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CHAPTER ITI.

JESUS AND THE BAPTIST.

WHEN we turn to the personal history of Jesus of Nazareth, we necessarily experience disappointment in the absence of all information respecting the first thirty years of his life. The legend of precocious wisdom in the Temple contains all the elements of self-destruction. If Jesus was conscious of Messianic duties as a mere child, what means the succeeding blank of nearly twenty years in his life? If his opinions at the age of twelve harmonised with the views of Hebrew sages, had they undergone so great a change by thirty, as to evoke the judicial condemnation of his former admirers? And if he had attained the age of fifty, might not a maturer wisdom have, then, so modified his opinions as to have given to Christianity another history?

The credulous compilers of Luke seem quite' unconascious that the legend of the Temple destroys the legend of the Annunciation ; for if the angel Gabriel had revealed to Mary the divine origin of Jesus, could his precocious wisdom have caused her any surprise, if even manifested from the moment of his birth ?---a phenomenon which the Gospel of pseudo-Matthew records in logical sequence with the supernatural nativity.

In utter ignorance, therefore, of the early life of Jesus, it remains for us to inquire what were the social and intellectual surroundings which fashioned him, as all other men, in harmony with the tendencies of his age and generation ?

1 Pseudo-Matthew xvii.

The authorised version of Scripture being the source whence popular views of Judaism are drawn, modern Bible-readers are more or less ignorant of the great changes in Hebrew thought effected through contact with Aryan races from the Babylonian captivity to the reign of the Herods. This period of transition from Mosaic barbarism to Persian, Grecian, and Roman civilisation is partially depicted in the pages of the Apocrypha, through neglect of which students of Scripture pass so abruptly from Moses and the Prophets to the school of Galilee, that the natural sequence of events is lost, and Jesus appears upon the scene, not as the lineal descendant of the ages, but as a mysterious stranger introducing the unknown.

To the majority of the exiles returned from Babylon, Hebrew had become a dead language, known only to the learned Scribes (Sopherim), who, as members of the Great Synagogue, said to have been founded by Ezra, collected the Sacred Canon, and became authoritative interpreters of the civil and religious law, adapted to the wants of the age by modifications attributed to Moses through the pious fiction of the Cabbala (tradition), imaginatively traced to the dispensation of Sinai—a fabulous origin of such imposing authority that the 'Words of the Scribes 'became even more binding than the written law, and enlightened Rabbis of liberal views could thus combine Aryan philosophy with Semitic faith, without prejudice to the prescriptive rights of Moses and the Prophets.

As, in consequence of popular ignorance of Hebrew, the unlearned congregation required instruction through the medium of the Aramaic dialect, translations were made into this familiar idiom, with explanatory (Mephorash) commentaries on the most difficult passages. This system of interpretation assumed two forms—Halachah, authoritative teaching based on the Pentateuch and the Cabbala, and Haggadah, or imaginative exposition, dealing fancifully and allegorically with the entire field of Hebrew Scripture, in harmony with the capricious or arbitrary views of individual preachers. The instruction of the multitude thus passed from priests and prophets to the sacred caste of Sopherim, whose chiefs attained to eminence as the great masters of ethical and theosophic schools, whither disciples flocked to catch each accent from the lips of a Shammai, a Hillel, or a Gamaliel.

Shammai and Hillel1 were contemporaries of the age immediately preceding the career of Jesus, and founded distinctive schools of scriptural exegesis. The former was a rigid Pharisee, controlled by fanatical devotion to Mosaic ritualism ; but the self-sacrificing and gentle Hillel, imbued with a spirit of generous toleration towards all mankind, was a Master at whose feet Jesus of Nazareth might well have received the training which qualified him for preaching the Sermon on the Mount. · Do nothing to thy neighbour that thou wouldst not that he should do to thee,' said Hillel. "Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you,' said Jesus. Let Jews and Christians decide which of these two illustrious Hebrews may more justly sustain the claim to originality. But if priority of teaching should assign the palm to

1 Born about B.c. 112.

Hillel, a Turanian claimant appears in the form of Confucius, who uttered a similar apothegm, centuries before the era of the Semitic sage.

As popular conceptions of Divinity are the measure of intellectual and moral progress, the Mosaic Jehovah had been transformed, in the school of Hillel, into the heavenly Father of the age of Jesus—a title assigned for centuries to Infinite Divinity by enlightened Aryans, who, looking towards the heavens for paternal protection, worshipped Dyaus pitar-Heaven Father—the Hellenic Zeus--the Roman Jupiter, in whom the highest minds of antiquity saw, not a national Deity, but the Supreme Ruler of the universe.

Apart from the instruction of learned Rabbis, there arose a demand for less accomplished interpreters (Meturgemanim), who adapted ancient to modern ideas, and taught, with all the freedom of oral exposition, those modifications of Moses and the Prophets disclosed in the pages of the Apocrypha, which records the course of Hebrew thought, within two centuries preceding the birth of Jesus.

In 1 Maccabees, Judaism emerges from the mythical past into the light of history verifiable through the annals of other nations, natural supersede miraculous events, and the fortunes of Judah become amenable to the laws of causation, which impartially control the destinies of Aryan and Semitic races.

Ecclesiasticus (B.C. 200), the Wisdom of Solomon (B.c. 120–80), and 2 Esdras (B.C. 28–25) record the development of Hebrew thought in the schools of Alex andria and Jerusalem, modified by Aryan philosophy and religion, and fill an important place in the evolution of Christianity by supplying both Jesus and Paul with ideas piously accepted in modern times as original. These books, however, in common with all ancient Scripture, canonical or otherwise, are more or less subject to the suspicion of interpolation, merging sometimes into absolute certainty, as in 2 Esdras vii. 28, 29, where Jesus Christ is named, in imitation of the reference to Cyrus in Isaiah. The first two and the last two chapters of 2 Esdras, absent from the Arabic and Æthiopic versions, are obvious interpolations; but the contents of the original work (iii.-xiv.) sufficiently indicate its influence on evangelical literature. It is remarkable that when evangelical language and ideas disclose their apocryphal source, orthodox theologians do not hesitate to accuse primitive Christianity of interpolating the works of antecedent generations—an admission necessarily involving similar manipulation of all canonical books, for the Apocrypha was sacred Scripture from Clement to Augustine, and is now canonised by the Church of Rome in harmony with the Council of Carthage, which pronounced its infallible decree nearly fifteen centuries ago.

The introduction of foreign ideas into a community formerly so exclusive as the Hebrews necessarily produced that divergence of opinion inevitably resulting in the formation and growth of various sects. The Sadducees were the Conservative supporters of the old Hebrew theology of the Pentateuch, which neither taught the duty of prayer, the immortality of the soul, or the resurrection from the dead, involving an eternity of happiness or misery adjusted to the individual merits of mankind. The Pharisees accepted all these and other innovations drawn from foreign sources, fancifully

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