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'BINDING' AND LOOSING.'

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constant use in Rabbinic Canon-law than those of binding' and 'loosing.' The words are the literal translation of the Hebrew equivalents Asar (D), which means 'to bind,' in the sense of prohibiting, and Hittir (", from ) which means 'to loose,' in the sense of permitting. For the latter the term Shera or Sheri (, or ) is also used. But this expression is, both in Targumic and Talmudic diction, not merely the equivalent of permitting, but passes into that of remitting, or pardoning. On the other hand, binding and loosing' referred simply to things or acts, prohibiting or else permitting them, declaring them lawful or unlawful. This was one of the powers claimed by the Rabbis. As regards their laws (not decisions as to things or acts), it was a principle, that while in Scripture there were some that bound and some that loosed, all the laws of the Rabbis were in reference to 'binding.' If this then represented the legislative, another pretension of the Rabbis, that of declaring 'free' or else 'liable,' i.e., guilty (Patur or Chajov), expressed their claim to the judicial power. By the first of these they 'bound' or 'loosed' acts or things; by the second they remitted' or 'retained,' declared a person free from, or liable to punishment, to compensation, or to sacrifice. These two powers the legislative and judicial—which belonged to the Rabbinic office, Christ now transferred, and that not in their pretension, but in their reality, to His Apostles: the first here to Peter as their Representative, the second after His Resurrection to the Church.b St. John

XX. 23

a

On the second of these powers we need not at present dwell. That of 'binding' and 'loosing' included all the legislative functions for the new Church. And it was a reality. In the view of the Rabbis heaven was like earth, and questions were discussed and settled by a heavenly Sanhedrin. Now, in regard to some of their earthly decrees, they were wont to say that the Sanhedrin above' confirmed what the Sanhedrin beneath' had done. But the words of Christ, as they avoided the foolish conceit of His contemporaries, left it not doubtful, but conveyed the assurance that, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, whatsoever they bound or loosed on earth would be bound or loosed in heaven.

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But all this that had passed between them could not be matter of common talk-least of all, at that crisis in His History, and in that locality. Accordingly, all the three Evangelists record—each with distinctive emphasis that the open confession of His Messiah

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85

CHAP. XXXVII

a

3b; Jer.

Jer. Ber. Meg. 71 a

BOOK

III

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ship, which was virtually its proclamation, was not to be made public. Among the people it could only have led to results the opposite of those to be desired. How unprepared even that Apostle was, who had made proclamation of the Messiah, for what his confession implied, and how ignorant of the real meaning of Israel's Messiah, appeared only too soon. For, His proclamation as the Christ imposed on Him, so to speak, the necessity of setting forth the mode of His contest and victory-the Cross and the Crown. Such teaching was the needed sequence of Peter's confession-needed, not only for the correction of misunderstanding, but for direction. And yet it is significantly said, that He began to teach them these thingsno doubt, as regarded the manner, as well as the time of this teaching. The Evangelists, indeed, tell it out in plain language, as fully taught them by later experience, that He was to be rejected by the rulers of Israel, slain, and to rise again the third day. And there can be as little doubt, that Christ's language (as afterwards they looked back upon it) must have clearly implied all this, as that at the time. they did not fully understand it. He was so constantly in the habit of using symbolic language, and had only lately reproved them for taking that about the leaven' in a literal, which He meant in a figurative sense, that it was but natural, they should have regarded in the same light announcements which, in their strict literality, would seem to them well-nigh incredible. They could well understand His rejection by the Scribes-a sort of figurative death, or violent suppression of His claims and doctrines, and then, after briefest period, their resurrection, as it were-but not the terrible details in their full literality.

But, even so, there was enough of terrible realism in the words of Jesus to alarm Peter. His very affection, intensely human, to the Human Personality of His Master would lead him astray. That He, Whom he verily believed to be the Messiah, Whom he loved with all the intenseness of such an intense nature-that He should pass through such an ordeal-No! Never! He put it in the very strongest language, although the Evangelist gives only a literal translation of the Rabbinic expression 2-God forbid it, God be

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Luke (ἐπιτιμήσας αὐτοῖς παρήγγειλε) con-
veys both rebuke and command.

Otherwise they could not afterwards have been in such doubt about His Death and Resurrection.

2 It is very remarkable that the expression, es σo, literally have mercy

"

on thee,' is the exact transcript of the Rabbinic Chas lecha (750). See Levy, Neuhebr. Wörterb. vol. ii. p. 85. The commoner expression is Chas re Shalom, mercy and peace,' viz. be to thee, and the meaning is, God forbid, or God avert, a thing or its continuance.

'THOU ART A STUMBLING-BLOCK UNTO ME.'

CHAP.

merciful to Thee:' no, such never could, nor should be to the Christ! It was an appeal to the Human in Christ, just as Satan had, in XXXVII the great Temptation after the forty days' fast, appealed to the purely Human in Jesus. Temptations these, with which we cannot reason, but which we must put behind us as behind, or else they will be a stumbling-block before us; temptations, which come to us often through the love and care of others, Satan transforming himself into an Angel of light; temptations, all the more dangerous, that they appeal to the purely human, not the sinful, element in us, but which arise from the circumstance, that they who so become our stumbling-block, so long as they are before us, are prompted by an affection which has regard to the purely human, and, in its onesided human intenseness, minds the things of man, and not those of God.

Yet Peter's words were to be made useful, by affording to the Master the opportunity of correcting what was amiss in the hearts of all His disciples, and teaching them such general principles about His Kingdom, and about that implied in true discipleship, as would, if received in the heart, enable them in due time victoriously to bear those trials connected with that rejection and Death of the Christ, which at the time they could not understand. Not a Messianic Kingdom, with glory to its heralds and chieftains—but selfdenial, and the voluntary bearing of that cross, on which the powers of this world would nail the followers of Christ. They knew the torture which their masters-the power of the world-the Romans, were wont to inflict: such must they, and similar must we all, be prepared to bear,2 and, in so doing, begin by denying self. In such a contest, to lose life would be to gain it, to gain would be to lose life. And, if the issue lay between these two, who could hesitate what to choose, even if it were ours to gain or lose a whole world? For behind it all there was a reality-a Messianic triumph and Kingdom-not, indeed, such as they imagined, but far higher, holier : the Coming of the Son of Man in the glory of His Father, and with His Angels, and then eternal gain or loss, according to our deeds.a But why speak of the future and distant? A sign a terrible sign of it from heaven,' a vindication of Christ's 'rejected' claims, a vindication of the Christ, Whom they had slain, invoking His

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1 So the Greek literally.

In those days the extreme suffering which a man might expect from the hostile power (the Romans) was the literal

cross; in ours, it is suffering not less acute,
the greatest which one hostile power can
inflict really, though perhaps not lite-
rally, a cross.

:

87

a St. Matt. xvi. 24-27

BOOK

III

a St. Matt. xvi. 28

Blood on their City and Nation, a vindication, such as alone these men could understand, of the reality of His Resurrection and Ascension, was in the near future. The flames of the City and Temple would be the light in that nation's darkness, by which to read the inscription on the Cross. All this not afar off. Some of those who stood there would not taste death,' till in those judgments they would see that the Son of Man had come in His Kingdom."

1

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Then-only then-at the burning of the City! Why not now, visibly, and immediately on their terrible sin? Because God shows not signs from heaven' such as man seeks; because His longsuffering waiteth long; because, all unnoticed, the finger moves on the dial-plate of time till the hour strikes; because there is Divine grandeur and majesty in the slow, unheard, certain night-march of events under His direction. God is content to wait, because He reigneth; man must be content to wait, because he believeth.

This is an exact translation of the phrase ' Dy, which is of such very frequent occurrence in Rabbinic writings.

See our remarks on St. John viii. 52 i
Book IV. ch. viii.

BOOK IV.

THE DESCENT:

FROM THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION INTO THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH.

But god forbede but men shulde leve

Wel more thing then men han seen with eye
Men shal not wenen euery thing a lye
But yf him-selfe yt seeth or elles dooth
For god wot thing is neuer the lasse sooth
Thogh euery wight ne may it nat y-see.'

CHAUCER: Prologue to the Legend of Good Women.

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