth of Jesus reprimanding the Pharisees, and one is tempted to believe that the ill temper of Rabbi Tarphon came from a response of the same kind which had been made to him by some min. The name of Tarphon, in short, was celebrated in the Church. In 36the second century Justin, wishing in a dialogue to depict a dispute between a Jew and a Christian, chose our Doctor as the defender of the Jewish thesis, and brought him upon the stage under the name of Tryphon.

The choice of Justin and the malevolent tone in which he makes this Tryphon speak of the Christian faith, are justified by what we read in the Talmud of the sentiments of Tarphon. This Rabbi knew the Gospels and the books of the minim; but, far from admiring them, he wished them to be burned. It was pointed out to him that the name of God constantly appeared in them. “I would rather lose my son,” said he, “than that he should not cast these books into the fire, even though they contain the name of God. A man pursued by a murderer, or threatened with the bite of a serpent, had better seek shelter in an idolatrous Temple than in one of the houses of the minim, for these know the truth and deny it, whilst idolators deny God because they do not know him.”

If a man relatively moderate like Tarphon could allow himself to be so far carried away, we can imagine how ardent and passionate must have been this hatred in the world of the synagogues, where the fanaticism of the Law was carried to its extremest limit. Orthodox Judaism could not curse the minim with sufficient bitterness. The use of a triple malediction against the partisans of Jesus comprised under the name of Nazarenes was early established, it being said in the synagogue at morning, at mid-day and at evening. This malediction was introduced into the principal prayer of Judaism, the amida or schemoné-esré. The amida is composed first of eighteen benedictions, or rather of eighteen paragraphs. About the time of which we speak, an imprecation in these terms was intercalated between the eleventh and twelfth paragraphs:—

“For the treacherous, no hope! For the malevolent destruction! 37Let the power of the proud be weakened, broken down, crushed, humiliated, now in these our days. Praised be Thou, O Eternal God who crushest thine enemies and bringest the haughty to the dust”

It is supposed, not without a show of reason, that the enemies of Israel pointed at in this prayer were originally the Judeo-Christians, and that this was a sort of shibboleth to turn the partisans of Jesus out of the synagogues. Conversions of Jews to Christianity were not rare in Syria. The fidelity of the Christians of this country to Mosaic observances afforded great facilities for this kind of thing. Whilst the uncircumcised disciples of St Paul could have no relations with a Jew, the Judeo-Christian might enter the synagogues, approach the teba and the reading-desk where the officials and the preachers presided, and might select the texts which favoured their views. In this way great precautions were taken. The most efficacious, was to compel everyone who wished to pray in the synagogue to recite a prayer which, pronounced by a Christian, would have been a curse upon himself.

To sum up—notwithstanding its appearance of narrowness, this Nazareo-Ebionite Church of Batanea had something mystical and holy about it which is exceedingly striking. The simplicity of the Jewish conceptions of the Divinity preserved it from mythology and from metaphysics, into which Western Christendom was not slow to plunge. Its persistence in maintaining the sublime paradox of Jesus, the nobility and the happiness of poverty was touching in its way. There, perhaps, lay the great truth of Christianity, that by which it has succeeded and by which it will survive. In one sense all of us, such as we are—students, artists, priests, doers of disinterested deeds—have the right to call ourselves Ebionim. The friend of the true, the beautiful, and the good, never admits that he calls for a reward. The things of the soul are beyond price; to the student who illuminates 38them, to the priest who moralises on them, to the poet and the artist who shed a charm over them, humanity will never give more than alms—alms wholly out of proportion to what she has received. He who sells the ideal and believes himself paid for what he delivers, is very humble. The proud Ebionite who thinks that the kingdom of Heaven is his, sees that the part which falls to his lot here below is not a salary but the obolus which is dropped into the hand of a beggar.

The Nazarenes of Batanea had thus an inestimable privilege. They held the veritable tradition of the words of Jesus; the Gospel came forth from their midst. Thus those who knew directly the Church beyond the Jordan, such as Hegisippus and Julius Africanus, spoke of it with the greatest admiration. There, principally, it appeared to them, was the true ideal of Christianity to be found; in that Church hidden in the desert, in a profound peace under the wing of God, it appeared to them like a virgin of an absolute purity. The bonds of these scattered communities with Catholicism were broken little by little. Justin hesitates on their account, he knows little of the Judeo-Christian Church; but he knows that it exists, he speaks of it with consideration; at all events he does not break away from communion with it. It is Irenæus who begins the series of these declamations, repeated after him by all the Greek and Latin Fathers, and upon which St Epiphanius puts the topstone by the species of rage which the very names of Nazarene and Ebionite excite in him. It is a law of this world that every originator, every founder, shall speedily become a stranger, then one excommunicated, then an enemy in his own school, and that if he obstinately persists in living, those who go out from him are obliged to take measures against him as against a dangerous man.

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