Jewish Theology Systematically and Historically Considered (1918) [Chapter 6]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Revelation, Prophecy, and Inspiration

(pp.34-41)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Kaufman Kohler “… was educated at the Universities of Munich, Berlin and Leipzig, (1865-69), and received the degree of Ph.D. from the University of Erlangen in 1868.” [1]

“Feb. 26, 1903, he was elected to the presidency of Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati.” [2]

[1] https://www.jta.org/1926/01/29/archive/dr-kaufmann-kohler-president-emeritus-of-hebrew-union-college-dies

[2] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9419-kohler-kaufmann

B) Chapter Summary:

“Divine revelation signifies two different things: first, God’s self-revelation, which the Rabbis called Gilluy Shekinah, “the manifestation of the divine Presence,” and, second, the revelation of His will, for which they used the term Torah min ha Shamayim, “the Law as emanating from God.””1

“Scripture ascribes such revelations to non-Israelites as well as to the patriarchs and prophets of Israel,—to Abimelek and Laban, Balaam, Job, and Eliphaz. Therefore the Jewish prophet is not distinguished from the rest by the capability to receive divine revelation, but rather by the intrinsic nature of the revelation which he receives. His vision comes from a moral God.”2

“In speaking through them, God appeared actually to have stepped into the sphere of human life as its moral Ruler. This self-revelation of God as the Ruler of man in righteousness, which must be viewed in the life of any prophet as a providential act, forms the great historical sequence in the history of Israel, upon which rests the Jewish religion”3

“The divine revelation in Israel was by no means a single act, but a process of development, and its various stages correspond to the degrees of culture of the people. For this reason the great prophets also depended largely upon dreams and visions, at least in their consecration to the prophetic mission, when one solemn act was necessary.”4

“The story of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai is in reality the revelation of God to the people of Israel as part of the great world-drama of history. Accordingly, the chief emphasis is laid upon the miraculous element, the descent of the Lord to the mountain in fire and storm, amid thunder and lightning, while the Ten Words themselves were proclaimed by Moses as God’s herald. As a matter of fact, the first words of the narrative state its purpose, the consecration of the Jewish people at the outset of their history to be a nation of prophets and priests. Therefore the rabbis lay stress upon the acceptance of the Law by the people in saying: “All that the Lord sayeth we shall do and hearken.” From a larger point of view, we see here the dramatized form of the truth of Israel’s election by divine Providence for its historic religious mission.”5

“The rabbis ascribed the gifts of prophecy to pagans as well as Israelites at least as late as the erection of the Tabernacle, after which the Divine Presence dwelt there in the midst of Israel. They say that each of the Jewish prophets was endowed with a peculiar spiritual power that corresponded with his character and his special training, the highest, of course, being Moses, whom they called “the father of the prophets.””6

“The medieval Jewish thinkers, following the lead of Mohammedan philosophers or theologians, regard revelation quite differently, as an inner process in the mind of the prophet. According to their mystical or rationalistic viewpoint, they describe it as the result of the divine spirit, working upon the soul either from within or from without. These two standpoints betray either the Platonic or the Aristotelian influence. Indeed, the rabbis themselves showed traces of neo-Platonism when they described the ecstatic state of the prophets, or when they spoke of the divine spirit speaking through the prophet as through a vocal instrument, or when they made distinctions between seeing the Deity “in a bright mirror” or “through a dark glass.””7

“Except for the five books of Moses, the idea of a mechanical inspiration of the Bible is quite foreign to Judaism. Not until the second Christian century did the rabbis finally decide on such questions as the inspiration of certain books among the Hagiographa or even among the Prophets, or whether certain books now excluded from the canon were not of equal rank with the canonical ones.89 In fact, the influence of the holy spirit was for some time ascribed, not only to Biblical writers, but also to living masters of the law. The fact is that divine influence cannot be measured by the yardstick or the calendar. Where it is felt, it bursts forth as from a higher world, creating for itself its proper organs and forms. The rabbis portray God as saying to Israel, “Not I in My higher realm, but you with your human needs fix the form, the measure, the time, and the mode of expression for that which is divine.””8

“[Judaism] claims its own prophetic truth as the revelation, admits the title Books of Revelation (Bible) only for its own sacred writings, and calls the Jewish nation alone the People of Revelation. The Church and the Mosque achieved great things in propagating the truths of the Sinaitic revelation among the nations, but added to it no new truths of an essential nature. Indeed, they rather obscured the doctrines of God’s unity and holiness. On the other hand, the people of the Sinaitic revelation looked to it with a view of ever revitalizing the dead letter, thus evolving ever new rules of life and new ideas, without ever placing new and old in opposition, as was done by the founder of the Church. Each generation was to take to heart the words of Scripture as if they had come “this very day” out of the mouth of the Lord.”9

 

Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 1]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

The Gospels in General  

(pp.14-36)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Louis Berkhof “graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1900 …

In 1902 he went to Princeton University for two years earning a B.D. degree …

In 1906 he was appointed to the faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary. He assumed the presidency of the seminary in 1931 …” [1]

[1] http://www.calvin.edu/hh/seminary_presidents/semm_pres_berkhof.htm

B) Chapter Summary:

i) The Title of the Gospels

“The  word  εὐανγγέλιον passed  through  three  stages  in  the  history  of  its  use.  In  the  older Greek  authors  it  signified  a  reward  for  bringing  good  tidings; also,  a  thankoffering  for  good tidings  brought. Next  in  later  Greek  it  indicated  the good  news  itself.  And  finally  it  was  employed  to  denote  the  books  in  which  the  gospel  of  Jesus  Christ  is  presented historic  form. It  is used  very  extensively  in  the  New  Testament,  and  always  in  the  second  sense,  signifying  the good  news  of  God,  the  message  of  salvation.”[1]

“The  first  trace  of  the  word  as  indicating  a  written  gospel  is  found  in  the  didache [15:3], the  Teaching  of  the  Twelve  Apostles,  discovered  in  1873  and  in  all  probability  composed between  the  years  90  and  100  A.  D …

The  plural euanggelia,  signifying  the  four  Gospels,  is  first  found  in  Justin  Martyr,  about  152  A.  D.”[2]

ii) The Number of Gospels Recognised by the Early Church

“In  all  probability  the  earliest  evidence  that  the  Church  of  the  first  ages  accepted  the  four  Gospels  that we  now  possess  as  canonic,  is  furnished  by  the  Peshito,  which  most  likey  dates  from  the first  half  of  the  second  century.”[3]

“Another  early  witness  is  found  in  the  Muratorian  Fragment,  a  mutilated  work  of  which  the real  character  cannot  now  be  determined,  and  that  was  probably  written  about  170  A.  D.”[4]

“An  important  witness,  really  the  first  one  to  a  fourfold Gospel,  i.  e.  to  a  Gospel  that  is  four  and  yet  is  one,  is  Tatian,  the  Assyrian.  His  Diatessaron was  the  first  harmony  of  the  Gospels.  The  exact  date  of  its  composition  is  not  known;  the meaning  of  its  name  is  obviously  [the  Gospel  ]by  the  Four.”[5]

“In  one  of  his [i.e. Irenaeus (c. 120-200)] books  he  has  a  long  chapter  entitled:  “Proofs  that  there  can  be  neither  more  nor fewer  than  four  Evangelists.” Looking  at  the  Gospels  as  a  unit,  he  called  them  “the  Gospel with  four  Faces.””[6]

“Another  significant  testimony  is  that  of  Origin,  the  great teacher  of  Alexandria  of  whom  Eusebius  records  that  in  the  first  book  of  his  commentaries on  the  Gospel  of  Matthew  he  asserts  that  he  knows  of  only  four  Gospels,  as  follows:  “I  have learnt  by  tradition  concerning  the  four  Gospels,  which  alone  are  uncontroverted  in  the Church  of  God  spread  under  heaven,  that  according  to  Matthew,  who  was  once  a  publican but  afterwards  an  apostle  of  Jesus  Christ,  was  written  first;  .  .  .  that  according  to  Mark  second; .  .  .  that  according  to  Luke  third;  .  .  .  that  according  to  John  last  of  all.””[7]

“Church  History  VI, 25. Eusebius  himself,  who  was  the  first  historian  of  the  Christian  Church,  in  giving  a  catalogue of  the  New  Testament  writings,  says:  “First  then  we  must  place  the  holy  quaternion  of  the Gospels.””[8]

iii) The Literary Character of the Gospels

“The  Gospels  have  a  literary  character  all  their  own;  they  are  sui  generis. There  is  not another  book  or  group  of  books  in  the  Bible  to  which  they  can  be  compared.  They  are  four and  yet  one  in  a  very  essential  sense;  they  express  four  sides  of  the  one  εὐαγγέλιον of  Jesus Christ.”[9]

“The  Gospels  are  not  histories  of  the  life  of  Christ,  nor  do  they, taken  together,  form  one  history …

They  are  four  pen-pictures,  or  better,  a  four  fold  portraiture  of  the  Saviour  a  fourfold  representation  of  the apostolic  κήρυγμα;  fourfold  witness  regarding  our  Lord.”[10]

“Each  one  of  them  gives  us  a  certain  view  of  the  Lord,  and  only the  four  taken  together  present  to  us  his  perfect  likeness,  revealing  him  as  the  Saviour  of  the world.”[11]

“Matthew  wrote  for  the  Jews  and characterized  Christ  as  the  great  King  of  the  house  of  David.  Mark  composed  his  Gospel for  the  Romans  and  pictured  the  Saviour  as  the  mighty  Worker,  triumphing  over  sin  and evil.  Luke  in  writing  his  Gospel  had  in  mind  the  needs  of  the  Greeks  and  portrayed  Christ as  the  perfect  man,  the  universal  Saviour.  And  John,  composing  his  Gospel  for  those  who already  had  a  saving  knowledge  of  the  Lord  and  stood  in  need  of  a  more  profound  understanding  of  the  essential  character  of  Jesus,  emphasized  the  divinity  of  Christ,  the  glory  that was  manifested  in  his  works.”[12]

Continue reading “Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 1]”