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OPINIONS OF THE ANCIENT JEWS, &c.
Philo,* in several places of his writings observes, “That Moses, the law-giver of the Jews, made this his chief end to destroy the notion of polytheism.” He then affirms,“that though it is said, God is one, yet this is not to be understood with respect to number." Though this expression is obscure, there is no doubt that he had an idea of purality in unity. He says, “God begets his Word, and his Wisdom, and that his Wisdom is the same with his Word; that this generation was from all eternity; for the Word of God is the eternal Son of God.” Philo speaks of two powers in God; that these powers made the world, or by them God created the world; that these eternal powers appeared, acted, and spoke as real persons; and in a visible and sensible manner."
“It is clear how sensible the Jews have been that there is a notion of plurality plainly imported in the Hebrew text, since they have forbidden their common people the reading of the history of the creation, lest understanding it literally, it should lead them into heresy.
The Talmudists have invented this excuse for the Seventy, as to their changing the Hebrew plural, into a Greek singular; they say it was for fear Ptol. Phil. should take the Jews for polytheists." St. Jerome observes the same.
Since the time of Christ the Jews have retained the opinion that there is a plurality in the divine nature. “Both the authors of the Midrashim and the Cabalistical authors agree exactly in this, that they acknowledge a plurality in the divine essence; and that they reduce such a plurality to three persons as we do. To prove such an assertion, I take notice first, that the Jews do judge as we do, that the word Elohim, which is plural, expresses a plurality. Their ordinary remark upon that word is this, that Elohim
* The following quotations from ancient Jewish authors are not made with a view to subscribe to all their opinions, but simply to shew that the y believed there was a plurality in the divine Nature; that the promised Messiah was the Son of God; and that he was divine.
is as if one did read El hem, that is, they are God. Bachajè, a famous Commentator of the Pentateuch, who brings in his work all the senses of the four sorts of interpreters among the Jews, speaks to this purpose upon the Parascha Breschit. fol. 2. col. 3." Allix.
“The author of Zohar is a voucher of great authority; and he cites these words of R. Jose, (a famous Jew of the second century,) when examining the text, Deut. 4:7, Who have their gods so near to them? What, saith he, may be the meaning of this? It seems as if Moses should have said, Who have God so near them? But saith he, there is a superior God, and there is the God, who was the fear of Isaac, and there is an inferior God; and therefore Moses saith, the Gods
For there are many virtues, that come from the only One, and all they are one."
“See how the same author supposes that there are thrée degrees in the Godhead, in Levit. col. 116. Come and see the mystery in the word Elobim, viž. there are three degrees, and every degree is distinct by himself; and notwithstanding they are all One, and tied in one, and one is not, and separated from the other. Upon the words of Deut. 6:4, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord;" they must know that those three are one."
“You have this remark of the same author in Gen. fol. 54, col. 2. de litera, ung that the three branches of that letter denote the heavenly Fathers, who are there named Jehovah, our Lord, Jehovah."
“R. Hay Hagahon, who lived seven hundred years ago, said there are three lights in God; the ancient light, or Kadınon; the pure light, the purified light, and that these make but one God: and that there is neither plurality nor polytheism in this. The same idea is followed by R. Shem Tov."
"If you would know their (i. e. the Cabalists) opinion, to whom it was that God did speak at the creation, Gen. 1:26, R. Juda will tell
to his Word. If you would know of them, who is the Spirit of whom we read, Gen. 1:2, that he moved on the face of the waters, Moses Botril will inform you, it is the Holy Spirit.”
The Chaldee paraphrases are consonant with the opinion of Philo respecting the divine nature. "They ascribe the creation of the world to the Word. They make it the Word that appeared to the ancients under the name of the Angel of the Lord. That Abraham swore by the Word. The Word led Israel in the pillar of a cloud. The Word spake out of the fire at Horeb.” The Jews inferred from their Scriptures that the promised Messiah was the Son of God. “Philo in his pieces hath preserved the sense of the ancient Jews in this matter, that this Son was the Aoyos, as where he saith, that the Word, by whom they swear was begotten; that God begat his Wisdom according to Solomon, Prov. 8:24, which Wisdom is no other than the Aoyos; that the Anyos is the most ancient Son; the eternal Spirit of God; that his Word is his image and his first born; that the Word is the Son of God, before the Angels; that the unity of God is not to be reduced to number; that God is unus, not unicus."
“Nothing can be more express for to prove that there is a Son in the Godhead, than what we read in the Targum of Jerusalem, Gen. 3:22. The word of Jehovah said, here Adam, whom I created, is the only begotten Son in the world, as I am the only begotten Son in the high Heaven.” Philo calls the Aoyos "the first born of God, the eternal Word of the eternal God, begotten by the Father.”
"In Isaiah 4:2, the Messias is called the Branch of the Lord, no doubt as properly as he is called the branch of David, Jer. 23:5. “In that day, saith he, the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, which is in Jonathan's paraphrase interpreted of the Messias.
From which it is natural to conclude that
the proper Son of God was to be the Messias, and the Messias was to be the proper Son of God.”
“The Targum on Jer. 23: acknowledges the Messias to be there treated of, and yet he is called in this place, the Lord of our righteousness. See to the same purpose the Targum on Jer. 33:14. The learned' M. Edzardi has proved that the same interpretation of these words of Jeremy, hath continued among the Jews from the time of Jesus Christ, without interruption, till these latter days; and this he hath done from a great number of Jewish authors.”
“Philo says that the eternal Word appeared to Abraham. And elsewhere he names that Angel or Word, Jehovah."
“Philo says that it was the Word which appeared to the Jews upon mount Sinai; that God spoke to the Jews when he gave them his laws.”
"Philo avows that the Word was the eternal Son of God. He calls him the first born and the Creator of the world."
St. John expresses the same sentiment at the commencement of his Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word. All things were made by him and without him was not any thing made that was made." He expresses the same opinion of Christ, which the Jews before him had expressed.
It has been attempted to invalidate the authority of Philo, by saying that he learned his notions of the Trinity from Plato. But the testimony of heathen will remove this objection. “The very heathen authors own that Plato borrowed his notions from Moses, as Numenius, who (as Theodoret tells us) did acknowledge that Plato had learnt in Egypt the doctrine of the Hebrews, during his stay there for thirteen years;" Theod. Serm. i.
That the ancient Jews believed in a plurality in the divine nature, and in the Divinity of the Messiah, is supported by the Chaldee paraphrases. These paraphrases exhibit the Messias or' Word,
in a similar manner to that, which the writers of the New Testament exbibit him. The Jerusalem Targum on Gen. 1:27, says, “The Word of the Lord created man in his own image.” When God appeared to our first parents after they had sinned, it is said, “they heard ihe voice of the Lord God walking in the midst of the garden.” Philo says that Word of the Lord, that appeared to them. “So both Onkelos and Jonathan have it, that Adam and his wife heard the voice of the Word of the Lord God walking in the garden.” The Jerusalem Targum makes use of a similar mode of expression.
“The Angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven, the second time; and said, by myself have I sworn, saith the Lord,” &c. "There both Onkelos and Jonathan have it, By my Word have I sworn, saith the Lord.” When it is considered, that the ancient Jews believed that the Word was God, they might with propriety say that God swore by his Word; and with equal propriety might the apostle say, that God swore by himself. Many other quotations might be made from the Targums of similar import and of similar application.
But it is'objected that there is no weight in the argument drawn from the Targums, because the Hebrew word for God, is often translated or paraphrased in the Chaldee language, the Word of the Lord; that this is the idiom of that language; and that it signifies neither more nor less than God himself. But the Chaldee word Mimra is sometimes used differently and separately by the paraphrasts. “We read in Jonathan's Targum, that Jacob vowed a vow to the Word, saying, if the Word of the Lord will be
my help, &c. then shall the Lord be my God.” In the first part of this quotation, the term Word, or Mimra is used by itself; and it is used as synonymous with Lord. In the same manner does St. John use the word Λογος. .