« AnteriorContinua »
VI. During the time of our Saviour there was a considerable number of Jews resident at Rome: Josephus estimates them at eight thousand; and Philo, who relates that they occupied a large quarter of the city, says, that they were chiefly such as had been taken captive at different times, and had been carried into Italy, where they had subsequently acquired their freedom, and were called Libertines. The synagogue of the Libertines, mentioned in Acts i. 9 is, by some critics, supposed to have belonged to this class of
VII. In consequence of this dispersion of the Jews, throughout the Roman empire, and the extensive commerce which they carried on with other nations, their religion became known, and the result was the prevalence of a somewhat purer knowledge of the true God among the Gentiles. Hence we find, that there were many who, though they did not adopt the rite of circumcision, yet had acquired a better knowledge of the Most High than the Pagan theology furnished, and who in some respects conformed to the Jewish religion. Of this description appear to be the “devout men who feared God,” who are frequently mentioned in the New Testament,” and particularly the pious centurion Cornelius, of whom the sacred writer has given us so pleasing an account. (Acts x.)
VIII. All these persons, with the exception of the last class, were members of the Jewish church, participated in its worship, and regulated themselves by the law of Moses (or at least prosessed to do so), and by the other inspired Hebrew books, whence their sacred rites and religious instruction were derived. No person however was allowed to partake of the sacred ordinances, until he had undergone the right of circumcision. This rite is first mentioned in Gen. xvii. 10–12., where we read that it was a seal of the covenant which God made with Abraham and his posterity. Afterwards, when God delivered his law to the children of Israel, he renewed the ordinance of circumcision, which from that time became a sacrament of the Jewish religion. Hence the protomartyr Stephen calls it the “covenant of circumcision,” (Acts vii. 8.); and Jesus Christ also ascribes its institution to Moses, though it was derived from the patriarchs. (John vii. 22.) Besides the design which God proposed to himself in establishing this ceremony, he appointed it for some other ends, suited to the circumstances of the Israelites; a brief consideration of which will illustrate many important passages of Scripture. In the first place, it included in it so solemn and indispensable an obligation to observe the whole law, that circumcision did not profit those who transgressed. (Rom. ii. 25.) Hence the Jews are in the Scriptures frequently termed the circumcision, that is, persons circumcised, as opposed to the uncircumcised Gentiles, who are styled the uncircumcision (Rom. iii. 1. 30. iv. 12. Gal. ii. 7–9. Eph. ii. 1 1. Phil. iii. 5.); the abstract being put for the concrete. Thus, our Saviður is called the minister of circumcision; and therefore St. Paul says, that whoever is circumcised, is bound to keep the whole law. (Gal. v. 3.) For the same reason Jesus Christ was circumcised, that he might be made under the law, to fulfil the promise of the Messiah, and redeem those who were under the law. (Gal. iv. 4.) Secondly, as only circumcised persons were deemed to be visible members of the Jewish church, so none but these were permitted to celebrate the great festivals, particularly the passover. On this account it was that Joshua commanded all the Israelites, who having been born in the wilderness remained uncircumcised, to undergo the rite of circumcision, previously to their entering the land of Canaan (Josh. v. 4. 6.9.); on which occasion God told them that he had removed or rolled away the reproach of Egypt from them; in other words, that they should thenceforth be regarded as his peculiar people, and no longer as the slaves of Egypt. The knowledge of this circumstance beautifully illustrates Eph. ii. 11—13.; where St. Paul, describing the wretched state of the Gentiles before their conversion, represents them as aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and consequently excluded from all its privileges and blessings. Thirdly, circumcision was an open profession of the worship of the true God, and consequently an abjuration of idolatry; on this account we are told that during the persecution of Antiochus the heathen put to death those Jewish women who had caused their children to be circumcised;" and such Jews as apostatised to heathenism took away as much as possible every vestige of circumcision. As this rite was an open profession of the Jewish religion, some zealous converts from that faith to Christianity strenuously urged its continuance, especially among those who were of Jewish origin; but this was expressly prohibited by St. Paul. (1 Cor. vii. 18.)
"...Josephus, Ant. Jud. lib. xvii. c. 11. (al. 13) lib. xviii. c. 3. (al. 4.) A 4, 5, Philo. de Legat ad Caium, p. 1014, Tacitus, Annal, lib. ii. c. 85. Suetonius in Tiberio, c. 36. Wolfius on Acts vi. 1. has detailed the various opinions of learned men respecting the Libertines.—See pp. 239, 240. supra.
* See Acts xiii. 43.50. xvi. 14. xvii. 4, 17. and xviii. 7.
Vol. Irt. 34
Lastly, circumcision was appointed for mystical and moral reasons: it was, as baptism is with us, an external sign of inward purity and holiness: hence these expressions of “circumcising the foreskin of the heart,” the “circumcision of the heart,” the “circumcision made without hands,” the “uncircumcised in heart,” &c. so often occurring in the Scriptures.”
1 1 Macc. i. 63. Josephus, Ant. Jud. lib. xii, c. 7,
2 See Lev. xxvi. 41, 42. Deut. x. 16. xxx. 6. Jer. iv. 4. ix. 25, 26. Rom. ii.2 29. Col. ii. II. Acts vii. 51. Circumcision was that rite of the law by which the Israelites were taken into God's covenant; and (in the spirit of it) was the same as baptism among Christians. For as the form of baptism expresses the putting away of sin, circumcision was another form to the same effect. The Scripture speaks of a “circumcision made without hands," of which that made with ho was no more than an outward sign, which denoted “the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh,” (Col. ii. 11.) and becoming a new creature; which is the sense." our baptism. Of this inward and spiritual grace of circumcision the apostle speaks expressly in another place; “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is “that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one “ inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter." (Rom. ii. 28.) Some may suppose that this spiritual application of circumcision,
The sacrament of circumcision was enjoined to be observed on the eighth day (Gen. xvii. 12.), including the day when the child was born, and that on which it was performed; and so scrupulous were the Jews in obeying the letter of the law, that they never neglected it, even though it happened on the sabbath day. (John vii. 22, 23.) This they termed “driving away the sabbath.” If they were obliged to perform circumcision, either sooner or later, it was considered as a misfortune, and the circumcision so administered, though valid, was not deemed equally good with that done on the eighth day: and when this ceremony was deferred, it was never used to drive away the sabbath. It was for this reason that St. Paul accounted it no small privilege to have been circumcised on the eighth day. Accordingly John the Baptist (Luke i. 59.) and Jesus Christ (Luke ii. 21.) were circumcised exactly on that day. There was a peculiar fitness in the circumcision of Jesus Christ: for, as the Jews reckoned it dishonourable to associate with uncircumcised persons (Acts xi. 3.), it was necessary that he should be circumcised in order to qualify him for conversing familiarly with them, and also for discharging the other duties of his ministry. Besides, as the Messiah was to be descended from Abraham, whose posterity were distinguished from the rest of mankind by this rite, he received the seal of circumcision to show that he was rightly descended from that patriarch: and as every person that was circumcised was “a debtor to the whole law” (Gal. v. 3.), it was further necessary that Jesus Christ the true Messiah should be circumcised; because, being thus subjected to the law of Moses, he was put in a condition to fulfil all righteousness, and redeem those who were under the law." (Gal. iv. 4, 5.)
At the same time that the child was circumcised, we learn from the Gospel, that it was usual for the father, or some near relation, to give him a name. Thus John the Baptist and Jesus Christ both received their names on that day. (Luke i. 59. ii. 21.) It appears, however, that the Jews had several names during the period comprised in the evangelical history. Thus it was customary with them, when travelling into foreign countries, or familiarly conversing with
as a sacrament, was invented after the preaching of the Gospel, when the veil was taken from the law; but this doctrine was only enforced to those who had it before, and had departed from the sense of their own law; for thus did Moses instruct the Jews, that there is a “foreskin of the heart” which was to be “circumcised” in a moral or spiritual way, before they could be accepted as the servants of God; and again, that the Lord would “circumcise their heart, to love him with all their “heart, and with all their soul” (Deut. x. 16. and xxx. 6.); which was the same as to say, that he would give them what circumcision signified, making them Jews inwardly, and giving then the inward grace with the outward sign; without which the letter of baptism avails no more now than the letter of circumcision did then: and we may say of the one as is said of the other, “He is not a Christian which is one “outwardly, and baptism is not the putting away the filth of the flesh by washin “with water, but the answer of a good conscience towards God.” (1 Pet. iii. §§ Rev. W. Jones on the Figurative Language of Scripture. (Works, vol. iii. pp. 77,78.) On this subject Dr. Graves has some excellent remarks, in his Lectures on the Pentateuch, vol. i. pp. 241–250. See also an excellent discourse of Bishop Beveridge, entitled “The R. Creature in Christianity.” Works, vol. ii. Serm. xix. pp. 417. et seq. 8vo. edit. * Macknight and Whitby on Luke ii. 21.
the Greeks and Romans, to assume a Greek or Latin name of great
1 See Harmer's Observations, vol. iv. pp. 431–433.
9 Beausobre and L'Enfant's Introd. to the New Test. (Bishop Watson's Col. of Tracts, vol. iii. pp. 205, 206.) Schulzii, Archaeol. Hebr. pp. 159–166. Ikenii Antiq. pp. 343–347. Stosch. Compend. Archaeol. QEconomicae Nov. Test. §§36. Edwards on the Authority, &c. of Scripture, vol. ii. pp. 313–33). Mr. Allen has given an interesting account of the mode of circumcision that ob: o among the Jews of the present time, in his “Modern Judaism," pp. 283
,3. The third ceremony to be performed was that of offering sacrifice. All these rites, except circumcision, were performed by the women, as well as the men, who became proselytes: and it was a common motion among the Jews, that every person who had duly performed them all was to be considered as a new-born infant. Thus Maimonides expressly says:—“A Gentile who is become a proselyte, and a slave who is set at liberty, are both as it were new-born babes; which is the reason why those who before were their parents, are now no longer so.”
ON THE MINISTERS OF THE TEMPLE, AND OTHER EccLESIASTICAL or SACRED PERSONS.
I. Of the Levites.—II. The Priests, their functions, maintenance, and privileges.—III. The High Priest.—Succession to the pontiftcal dignity.—His qualifications, functions, dress, and privileges. —IV. Officers of the Synagogue.—V. The Nazarites; nature of their vows.-VI. The #. ites.—VII. The Prophets.
THE Jews, on the establishment of their republic, had no king but Jehovah himself; and the place appointed for their sacrifices and prayers was at the same time both the temple of their God and the palace of their sovereign. This circumstance will account for the pomp and splendour of their worship, as well as the number, variety, and gradations in rank of their ministers; which were first established by Moses, and afterwards renewed by David, with increased splendour, for the service of the temple. To this service the tribe of Levi was especially devoted, instead of the first-born of the tribes of Israel, and was disengaged from all secular labours. The honour of the priesthood, however, was reserved to the family of Aaron alone, the rest of the tribe being employed in the inferior offices of the temple:
1 Some learned men have supposed that our Lord alluded to this rabbinical tradition when he reproached Nicodemus with being a master in Israel (John iii. 10), and yet being at the same time ignorant how a man could be born a second time. But it is most probable that Jesus Christ referred to that spiritual meaning of circumcision above noticed (see p. 258. and note 2 supra); because there are no traces of Jewish proselyte-baptism earlier than the middle of the second century. Consequently it is more likely that the Jews took the hint of proselyte-baptism from the Christians, after our Saviour's time, than that he borrowed his baptism from theirs; which, whenever it came into practice, was one of those additions to the law of God so severely censured by him. (Matt. xv. 9.) The arguments on the much disputed question, Whether baptism was in use, or not, before the time of our Saviour, are reviewed by Carpzov in his Apparatus Antiquitatum Sacrarum, p. 49, and by Dr. Jennings in his Jewish Antiquities, book i.e. 3. pp. 65–68. See also Dr. Who Paraphrase and Notes on John iii. 4,5,6. It may not be irrelevant to remark that the learned Dr. Campbell refers our Lord's censure of Nicodemus, not to the rabbinical notion above mentioned, but rather to his entire ignorance of that effusion of the Spirit which would take place under the Messiah, and which had been so clearly foretold by the prophets. Translation of the Four Gospels, voi. ii. pp. 515. 3d edit.