Saturday, 29 December 2018

Gems From Jonathan Edwards: The Dispersion of the Jews

Orthodox Biblical Judaism is Now an Impossibility

Edwards argues that the dispersion of the Jews through many nations prior to the coming of Christ served to prepare the world for His advent.  

Firstly, the presence of Jews throughout much of the known world served to increase an expectation of a coming Messiah.  This expectation was found not just amongst the people of the synagogues, but it actually spread to the non-Jewish populations as well.
. . . the birth of such a glorious person in Judea about that time began to be the general expectation of the nations of the world, as appears by the writings of the leaned men of the heathen who lived about that time; which are still extant; particularly Virgil, the famous poet who lived in Italy a little before Christ was born, has a poem about the expectation of a great prince who was to be born, and the happy times of righteousness and peace that he was to introduce; some of it very like the language of the prophet Isaiah.  [Jonathan Edwards, The History of Redemption, Comprising a Summary of the History of the Jews Up To The Destruction of Jerusalem (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1836), p. 155].
Another effect of the Dispersion was that it effectively undermined some of the key institutions of the Old Covenant church in such a way that it prepared believers for the universal, global Church of Christ.

Edwards writes:

[The dispersion] showed the necessity of abolishing the ceremonial law, and the old Jewish worship: for, by this means, the observance of that ceremonial law became impractical  even to the Jews themselves; for the ceremonial law was adapted to the state of a people dwelling together in the same land, where was the city that God had chosen; where was the temple, the only place in which they might offer sacrifices; where it was lawful for the priests and Levites to officiate; where they were to bring their first fruits, and where their cities of refuge were, and the like.

But the Jews, by this dispersion, lived, many of them, in other lands more than a thousand miles distant, when Christ came; which made the observation of their laws of sacrifices, and the like, impracticable.  And though their forefathers might be to blame in not going up to the land of Judea when they were permitted by Cyrus, yet the case was now, as to many of them at least, become impracticable; which showed the necessity of introducing a new dispensation, that should be fitted, not only to one particular land, but to the general circumstances and use of all nations.  [Ibid, p. 156.]
It was thus impossible to reform Judaism at the time of Christ so as to enable it to live and practise the Jewish faith in a manner consistent with the stipulations, requirements, and directions of the Old Covenant scriptures.  

In today's world, the Christian faith is practised properly and consistently in every corner of the world.  This is something which the Old Testament church would never have been able to achieve.  It would have been (and remains) impossible.

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