|Vol. IV, No. 1
Nissan 5606, April 1846
Dias’ Letters, Letter 17.
I intend this letter shall contain an examination of another citation made in the Acts; and also a few quotations produced by St. Paul. In the method of applying them, we shall find the insufficiency of proving the things which are thereby intended: not one being made according to the primary sense, and plain literal meaning.
XVII. When it was debated in the first council, whether the gentile converts should receive circumcision, and submit to the law of Moses, a passage is produced by St. James, by which the matter then in debate was decided; for (sayeth he) “To this agree the words of the prophet; as it is written.”
You see how the text is adulterated, and that there is not the least connexion between the prophecy and the application; for it is obvious and plain, that the prophecy promises the re-establishment of the fallen kingdom, as in the days of old; the next verse declares the joy on that occasion, and the return of the captivity of Israel, with the building and inhabiting the waste city, concluding with the following promise:
“I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled out of their land, which I* gave them, saith the Lord their God.† Whenever this is proved to have happened literally in the days of Jesus, it will then work the conviction of the Jews; which no application of text denoting very different matters has over been able to do.
XVIII. It is just in the same manner that St. Paul endeavours to prove the call of the gentiles, when he says, “Even us whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the gentiles, as he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which are not my people, and her beloved, which are not beloved; and it shall come to pass that in the same place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there shall they be called, The children of the living God.”* Here he jumbles together two very different texts, and applies them as spoken of the gentiles, which plainly concern none but the Jews, as is evident from the texts to which please to turn, which are prophetical of very different times than those in which Jesus lived. The plain case is as follows: The prophet being ordered to take a wife of immoral habits, she bare him a son, who was called Jezreel, for reason there given; she then bore a daughter, who was called Lo Ruchamah (i.e., not beloved); she next bore another son, who was called Lo Ammi (i.e., not my people): in the very next verse the prophet himself makes application of these names, for, says he, “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said to them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said to them, Ye are the sons of the living God.” “Then,” continues the prophet, “shall the children of Judah, and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.”† Does all this concern any but the Jews, and their Restoration? can it be applied to any besides them? was any thing like this fulfilled in those times ?
XIX. In the very same epistle St. Paul says, “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth these things shall live by them; but the righteousness which is of faith, speaketh in this wise: Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? that is to bring Christ down from above; or, Who shall descend into the deep? that is to bring up Christ from the dead. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart. That is the word of faith which we preach.”‡ An excellent comment this, truly! who but St. Paul could find that Jesus was here intended by Moses to be brought down from above, and then again from below? or that the works recommended by Moses in the plainest manner, as being in every one’s power to do and perform, meant the faith preached by St. Paul? Now compare St. Paul with Moses; the passage referred to is the following: “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off; it is not in the heaven, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go up for us to heaven and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thine heart, that thou mayest do it.”* If prophecies and passages of Scripture be thus applied, what wonder that it should produce unbelief!
XX. St. Paul, in one of his epistles, says, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made; he saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” By this and such like reasonings, one would think St. Paul intended to convince by gross impositions; how great must the difficulties under which he laboured have been, when, in order to prove his point, he is forced to such shifts, and reduced to prove it by such unnatural interpretation. Who is there that is the least acquainted with the Hebrew language, but could tell St. Paul, and prove that the word in Hebrew is always used to signify many? Was the land of Canaan to be possessed by Christ alone, when the promise was made to Abraham, in his seed? For if “thy seed” be Christ, as St. Paul pretends, then was none else to have a share in it? The false reasoning is too plain to be admitted, and confutes itself.
XXI. The same apostle in another place says, “When he ascended upon high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended, is the same also that ascended up far above all heaven, that he might fill all things.”† Here you have reasoning in a most extraordinary manner: the place referred to is, “Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men.”‡ The Psalmist says he received gifts, St. Paul says he gave gifts. But nothing can qualify the passage to his purpose; for the text speaks of Moses when he ascended Mount Sinai, to receive the law, as is plain and obvious from the context; and there is not the least hint that he descended first into the lower ports of the earth, as St. Paul has it.
XXII. St. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, has the following passage: “For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee?” And again, “I will be unto him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”* The first part is plainly of David, and declares the pre-eminence which God gave him over the other kings of the earth, who had counselled against him, and his victory over them;† the other refers to a passage in Samuel: “I will be his father, and he shall be my son; if he commit iniquity, I will chastise him with the rod of men.”‡ This plainly and literally concerns Solomon, and accordingly excludes any other from being thereby meant. Could Jesus commit iniquity? or could he for his offence be chastised? this surely will never be allowed.
XXIII. In the same epistle St. Paul says, “And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.”§ This refers to a passage in the Psalms, wherein the psalmist, setting forth the glory of God, says, “The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols; worship him all ye angels;” or, if you please, gods, as the word Elohim is translated in the English Bible.|| The worship here recommended is to God; nothing in it concerns the worship of the Messiah, or first begotten, as St. Paul styles him, nor of his being brought into the world.
XXIV. St. Paul says in another epistle: “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things in the church.”¶ This superiority he pretends to prove from the following passage: “Thou madest him to have dominion over the work of thine hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet.”** But this is no prophecy; for the psalmist here speaks of men, and the power given them over the brute creation, as is plain from the verse next following, mentioning: “All sheep, and oxen, yea, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and the fish of the sea;” as also from the context; and therefore it is not applicable to the dominion of Jesus. These instances are, I think, sufficient, and prove beyond contradiction that the application made by the apostles and evangelists, of prophecies and passages of Scripture, are not made according to their plain, obvious, literal meaning, their primary sense being of persons and things, which neither relate to Jesus, nor what passed in his time.
In some of my former letters (particularly my 8th, which please to peruse again) I have shown the insufficiency and absurdity of applying prophecies and passages in a different sense, for which reason I shall not now trouble you with repetitions; but conclude with applying to the evangelists and apostles, what a judicious person observed, viz.: “They argue from types, antitypes, parables, metaphors, allegories, allusions, inferences, patterns, resemblances, figures, and shadows; and by such means can fetch every thing out of any thing.”* It is necessary to complete our inquiry (that nothing, though but seemingly material, escape our examination), to attend to such other arguments and proofs as are made use of, as an addition to the proofs and evidence contained in the New Testament. Indeed, one might be led to imagine that the evangelists and apostles being inspired (as is pretended), must have known, if not of themselves, yet, from the assistance, or rather guidance of the spirit, the prophecies and passages which contained proofs of what they advanced, and one might conclude that they, under the circumstance aforementioned, must have known, and taken in, and mentioned all the material passages which concerned their cause; to suppose that they did not, to me, seems to reflect on the foundation of Christianity, and to strike at their inspiration. It is in some sort accusing them of not making use of the most proper, efficacious, and convincing passages; and is nothing less than giving the preference to their own discoveries, as thinking them superior to those produced by the inspired writers. Whether this be really the case, or whether the evangelists’ and apostles’ reasonings and proofs be not by them deemed convincing, I shall not determine; but my next work shall be to examine some other prophecies, on which the greatest weight is laid, not taken notice of or applied by the writers of the New Testament, which are, notwithstanding, urged to evidence the messiahship of Jesus.