|Vol. VII, No. 2
Iyar 5609, May 1849
Letter to Rev. Alex. M’Caul, D. D.
After congratulating yourself that you have proved the English version of the text is correct, and that the person spoken of was to be called by the names therein specified, you say, “It remains to be shown that that person is the Messiah, and that such was the opinion of the ancient Jews.” But can you show they believe that Jesus was the Messiah there spoken of? If not, you would only show what Jews acknowledge. You say, the personage announced is called the Prince of Peace, because in his days war was to cease and peace abound, and in corroboration, bring Psalm 72:7, “In his days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth.” Surely you must have reckoned on the forgetfulness of your audience, when you brought forward a verse from a Psalm, which the heading of the authorized version described as “A prayer for Solomon.” Can you say that in the days of Jesus war ceased and peace abounded? Then follow several quotations to prove that the Messiah shall sit on the throne of his father David, and possess his kingdom restored and enlarged. Did Jesus ever sit on the throne of David? The proof supposed to exist in Psalm 45:6, depends on the word אלהים (v. 7). This verse appears to be a pious address to God, and not at all alluding to the subject of the preceding and following verses. These transitions are very common in the holy writings, and particularly in the Psalms. In verse 16, he addresses the kind again.
The 110th Psalm is next quoted for the word אדני, the nun pointed <<90>>with kametz. The first verse of this Psalm has been the subject of much controversy. I will not discuss who is the person alluded by the title of “my Lord;” but it is to that person to whom the words “the Lord at thy right hand” are addressed, therefore it is not that person to whom the אדני is to be applied. Whether the person is the Messiah or the second person of the Trinity, or any other, it is clear that the title is not applied to him, but solely to God. I observe you have omitted in your quotation to notice the words, “at thy right hand.” This is very unfair, as those words determine the meaning the pronoun “thy” applies to the person called “my Lord” in the first verse.
In Malachi, God declares he will send his messenger before Him, and that “The Lord whim you seek shall suddenly come to his temple.” The word האדון refers to God and not to the messenger, and the article is properly applied. The messenger is undoubtedly the Messiah, who is to judge and punish the unrighteous, as Isaiah declares.
You say the Scriptures not only appropriate to the Messiah the names of God, but also invest him with the predicates and attributes of the Divine Being. God and Messiah are both emphatically called the King of Israel. Granted. Isaiah, in the verse following the one you quote, declares there shall be no end of the increase of his government and peace upon the throne of David. This prediction will be fulfilled in the person of the Messiah; but certainly was not fulfilled in Jesus. You say, “As the Jewish monarchy was at first a theocracy, and the hope of the Jews is a restoration of that first constitution, the only way to avoid palpable contradiction is to suppose that God and the Messiah are identical,” The Jews are not prone to suppose God is another beside himself, as the Christians, who believe Him to be three persons; their hope is in the fulfillment of the prophecies; a restoration of their nation and kingdom under a descendant of David. They do not arrogantly pretend to foretell how and when it is to come to pass. They wait patiently until they shall be worthy of the glorious destiny which is promised.
You say that eternity is attributed to the Messiah by Micah and the Psalms, and quote the former, “Whose goings forth have been of old from everlasting. Now you know very well that the Hebrew says מימי עולם literally, “from the days of the world.” You also know that when the words לעולם and עד עולם are used, expressive of long duration, it does not necessarily indicate eternity. When applied to man it only indicates his lifetime. Hannah tells her husband that when weaned, she would take Samuel to Shiloh, where “he shall appear before the Lord and abide there עד עולם.” You cannot suppose that Hannah <<91>>meant her son would live for ever. You next remark that both God and the Messiah are styled the Redeemer and Saviour of Israel. Certainly. What good can we receive but from God, though we may enjoy it by an intermediate agent. God, the first cause, will redeem us by the instrumentality of the Messiah; Jesus, in assuming the character, declares, “I do the work of my father.” Then follows a string of comparisons, in which God is likened to the rain, an everlasting light, a judge, &c., which, according to the figurative character of the prophetic writings are also applied to the Messiah; this you say, shows that the inspired writers speak of the Messiah as equal in majesty, and possessing the same attributes, as the true God.
Now is it possible that the inspired writers who acknowledge one God from whom they received their inspiration, could mean to represent a man as equal to Him in majesty and attributes, even one of whom He had given them so exalted in idea as a being whom He would endow with such wisdom and power, and whose mission was to be so wonderful and glorious? Or can it be true that God, who so emphatically declares that there is no other god beside Him, or with Him, should at the same time have revealed another being possessing equal power and majesty, and that being a man?
Here you pause and assert that you have proved there are prophecies that announce that the Messiah should be acknowledged as the true God; but you have failed in your attempt. All that you would have done, had your reasoning been correct, would be to prove that the Messiah was another God beside the one to whom he is compared, thus establishing a duality; and here I shall leave that part of the subject, with the remark that the object of your argument only extended to the proof of the divinity of the Messiah, as to be inferred from the prophecies. There is no attempt to show that Jesus was the Messiah. There is no parallel, drawn between the description of the Messiah and the character and acts of Jesus. You have not shown a single instance in which the predictions of the prophets, as to the acts or characteristics of the Messiah, were accomplished by Jesus.
You proceed to show that Jesus of Nazareth has been acknowledged as the true God in a manner and to an extent unparalleled in the history of the world. To this I must demur. Jupiter was acknowledged as the true God, at least from the age of Hesiod and Homer, and afterwards by the Roman Empire, until the third century of Christianity. The worship of Brahma and Buddha, in Asia, was equally extended, and still prevails in a large portion of that continent. Islamism indeed adores the true God, but not identical with Jesus, whom they only consider as an inspired prophet. The Christians are outnumbered <<92>>by Hindoos, the Buddhists, and the Mussulmans. God has permitted the spread of Christianity as He permits the existence of the religions of Brahma, Buddha, and Mahommed; that circumstance is then no more a proof of one religion then of the others.
In bringing your proof from the New Testament, you say you are willing in so far to waive their authority as inspired apostles and evangelists, and view them simply as the earliest Christian writers; only on that ground can I examine the value of their evidence. This consists of figurative expressions applied to Jesus, which before had been applied to God, the title of bridegroom, the figure of a hen and chicken, a shepherd, as presiding at the judgment seat. These passages are paralleled with similar figures applied to God, and you say, How can this be accounted for except on the supposition that the New Testament writers so habitually thought of Christ as of God, that they interpreted most of the Old Testament passages where God is spoken of, as referring to Christ? I can account for the circumstance on another supposition. The apostles and evangelists took as the foundation of Christianity the divinity of Jesus. This was a startling assertion, which they felt would not be received on their simple authority, and could only be supported on revelation. As Jews, the only revelation they acknowledged was contained in their holy books, to whom they had recourse for some direct and unequivocal declaration of the divinity of the Messiah. I need not say that they sought in vain; they found him described as a mere mortal, invested with wonderful but delegated power, and appointed to fulfill a glorious mission; but this eminent position fell short of the divinity which they had ascribed to their founder. Having declared him the Messiah, they searched the Scriptures for the attributes and power predicated of the Messiah, delegated powers which seemed to place him on an equality with the donor, and argued that a being possessing such powers must be a God, that such powers being attributed to the Messiah, he must be a God, that Jesus being the Messiah, must also be a God. The same figurative expressions which were applied to God, or to the Messiah, they applied to him, he is the shepherd, the bridegroom, he is compared to rain, and to a hen gathering her chickens under her wings. Words are applied to him which evidently do not refer to him, and which were supposed to have been so applied by persons who lived many hundred years before him; declarations of his divinity are supposed to exist in the writings of the prophets, to whom was declared so repeatedly and so unequivocally the truth that there is no other God but the one who inspired them. This supposition as to the cause of the identity of the terms <<93>>applied to God and to the Messiah, being also applied to Jesus, is at least as plausible as yours.
I cannot help noticing your repeating so often that Jesus is worshipped by all nations as their God; such an assertion may have been very gratifying to your hearers, but you know it is not true. Do the Chinese, or the Hindoos, or the Mahommedans, who constitute, perhaps, three-fourths of the human race, worship him as God? As the assertion is not true, there is no occasion for me to explain how it is possible his divinity and advent should have been foretold by the prophets, whose revelations all taught the unity of the Divinity. The being predicted by them will come, and will accomplish all that is foretold of him.
You say it is impossible to ascribe to chance the pre-existence of these prophecies and their fulfillment. Now there is no doubt of the pre-existence of these prophecies; but where is the proof of their being accomplished in the person of Jesus? It is not to be found in your lectures; your fifth and sixth lectures are devoted to the proving of the idolatry and corruption of the Roman Church, the fountain of Christianity. This seems a strange corollary to “The Evidence of the Divine Origin of Christianity,” when we know that all the tenets which are called superstitious, idolatrous, and damnable, were taught by her in the first century. The real corporeal presence was taught by St. Ignacius, the successor of St. Peter at Antioch. This was the original doctrine received from the apostles, and acknowledged openly. Let me refer you to a work by Thomas Moore, under the title of “Travels of an Irish Gentleman in search of a Religion,” in which he proves by quotations from the early fathers that the present scheme of religion of the Roman Church is the same that was possessed from the beginning, the doctrine of the Trinity seems to have been delivered with great caution, and in very ambiguous terms by the early fathers. I will not tax your patience any longer. I felt it my duty after receiving the book from you, to state my objections to what you offer, as proofs of the “divine origin of Christianity,” and to point out that though you have endeavoured to establish the divinity of the Messiah, you have not been able to identify Jesus with him beyond the application to him by his followers of a few phrases and figures which have been applied by the prophets to the Messiah. I do not expect any answer to my objections; as I well know the reluctance with which the clergy enter into any discussion with Jews on the truth of Christianity, even those kind friends who profess great zeal for their conversion.
I remain, respectfully,