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בס"ד

Dias’ Letters.
Letter 15.

(Continued from issue #2.)

XI. The next citation made by St. Matthew is occasioned by Jesus’ speaking in parables, that he might not be understood by the people he spoke to, lest otherwise they should, understand him, and be by that means converted and healed; for though it is pretended, that he came to save, yet as St. John says, they were to have their eyes blinded, and their hearts hardened, “that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart.”* “Therefore (says St. Matthew of Jesus) speak I to them in parables; because, they seeing, see not, and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing, ye shall see, and shall not perceive.”† The prophecy said here to be fulfilled, relates, according to its plain sense and meaning, to the obstinacy of the people in his own time, to those to whom he spoke;‡ consequently it has not the least relation to those who lived in the time of Jesus, and is therefore no literal fulfilling: and indeed it could be no fault of the Jews that they were not converted, being not only blinded and hardened, but spoken to in such a way that it was impossible for them to understand.

*John 12:40. † Matt. 13:13, 14. ‡ Isa. 6:9 to the end.

XII. St. Matthew makes another citation, and says it was fulfilled by Jesus’ speaking in parables: “All these things (says he) spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables, and without a parable spake he not unto them.”

Matt. 13:35.“That is might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. Psalm 78:2,3.“I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.”

You have in different columns the citation, and the place from which it is cited, by which it appears, that nothing is thereby fulfilled, neither has the psalm any thing in it which can be extended or made in anywise applicable to the Messiah, as it concerns things past; besides this, the evangelist has adulterated the text, and qualified, it to his purpose, which, to say no worse, is unfair.

XIII. The next prophecy said by St. Matthew to be fulfilled by Jesus, concerns his entry into Jerusalem: it is also mentioned by the other three evangelists, who refer to the same prophecy cited from Zachariah: “Rejoice really, O daughter of Jerusalem; shout, O daughter of Zion; behold thy King cometh unto thee; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding upon an ass.”* I think it is not of much importance to settle on what sort of a beast it was that Jesus made this his triumphant entry into the capital of his kingdom; you may, if you please, follow St. Matthew, and believe he sat both on the colt and ass; or you may follow Mark and Luke, who say it was on a colt; or, if you please, let it be with St. John, the ass alone. You may also believe this evangelist, when he tells you that the beast was found by Jesus, and not sent for on purpose, as the others pretend. And in respect to the different discourses which are related to have passed between the owner of the beast and those who went for it, you may follow and believe that which you think most probable. Jesus having got the beast, or, as St. Matthew says, the ass and colt, the disciples put their clothes on them, and then set Jesus thereon.

* Zach. 9:9.

To see a king thus mounted, a great concourse of people was gathered; for certainly such a cavalcade must have been worth the seeing: and that it might be alike grand in all things, “A very great multitude spread their garments in the way, others cut down branches of trees, and strewed them in the way; mul­titudes going before, others following, crying, Hosannah!” “All this (says St. Matthew) was done that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Zion, behold thy King cometh unto three,” &c.* “Hereby (as Dr. Echard very justly observes) giving him those honours that were used only in the triumphs of kings and emperors;”† with which Jesus seems not to have been in any great degree transported; for we are assured by the same learned Doctor, that he “did not repair to the palace.”‡ But to give the people a just taste of his power, and to show his authority, he drove out all the buyers and sellers from their places, overthrew the table of the money changers, and the stalls of the dove sellers. Thus he manifested his power, and his subjects their passive obedience; for we do not hear that they made any resistance: and if happiness consists in triumphs, great acclama­tions, and being honoured like kings and emperors, or in the exercise of unlimited power, we may say that Jesus was the greatest temporal monarch upon the earth, for all these he had in the highest degree, though all this exaltation seems entirely inconsistent with the meek, low, and humble disposition which always accompanied his actions, and by which it is said the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: “He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall he make any man hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench;”§ which I think may as well be applied here, as to the place where the evangelist has placed it, and in both places with equal short propriety. Be that as it will, this his greatness was but of very short duration; for it is plain, that this famous cavalcade, and his refusing to silence and disperse the mob, when he was ordered, soon brought him unto his untimely end; for by taking on himself so much power, state, and pomp, and by the encouraging of the mob to proclaim him king,|| it gave the priests and scribes an opportunity to accuse him; for from his behaviour, and the unruliness of the frantic mob, they rightly inferred “that if we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans (hearing that a king was set up) shall come and take away both our place and nation: therefore it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”¶ This seemingly political advice was, it seems, the dictates of the Holy Ghost,** and was spoken by the spirit of prophecy, being suited also to the circumstances which the nation was then in; therefore it was necessary, for the preservation of the whole, to lay hold of this so fair a pretence which Jesus furnished them with on this occasion, and prevent the impending mischief; all which was very natural and consistent: an advice not unworthy to be dictated by God or the Holy Ghost. But to take this speech of Caiphas, as a prophecy, that Jesus ought to be put to death for the nation, in any other sense, is a very great absurdity; for can there be a greater contradiction, than to pretend that for following this advice (which as coming from God must have been good) the whole nation was condemned and doomed to destruction, instead of being saved, for performing that which the Holy Ghost directed? Nothing can be more inconsistent.

* Matt. 21. See also Mark 11., Luke 19., John 12.
† Eccl. Hist. p. 169. ‡ Ibid. p. 107.
§ Matt. 12:19. || Luke 19:37-40.
¶ John 12:48-50 ** John 12:51

Excuse this digression, and let us return. A person’s riding upon an ass, or any other beast, can never be a sure mark of the Messiah; because this would be a circumstance within any pretender’s power to fulfil: did the proof of his character depend upon such a cavalcade, how liable to counterfeits would we be? This then is no prophecy of the Messiah, but of Zerubbabel; and cannot be literally fulfilled in Jesus, since Jesus was no king, neither was his appearance any matter of rejoicing to Jerusalem, but much the contrary, as they pretend; for instead of the promised victory and defence,* war and desolation followed; and the prophecy therefore could not be literally fulfilled in Jesus.

* See the remainder of the 9th chapter of Zachariah.

XIV. The next citation made by St. Matthew, and said by him to be fulfilled, concerns Judas returning the thirty pieces of silver, with which was bought the potter’s field. “Then (says the evangelist) was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.”† It happens somewhat unluckily, that the saying of Jeremy is nowhere to be found, and is therefore invented. Neither is any such saying to be found in all the prophets. In Zachariah, there is a passage concerning thirty pieces of silver given to the prophet as a recompense, which he, by God’s command, returned to the treasurer of the temple.‡ The translators of the New Testament refer to this passage; but this is contrary to the thing intended by the evangelist; for he represents it as a prophecy spoken or foretold, which the passage in Zachariah is not; for there it is presented to us as an act, and not as a thing prophetically spoken of or foretold. Besides, what has the prophet’s receiving thirty pieces of silver for his price, and returning them by God’s command, to do with Judas’ selling or betraying his master, and returning the price of his iniquity in a remorse of conscience? or what has the treasurer’s receiving it for the service of the temple, to do with the chief priest’s refusing to put those returned by Judas in the treasury, and purchasing a field to bury strsngers? In short, there is no such prophecy in the whole Bible, and therefore none can, be said to be fulfilled; besides, it is quoted from Jeremy, where there is no mention made of the whole matter; it is therefore invented.

†Matt. 27:3-10. ‡ Zach. 11:13.

XV. The next citation, and the last contained in St. Matthew’s gospel, and said by him to be fulfilled, is the circumstance of dividing Jesus’ vestments; “That it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots;”§ alluding to one of the Psalms, that which plainly appears, from its contents, to have been composed by David under the utmost affliction and distress;* probably, after he fled from Jerusalem. His expressions are adapted throughout his Psalms to the circumstances he was then in; describing at the same time his trust in God and his prayer to be delivered. Therefore to imagine that on such occasion he prophesied or was foreteling how the Roman soldiers were to divide Jesus’ garments, appears not only very absurd, but quite foreign and trifling, and cannot be made to answer any end at all; for surely none will place the proof of a Messiah on such a circumstance; and the whole having relation to David himself, no part can be by any other circumstance literally fulfilled.

§Matt. 27:35. Ps. 22:18. * 2 Sam. 15:13-17 and 30-32. Ibid 16:5-14.

(To be continued.)