Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

BOOK
IV

because the Saviour from sin. Thus He transferred the question from intellectual ground to that of the moral purpose which suffering might serve. And this not in itself, nor by any destiny or appointment, but because the Coming and Work of the Christ has made it possible to us all. Sin and its sequences are still the same, for the world is established that it cannot move. But over it all has risen the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings; and, if we but open ourselves to His influence, they may serve this purpose, and so have this for the reason, not of their genesis, but of their continuance, 'that the works of God may be made manifest.'

To make this the reality to us, was the work of Him 'Who sent, and for which He sent, the Christ. And rapidly now must He work

it, for perpetual example, during the few hours still left of His brief · Ab. ii. 15 working-day. This figure was not unfamiliar to the Jews,a though

it

may well be that, by thus emphasising the briefness of the time, He may also have anticipated any objection to His healing on the Sabbath. But it is of even more importance to notice, how the two leading thoughts of the previous day's Discourse were now again taken up and set forth in the miracle that followed. These were, that He did the Work which God had sent Him to do, and that He was the Light of the world. As its Light He could not but shine so long as He was in it. And this He presently symbolised (and is not every miracle a symbol ?) in the healing of the blind.

Once more we notice, how in His Deeds, as in His Words, the Lord adopted the forms known and used by His contemporaries, while He filled them with quite other substance. It has already been stated,' that saliva was commonly regarded as a remedy for diseases of the eye, although, of course, not for the removal of blindness. With this He made clay, which He now used, adding to it the direction to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam, a term which literally meant "sent.'? A symbolism, this, of Him Who was the Sent of the Father. For, all is here symbolical : the cure and its means. If we ask ourselves why means were used in this instance, we can only suggest, that it was partly for the sake of him who was to be healed, partly for theirs who afterwards heard of it. For, the blind man seems to have been ignorant of the character of his Healer, and it needed the use of some means to make him, so to speak, receptive. On the other hand, not only the use of means, but their inadequacy to the

+ St. John viii. 28, 29;

ix. 4 e viii. 12;

comp. ix. 5

a St. John ix. 11

· See Book III. ch. xxxiv. p. 48.

? The etymological correctness of the rendering Siloam by 'Sent'is no longer

called in question. As to the spring Siloam, see ch. vii. of this Book.

CHAP.
IX

IT IS HE'-'NO, BUT HE IS LIKE HIM.

181 object, must have impressed all. Symbolical, also, were these means. Sight was restored by clay, made out of the ground with the spittle of Him, Whose breath had at the first breathed life into clay; and this was then washed away in the Pool of Siloam, from whose waters had been drawn on the Feast of Tabernacles that which symbolised the forthpouring of the new life by the Spirit. Lastly, if it be asked why such miracle should have been wrought on one who had not previous faith, who does not even seem to have known about the Christ, we can only repeat, that the man himself was intended to be a symbol, that the works of God should be made manifest in him.'

And so, what the Pharisees had sought in vain, was freely vouchsafed when there was need for it. With inimitable simplicity, itself evidence that no legend is told, the man's obedience and healing are recorded. We judge, that his first impulse when healed must have been to seek for Jesus, naturally, where he had first met Him. On his way, probably past his own house to tell his parents, and again on the spot where he had so long sat begging, all who had known him must have noticed the great change that had passed over him. So marvellous, indeed, did it appear, that, while part of the crowd that gathered would, of course, acknowledge his identity, others would say: 'No, but he is like him ;' in their suspiciousness looking for some imposture. For there can be little doubt, that on his way he must have learned more about Jesus than merely His Name,a and in turn have communicated to his informants the story of his healing. Similarly, the formal question now put to him by the Jews was as much, if not more, a preparatory inquisition than the outcome of a wish to learn the circumstances of his healing. And so we notice in his answer the cautious desire not to say anything that could incriminate his Benefactor. He tells the facts truthfully, plainly; he accentuates by what means he had recovered,'' not received, sight; but otherwise gives no clue by which either to discover or to incriminate Jesus.

Presently they bring him to the Pharisees, not to take notice of his healing, but to found on it a charge against Christ. Such must have been their motive, since it was universally known that the leaders of the people had, of course informally, agreed to take the strictest measures, not only against the Christ, but against any one who professed to be His disciple. The ground on which the present ever. 22 charge against Jesus would rest was plain : the healing involved a

This is the proper rendering. The organs of sight existed, but could not be used.

* ver, 11

b ver. 12

BOOK
IV

a Shabb. xxiv. 3

b Jerus. Shabb. 14 d

u. s.

d St. John ix. 15

manifold breach of the Sabbath-Law. The first of these was that He had made clay." Next, it would be a question whether any remedy might be applied. Such could only be done in diseases of the internal organs (from the throat downwards), except when danger to life or the loss of an organ was involved. It was, indeed, declared lawful to apply, for example, wine to the outside of the eyelid, on the ground that this might be treated as washing; but it was sinful to apply it to the inside of the eye. And as regards saliva, its

application to the eye is expressly forbidden, on the ground that it • Jer. Shabb. was evidently intended as a remedy.

There was, therefore, abundant legal ground for a criminal charge. And, although on the Sabbath the Sanhedrin would not hold any formal meeting, nor, even had there been such, would the testimony of one man have sufficed, yet “the Pharisees’ set the inquiry regularly on foot. First, as if not satisfied with the report of those who had brought the man, they made him repeat it. The simplicity of the man's language left no room for evasion or subterfuge. Rabbinism was on its great trial. The wondrous fact could neither be denied nor explained, and the only ground for resisting the legitimate inference as to the character of Him Who had done it, was its inconsistence with their traditional law. The alternative was: whether their traditional law of Sabbath-observance, or else He Who had done such miracles, was Divine? Was Christ not of God, because He did not keep the Sabbath in their way? But, then, could an open transgressor of God's Law do such miracles? In this dilemma they turned to the simple man before them. “Seeing that He opened' his eyes, what did he say of Him? what was the impression left on his mind, who had the best opportunity for judging ?

There is something very peculiar, and, in one sense, most instructive, as to the general opinion entertained even by the bestdisposed who had not yet been taught the higher truth, in this reply, so simple, solemn, so comprehensive in its sequences, and yet so utterly inadequate by itself: “He is a Prophet.' One possibility still remained. After all, the man might not have been really blind; and they might, by cross-examining the parents, elicit that about his original condition which would explain the pretended cure.

But on this most important point, the parents, with all their fear of the anger of the Pharisees, remained unshaken. He had been born blind; but as to the manner of his cure, they declined to offer any opinion. Thus, as so often, the machinations of the enemies of Christ led to results the opposite of those wished for. For, to people

CAST OUT OF THE SYNAGOGUE.

183

16 a ando

[ocr errors]

so wretchedly poor as to allow their son to live by begging,' the con- CHAP. sequences of being ‘un-Synagogued,' or put outside the congrega- IX tion which was to be the punishment of any who confessed Jesus as the Messiah-would have been dreadful Talmudic writings speak of two, or rather, we should say, three, kinds of 'excommunication, of which the two first were chiefly disciplinary, while the third was the real casting out,'' un-Synagoguing,''cutting off from the congregation.'3 The general designation for “excommunication' was Shammatta, although, according to its literal meaning, the term would only apply to the severest form of it. The first and lightest degree was the so-called Nesiphah or Nesiphutha; properly, “a rebuke,' an inveighing. Ordinarily, its duration extended over seven days; but, if pronounced by the Nasi, or Head of the Sanhedrin, it lasted for thirty days. In later times, however, it only rested for one day on the guilty person. Perhaps St. Paul referred to this Moed K.

rebuke’ in the expression which he used about an offending Elder. 1 Tim. v. 1 He certainly adopted the practice in Palestine, when he would not have an Elder rebuked, although he went far beyond it when he would have such entreated. In Palestine it was ordered, that an offending Rabbi should be scourged instead of being excommunicated. Moed K.

17 a; Nedar. Yet another direction of St. Paul's is evidently derived from these 70; Pes. arrangements of the Synagogue, although applied in a far different spirit. When the Apostle wrote: 'An heretic after the first and second admonition reject;' there must have been in his mind the second degree of Jewish excommunication, the so-called Niddui (from the verb to thrust, thrust out, cast out). This lasted for thirty days at the least, although among the Babylonians only for seven days. d Moed K. At the end of that term there was a second admonition,' which lasted other thirty days. If still unrepentant, the third, or real excommunication, was pronounced, which was called the Cherem, or ban, and of which the duration was indefinite. Any three persons, or even one duly authorised, could pronounce the lowest sentence.

" It would lead too far to set these ^ Both Buxtorf and Levy have made forth in detail. But the shrinking from this abundantly clear, but Jewish authori. receiving alms was in proportion to the ties are not wanting which regard this duty of giving them. Only extreme as the worst kind of ban. Decessity would warrant begging, and to 3 Levy derives it from 700, to destroy, solicit charity needlessly, or to simulate to root out. The Rabbinic derivations any disease for the purpose, would,

in Moed K. 17 a, are only a play upon deservedly, bring the reality in punish- the word. ment on the guilty.

6 But there certainly were notable και αποσυνάγωγος γίνεσθαι. . So also St. exceptions to this rule, even in Palestine. John xii. 42; xvi. 2.

Among the Babylonian Jews it did not • In Jer. Moed K. 81 d, line 20 from obtain at all. : ' .

52 a

16 a

[ocr errors]

.הוא יבדל מקהל :top

BOOK

IV

* Moed K 16 a; Shev. 36 a; Baba Mez. 59 6 b Shoy. 36 a; the Chasronoth ha-Shas,

p. 25 b

The greater excommunication (Niddui)—which, happily, could only be pronounced in an assembly of ten-must have been terrible, being accompanied by curses,al and, at a later period, sometimes proclaimed with the blast of the horn. If the person so visited occupied an

honourable position, it was the custom to intimate his sentence in a Sante 70, euphemistic manner, such as: “It seems to me that thy companions

are separating themselves from thee.' He who was so, or similarly addressed, would only too well understand its meaning. Henceforth he would sit on the ground, and bear himself like one in deep mourning. He would allow his beard and hair to grow wild and shaggy; he would not bathe, nor anoint himself; he would not be admitted into any assembly of ten men, neither to public prayer, nor to the Academy; though he might either teach, or be taught by, single individuals. Nay, as if he were a leper, people would keep at a distance of four cubits from him. If he died, stones were cast on his coffin, nor was he allowed the honour of the ordinary funeral, nor were they to mourn for him. Still more terrible was the final excommunication, or Cherem, when a ban of indefinite duration was laid on a man. Henceforth he was like one dead. He was not allowed to study with others, no intercourse was to be held with him, he was not even to be shown the road. He might, indeed, buy the necessaries of life, but it was forbidden to eat or drink with such an

• Comp.
1 Cor. v. 11

one.

We can understand, how everyone would dread such an anathema. But when we remember, what it would involve to persons in the rank of life, and so miserably poor as the parents of that blind man, we no longer wonder at their evasion of the question put by the Sanhedrin. And if we ask ourselves, on what ground so terrible a punishment could be inflicted to all time and in every place—for the ban once pronounced applied everywhere—simply for the confession of Jesus as the Christ, the answer is not difficult. The Rabbinists enumerate twenty-four grounds for excommunication, of which more than one might serve the purpose of the Pharisees. But in general, to resist the authority of the Scribes, or any of their decrees, or to lead others either away from the commandments,' or to what was regarded as profanation of the Divine Name, was sufficient to incur

the ban, while it must be borne in mind, that "if a teacher was Jer. Moed excommunicated, all his disciples were excommunicated with him.''

K. 81 d, about the middle

1 Buxtorf here reminds us of 1 Cor.

v. 5.

anathematised to the sound of 400 trum. pets. The passage does not appear in the expurgated editions of the Talmud.

? There our Lord is said to have been

« ÎnapoiContinuați »