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That by Nazarenes, Jerome did not intend any other than the Hebrews believing in Christ,* but only meant to vary his mode of expression, is probable from this consideration: that, after giving a translation of the passage by Aquila and Symmachus, both Ebionites, he speaks of the interpretation of the prophecy by the Hebrew Christians in general, and then says, the Nazarenes, whose opinion he had given above, explained or illustrated it in the manner that has been represented. The opinion to which he referred, as given above, was, therefore, probably, that of the Hebrews believing in Christ. And the explanations of the passage are not at all different from one another, but the latter a further illustration of the former; the one being an interpretation of the prophecy, and the latter a more particular application of it to the time of Christ and the gospel.
This passage, therefore, which you have quoted as decisively in your favour, instead of proving that the Hebrews believing in Christ were different from the Nazarenes, furnishes an additional argument that, in the idea of Jerome, they were the very same people; if it does not also prove that their opinions were the same with those of Aquila and Symmachus, or of the Ebionites.
You may, indeed, say, that the opinion of the Nazarenes, to which Jerome refers, as given above, was that account of the Nazarenes which is found in his commentary on the preceding chapter, viz. "their so receiving Christ as not to abandon the old law." But the remoteness of the passage, and its having no relation to the subject of which he is treating in his commentary on the ninth chapter, make it improbable.
2. Admitting that Jerome alluded to some difference between the Hebrews believing in Christ, and the Nazarenes, it is far from following that the former were completely orthodor, and the latter not; for the phrase, believing in Christ, is applied both by Origen and Jerome to the heretical Jewish Christians. His not expressly saying that they were heretics in this place, on which you lay so much stress, can never prove that they were completely orthodox; since their heresy had nothing to do with the subject of which Jerome is here treating.
In a Note upon his Second Letter to Dr. Horne, (see infra,) Dr. Priestley shews this to have been Dr. Lardner's sense of Jerome, concerning "the Nazareans, called also believers from among the Hebrews." Dr. L. adds, speaking of "Jerome's commentary," just quoted, "So, he says, that text was explained by the Nazarenes, whom just before he called the Hebrews that believed in Christ." See Lardner, VII. pp. 21, 22.
All the difference between these two descriptions of Jewish Christians that Jerome can be supposed to allude to, is such a one as Origen made, of two sorts of Ebionites, viz. one who believed the miraculous conception, and the other who disbelieved it; or that of Justin, viz. of those who would hold communion with the Gentile Christians, and those who would not.
"It must strike the learned reader," you say, "that the Nazarenes mentioned by St. Jerome in the passage to which I now refer, of his annotations on Isaiah, must have been a different people from those mentioned by him with such contempt in his epistle to St. Austin, and described by Epiphanius. The Nazarenes here mentioned by St. Jerome held the Scribes and Pharisees in detestation, their traditions in contempt, and the apostle St. Paul in high veneration."* Now I see no intimation in this passage of there being any other kinds of Nazarenes, or Jewish Christians, besides such as Paul found at Jerusalem in his last journey thither, the more intelligent of them being his friends, and rejoicing in the success of his preaching. But even his greatest enemies must have admitted that the knowledge of Christianity was extended by his means; which is all that Jerome says of the Nazarenes in this place. As to the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, we read of no Jewish Christians who did not hold them in contempt.
3. Allowing both that the Hebrews believing in Christ, and the Nazarenes, were different people, and that the former were completely orthodox, it will not follow that there was a church of them at Jerusalem; which is the thing that you contend for.
Upon these foundations," however, you say," which a stronger arm than Dr. Priestley's shall not be able to tear up, stands the church of orthodox Jewish Christians at Jerusalem,'t to which the assertors of the Catholic faith will not scruple to appeal, in proof of the antiquity of their doctrine, whatever offence the very mention of the orthodox church at Jerusalem may give to the enraged Heresiarch."‡
Alas! these new foundations, being like the former built upon the sand, are also completely swept away. I will add, that he must be a bolder man than he that rebuilt Jericho, who shall attempt to restore them.
But this is not the only passage in Jerome to which you
• Remarks, p. 53. (P.) Tracts, p. 378. Remarks, p. 51. (P.) Tracts, p. 376.
+ See supra, pp. 175, 176, 264, 265.
appeal. You also say, that " he mentions Nazarenes whoheld the doctrine of our Lord's divinity. For, by an exposition of Isaiah viii. 13, 14, which St. Jerome ascribes to them, it appears that they acknowledged in Christ the nar (the Lord God of Hosts) of the Old Testament."* For any thing like a shadow of a proof of this most extraordinary assertion, I a long time looked in vain, and thought the reference must have been misprinted; but at length, considering what kind of a reasoner I had to do with, I believe I discovered your real ideas on the subject.
The prophet says, (Ch. viii. 13, 14,) Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread; and he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence, to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem."
In his commentary on this passage, Jerome says, "The Nazarenes (who so received Christ as not to abandon the observance of the old law) interpret these two houses, of Sammai and Hillel, from which arose the Scribes and Pharisees, &c.—and that these were the two houses which did not receive the Saviour, who was to them for a destruction and an offence."t
Jerome, however, does not make the inference that you do, viz. that because the Nazarenes thought that this prophecy referred to the times of Christ, and to his rejection by the Scribes and Pharisees, they believed Christ to be the Lord of Hosts. They only call him the Saviour, meaning, probably, a person speaking and acting by authority from God, who was in reality rejected by those who rejected his messenger, though a mere man. As our Lord himself says, Luke x. 16, "He that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.' On this ground you might rank both the Nazarenes and all the modern professed Unitarians with believers in the divinity of Christ. You might even make them believers
Remarks, p. 58. (P.) Tracts, p. 882.
+"Duas domus Nazarei (qui ita Christum recipiunt ut observationes legis veteris non amittant) duas familias interpretantur Samai et Hillel, ex quibus orti sunt Scribæ et Pharisæi, quorum suscepit scholam Axibas, quem magistrum Aquila proseliti autumant, et post eum Meir: cui successit Johannen, filius Zacharæi, et post eum Eliezer, et per ordinem Delphon, et rursum Josephus Galilæus, et usque ad captivi. tatem Hierusalem Josue. Samai igitur et Hillel, non multo prius quam doininus nasceretur orti sunt in Judæa, quorum prior dissipator interpretatur, sequens prophanus; eo quod per traditiones et devTepor suas, legis præcepta dissipaverint atque maculaverint. Et has esse duas domus, quæ salvatorem non receperint, qui factus sít eis in ruinam et in scandalum." Opera, IV. p. 32. (P.)
in the divinity of the apostles, and that of all the preachers of the gospel. But having no better evidence of the orthodoxy of the Nazarenes, you were obliged to make the best of this; which will prove a great deal too much.
I wonder, however, that this mode of interpreting scripture does not stagger even yourself. I thought that the most orthodox of the present day had believed that the person characterized by the title of the Lord of Hosts had been not the Son but the Father. If the Lord, that is, Jehovah, of Hosts, which is no doubt synonymous to Jehovah absolutely so called, be the Son, it will be difficult to find the Father any where in the Old Testament.
Thus I have considered all the evidence, positive or presumptive, that you have produced for the existence of a church of orthodox Jewish Christians at Jerusalem after the time of Adrian. I have particularly considered your five quotations from ancient writers, and do not find that so much as one of them is at all to your purpose.
Thus again ends this church of orthodox Jewish Christians at Jerusalem, planted by Mosheim, and destroyed by the too copious watering of the Archdeacon of St. Alban's.
Of the Miraculous Conception.
ought to be con
YOUR" Sermon on the Incarnation" sidered as making part of our controversy; and indeed it might with more propriety have been entitled a Discourse against myself, as you have contrived to introduce into it reflections on every opinion that I have at any time advanced, that you could think would make me appear in an obnoxious light. But for this I am not sorry; because the more those opinions are kept in view, the sooner will the horror they at first inspire go off. In time, mankind will be less offended at them, and may come to approve what they now dislike. As to mere abuse, in which light only those reflections can be considered as they appear in this Sermon, I think my time, and even my ink, of too much value to be thrown away in answering it.
* "Preached-Dec. 25, 1785." Republished in Tracts, 1789, pp. 311-329,
As to the miraculous conception, to which your Sermon chiefly relates, I do not pretend to make myself a party for or against it, having only endeavoured to supply materials for forming a right judgment in the case. But I cannot help observing that, instead of new light, you have thrown upon it a great mass of additional darkness, and of a deeper shade than any thing that has been produced by the Christian fathers, at least till long after the Council of Nice.
With respect to "the importance of the doctrine," you say, that, as an article of the faith, it is evidently the foundation of the whole distinction between the character of Christ, in the condition of a man, and that of any other prophet. Had the conception of Jesus been in the natural way; had he been the fruit of Mary's marriage with her husband; his intercourse with the Deity could have been of no other kind than the nature of any other man might have equally admitted; and how it should differ, otherwise than in the degree of frequency and intimacy, it will not be very easy to explain, unless we adhere to the faith transmitted to us from the primitive ages, and believe that the Eternal Word, who was in the beginning with God, and was God, so joined to himself the holy thing which was formed in Mary's womb, that the two natures, from the commencement of the virgin's conception, made one person-Jesus, according to the primitive doctrine, was so united to the ever-living Word, that the very existence of the man consisted in this union."*
"It was," you say, "clearly the doctrine of holy writ, and nothing else, which the fathers asserted, in terms borrowed from the schools of philosophy, when they affirmed that the very principle of personality and individual existence in Mary's son was union with the uncreated Word. A doctrine in which a miraculous conception would have been implied, had the thing not been recorded; since a man conceived in the ordinary way would have derived the principles of his existence from the mere physical powers of generation. Union with the Divine nature could not have been the principle of an existence physically derived from Adam; and that intimate union of God and man in the Redeemer's person, which the Scriptures so clearly assert, had been a physical impossibility."+
You add, "On the other hand, it were not difficult to shew that the miraculous conception, once admitted, natu