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<&fo Jewish <f tmriei% |tetim 



OCTOBER, 1890. 

THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION IN 
THE OLD TESTAMENT, THE NEW TESTA- 
MENT, AND THE RABBINICAL LITERATURE. 

I. The Old Testament. 

Rightly to understand the drift of the following notes, it 
should be realised in limine, first, that throughout the Old 
Testament Divine retribution belongs to Time and not to 
Eternity. It is brought about by direct intervention in 
the affairs of this world. It takes the form of what are 
known as "judgments," — judgments on the nation and 
judgments on the individual in the form of national or 
personal calamities. Secondly, in harmony with the tra- 
ditional solidarity of the national and family life, there 
was a universally-accepted theory of joint and several 
responsibility for sin, and these retributive judgments 
might fall upon the subject for the sin of the king, on the 
son for the sin of the father, on the nation for the sin of 
the individual. 

So long as the collectivism of Israel was absolutely un- 
questioned this theory was unassailed. But with the first 
glimmerings of individualism and the first seeking after 
abstract ideals, situations necessarily arose which put the 
old theory in sharp conflict with elementary notions of 
justice. Then follows a long series of attempts to reconcile 
the time-honoured view with the growing conception of true 
and Divine justice, a period of ingenious compromises and 
some casuistry, of alternate fitful advances towards higher 
ideals and of retrogression towards the earlier position. 

VOL. III. A 



2 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

A belief in a God who punishes and rewards is not 
wanting in the oldest portions of the Hebrew Scriptures ; 
such a belief implies that the conception of Deity has 
already been partially moralized, and that God has acquired 
ethical attributes, though, possibly, not yet an ethical 
character. 1 For punishment and reward are not equiva- 
lent to anger and favour; they are dealt out upon 
principles, which, though frequently crude and arbitrary 
in their earliest applications, are capable of moral develop- 
ment and purification. 

Let us note some of the characteristics of the earlier 
methods of Divine retribution in the Old Testament, and 
then see how far the principles which underlie them were 
retained or modified in later ages. 

(1.) The God of antiquity, more especially of Semitic 
antiquity, is the God of the tribe or nation, not of the 
individual. To this rule Yahveh is no exception. He is 
the upholder of the social order, and the avenger of 
outraged public sentiment. The prosperity of the people 
as a whole, not that of its separate units, occupies his 
concern. Thus upon solemn occasions, when important 
maxims of social morality have been impudently violated, 
God is supposed to interfere, and society discerns in any 
misfortune, which ultimately befalls the wrongdoer or his 
family, the avenging agency of Supernatural Power 
(Judges ix. 24, 56, 57). 2 Hence, too, it is that the nascent 
religious consciousness is not alarmed by the distress of the 
righteous or the prosperity of the wicked. A lack of 
individualism excludes such puzzles. 

(2.) In pre-prophetic times, Yahveh does not exclusively, 
or even mainly, avenge the violation of public morality ; he 
is also greatly concerned to punish offences against himself. 
Such offences he deals with in a summary manner, and his 
retribution passes into his wrath. For though the post- 
exilic Psalmist can say, "As a father pities his children, 

1 Kuenen, Hibbert Lectures, E.T., p. 115. 

2 Cp. also 2 Sam. xxi. 1 ; xii. 14 (see Q. P. B.) ; Gen. iv. 10 ; xviii. 20, 21. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 3 

so Yahveh pities them that fear him," this does not 
accurately represent the antique conception of Yahveh. 
To the Psalmist's ancestors Yahveh was a God who 
punished any insult to himself with extreme severity. 1 

(3.) As the God of the tribe, Yahveh champions Israel to 
victory against its foes. The purity of the retributive 
action of God is qualified by his favouritism. In the song 
of Deborah the righteous deeds of Yahveh seem equivalent 
to Israel's victories over its enemies (Judges v. 11). 

(4.) The identification in responsibility of the indi- 
vidual with his family, both present and to come, or with 
his race, leads to strange consequences in the doctrine 
of retribution. It is quite natural that God should 
visit the virtues and the vices of the fathers upon the 
children. The mercy of God is shown in allowing good- 
ness to transmit its influence further than sin. To the 
third and fourth generation, according to the Second 
Commandment, is the crime of the sinner brought home to 
his descendants ; to the thousandth generation the virtue 
of the good. It is not the mark of God's injustice, but of 
his longsuffering mercy, if the punishment of a sinner is 
deferred till after his death, and allowed to fall upon his 
son. It is not unjust that the religious crime of an 
individual should be visited upon the entire community, 
still less that the virtues and vices of a monarch should be 
reflected in the prosperity or the affliction of his subjects. 2 

(5.) The methods of divine retribution in antiquity are 
purely material. Reward and punishment are limited to 
the earthly life, the former consisting in the long enjoyment 
of earth's good things, the latter, in the want of them and in 
a premature death. 

1 Cp. 1 Sam. vi. 19 ; 2 Sam. vi. 7 ; 2 Sam. xxiv. 1 ; per contra, 
2 Sam. vi. 11. 

2 Gen. xii. 17, xx. 18 ; Ex. xx. 5, xii. 29 ; Lev. xx. 5 ; Joshua vii. 11 : 
xxii. 17-20; 1 Sam. iii. 13; 1 Kings xxi. 29, xi. 12; 2 Sam. xxi. 1. 
A number of other instances are collected by Gunning in his interesting 
essay, De goddelijke vergelding, hoofdzakelijk volgens Exod. xx. 5 en. 
Ezech. xviii. 20 (1881). The Greek parallels are very interesting. See 
Schmidt, Die Ethik der Alten Griechen, vol. i., chap. 1. 

A 2 



4 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

It does not lie within the province of the eighth century- 
Prophets to deal specifically with all these peculiarities. The 
question of individualism, for instance, is not yet raised. 
They foretell collective punishment for collective guilt, or 
appeal to the nation as a whole to repent of its iniquities. 
Yet Amos draws a distinction between the rich oppressors 
and the suffering poor, though he does not explain how far 
the latter would escape from the catastrophe which is 
approaching. A characteristic doctrine of Isaiah is that of 
the Remnant, who are to be spared in the judgment, and to 
form the nucleus of the new or Messianic Israel. He seems 
to attribute to the judgment process a cleansing and sifting 
character. When the storm has passed, those who have 
been spared will turn wholly to God (x. 20, 21 ; iv. 3, 4). 
But elsewhere, it is said to be the "humble" and the 
" needy " (E^?, B^S^, semi-ethical terms already), who 
will be spared (xxix. 19). 

It is Ezekiel who first prominently discusses the religious 
difficulties of social solidarity. There are (see Postscript) 
traces of individualism before his time, but he is the first to 
offer a theoretic solution of the problem. 

To the old view that the teeth of the children are 
necessarily, and without injustice, set on edge by the sour 
grapes which the fathers have eaten, he opposes a marked 
and exaggerated individualism. " The soul that sins.it (alone) 
shall die." The idea of vengeance is abandoned. " I have 
no pleasure in the death of the wicked." This is the 
teaching of Ezekiel, and the death he refers to is not death 
in the ordinary course of nature, but the death of "the 
Judgment." In these Judgments, only the sinner shall fall. 
This teaching was intended to meet immediate contemporary 
need. The exiled Jews imagined that they were suffering 
for their fathers' sins, from the consequences of which it 
was impossible to escape. They seem to have believed 
that the wrath of God weighed heavily upon the whole 
house of Israel, and to have looked forward to further 
exhibitions of God's judgment till the whole nation should 
be utterly consumed away. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 5 

Ezekiel had himself preached against the exiles, and 
threatened them with punishment. He is, therefore, at 
pains to point out that this punishment shall only overtake 
the guilty, while those who, at the moment of the judg- 
ment, are acting virtuously shall preserve their souls alive. 
His doctrine is mechanical, but laid the foundation for 
further developments. In the post-exilic literature this 
theory of individual retribution is emphasized, and leads 
to peculiar difficulties of its own. For if the misfortunes of 
a nation may be set down to national wrongdoing, it is 
much more dangerous to apply the same principle to the 
individual. The ground is laid for the antinomies that 
perplexed the authors of Job and Ecclesiastes. 

The wicked do not always suffer ; the righteous are 
not always prosperous. How does this agree with Divine 
justice ? 

As regards the prosperity of the wicked, it is occasionally 
suggested that through the solidarity of society, evil doers 
may be sometimes spared by the very existence of their 
righteous neighbours. Thus, even in a pre-exilic story, ten 
righteous men would have sufficed to ward off the merited 
punishment from Sodom, and in Jonah the ignorant children 
and the very cattle are put forward as a good and sufficient 
reason why God should not destroy a city (wicked though 
it was) of the heathen world. But the teaching of Jonah 
is exceptional, and even so spiritual a mind as the author 
of Psalm lxxiii. can only account for the prosperity of the 
wicked on the assumption that sudden and overwhelming 
calamity awaits them before their death. 

The misfortunes of the righteous, when disconnected 
from the experiences of the nation, are either regarded as 
inexplicable, or it is supposed that God has sent such 
sufferings as a trial and a discipline. This educational 
view of suffering is not much earlier than the Exile. It is 
already indicated in 2 Sam. vii. 14, and taught more fully 
in Psalms cxix. 67, 71, xciv. 12, 13 ; Proverbs iii. 11, 12 ; 
Job v. 17, xxxiii. 19. 

Midway between the individual and the nation is the 



6 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

unique picture of the suffering Servant, with its unique 
explanation of suffering as undergone consciously and of 
set purpose because of the sins and for the well-being of 
others. Such a sufferer was Jeremiah ; yet the idea that 
" by his stripes " his people would be healed seems never to 
have occurred to him. His absolute fidelity to his vocation 
and his God rests upon the plain conviction that such was 
his duty, such the will of the Divine Power which he 
could not choose but obey. That central idea, which the 
great unknown Prophet of the Exile conceived, of the 
intercession and suffering of the Servant, which could trans- 
figure human suffering into something akin to joy, was not 
adopted by any subsequent writer in the Hebrew canon. 1 

But the religious thought and imagination even of the 
post-exilic period were more often connected and concerned 
with the nation than with the individual. The tendency 
of the age was to ascribe the national condition to the 
direct intervention of God. The history of Israel is a holy 
history, in which God interferes directly. Thus its past 
shaped itself to the minds of pious Jews as one constant 
example of Divine retribution. The scheme of the Book of 
Judges shows this tendency clearly in its well-known 
rhythmic repetition of sin, punishment, contrition, and 
deliverance. In Chronicles every adversity that befalls the 
nation is ascribed to some particular sin. The priestly or 
Levitical author of this book almost invariably represents 
this sin as a deflection from the proper worship of Yahveh. 
In this respect he outdoes the Deuteronomistic redactor of the 
books of Samuel and Kings. And if the parallel accounts 
of Kings and Chronicles are compared, it will be seen that 
the latter brings in the theory of divine retribution to 
account for the facts, or modifies the facts to suit the 
theory, far more frequently than is the case in Kings. 
Most curious is his explanation of the calamities which 
befell Hezekiah and Josiah. The death of Josiah had been 



1 That the righteous may have to suffer for the wicked unwillingly is 
suggested 2 Mace. vi. 12. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 7 

an awful blow to pious believers ; the Chronicler, however, 
attempts to account for it upon the usual principle. It is just 
possible that the words attributed to Necho may have some 
historical foundation. But purely the Chronicler's inven- 
tion must be Necho 's ascription of his warning to the 
command of God (2 Ch. xxxv. 21, 22 ; xxxii. 25, etc., etc.). 
Thus in Josiah's case, as in all others, the Chronicler insists 
upon the truth of the old position : no suffering without 
sin. This theory might be accepted without much em- 
barrassment as regards the past, but present national 
calamity was often a puzzle to the community which as a 
whole, and contrasted with the heathen world, obeyed the 
Law. And this difficulty led both to a recrudescence of 
earlier ideas, and to a new development. 

In the old preprophetic days God's retributive dealing 
with Israel was, as stated above, limited by his favouritism. 
But since the famous dictum of Amos, " You only have I 
known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I 
punish you for all your iniquities," the idea of mere 
favouritism, without a moral motive, as accounting for the 
Divine protection of Israel, had been abandoned. On the 
other hand, religious particularism was never keener than in 
the post-exilic period. But the favour of God was justified, 
for Israel was regarded as more righteous than the nations 
of the world. The national foes are identified with the 
enemies of God ; with them God deals not upon any principle 
of retributive justice, but with that measureless violence 
which characterizes his action in any insult offered to himself. 
If, then, Israel's foes are more prosperous than Israel, this 
cannot be because they are more righteous ; the chastise- 
ment of Israel must be a blessing in disguise. 

This disciplinarian interpretation of Israel's sufferings 
passes in some of the Apocryphal books into the theory 
that God's method of dealing with erring Israel 
has always been educational. As a father, God has 
admonished and tried the Israelites; the nations, as 
a severe king, he has punished and condemned. In 
a notable passage in the second book of the Maccabees 



8 The Jewish Quarterly Bevieiv. 

the punishment of the Israelites is contrasted with the 
forbearance shown to the heathen nations. " Tt is a token 
of God's great goodness, when wicked doers are not suffered 
any long time, but forthwith punished. And not as with 
other nations, whom the Lord patiently forbears to punish, 
till they be come to the fulness of their sins, so dealeth he 
with us, lest that, being come to the height of sin, after- 
wards he should take vengeance upon us." (2 Mace. vi. 
13-15.) The author of the Wisdom of Solomon, who also 
adopts this particularist perversion of the doctrine, and does 
not even hesitate to ascribe the method of the lex talionis to 
God 1 (xi. 16), was happily inconsistent enough to further 
develope the educational theory of suffering by connecting 
it with repentance. God chastens offenders " by little and 
little," and even "winks at" some of their sins that they may 
amend their ways, and return to God (xi. 23, xii. 2. Cp. 
also xi. 10, xii. 22 ; 2 Maccabees vii. 33 ; Judith viii. 27). 

The indefinite postponement of the Messianic age upon 
the return from Babylon caused a powerful recrudescence 
of the idea that the former sins of the nation are still being 
visited upon a comparatively guiltless generation. Men 
call themselves sinners because of their fathers' iniquities, 
and confess sins which are not their own, but their 
ancestors' (Daniel ix. 5, 16, 20 ; Tobit iii. 3 ; Baruch 
iii. 5-8). And, while one noble outburst in a Maccabean 
psalm expresses the avowed conviction that it was for 
God's sake that martyrdom had befallen the faithful 
(Ps. xliv. 22), many more were content to find resignation 
in the mournful assumption of unknown secret sins, or in 
the higher view of the universal sinfulness and frailty of 
the human creature (Ps. cxix. 67, xix. 13, xc. 9 ; Baruch 
ii. 8, 12; 2 Mace. vii. 32). 

Thus the post-exilic period, so far as it is represented by 
the Old Testament and the older Apocryphal books, still 
maintains the doctrine of Divine retribution, and upon the 
whole still upholds the theory that suffering and mis- 

1 The writer of Wisdom has his better moments (xi. 23, xii. 2, 8, 10). 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 9 

fortune imply preceding sin. But it is only in the priestly 
elements of the Pentateuch and in the books of Chronicles 
that remnants of the old notion of violent and fatal retri- 
bution following upon the violation of God's holiness still 
survive (Ex. xxviii. 35, 43 ; Lev. x. 2-7, xvi. 2 ; Num. i. 
53, iv. 26, viii. 19, xvi. 46, xvii. 12 ; 1 Ch. xv. 13 ; 2 Ch. 
xxvi. 19). Elsewhere, so far as Israel is concerned, this 
semi-physical reaction of offended Deity is quite overcome- 
In God's dealings with Israel the doctrine of measure-for- 
measure retribution is abandoned. He does not deal with 
us after our sins; he does not reward us after our iniquities. 
The theory of Divine retribution in general was, however, 
never given up, whether for the community or the indivi- 
dual. Indeed, the desire to explain all the details of life's 
phenomena by a religious teleology seems to have greatly 
increased in the post-exilic period, and for many centuries 
no teacher arose to declare that "God makes his sun to rise 
upon the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and 
the unjust." An absence of general belief in a compensa- 
tory future life (till well on in the Maccabean period) 
tended to strengthen the doctrine of retribution. The 
native Hebrew character was also likely to confirm the 
hold which it possessed over men's minds. The Hebrew is 
little touched by the spirit of asceticism, and the only kind 
of idealism congenial to him is the idealism of religion. 
That is why he tends to become markedly material when 
religion slips from his grasp. And that is also why the 
doctrine of retribution appears so often in a rather gross 
external form. For the ordinary, external joys of life have 
always seemed to him very real and precious; far more real 
and far more precious must they have been at a time when 
the belief in a future life, of which the joy is more naturally 
conceived as spiritual, is wholly wanting. 

But even before the doctrine of a future world had 
become part of the general religious consciousness among 
the Jews, the reward of the righteous was not always con- 
ceived as limited to the material. The Psalter — the highest 
monument of post-exilic piety — is filled from end to end 



10 The Jewish Quarterly Revieic. 

with the higher joys of religion, and its noblest passages 
dwell with fervour upon the bliss of spiritual communion 
with God. In the Book of Proverbs the wisdom to which 
the sage exhorts his disciple is supposed to bestow upon 
her lover something higher than riches, honour or length 
of days. It is commonly supposed that a religious law 
must depend for its sanction upon outward rewards. 
Thus we find Professor Kuenen saying, "Eudsemonism and 
legalism are inseparable. So long as religion is believed to 
lie in the execution of legal injunctions, its reward will be 
conceived as an outward blessing, attached by God himself 
to the due performance of these precepts, and it will be 
valued mainly as a means to the attainment of this 
reward." 1 Now, it is true that Deuteronomy lays enormous 
stress upon the eudsemonist motive. Over and over again 
it promises external blessings as a reward for obedience to 
the law of God. But that we must not draw too general a 
deduction from this would seem clear when we remember, 
on the one hand, that eudasmonism as a moral motive is not 
wholly absent even from the prophets ; and, secondly, that 
the priestly legislation curiously differs from Deuteronomy 
in this respect. The " legal " Ezekiel, while not ignoring 
"outward blessings," has a higher inducement to offer as well 
— the presence of God within the community (xxxvii. 27, 
xlviii. 35). The author of Lev. xxvi. also combines this 
double motive (Lev. xxvi. 4-12). In the Priestercodex itself 
the appeal to "outward blessings" seems to be wanting alto- 
gether ; the higher motive of Ezekiel and Lev. xxvi. alone 
remaining (Ex. xxix. 45). The priestly legislators do not 
seem inclined to make concessions to the lower instincts of 
the people. They are to set the ideal of holiness continually 
and of fixed purpose before their minds, and they are not 
to seek after the pleasure of their own eyes. Thus the 
true means through which the later Judaism effectually 
triumphed over the externality of the doctrine " virtue is 

1 Schetsen uit de G-eschiedenis van Israel. X. De Dood van Josia 
Nieuw en Oud, 18G6, p. 271. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 11 

rewarded ; therefore be virtuous," will hardly seem credible 
to those who have formed their judgments upon the basis 
of the current theological text-books. That very thing 
which is commonly believed to have debased the religion of 
the prophets to a formal and mechanical creed, without 
abandon or spirituality, is in reality the very instrument 
which secured the permanent overmastery of idealism. 
That instrument is the Law. The truth of my proposition 
for the Rabbinical period will probably be shown by 
another writer ; but the beginning of the process is 
already indicated within the Bible itself. In Psalm cxix. 
the conception of the fulfilment and the study of the Law 
for its own sake, and as its own reward, is already dis- 
cernible. The community, in the midst of trouble, still 
finds its peculiar joy in the Law of its God (ver. 143). Its 
deepest prayer is, " Make me to go in the path of thy 
commandments ; for therein do I delight." Impossible as 
it now may be for many of us to look at the Law from the 
same ideal point of view or with the same enthusiasm as 
the Psalmist, it would be wrong not to recognise how great 
is the debt which Judaism, though indirectly, must always 
owe to it. And among other results of this Torah-worship, 
for such the love of the Law practically became, none is 
more important than that it should have secured for 
Judaism the triumph of the doctrine that virtue or reli- 
gion, goodness or the love of God is, and always must be, 
its own reward. 

P.S. — There is no doubt that the individualising of the doctrine 
of Divine retribution was first seriously attempted in the exile by 
Ezekiel. But whether there are no indications of this doctrine in the 
pre-exilic literature is another question. Stade's view that there are 
none is, I think, exaggerated. The passages in Jeremiah, which, if 
genuine, would settle the matter, are by him regarded as sekunddr. 
They are Jer. xii. 1, 2, xvii. 5-10, xxxii. 18, 19. Kuenen upholds the 
authenticity of these verses. In xxx. 29 the justice of the proverb of 
the sour grapes is acknowledged for his own age, while in the 
Messianic age it is to become obsolete. Then we have Isaiah xxxiii. 
15. Here Kuenen and Stade are again at issue. While both are 
agreed that xxxiii., like xxxii., docs not belong to Isaiah, Kuenen 



12 The Jewish Quarterly Revieio. 

against Stado upholds a pre-exilic date. As regards the particular 
passage xxxiii. 15/ (which, as Stade points out, Z.A.W. 1884, p. 259, 
contains ideas which point to eine reins itulividuelle Vergeltungslehre) 
Kuenen only says : " Its individualistic character and the distinction 
which it draws between the wicked and the just in Zion place it out- 
side the sphere within which Isaiah still moves ; it was only a century 
after him that the national conception of Yahvism gradually made 
way for the more personal conception." (Onderzoek II., p. 87.) 
Moreover, outside the prophetical literature (I assume Isaiah iii. 10, 
11 to be a gloss) there are traces of this more individual conception. 
There is David's exclamation, " These sheep, what have they done ? " 
in which the punishment of sin is thought to justly include a man's 
family, but not a yet wider circle. There is the Deuteronomic Law, 
'• Every man shall be put to death for his own sin," on which principle 
Joash acted in punishing the servants, but not the children of the 
servants, who had slain his father, as the redactor of the book of 
Kings is at pains to point out to us. In Deut. vii. 10, the Second 
Commandment is clearly modified intentionally when it is said that 
" God keeps covenant and mercy with those who love him to a thousand 
generations, but repays those who hate him to their face." Stade, 
like Wellhausen, would separate Deut. iv. 44-xi. from the legislative 
portion of the book, xii.-xxvi., and assign these chapters to the exile, 
but Kuenen upholds the unity of authorship, and with that the pre- 
exilic date. Again, in the story of Abraham pleading with Yahveh 
before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, a near approach is 
made to the "individuelle Vergeltungslehre." Not only is the principle 
laid down that the few righteous should save the lives of the many 
wicked, which one might call an instance of inverted solidarity, 
but the strong words are used li that be far from thee to do after this 
manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked ; and that the righteous 
should be as the wicked, that be far from thee : shall not the judge 
of the whole earth do right ? " l When Moses, after the worship of 
the golden calf, implores for the people the Divine forgiveness, he 
asks that God, if he will not pardon their sin, may blot him out of the 
book he has written. Then God replies : " Whosoever has sinned 
against me, him will I blot out of my book." Here again is a trace of 
an individualizing doctrine. 

C. G. MONTEFIOEE. 



1 In the story of Achan, one man sins, and the wrath of God is heavy 
upon the whole community ; but in the rebellion of Korah, which 
belongs to P. and his school, Moses and Aaron protest against this very 
principle in the words, " O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall 
one man sin and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation ? " 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 13 



II. The New Testament. 

My first impulse on being asked to contribute a few pages 
on this subject was to reply that the New Testament pre- 
sents no single and special doctrine on this subject at all ; 
that it does present a certain positive doctrine of salvation, 
but that the implicit consequences of this are left to be 
drawn out in manifold and different ways ; and that the 
negative consequences are left especially vague and un- 
determined. The general result of my subsequent inquiries 
has been mainly to strengthen my first impression. 

I know that there are many liberal theologians who hold 
that one must derogate, not merely from the authority of 
Jesus, but from his candour and integrity as a teacher, 
if he maintains that Jesus used the doctrinal expressions of 
his people and his time without a conscious endorsement of 
them. To some of these he has given, no doubt, his own 
interpretations and limitations ; others he adopts without 
any such specialising of the signification in which he uses 
and transmits them. Are we to suppose that he stamps 
them alike with his authority, and builds them into the 
theological fabric of his Church ? 

The affirmative answer to this question seems to be by 
no means confined to those who, on the one hand, declare 
the finality of the Church in matters of faith, or, on the 
other, trust to the sufficiency of a verbally-inspired record. 
Far outside these circles there is a prevalent feeling that 
Jesus, if in no other character than that of the founder of 
a new religion, must have given to the world a consistent 
and systematic body of teaching on all the subjects of man's 
perpetually-renewed inquiry as to the facts of religion. Is 
not this conception founded upon the absence of what, for 
want of a better expression, may be called the historic 



14 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

sense, and upon that confusion of the realms of literature 
and dogma against which Mr. Matthew Arnold so strongly 
protested ? When we consider the real circumstances of 
the life of Jesus as a teacher, what are the facts ? The 
synoptical Gospels show us a ministiy of a year or fifteen 
months ; they record the incidents of less than a tenth in 
aggregate of that space of time. And as to the teaching, 
they represent Jesus as coming forward only upon the 
imprisonment of John the Baptist, in order that his word 
of prophetic warning might not want a spokesman, with 
no other gospel than "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven 
is at hand." His further words are the results of a widen- 
ing experience ; they are struck out of his mind and heart 
by contact with the actual needs and questionings of men. 
Nothing can be more misleading than to suppose that the 
" Rttsttag," as Keim calls it — the long period of preparation 
for his public work which Jesus spent in the obscurity of 
his home — was spent in the elaboration of a doctrinal 
system, though the basis of this conception is not far to 
seek. It is found, surely, in the fact that the First Gospel 
opens the distinctive mission of Jesus with " the Sermon 
on the Mount " — a body of affirmative teaching in which 
the new precepts are sharply differentiated from those 
given to "them of old time." Critics have pointed out 
that Matthew 1 hastens over a period of gradually- widening 
ministrations in the synagogues and villages of Galilee 
(Mark i. 21, Luke iv. 14, etc.) in his desire to reach the 
inaugural sermon ; some hold, as Augustine did, that he has 
taken, as the kernel of this, a later doctrinal address to 
the disciples; some hold, with Keim, that he has com- 
pounded with this an earlier address to the Galilsean 
people. But surely a special theory applied to this pas- 
sage or that will not explain the appearance in the midst 
of narrative of such blocks of discourse as we have in 

1 As questions of authorship cannot be discussed in passing, let me sa}' 
that I am using the titles of New Testament books in the usual conven- 
tional way. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retrihution. 15 

Matt. v. to vii., x., xiii., xxiii. to xxv. People still speak as 
if they supposed that Jesus delivered set orations, and 
these were taken down in shorthand and edited from 
reporters' notes — a thing not to be wondered at, perhaps, 
when we find Schleiermacher endeavouring to explain the 
discrepancies between the Sennon on the Mount in Luke 
(ch. vi.) and the same sermon in Matthew, by such a con- 
sideration as this : — " Our reporter seems to have had a less 
favourable point for listening, and, in consequence, not to 
have heard everything, and occasionally to have lost the 
thread of the discourse," etc. Let me endeavour to state, 
in the fewest possible lines, what I believe to be the true 
view as to the preservation of the sayings of Jesus — a view 
which must necessarily have an important bearing upon 
the material furnished by the Gospels for the investigation 
of any particular doctrine. 

It must be granted that the purpose of writing a life of 
Jesus was not likely to be entertained by his followers of 
the first age. There was no future to be benefited by the 
history ; before that generation passed away the age would, 
be ended, the Son of Man returned, and the kingdom of 
God established. Such was the belief of that circle of 
disciples and friends who alone knew "all that Jesus began 
both to do and teach." And in this, at least, Paul was at 
one with them ; to have " known Christ after the flesh " 
was to him as nothing compared with the knowledge of 
him as a quickening spirit, and the short earthly life of 
Jesus was but a preparing of the way for that more glorious 
coming which " we that are alive " should witness. It was 
only when the " fathers fell asleep " — the men who could 
be in any way reckoned as belonging to the generation 
which had seen Jesus, passed away, and still " all things 
were as they had been from the beginning" — that the 
necessity of providing a historical record for the future 
would dawn upon the Christian mind. Credentials must 
now be furnished for a Church which has to bear a con- 
tinuous testimony in a world which seems likely to last. 



16 The Jeioish Quarterly Remeic, 

The question, In what form would the biographical ma- 
terial present itself ? is a difficult one to answer. What 
were the Si^y^o-et? that had appeared from many hands 1 
before the compiler of the Third Gospel undertook his 
work ? Had the various currents of tradition set so hope- 
lessly in different directions that after a Matthew-Mark 
narrative of the life of Jesus has gained respect in one part 
of the Christian world, it is possible for a re-working of 
documents at least as valuable to give us all the special 
matter, narrative and didactic, of Luke — and, after all, 
leave room for a wholly new presentation of the life of 
Jesus, with new localities and surroundings, in the Gospel 
of John ? These questions drive us back to another, What 
had the Church been teaching all this time ? or, at least, 
what was there, beyond a common hope, to furnish a centre 
of unity, a matter of common faith, to all the scattered 
Christian communities ? Certainly not a narrative uni- 
formly accepted. Bather, a common treasure of religious 
and moral teaching, orally transmitted, and believed to 
consist of the "oracles of the Lord," the words of Jesus 
himself. I need scarcely remind my readers how natural 
it was that a new law, enunciated on the soil of Palestine, 
should be treated as a kind of Mishnah. Just as the Mishnah 
was not committed to writing until there was ground for 
fearing that it might be lost altogether in the extirpation 
of the Jewish schools, so, I should be inclined to suggest, it 
might be the scattering of the Church of Jerusalem at the 
period of the siege that prompted the first writing down 
of the teaching of Jesus. But I would urge that the 
occurrence in Christian literature of words of Jesus not 
contained in any Gospel, and yet quite probably his, and 
Papias's preference of the Xoyta he could gather for 
himself from the " living and surviving voice " to those 
which might be read in such a collection as he attributes to 
Matthew, point alike to a primitive feeling that oral 
transmission was the proper vehicle of the Church's special 

1 Luke i. 1. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 17 

teaching. And when we come to examine a Gospel such as 
that of Matthew, and find that it consists mainly of five 
large blocks of discourse, after each of which the narrative 
is resumed with the words : " It came to pass, when Jesus 
had finished these sayings," 1 we can hardly resist the con- 
clusion that these \67ta-masses existed much in the shape 
in which we have them, before they were imbedded in any 
narrative whatever. 

And when, further, we find perpetually that a striking 
passage occurs twice in the Gospel — once in a long 
discourse, and again in the course of the narrative, with 
some attribution of occasion — we are naturally inclined 
to suppose that so it was felt that the words, as strung 
together for purposes of teaching, were subject to an 
artificial arrangement, there should have been an accom- 
panying, but informal, lore of anecdote, that could restore 
to a striking passage here and there its time, place, and 
circumstance, revive the question that called forth the 
answer, and give life and point to words almost unmeaning. 
I believe that an examination of Matthew and Luke 
shows the gradual process of the disintegration of the 
\07ta-blocks ; they break up here and there like ice-floes, 
and the pieces drift into the narrative ; sometimes the piece 
is too big, scarcely manageable, and consists partly of 
strange matter that will not fit the occasion with which it 
finds itself allied. And in the blocks themselves how often 
do we find that mere convenience or caprice of memory has 
dominated in the stringing together of their component 
parts. The subject rules at the outset, perhaps ; and then 
we have, in a new connection, a passage we know in another 
and a better, and then we have casual dicta, apparently 
drawn together by a catch-word. See, for example, the 
passage about serving two masters (compare Matt. vi. 24), 
occurring in Luke xvi. 13, in a new connection, determined 
merely by the occurrence of the word "mammon"; in 
Luke xi. 34, the passage as to the "light of the body," 

1 Matt. vii. 25 ; xi. 1 ; xiii. 53 ; xix. 1 ; xxvi. 1. 
VOL. III. B 



18 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

drawn by the simple coincidence of the word \vyyo<; into 
connection with the candle and the bushel, with an addition 
(verse 30, end) to justify the new relation (cf. Matt. v. 15 ; 
vi. 22); and the chance connections determined by the 
words wine and salt in Luke v. 39; Mark ix. 50. Such 
examples might be multiplied indefinitely. 

It would not much surprise us if, during a period of oral 
transmission, the words of Jesus had undergone more than 
occasionally a fanciful and sometimes a casual rearrangement. 
But of reworking in any definitely doctrinal interest there 
seems to be wonderfully little, in the Synoptic Gospels at 
least. The tendencies and sympathies, however— all the 
divergencies of the first century which prepared the way 
for doctrinal diffei'ence, for heresy and schism, in the 
second — have left their several marks, hues and tones in 
emphasis, nuance, and application — Judseo-Christian and 
Ebionite, Pauline and Universalist — as the common treasure 
of Christian instruction reaches us through one channel of 
transmission or another. Luke — whose Gospel is in many 
respects so distinctly Pauline that several of the fathers, if 
I rightly remember, were quite sure that Paul meant " the 
Gospel according to Luke " when he spoke of " my Gospel " 
in Rom. ii. 16 — nevertheless preserves to us in many places 
the very atmosphere of the Palestinian churches, to whom 
Paul was known only as a name of fear, soon to be 
identified in tradition with Simon Magus, as the arch- 
opponent of Peter and of the truth. Compare the 
Beatitudes, in Luke vi. 20, etc., with those of Matt. v. ; 
it is impossible to mistake the application, already given, 
to those who took the name Ebionite from the fact of their 
poverty, and comforted themselves by such denunciation of 
the rich as meets us again in the Epistle of James (com- 
pare Luke vi. 24 — 26 with James v. 1 — 6). Luke also 
furnishes us with the parable of Dives and Lazarus 
(ch. xvi. 19 — end) ; where, as Mr. Carpenter remarks, 1 " no 
moral reason is given for the different lots of the rich man 
1 See his recent work Tlie Synoptic Gospels, p. 311. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 19 

and Lazarus in the next world : their positions are reversed 
on the simple principle that the one received 'his good 
things ' in his earthly life, the other evil ; and this 
inequality must be redressed." This is exactly the "Ye 
have received your consolation " of Luke vi. 24. I do not 
hesitate to attribute to Jesus himself the parable of Dives, 
and to admit that there is an element in the New Testament 
doctrine of Retribution which is not moral. 

The drift of my preliminary remarks has brought me 
thus to a point at which an attempt must be made to deal 
with the earliest stratum of doctrine, with a view to some 
estimate of the distinctive teaching of Jesus himself. I 
venture to suggest that a principle of material compensation 
may be recognised in certain words of Jesus, which it is 
by no means necessary to consider either as a special 
doctrine of his own, or as impressed upon his teaching by 
a line of Ebionite disciples. That the Ebionites did treasure 
such words, and let none of them fall to the ground, we 
may well believe. But because Jesus advised the young 
ruler to sell all that he had, and give it to the poor, it is not 
true that he identified poverty with sanctity ; because he 
promised to those who had lost houses and lands for his 
sake, " manifold more in this present world, and in the 
world to come life everlasting," it does not follow that he 
reduced self-sacrifice to an advantageous commercial trans- 
action. As long ago as the day of the Book of Job, the 
easy theory represented in the words " Acquaint now thyself 
with God ; thereby good shall come unto thee, and thou shalt 
have plenty of silver " had hopelessly broken down. You 
might see the wicked flourish, and never have the satisfac- 
tion of seeing him wither away. 

But the immediate influence of the Messianic element of 
Hebrew prophecy had turned men's eyes towards a scheme 
of recompense wider than the life of the individual. The 
elements of this present world, when looked at from the 
Divine side, and in the interests of a kingdom of God, 
undergo some startling inversions. An outcast and oppressed 

B 2 



20 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

" remnant " becomes the political centre of the world ; all 
human estimate of value is reversed ; the Lord uplifts the 
poor and needy, and the loftiness of man is bowed down. 
Because this is a mark of the day of the Lord, because to 
Christian faith the Messianic hope is fulfilled in Jesus 
Christ, and the Kingdom is come — therefore, to the disciples' 
eye, the change is made. " He hath cast down the mighty 
from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek," 
says the early Christian hymn (Luke i. 52) ; and similarly, 
Paul rejoices that God hath chosen the foolish things of the 
world to confound the wise, the weak to confound the 
mighty, " and base things of the world and things which 
are despised hath God chosen, yea and things which are 
not, to bring to nought things that are" (1 Cor. i. 27, 28). 
The application made by Jesus of the Messianic passages 
which chiefly influenced his thought, sent him with a 
gospel to the poor, and the promise of an inheritance to 
the meek. 1 And I cannot wonder if, under such influence, 
and before his thought of the Kingdom of God reached its 
most mature and spiritual form, he spoke as if the best thing 
the rich man could do were to cast in his lot with the poor, 
exchange the treasure of the present for the promise of the 
future, or, at all events, make such a bestowal of the " un- 
righteous mammon " as may stand him in good stead when 
the day of the Lord shall come. 2 

Another element which early Christianity naturally in- 
herited as part and parcel of the Messianic idea must, I 
suppose, be called un-moral ; an element which, transformed 
from literature into dogma, has led to theological results 
which are certainly immoral. And it is one which plays 
the largest part in all the New Testament language as to 
the judgment of the world. "What is the fate of those who 
reject the Messiah ? The disciple looked back, and saw the 
awful question debated by the prophets of old. The men 
who were careless and at ease in Zion, whose hearts had 

1 Luke iv. 18. * Luke xvi. 9. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 21 

waxed gross, and their ears dull of hearing, who had appa- 
rently no hope and no fear for the future, believing that 
" Jehovah will not do good, neither will he do evil ; " what 
was to he said of them ? Were they already smitten by a 
divinely sent dementation as a foretaste of doom — blinded 
and hardened, that they might not be converted and live ? 
And to one who believed that the Messiah had come, and 
men had done unto him whatsoever they listed — but that, by 
the mercy of God, the space of a generation perchance was 
interposed between the Messiah's appearance as the suffer- 
ing servant of Jehovah, and his reappearance with power 
and great glory to set up his kingdom, and that in this 
space the call to flee from wrath to come was to be carried 
far and wide, it is no wonder that the issues of the future 
seemed to hang upon the acceptance or the rejection of the 
news he had to tell. We are prepared to find in the New 
Testament a constant recurrence to this one broad issue. 
It is this, I suppose, which appears to the ordinary Bible 
reader to make all its teaching turn upon belief or dis- 
belief ; and furnishes the authority on which those who 
should know better construe the mental attitude of one 
who differs from them into a wilful rejection of salvation. 

There is another subject, closely allied to this, on which 
it seems hopeless to endeavour after precision in the use 
of language — probably because the language of the New 
Testament itself was ambiguous at the outset. It is obvious 
that the Messianic hope, in its earlier forms, had to do with 
an ending of " the present age," and an inauguration of 
" the age to come " on earth ; with a day of judgment and 
of wrath, and then the establishment of a pure state, a 
perfect social life, for the chosen and sanctified, either 
under the immediate rule of Jehovah himself, or under 
that of his anointed. It is not necessary to pause and 
point out how the national and political, and the purely 
ideal elements in this conception varied and rearranged 
themselves from time to time ; but it is most necessary to 
note that the whole religious character of this conception 



22 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

undergoes a complete change before the time of Jesus. 
The words that referred to " an age to come " are taken 
to mean " a life to come ; " the threatenings of woe, and 
the promises of bliss are applied to those who have died 
and who rise again for judgment: and the whole lan- 
guage of salvation no longer refers to a prolongation of 
life through and beyond "the day of Jehovah," but to 
attaining to the resurrection of the just. It is impossible 
to resist the conclusion that the doctrine of a future life, 
in its Palestinian form, involving and depending upon the 
resurrection of the body, was at first a corollary to the 
Messianic hope. Not merely the generation that witnesses 
the " end of the age " is to share the kingdom of God ; 
in simple justice, those who have watched, and waited, 
and fought, and "died in faith, not having received the 
promises," must not utterly forego the inheritance of the 
righteous. So from the Maccabean period onward we have 
the confident expectation that " many of them that sleep 
in the dust of the earth shall awake " (Dan. xii. 2). The 
Pharisees, the distinctly nationalist and popular party in 
the next century, represented at once the Messianic hope, 
and the doctrine of a resurrection. Just as Paul has to 
supplement his words of immediate expectation of the 
" coming of the Lord " with words of comfort concerning 
the departed, and show that we " which are alive and 
remain shall not prevent (ov fxrj (f)0d<rco/Aev) them which 
are asleep," but, on the contrary, the dead in Christ shall 
rise first (1 Thess. iv. 13-17) — so in the Pharisaic teaching, 
we can readily understand that the doctrine of the resur- 
rection soon became much more than an incident and a 
make-weight ; it began to have a distinct importance of itself, 
and to impress into its service language that had originally 
quite different significance. When this earth comes to be 
less and less regarded as a " theatre of God's judgments," 
passages of Scripture which originally referred to this life 
are made to speak of a world to come, and the prophets of 
Israel are made to preach concerning heaven and hell. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 23 

This is exactly the state of things revealed to us by the 
Targums. " To live," is constantly amplified into " live in 
life eternal," and " to die " into " to die the second death," 
e.g., Deut. xxxiii. 6, where " Let Reuben live and not die," 
comes out in Onkelos as " Let Reuben live in life eternal 
and not die the second death." And Jonathan twists the 
words of Isaiah xxxiii. 14, " Who among us shall dwell with 
everlasting burnings ? " l into " Who of us shall dwell in 
Jerusalem when the wicked shall be judged, to be delivered 
to Gehenna, the everlasting burnings I" 2 When we add 
the evidence of Jewish apocalyptic writings (especially the 
Books of Daniel and Enoch), we hold the key to most of 
the language of reward and punishment that meets us in 
the Synoptic Gospels. 

It is, of course, impossible to say how much of the escha- 
tological detail here presented is actually taken by Jesus 
himself from current beliefs and expressions, — how much 
is the translation of what he actually said into the thought 
of those who heard him. 3 Palestinian, and with- 

out modification 4 : where it was not accepted it was simply 
dropped, as in the Fourth Gospel. The warning as to the 
woes which shall precede the last days, in Matt. xxiv. 15- 
22 (cf. Daniel xii. 1), seems to have had a stamp of intense 
reality impressed upon it by actual experience of the war 
of Titus, and is much more moving than anything we find, 
e.g., in Enoch. The woes (wStve?) which were to close 
the old order were the birth-pangs of the new. The 

1 Kuenen translates " a hearth always glowing." 

2 Further instances will be found in Dr. Pusey's work, What is of 
Faith as to Everlasting Punishment ? pp. 73-77. 

3 " In Bezug auf die Eschatologie vermag im Einzelnen Niemand zu 
sagen, was yon Christus und was von den Jungern herriihrt." — Harnach 
Dogmengeschichte, I., p. 51. 

4 It is interesting to note how words of Jesus are occasionally adapted 
for a public outside Palestine : Compare Matt, xxiii. 27 and Luke xi. 44. 
An instance of absolute perversion is found in John xx. 23, based on 
entire misunderstanding of the Rabbinical meaning of binding and loosing 
in Matt. xvi. 19. 



24 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

trvvreXeia tov alwvos is to take place within the lifetime of 
those to whom Jesus speaks (Matt. x. 23 ; xvi. 28 ; Luke 
xxi. 32). This will be immediately followed by " the reve- 
lation of the Son of Man." This is the Son of Man, of 
Daniel vii. 13, and Enoch iv. 6, who shall set up the everlast- 
ing kingdom : he has hitherto been concealed by the Most 
High in the secret place of his own presence (Enoch lxii. 7). 

1 do not believe that in the original use by Jesus of words 
like the " days of the Son of Man," etc. (Matt. xvi. 27 ; xix. 
28 ; xxv. 31 ; Luke xvii. 22, 30 ; xxi. 27), he applied the title 
to himself. 1 The coming of the Son of Man is followed at 
once by the resurrection of the dead. We are at once in 
presence of the question, whether the resurrection itself is 
a reward ? whether it is partial or general ? and, if partial, 
limited to the good ? Apparently, according to the earlier 
conception, the resurrection was not general ; the faithful 
rose to share the reward of those who lived to see the days 
of Messiah. 2 This is under a covenant in which the wicked 
have no part. Thus one of the persecuted heroes in 

2 Mace. vii. 14, says to the tyrant, " As for thee, thou shalt 
have no resurrection to life." But, according to the doc- 
trine which gained currency, there was a revival of the 
wicked for judgment, which could hardly be called a 
resurrection. The righteous were, so to speak, born again 
with a new body ; the wicked were as they had been in 
the underworld. So the general phrase, " resurrection of 
the dead " does not occur, I think, in the Synoptics : we 
have " the resurrection of the just " (Luke xiv. 14) ; their 
revival is a re-birth (nraXiyyevecna, Matt. xix. 28) ; " they 
are the children of God, being children of the resurrection " 
(viol Ti7? dvaa-Taa-eco'j, Luke xx. 36). This is, I believe, 

1 See further on this, Mr. Carpenter's appendix on " the use of the terra 
Son of Man," in the work on the Synoptic Gospels, to which reference 
has already been made. 

1 Compare the DidaeJie, ch. xvi. : " the resurrection of the dead — not, 
however, of all, bat as was said, 'The Lord shall come, and all the 
saints with him.' " Here the Resurrection precedes the Paronsia. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 25 

very much what Josephus 1 meant to state as Pharisaic 
doctrine : — tyv-fflv Be iraaav fiev a<p6apTov, fieraftaiveiv 
Be els erepov <r5>(j.a r-qv twv ayadcov fiovrjv, ttjv Be tS>v <f>av\wv 
aiBla Tifimpia KoXd^eadcu. 2 The resurrection proper is, 
therefore, glory and honour hi itself. Paul uses the 
general term, avfiaTaaii t£>v veicpGiv, but as if it were in 
itself the end of human ambition (Philip, iii. 11 ; 1 Cor. 
xv. 21), and equivalent to Bofja ical rififj km d<f>6dpaia 
(Rom. ii. 7) ; and he leaves entirely behind him the post- 
resurrection imagery to which I must briefly advert. The 
judgment follows, and " the Son of Man rewards every man 
according to his works " (Matt. xvi. 27 ; xxv. 31). There is, 
according to the parables which speak of the judgment, 
a two-fold division — sheep or goats, wheat or tares — and 
the issue is life or death, the joy of the Lord or the outer 
darkness. The righteous " shall shine as the sun in the 
kingdom of their Father " (Matt. xiii. 43 : cf . Dan. xii. 3 ; 
Enoch i. 8). The faithful will be welcomed to a banquet 
at which they will sit down with Abraham, Isaac and 
Jacob, and the saints of old (Matt. viii. 11). To be next to 
the president ("in his bosom," eV tok koXttok, ivl to crn)0o?) 
is the place of highest honour ; so Lazarus the beggar is 
honoured at Abraham's table. 3 The apostles desire to sit 
next to Jesus and to share his cup (Matt. xix. 28 ; xx. 21 ; 
Luke xxii. 30), in the day of his " glory " (Mark x. 37). 
The image of the feast, varied sometimes to that of a wed- 
ding banquet, occurs constantly in passages that have to do 
with admission and exclusion, in the coming kingdom. The 
wicked are shut out; the brightness within, the sounds 
of merriment and rejoicing, throw into sad contrast 
the outer darkness, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, 

i B. J., II., viii. 14. 

2 This passage is, I think needlessly, explained by Stapfer, as an 
attempt to illustrate to the Gentile mind the doctrine of resurrection by 
the analogy of the more general notion of transmigration of souls. 

3 In this parable, Luke xvi. 19-31, the joys of the Kingdom and the 
torments of Gehenna appear to have already befallen the souls in Sheol. 



26 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

and the fruitless cry, " Lord, open to us.'' What 
is the ultimate fate of the rejected ? On this point the 
New Testament again reflects the uncertainty of the 
popular belief of Palestine ; language pointing to an utter 
destruction, and to punishment of endless duration, seems 
to be used indifferently. The image of the burning valley, 
Ge-hinnom (Ye'evra), near Jerusalem, which gave its name 
in popular speech to the entire hell, of which it was be- 
lieved to be one of the openings — another being in the 
desert and another in the sea — occurs constantly in the 
Synoptics, as in ihe Book of Enoch (liii. 1; lxvii. 4); its 
name occurs again only in the Epistle of James, which is 
evidently of Palestinian origin. The fire which consumed 
the offal of the city, the worms bred of the corruption, 
furnished additional horrors, wherein Gehenna exactly 
answered to the prophetic description in Isa. lxvi. 24 : 
" They shall .... look upon the carcases of the men 
that have transgressed against me ; for their worm shall 
not die, neither shall their fire be quenched." " The ven- 
geance of the ungodly is fire and worms," says Sirach 
(vii. 17) ; so also Judith (xvi. 17). Here we have the 
origin of that dirge-like burden, " The fire that never shall 
be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is 
not quenched"; which, repeated again and again, according 
to the Received Text, seems to indicate that the passage 
containing it (Mark ix. 43-48) was once used as a kind of 
formal commination service in the early Church. "The 
Gehenna of fire" (Matt. v. 22 ; xviii. 9); "the furnace of 
fire " (Matt. xiii. 42, 50) ; " the eternal fire" (Matt, xviii. 8 ; 
xxv. 41), seem, however, by no means to mean always 
everlasting torment. It seems equally to mean a terrible 
end, whereby the wicked shall be destroyed. This is the 
" second death " of the Targums, and of the Apocalypse of 
John (xix. 6 ; xxi. 8). Matt. x. 28 speaks of the destruction 
of both soul and body in Gehenna. It is difficult to settle 
whether such a phrase as airwkeia aia>vio<; means a " final 
destruction," or " a destroying process lasting for ever " 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 27 

(Psalter of Solomon ii. 35, 38 ; iii. 13, 15). The language 
of the Book of Enoch is, in spite of its constant reference to 
eternal fires and torments {e.g., lxvii. 9, 13 ; lxviii. 5 ; 
ciii. 8 ; cviii. 3), very far from clear on this point. One 
remarkable passage (xxii. 11-14) seems to say there will be 
a total destruction of some, a second death ; judgment not 
having overtaken them in their lifetime, they will be 
punished until the great judgment ; some, however, will 
not be destroyed, but perpetually confined : " They shall 
not be annihilated, neither shall they rise." Yet on another 
page (liii. 2) we read : " The sinners will perish before the 
face of the Lord of Spirits, and will be cleared away un- 
ceasingly from the surface of his earth for all eternity." 
We are irresistibly reminded of the passage 2 Thess. 
i. 7-10. It is an early writing — Dr. Davidson makes it 
Paul's first — and his mind still turns entirely upon the 
terms of a Messianic salvation. Those who perversely 
turn away from it shall, on the revelation of the Lord 
Jesus from heaven, "suffer punishment, even eternal 
destruction from the face of the Lord, and from the glory 
of his might." This is, I think, the most explicit statement 
in all Paul's writings, as to the fate of the reprobate. To 
him, as the resurrection is life, its opposite is death ; here 
the earthly soul is blasted by the light of a divine holiness. 
The same idea meets us in a Christian Apocalypse, the 
Ascension of Isaiah (iv. 18) : " The Beloved will cause a fire 
to go forth from himself and consume all the wicked, and 
they shall be as if they had never been created." What 
little there is as to the last judgment in the Epistles of 
the New Testament seems to tell against the doctrine of 
eternal torment which the Church in general accepted. 
The Epistle to the Hebrews seems to hold the annihilation 
of the wicked (Heb. x. 27), and evidence is not wanting of 
the persistence of this view here and there ; for example, 
in the Clementine Homilies we read (iii. 6) : " The non- 
repentant, being punished with eternal fire, are consumed." 
We are moved to ask, with Reuss : Is the result of this 



28 The Jewish Quarterly Eeview. 

brief review merely this, that according to the most trust- 
worthy authorities, the teaching of Jesus on the engrossing 
subject of the final destinies of mankind is simply a repeti- 
tion of that which the most ordinary rabbi had long been 
preaching in the synagogue ? 1 I reply that in all this use 
of language and imagery, there is hardly anything that can 
be called enforcement or endorsement of doctrine. It is all 
scenery and background ; it is the setting of many a 
parable ; but the thing enforced, the point which is to be 
made, is not a terror of judgment, or a right view of heaven 
or hell; but a lesson of patience, love, or duty. The parable 
of the wheat and the tares finds its centre in " Let both 
grow together until the harvest " ; a lesson to " fret not 
ourselves because of evil doers," or anticipate the ultimate 
judgment of God. That of the sheep and the goats reveals 
the unexpected worth, in the final issues of life, of the 
simplest kindnesses, and the testing of religion by its 
power to open the eye to the daily opportunity, and the 
heart to the most ordinary appeal for aid. When reference 
is directly made to Jesus, and he is asked his opinion on a 
matter relating to the life of the world to come, he protests 
against the extreme materialism of the popular view, and 
on the general subject of immortality, as against the 
Sadducees who questioned him, argues on the broadly 
spiritual basis of " the soul's life in God " (as it would be 
expressed in modern language) : " He is not a God of the 
dead, but of the living ; for all live unto him." 2 

I would submit that a tolerably exact counterpart to the 
use by Jesus of the current language with regard to the 
last judgment is to be found in his references to Satan. 
Satan appears as the inflictor of physical pains : an afflicted 
or deformed person is one whom Satan hath bound ; he is 
" The wicked one," the personification of malice : he sows 
tares among the good seed, and snatches away the good 

1 Reuss : Hutoire de la Thiologie Chretienne, 3me ed., Vol. I., p. 249. 
3 Matt. xxii. 23, etc.; Mark xii. 18, etc.; Luke xx. 27, etc. The Rabbin- 
ical protest inBeracoth 17a affords a close parallel to Jesus' remonstrance. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 29 

sown in man's heart : he is a daemonic Anti-Christ, whom 
Jesus, in a moment of exultation, sure of the final victory 
of goodness, saw "fall from heaven." Yet, I maintain, 
there is no more a doctrine of Satan in the teaching of 
Jesus than there is a doctrine of Beelzebub. In all passages 
where we pass distinctly out of metaphor, and come down 
to the solemn prose of moral experience, nothing intervenes 
between man and God: man has to keep "the good treasure 
of his heart;" to accept responsibility for every lustful 
thought, every evil word. There is no notion here that 
either Jesus or God can fight a man's fight for him in the 
abstract — " destroy the works of the devil," or ensure the 
sanctity of the coming age by chaining up the old serpent ; 
nor is there any room for erring man to plead that being 
born into this world, it is no wonder that the Prince of this 
World should have power over him. Such ideas do not 
belong to the teaching of Jesus. Both the demonology and 
the eschatology of popular Christianity are misrepresenta- 
tions and distortions, destroying all proportion and perspec- 
tive, of the imagery of early Christian thought. 

When we consider that, as I suggested at the outset, the 
teaching of Jesus only gradually differentiated itself from 
the teaching of the Pharisees and the general opinion of his 
people, we can understand that elements which would turn 
out to be inconsistent might be found co-existing at any 
time, and might only prove their incompatibility when trans- 
ferred to other minds, or even to another generation. And 
this, I believe, to have been the case ; to many things 
which Jesus " came not to destroy," he gave a " fulfilment " 
which either transformed or superseded them ; but he, who 
was least of all a system builder, might never realize that 
of two things which found place side by side in his dis- 
course, one could only live at the expense of the other. 
His teaching as to the moral judgment of God, the 
ultimate sanctions of goodness, and its real rewards, 
enforces the broadest and the deepest faith in the Divine 
justice and love, and is impatient of all attempts to tie up 



30 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

the Divine action as to the future of the soul by any 
previous arrangement. This teaching is constantly found 
in conjunction with the language which belongs to the 
Messianic future, to a judgment which is a triumph for 
the nation (or for that part of the nation which had be- 
lieved in it), and a dealing of reward and punishment in 
which all the details are traditional and local. It is not, 
I think, trivial in this connection to remark that such 
juxtaposition may be illustrated by our daily practice and 
feeling : that, in speaking of things concerning which our 
speech must needs be symbolical, we resent every attempt 
to introduce a new symbolism. We find something very 
material, or painfully realistic, in all new attempts to de- 
scribe the nature of God, or to paint the life of heaven ; 
while language once just as material has come, in course of 
reverent usage, to be a natural vehicle of our most spiritual 
conceptions. Which of us would like to be challenged as 
to his literal belief in the language which he uses or allows 
concerning the life to come ? There are words in the 
second Isaiah, and in the concluding chapters of the 
Apocalypse of John, which live in all hearts ; however 
vague our faith, " Jerusalem, which is above, is the mother 
of us all." The sound of "harpers harping with their 
harps," blends restf ully with the " voice of many waters " ; 
but when the authoress of " The Gates Ajar " proposes to 
introduce a piano into heaven, we resent the innovation 
as warmly as if some principle were violated. 

I have given up the hope of doing more, within the 
limits of this short paper, than indicate the contact of 
New Testament doctrine with the current opinions of 
Palestinian Judaism on the subject of retribution. I must, 
therefore, devote the few lines that remain to the en- 
deavour to point out where the teaching of Jesus on the 
moral side of man's relation to God separates itself and 
leads to new and distinct issues. 

The Pharisees represented at once national spirit and 
aspiration, and the most rigorous observance of the law. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 31 

Their advocacy of the hope of Israel, their teaching as to 
future life gave them, as Josephus 1 says, " immense influence 
among the masses of the people"; while they devoted 
their days to the study and practice of the law, desiring to 
become perfect and blameless, fulfilling all the positive, 
transgressing none of the negative precepts, into which the 
actual injunctions of the Pentateuch had been drawn out. 
What was the relation of the law to the future life ? It 
was not merely merely an obligation, it was a covenant? The 
pious Jew who fulfils the law can claim the promise of 
life thereby. 3 He takes upon himself a burden of duty, 
involving a daily and hourly watchfulness, such as no 
Gentile had ever assumed. But as Israel was alone in the 
service, it was alone in the reward. As Israel among the 
nations, so was the Israelite among men : he kept the law, 
and thereby earned a glory which the avofios could not 
share. The standard in the two cases is different. 4 There 
is a character of its own about the virtue of the man who 
is just and perfect according to the law, due to its being 
formed exactly on the lines of God's own <~rdinances. It 
is no wonder that such a conception led to externality of 
observance and impoverishment of heart. The Talmud 
itself testifies sufficiently as to the dangers which beset the 
diligent legalist — his fever of moral anxiety about petty 
things, and his weakness in the direction of seeking 
glory of men; in one sarcastic passage it describes the 
Pharisee who runs about asking if any one can tell him 
anything he has omitted to do, just like the young man 
who came to Jesus to ask if he had any new views as to 
the things necessary to eternal life. And there were great 
teachers who pointed back, as Jesus did, from the mint, 
anise, and cummin, to the weightier matters of the law, 
judgment, mercy, and faith ; 5 from the ceremonial details 
to the greatest commandments of all — love to God and love 

! A j XVIII L 3 

2 ScMrer, iV. T. ZeitgesehioHe, II. 419. 

a Lev. xviii. 5 ; Gal. iii. 12 ; 2 Mace. vii. 36. 

4 Romans ii. 12. 5 Matt, xxiii. 23. 



32 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

to man. Jesus does more. He protests against the whole 
conception of God's estimate of man's life and service, and 
of man's attitude towards the Supreme Judge, which was 
involved in the theory of a series of obligations arranged 
by God for the purpose of enabling man to acquire merit 
in his eyes. God was conceived as keeping a kind of 
ledger-account against each of his servants, who had at any 
moment a balance on the right or on the wrong side. On this 
balance his fate is to depend "when the books are opened, 
and the judgment set." All the language of the parables 
about accounts, debts, and bills depends upon this idea. It 
is thus expressed in words attributed to R. Akiba: 1 
" Everything is foreseen, and freewill is given. And the 
world is judged by grace (? goodness) ; and everything is 
according to work. 2 The office is open, and the broker 
gives credit ; and the ledger is open, and the hand writes ; 
and whoever will comes and borrows ; and the bailiffs go 
round continually every day, and exact from a man, 
whether he will or not .... and the judgment is a judg- 
ment of truth." Jesus is always protesting that God is a 
loving father, not an exacting creditor. He is, as a fact, 
always forgiving us. Do we think well of ourselves, and 
thank God that we are not as other men are ? He declines 
to accept us at our own valuation, but comforts a publican 
and welcomes a prodigal, at whom we felt perfectly justi- 
fied in looking askance. We can no more determine the 
relative merits of men by any standard of our applying, can 
no more settle our precise place in the kingdom of God, 
than we can cut and carve the daily providence of God to 
suit our notions of human desert. He makes his sun to 
shine and his rain to fall on the evil and on the good, on 
the just and on the unjust. He is kind to the unthankful 

1 Pirke Ahoth III., 24, 25, ed. C. Taylor. 

2 M. Derenbourg translates : " Everything depends on the greater 
number of deeds (which a man has done)." Cf. 4th Bsdras vi. 49. 
" Thou hast a treasure of works laid up with the Highest." This seems 
to be the Catholic doctrine of merit, against which the early Protestants 
revived, in an extreme form, the objection of Jesus, in their doctrine of 
grace. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 33 

and evil. If men will follow him in this, their reward is 
in the love they share ; they shall be the " children of the 
Highest." ' Recount, if you can, in the light of such a view 
of God, your merits in his service ; have you done more 
than your duty ? 2 and if you have done well, are you 
aggrieved that God's mercy is wider than the covenant 
which was your hope ? that the wasted lives are gathered 
up, that the bruised reed is not broken, and the smoking 
flax not quenched? Because the elder brother has had 
his years of peaceful assurance, must the door be shut 
against the spendthrift who comes home at last ? Because, 
. in our covenant, " we agreed for a penny a day," must we 
grumble that God's mercies, far and wide, are always up- 
setting our theory of proportionate wages ? s Do we not 
find ourselves, when once our sympathies are touched, 
refusing to weigh all action with one scale and one weight 
— looking, as it were, into the sphere in which the widow's 
mite outweighs the contributions of the wealthy — where 
" she hath done what she could " is the sublimest eulogy ? 
where, too, what is evil is not all guilt, and to her that loved 
much, much is forgiven ? 

These few words will, perhaps, indicate my view of the 
protest raised by Jesus against a doctrine of legal merit and 
covenant-salvation. It turns, in his discourses, chiefly 
around the words Love and Forgiveness : in Paul, who is 
here most markedly anticipated by Jesus, it turns around 
the terms Faith and Grace. Jesus pleads for the penitent, 
whose case is hopeless, if the daily records and the adverse 
balances are to determine everything. Paul pleads for the 
Gentile, the avOfios, who has no righteousness according 
to the Law, and no part nor lot in the covenant. With all 
differences, both are at one in maintaining that the final 
award depends on the relation of the individual soul to 
God, and that " there is no respect of persons with him." 

J. Edwin Odgers. 

1 Matt. v. 45-48; Luke vii. 35. ' Lukexvii.10. ' Lukexv.28; Matt.xx.ll. 
VOL. III. C 



34 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 



III. Rabbinical Literature. 

" Blessed be he who knows." These are the words with 
which Naehmanides, in his classical treatise on Retribution 
("Shaar Haggemul"), dismisses a certain theory of the 
Geonim with regard to this question; after which he 
proceeds to expound another theory, which seems to 
him more satisfactory. This mode of treatment implies 
that, unsatisfactory as the one or other theory may appear 
to us,it would be presumptuous to reject either entirely, there 
being only one who knows the exact truth about the great 
mystery. But we may indicate our doubt about one doctrine 
by putting another by its side, which we may not affirm to be 
more absolutely true, but more probable. This seems to have 
been the attitude, too, of the compilers of the ancient 
Rabbinical literature, in which the most conflicting views 
about this grave subject were embodied. Nor did the 
synagogue in general feel called upon to decide between 
these views. There is indeed no want of theodicies, for 
almost every important expounder of Job, as well as every 
Jewish philosopher of note, has one with its own system of 
retribution. Thus Judaism has no fixed doctrine on the 
subject. It refused a hearing to no theory, for fear that 
it should contain some germ of truth, but on the same 
ground it accepted none to the exclusion of the others. 

These theories may, perhaps, be conveniently reduced 
to the two following main doctrines that are in direct 
opposition to each other, whilst all other views about the 
subject will be treated as the more or less logical results 
of the one or other doctrine. 

1. There is no death without (preceding) sin, nor affliction 
without (preceding) transgression (Sabbath, 55a). This view 
is cited in the name of R. Ammi, who quoted in cor- 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 35 

roboration verses from Ez. xviii. 20, and Ps. lxxxix. 33. 
Though this Rabbi flourished towards the end of the 
third century, there is hardly any doubt that his view 
was held by the authorities of a much earlier date. For 
it can only be under the sway of such a notion of Retribu- 
tion that the Tannaim, or doctors of the Mishnah, were so 
anxious to assign some great crime as the antecedent to 
every serious calamity by which mankind was visited. 
The following illustrations of my meaning will suffice : — 
" Pestilence comes into the world for capital crimes men- 
tioned in the Torah, which are not brought before the earthly 
Tribunal. . . . Noisome beasts come into the world 
for vain swearing and for profanation of the Name (of 
God). Captivity comes upon the world for strange worship 
and incest, and for shedding of blood and for (not) giving 
release to the land." 1 As an example of the misfortune 
befalling the individual I will merely allude to a passage 
in Arachin, 16a, according to which leprosy is to be regarded 
as the penalty for immorality, slander, perjury and similar 
sins. 

If we were now to complement R. Ammi's view by 
adding that there is no happiness without some preceding 
merit — and there is no serious objection to making this 
addition — then it would resolve itself into the theory of 
measure for measure, which forms a very common standard 
of reward and punishment in Jewish literature. Here 
are a few instances : — " Because the Egyptians wanted to 
destroy Israel by water (Exod.i. 22), they were themselves 
destroyed by the waters of the Red Sea, as it is said, 
Therefore I will measure their former work into their 
bosom (Is. lxv. 7)." "Whilst, on the other hand, we read, 
"Because Abraham showed himself hospitable towards 
strangers, providing them with water (Gen. xviii. 4), God 
gave to his children a country blessed with plenty of 

1 A both (ed. C. Taylor), v. 12-15. See also Sabbath, 32 scq., and Mechilta 
(ed. Friedmann), 95J. 

c 2 



36 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

water (Deut. viii. 1)." Sometimes this form of retribution 
goes so far as to define a special punishment to that part of 
the body which mostly contributed to the committing of the 
sin. Thus we read, " Samson rebelled against God by his eyes, 
as it is said, Get her (the Philistine woman) for me, for she 
pleases my eyes (Jud. xvi. 21) ; therefore, his eyes were put 
out by the Philistines {Ibid, xviii. 9)"; whilst Absalom, whose 
sinful pride began by his hair (2 Sam. xiv. 25) met his fate 
by his hair {Ibid, xviii. 9). 1 Nachum of Gamza himself ex- 
plained his blindness and the maimed condition of his arms 
and legs as the consequence of a specific offence in having 
neglected his duty of succouring a poor man. Addressing 
the dead body of the suppliant who perished while Nachum 
was delaying his help, he said, " Let my eyes (which had no 
pity for your pitiful gaze) become blind ; may my hands 
and legs (that did not hasten to help thine) become maimed, 
and finally my whole body be covered with boils " {Taanith, 
21«). " This was the hand that wrote it," said Cranmer 
at the stake ; " therefore it shuil suffer first punishment." 

It is worth noticing that this retribution does not always 
consist in a material reward, but, as Ben Azai expressed it 
in the Mishnah {Aboth, iv. 5) : " The reward of a com- 
mand is a command, and the reward of a transgression is a 
transgression." So again : " Because Abraham showed 
himself so magnanimous in his treatment of the King of 
Sodom, and said, I will not take from thee a thread ; there- 
fore, his children enjoyed the privilege of having the com- 
mand of Zizith, consisting in putting a thread or fringe in 
the border of their garments " {Chulin, 88J). In another 
passage we read, " He who is anxious to do acts of charity 
will be rewarded by having the means enabling him to do 
so" {Baba Bathra, 9b). In more general terms the same 
thought is expressed when the Ba,bbis explained the words, 
Ye shall sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy (Lev. xi. 

1 See MecHlta, 259a, 325. (Jen. Kabbah, oh. 48, and Touephta Sotah, IV. 
7 and parallels. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 37 

44; to the effect that if man takes the initiative in holiness, 
even though in a small way, Heaven will help him to 
reach it to a much higher degree (Yoma, 39a). 

Notwithstanding these passages, to which many more 
might be added, it cannot be denied that there are in the 
Eabbinical literature many passages holding out promises of 
material reward to the righteous as well as threatening the 
wicked with material punishment. Nor is there any need 
of denying it. Simple-minded men — and such the majority 
of the Rabbis were — will never be persuaded into looking 
with indifference on pain and pleasure ; they will be 
far from thinking that poverty, loss of children, and 
sickness are no evil, and that a rich harvest, hope 
of posterity, and good health, are not desirable things. 
It does lie in our nature to consider the former as 
curses and the latter as blessings ; " and if this be wrong 
there is no one to be made responsible for it but the 
Creator of nature." Accordingly the question must arise, 
How can a just and omnipotent God allow it to happen 
that men should suffer innocently ? The most natural 
suggestion toward solving the difficulty would be that we 
are not innocent. Hence R. Ammi's assertion that affliction 
and death are both the outcome of sin and transgression ; 
or, as R. Chanina ben Dossa expressed it, " It is not the 
wild beast but sin which kills " (Berachoth, 33a). 

We may thus perceive in this theory an attempt " to 
justify the ways of God to man." Unfortunately it does 
not correspond with the real facts. The cry wrung from 
the prophets against the peace enjoyed by the wicked, and 
the pains inflicted on the righteous, which finds its echo in 
so many Psalms, and reaches its climax in the Book of Job, 
was by no means silenced in the times of the Rabbis. If 
long experience could be of any use, it only served to 
deepen perplexity. For all this suffering of the people 
of God, and the prosperity of their wicked persecutors, 
which perplexed the prophets and their immediate followers, 
were repeated during the death-struggle for independence 



38 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

against Rome, and were not lessened by the establishment 
of Christianity as the dominant religion. The only com- 
fort which time brought them was, perhaps, that the long 
continuance of misfortune made them less sensible to 
suffering than their ancestors were. Indeed, a Rabbi of 
the first century said that his generation had by continuous 
experience of misery become as insensible to pain as the 
dead body is towards a prick of a needle {Sabbath 135). 
The anaesthetic effect of long suffering may, indeed, help 
one to endure pain with more patience, but it cannot serve 
as an apology for the deed of the inflictors of the pain. 
The question, then, how to reconcile hard reality with the 
justice of God, remained as difficult as ever. 

The most important passage in Rabbinical literature 
relating to the solution of this problem is the following 
(Beraehoth, 7a): — With reference to Exod. xxxiii. 13, R. 
Jochanan said, in the name of R. Jose, that, among 
other things, Moses also asked God to explain to him 
the method of his Providence; a request that was 
granted to him. He asked God, Why are there righ- 
teous people who are prosperous, and righteous who are 
suffering; wicked who are prosperous, and wicked who 
suffer? The answer given to him was according to the 
one view that the prosperity of the wicked and the suffer- 
ing of the righteous are a result of the conduct of their 
ancestors, the former being the descendants of righteous 
parents and enjoy their merits, whilst the latter, coming 
from a bad stock, suffer for the sins of those to whom they 
owe their existence. This view was suggested by the 
Scriptural words, "Keeping mercy for thousands (of 
generations) . ... visiting the iniquity of the fathers 
upon the children " (Ibid, xxxiv. 7), which were regarded 
as the answer to Moses' question in the preceding chapter 
of Exodus. Prevalent, however, as this view may have 
been in ancient times, the Rabbis never allowed it 
to pass without some qualification. It is true that 
they had no objection to the former part of this doc- 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 39 

trine, and they speak very frequently of the "Merits 
of the Fathers " (m2H /YDT) for which the remotest 
posterity is rewarded ; for this could be explained on 
the ground of the boundless goodness of God, which 
cannot be limited to the short space of a lifetime. But 
there was no possibility of overcoming the moral ob- 
jection against punishing people for sins they have not 
committed. 

It will suffice to mention here that with reference to 
Joshua vii. 24, 25, the Rabbis asked the question, If he 
(Achan) sinned, what justification could there be for putting 
his sons and daughters to death ? And by the force of 
this argument they interpreted the words of the Scriptures 
to mean that the children of the criminal were only com- 
pelled to be present at the execution of their father. 

Such passages, therefore, as would imply that children 
have to suffer for the sins of their parents are explained by 
the Rabbis to refer to such cases where the children per- 
petuate the crimes of their fathers. 1 The view of R. Jose, 
which I have already quoted, had, therefore, to be dropped, 
and another version in the name of the same Rabbi is 
accepted. According to this theory the sufferer is a person 
either entirely wicked (trm yon) or not perfectly 
righteous ("Tina "WNttf p'HS), whilst the prosperous man is 
a person either perfectly righteous (maa piT2) or not 
entirely wicked (TttM VNtt7 3?t£T)). 

It is hardly necessary to say that there is still something 
wanting to supplement this view, for the given classifica- 
tion would place the not entirely wicked on the same level 
with the perfectly righteous, and on a much higher level 
than the imperfectly righteous, who are undoubtedly far 
superior. The following passage may be regarded as sup- 
plying this missing something : — " The wicked who have 
done some good work are as amply rewarded for it in this 



1 See Mechilta, 686 and parallels. Sifra, 1126. Pessikta of R. Kahana, 
1676. Cp. Sanhedrin, 44a. 



40 The Jewish Quarterly Review 

world as if they were men who have fulfilled the whole of 
the Torah, so that they may be punished for their sins in 
the next world (without interruption); whilst the righteous 
who have committed some sin have to suffer for it (in this 
world) as if they were men who burned the Law, so that 
they may enjoy their reward in the world to come (with- 
out interruption)." 1 Thus the real retribution takes place 
in the next world, the fleeting existence on earth not being 
the fit time either to compensate righteousness or to punish 
sin. But as, on the one hand, God never allows " that the 
merit of any creature should be cut short," whilst, on the 
other hand, he deals very severely with the righteous, 
punishing them for the slightest transgression ; since, too, 
this reward and punishment are only of short duration, 
they must take place in this short terrestrial existence. 
There is thus established a sort of divine economy, lest the 
harmony of the next world should be disturbed. 

Yet another objection to the doctrine under discussion 
remains to be noticed. It is that it justifies God by 
accusing man, declaring every sufferer as more or less 
of a sinner. But such a notion, if carried to its last 
consequences, must result in tempting us to withhold 
our sympathies from him. And, indeed, it would seem 
that there were some non-Jewish philosophers who 
argued in this way. Thus a certain Roman official is 
reported to have said to R. Akiba, " How can you be 
so eager in helping the poor ? Suppose only a king, 
who, in his wrath against his slave, were to set him in 
the gaol, and give orders to withhold from him food and 
drink ; if, then, one dared to act to the contrary, would not 
the king be angry with him?" 3 There is some appearance 
of logic in this notion put into the mouth of a heathen. 
The Babbis, however, were inconsistent people, and re- 
sponded to the appeal which suffering makes to every 

1 Aboth de B. Nathan, 40a, 59J, and 62S. Pessihta of R. Kahana, 73a, 
and parallels. 

2 Baba Bathra, 10a. See Bacher, Ilagada der Tannaiten, I., 295. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 41 

human heart without asking too many questions. With- 
out entering here into the topic of charity in the 
Rabbinic literature, which would form a very interesting 
chapter, I shall only allude now to the following incident, 
which would show that the Rabbis did not abandon even 
those afflicted with leprosy, which, according to their own 
notion, given above, followed only as a punishment for the 
worst crimes. One Friday, we are told, when the day 
was about to darken, the Chassid Abba Tachnah was re- 
turning home, bearing on his shoulders the baggage that 
contained all his fortune ; he saw a leprous man lying on 
the road, who addressed him ; " Rabbi, do with me a deed 
of charity and take me into the town." The Rabbi now 
thought, " If I leave my baggage, where shall I find the 
means of obtaining subsistence for myself and my family ? 
But if I forsake this leprous man I shall commit a mortal 
sin," In the end, he made the good inclination predominant 
over the evil one, and first carried the sufferer to the town 
(Kohelet Rabbet, ix. 7). The only practical conclusion that the 
Rabbis drew from such theories as identify suffering with 
sin were for the sufferer himself, who otherwise might be 
inclined to blame Providence, or even to blaspheme, 1 but 
would now look upon his affliction as a memento from heaven 
that there is something wrong in his moral state. Thus 
we read in Berachoth (5a) : " If a man sees that affliction 
comes upon him, he ought to inquire into his actions, as 
it is said, Let us search and try our ways, and turn again 
to the Lord (Lam. iii. 40)." This means to say that the 
sufferer will find that he has been guilty of some offence. 
As an illustration of this statement we may perhaps con- 
sider the stoty about R. Huna, occurring in the same 
tractate (p. 7b). Of this Rabbi it is said that he once 
experienced heavy pecuniary losses, whereupon his friends 
came to his house and said to him, " Let the master but 
examine his conduct a little closer." On this R. Huna 

1 See Aboth de R. Nathan, 65 J and notes. 



42 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

answered, " Do you suspect me of having committed some 
misdeed ? " His friends rejoined, " And do you think 
that God would pass judgment without justice ? " R. 
Huna then followed their hint, and found that he did not 
treat his tenant farmer as generously as he ought. He 
offered redress, and all turned out well in the end. Some- 
thing similar is to be found in the story of the martyrdom 
of R. Simon ben Gamliel and R. Ishmael ben Elisha. Of 
these Rabbis wo are told that on their way to be executed 
the one said to the other, " My heart leaves me, for I am 
not aware of a sin deserving such a death " ; on which the 
other answei*ed, "It might have happened that in your 
function as judge you sometimes — for your own con- 
venience — were slow in administering justice." 1 

But even if the personal actions of the righteous wei-e 
blameless, there might still be sufficient ground for 
his being afflicted and miserable. This may be found 
in his relations to his kind and surroundings, or, to 
use the term now more popular, by reason of human 
solidarity. Now, after the above remarks on the ob- 
jections entertained by the Rabbis against a man's being 
punished for the sins of others, it is hardly necessaiy to 
say that their idea of solidarity has little in common 
with the crude notions of it current in very ancient times. 
Still, it can hardly be doubted that the relation of the 
individual to the community was more keenly felt by the 
Rabbis than by the leaders in any other society, modern or 
ancient. According to the Mechilta (63«) it would, indeed, 
seem that to them the individual was not simply a member 
of the Jewish commonwealth, or a co-religionist, but a limb 
of the great and single body " Israel," and that as such he 
communicated both for good and evil the sensations of the 
one part to the whole. In Leviticus Rabba (ch. 4), where 
a parallel is to be found to this idea, the responsibility of 
the individual towards the community is further illustrated 

1 See Mechilta, 57J, and parallels. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 43 

by R. Simon ben Yochai, in the following way : " It is," we 
read there, " to be compared to people sitting on board a 
ship, one of the passengers of which took an awl and began 
to bore holes in the bottom of the vessel. Asked to desist 
from his dangerous occupation, he answered, ' Why, I am 
only making holes on my own seat,' forgetting that when 
the water came in it would sink the whole ship." Thus 
the sin of a single man might endanger the whole of 
humanity. It was in conformity with the view of his 
father that R. Eliezer, the son of R. Simon (ben Yochai) 
said, " The world is judged after the merits or demerits of 
the majority, so that a single individual by his good or bad 
actions can decide the fate of his fellow-creatures, as it 
may happen that he is just the one who constitutes this 
majority." 1 Nor does this responsibility cease with the 
man's own actions. According to the Rabbis man is re- 
sponsible even for the conduct of others — and as such 
liable to punishment — if he is indifferent to the wrong that 
is being perpetrated about him, whilst an energetic protest 
from his side could have prevented it. And the greater 
the man the greater is his responsibility. He may suffer 
for the sins of his family which is first reached by his 
influence ; he may suffer for the sins of the whole community 
if he could hope to find a willing ear among them, and he 
may even suffer for the sins of the whole world if his in- 
fluence extend so far, and he forbear from exerting it for 
good. 2 Thus the possibility is given that the righteous man 
may suffer with justice, though he himself has never com 
mitted any transgression. 

As a much higher aspect of this solidarity — and as may 
have already suggested itself to the reader from the 
passage cited above from the Mechilta — we may regard 
the suffering of the righteous as an atonement for the 
sins of their contemporaries. " When there will be neither 
Tabernacle nor the Holy Temple," Moses is said to have 

1 See Kedushin, 40 b. i See Sabbath, 54a. 



44 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

asked God, " What will become- of Israel ? " Whereupon 
God answers, " I will take from among them the righteous 
man whom I shall consider as pledged for them, and will 
forgive all their sins;" the death of the perfect man, or 
even his suffering being looked upon as an expiation for 
the shortcoming of his generation. 1 

It is hardly necessary to remind the reader of the affinity 
of this idea with that of sacrifices in general, as in both 
cases it is the innocent being which has to suffer for the 
sins of another creature. But there is one vital point which 
makes all the difference. It is that in our case the suffer- 
ing is not enforced, but is a voluntary act on the part of 
the sacrifice, and is even desired by him. Without entering 
here on the often-discussed theme of the suffering of the 
Messiah, I need only mention the words of R Ishmael 
who, on a very slight provocation, exclaimed, " I am the 
atonement for the Jews," which means that he took upon 
him all their sins to suffer for them. 2 This desire seems to 
have its origin in nothing else but a deep sympathy and 
compassion with Israel. To suffer for, or, at least, with 
Israel was, according to the Rabbis, already the ideal of 
Moses. He is said, indeed, to have broken the Two Tables 
with the purpose of committing some sin, so that he would 
have either to be condemned together with Israel (for the 
sin of the golden calf), or to be pardoned together with 
them. 3 And this conduct was not only expected from the 
leaders of Israel, but almost from every Jew. Thus we 
read in Taanith (11a), " When Israel is in a state of affliction 
(as, for instance, famine) one must not say, I will rather 
live by myself, and eat and drink, and peace be unto thee, 
my soul. To those who do so the words of the Scriptures 
are to be applied : And in that day did the Lord God of 
Hosts call to weeping and to mourning, . . . and 

1 See Exodus Sabbah, c. 35 and parallels. 

2 See Negaim, ii. 1, and compare Aruch, s.v. 13 

3 JExod. Mabbah, c. 46. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 45 

behold joy and gladness. . . . Surely this iniquity 
shall not be purged out from you till ye die (Is. xxii. 12-14)." 
Another passage is to the effect that when a man shows 
himself indifferent to the suffering of the community there 
come the two angels (who accompany every Jew) put their 
hands on his head, and say, " This man who has separated 
himself shall be excluded from their consolations." 
(Taanith, ibid.) 

We might now characterise this sort of suffering as the 
chastisement of love (of the righteous) to mankind, or 
rather to Israel. But we must not confuse it with the 
chastisement of love (nans btt? fn*©"') often mentioned 
in the Talmud, though this idea also seems calculated to 
account for the suffering of the righteous. Here the love 
is not on the side of the sufferer, but proceeds from him 
who inflicts this suffering. " Him," says R Huna, " in 
whom God delights he crushes with suffering." As a 
proof of this theory the verse from Is. liii. 10 is given, 
which words are interpreted to mean : Him whom the Lord 
delights in he puts to grief. Another passage, by the same 
authority, is to the effect that where there is no sufficient 
cause for punishment (the man being entirely free from 
sin), we have to regard his suffering as a chastisement of 
love, for it is said : " Whom the Lord loveth he correcteth " 
(Proverbs iii. II). 1 To what purpose he corrects him may, 
perhaps, be seen from the following passage : " R. Eleazar 
ben Jacob says : If a man is visited by affliction he has to 
be thankful to God for it : for suffering draws man to, and 
reconciles him with God, as it said : For whom God loveth 
he correcteth." 2 

It is in conformity with such a high conception that 
affliction, far from being dreaded, becomes almost a desirable 
end, and we hear many Eabbis exclaim, "Beloved is 
suffering," for by it fatherly love is shown to man by God ; 
by it man obtains purification and atonement, by it Israel 

1 See JBeracAoth, 5a. ' Tanohuma, K2fn O, § 2. Cp. Mechilta, 72b. 



46 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

came in possession of the best gifts, such as the Torah, the 
Holy Land, and eternal life. 1 And so also the sufferer, far 
from being considered as a man with a suspected past, 
becomes an object of veneration, on whom the glory of 
God rests, and he brings salvation to the world if he 
bears his affliction with joyful submission to the will of 
God. 2 Continuous prosperity is by no means to be longed 
after, for, as R. Ishmael taught, " He who has passed forty 
days without meeting adversity has already received his 
(share of the) world (to come) in this life." 3 Nay, the 
standing rule is that the really righteous suffer, whilst the 
wicked are supposed to be in a prosperous state. Thus, 
R. Jannai said, " We (average people) enjoy neither the 
prosperity of the wicked nor the afflictions of the righteous,"* 
whilst his contemporary, Rab, declared that he who ex- 
periences no affliction and persecution does not belong to 
them (the Jews). 5 

2. The second main view on Retribution is that recorded 
in the Tractate Sabbath (565) as in direct opposition to that 
of R. Ammi. It is that there is suffering as well as death 
without sin and transgression. We may now just as well 
infer that there is prosperity and happiness without pre- 
ceding merits. And this is, indeed, the view held by R. 
Meir. For in contradiction to the view cited above, R. Meir 
declares that the request of Moses to have explained to 
him the mysterious ways of Providence was not granted, 
and the answer he received was, " And I will shew mercy 
on whom I will shew mercy" (Exod. xxxiii. 19), which means 
to say, even though he to whom the mercy is shown be 
unworthy of it. The old question arises how such a pro- 
cedure is to be reconciled with the justice and omnipotence 



' See Si/re, 73b, and parallels. 2 See Taanith, 85. 3 See Arachin, 165. 

4 Aboth, iv. 15. I have accepted here the explanation of R.l Jonah, 
which is supported by the parallel in Aboth de R. Nathan, 33i, and also 
Berachoth, 61J. See R. Simon Duran's Commentary D13S }3D to this 
passage. Cp. Graetz's History, vol. iv., 231. 5 See Chagigah, 5a. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 47 

of God. The commentaries try to evade the difficulty by 
suggesting some of the views given above, as that the real 
reward and punishment are only in the world to come, or 
that the affliction of the righteous is only chastisement of 
love, and so on. From the passages we are about to quote, 
however, one gains the impression that some Rabbis rather 
thought that this great problem will indeed not bear dis- 
cussion or solution at all. Thus we read in a Boraitha: 
" The angels said to God, Why have you punished Adam 
with death ? He answered, On account of his having 
transgressed my commandment (with regard to the eating 
of the tree of knowledge). But why had Moses and Aaron 
to die ? The reply given to them is in the words, Eccl. ix. 
2 : ' All things come alike to all, there is one event to the 
righteous and the wicked, to the good and clean and un- 
clean'" {Sabbath, 556). In Tractate Menachoth, 29b, we 
again find a passage in which we are told how, " when 
Moses ascended to heaven, God showed him also the 
great men of futurity. R. Akiba was sitting and in- 
terpreting the law in a most wonderful way. Moses 
said to God : Thou hast shown me his worth, show 
me also his reward ; on which he is bidden to look back. 
There he perceives him dying the most cruel of deaths, 
and his flesh being sold by weight. Moses now asks : Is 
this the reward of such a life? whereupon God answers 
him : Be silent ; this I have determined." 

It is impossible not to think of the beautiful lines of the 
German poet : — 

Warum schleppt sich blutend, elend, 

Unter Kreuzlast der Gerechte, 

Wabrend gliicklich als ein Sieger 

Trabt auf hohem Rosa der Schlechte ? 

Also fragen. wir bestandig, 
Bis man uns mit einer Handvoll 
Erde endlich stopf t die Mauler — 
Aber ist das eine Antwort ? 
Still, when examined a little closer, one might perhaps 



48 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

suggest that these passages not only contain a rebuke to 
man's importunity in wanting to intrude into the secrets 
of God, but also hint at the possibility that even God's 
omnipotence is submitted to a certain law — though de- 
signed by his own holy will — which he could not alter 
without detriment to the whole creation. Indeed, in one 
of the mystical accounts of the martyrdom of R. Akiba and 
other great Eabbis, God is represented as asking the 
sufferers to accept his hard decree without protest, unless 
they wish him to destroy the whole world. In Taantth 
(25a) again we read of a certain renowned Rabbi, who 
lived in great poverty, that once in a dream he asked the 
divine Shechinah how long he would have still to endure 
this bitter privation ? The answer given to him was : 
" My son, will it please you that I destroy the world for 
your sake ? " It is only in this light that we shall be able 
to understand such passages in the Rabbinic literature as 
that God almost suffers himself when he has to inflict 
punishment either on the individual or whole communities. 
Thus God is represented as mourning for seven days (as in 
the case when one loses a child) before he brought the 
Deluge on the world (Gen. Rabbah, c. 27) ; he bemoans the 
fall of Israel and the destruction of the Temple (see Pessikta 
1366), and the Shechinah laments even when the criminal 
suffers his just punishment (Mishnah Sanhedrin, vi., 5). 
And it is not by rebelling against these laws that he tries 
to redeem his suffering. He himself has recourse to prayer, 
and says : " May it be my will that my mercy conquer my 
wrath, that my love over-rule my strict justice, so that I 
may treat my children with love " (see Berachoth, 7a). If 
now man is equal to God, he has nevertheless, or rather 
on that account, to submit to the law of God without 
any outlook for reward or punishment; or, as Antigonos 
expressed it, " Be not as slaves that minister to the Lord 
with a view to receive recompence." 1 Certainly it would 

1 Aboth, i., 3., p. 27, ed. Taylor. See also note 8. 



The Doctrine of Divine Metribution. 49 

be hazardous to maintain that Antigonos' saying was a 
consequence of this doctrine ; but, at any rate, we see a 
clear tendency to keep the thought of reward (in spite 
of the prominent part it holds in the Bible) out of view. 
Still more clearly it is seen when, with reference to 
Ps. cxii., "Blessed is the man . . . that delighteth 
greatly in his commandments," R. Joshua ben Levi 
remarks that the meaning is that the man desires only to 
do his commandments, but he does not Want the rewards 
connected with them. 1 This is the more remarkable, as the 
whole content of this chapter is nothing else than a long 
series of promises of various rewards, so that the explana- 
tion of R. Joshua ben Levi is in almost direct contradiction 
to the simple meaning of the words. On the other hand, 
also, every complaint about suffering must cease. Not 
only is affliction no direct chastisement by God in the way 
of revenge, for, as R. Eleazar teaches : " With the moment 
of Revelation (that is to say, since moral conduct became 
law) neither bliss nor adversity came from God, but the 
bliss comes by itself to those who act rightly, and con- 
versely (Deut. Rabba, c. 42) ; but even when it would seem 
to us that we suffer innocently, we have no right to murmur, 
as God himself is also suffering, and, as the Talmud ex- 
presses it, ' It is enough for the slave to be in the position 
of his master ' (Berachoth, 58b)." 

This thought of the compassion — in its strictest sense of 
suffering-with — of God with his creatures becomes a new 
motive for avoiding sin. " Woe to the wicked," exclaims 
a Rabbi, " who by their bad actions turn the mercy 
of God into strict justice." And the later mystics ex- 
plain distinctly that the great crime of sin consists in 
causing pain, so to speak, to the Shechinah. One of 
them compared it with the slave who abuses the goodness 
of his master so far as to buy for his money arms to wound 
him. 2 But, on the other hand, it becomes, rather incon- 

1 AU&ah Zarah, 19a. See also Sifri, 796. ! See HD3n TVBW I., 9. 
VOL. III. D 



50 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

sistently, also a new source of comfort ; for, in the end, God 
will have to redeem himself from this suffering, which 
cannot be accomplished so long as Israel is still under 
punishment. 1 Most interesting is the noble prayer by a 
Rabbi of a very late mystical school : " O God, speedily 
bring about the redemption. I am not in the least think- 
ing of what I may gain by it. I am willing to be con- 
demned to all tortures in hell, if only the Shechinah will 
cease to suffer." 2 

If we were now to ask for the attitude of the Synagogue 
towards these two main views, we would have to answer 
that — as already hinted at the opening of this paper — it 
never decided for the one or the other. R David M|Tt3"i)a 
dared even to write a whole book in defence of Adam 
(0"TN JTDt) proving that he committed no sin in eating the 
fruits of the tree of knowledge against the literal sense of 
the Scriptures, which were also taken by the Rabbis 
literally. 3 By this he destroyed the prospects of many 
a theodicy, but it is not known to us that he was 
severely rebuked for it. It has been said by a great 
writer that the best theology is that which is not con- 
sistent, and this advantage the theology of the Syna- 
gogue possesses to its utmost extent. It accepted with 
R. Ammi, the stern principle of divine retribution, in as 
far as it makes man feel the responsibility of his actions, 
and makes suffering a discipline. But it never allowed 
this principle to be carried so far as to deny the sufferer our 
sympathy, and by a series of conscious and unconscious 
modifications, he passed from the state of a sinner into the 
zenith of the saint and the perfectly righteous man. But, 
on the other hand, the Synagogue also gave entrance to 
the very opposite view which, abandoning every attempt 
to account for suffering, bids man do his duty without any 
hope of reward, even as God also does his. Hence the 

1 See Exocl. R., 30, and parallels. 3 See D^BIV D*DDT 33*. 

3 See Sabbath, 555 and Si/ra, 27a. 



The Doctrine of Divine Retribution. 51 

remarkable phenomenon in the works of later Jewish 
moralists that whilst they never weary of the most detailed 
accounts of the punishments awaiting the sinner, and the 
rewards in store for the righteous, they warn us most 
emphatically that our actions must not be guided by these 
unworthy considerations, and that our only motive should 
be the love of God and submission to his holy will. 1 

Nor must it be thought that the views of the Rabbis 
are so widely divergent from those enunciated in the Bible. 
The germ of almost all the later ideas is already to be 
found in the Scriptures. It only needed the progress of time 
to bring into prominence those features which proved at a 
later period most acceptable. Indeed, it would seem that 
there is also a sort of domestication of religious ideas. 
On their first association with man there is a certain rude 
violence about them which, when left to the management 
of untutored minds would certainly do great harm. But, 
let only this association last for centuries, during which 
these ideas have to be subdued by practical use, and they 
will, in due time, lose their former roughness, will become 
theologically workable, and turn out the greatest blessing 
to inconsistent humanity. 

S. SCHECHTEK. 



' See for instance, TINDfl TTI13D (Amsterdam, 1720), p. 4, seq., and 
94 seq., and much more in the nD3n rVKWl, in the two chapters ~\))W 
nanxn 1W\ ilKTn, where also the views of other authors are given. 



d2