An Aramaic Approach to the Church Epistles


An Aramaic Approach to the Church Epistles
By Karen Masterson


Commentaries and biographies almost unanimously regard the Apostle Paul as a Hellenistic Jew. They regard him as a Jew whose native language was Greek, who thought in terms of Greek ideas and culture. They compare him to men such as Philo, who explained Judaism in terms of Greek philosophy. They regard Paul as the man who took the Semitic ideas and teachings of Jesus Christ and reexplained them in terms palatable to the current Greek thought outside of Israel.

For centuries men have pointed to Paul’s birth in Tarsus, a great center of Greek learning and pagan religion, and have conjectured that he was raised there also. They insist that Paul wrote all his epistles in Greek and quoted the Septuagint version of the Old Testament because it was that with which he was most familiar.

The commonly held beliefs that Paul was a Hellenistic Jew and that he grew up in the Hellenistic influence of Tarsus present a problem because they contradict the testimony of God’s word. The problem exists in part because theologians have failed to recognize that differences between Paul’s and Jesus Christ’s teaching results from the change of administration rather than from Paul’s Hellenistic background. A study of the administration change, however, is beyond the scope of this article. Rather, it is a study of Paul’s historical and cultural background which will show the Aramaic basis of his life and epistles. In order to understand Paul’s background and it’s significance, it is necessary to understand the terms used to describe Jews of the day, the differences between the terms, and the origins of these differences.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
(Acts 6:1)

“Grecians” (Hellenistes in Greek) refers to the Hellenistic Jews. This is contrasted with the word “Hebrews,” meaning Aramaic-speaking Jews. A Hellenistic Jew is also called a Hellenist or, as the King James Version translates it, a Grecian. These were Jews who spoke Greek and were influenced by Greek civilization. The headquarters of their theology was Alexandria, and their great spokesman was Philo, who admittedly knew no Hebrew. The work of the Hellenists was “to accommodate Jewish doctrines to the mind of the Greeks, and to make the Greek language express the mind of the Jews. ” (W.J. Conybeare and J.S. Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), p.30.) The Hellenists used the Greek version of the Scriptures called the Septuagint. The direct opponents of the Hellenists were Hebrews as the King James Version has it. These were Jews who opposed Greek learning as repugnant to Judaism. They had a saying: “Cursed be he who teacheth his son the learning of the Greeks. ” (Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles , p. 30)

To the Hebrews, Greek was the speech of idolatry, of dangerous doctrines, of vain speculation. It was the speech of the tyrant Antiochus who had endeavored to introduce the worship of Jupiter into the Temple at Jerusalem. The event of the cleansing of the Temple is still commemorated from the “abomination” of Antiochus after his overthrow by the Maccabees, the champions of Judaism’s purity from Greek influences. (Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles , p. 21, p.30.) This feast is known as Hanukkah (see John 10:22).

The Hebrews spoke Aramaic as their native language and studied either the Hebrew Scriptures or the Aramaic targums. In contrast, the Hellenistic Jews praised the Greek translation of the Scriptures (the Septuagint) as inspired. But later Hebrews from Israel said that when the law was translated into Greek, “Darkness came upon the world for three days. (F.J. Foakes-Jackson, The Biblical History of the Hebrews to the Christian Era (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1922), p. 385.) They also stated that “the day was a hard day for Israel, like as when Israel made the Golden calf.” (Foakes-Jackson, Biblical History of the Hebrews, pp. 385-386.)

Even after members of these two factions (the Hellenists and the Hebrews) were born again and became members of the Church of God, there arose a division in the Church, “a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” Understanding the distinction between Greek-speaking Jews (Hellenists) and the Aramaic-speaking Jews (Hebrews) lays an important foundation for a study of Paul’s life.

Almost all of those who have written on the life of Paul assume that the greater part of Paul’s childhood was spent in Tarsus, where he was heavily influenced by Greek thought and language. For example, T. Wilson writes, “The environment in which a man spends the most impressionable years of his life leaves an indelible mark upon his character. It is therefore highly important that we should get a true estimate of the influence of Tarsus in the making of St. Paul.” (T. Wilson, st. Paul and Paganism, quoted in W.C. Van Unnik, Sparsa Collecta, The Collected Essays of W.C. Van Unnik, Part One , Supplements to Novum Testamentum, Vol. 29 (Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1973), p. 263.)

F.W. Farrar writes:

Now certainly, in it’s proper and technical sense, the word “Hebrew” is the direct opposite of “Hellenist,” and St. Paul, if brought up at Tarsus, could only strictly be regarded as a Jew of the Dispersion – a Jew of that vast body who, even when they were not ignorant of Hebrew – as even the most leaned of them sometimes were – still spoke Greek as their native tongue. It may, of course, be said that St. Paul uses the word Hebrew only in its general sense, and that he meant to imply by it that he was not a Hellenist to the same extent that, for instance…Philo was…St. Paul might call himself a Hebrew, though technically speaking he was also a Hellenist….( F.W. Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, 2 vols. (London: Casswell, Petter, Galpin and Co., 1879), 1:16.)

Paul was not a Hellenist. Consider the Scriptures.

Are they Hebrews? So am I. are they Israelites? So am I. Are they of Abraham? so am I.
(2Cor. 11:22)

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee.
(Phil. 3:5)

The expression ” Hebrew of the Hebrews” is an idiom peculiar to Semitic languages which do not possess the superlative. In this idiom “a noun is repeated in the genitive plural in order to express very emphatically the superlative degree.” (E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (1898; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968), p.283.) Paul, by revelation emphasizes that he is a Hebrew of the highest possible degree, not a Hellenistic Jew as many claim today. However, many theologians say that technically he was mistaken, that in reality he was not a Hebrew but a Hellenist.

Men and bretheren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
(Acts 23:6b)

The Aramaic and some Greek manuscripts read instead of “son of a Pharisee: : son of Pharisees,” indicating he was a tripharisaios, a Pharisee of the third generation. (Farrar, The Life and Work, 1:4 note 3)

And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
(Acts 26:14a)

The “Hebrew tongue” mentioned here means Aramaic. The very first “heavenly vision” received by Paul came to him in Aramaic. Do you suppose that God would give Paul a vision, his very first, which was absolutely crucial to his getting born again and setting his whole ministry to the Gentiles, in a language that was not his native tongue? Why would God have even mentioned the “Hebrew tongue” in the record if it were not important? The clearest record about Paul’s upbringing occurs in Act 22:3.

(And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Galicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
(Acts 22:2-3)

As translated in the King James Version, the verse says that Paul was born in Tarsus, but brought up in this city, Jerusalem. Some have taken the words “brought up” to refer here only to a mental or spiritual nurture. Conybeare and Howson and others agree that Paul came to Jerusalem as a “young man,” after he had received his earliest impressions and formation of his mind in the Hellinistic culture of Tarsus. They have taken the words “brought up” and “taught” as the figure of speech hendiadys, expressing the same idea of Paul’s Pharisaic training with Gamaliel, which would not have begun before the age of ten and probably closer to fifteen. There is a evidence, however, that the verse has been wrongly translated due to both a wrong understanding of the Greek word for “brought up” and wrong punctuation of the verse. The words “brought up” are the Greek word anatrepho meaning “to bring up, nurse, cherish, educate.” The root trepho means “to make firm, thick or solid, hence, to… fatten, nourish,… make to grow.” (E.W. Bullinger, a Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, (1877; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), s.v. anatropho and tropho.) The word anatrepho occurs twice in Acts 7:20 and 21: In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up, [anatrepho] in his father’s house three month:

And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished [anatrepho] him for her own son.

Tischendorf and other authorities prefer the reading anatrepho for trepho in Luke 4:16: And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up : and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on he sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

In Acts 22:3 there are three Greek verbs of the same form, nominative perfect passive participles, which Paul uses to give the background of his early days. These are gegennemenos , born; anatethrammenos, brought up; and pepaideumenos, taught. These three words occur in the same sequence in Acts 7:20-22, referring to Moses’ life: He was born [gennao], then nourished up [anatrepho] in his fathers house three months; Pharaoh’s daughter nourished [anatrepho] him up for her own son; and Moses was learned [paideuo] in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. W.C. Van Unnik, in an article entitled “Tarsus or Jerusalem,” has cited exhaustive evidence to show that these three words form a “fixed literary unit”: (1) birth; (2) life in the home and the upbringing received there; and (3) education received outside of the parental home. (Van Unnik, Sparsa Collecta. p. 287)

The question of the translation of Acts 22:3 depends therefore on the placing of the comma in the text, whether “at the feet of Gamaliel” goes with “brought up” or with “taught.” The American standard version translates it:”…a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city and educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the Law of our fathers.” From the literary evidence given by Van Unnik, “at the feet of Gamaliel” can only go with the word “taught.” He concludes: In this context anatethrammenos can refer only to Paul’s upbringing in the home of his parents from the earliest years of his childhood until he was of school age: pepaideumenos refers to the instruction which he received in accordance with the Eastern custom “at the feet of” Gamaliel. This of itself solves the problem about the punctuation. Greek readers, who knew the significance of anatrepho in such a context, would of course have regarded it as quite foolish to connect “at the feet of Gamaliel” with that word.

This is not undone by any considerations about the rhythm of the sentence. The name Gamaliel in its third member has probably been brought forward in order that full emphasis may fall upon it at once… from the contrast between Tarsus as the place of birth and Jerusalem as the city of the (upbringing in the home circle) and the paideia (study under Gamaliel), it is clear that according to this text Paul spent the years of his youth completely in Jerusalem. (Van Unnik, Sparsa Collecta. pp. 295-296)

A literal translation according to usage of Acts 22:3 is: I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but my parental home, where I received my early upbringing, was in the city [Jerusalem]; and under Gamaliel, a person well known to you, I received a strict training as a Pharisee, so that I was a zealot for God’s cause as you all are this day. (Van Unnik, Sparsa Collecta. p. 295)

Here Paul states that his life from the first was not among the idolaters at Tarsus, but among his own nation at Jerusalem. Conybeare and Howson write: …St. Paul himself must be called a Hellenist; because the language of his infancy was that idiom of the Grecian Jews in which all his letters were written. Though, in conformity with the strong feeling of the Jews of all times, he might learn his earliest sentences from the Scripture in Hebrew, yet he was familiar with the Septuagint translation at an early age. For it is observed that, when he quotes from the Old Testament, his quotations are from that version; and that, not only when he cites its very words, but when ( as is often the case) he quotes it from memory… (Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles, pp. 32-33)

These authors qualify their above statement with “the family of St. Paul, though Hellenistic in speech, were no Hellenizers in the theology.” (Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles, p. 33) The argument that Paul is a Hellenistic Jew because many of the quotes that appear in the Greek version of the Old Testament are from the Septuagint is inadequate. If his writings were originally written in Aramaic, his native language, the translator would not translate the Old Testament himself, but would use the version that was most familiar to his readers (the same approach is used today in translations). The evidence from God’s Word causes us to take issue with the tradition which contends that Paul wrote in Greek. Knowing that Aramaic was his native tongue should prompt us to consider the language of an Aramaic original which lies behind the Greek and other versions to which we have access today.


* * *

(Originally published in The Way Magazine; March-April 1984 pages 17-20; this article has been reproduced with two changes throughout- “Judean(s)” has been changed to “Jew(s)” and “Palestine” has been changed to “Israel”.) Special thanks to NazareneSpace volunteer Mikha’Ela for typing in the original article).

The reproduction of this single article that once appeared in The Way Magazine should in no way be taken as a endorsement of any of the doctrines of The Way International.

Karen Tourne Masterson now has a Ph.D. from UCLA in Near Eastern Languages (Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude graduate). She is no longer a member of The Way International and did not have her Ph.D. when she wrote this article.

This article appeared originally in a copyrighted magazine. It is presented here in accordance with the Fair Use policy in that it is presented here for a non-profit, educational purpose, the original work was non-fiction, educational article, the material here comprises only four pages of the original copyrighted work, and this use has essentially no effect on the potential market for, or value of the original work.

Yochanan 8

Expositors, almost with one consent, do note that this story of the woman taken in adultery, was not in some ancient copies; and whiles I am considering upon what accident this should be, there are two little stories in Eusebius that come to mind. The one we have in these words, He [Papias] tells us also another history concerning a woman accused of many crimes before our Lord, which history indeed the Gospel according to the Hebrews makes mention of. All that do cite that story do suppose he means this adulteress. The other story he tells us in his Life of Constantine: he brings in Constantine writing thus to him: “I think good to signify to your prudence, that you would take care that fifty volumes of those Scriptures, whose preparation and use you know so necessary for the church, and which beside may be easily read and carried about, may, by very skilful penmen, be written out in fair parchment.”

So indeed the Latin interpreter: but may we not by the word volumes of those Scriptures understand the Gospels compacted into one body by way of harmony? The reason of this conjecture is twofold: partly those Eusebian canons formed into such a kind of harmony; partly because, cap. 37, he tells us that, having finished his work, he sent to the emperor threes and fours: which words if they are not to be understood of the evangelists, sometimes three, sometimes four, (the greater number including the less,) embodied together by such a harmony, I confess I cannot tell what to make of them.

But be it so that it must not be understood of such a harmony; and grant we further that the Latin interpreter hits him right, when he supposes Eusebius to have picked out here and there, according to his pleasure and judgment, some parts of the Holy Scriptures to be transcribed; surely he would never have omitted the evangelists, the noblest and the most profitable part of the New Testament.

If therefore he ascribed this story of the adulteress to the trifler Papias, or at least to the Gospel according to the Hebrews only, without doubt he would never insert it in copies transcribed by him. Hence possibly might arise the omission of it in some copies after Eusebius’ times. It is in copies before his age, viz. in Ammonius, Tatianus, &c.

1. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

[Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.] But whether to the town of Bethany, or to some booth fixed in that mount, is uncertain. For because of the infinite multitude that had swarmed together at those feasts, it is probable many of them had made themselves tents about the city, that they might not be too much straitened within the walls, though they kept within the bounds still of a sabbath day’s journey.

“‘And thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents,’ Deuteronomy 16:7. The first night of the feast they were bound to lodge within the city: after that it was lawful for them to abide without the walls; but it must be within the bounds of a sabbath day’s journey. Whereas therefore it is said, ‘Thou shalt go unto thy tents’; this is the meaning of it. Thou shalt go into thy tents that are without the walls of Jerusalem, but by no means into thine own house.”

It is said, chapter 7:53, that “every man went unto his own house”; upon which words let that be a comment that we meet with, After the daily evening sacrifice, the fathers of the Sanhedrim went home.

The eighth day therefore being ended, the history of which we have in chapter 7, the following night was out of the compass of the feast; so that they had done the dancings of which we have spoken before. The evangelist, therefore, does not without cause say that “every man went unto his own house”; for otherwise they must have gone to those dancings, if the next day had not been the sabbath.

3. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst.

[A woman taken in adultery.] Our Saviour calls the generation an adulterous generation, Matthew 12:39: see also James 4:4, which indeed might be well enough understood in its literal and proper sense.

“From the time that murderers have multiplied amongst us, the beheading of the heifer hath ceased: and since the increase of adultery, the bitter waters have been out of use.”

Since the time that adultery so openly prevailed under the second Temple, the Sanhedrim abrogated that way of trial by the bitter water; grounding it upon what is written, ‘I will not visit your daughters when they shall go a whoring, nor your wives when they shall commit adultery.'”

The Gemarists say, That Rabban Jochanan Ben Zacchai was the author of this counsel: he lived at this very time, and was of the Sanhedrim; perhaps present amongst those that set this adulterous woman before Christ. For there is some reason to suppose that the “scribes and Pharisees” here mentioned were no other than the fathers of the Sanhedrim.

5. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

[That such should be stoned.] Such. Who? what, all adulteresses? or all taken in adultery, in the very act? There is a third qualification still: for the condition of the adulteress is to be considered, whether she was a married woman, or betrothed only.

God punisheth adultery by death, Leviticus 20:10. But the masters of traditions say, that “wherever death is simply mentioned in the law,” [that is, where the kind of death is not expressly prescribed,] “there it is to be supposed no other than strangling.” Only they except; “a daughter of an Israelite, if she commit adultery after she is married, must be strangled; if only betrothed, she must be stoned. A priest’s daughter, if she commit adultery when married, must be stoned; if only betrothed, she must be burnt.”

Hence we may conjecture what the condition of this adulteress was: either she was an Israelitess not yet married, but betrothed only; or else she was a priest’s daughter, married: rather the former, because they say, “Moses in the law hath commanded us that such should be stoned.” See Deuteronomy 22:21. But as to the latter, there is no such command given by Moses.

6. This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

[Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.] Feigning as though he heard them not, had of old crept into some books: and it is plain enough that it did creep in. For when Christ had given proof enough that he took cognizance of the matter propounded to him by those words, “He that is without sin among you,” &c., yet did he stoop down again, and write upon the earth.

Many have offered their conjectures why he used this unusual gesture at this time; and, with the reader’s leave, let me also offer mine.

I. The matter in hand was, judging a woman taken in adultery: and therefore our Saviour in this matter applies himself conformably to the rule made and provided for the trial of an adulteress by the bitter water, Numbers 5.

II. Among the Jews, this obtained in the trial of a wife suspected: “If any man shall unlawfully lie with another woman, the bitter water shall not try his wife: for it is said, If the husband be guiltless from iniquity, then shall the woman bear her iniquity.”

“When the woman hath drunk the bitter water, if she be guilty, her looks turn pale, her eyes swell up, &c. So they turn her out of the Court of the Women; and first her belly swells, then her thigh rots, and she dies. The same hour that she dies, the adulterer also, upon whose account she drank the water, dies too, wherever he is, being equally seized with a swelling in his belly, rottenness in his thigh, or his pudenda. But this is done only upon condition that the husband hath been guiltless himself: for if he have lain with any unlawfully himself, then this water will not try his wife.

“If you follow whoring yourselves, the bitter waters will not try your wives.”

You may see by these passages how directly our Saviour levels at the equity of this sentence, willing to bring these accusers of the woman to a just trial first. You may imagine you hear him thus speaking to them: “Ye have brought this adulterous woman to be adjudged by me: I will therefore govern myself according to the rule of trying such by the bitter waters. You say and you believe, according to the common opinion of your nation, that the woman upon whom a jealousy is brought, though she be indeed guilty, yet if the husband that accuseth her be faulty that way himself, she cannot be affected by those waters, nor contract any hurt or danger by them. If the divine judgment proceeded in that method, so will I at this time. Are you that accuse this woman wholly guiltless in the like kind of sin? Whosoever is so, ‘let him cast the first stone,’ &c. But if you yourselves stand chargeable with the same crimes, then your own applauded tradition, the opinion of your nation, the procedure of divine judgment in the trial of such, may determine in this case, and acquit me from all blame, if I condemn not this woman, when her accusers themselves are to be condemned.”

III. It was the office of the priest, when he tried a suspected wife, to stoop down and gather the dust off the floor of the sanctuary; which when he had infused into the water, he was to give the woman to drink: he was to write also in a book the curses or adjurations that were to be pronounced upon her, Numbers 5:17, 23. In like manner our Saviour stoops down; and making the floor itself his book, he writes something in the dust, doubtless against these accusers whom he was resolved to try, in analogy to those curses and adjurations written in a book by the priest, against the woman that was to be tried.

IV. The priest after he had written these curses in a book blots them out with the bitter water, Numbers 5:23. For the matter transacted was doubtful. They do not make the suspected woman drink, unless in a doubtful case.

The question is, Whether the woman was guilty or not? If guilty, behold the curses writ against her: if not guilty, then behold they are blotted out. But Christ was assured, that those whom he was trying were not innocent: so he does not write and blot out, but writes and writes again.

V. He imitates the gesture of the priest, if it be true what the Jews report concerning it, and it is not unlikely, viz. that he first pronounced the curses; then made the woman drink; and after she had drunk, pronounced the same curses again. So Christ first stoops down and writes; then makes them as it were drink, in that searching reflection of his, “He that is without sin among you”; and then stoops down again and writes upon the earth.

9. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

[Being convicted by their own conscience.] Our Saviour had determined to shame these wicked men before the common people: and therefore adds that peculiar force and energy to what he said that they could not stand it out, but with shame and confusion drawing off and retiring, they confess their guilt before the whole crowd. A thing little less than miracle.

12. Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

[I am the light of the world.] “R. Biba Sangorius saith, Light is the name of the Messiah. As it is written, Light dwells with him,” Daniel 2:22. We have the same passage in Bereshith Rabba; saving that the author of these words there is R. Abba Serongianus.

They were wont to adorn their Rabbins and doctors with swelling and magnificent titles of Lights.

“A tradition. His name is not R. Meir, but Nehorai. Why therefore is he called R. Meir? Because he enlightens the eyes of wise men by the traditions. And yet his name is not Nehorai neither, but R. Nehemiah. Why then is he called R. Nehorai?Because he enlightens the eyes of wise men by the traditions.” O blessed luminaries without light! Begone, ye shades of night! for “the Sun of righteousness” hath now displayed himself.

13. The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

[Thou bearest record of thyself.] This and the following passages uttered in dispute, whether Christ was the light or no, bring to mind what was wont to be transacted amongst them in their witnessing about the appearance of the new moon. We have it in Rosh Hashanah.

I. It was to be attested before the Sanhedrim by two persons that they saw the new moon. So Christ mentions two witnesses attesting him to be the light, viz. the Father and himself, verse 18.

II. They did not allow the testimony about the new moon, unless from persons known to the Sanhedrim: or if they were unknown, there were those sent along with them from the magistracy of that city where they lived, that should attest their veracity. Compare verses 18, 19: “I bear witness of myself, and ye know me not. My Father also bears witness of me; but ye have not known my Father.”

III. One witness is not to be believed in his own cause. So the Pharisees, verse 13, “Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.”

IV. The father and the son, or any sort of relatives, are fit and credible witnesses: verse 18; “I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.”

20. These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

[In the treasury.] In the treasury, that is, in the Court of the Women; where he had transacted the matter about the woman taken in adultery. It was called the treasuryupon the account of thirteen corban chests placed there. Of which we have spoken in another tract.

25. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.

[The same that I said unto you from the beginning.] I. Amongst the several renderings of this place, this seems the most proper; The same that I said unto you from the beginning. So Genesis 43:18: The money returned… the first time“: and verse 20, We came indeed down at the first time to buy food.

The words thus rendered may refer to that full and open profession which our Saviour made of himself before the Sanhedrim, that he was ‘the Son of God,’ or ‘the Messiah,’ chapter 5: “Do you ask me who I am? I am the same that I told you from the beginning, when I was summoned to answer before the Sanhedrim.”

II. However, I cannot but a little call to mind the common forms of speech used so much in the Jewish schools, the beginning and the end. Where, by the beginningthey meant any thing that was chiefly and primarily to be offered and taken notice of: by the end what was secondary, or of less weight.

The question is, whether it were lawful for the priests to sleep in their holy vestments. The end or the secondary question was, whether it was lawful for them to sleep in them. But the beginning, or the thing chiefly and primarily to be discussed, was, whether it was lawful for them to have them on at all but in divine service. Hence the Gemarists, The tradition is, that they must not sleep in them, if you will explain the end [or secondary question]: but let them put them off and fold them up, and lay them under their heads [when they sleep]: this, ‘the beginning’ [or chief matter in hand] determines: that is, that it is not lawful for the priest so much as to wear his holy garments but when he is in holy service.

“It is a tradition of the Rabbins. If one, in walking near any city, see lights in it, if the greatest number in that city be Cuthites, let him not bless them; if they be most Israelites, let him bless it. They teach ‘the beginning,’ when they say, Most Cuthites. They teach ‘the end,’ when they say, Most Israelites.” For the chief and principal scruple was, whether they should pronounce a blessing upon those lights when there might be most Cuthites in the city that lighted them up: the lesser scruple was, whether he should bless them if there were most Israelites in that city.

“There is a dispute upon that precept, Leviticus 17:13, If any one kill a beast or bird upon a holy day, the Shammean school saith, Let him dig with an instrument and cover the blood. The school of Hillel saith, Let him not kill at all, if he have not dust ready by him to cover the blood.”

The end, or the secondary question, is about covering the blood if a beast should be killed. The beginning, or the principal question, is about killing a beast or a fowl at all upon a holy day, merely for the labour of scraping up dust, if there be none at hand.

There are numberless instances of this kind: and if our Saviour had any respect to this form or mode of speaking, we may suppose what he said was to this purpose: “You ask who I am? The beginning. That is the chief thing to be inquired into, which I now say, viz. That I am the light of the world, the Messiah, the Son of God, &c. But what works I do, what doctrines I teach, and by what authority, this is an inquiry of the second place, in comparison to that first and chief question, who I am.”

26. I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.

[But he that sent me is true.] “I have many things to say and judge of you; but he that sent me hath of old said and judged of you; ‘and he is true,’ and they are true things which he hath said of you.” Of this kind are those passages, Isaiah 11:10, “Make the heart of this people fat,” &c.; and 29:10, “The Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep,” &c.: and from such kind of predictions it is, that Christ concludes this concerning them, verse 21, “Ye shall die in your sins.”

33. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

[We be Abraham’s seed, &c.] They were wont to glory of being Abraham’s seedbeyond all measure. Take one instance of a thousand:

“It is storied of R. Jochanan Ben Matthias, that he said to his son, ‘Go out and hire us some labourers.’ He went out and hired them for their victuals. When he came home to his father, his father said to him, ‘My son, though thou shouldst make feasts for them, as gaudy as the feasts of Solomon, thou wouldst not do enough for them, because they are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.'” And yet they confess “the merits of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, ceased from the days of Hosea the prophet, as saith Rabh; or as Samuel, from the days of Hazael.”

But how came they to join this, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man?” Is it impossible that one of Abraham’s seed should be in bondage? The sense of these two clauses must be distinguished: “We are of the seed of Abraham, who are very fond and tenacious of our liberty; and as far as concerns ourselves, we never were in bondage to any man.” The whole nation was infinitely averse to all servitude, neither was it by any means lawful for an Israelite to sell himself into bondage, unless upon the extremest necessity.

“It is not lawful for an Israelite to sell himself for that end merely, that he might treasure up the money, or might trade with it, or buy vessels, or pay a creditor; but barely if he want food and sustenance. Nor may he sell himself, unless when nothing in the world is left, not so much as his clothes, then let him sell himself. And he whom the Sanhedrim sells, or sells himself, must not be sold openly, nor in the public way, as other slaves are sold, but privately.”

37. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.

[But ye seek to kill me.] From this whole period it is manifest that the whole tendency of our Saviour’s discourse is to shew the Jews that they are the seed of that serpent that was to bruise the heel of the Messiah: else what could that mean, verse 44, “Ye are of your father the devil,” but this, viz. “Ye are the seed of the serpent?”

43. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

[Because ye cannot hear my word.] You may here distinguish between the manner of speaking, or phrases used in speech and the matter or thing spoken. Isaiah 11:4; “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth.” But they could not bear the smart of his rod; they would not therefore understand the phraseology or way of speech he used.

44. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

[A murderer from the beginning.] For so the Hebrew idiom would render he was a murderer from the days of the creation. And so Christ, in saying this, speaks according to the vulgar opinion, as if Adam fell the very first day of his creation.

[He abode not in the truth.] I. He abode not in the truth: i.e. he did not continue true, but found out the way of lying.

II. He did not persist in the will of God which he had revealed concerning man. For the revealed will of God is called truth; especially his will revealed in the gospel. Now when God had pleased to make known his good will towards the first man, partly fixing him in so honourable and happy a station, partly commanding the angels that they should minister to him for his good, Hebrews 1:14; the devil did not abide in this truth, nor persisted in this will and command of God. For he, envying the honour and happiness of man, took this command of God concerning the angels’ ministering to him, in so much scorn and contempt, that, swelling with most envenomed malice against Adam, and infinite pride against God, he chose rather to dethrone himself from his own glory and felicity, than he would bear Adam’s continuance in so noble a station, or minister any way to the happiness of it. An angel was incapable of sinning either more or less than by pride or malice.

48. Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?

[Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.] But what, I pray you, hath a Samaritan to do with the court of your Temple? For this they say to Christ whiles he was yet standing in the Treasury, or in the Court of the Women, verse 20. If you would admita Samaritan into the court of the Gentiles, where the Gentiles themselves were allowed to come, it were much, and is indeed very questionable; but who is it would bear such a one standing in the Treasury? Which very thing shews how much this was spoken in rancour and mere malice, they themselves not believing, nay, perfectly knowing, that he was no Samaritan at that time when they called him so. And it is observable, that our Saviour made no return upon that senseless reproach of theirs, because he did not think it worth the answering: he only replies upon them, “that he hath not a devil,” that is, that he was not mad.

57. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

[Thou art not yet fifty years old.] Apply these words to the time of superannuating the Levites, Numbers 4, and we shall find no need of those knots and difficulties wherewith some have puzzled themselves. Thou art not yet fifty years old, that is, Thou art not yet come to the common years of superannuation: and dost thou talk that “thou hast seen Abraham?”

58. Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

[Before Abraham was, I am.] They pervert the question. Christ had said, ‘Abraham saw my day’: on the contrary, they ask him, ‘Hast thou seen Abraham?’

This phrase, I am, sometimes is rendered from the single word I. So the Greek interpreters in the Books of Judges and Ruth: for you seldom or never meet with it elsewhere.

Judges 6:18; “I will tarry or sit here.” Ibid. chapter 11:27; Wherefore I have not sinned against thee. Ibid. verse 35; For I have opened my mouth. Ibid. verse 37; I and my fellows. Ruth 4:4; I will redeem it.

As to this form of speech, let those that are better skilled in the Greek tongue be the judges.

59. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

[Then took they up stones, &c.] Would you also murder another prophet in the very court of the Temple, O ye murderous generation? Remember but Zacharias, and surely that might suffice. But whence could they get stones in the court of the Temple? Let the answer be made from something parallel:

“It is storied of Abba Chalpatha, who, going to Rabban Gamaliel at Tiberias, found him sitting at the table of Jochanan the moneychanger, with the Book of Job in his hand Targumized [that is, rendered into the Chaldee tongue], and reading in it. Saith he to him, ‘I remember your grandfather Rabban Gamaliel, how he stood upon Gab in the mountain of the Temple, and they brought unto him the Book of Job Targumized. He calls to the architect, saying, Ram him under the foundation.’ R. Jose saith, They whelmed him under a heap of clay. Is there any clay in the mountain of the Temple?” Gloss: “There was mortar which they used in building.”

It may be noted, by the by, that they were building in the Temple in the days of the first Gamaliel, who sat president in the Sanhedrim about the latter days of our Saviour; which confirms what I already have noted in chapter 2:20; and further teaches us whence they might have stones in readiness; for they were now building, and they might have pieces of stone enough there.

Aramaic Thoughts 1

Aramaic Literature – Part 1

The most extensive, and most significant, collections of Aramaic literature (apart from the Aramaic in the Bible) exist in the various texts produced by Jewish scholars in the early centuries of the Christian era. I have given a quick survey of these materials in an earlier column in this series. It is my intention over the next several weeks to take a closer look at these materials, with more detailed descriptions, and discussion of what they tell us.

Probably the oldest of this literature is the targums. The targums are, loosely, speaking, translations of the Old Testament into Aramaic. The origins of this literature are lost in obscurity. It is sometimes supposed, on the basis of Nehemiah 8:8, that the targums originated in the period immediately after the exile. This text tells about Ezra’s reading of the law at the Feast of Trumpets. At the conclusion of that section, it says, “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” Some have either assumed or argued that “giving the sense” meant that a verbal translation of the Hebrew was made into Aramaic. While this is indeed possible, the language doesn’t really support the contention. Rather, “giving the sense” probably has the idea of explaining the intent and purpose of the text. The law had been written for a people preparing to enter the land. The law was being read to a people only recently returned from exile—two completely different social situations. Thus, explanation would have been necessary.

Nehemiah 13:24 speaks of some of the children of returnees not being able to speak the language of Judah (that is, Hebrew). But again, it does not say that none spoke Hebrew. The idea that those attending the reading of the law in Nehemiah 8 would have been profoundly lacking in a knowledge of Hebrew, so that they would need an Aramaic translation/explanation does not fit the facts.

Whatever the precise origins of the targums might have been, it is clearly the case that some targums were in existence before the start of the Christian era. Pieces of targums on Job and Leviticus were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls material. It is usually supposed, by those who don’t adopt the Ezra explanation given above, that the targums originated as oral translations in the synagogue, only later being formalized by being written down. This may well be the case, and later Jewish tradition gives some support for it, but it must be noted that the explanation comes from a period well after extensive written Targums had appeared. The appearance of targums among the Dead Sea Scrolls literature makes it clear that targums, as a distinct literature, made their appearance no later than the 3rd-2century BC. It must be remembered, however, that these early targums differ significantly from the later targums that have achieved semi-official status with the Jewish community.

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Apostolic Age

Apostolic Age (30–100 AD)

The apostolic period extends from the Day of Pentecost to the death of the Apostle John, and covers about seventy years, from A.D. 30 to about 100. The field of action is Palestine, and gradually extends over Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy. The most prominent centres are Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome, which represent respectively the mother churches of Jewish, Gentile, and United Catholic Christianity. Next to them are Ephesus and Corinth. Ephesus acquired a special importance by the residence and labors of John, which made themselves felt during the second century through Polycarp and Irenaeus. Samaria, Damascus, Joppa, Caesarea, Tyre, Cyprus, the provinces of Asia Minor, Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Beraea, Athens, Crete, Patmos, Malta, Puteoli, come also into view as points where the Christian faith was planted. Through the eunuch converted by Philip, it reached Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians. As early as A.D. 58 Paul could say: “From Jerusalem and round about even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” He afterwards carried it to Rome, where it had already been known before, and possibly as far as Spain, the western boundary of the empire.

Mark 13 Study

A Commentary on the New Testament From the Talmud and Hebraica by John Lightfoot

3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,

[Upon the mount of Olives, over against the Temple.] “The east gate of the Court of the Gentiles had the metropolis Sushan painted on it. And through this gate the high priest went out to burn the red cow.” And, “All the walls of that court were high, except the east wall; because of the priest, when he burnt the red cow, stood upon the top of mount Olivet, and took his aim, and looked upon the gate of the Temple, in that time when he sprinkled the blood.” And, “The priest stood with his face turned westward, kills the cow with his right hand, and receives the blood with the left, but sprinkleth it with his right, and that seven times, directly towards the Holy of Holies.”

It is true, indeed, the Temple might be well seen from any tract of Olivet: but the word over against, if it doth not direct to this very place, yet to some place certainly in the same line: and it cannot but recall to our mind that action of the high priest.

7. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.

[Be not troubled.] Think here, how the traditions of the scribes affrighted the nation with the report of Gog and Magog, immediately to go before the coming of the Messiah:–

“R. Eliezer Ben Abina saith, When you see the kingdoms disturbing one another, then expect the footsteps of the Messiah. And know that this is true from hence, that so it was in the days of Abraham; for kingdoms disturbed one another, and then came redemption to Abraham.” And elsewhere; “So they came against Abraham, and so they shall come with Gog and Magog.” And again, “The Rabbins deliver. In the first year of that week [of years] that the Son of David is to come, shall that be fulfilled, ‘I will rain upon one city, but I will not rain upon another,’ Amos 4:7. The second year, the arrows of famine shall be sent forth. The third, the famine shall be grievous, and men and women and children, holy men, and men of good works, shall die. And there shall be a forgetfulness of the law among those that learn it. The fourth year, fulness, and not fulness. The fifth year, great fulness; for they shall eat and drink and rejoice, and the law shall return to its scholars. The sixth year, voices. (The Gloss is, ‘A fame shall be spread, that the Son of David comes,’ or, ‘they shall sound with a trumpet.’) The seventh year, wars; and in the going out of that seventh year the Son of David shall come.”

8. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

[These are the beginnings of sorrows.] Isaiah 66:7,8: Before she travailed she brought forth; before the labour of pains came she was delivered, and brought forth a male. Who hath heard such a thing? Does the earth bring forth in one day, or is a nation also brought forth at once? For Sion was in travail and brought forth her sons.

The prophet here says two things:–

I. That Christ should be born before the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jews themselves collect and acknowledge this out of this prophecy: “It is in the Great Genesis [Bereshith Rabba] a very ancient book: thus R. Samuel Bar Nachaman said, Whence prove you, that in the day when the destruction of the Temple was, Messias was born? He answered, From this that is said in the last chapter of Isaiah, ‘Before she travailed she brought forth; before her bringing forth shall come, she brought forth a male child.’ In the same hour that the destruction of the Temple was, Israel cried out as though she were bringing forth. And Jonathan in the Chaldee translation said, Before her trouble came she was saved; and before the pains of childbirth came upon her, Messiah was revealed.” In the Chaldee it is, A king shall manifest himself.

“In like manner in the same book: R. Samuel Bar Nachaman said, It happened that Elias went by the way in the day wherein the destruction of the Temple was, and he heard a certain voice crying out and saying, ‘The holy Temple is destroyed.’ Which when he heard, he imagined how he could destroy the world: but travelling forward he saw men ploughing and sowing, to whom he said, ‘God is angry with the world and will destroy his house, and lead his children captives to the Gentiles; and do you labour for temporal victuals?’ And another voice was heard, saying, ‘Let them work, for the Saviour of Israel is born.’ And Elias said, ‘Where is he?’ And the voice said, ‘In Bethlehem of Judah,'” &c. These words this author speaks, and these words they speak.

II. As it is not without good reason gathered, that Christ shall be born before the destruction of the city, from that clause, “Before she travailed she brought forth, before her bringing forth came [the pangs of travail], she brought forth a male child”; so also, from that clause, Is a nation brought forth at once? for Sion travailed and brought forth her children, is gathered as well, that the Gentiles were to be gathered and called to the faith before that destruction; which our Saviour most plainly teacheth, verse 10, “But the gospel must first be preached among all nations.” For how the Gentiles, which should believe, are called ‘the children of Sion,’ and ‘the children of the church of Israel,’ every where in the prophets, there is no need to show, for every one knows it.

In this sense is the word pangs or sorrows, in this place to be understood; and it agrees not only with the sense of the prophet alleged, but with a most common phrase and opinion in the nation concerning the sorrows of the Messiah, that is, concerning the calamities which they expected would happen at the coming of the Messiah.

“Ulla saith, The Messias shall come, but I shall not see him. So also saith Rabba, Messias shall come, but I shall not see him; that is, he shall not be to be seen. Abai saith to Rabba, Why? Because of the sorrows of the Messias. It is a tradition. His disciples asked R. Eliezer, What may a man do to be delivered from the sorrows of Messias? Let him be conversant in the law and in the works of mercy.” The Gloss is, “the terrors and the sorrows which shall be in his days.” “He that feasts thrice on the sabbath day shall be delivered from three miseries, from the sorrows of Messiah, from the judgment of hell, and from the war of Gog and Magog.” Where the Gloss is this, “‘From the sorrows of Messias’: for in that age, wherein the Son of David shall come, there will be an accusation of the scholars of the wise men. The word sorrows denotes such pains as women in childbirth endure.”

32. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

[But of that day and hour knoweth no man.] Of what day and hour? That the discourse is of the day of the destruction of Jerusalem is so evident, both by the disciples’ question, and by the whole thread of Christ’s discourse, that it is a wonder any should understand these words of the day and hour of the last judgment.

Two things are demanded of our Saviour, verse 4: the one is, “When shall these things be, that one stone shall not be left upon another?” And the second is, “What shall be the sign of this consummation?” To the latter he answereth throughout the whole chapter hitherto: to the former in the present words. He had said, indeed, in the verse before, “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” &c.; not for resolution to the question propounded (for there was no inquiry at all concerning the dissolution of heaven and earth), but for confirmation of the truth of the thing which he had related. As though he had said, “Ye ask when such an overthrow of the Temple shall happen; when it shall be, and what shall be the signs of it. I answer, These and those, and the other signs shall go before it; and these my words of the thing itself to come to pass, and of the signs going before, are firmer than heaven and earth itself. But whereas ye inquire of the precise time, that is not to be inquired after; for of that day and hour knoweth no man.”

We cannot but remember here, that even among the beholders of the destruction of the Temple there is a difference concerning the day of the destruction; that that day and hour was so little known before the event, that even after the event, they who saw the flames disagreed among themselves concerning the day. Josephus, an eyewitness, saw the burning of the Temple, and he ascribed it to the tenth day of the month Ab or Lous. For thus he; “The Temple perished the tenth day of the month Lous (or August), a day fatal to the Temple, as having been on that day consumed in flames by the king of Babylon.” Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai saw the same conflagration; and he, together with the whole Jewish nation, ascribes it to the ninth day of that month, not the tenth; yet so that he saith, “If I had not lived in that age I had not judged it but to have happened on the tenth day.” For as the Gloss upon Maimonides writes, “It was the evening when they set fire to it, and the Temple burnt until sunset the tenth day. In the Jerusalem Talmud, therefore, Rabbi and R. Joshua Ben Levi fasted the ninth and tenth days.” See also the tract Bab. Taanith.

[Neither the angels.] “‘For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come,’ Isaiah 63:4. What means ‘the day of vengeance is in mine heart?’ R. Jochanan saith, I have revealed it to my heart, to my members I have not revealed it. R. Simeon Ben Lachish saith, I have revealed it to my heart, but to the ministering angels I have not revealed it.” And Jalkut on that place thus: My heart reveals it not to my mouth; to whom should my mouth reveal it?

[Nor the Son.] Neither the angels, nor the Messias. For in that sense the word Son, is to be taken in this place and elsewhere very often: as in that passage, John 5:19, “The Son,” that is, the Messias, “can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do”: verse 20, “The Father loveth the Messias,” &c: verse 26, “He hath given to the Messias to have life in himself,” &c. And that the word Son is to be rendered in this sense, appears from verse 27; “He hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” Observe that, “because he is the Son of man.”

I. It is one thing to understand “the Son of God” barely and abstractly for the second person in the Holy Trinity; another to understand him for the Messias, or that second person incarnate. To say that the second person in the Trinity knows not something is blasphemous; to say so of the Messias, is not so, who, nevertheless, was the same with the second person in the Trinity: for although the second person, abstractly considered according to his mere Deity, was co-equal with the Father, co-omnipotent, co-omniscient, co-eternal with him, &c.; yet Messias, who was God-man, considered as Messias, was a servant and a messenger of the Father, and received commands and authority from the Father. And those expressions, “The Son can do nothing of himself,” &c. will not in the least serve the Arian’s turn; if you take them in this sense, which you must necessarily do; “Messias can do nothing of himself, because he is a servant and a deputy.”

II. We must distinguish between the excellences and perfections of Christ, which flowed from the hypostatical union of the natures, and those which flowed from the donation and anointing of the Holy Spirit. From the hypostatical union of the natures flowed the infinite dignity of his person, his impeccability, his infinite self-sufficiency to perform the law, and to satisfy the divine justice. From the anointing of the Spirit flowed his power of miracles, his foreknowledge of things to come, and all kind of knowledge of evangelic mysteries. Those rendered him a fit and perfect Redeemer; these a fit and perfect Minister of the gospel.

Now, therefore, the foreknowledge of things to come, of which the discourse here is, is to be numbered among those things which flowed from the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and from immediate revelation; not from the hypostatic union of the natures. So that those things which were revealed by Christ to his church, he had them from the revelation of the Spirit, not from that union. Nor is it any derogation or detraction from the dignity of his person, that he saith, ‘He knew not that day and hour of the destruction of Jerusalem’; yea, it excellently agrees with his office and deputation, who, being the Father’s servant, messenger, and minister, followed the orders of the Father, and obeyed him in all things. “The Son knoweth not,” that is, it is not revealed to him from the Father to reveal to the church. Revelation 1:1, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him.”

We omit inquiring concerning the knowledge of Christ, being now raised from death: whether, and how far, it exceeded his knowledge, while yet he conversed on earth. It is without doubt, that, being now raised from the dead, he merited all kind of revelation (see Rev 5:9, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain,” &c.); and that he, conversing on earth before his death, acted with the vigour of the Holy Spirit and of that unspeakable holiness which flowed from the union of the human nature with the divine, the divine nature, in the meantime, suspending its infinite activity of omnipotence. So that Christ might work miracles, and know things to come, in the same manner as the prophets also did, namely, by the Holy Ghost, but in a larger measure; and might overcome the devil not so much by the omnipotence of the divine nature, as by the infinite holiness of his person, and of his obedience. So that if you either look upon him as the minister and servant of God; or if you look upon the constitution, as I may so call it, and condition of his person, these words of his, “Of that day and hour knoweth not the Son also,” carry nothing of incongruity along with them; yea, do excellently speak out his substitution as a servant, and the constitution of his person as God-man.

The reason why the divine wisdom would have the time of the destruction of Jerusalem so concealed, is well known to itself; but by men, since the time of it was unsearchable, the reason certainly is not easy to be searched. We may conjecture that the time was hid, partly, lest the godly might be terrified with the sound of it, as 2 Thessalonians 2:2; partly, that the ungodly, and those that would be secure, might be taken in the snares of their own security, as Matthew 24:38. But let secret things belong to God.