Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

BOOK
IV

then, a sense of our personal need, or humility. But the very first act
of this Pharisee had been to separate himself from all the other wor-
shippers, and notably from the Publican, whom, as his words show,
he had noticed, and looked down upon. His thanksgiving referred not
to what he had received, but to the sins of others by which they were
separated from him, and to his own meritorious deeds by which he
was separated from them. Thus, his words expressed what his attitude
indicated; and both were the expression, not of thankfulness, but of
boastfulness. It was the same as their bearing at feasts and in public
places; the same as their contempt and condemnation of the rest
of men,' and especially the publicans;' the same that even their
designation – Pharisees,' Separated ones,' implied. The rest of
men' might be either the Gentiles, or, more probably, the common
unlearned people, the Am ha Arez, whom they accused or suspected
of every possible sin, according to their fundamental principle:
* The unlearned cannot be pious. And, in their sense of that term, ,
they were right—and in this lies the condemnation of their righteous-
ness. And, most painful though it be, remembering the downright
earnestness and zeal of these men, it must be added that, as we
read the Liturgy of the Synagogue, we come ever and again upon
such and similar thanksgiving—that they are not as the rest of
men.'1

But this was not all. From looking down upon others the Pharisee proceeded to look up to himself. Here Talmudic writings offer painful parallelisms. They are full of references to the merits of the just, to “the merits and righteousness of the fathers,' or else of Israel in taking upon itself the Law. And for the sake of these merits and of that righteousness, Israel, as a nation, expects general acceptance, pardon, and temporal benefits ? for, all spiritual benefits Israel as a nation, and the pious in Israel individually, possess already, nor do they need to get them from heaven, since they can and do work them out for themselves. And here the Pharisee in the Parable significantly dropped even the form of thanksgiving. The religious performances which he enumerated are those which mark

1 Of this spirit are even such Eulogies as these in the ordinary morning-prayer: • Blessed art Thou, Lord, our God, King of the world, that Thou hast not made me a stranger (a Gentile)

... a servant .. a woman.'

? The merit or Sechuth. On this subject, as far too large for quotation, we must refer to the detailed account in such

works as Weber, System d. altsynag. Theol. pp. 280 &c. Indeed, there is no limit to such extravagances. The world itself had been created on account of the merits of Israel, and is sustained by them, even as all nations only continue by reason of this (Shemoth R. 15, 28; Bemidb.

.

R. 2)

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

CHAP.
XIX

1

a Taan. 12 a

the Pharisee among the Pharisees: 'I fast twice a week, and I give
tithes of all that I acquire.' The first of these was in pursuance of
the custom of some more righteous than the rest,' who, as previously
explained, fasted on the second and fifth days of the week (Mondays
and Thursdays). But, perhaps, we should not forget that these
were also the regular market days, when the country-people came to
the towns, and there were special Services in the Synagogues, and
the local Sanhedrin met—so that these saints in Israel would, at the
same time, attract and receive special notice for their fasts. As for
the boast about giving tithes of all that he acquired—not only
of his land, fruits, &c.-it has already been explained, that this
was one of the distinctive characteristics of “the sect of the Phari-
sees.' Their practice in this respect may be summed up in these
words of the Mishnah :b “He tithes all that he eats, all that he Demai i 2
sells, and all that he buys, and he is not a guest with an unlearned
person [Am ha Arez, so as not possibly to partake of what may have
been left untithed]

Although it may not be necessary, yet one or two quotations will help to show how truly this picture of the Pharisee was taken from

Thus, the following prayer of a Rabbi is recorded : 'I thank Thee, O Lord my God, that Thou hast put my part with those who sit in the Academy, and not with those who sit at the corners [moneychangers and traders). For, I rise early and they rise early: I rise early to the words of the Law, and they to vain things. I labour and they labour : I labour and receive a reward, they labour and receive no reward. I run and they run: I run to the life of the world to come, and they to the pit of destruction. Even more closely · Ber. 28 6 parallel is this thanksgiving, which a Rabbi puts into the mouth of Israel: ‘Lord of the world, judge me not as those who dwell in the big towns (such as Rome]: among whom there is robbery, and uncleanness, and vain and false swearing.'d Lastly, as regards the Erub. 21 , boastful spirit of Rabbinism, we recall such painful sayings as those from of Rabbi Simon ben Jochai, to which reference has already been made 3—notably this, that if there were only two righteous men in the world, he and his son were these ; and if only one, it was he! e

The second picture, or scene, in the Parable sets before us the p. 64 b, end reverse state of feeling from that of the Pharisee. Only, we must bear in mind, that, as the Pharisee is not blamed for his giving of thanks, nor yet for his good-doing, real or imaginary, so the prayer

life.

lines 12 and

bottom

e Ber. R. 35
ed. Warsh.

2 See Book III. ch. ii.

Not 'possess,' as in the A. V.

3 Comp. vol. i. p. 540.

BOOK

IV

of the Publican is not answered, because he was a sinner. In both cases what decides the rejection or acceptance of the prayer is, whether or not it was prayer. The Pharisee retains the righteousness which he had claimed for himself, whatever its value; and the Publican receives the righteousness which he asks: both have what they desire before God. If the Pharisee stood by himself, apart from others, so did the Publican : standing afar off,' viz. from the Pharisee-quite far back, as became one who felt himself unworthy to mingle with God's people. In accordance with this: 'He would not so much as lift: his eyes to heaven,' as men generally do in prayer, but smote his ? breast'-as the Jews still do in the most solemn part of their confession on the Day of Atonement—saying, God be merciful to me the sinner.' The definite article is used to indicate that he felt, as if he alone were a sinner-nay, the sinner. Not only, as has been well remarked, 3 does he not think of any one else' (de nemine alio homine cogitat), while the Pharisee had thought of every one else; but, as he had taken a position not in front of, but behind, every one else, so, in contrast to the Pharisee, who had regarded every one but himself as a sinner, the Publican regarded every one else as righteous compared with him 'the sinner.' And, while the Pharisee felt no need, and uttered no petition, the Publican felt only need, and uttered only petition. The one appealed to himself for justice, the other appealed to God for mercy.

More complete contrast, therefore, could not be imagined. And once more, as between the Pharisee and the Publican, the seeming and the real, that before men and before God, there is sharp contrast, and the lesson which Christ had so often pointed is again set forth, not only in regard to the feelings which the Pharisees entertained, but also to the gladsome tidings of pardon to the lost: 'I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified above the other so according to the better reading, Trap' škɛlvov]. In other words, the sentence of righteousness as from God with which the Publican went home was above, far better than, the sentence of righteousness as pronounced by himself, with which the Pharisee returned. This saying casts also light on such comparisons as between the righteous' elder brother and the pardoned prodigal, or the ninetynine that need no repentance' and the lost that was found, or, on such an utterance as this: Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in

1 This, and not lift so much as his eyes,' is the proper position of the words.

? The word “upon 'should be left out. : So Bengel.

THE PARABLE OF THE UNMERCIFUL SERVANT.

293

CHAP.
XIX

20

b St. Luke xviii. 15-17

xviii. 23-35

xix. 1

e St. Luke xviii. 15-17

no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’a And so the Parable ends with the general principle, so often enunciated : ‘For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself St. Matt. v. shall be exalted.' And with this general teaching of the Parable fully accords the instruction of Christ to His disciples concerning the reception of little children, which immediately follows.b

3. The Parable with which this series closes--that of the Unmerciful Servant, can be treated more briefly, since the circum- St. Matt. stances leading up to it have already been explained in chapter iii. of this Book. We are now reaching the point where the solitary narrative of St. Luke again merges with those of the other Evangelists. That the Parable was spoken before Christ's final journey to Jerusalem, appears from St. Matthew's Gospel. On the other 4 St. Matt. hand, as we compare what in the Gospel by St. Luke follows on the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publicane with the circumstances in which the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant is introduced, we cannot fail to perceive inward connection between the narratives of the two Evangelists, confirming the conclusion, arrived at on other grounds, that the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant belongs to the Peræan series, and closes it.

Its connection with the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican lies in this, that Pharisaic self-righteousness and contempt of others may easily lead to unforgiveness and unmercifulness, which are utterly incompatible with a sense of our own need of Divine mercy and forgiveness. And so in the Gospel of St. Matthew this Parable follows on the exhibition of a self-righteous, unmerciful spirit, which would reckon up how often we should forgive, forgetful of our own need of absolute and unlimited pardon at the hands of God a spirit, moreover, of harshness, that could look down upon St. Matt. Christ's little ones,' in forgetfulness of our own need perhaps of cutting off even a right hand or foot to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

In studying this Parable, we must once more remind ourselves of passim the general canon of the need of distinguishing between what is essential in a Parable, as directly bearing on its lessons, and what is merely introduced for the sake of the Parable itself, to give point to its main teaching. In the present instance, no sober interpreter would regard of the essence of the Parable the King's command to sell into slavery the first debtor together with his wife and children. It is simply a historical trait, introducing what in analogous circumstances might happen in real life, in order to point the lesson, that

xviii. 15-22

& St. Matt. xviii. 1-14,

BOOK
IV

a man's strict desert before God is utter, hopeless, and eternal ruin and loss. Similarly, when the promise of the debtor is thus introduced : ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all,' it can only be to complete in a natural manner the first part of the Parabolic history and to prepare for the second, in which forbearance is asked by a fellow-servant for the small debt which he owes. Lastly, in the same manner, the recall of the King's original forgiveness of the great debtor can only be intended to bring out the utter incompatibility of such harshness towards a brother on the part of one who has been consciously forgiven by God his great debt.

Thus keeping apart the essentials of the Parable from the accidents of its narration, we have three distinct scenes, or parts, in this story. In the first, our new feelings towards our brethren are traced to our new relation towards God, as the proper spring of all our thinking, speaking, and acting. Notably, as regards forgiveness, we are to remember the Kingdom of God: Therefore has the Kingdom of God become like - therefore’: in order that thereby we may learn the duty of absolute, not limited, forgiveness-not that of seven,' but of seventy times seven.' And now this likeness of the Kingdom of Heaven is set forth in the Parable of 'a man, a King'(as the Rabbis would have expressed it, ' a king of flesh and blood '), who would make his reckoning' (ovvalpeuv) with his servants'-certainly not his bondservants, but probably the governors of his provinces, or those who had charge of the revenue and finances. “But after he had begun to reckon'-not necessarily at the very beginning of it--- one was brought to him, a debtor of ten thousand talents. Reckoning them only as Attic talents (1 talent= 60 minas=6,000 dinars) this would amount to the enormous sum of about two and a quarter millions sterling. No wonder, that one who during his administration had been guilty of such peculation, or else culpable negligence, should, as the words - brought to him imply, have been reluctant to face the king. The Parable further

implies, that the debt was admitted ; and hence, in the course of • Ex. Ixii. 3; ordinary judicial procedure—according to the Law of Moses, and

the universal code of antiquity—that servant,' with his family and all his property, was ordered to be sold,' and the returns paid into the treasury.

Of course, it is not suggested that the payment' thus made had met his debt. Even this would, if need were, confirm the view,

Lev. xiv. 39, 47

Accordingly, these servants could not have been bondservants,' as in the mangio of the R. V.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »