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THE TALMUD. Many of our young friends may often wonder what is meant when the Talmud is spoken of; and, as we are most anxious that they should understand what they read, we shall here tell them something about it.
In accounts of missionary labours and conversations with the Jews, constant mention is made of this work. It is continually spoken of and referred to in Jewish history, and it is quite impossible to form a correct opinion respecting that people, without knowing something of the Talmud, which has had so remarkable an influence on their minds and character, and rivetted the fetters of unbelief which have bound them for so long a time.
The Jews affirm that, when God called Moses up into the mount to give him the law for Israel, he gave him two laws; one, that which is written in the Bible; the other, an unwritten law, which was to be handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, and which is therefore called the oral law. One of these is Scripture, the other tradition. The Talmud contains what is said to have been the oral law. It consists of two parts, called Mishna and Gemara. Tradition has been the source of the greatest possible evil to the Jews. They have made it of higher authority than the written law, and the decisions of their Rabbies are more weighty than the Word of the living God. In the days of our Lord's ministry, they were charged by him with making the Word of God of none effect by their traditions. By means of them, they laid burdens on men's consciences which they were unable to bear, rendered the
service of God wearisome, and led poor, sinful man to a ruinous dependence upon his owh observance of commandments which the God of Israel had never given.
Both the Old Testament and the New declare the fact that the people, to whom alone God had then given his Word, had departed from its teaching, and turned to the commandments of
The prophet Isaiah says,
“ Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precepts of men, therefore behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” Our blessed Savour, rebuking the Pharisees,t applies to them these words of Isaiah:-"Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." He then adds, “ For laying aside the commandments of God, ye hold the tradition of men Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own trudition.”
The apostle Paul, when speaking of his past life as a Jew, says—“I profited in the Jews' religion above many, mine equals ; being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my
* Isaiah xxix. 13. † Matt. xv. 1-9.
Mark vii, 1-13.
fathers," *---not of God's holy commandments, given through the great lawgiver of Israel, but of the traditions of his fathers. St. Peter, addressing Christians from amongst the Jews thus writes to them :-"Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”+ Thus the Old Testament and New bear witness that, even in those ancient days, the words of men were regarded more than those of God; and the religion of the modern Jews is an awful continuance of the same fatal error.
In a catechism just published by a Jew in this country, we have the question
“Is the written law the only code of laws which is recognised among us as Divine ?
“ No; in addition to it we possess the oral law, so called because it was orally revealed to, and preserved by, Moses.
“What scriptural warrant have we for that?
“ The ninth verse of Exodus xix.— And the Lord said to Moses, Behold I come to thee in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and also believe in thee' -meaning in what I shall orally reveal to thee !"
Here we see that Jewish children are taught that God gave two laws—that both are Divineand a passage of the Bible is quoted to prove this, which says nothing at all respecting any such second law.
The next question of the catechism referred to is “How was the oral law transmitted to us?" The answer is—"For many generations after
* Gal. i. 14. † 1 Peter i. 18, 19.
Moses, it was handed down by oral tradition, from father to son, until one of our sages, Rabbi Judah the Saint, compiled all those traditions, and embodied them in his work, called the Mishna, and in this form the oral law has come down to us.”
The Talmud, which signifies learning, doctrine, or wisdom, contains, as we remarked before, the Mishna and the Gemara. The word Mishna means a repeated or second law. By Gemara some understand a supplement or completion, and others, a commentary or discussion. *
We shall give some information respecting the contents of the Talmud in future numbers; we will only now add a few sentences which show the very high estimation in which that work is held.
In the Gemara it is suid, “ He that is learned in the Scriptures, and not in the Mishna, is a blockhead.”
Again, it is said, “ The Bible is like water, the Mishna like wine, and the Gemara like spiced wine." “ The law (that is, the written law) is like salt, the Mishna like pepper, and the Gemara like balmy spice.” “To study the Bible can scarcely be deemed a virtue; to study the Mishna is a virtue that will certainly be rewarded ; but to study the Gemara is a virtue never to be surpassed.” “My son, attend thou to the words of the scribes more than to the words of the law."
Oh! let young Protestant Christians thank their heavenly Father that they are privileged to acknowledge the Bible and the Bible only, as the Word of God; that they are not taught, like Jewish children, to regard the word of man rather than the Bible, which reveals for both Jews and Gentiles the wonderful plan of redemption, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
* Allen's “Modern Judaism."
(To be continued.)
SUFFERINGS OF THE JEWS. In our former number we promised to give an extract from Dr. Wolff's address, delivered at the Anniversary Meeting of the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. In that address, the Reverend Doctor shows us how cruelly his brethren, according to the flesh, still suffer in many couutries. He had gone on an errand of kindness and love, to ascertain the fate of two officers of the army, Colonel Stoddart and Captain Conolly, who, it was said, had been put to death by the King of Bokhara. Dr. Wolff was thrown into prison at Bokhara, and many thought that he also would be cruelly murdered. “When imprisoned at Bokhara,” the Doctor says, “the king permitted some persons to visit me. Our conversation was about Jerusalem, and the King of Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus Christ, •God over all, blessed for ever.'
That was a great consolation, when I was overwhelmed with melancholy, thinking of my poor wife and child. I and my visitors chanted together
"The King, our Messiah, shall come ;
The Mighty of the mighty is he :
The Blessed of the blessed is he.
The Great One of great ones is he:
The Holy of holies is he !”