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Prophecy and its Interpretation.

We have received the following very friendly letter from the Rev. J. F. Halsey, of Perth Amboy, N. J.; and in order to bring the subject fairly up for discussion we communicate Mr. Halsey's ideas in his own words to our readers. In the mean time we thank him heartily for the kind expressions which he bestows upon our labours, and for his promptness to encourage the new translation of the Scriptures which our fellow labourer of the Voice of Jacob has in contemplation, who we doubt not will profit by the suggestions of our honoured correspondent. Mr. Halsey is another evidence of the spread of more kindly feeling between Jews and gentiles; and it shall not be our fault if it is not farther extended, since we mean, even whilst discussing the points of difference between us, and whilst calling to mind what we have suffered for religion's sake, constantly to admonish our readers to exercise charity and good-will towards all men, of whatever country and persuasion. We profess a religion of peace; and may all the world be happy, so there be but "peace upon Israel."—Ed. Oc.

Mr. Editor:

I have read with no ordinary interest the numbers of the Occident from the first. Enclosed is my subscription. I wish to continue it for the ensuing year. I have admired the frank and manly spirit you have pursued, and especially that gentlemanly courtesy you have ever exhibited even towards those correspondents from whom you differ in religious opinion. Allow me, dear Sir, to express my high pleasure in the noble avowal, "that we shall receive with gratitude any suggestions offered in a kindly spirit." At a time when the religious press is all but absolutely muzzled, and free inquiry proscribed, your readers of other denominations must have admired the comity and independence of the Occident. I am free to avow my love and regard for your nation, my deep sympathy in all your trials and persecutions. My purse, my pen, and my prayers will ever be ready to aid, as far as I am able, the seed of Abraham, God's friend, and "to whom were committed the oracles of God." Accordingly I wish to subscribe for five copies of the "Book of the Testimony of God." This work is a desideratum, and I have no doubt will meet a ready sale in this country. Mr. Editor, permit me through you, to make one suggestion relative to the forthcoming work, which will add exceedingly to its value to an English reader, viz., marginal readings containing the exact meaning or translation of Hebrew names of persons, places, &c., and a uniform rendering of the titles and appellatives of God. There is a treasury of divine wisdom and knowledge locked up in the Hebrew names of the Bible, which none but a Hebrew student can begin to estimate. Such marginal readings, &c., would exceedingly enhance its value in this country.

Mr. Editor, permit me to allude to the editorial note appended to Dias's sixth letter. I agree with you that, "that letter is the most important of the series thus far," so much so, that I view it as perfectly unanswerable by any man in any of the Christian sects, save the few individuals who hold to a literal interpretation of the divine word. You very justly add "the prophets speak of a Messiah who is to accomplish all that has been predicted of him. Now precisely such a one and no other can be received as the fulfiller of scriptural prediction, but if he omit any of these, he is not the one whom we expect. His mission is the redemption of Israel and the world; and unless this have been, or be accomplished, the personage under question cannot be the King of the Jews." In all this I fully agree with you. Such is the Messiah of the prophets; such is the Messiah of the gentile and the Jew; such is only the Messiah in whom I believe. In your preface you forcibly observe, "this much we know, Israel needs defenders, and among these we wish to be numbered." Mr. Editor, I would humbly crave to be enrolled as one, too. I would defend Israel from the falsehood and unmercifulness of those who no less ignorantly than fearlessly teach, that God has for ever cast off the natural seed of Abraham, "his friend;" that he will no more appear to build and beautify Jerusalem, and restore the twelve tribes as of old, and settle them after their former estates, &c. I do in my soul believe, and therefore pray with Daniel, "Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake. O my God incline thine ear and hear, open thine eyes and behold our desolations, and the city whereupon thy name is called; for we do not cause to fall our supplications before Thee for our righteousness, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear, O Lord forgive, O Lord hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God, for thy city and thy people are called by thy name."

So far from believing that Israel shall be no more an established nation and church, I believe with the prophet Ezekiel, that "God will multiply men upon the mountains of Israel, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded. And I will multiply upon you man and beast, and they shall increase and bring fruit; and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better than at your beginnings. Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, my people Israel. And they shall possess, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men," &c. (Ezekiel 36. 8-12.) Yes, I solemnly believe that your nation shall be re-established in their own land—have a larger and more glorious temple than Solomon's rebuilt, and the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices re-instituted with some specified and significant modifications, to show that many of the magnificent prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, &c., have not yet been fulfilled—are yet future. That in that day when these predictions shall be literally fulfilled, (as have been all past prophecies,) I believe the exact requisitions you name in your remarks (Vol. I. page 610,) will precisely meet in Messiah, who shall then come, and "whose feet shall then stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which shall cleave in the midst thereof, toward the east and toward the west, a very great valley, as Zechariah informs us. A most convincing proof that his prophecy is future. But He shall not come alone, "and the Lord my God shall come, all the saints with Thee. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth, in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name shall be One. All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, and it shall be lifted up and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate until the place of the first gate, and the tower of Hananeel unto the king's wine-presses; and they shall dwell in it; and there shall be no more utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited." (Zech. 14.) But I would affectionately, yet earnestly, beseech you to notice one circumstance connected with Messiah's coming, when "He will make the governors of Judah like a hearth of fire among wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf, and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right and left, and Jerusalem shall be inhabited, in her own place, in Jerusalem; when the Lord shall defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, he that is abject among them at that day shall be as David, and the house of David as God, as the angel of the Lord before them. In that day when it shall come to pass, when I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem, that I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced." This is the circumstance. Does not this look like the "man of sorrows" described by Isaiah 53.? Like the Messiah of Daniel "who was to be cut off, but not for himself?" Like the crucified Messiah whom the gentiles worship? He whom some believe is soon to come the second time, and then "sit on the throne of his father David ?" Does it not necessarily imply a prior coming, when HE was pierced? Does not this look as though the prophets taught two advents of Messiah? one as a Lamb, that He might "make his soul an offering for sin," and "bear the sin of many:" the other, as son of David, and King of the Jews? The first, to be "pierced," "smitten," "stricken," "wounded:" the second, "to smite through his enemies" as predicted in the 110th Psalm? In the first He comes as the "offspring of David;" in the second, as "the root of David." In the first, "the son of a virgin;" in the second, "the wonderful, counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace."

The last sentence in Dias' Letter needs a remark. "Now, if Christians will prove that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies, they will then convert the Jews, for they require nothing else." I reply, that no Christian can prove the same; for this simple reason, the prophecies Dias has quoted are still future, and, of course, Jesus has not yet fulfilled them; but I believe that he will fulfil them, word for word, at his second advent. Now just on this point, I do not wonder that Christian writers have utterly failed in their controversies with the Jews; as they undertook to prove what could not be proved, and therefore should not have been attempted. They undertook to convert unfulfilled into fulfilled prophecy, and thus confounded, instead of discriminating between those predictions which relate to the first coming of the Messiah to be "pierced," "wounded," "cut off," and those which predict his second coming in triumph to reign on earth King of the Jews, Prince of Peace. Thus they converted numerous substantial and glorious predictions into figures, i.e., they did violence to the divine word. And no marvel that they utterly failed to convince and convert the Jew. And then because confused, weak, and fallacious arguments failed upon the Jew, his opponents lost their temper, and aimed to effect by persecution of tongue, and pen, and statute, what ignorance and unkindness ought not, could not, and cannot effect; forgetting the proverbs "The sweetness of the lips increaseth learning, pleasant words are as an honeycomb to the soul, and health to the bones. He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good, and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he."

I am, dear Sir,
Yours truly,
J. F. Halsey.

Perth Amboy, N. J., March 11, 1844.

NOTE by the Editor.—We need not tell the intelligent reader, that Mr. Halsey appears to be one of those who believe in the literal fulfilment of Scripture, to be accomplished at the second advent of the Messiah, whoever he may be. It may be observed, that with the increase of knowledge of the Word of God, free from the authoritative comments which received interpretation formerly gave to it, men of all persuasions have come to the conclusion, that the history of the gospels is no fulfilment of the predictions of Israel's seers; but that if the founder of Christianity be indeed the Christ,* it is absolutely necessary for him to appear again on earth, in order to bring to pass that which has as yet not seen its fulfilment. The Messiah therefore according to this view has a duplex character, his first, a divine incarnation, if such a state can be, the second, a divinity without the adjunct of a human frame. In either sense, whether Christians believe in a spiritual, that is to say, one coming of Christ, or in a literal, that is to say, a second coming, superadded to the first, they demand an acknowledgment of him as a part of the Deity, who came to reconcile by his death an offended God with the seed of man; since all Christians profess to believe that without this mediatorial intervention, every Adamite, through the sin of Adam, would be doomed to condemnation, because there could be no atonement which any Adamite could offer, of sufficient potency and holiness, to remove the weight of original iniquity. With Adam all had sinned, as we understand their doctrines, and it required a second Adam, who, uniting the most perfect human form with the divinity, which he was himself, should become a sacrifice for his brothers in the flesh, unto the offended God, whose essence dwelt in him, and of whom he was a part. We think that we have stated the idea fairly and clearly, and if not, we are willing to be corrected by any of the learned Christian divines who honour us with their support.

* The "anointed," Greek χζιστός Christos, from χζίω chrio, to anoint, just as Messiah is the Hebrew משיח pronounced, Mahshiach, from משח Mahshach, to anoint. This will also explain our meaning, otherwise somewhat obscure in our note to vol. 1. p. 609.

But as Jews we deny the premises, that is, the necessity for a mediator; we do not believe that it ever was in the contemplation of the Most High to cast off man from favour, although he should sin, and that an atonement was provided from the beginning in his mercy through obedience before transgression and through repentance after the soul be defiled with sin. At another time, we may enter into the discussion more fully; at present however we must take it for granted that the evident words of Scripture, constantly calling upon us to "reform the heart," must imply that man has salvation placed within his own reach. We know moreover of no traces in history, not even the Bible, whence it could be proved that the Israelites or Jews (we use the terms indiscriminately, although Christians love to understand them as of different significations) ever believed or were taught to believe that they were to look upon the law as insufficient for salvation, or that they ever had the least idea of a mediatorial atonement. We know well enough that Christians have understood several passages in various parts of the Bible, as conveying the idea of a mediator; but surely there is not a single passage which can bear this construction solely, nor one which lays it down in so many words. We contend therefore that mediation is no biblical doctrine, not one without which salvation is impossible, as our gentile neighbours teach. It is therefore merely under the presumption that there is a mediator, that the idea of a suffering saviour can be at all entertained, or that we are to look for a second advent of him, whom God will send as the redeemer (not saviour in the sense it is used by Christians) of mankind. According to our ideas, the redeemer, the endowed, the prophet, the anointed, the Messiah or Christ, the Son of David, otherwise called the prince, the king, or even "my servant David," is to establish his mission, not by sufferings, but by triumphing over all the elements of opposition, which now are opposed to the reign of God, "as the Lord one," on earth. The present is a state of warfare against the truth; for let us believe as we may, whether we be Jews, Christians, Mahomedans, heathens or unbelievers, we cannot say otherwise, than that which each of us calls truth, is not acquiesced in by the majority of mankind; but the future is to be a state of peace, of acquiescence, when the truth will be reigning triumphant, conquering all prejudice, subduing all hearts; and this triumph, even if natural wars, assaults, and sufferings will bring it about, we believe to be the work proper for Messiah to accomplish; not because he is very god, not because he and the father are one, not because all things are given unto him in heaven and earth, not because he is the judge of the world, the lord of David, the salvation of Abraham—he is to be nothing of all this;—but because his and our father in heaven, the sole God, the Holy One, the pure Essence has decreed salvation, and will send his messenger to effect in his name the glad tidings which He has announced from the beginning, that "He will be magnified and sanctified before the eyes of many nations, that they shall know that He is the Lord."

All this being admitted clearly proves, that the passages cited by Christians, to foreshadow a suffering saviour, cannot be so construed, if the Bible is to be consistent with itself. We therefore say, that neither the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah nor the twelfth of Zechariah, mean what Christians say they do. As for the fifty-third of Isaiah, it is almost universally admitted, we think even by late Christian writers, to speak of the restoration of Israel, who will then be spoken of by the gentiles as "the servant of God," who suffered so many fearful persecutions because of the uniform adherence to the covenant which had been given from Horeb.*—The twelfth of Zechariah, on the other hand, speaks of things to happen, none of which can as yet have occurred; the Lord is himself introduced (v. 7, 8,) as raising the house of David, the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judah, from their fallen state; and the house of David, mind the house, not one alone, consequently the Messiah and his family, of whom also Ezekiel speaks, shall be as the angel of the Lord before the people. The context therefore forbids the idea that the tenth verse should introduce a pierced deity as one for whom the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem are to mourn; especially as the Messiah is represented as distinct, which, according to our belief, he actually is, from the Lord, through whose assistance all these things are to be accomplished. But to the Jewish exposition of the text, the difficulty vanishes. From the chapter in question, it appears, as also from chapter 38 and 39 of Ezekiel, and other passages, that the time of the advent will also be a time of tribulation and warfare, and that especially the few remnants of Israel in Palestine will be the objects of a fierce attack from many nations. It is well known that the Lord works through natural means; consequently in the wars, which will thus be displayed as a means of effecting of great things, some men of Israel will also fall slain, or pierced by the sword; and in this manner, it is the opinion of certain Rabbis, that the Jewish war-leader, whom they designate as Messiah, son of Joseph, the precursor for the son of David, will be slain. Any how, there will be warfare and victims of the sword; and therefore says the prophet (v. 9, 10): "And it will come to pass on that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour out over the house of David and over the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication, and they shall look up to me, when they (the enemies) have pierced but one, and they shall mourn over him as one mourneth for an only son, and be in bitterness for him as one is in bitterness for a first-born." That is to say, that before the final redemption which is predicted in the fourteenth chapter can be accomplished, all the tribulations contained in the twelfth and thirteenth, must have been experienced; which trials however are only to purify and not to destroy the sacred seed of the righteousness to whom the land will be given. We have only to add, that were the piercing to refer to the speaker, the construction ought to be thus: "They shall look upon me, whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for me," (not him) &c., inasmuch as the word him must refer to a person different from the speaker, who, in consequence, cannot be the one who was pierced. We acknowledge that there is some difficulty in the passage under question; but all Jewish commentators have understood as we have given it, and the latest German translation translation which we have seen, that of Mr. Arnheim, is: "Und sie schauen zu mir auf (bei Jeglichem) den sie durchbohrt haben," which is precisely as we have rendered it above. At all events, this construction is in perfect accordance with the context, and is therefore more consonant with a sound criticism than the ordinary Christian acceptation of this passage. But we must stop; our note is already larger than its text, and we must leave the farther consideration of the subject to a future number. We constantly feel that it is much easier to start objections than reply to them; we therefore trust that both Mr. Halsey and our other readers will pardon us if this reply is not all they could have wished it to be.

* We shall speak more at length on this subject, probably before long.