|Volume VIII. No. 9
Kislev 5611 December 1850
The Difference Between Judaism and Christianity.
By the Rev. Dr. W. Schlessinger
Mr. Miller says (p. 22): “As the God of Israel is eternally and necessarily one, either Christ must be the God of Israel, or he is another God!” Mr. Miller seems not to have thought of a third case, which is, that Christ was nothing more nor less than a man. Mr. Miller also displays, in quite a naïve manner, on the same page, his ill-humour against Maimonides. This sharp-witted thinker, this victorious hero in the field of faith and of the sciences, must necessarily be a thorn in the eye of every Jew-converter. The doctrine that God has no material form, and that it is sinful to ascribe to Him any corporeal qualities, is not in good sooth an invention of Maimonides, but was from the beginning a fundamental principle of Judaism. But it is only to combat reason, and to carry folly to an extreme point, in Mr. Miller, when he attempts to make us believe that we Jews are idolaters, because we do not believe in the divinity of the crucified, as in a general sense of the word we reject the possibility of God having during a period of thirty-three years walked on earth in the shape of a man.
Whoever is no stranger in the domain of mathematics, and has but the least acquaintance with logical argumentation, will agree with us in maintaining that if, according to the Christian dogma, Christ was the second person in the deity, when farther, according to the same doctrine, the second person in the Godhead is in reality but one being with the first person, Christ must necessarily have also been identically the same as the first person of the deity and consequently God himself—the Father—must have been manifested in the body in the person of Jesus. It is therefore no subject of debate for a thinking Jew, whether God, as Maimonides, in quality of a true disciple of Moses, teaches us to regard Him, is a creature of <<460>>metaphysics, of the imagination, or of scientific pride, or the rather, whether the god of Mr. Miller is a phantom of the brain, an uncertain something, or the spurious offspring of a false philosophy.
Mr. Miller may twist and turn and strive, as he will, he cannot remove out of himself the inherent ideas borrowed from paganism: for him there exists no God if he has not revealed himself in human shape. Whoever worships a god in Christ must first create for himself his god, and take due pains to come to an understanding with the idea thus created for himself. The Israelite, on the contrary, worships an almighty, eternal, invisible Being, who called by his mere word all the worlds into existence; whose word however is no more god himself, than either time, space , or world is invested with the attributes of godhead.
According to the doctrine of Holy Writ, no eye of man, not even that of Moses, has ever beheld God; whereas it is perfectly possible for men to hear clearly and distinctly the voice of God, which is nevertheless not God himself, and receive thus a distinct impression of God’s word, and God’s will; provided only they do not lose, or have not lost through prejudices, through yielding to passions, through evil habits, through sinning, the delicate susceptibility which is capable of being impressed by the voice of God. This doctrine is no product of intolerable assumption of a human philosophy, but rests for support upon a plain declaration of Scripture, the authority of which Mr. Miller does not seem to recognise.
We read in Exodus xxxiii. 20: “He (God) said Thou canst not see my face for no man can see me when he is alive.” From this we must draw the natural deduction that the sensual eye never sees God, whilst at the same time men are permitted to say that their mental eye, their spiritual vision, beholds God.
We have neither pleasure nor the will to follow Mr. Miller step by step, to expound all the Bible passages which he has quoted. It is enough for us to maintain that wherever the appearing of God is spoken of, it can mean nothing else than that the various persons so favoured came to the conviction through surprising, unusual, and wonderful occurrences, that the all-superintending Providence observed and protected them and <<461>>directed their affairs. Any observation under such circumstances made by the outward organs of sight made on such an impression on them that they at once beheld the Deity with their spiritual eye.
Respecting the holy quadriliteral name of God we have already given our view in the April number of this year’s Occident, page 30, that although this name, properly speaking, belongs only to the Supreme Being, it is demonstrable from many Bible passages, that it is applied to angels and even to other beings. The Bible likes to express itself in human phrases, and has therefore occasionally transferred the name of the Sender on the messenger whom He has deputed. At the same time, the Scriptures are to a surety not responsible for the folly that some men should have taken advantage of this circumstance to hold angels as identical with God or for a second person in the Godhead.
The Lord makes winds his angels, flaming fire his servants executing in given time and space some definite purpose of the divine will. Angels are for us a reflection merely of God’s almighty power; but it would be nothing else than pure idolatry to pay them adoration as divinities, to pray to them, not to mention to identify them with God. Taking this into consideration the whole structure of arguments made use of by Mr. Miller, and which are to demonstrate that the angel (messenger of God) is God himself and that God revealed or manifested himself in the second person, falls to the ground, and is dissolved into its inherent nothingness.
Mr. Miller talks a great deal about the angels that appeared to Hagar, Abraham, Jacob and to Moses at the burning bush, as also concerning the one of whom mention is made in Judges ii. 1-3; but all this has not the smallest argumentative power, and cannot cause us to doubt, for one moment even, of the correctness of our conviction. Whoever does not believe in advance in the divinity of Christ cannot to certainty be induced by these innocent angels to deny the unity of God. But we will give one striking proof from Exodus xxxiii. 1-4, in case there be yet one to be found who has need to be convinced that angels are not identical with God. “The Lord said to Moses, Depart, go up from here, thou and the people whom thou host brought up out of the land of <<462>>Egypt unto the land which I swore unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it; and I will send an angel before thee, &c., unto a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in the midst of thee, because thou art a stiff-necked people, lest I consume thee on the way. And when the people heard these bad tidings, they mourned, and no man put his ornaments upon him.”
The people evidently mourned; and this announcement is called “bad tidings,” because God would not go up in his immediate presence with them, after they had worshipped the golden calf, but only promised to send an angel with them. If now this angel had been the second person of the deity, and consequently identical with God himself, what cause would there have been for mourning? Nevertheless this angel is the very same who, so to say, forms both the key and corner stone in Mr. Miller’s argument on page 36.
Mr. Miller loves to address to us a multitude of questions; and on several pages of his pamphlet you can discover a whole troop of signs of interrogation. We therefore take the liberty to put to him the following questions.—Admitting that his proofs are of any value, how does it happen that not a trace of them is to be found in the New Testament? The verses of the Holy Scriptures cited by the apostles have evidently so little weight to turn the balance in favour of the divinity of Christ, that these gentlemen ought to have embraced with joy the proofs which Mr. Miller now presents to us. If the authors of the Scriptures actually believed in the second person of the Deity, why did they not express this in explicit and unambiguous terms? A point on which, according to the fancy of Mr. Miller, the salvation of mankind depends ought not to have been permitted to rest so long in obscurity.
Why did not Isaiah especially, who, as the Christians love to persuade themselves, is said to have known more of the divinity of Christ than any other man, not drop the smallest word to tell us that there exist several persons in the Godhead? And why, at last, did not the Governor and Ruler of the universe, when He revealed to His people Israel from the summit of Sinai the ten commandments of eternal life, communicate to them the slightest announcement of his second person? Can it be supposed that it was less important for them to know <<463>>this, than that they should make to themselves no idol, nor form of any thing? And still, Mr. Miller avers, whoever does not believe in a second person worships merely an idol of his imagination.
It is our opinion that whoever reflects on these questions with due earnestness, with sincerity, without bias, with reverence for God, and with love for God, cannot avoid to confess to himself at length, that it cannot be otherwise but that Moses and the prophets have known something of the messengers of God, but nothing of a diversity of persons in the Godhead; and that, had the doctrine of the trinity been already in vogue and power in those times, these men of God would have condemned it, and laboured against it with the same zeal as against any other pagan doctrine.
It is, however, as clear as the sunlight, and it stands as firm as the firmament, that Moses and the prophets knew and taught nothing of a trinity, but inculcated a pure monotheism, as we read (Deut. vi. 4): “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the Lord one.”* It is accordingly subject to no doubt whatever that to the person who for the first time appeared with this doctrine among Israel and endeavoured to obtain adherents for the same, is applicable what is prescribed for us in Deuteronomy xiii. 2-6 : “If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams and he give thee a sign, or a token, and the sign or the token come to pass whereof he spoke unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou dost not know, and let us serve them: then shalt thou not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dream; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye indeed love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
In page 50, Mr. Miller presents us Jesus of Nazareth as the messenger of God and the true Messiah of Israel, and bestows upon him extravagant praise, placing him in rank far above Abraham and Moses. But all this is nothing new, and it has been placed before us millions of times ere this, and we have been again and again asked to accept of the same. The few new doctrines which emanate from Jesus have nothing attractive and enticing for us, as we have already explained above. Jesus himself cannot serve as an example for our imitation, and, according to our view, it is a grievous sin to draw any parallel whatever between him and Moses.*
Where, tell us, are the merits which Jesus acquired for himself as legislator for mankind? In addition to his labours for all the world, Moses was the meekest, the most modest, of men, desiring not the least honour for himself whereas Jesus must have been filled with the most frightful pride, and the most unpardonable and sinful assumption, if it be true what his apostles relate of him that he considered himself as the second person in the Godhead, and one and the same with God. It must however be considered that had Christ been actually that which his apostles allege him to have been, it would have been easier for him—a god—than Moses to acquire for himself the belief and confidence of the whole people of Israel. How can we then put the least credence in the miracles which are related of him, when he failed in the greatest of all miracles, universal acceptability, in which Moses so eminently succeeded?