The Value of Rabbinic Literature for New Testament Interpretation

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  • The Value of Rabbinic Literature for New Testament InterpretationSource: The Biblical World, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Oct., 1903), pp. 313-314Published by: The University of Chicago PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3141281 .Accessed: 24/05/2014 03:14

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  • The Value of Rabbinic Literature for New Testament Interpretation.

    In the issue of the B1BI ICAL WORLD for last April (pp. 319, 320) reference was made to Mr. (:. G. Montefiore's article, ;'Jewish Scholar- shlp and Christian Silence," which appeared in the January Miblert JozgrnaS. His contention was that the New Testament representation of the scribes and Pharisees was in essential respects false, that this falsity was proved by the rabbinical literature, that Jewish scholars had called the attention of Christian scholars to this proved falsity, and that Christian scholars, ignoring all these facts, continued to teach what was untrue about first-century Judaism. Mr. hIontefiore was frank enough also to name certain Christian scholars whom he regarded as guilty of doing this. ()ne of these was Professor Allan Menzies, D.D., professor of biblical criticism in the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, the author of a commentary on Mark entitled She EarDesf GospeS (I90I). His offense was that he accepted as historical the statements contained in Mark 7: I-I3 regarding the legalism of the Jews in Jesus' day.

    The question thus is concretely raised as to the degree of weight to be allowed to rabbinic literature in the interpretation of the New Tes- tament. Dr. Schechter has shown that the " (Corban " practice described in Mark 7: It iS inconsistent with the rabbinic teaching in the tal- mudic treatise lVedari.m, and he concludes: "whoever put Mark 7: II into the mouth of Jesus made him guilty of a grave error and a ground- less charge. " But are we sure that this talmudic teaching was in existence and force in the firstcentury A. D.? And does the actual practice always conform to the theory or ideal of the teaching? Pro- fessor Menzies clearly indicates the uncertainty concerning the dates at which the talmudic teaching arose and was in force. The student, he says, finds himself very much at sea in the measureless mass of undated, unrelated, unexplained conversations and decisions of which the Mish- nah is composed. Is there a guide, he asks, who can initiate the stu- dent into the conformation of this continent? \NTho can set forth the leading principles of the legislation and the stages of its development, if it had any development? XVeber, in his ZudiscAle Sheogogie, at first sight promises much; and he does yield much. But it is found that

    3I3

    Autrent Witerature.

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  • 3I4 3I4 ThE WIBLICAL [FORLD ThE WIBLICAL [FORLD

    he cannot in ver lIlally cases be used xvith any confidence, as he mixes

    to;gether statelllents from ever) century of rabbinism, and offers all

    arrangement of the rabbinical teaching which the rabbis never sug-

    gested to him. Even l)r. Schechter, whose articles in the JezaisAl

    ellarferSy RezZezz Mr. ATontefiore thinks epoch-making, presents the

    same mixture of materials and ideas from various periods. He con-

    fesses also that the view he has to give of rabbinical religion presents a

    b]ank at the irnportallt period that of the gospel.

    NVe are driven back, therefore, on the gospels themselves, and have

    to make up our minds that they are the principal source of information

    about the scribes of Christ's time. \\le need not on that account read

    them uncriticallv; we must strive to do justice to Jew as well as Chris-

    tian, to the opponents of Jesus as well as to his disciples. And it must

    of course be recognized that the account the gospels give of the rabbis

    and their religion is not sympathetic: in the circllmstances that could

    scarcely be expected. The traditions were fornled, not in the leading

    circles of Judaisnl, but in a circle outside that one and in opposition to

    it. Statements about the scribes and Pharisees in the gospels are

    therefore to be regarded with caution, as we have no narrative from

    the other side. At the same tilne, the evidence afforded by the synop-

    tic gospels appears irresistible, and Mr. Montefiore in the main accepts

    it, that in Galilee in Christ's time religion was administered by the

    scribes in such a way as to make it more difficult and more of a burden

    than from its nature in the Old 'restament, to which Christ called their

    attention, it should have been, or than it was with the later rabbis, and

    that many were driven away froln it altogether. An appeal to the prin-

    ciples of the religion as set forth in the Old Testament and in the

    Misllna cannot prevail to discredit the facts making il] this direction

    which are recorded in the gospels.

    The Significance of the Supper of Jesus.

    .-\n elaborate study of the historical facts and the significance of

    the Lord's Supper, together with the observance of the institution

    in the apostolic age, is furnished by Rev. J. C. Lambert in a volume

    entitled 7Xhe Sncstzmewzfs zs fSe Sew ltesfament. The conclusioll which

    he reaches regardillg the significance of the Supper is summed up by

    hilll ill the following words: In looking for the significance of the

    original Supper of Jesus, we must distinguish generally l)etween its

    immediate didactic vallle and its special purposes as an institution.

    he cannot in ver lIlally cases be used xvith any confidence, as he mixes

    to;gether statelllents from ever) century of rabbinism, and offers all

    arrangement of the rabbinical teaching which the rabbis never sug-

    gested to him. Even l)r. Schechter, whose articles in the JezaisAl

    ellarferSy RezZezz Mr. ATontefiore thinks epoch-making, presents the

    same mixture of materials and ideas from various periods. He con-

    fesses also that the view he has to give of rabbinical religion presents a

    b]ank at the irnportallt period that of the gospel.

    NVe are driven back, therefore, on the gospels themselves, and have

    to make up our minds that they are the principal source of information

    about the scribes of Christ's time. \\le need not on that account read

    them uncriticallv; we must strive to do justice to Jew as well as Chris-

    tian, to the opponents of Jesus as well as to his disciples. And it must

    of course be recognized that the account the gospels give of the rabbis

    and their religion is not sympathetic: in the circllmstances that could

    scarcely be expected. The traditions were fornled, not in the leading

    circles of Judaisnl, but in a circle outside that one and in opposition to

    it. Statements about the scribes and Pharisees in the gospels are

    therefore to be regarded with caution, as we have no narrative from

    the other side. At the same tilne, the evidence afforded by the synop-

    tic gospels appears irresistible, and Mr. Montefiore in the main accepts

    it, that in Galilee in Christ's time religion was administered by the

    scribes in such a way as to make it more difficult and more of a burden

    than from its nature in the Old 'restament, to which Christ called their

    attention, it should have been, or than it was with the later rabbis, and

    that many were driven away froln it altogether. An appeal to the prin-

    ciples of the religion as set forth in the Old Testament and in the

    Misllna cannot prevail to discredit the facts making il] this direction

    which are recorded in the gospels.

    The Significance of the Supper of Jesus.

    .-\n elaborate study of the historical facts and the significance of

    the Lord's Supper, together with the observance of the institution

    in the apostolic age, is furnished by Rev. J. C. Lambert in a volume

    entitled 7Xhe Sncstzmewzfs zs fSe Sew ltesfament. The conclusioll which

    he reaches regardillg the significance of the Supper is summed up by

    hilll ill the following words: In looking for the significance of the

    original Supper of Jesus, we must distinguish generally l)etween its

    immediate didactic vallle and its special purposes as an institution.

    This content downloaded from 195.78.109.170 on Sat, 24 May 2014 03:14:16 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

    http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

    Article Contentsp. 313p. 314

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Biblical World, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Oct., 1903), pp. 243-320Editorial"Be Ye Therefore Perfect." [pp. 243-247]

    Jewish Customs of Birth, Marriage, and Death [pp. 248-257]The Religion of the Post-Exilic Prophets [pp. 258-267]The Book of Ecclesiastes, in a New Arrangement and Translation [pp. 268-283]A Working Theory of Atonement [pp. 284-289]Psalm 137: An Interpretation [pp. 290-293]Introduction to Quotations from the Talmud and Kindred Jewish Literature. II [pp. 294-300]Comparative Translation: Job 19:25-27. A Study in Modernizing the English Bible [pp. 301-303]Work and Workers [pp. 304-306]Book ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 307-309]Review: untitled [pp. 309-310]Review: untitled [pp. 310-311]Review: untitled [pp. 311-312]Review: untitled [p. 312]

    Current LiteratureThe Value of Rabbinic Literature for New Testament Interpretation [pp. 313-314]The Significance of the Supper of Jesus [pp. 314-315]The Purpose of the Book of Revelation [p. 316]The Religious Value of Faith [p. 317]Psychology the Ally of Religion [p. 318]The Principles of True Freedom [pp. 318-320]

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