The doctrine of the Kingdom preached by the Apostles and Elders, raised up no controversy with the Jews.
PROPOSITION 73. The doctrine of the Kingdom preached by the Apostles and Elders, raised up no controversy with the Jews.
Neither in the New Test. nor in any of the Patristic writings, do we find the least hint given that the doctrine of the Kingdom excited any controversy with the Jews; which it undoubtedly would have done if antagonistic to the Jewish view. This is strong, corroborative evidence that the doctrine was in accordance with the Jewish Messianic expectations. For, with the Jewish doctrine, drawn from the Davidic covenant and prophecies of a restored Davidic throne and Kingdom, prevailing, it would have been impossible to engraft the later and modern views without exciting bitter and unrelenting hostility.[*]
Note. No controversy arose between the Jews and the disciples before the ascension of Jesus (see Prop. 44), and this continued after the ascension, for the only subjects in controversy pertained to the Messiahship of Jesus (i.e. whether Jesus was “the Christ,”) the call of the Gentiles, the Mosaic law, the sufficiency of repentance and faith in Jesus, etc. Indeed, as our argument shows (comp. Props. 69, 70, 71), the same gospel of the Kingdom was preached after the death and ascension of Jesus that was proclaimed before. And to this very knowledge of the previous proclamation, appeal is made as e.g. Acts 10:36, 37, thus indicating in the strongest manner that no change—as now advocated by the multitude—was inaugurated.
Obs. 1. Jews, indoctrinated into the covenants, were the first converts, and, with their faith, it would have been utterly impracticable to have influenced them to receive Jesus as “the Messiah,” unless it was understood that these covenants were at some time in the future to be realized through Him. If the after-adopted Alexandrian and modern notion of the Kingdom is the correct one, then, in the very nature of the case, before such Jews could be moved, it must have been shown that the covenants were to be spiritualized, and that a Kingdom very different from that contained in the grammatical sense of the covenant was intended. But where, excepting in the later writings of Origen, etc., have we any such declarations? The reason for all this can only be found in the original Christian view of the Kingdom corresponding, so far as the covenanted Messiah’s Kingdom is concerned, with the Jewish expectations.
Obs. 2. Consider (1) how large numbers of the Jews were converted to Christianity, accepting of Jesus as “the Messiah,” because of the fact that they were led to believe (a) that at the Sec. Advent the glorious predicted Messianic Kingdom would be established, and (b) that the life and death of Jesus (His resurrection and exaltation included), evinced Him as pre-eminently qualified to be “the Messiah” and as possessing the requisite power to fulfil the covenant promises. (2) How, as the early doctrine became obscured, substituted, and finally driven from the field, the conversions of the Jews became rarer and almost entirely ceased, excepting such as were produced under compulsion. How else account for so great a change, unless it be in the gradual engrafting of other than Jewish ideas to the Messiahship of Jesus, making the Messiah less and less in correspondence with the Messiah of the Old Test. Scriptures?[*]
Note. Abbott (Freedom and Fellowship in Relig., p. 237), pertinently asks: “Was it an accident that the new faith took its name, not from the individual Jesus, but from His royal office?” This leads Abbott, by tracing back the name, to declare that “Christianity is developed Judaism.” We only now say, that this selection of name would scarcely have been made, unless the believers were Millenarians, thus distinctively retaining in the very name the continued Jewish expectations which are summed up in “the Christ.” It was the very name of “Messiah,” retaining in force its original meaning, that was attractive and inviting to Jews. Thus e.g. with the Messiahship, as an integral part of its official meaning, was attached the restoration of the identical Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom overthrown. Such restoration as the prophets unitedly predicted, with the reign following, constituted the Messiah. There can be no doubt whatever, that the modernized doctrinal application of the name, now so prevalent, was at this period utterly unknown,—at least, no evidence exists in any writing of its having been entertained by any one in the form now usually presented by divines (comp. Prop. 205).
Obs. 3. The early Jews, instead of accusing Christians of rejecting such a Kingdom, charged the primitive believers with entertaining such a view, and sought to bring them, on account of the same, into difficulties with the Roman Emperors. The same accusation which malignancy urged so fatally against Jesus before Pilate, was repeated against His followers on several occasions. This indicates the kind of belief that was held.[*]
Note. Thus (Eusebius, Eccl. His., B. 3, ch. 19) by a perversion (viz.: in its imminency, etc.) of the doctrine that Jesus would, at some future time, restore the Davidic throne and Kingdom, and obtain world-wide dominion, the fears of Domitian were excited lest he lose (so Hegesippus) his Empire (the same fear that operated in the mind of Herod). The Emperor, enraged at the belief that a descendant of David’s would appear and set up a universal kingdom (Mosheim, Ch. His., vol. 1, p. 56, Gibbon’s Decl. and Fall, vol. 2, ch. 16), before which, of course, the Roman would have to submit, ordered all the posterity of David to be sought out. They were brought from Palestine (Eusebius), but as they disclaimed any efforts of their own to effect this, exhibited faith only in a dead and buried kinsman, were themselves poor, expected the Kingdom through God’s power, etc., Domitian concluded that he had nothing to fear from them, and dismissed them with contempt. The belief, however, led him (and no doubt others) to look coldly on Christians and to persecute them. This incident, if a true account, indicates: (1) the belief of Christians concerning the Kingdom; (2) that they attributed its establishment to Jesus at His coming again; (3) that, being Theocratic, it was to be set up by His power, in a supernatural manner all of which, as it now does to multitudes, appeared highly improbable to the Emperor. Another instance is given thus by Pressense (Early Years of Chris., p. 157), when referring to the troubles at Thessalonica: “Wresting the words that he (Paul) had spoken with reference to the Kingdom of Christ and His speedy Coming to reign, (Acts 17:7), they accused Him before the Prętor of conspiring against Cęsar.” Here we have (1) the Jews endeavoring to take advantage of the received doctrine of Christ’s coming Kingdom; (2) contrasting it as something that would be hostile to the Roman Power; (3) this could only be done by showing that they (the Christians) held to a fulfilment of the Davidic Covenant through the intervention and power of a Coming Jesus; (4) such a divine interference, connected with the resurrection of the dead, etc., was regarded by those in authority as a mere idle superstition. Let it be noticed, that in none of the answers given before Roman authorities, is the covenanted idea of the Kingdom ignored and the modern notion substituted by way of defence. Milman (His. of the Jews, p. 423, vol. 2) remarks: “The Christian Hegesippus relates that Vespasian commanded strict search to be made for all who claimed descent from the House of David, in order to cut off, if possible, all hopes of the restoration of the royal house, or of the Messiah, the confidence in whose speedy coming still burned with feverish excitement in the hearts of all faithful Israelites. This barbarous inquisition was continued in the reign of Domitian,” etc. Milman does not sufficiently discriminate that these believers were Jewish Christians, as their replies evidenced. He correctly says (vol. 2, p. 425), “It is by no means improbable that its descent from Judaism, of which Christianity was long considered a modification, tended to increase the hostility against the unoffending Christians, which their rapid progress had excited.” Salvador, a Jew (quoted by Milman, same page), tells us: “Jews and Christians were still, to a certain extent, confounded in the popular mind; and fear, political jealousy, and hatred do not sharpen the powers of just discrimination.” How could this be so unless some things were held in common, as e.g. the covenants, prophecies, the idea of a Messiah and Kingdom, etc.
It is also noticeable that Chiliasts were persecuted when they rejected the claims of pretended Messiahs among the Jews. Thus e.g. when Barchocheba claimed to be the promised Messiah (A.D. 136), and raised the extensive revolt against the Romans, it is said that he endeavored to persuade the Christians—when Chiliasm abounded—to join him. But they, deeply imbued with the claims of Jesus to the Messiahship, with the past fulfilment of prophecy, with the predictions relating to the manner of establishing the Kingdom (as e.g. to be preceded by a resurrection of saints, etc.), refused to identity themselves with such a movement, and were, in consequence, cruelly persecuted by him.
Obs. 4. This, again, is sustained by the apostles’ argumentation with the Jews. Aside from the usage of Jewish phraseology, without explaining it as moderns do; apart from the action of the apostles in Council (Acts 15). which cannot be made to accord with the later notions of the Kingdom;—it is found that the apostles never were compelled to combat the Jewish idea of the Messiah, or of the Kingdom. We have a noted instance of this in Paul, who disputed with the Jews (e.g. Acts 28:17–29), “expounded and testified the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets.” He speaks of “the hope of Israel,” “preaching the Kingdom of God,” and never once intimates that the Jews were mistaken in their views of the Kingdom as derived from the Covenant. The dispute (as we find e.g. Acts 26:1–23) was not concerning the Kingdom, but respected “Jesus of Nazareth,” whether He indeed be the Messiah.[*]
Note. This is so fully admitted by numerous writers that, on the ground of a future change being intended in the idea of the Kingdom, the charge of deception and perversion is urged against Paul by some (as e.g. the Duke of Somerset), while others gravely inform us that the Jews, owing to prejudice, etc., were unprepared for the truth, and hence Paul accommodated himself to their weakness. But all this lowers apostolic integrity and authority. The simple facts are as presented in the record: the Kingdom in the Jewish mind is the great object of hope, and therefore, in preaching to Jews it must be made prominent; this Paul does according to the manner in which it is covenanted and predicted, and then goes on to show that “Jesus of Nazareth,” even the Crucified One, is the Messiah to establish the covenanted Kingdom at His Sec. Coming. In evidence of this, appeal must necessarily be made to the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the postponement of the Kingdom, the Second Advent, the prophecies illustrative of these things, the pre-eminent qualifications of Jesus as Messiah, etc. For, if it can be shown that Jesus is truly “the Messiah,” then the rest follows as a natural result—the Jew sees how the Kingdom can, and will, come, the covenant itself being renewed and confirmed by His death and resurrection.