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change or to suppress the ancient creed of their forefathers. Hence we find Maimonides woefully perplexed by the plural phraseology used in the sacred history of the creation. Such language he would fain refer to God's house of judgment or to Jehovah's imaginary council of created angels :.' but still he is not altogether satisfied; confessing, that the language too naturally leads to a widely different interpretation, the interpretation no doubt of the old Targumists; and acknowledging, that a system of studious concealment from the vulgar. has been professedly adopted by the Rabbins. The whole passage is too curious to be omitted.
· All things, says he, which are mentioned in the history of the creation, are not to be understood according to the letter, as the vulgar imagine. For, otherwise, our learned men would not have commanded the concealment of these thing's, nor would they have exercised such care in hiding and involving them in parables. Nor would they have even so studiously prohibited the mention of such things in the presence of the ignorant rabble. For THE LITERAL SENSES of these things either beget wicked thoughts and imaginations and opinions CONCERNING THE NATURE OF GOD, or they certainly subvert the foundations of the Law and INTRODUCE HERESY — Whoever has any skill in these subjects, he ought to be on his guard that he do not divulge them; as we have many times given warning in our commentary on the Mishna.
· Maimon. Mor. Nevoch. par.
ii. c. 6.
Hence also our Rabbins plainly say, that it is for the glory of God to conceal these things, that are written from the beginning of the book to this place. But they have said this after what is written concerning the works of the sixth day. Hence the truth, of what we have observed, is evident. But because he, who has acquired any perfection, is bound to communicate it to others : it will unavoidably follow, that those, who have apprehended any of these SECRETS, whether by their own diligence or by the help of a master, will at times utter a few of them.
But this must not be done openly and plainly ; but under cover, and only by signs and symbols, such as are to be found scattered and blended with other things in the sayings of our more celebrated and excellent Rabbins. Therefore I also, as you may observé, in these MYSTERIES only mention one word or expression, as the hinge of the whole. But I leade the rest to others, to whom it is to be left."
It is easy to perceive, what the learned Rambam means by literal senses and the nature of God and the introduction of heresy and secrets and mysteries. Had the history of the creation been expressed in terms, plainly and obviously accordant with the modern Jewish and Socinian creeds; all this management would have been superfluous, and all this apprehension would have been nugatory. But the matter is fairly let out by R. Huna : he confesses, that the grand stumbling
Maim. Mor. Nevoch. par. ii. c. 29. p. 273, 274.
block of Rabbinism is the plural phraseology of Moses. Unless such expressions had actually been written, says this master in the modern Israel, it would not have been lawful to say, In the beginning Gods created the heaven and the earth.' This phraseology however having been employed, it receives the unwilling imprimatur of R. Huna.
(3.) The Targuins of Onkelos and Jonathan were written immediately before the time of Christ : and among the Jews they are in such high esteem, that they hold them to be of the same authority with the original text. Of this extravagant honour the ground is, that those two interpreters coinmitted to writing the ancient oral traditions, which had come down in regular descent from their first communication to Moses on the top of mount Sinai.
Such an opinion proves at least the high antiquity of the sentiments contained in those Targums : and, as the Targunis themselves were composed before the Christian era, they must clearly be viewed as exhibiting the doctrine of the Levitical Church ere an inveterate hatred of the gospel led to a suppression or concealment of the ancient faith,
The later Targums were written subsequent to the time of our Lord: but, so far as regards the present argument, their importance is not the less on that account. Those of Onkelos and Jona
Martin. Pug. Fid. * Prideaux's Connect. part ii. book viii. p. 576-579
than shew the tenets of the Hebrew Church before Christ : those, which are later, prove, by their accordance with their predecessors, that the same doctrine continued in full force during the first centuries after the Christian era. Thus, notwithstanding Jesus of Nazareth was denied to be the Messiah ; the Jews, it is plain from the written evidence of the later Targums, did not immediately depart from the sentiments of their forefathers relative to the character of the Messiah.
2. We may advantageously bring forward, with a similar purpose,
the recorded opinions of many of the Jewish Rabbins.
Now from their avowals we learn, that they believed the Messiah to be Jehovah himself, that they ascribed to him the office of purifying from sin, that they looked out for him in the quality of Jehovah the Redeemer, and that they expected to receive his Law immediately from the mouth of God himself.
With respect to the divinity of the Messiah, we meet with the following most extraordinary passage in the Echa Rabbati. What is the name of the King Messiah ? R. Abba hath said, JEHOVAH is his name ; as it is declared, And this is his name, by which they shall call him, JEHOVAH our righteousness. R. Joshua ben Levi hath said, The BRANCH is his name ; as it is written, Behold the man, whose name is the BRANCH.' The combined opinions of these two Rabbins bring out the result,
Martin. Pug. Fid. p. 685.
that the Messiah was expected to be both God and man. To the same purpose speak the doctors, whose sentiments are recorded in the Midrash Tehillim. R. Nachman hath said, Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory. Our masters have said, No king of flesh and blood is invested with his crown, but the holy God will give it to the king Messiah ; as it is said, Thou settest a crown of pure gold upon his head. No king of flesh and blood is clothed with his purple. And what is it? Confession, authority, reverence, praise, and glory. As it is said, Thou art clothed with confession and majesty : and of king Messiah it is written, His glory is great in thy salvation. But God hath called Moses by his name : as it is written, See, I have made thee a God to Pharaoh ; and so Israel, I have said ye are gods. And he calls the king Messiah by his
JEHOVAH is his name : for it is said, The Lord is a man of war ; JEHOVAH is his name. And it is written of the king Messiah, This is the name by which they shall call him, JEHOVAH our righteousness.'
The Neve Shalom ascribes to the Messiah the power of taking away sin. The purification, which the Messiah will make, shall be for the expiation of sin in general, for destroying transgression, and for making an end of sin which retains mankind under its yoke. For, as the first man was the first who sinned, so Messiah shall be the last who shall
Martin. Pug. Fid. p. 517.