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588 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 



E. A. ABBOTT'S "FROM LETTER TO SPIRIT." 

From Letter to Spirit, An Attempt to reach through varying Voices the 
abiding Word. (London, A. & C. Black, 1903.) 

This brilliant book is so full of good things that a reviewer can 
only attempt to draw attention to a very few points that most appeal 
to him individually. The book indeed offers various points of interest 
to various students. Dr. Abbott is the instructor of many classes, 
not of one class. To some, Dr. Abbott's work will chiefly appeal 
from the point of view of the authenticity and significance of the 
Fourth Gospel. To others it will be a revelation of critical method, 
for the book is not more remarkable for its striking hypotheses than 
it is for its careful and systematic collection of evidence. Yet others 
will find themselves fascinated by the valuable help it offers to the 
understanding of religious metaphor, in itself an important though 
neglected factor in the development, not only of the expression 
given to religious doctrine, but also of the contents of religious 
doctrine. Or again, students of Rabbinical literature will be moved 
to admiration by Dr. Abbott's ingenious use of Jewish sources as 
illustrations of New Testament phraseology and ideas. It is my 
own special interest in this last topic that has impelled me to call 
attention to some of the conclusions arrived at in this able essay. 
Dr. Abbott's recent series of volumes (soon happily to be followed by 
another) really constitute a new and enlightening commentary on 
some of the most important passages in the New Testament. And 
the commentary is equally illuminative of the Rabbinical passages 
quoted. 

To take what many will regard as the most original and convincing 
of Dr. Abbott's suggestions, viz. his endeavour to show that under- 
lying the phrase "to take up the cross" is a spiritual meaning 
differing from the commonly assumed one. Dr. Abbott starts with 
the contention that such a phrase would have had little meaning 
to Jewish ears in the time of Jesus. In the Jewish Encyclopedia, 
art. "cross," Dr. Kohler asserts, on the contrary, that the Roman 
crucifixion "was so familiar to the Jews in New Testament times that 
they spoke frequently of 'men carrying their crosses before them 
while going to be executed.' " But the only reference that can be 
given is to one special case, viz. the binding of Isaac ; I know of no 
other reference. As Dr. Abbott argues : " After the first century, 
Jews might naturally point to the Sacrifice of Isaac as constituting 
their national and mediatorial offering, and might liken Isaac, carrying 



CKITICAL NOTICES 589 

the wood on which he was to be offered, to a man carrying his own 
cross. The simile would receive point from the persecutions under- 
gone by the Jews under the Romans, and might be used pointedly 
in controversies with Christians. But no evidence has been alleged 
that the phrase was in use among Jews as a metaphor during the first 
century." (I have quoted this note both for its relevancy to the 
subject under discussion, and as an example of Dr. Abbott's careful 
scholarship and penetrating criticism.) But now comes Dr. Abbott's 
solution of the puzzle. The entry into theKingdom of Heaven depended 
on the fulfilment of the command to love God. " The verbal repeti- 
tion of this Commandment, somewhat like the repetition of the Creed 
with us, was a daily duty for the Jews and was called 'taking on 
oneself the yoke? sometimes called 'the yoke of the Law,' 'of the 
Kingdom of Heaven' &c, but sometimes simply ' the yoke.' " It was 
this yoke and not the cross that Jesus mentioned and meant; and 
Dr. Abbott gives further point to his suggestion by showing that the 
yoke was sometimes preparatory for martyrdom, as in the case of 
R. Akiba, and that Greeks as well as Romans frequently wrote of the 
yoke or collar worn by the condemned on the way to the cross, as if it 
were the cross itself. Dr. Abbott further throws a flood of light on 
similar metaphors, such as driving the plough. He says that the 
metaphor of the disciple represented, not as wearing the yoke, but as 
driving yoked oxen, seems to be uncommon in Jewish literature. But 
a slightly different form of metaphor is not uncommon. Thus Eecles. 
xii. 1 1 is explained, in great detail, of the Law as acting towards its 
disciples the part of the ox-goad ; see T. Jer. Sanhedrin (ch. x halacha i) 
and Koheleth Rabba (loc. cit.). Finally, Dr. Abbott suggests that the 
Greek writers adopted the phrase "bear the cross" instead of "bear 
the yoke " in order to prevent confusion between the yoke of Christ 
and the yoke of the Law. It is always curious to recall in this con- 
nexion that every religion tends to regard itself as bearing the chart 
of freedom, and its predecessors or rivals as making men slaves under 
bondage. In Mishna Aboth, vi. 2 (Perek R. Meir), the Jewish law is 
claimed as freedom : " read not charuth (Exod. xxxii. 16), graven, but 
cheruth, freedom." No religion, we should rather say, can imply 
slavery when it produces willing and enthusiastic obedience. " This 
do, and thou shalt live," Luke x. 28, is almost identical with 
Levit. xviii. 5. 

Turning now to one of the main subjects of the book : the Bath 
Kol (Daughter of the Voice) or "Voice from Heaven" : we find even 
more that arrests attention and wins applause. To analyse this section 
would need the reproduction of far more than is fair. Suffice it to 
say that Dr. Abbott has collected a great mass of material (even 



59° THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

reprinting in German, as Appendix IV, the long list of references to 
Bath Kol from Pinner's edition of Beraehoth) which he has classified 
with skill. Classification where the Bath Kol is concerned is a matter 
of no little difficulty, and it is rather a pity that, as he has succeeded 
in the harder task, he has not always attempted the easier task of 
giving clearly in his text the first-hand references for the quotations. 
The references are, however, to be found in the Appendix from 
Pinner. Dr. Abbott also pays deserved attention to the fine article 
on "Bat Kol" which Dr. Ludwig Blau contributed to the Jewish 
Encyclopedia. In the whole section, as remarked at the outset of 
this notice, different readers will find different points of interest. To 
some, the "heavenly voice" will chiefly appeal by reason of its 
mystical associations with theories of revelation and inspiration. To 
me, the most wonderful thing is the series of facts collected by 
Dr. Abbott in chapter III of this section : " Bath Kol on its Defence." 
Dr. Abbott quotes as the head line of § i, " One does not trouble one- 
self about Bath Kol." The struggle that took place at the Jewish 
Synhedrin at the beginning of the second century a. d., was one of 
the greatest and bravest struggles recorded in human annals on behalf 
of the liberty of man's intellect and conscience. The Law, it was 
decided, was to be interpreted not by supernatural interventions 
(Bath Kol) but by "the vote of the majority," by man's own reason. 
And so throughout Dr. Abbott's book. It is full of learning, of 
originality, but above all of suggestiveness. He has read himself 
into the spirit of the ideas which he seeks to explain, and he has 
therefore very often arrived at the truth. On the Baptism, the 
Transfiguration (the " Dove "), he writes many valuable notes, in which 
besides the main issues many important side issues are treated. 
The principle on which he proceeds is described by him (p. viii) as 
" ascending from the known to the unknown. We know instances 
where varying Greek versions, those of the LXX, Aquila, Theodotion, 
and others, have ramified from one Hebrew Original, owing to erroneous 
translation. Tabulating these instances we can compare them with 
the Greek of the three Synoptists and ascertain whether they, too, 
deviate from one another in a manner corresponding to the deviations 
that we have found in the Old Testament. If they do, there results 
a probability that the Synoptic deviations also proceed from mis- 
translation of Hebrew." This principle Dr. Abbott applies with skill, 
and if he does so with less success and moderation in some cases, 
yet, as it seems to me, he attains to considerable success in a very- 
large number of other instances. Sometimes, as is inevitable, 
one or other aspect of the truth may be missed. This is the 
case with the following passage (p. 412): "In Hebrew and Jewish 



CRITICAL NOTICES 591 

literature, and in any early Christian literature based on Jewish 
tradition, legend would probably be very largely based on plays 
upon words, on interchange of similar letters, and on consequent 
confusions, corruptions, and conflations, resulting in amplifications 
of the Original to an extent unparalleled in Western literature." All 
this is true, but a good deal of legend of this class has not arisen from 
the text, but has been adopted from other sources and then more or 
less ingeniously wedded to the text. A large part of the series of 
Abraham and Isaac legends, for instance, are of heathen and Islamic 
origin; then the Jewish homilist tacked them somehow on to the 
text of Genesis. No doubt Dr. Abbott's canon is true within a very 
extended range, especially where earlier haggadic expansions are 
concerned, but it would not be safe to apply the canon too con- 
sistently. 

I am parting with Dr. Abbott's book after giving a very inadequate 
account of the wealth and excellence of its contents. Page after 
page scintillates with brilliant points. It is a book to read and 
re-read ; it is a well to dip into again and again with sure hope of 
finding a pure and refreshing stream of information, guidance, and 
inspiration. Dr. Abbott has clearly relied a good deal on secondary 
sources ; but he has so carefully verified and examined his materials, 
he has applied to them so penetrating and sound a criticism, that 
bis book is distinguished by its accuracy in details. Dr. Abbott 
stands forth as a conspicuous example of the salvation which lies 
in precision of thought and exactness of method. 

I. Abpahajb:$. 



DAVIDSON'S "OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY." 

Old Testament Prophecy. By the late Prof. A. B. Davidson, D. D., 
L.L.D., Litt.D. Edited by Prof. J. A. Patterson, D.D. (Edin- 
burgh, T. & T. Clark, 10s. 6d., 1903.) 

" Old Testament Prophecy," writes Prof. Patterson in his course 
of a sympathetic Preface, " was Dr. Davidson's favourite study, and 
the final results of forty years' strenuous thinking on this profoundly 
interesting subject are contained in the present volume. The very 
first winter he was professor, Dr. Davidson gave several lectures on 
Prophecy, and he was still busy with the same subject when, in the 
end of January, 1902, his work was suddenly ended by death." In 
common with Robertson Smith he was responsible for the great 
change that has come over the attitude of the churches in Scotland