The Development Of New Testament Judaism -- By: George H. Schodde

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 050:198 (Apr 1893)
Article: The Development Of New Testament Judaism
Author: George H. Schodde

The Development Of New Testament Judaism

Professor George H. Schodde

In its way the development of the faith and religious life of Israel in the eventful centuries between the close of the Old and the beginning of the New Testament is as much an historical problem sui generis as are the origin, character, and growth of the Old Testament religion itself. Of all the peoples of Western Asia, only the Jews were able to resist the disintegrating process which set in with the conquest of the Orient by Alexander the Great, and to which the individuality and nationality of the others fell an easy prey. The forces that destroyed these had, among the Jews, only the effect of strengthening their consciousness of being a peculiar people, with a most important historical mission to perform. And yet the conditions seemed on the surface to be favorable for such a disintegration and dissolution in Israel also. In pre-exilic times, Israel, in itself of little or no political importance, had frequently come into contact with the Eastern nations and with Egypt in their endeavors to realize the highest ideal of ancient statescraft, namely, the establishment of a world-supremacy; and the prophets,

in their work of teaching the people to be faithful to their peculiar calling, not infrequently met with a popular opposition that was willing to admit influences from abroad endangering the individuality, and that eventually did destroy the political existence, of the people. And this was the case, although these nations that threatened Israel really employed no stronger agencies than mere physical force. When for the first time Israel in post-biblical times came in contact with the aggressive movement of the West, the danger was all the greater. In the wake of Alexander came Grecian philosophy, literature, and culture,—all subtler but more efficient agencies than mere brute force. A new civilization in the shape of Hellenism readily subdued the effete civilization of the East, and found easy victims in all except in the Jews; and yet, outwardly at least, this people seemed not prepared to resist such powerful historical forces. Politically Israel was under the rule of nations who neither appreciated nor favored its peculiarities, and at best regarded these as “superstitions,” as the well-known slurs of Horace, Juvenal, and other satirists show us. The Persian, the Greek, the Syrian, the Roman, each in his own way and manner, sought to rob this people of its existence and life. In Israel itself there was a party that favored Hellenistic innovations, and these found able leaders in the aristocratic and influential Sadducees. Even when political independence was gained for a few decades in the Maccabean revolt, the Asmonean house, with the exceptio...

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