OF THE OLD TESTAMENT,
CONSIDERED; AND PROVED TO BE LITERALLY
FULFILLED IN JESUS.
Containing An Answer to the Objections of the Author of
The Scheme of Literal Prophecy.
The design of the following sheets is to consider the prophecies of the Old Testament, respecting the Messiah; and to prove that they are literally fulfilled in Jesus, against both Jews and Deists. I have therefore collected together the exceptions of the former to those prophecies, and the rather because they are, as far as known, made use of by the latter. I have consulted, as much as I was able, the writings, both of old and later Jews, and shewn, that in most, if not in all the prophecies considered, they have understood them of the Messiah. I produce those authorities, not as decisive in this controversy, but as the convictions and concessions of an adversary, and that a bitter and implacable one to Christianity, and which I think deserves consideration with the Deist. I cite old Jews to shew the sense of the ancient synagogue; the later ones to shew the strength of conviction upon their minds, who cannot but have observed, what use the Christians have made of those prophecies, and though often pinched with them, yet they have been obliged to own them as prophecies of the Messiah, for which reason the testimonies of later Jews, seem to have the most strength and force in them, And that the reader may riot be at a loss about old Jews and later Jews, he is desired to observe that by old Jews,I mean those who wrote, or are supposed to have wrote within the first five or six centuries after Christ, as the authors of the Targums, Talmuds, Rabboth, Zohar,&c. and by later Jews, I mean those who wrote within the last five or six centuries, as Maimonides, Jarchi, Aben Ezra, Kimchi,&c. The author of The Scheme of Literal Prophecy, whose exceptions I have all along considered, has advanced several things with regard to the belief of the Jews, concerning a Messiah, which I think myself obliged to take notice of in this place.
First,He seems to insinuate as though the belief of a Messiah among the Jews, was not anciently a fundamental article of their faith, but made so from the eleventh century, when their confession of faith was drawn up by R. Moses Maimonides.That the Jews' confession of faith, was drawn up by Maimonides,about that time, in thirteen articles, is not denied, which articles are generally believed by all of them, without any contradiction, as Leo Modena says; but then this no more proves, that the article relating to the Messiah, then began to be a fundamental article of their faith, than the article respecting the unity of the Divine Being, which must be acknowledged, was always the faith of the Jewish church: Besides, Maimonides did not make, but only drew up, those articles, and it is highly reasonable to suppose; that he drew them up not as the novel opinions of some particular persons; but as what had been the ancient, constant, and universal sense of his people; and what would be received as such without hesitation, as they accordingly were. R. Joseph Albo is the only person that is usually cited as denying the article of the Messiah to be בון צקד חנ מסתצך a fundamental one; he reduced the Jews' confession of faith to three general heads, which he calls roots, namely, the belief of the Divine Being, the law of Moses,and a state of rewards and punishments, to which he thought all the rest reducible; now, though he is not willing to allow the article of the Messiah to be צקד a root,or a fundamental principle,his design herein being manifestly enough to oppose the Christian religion, whose main fundamental principle is faith in the Messiah, Jesus; I say, though he is not willing to allow it to be a root; yet he grants that it is a branch, which בון צקר חנ מסתצך arises from the third root,that is, that of rewards and punishments, and declares that all ought to believe the Messiah, who receive the law of Moses;that the prophets prophesied of his coming, which is sure and evident;that he who does not believe the coming of the Messiah, denies the words of the prophets, and is a transgressor of the affirmative precepts;so that though he will not allow the article of the Messiah, to be a fundamental one; in which he was alone, and had no followers; yet he owns it to be a branch of a fundamental one; and therefore we should be so far from concluding from the single opinion of this person, that this was not a fundamental article of the Jewish faith, that the contrary is rather evident from hence.
Secondly,The same author intimates, that many of the Jews themselves have seemed to have no expectation of a Messiah, as the Sadducees and Scribes, the Samaritan Jews, Josephus,and some in his time, R. Hillell in the third century; nay, that Maimonides speaks very indifferently of it. As to the Sadducees,they as impatiently expected the Messiah, as the rest of the Jews did, were as intent upon detecting of Jesus, whom they supposed not to be the true Messiah, and were as violent opposers of him and his followers, as any others; which they would not have concerned themselves about, had they not believed in a Messiah. Some say, that the Caraites,are of the old stock of the Sadducees,and hold the same doctrines as they did, who it is certain expect a Messiah, as much as the other Jews do. As to the Scribes,who, though they were, as this author says, letter men,yet believed (Mark 7:35; 9:11) that Christ,or the Messiah, is the son of David,and that Elias must first come;indeed he says that what he has said of the Sadducees and Scribes, he only proposes in the way of conjecture, but it seems to be a conjecture without any foundation for it,
As to the Samaritan Jews, nothing is more manifest, than that in the times of Jesus they expected a Messiah; it was a notion which seemed universally to obtain among them, as appears from the woman of Samaria,with whom Jesus conversed, who could say (John 4:25), I know that the Messiah cometh which is called Christ.It is allowed that the modern ones, have notions of a Messiah, though very confused and very different, which need not be wondered at, since they reject the books of the prophets, and confine themselves to the five books of Moses.In one of their letters to Sealiger,they say the name of the Messiah with them, is השהב which it seems they do not know the signification of, though it seems to be an abbreviation of השהבא o ercomenoV , he that is to come,whereby the Samaritan as well as the Jerusalem Jews, understood the Messiah, as is manifest from the words of the woman just now mentioned,
As to Josephus,and some other Jews in his time, who thought that Vespasian was the prince that was to come, it is manifest enough that they expected a Messiah, though they were mistaken in the person, whom they thought to be, he, nor can any thing else be fairly concluded from hence. R. Hillell it is true, gave out that "Israel was to have no Messiah, because they enjoyed him in the days of Hezekiah;" but then this was only the opinion of a single person; for notwithstanding his authority, the Jews still expect a Messiah; besides, this saying of his was not a disbelief of the Messiah, but a mistaken notion about the time of his coming; and as for Maimonides speaking indifferently of the Messiah, it need not be wondered at in him nor in any other of his nation, if there has been any other who has done so; since they have been so wretchedly disappointed in their expectation of him, and since they see so little need of, and expect so little from him.
Thirdly,This same author would have us believe, that the expectation of a Messiah, among the Jews, was grounded, not upon the literal, but upon the allegorical,and traditional sense of the Scriptures; but if so, how came the Scribes,who, as this author acknowledges, were a party of letter-men,to expect a Messiah, and to say, that he was the Son of David,as has been before observed? Surely those men who are "supposed to have rejected many of the prevailing Jewish notions, not founded on the letter of the scriptures," would have rejected the notion of a Messiah, if not founded thereon. Besides, the Caraites,or Scripturians,an ancient sect among the Jews, rejecting the mystical, enigmatical, traditional, and allegorical expositions of the Rabbis, strictly and closely adhere to the very letter of the scriptures, and yet expected a Messiah as much as other Jews do. Now, from whence could this expectation arise? or whereon could it be grounded, but the literal sense of the Scriptures? It is therefore a mistake that a notion of a Messiah cannot he established from the prophecies of the Old Testament, without a mystical and allegorical sense of them; for in their first, literal, and obvious sense, they respect him, as I hope, the following account of them grill make appear.
Fourthly,I cannot but much wonder, that this author should think "most probable, that many of the places, wherein the Messias is expressly named in the Chaldee Paraphrases,are interpolations;" especially, when he thinks that those writings are much more modern, and of a later date than the Jews would have them to be; for the later the date of them is, the less reason is there to suppose them to be interpolated in those passages which respect the Messiah; for surely it can never be thought, that they would take such a method with their own Targums on those prophecies, when they must be supposed to know what use the Christians made of them, both against them, and in vindication of Christianity; nor is there any thing with which the Jews are more puzzled and confounded, than when they are urged with those paraphrases; and there is a great deal of reason to suppose, that those places, wherein the Messiah is expressly named, are so far from being interpolations, that were not those writings so sacred with them, as that they dare not corrupt them, they would have expunged them long ago. As to this author's reason for these thoughts, that "Josephus says, those Jews who were in the vulgar error, or the belief of a Messias to arise out of their nation, built their expectation but on one ambiguous oracle or prophecy, found in their sacred books." I would only reply, that Josephus indeed, speaks of an oracle or prophecy found in their sacred books;that about that time one of them, from their country, should rule over the world;which oracle he calls an ambiguous one, and says was what chiefly excited the Jews to the war,but then he no where says, that the Jews' expectation of a Messiah was built upon one single, doubtful prophecy, but that their expectation of his arising out of their country, and at that time was so;the ambiguity of which oracle lay in his arising out of their nation,which some understood of his being horn there, as the generality of the Jews did and others, of his entering upon his government there, as Josephus did, and therefore applied it to Vespasian:From whence it appeal's that this instance gives no reason to conclude, that the passages respecting the Messiah, in the Chaldee paraphrases, are interpolations; for the Jews might have many plain prophecies, on which they built. their expectation of a Messiah, some of which these paraphrases have pointed out to us; and yet Josephus speaks but of one ambiguous or doubtful prophecy respecting the time of his coming, and the country from whence he was to arise, which excited the Jews to the war, and animated them obstinately to persist therein; in which he supposes them to be mistaken, though, alas the ground of their mistake, and which therefore was fatal to them, was, that the Messiah, the person prophesied of, was already come.
I conclude with desiring the reader to observe, that I do not produce the prophecies of the Old Testament, respecting the Messiah's second coming, as literally fulfilled in Jesus, but as to be so fulfilled in him, and the reason of my taking notice of them, is to make the scheme of prophecy more complete; and seeing all the rest of the prophecies, respecting the Messiah, have had a literal completion in Jesus, there is a great deal of reason to believe that these will also; especially, seeing it is such a completion of them, that Jesus and his apostles have given us reason to expect. I have not, indeed, inquired into the authenticity of the book of Daniel,and of the two first chapters of St. Matthew's gospel, which the author of The Scheme of Literal Prophecy has called in question, but have taken them for genuine parts of the sacred writings; the reason why I have not attempted an enquiry of this nature, when I have had occasion to consider some passages in those parts of Scripture, is, because I was not willing to interrupt the reader, by breaking the thread of prophecy. I must confess, that what this author has advanced on this head deserves consideration; and I hope, that some of the learned writers in this controversy, will think it worth their notice and regard. I shall only add, that whereas my design in writing the following sheets, is an honest, and impartial enquiry after truth, and an attempt to establish and promote it; in doing of which, as I have treated the argument with candor and temper; so, I hope, if I should appear to be mistaken in any thing I have advanced, I shall be candidly treated, as I shall be heartily thankful for such a discovery.