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JUDAISM AND EARLY CHRISTIANITY 

The evil that men write, as well as the evil that men do, often 
lives after them. Calumnies against the Jews seem to have a 
peculiarly charmed life : in classical times Manetho, an Egyptian 
historian of the third century B. C. E., represented that they were 
in origin a pack of Egyptian lepers who were expelled from his 
country because of their foul disease. The story was refuted over 
and over again ; yet Tacitus writing in the second .century C. E. 
solemnly repeats it with a little decoration. In parts of the New 
Testament, again, the Pharisees are represented by their enemies as 
a class of self-righteous hypocrites. Historical criticism has proved 
that the charges come from embittered controversialists; yet writer 
after writer repeats them as though they were certain truths, and 
pays no account to their refutation and the fuller knowledge which 
is now available. 

The latest repetition of the story occurs in "The Conflict of 
Religions in the Roman Empire", by Mr. Glover, a classical lecturer 
of St. John's College, Cambridge, whose book has attracted a con- 
siderable amount of attention in England. It is one of the 'Life 
and Time Histories' as they have been called; but it differs from 
many of the class in that the author is not a pure theologian, but 
has a large knowledge of the Greek and Roman literature of the 
first three centuries of the Christian era. It does not claim to be 
a work of erudite scholarship, but a popular representation of the 
religous conditions in which Christianity grew up, based on a 
series of lectures which were given at a Theological College. It 
may be considered then to embody the current conception of Judaism 
which is disseminated among theological students, and it is there- 
fore worth while to dissect its statements in some detail; for the 
involuntary anti-Judaism of scholars is as dangerous as the de- 
liberate anti-Semitism of politicians. Mr. Glover has endeavored, 
as he puts it in his preface, "to see the founder of the Christian 

131 



132 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

movement and some of his followers as they appeared among their 
contemporaries, to represent Christian and Pagan with equal good- 
will and equal honesty and in my perspective to recapture something 
of the colour and movement of life, using imagination to interpret 
the data, and controlling it by them." 

It is perhaps accidental that Mr. Glover omits the Jews among 
those he intends "to represent with equal goodwill and equal 
honesty;" but it cannot be accidental that in his list of authorities 
there is not a single book by a Jew, nor a single standard work 
written from the Jewish point of view. Paul is after all not the 
only reliable authority for the Judaism of the period. The Talmud 
is doubtless a difficult book for the Gentile to study, and the 
elaborate works upon it by German scholars may not be attractive: 
Mr. Glover might, however, with less difficulty have consulted the 
writings of two members of his own University, the Edition of 
the Sayings of the Fathers by the late Master of St. John's College, 
and Professor Schechter's articles upon Jewish Theology; and had 
he done so, he must have regarded the Jews with a little more 
truth and a better perspective. As it is we have a rehash of the 
old denunciations of Pharisaism and its mechanical soulless concep- 
tion of religion, which poses for an account of Judaism at the time. 
It is surely a little grotesque that an author who has made a close 
study of the Stoics, Plutarch, Justin, Celsus, Apuleius, in fact of 
every pagan scribbler who has survived from that epoch, in order 
to get a true setting for early Christianity, should know nothing 
of contemporary Judaism at first hand; and so long as theologians 
and theological historians are unable or unwilling to go to the 
Rabbis themselves, and accept the Pauline epistles and Schiirer's 
history equally as gospel truth, so long will they give an account 
of the Jews which is not history but 'Tendenz-writing'. 

Having given an illuminating survey of Roman religion, the 
Stoic religious philosophy, and Plutarch's religious eclecticism, Mr. 
Glover in his fourth chapter comes to the central figure of his 
book, Jesus of Nazareth, and treats him in the manner of Renan: 
i. e. he puts aside what is miraculous in the Gospel narrative, accepts 
the rest as true, and heightens its effect with some local color 
and rhetorical writing. With this we have no special cavil, though 
it may be remarked that the rejection of the miraculous elements in 



JUDAISM AND EARLY CHRISTIANITY — BENTWICH I33 

the life of Jesus makes it more unreasonable to regard him as abso- 
lutely unique among his contemporaries. All experience teaches us 
that the great men of any age reflect in their highest development 
the ideas of that age ; and it is, therefore, unscientific of Mr. Glover 
to assume that the humanity and spirituality of Jesus are in con- 
trast with the attitude of the Rabbis. 

But what we are specially concerned with is not Mr. Glover's 
account of Jesus but his attitude to contemporary Judaism, and in 
order to appreciate his outlook and method it is necessary to quote 
a somewhat long passage. He is dealing with the teaching of 
Jesus upon man's relation to God. "Jews and Greeks," he says, 
at this period "talked of righteousness and holiness — -'holy' is 
one of the great words of the period — and they sought these 
things in ritual and abstinence. Modern Jews resent the suggestion 
that the thousand and one regulations as to ceremonial purity, 
and the casuistries, as many or more, spun out of the law and 
the traditions, ranked with the great commandments of neigh- 
bourly love and the worship of the One God. No doubt they 
are right, but it is noticeable that in practice the common type of 
mind is more impressed with minutiae than with principles. The 
Southern European to-day will do murder on little provocation, but 
to eat meat in Lent is sin. But, without attributing such conspic- 
uous sins as theft and adultery and murder to the Pharisees, it is 
clear that, in establishing their own righteousness, they laid ex- 
cessive stress on the details of the law, on Sabbath-keeping (a con- 
stant topic with the Christian Apologists), on tithes, and temple 
ritual, on the washing of pots and plates — still rigorously main- 
tained by the modern Jews — and all this was supposed to constitute 
holiness. Jesus with the clear incisive word of genius dismissed it 
all as "acting". The Pharisee was essentially an actor — playing to 
himself the most contemptible little comedies of holiness. Listen, 
cries Jesus, and he tells the tale of the man fallen among thieves 
and left for dead, and how priest and Levite passed by on the 
other side, fearing the pollution of a corpse, and how they left 
mercy, God's own work — 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice' was 
one of his quotations from Hosea, — to be done by one unclean 
and damned — the Samaritan. Whited sepulchres! he cries, pretty 
to look at, but full of what? Of death, corruption and foulness. 



134 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

'How can you escape from the judgment of hell?' he asked them, 
and no one records what they answered or could answer. It is 
clear, however, that outside Palestine, the Jews in the great world 
were moving to a more purely moral conception of religion — their 
environment made mere Pharisaism impossible, and Greek criticism 
compelled them to think more or less in the terms of the funda- 
mental. The debt of the Jew to the Gentile is not very generously 
acknowledged. None the less, the dinstinctive badge of all his 
tribe was and remained what the Greeks called t6 \po<jio5eh. 
The Sabbath, circumcision, the blood and butter taboos remained, — 
as they still remain in the most liberal of "Liberal Judaisms" — 
tribe marks with no religious value, but maintained by patriotism. 
And side by side with this lived and lives that hatred of the Gentile 
which is attributed to Christian persecution, but which Juvenal 
saw and noted before the Christian had ceased to be persecuted by 
the Jew. The extravagant nonsense found in Jewish speculation 
as to how many Gentile souls were equivalent in God's sight to 
that of one Jew is symptomatic. To this day it is confessedly the 
weakness of Judaism that it offers no impulse and knows no en- 
thusiasm for self-sacrificing love where the interests of the tribe 
are not concerned." 

In passing we may commiserate with the Liberal Jews who, 
despite all their efforts and proclamations, are still accused of main- 
taining the Sabbath and the blood and butter taboos, and that too 
from motives of Jewish patriotism, and of hating the Gentile from 
motives of tribal loyalty. But more seriously the whole passage be- 
trays no less ignorance than prejudice. It is what Mr. Glover would 
call "symptomatic" that he treats the story of the Good Samaritan 
as an example of Pharisaic narrowness, though the Priest and 
Levite who passed on the other side of the road would more prob- 
ably have belonged to the Sadducee than the Pharisee sect, and 
though at least one acute critic has argued that the Samaritan him- 
self was substituted in a later gloss to the text for an 'Israelite'. 
(See Halevy, RBI., IV, 249.) The 'Israelite' would point the contrast 
better with the Priest and Levite, and Samaritans did not live in the 
neighborhood of Jericho. It is true that the New Testament has 
not recorded the answer of the Pharisees whom Jesus reproached — 
the Chronicler was careful about that — but we may be allowed 



JUDAISM AND EARI/VT CHRISTIANITY — BENTWICH I35 

to answer for them that the Pharisees realized as clearly as Jesus 
that holiness depended upon inward purity, (as a perusal of the 
Ethics of the Fathers in the Jewish Prayer-book would show), that 
it was a Pharisee who enunciated before Jesus the golden rule, 
that it was not play-acting but a lofty theory of morals which 
led them to lay stress upon daily conduct and to interweave religion 
with the common concerns of man, and that, as Josephus put it, 
other peoples made religion a part of virtue, but the Jewish teachers 
ordained virtue to be a part of religion. (Josephus c. Apionem 
II, 17.) The most elementary knowledge of the teaching of the 
most distinguished Jewish sage in the time of Jesus would have 
convinced Mr. Glover that it is absurd to suppose that the Rabbis 
ranked the prescripts about tithes and pot and pans — which were 
not in fact determined for hundreds of years after Jesus — on a 
level with the great moral principles. Was it not Hillel who said that 
the whole law was summed up in the maxim: "Do not unto others 
what thou wouldst not that they should do to thee: — all the rest 
is commentary thereon", implying that humanity is the object of 
the law? And was it not Hillel again who said that it was the 
duty of man "to love his fellow-creatures and bring them near to 
the Torah," representing the dominant ideal of Judaism which was 
to spread Jewish teaching over the world? Mr. Glover rather in- 
tensifies than mitigates the injustice of his account in a footnote 
to the passage we have quoted. "Of course every general state- 
ment," he adds, "requires modification, but the predominantly tribal 
character of Judaism implies contempt for the spiritual life of the 
Gentile Christian and Pagan. If the knowledge of God was or is 
of value to the Jew, he made little effort to share it." To say 
the least, it is unkind to bring this reproach against a people who, 
when Christianity was established as the religion of the Roman 
Empire, were forbidden under penalty of death to make any con- 
verts, and who, when the Church became the dominant power in 
Europe, were massacred, tortured, and burnt at the stake in thou- 
sands for remaining loyal to their religion. The self-sacrificing love, 
which the Jew so painfully lacks, meant for the Christian Church, 
so far as history teaches, the love of sacrificing others who would 
not accept the exact dogmatic teaching which it held at any epoch. 
But we protest in the name of truth as well as of justice against 



I36 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

the charge that before they were repressed by the ruthless legislation 
of Christendom, the Jews were tribal and exclusive, or remiss in 
preaching their faith among the Gentiles. The New Testament 
itself is here evidence against Mr. Glover, when it speaks of these 
narrow self-centered Pharisees as scouring earth and sea to make a 
proselyte, or when it records that Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, had 
journeyed to Ephesus to preach the word of God to the pagans. 
Apart from Philo and Josephus who speak over and over again of 
the missionary activity and success of the Jew in all parts of the 
world — but who, Mr. Glover may say, are partial historians — the 
pagan authorities are as explicit, if less exultant, about the rapid 
spread of Judaism. Mr. Glover might, on this point, have consulted 
his classical authors, whom he knows so well. "The Jews," says 
Strabo, "have penetrated into every state, so that it is difficult to 
find a single place in the world in which their tribe has not been 
received and become dominant." Horace refers to Sabbath-observ- 
ance as a common habit at Rome, which was practised by the man 
in the street (unus multorum) : and Seneca, fierce anti-Semite 
that he was, writing after Palestine had been placed under a Roman 
governor, says: "Nevertheless the practices of this accursed race 
have so far prevailed that they have been received over the whole 
world : the vanquished have imposed their laws upon the victors." 
Indeed the most constant accusation against the Jew is that he will 
not keep his religion to himself, but insists on propagating it among 
his neighbors. 

But what of the passage in which Juvenal notes the Jewish 
hatred of the Gentile? Juvenal wrote one hundred years after the 
time of Jesus, when hundreds of thousands of Jews had been 
massacred by the Gentiles in the terrible wars of extermination that 
followed the fall of Jerusalem and the revolt against Trajan. Is 
it strange that in the year 100 or 120 C. E., Jews should have felt 
some hatred towards the Romans? Or is it disgraceful that they 
should have felt some 'contempt for the spiritual life' of the pagan 
with its untranslateable abominations that Juvenal has described? 
Were not the Christians also charged by pagan writers with 'odium 
humani generis?' And against the fancies of a particular Rabbi, 
who played with the equation of souls, may not we set, on the 
one hand, the saying of another Rabbi who explained the verse 



JUDAISM AND EARLY CHRISTIANITY BUNTWICH I37 

of Isaiah : "Open ye the gates that the righteous people may enter 
in", to mean that one of the Gentiles who fulfils the laws of the 
Torah is as good as the High-priest himself : — one might add a 
hundred explanations to the same effect — and, on the other hand, 
the savagery of one of Mr. Glover's Christian worthies, Tertullian, 
quoted in this book, who shows his love of the Gentiles in these 
words : "You are fond of spectacles. Expect the greatest of all 
spectacles, the last and eternal judgment of the universe. How shall 
I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult when I behold so 
many proud monarchs and fancied gods groaning in the lower abyss 
of darkness, so many magistrates who persecuted the name of the 
Lord liquefying in fierce fires that they once kindled against the 
Christians, so many sage philosophers blushing in red hot flames with 
their deluded scholars!" {De Spectaculis 30). — "Hath not a Jew 
hands, organs, senses, affections, passions"? is it that what is 
tribal narrowness in him becomes righteous indignation in the 
Christian ? 

Judaism had the same aspiration as Christianity to be a universal 
religion, and the Christians learnt from Jews to be missionaries, and 
were at first nothing more than a heretical Jewish sect, professing 
to carry out their mission in a special way. Tertullian admits that 
the early Church grew up "under the shadow of the Jews", but, to 
apply Mr. Glover's words, the debt of the Christian to the Jew 
has not been very generously acknowledged. It has been repaid 
in blood — of the Jew. As Christianity expanded, it departed more 
and more from the teachings of its founder as well as from 
Judaism, and its progress pointed to the Rabbis the danger of in- 
discriminate conversion and compromise with foreign ideas. In 
those mad centuries, when, together with the Roman Empire, the 
whole ancient civilization was breaking up and dissolving in the 
melting-pot of crude superstitions and hybrid creeds, the Rabbis 
were at pains to preserve the integrity and purity of Judaism by 
strengthening its outer defences. It was otherwise with the Church 
at this period. Mr. Glover claims that Jesus had once for all set 
religion free from the servitude of ritual and taboos; yet between 
the second and fifth centuries the Church was establishing the worse 
and harsher servitude of dogmas and beliefs, which for hundreds 
of years was to be, and which still is in some countries, immeasur- 



138 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

ably more oppressive upon the mind than ever the Pharisaic develop- 
ment of the law was upon the body or the spirit. The moment 
Christianity emerged out of the region of spirit and began to es- 
tablish itself as a world-religion, it was compelled to devise some 
bond which would hold its members together; and having rejected 
the law of conduct it chose the law of belief. When it became suc- 
cessful, as Renan admitted, the Church deteriorated; and brought 
into the world a new and awful tyranny, combining the ecclesiastical 
bigotry with the temporal powers of the Roman Empire; it 
established a merciless domination over conscience, and compelled 
Judaism to become, what it had never desired to be, an exclusive 
national religion; and had it not been for the stedfastness of the 
Jew, it would have stamped out his religion altogether. Perhaps 
the Christian world would not be so hard on the Pharisees, even 
the Pharisees of its imagination, if it remembered the Church- 
synods of history. 

The story is told of a girl who, when asked if there were any 
wild beasts in Englanti, replied "No, except in the Theological Gar- 
dens." Her language was doubtless too strong, but it is in the 
theological gardens that the pests of prejudice and misrepresenta- 
tion live longest. Mr. Glover speaks of the different attitude of the 
Christian world since the Renaissance to the evidences of Christianity 
from miracle and prophecy; we may hope that as the historical 
criticism of the nineteenth century enters into men's minds, the 
attitude of the Christian world may change to the evidences of 
Christianity from the narrowness and soullessness of Pharisaic re- 
ligion, and that writers upon the time of Jesus may deign to correct 
Paul's controversial account of Judaism by at least a superficial 
study of the Jewish records of the age. 

London Norman Bentwich