Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V.: A REFUTATION OF THE JEWISH PERFIDY AND SUPERSTITION. - The Triumph of the Cross
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CHAPTER V.: A REFUTATION OF THE JEWISH PERFIDY AND SUPERSTITION. - Girolamo Savonarola, The Triumph of the Cross 
The Triumph of the Cross, trans. from the Italian, edited, with an Introduction by the Very Rev. Father John Procter, S.T.L. With a frontispiece portrait of the author (London: Sands & Co., 1901).
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A REFUTATION OF THE JEWISH PERFIDY AND SUPERSTITION.
From what we have been saying it is clear, that, before the coming of Christ, the light of natural reason was obscured to such a degree, that, without His succour, mankind would have been so blinded by sin as to sink below the level of irrational animals. Therefore, man required supernatural light. But, as many, (among whom the Jews are the chief), have made a bad use of the knowledge which is the origin of this light, we intend to dispute with them, and to show them their errors; although they glory in the Old Testament, which they pervert by strained and erroneous interpretations. Now, all their hope is centred on the Messiah, for whose coming they still look. If, then, we are able to prove to them that the Messiah has already come, and is Jesus Christ our Saviour, they cannot deny that our religion is of God, and that they are in error. And, although the proofs given in our Second Book ought to be sufficient to convince them, (for if Jesus be not the Messiah, who, greater or worthier than He, can come?), we will, nevertheless, adduce some further special arguments founded on those very Scriptures in which the Jews believe. We shall, however, discuss these points very briefly, as they have already been very fully treated by learned men. We have promised in this Book to make use, not of the testimony of authority, but of reasoning. Our reasoning, as it is based on the authority in which our adversaries believe, is most convincing against them, and most profitable to other unbelievers. Therefore, on the authority of the Prophets, we shall prove that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, crucified by the Jews, is the Messiah of the Patriarchs and Prophets, and that He was, in many ways, foretold and foreshadowed in Holy Writ.
First, however, we must establish some self-evident principles. It was known to all the Jews, that God had promised to send them a Saviour and a great Prophet, who should be called the Messiah, and whom all men were to hear and obey as God Himself. Thus Moses says to the people: “The Lord thy God will raise up to thee a Prophet of thy nation and of thy brethren like unto me: Him thou shalt hear, as thou desirest of the Lord thy God” (Deut. xviii. 15, 16). And, again, the Lord speaks in these terms to Moses: “I will raise them up a Prophet out of the midst of their brethren, like to thee: and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him. And he that will not hear his words, which he shall speak in My name, I will be the revenger” (Ibid. xviii. 18, 19).
It is certain, then, and acknowledged by all the Jews, that the circumstances of the Messiah were foretold in the Mosaic law, in the Psalms, and in the Prophets. That is to say, there are many predictions concerning His race, birthplace, and the time of His coming, and also regarding His life and teaching, His works, and many other things peculiar to the Messiah. It is known, moreover, throughout the entire world, that the Old Testament, interpreted by Christian doctors, shows that all that is written of the Messiah is true of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, so aptly do the prophecies of the Old Testament apply to Christ and to His Church, that if the Jews were not loud in proclaiming the antiquity of Moses and the Prophets, their predictions might be taken for forgeries of Christianity.
Let us, then, inquire of the Jews, whether Jesus of Nazareth be, in truth, the Messiah. If He be, they ought to become Christians; for they have been commanded to hear and to obey Him. If He be not the Messiah, how is it that God has allowed all the conditions peculiar to the Messiah to be manifested to the Jews, since He enjoined of them to follow Him who should display these qualifications? If Christ be not the Messiah, we must say, either that God did not know that Jesus was to come into the world, or that he could not prevent His coming; or that, having the power, He had not the will, to oppose His advent. Any of these answers would be unworthy of a sane man. If, then, God foreknew the coming of Christ, and could have prevented it, why did He not do so, since he had imposed such strict commandments upon the Jews? It would look as if God had deceived the Jews; and as if Christians would not be condemned by Him for following Jesus of Nazareth, in describing whose career all the Prophets agree, and who was wonderful above all other men. Certainly, if He be not the Messiah, we need not expect any greater wonder-worker than He. If He be not the Messiah, God, through Him, has deceived the whole human race. Let the Jews, then, search the Scripture, and see what distinguishing mark they expect to see in their Messiah, which is not clearly manifested by Jesus of Nazareth.
Again, Holy Writ foretells the period in which the Messiah is to come. This period, as we perceive by the Scripture, is long since passed. If, then, no man has ever been seen on earth, possessing greater power, wisdom, or goodness than Jesus of Nazareth, how can we doubt, that, if the Messiah be already come, Jesus was He? Many passages in Holy Scripture indicate the time fixed for the advent of the Messiah. Thus we read in Genesis: “The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till He come that is to be sent, and He shall be the expectation of nations” (Gen. xlix. 10). Again in Daniel we read: “Seventy weeks are shortened upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, that transgression may be finished, and sin may have an end, and iniquity may be abolished; and everlasting justice may be brought; and vision and prophecy may be fulfilled; and the Saint of saints may be anointed. Know thou, therefore, and take notice: that from the going forth of the word, to build up Jerusalem again, unto Christ the prince, there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks: and the street shall be built again, and the walls in straitness of times. And after sixty-two weeks Christ shall be slain: and the people that deny Him shall not be His. And a people, with their leader that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary: and the end thereof shall be waste, and after the end of the war the appointed desolation. And he shall confirm the covenant with many, in one week: and in the half of the week the victim and the sacrifice shall fail: and there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation: and the desolation shall continue even to the consummation, and to the end” (Dan. ix. 24-27).
We can easily see from these words, that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah. For the seventy weeks mentioned have passed long ago; and there is no one except Christ with whom we can connect them. In the Holy Scriptures, as we learn from Leviticus xxiii. and xxv., a week may signify either seven days or seven years. Now, seventy weeks of years amount to 490 years. And this period has elapsed, four times, between the days of Daniel and our own. And, if any one should object, that Daniel meant by a week neither seven days nor seven years, but some longer period, we would ask him what the longer period may be? And as he will not be able to answer, except in our terms, it is clear that any period assigned by him, and unspecified by Holy Writ, will be his own invention. Surely, if by a week God intended to signify a number of days and years not mentioned in Scripture, He would, by not apprising Daniel of the fact, have rendered his prophecy useless, and a cause of confusion and error. It must, therefore, be conceded that the time appointed for the advent of the Messiah is past; and, that He has already come. It were vain to answer, that, although the weeks predicted by Daniel have elapsed, the Messiah has not arrived; and to argue that neither Daniel nor the other Prophets indicate how soon after the close of the seventy weeks Christ is to come. For, if this argument held good, it would follow that the Prophets never foretold, with any certainty, anything concerning the Messiah. However, Daniel expressly says, “Know thou, therefore, and take notice: that from the going forth of the word, to build up Jerusalem again, unto Christ the Prince, there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks”; and again: “He shall confirm the covenant with many, in one week: and in the half of the week the victim and the sacrifice shall fail”. The meaning of which words cannot certainly be applied to any one except to Christ. Thus we see that He is indicated by this text; otherwise God would have led us into error, letting us believe that what was spoken concerning another, referred to Christ.
But let us now proceed to an exposition of the words. It is manifest, from what has already been said, that Jesus came into the world, in order to dispel error, and to lead men to holiness of life. Hence, the time of His coming is plainly shown by the words, “seventy weeks are shortened upon thy people, and upon thy holy city”; for they indicate that He was to preach first to the Jews. And the next words, “that transgression may be finished, and sin may have an end, and everlasting justice be brought,” have been verified throughout the world. And, because all Prophets speak of Christ in the same strain, Daniel continues, “and vision and prophecy may be fulfilled, and the Saint of saints may be anointed,” by which we understand the anointing of Jesus Christ, at His Incarnation, with the unction of the Holy Spirit. But, as, at the same time, many different things were accomplished, Daniel describes them all without distinction. He makes mention, first, of “seven weeks,” because, in that time, as we read in Esdras and Nehemias, the temple and city, destroyed by Nabuchadonosor, were, with the greatest difficulty, restored. He next speaks of “sixty-two weeks,” because during that period, as we learn from the book of Maccabees, the Jews were grievously harassed by their enemies. Thirdly, Daniel refers to “one week,” because at the beginning of one week Christ began to preach, and in the middle of a week He was crucified, for He preached for three years and a half.1
He was followed by His Apostles, who taught the Jews, that the legal sacrifices and ceremonies need no longer be observed, since, as the Reality had come, it was meet that its type should have an end. The doctors of the Church show that Christ began to preach, and was slain, at the predicted time; and, as men may read their books for themselves, I will pass over the subject briefly. And as the Jews denied Christ before Pilate saying, “we have no king but Cæsar,” they were justly condemned by God, and the Gentiles chosen by Him in their stead. Their rejection is signified by the words, “the people that shall deny Him shall not be His”: i.e., in punishment of their sin they were dispersed. Therefore, the Prophet continues, “and a people”—i.e., the Romans—“with their leader that shall come”—i.e., Vespasian and Titus—“shall destroy the city and the sanctuary,” i.e., the Temple. And, as the Jews were completely routed and dispersed, the prophecy concludes with the words, “and the end thereof shall be waste, and after the end of the war the appointed desolation”.
God had promised to the Patriarchs and Prophets to send the Messiah, who should open Heaven to them and give them a new law. Thus we read in Jeremias: “Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Juda. Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt: the covenant which they made void, and I had dominion over them, saith the Lord. But this shall be the covenant, that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord: I will give My law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart: and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. xxxi. 31-33). Therefore Daniel says, “He shall confirm the covenant with many in one week”. This means, that Christ should, by His Blood and His Preaching, with that of His Apostles, confirm the covenant of the New Testament, not to all, (for all would not believe), but to many in one week, the last week, “and in the half of the week the victim and the sacrifice shall fail,” because in the middle of this week Jesus Christ was crucified. And, as He was prefigured by the victims and sacrifices of the Old Law, it was meet that when He, the true Light, came, these shadows should flee away. The Temple was thus rendered useless; and by the will of God it was profaned and utterly destroyed. Therefore Daniel continues, “and there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation”. This abomination signifies, that the statue of the Emperor Hadrian should be set up where the Ark of Moses had stood; for in the eyes of the Jews every idol was abominable. The expression “abomination” may also refer to the Jewish sacrifices, which were to become abominable before the Lord. Finally, as the Jews will not be converted to the faith, save at the end of the world,1 Daniel concludes by saying, “the desolation shall continue even to the consummation and to the end”.
This is confirmed by the Prophet Osee in the words: “Thou shalt wait for me many days: thou shalt not play the harlot,” i.e., thou shalt not worship idols. This prophecy foretells the fact, that, after their return from Babylon, even to this day, the Jews have not fallen into idolatry, save for a little while at the time of the Maccabees. “And thou shalt be no man’s,” continues the Prophet, meaning that the Jews should not belong to Christ;” and I also will wait for thee. For the children of Israel shall sit many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without altar, and without ephod, and without teraphim. And after this the children of Israel shall return, and shall seek the Lord their God, and David their King,” i.e., Christ, the Son of David, “and they shall fear the Lord, and His goodness in the last days” (Osee iii. 3, 5).
This prophecy most distinctly points to Jesus of Nazareth. And if we study the other Prophets carefully, we shall see His coming foretold by all. But, returning to our original point, we observe that the time for the advent of the Messiah has already passed,—not only the time determined by the Holy Scriptures, but also the time indicated by many Jewish doctors,—and, as no other man save Jesus of Nazareth, has appeared, bearing the characteristics which were to distinguish the Messiah, every one must conclude that Christ is the Messiah promised in the Law and the Prophets.
This truth is further borne out by the last Jewish captivity; as we shall see, if we compare it with the Babylonian captivity, by which it is typified. The captivity of Babylon was a punishment to the Jews for their many sins, especially for their idolatry, which of all crimes is the most heinous. Nevertheless, even during their captivity, they were always consoled by the presence of their leaders and prophets and holy men; and their exile did not last for more than seventy years. But their last captivity has lasted for more than 1400 years, which they have passed, deprived of all consolation; without leader, prophet, or holy man. Neither has God assigned any limit to the time of their captivity. Yet, they have not incurred this punishment by idolatry, since, as we have said, they have not, since the Babylonian captivity, fallen into this crime.
Why, then, have the Jews been scattered over the face of the earth? And why has their name been made a byword to all men? Surely, if idolatry be the greatest of all crimes, and if they have not committed it for hundreds of years, their punishment ought to be a lighter one than that which they once incurred for idolatry. They must, then, be suffering for an offence even more heinous. This offence is, that, with malicious perfidy and hatred, they have crucified the true Son of God, whom they knew by His life, His miracles, and the prophecies concerning Him, to be the Messiah. They have, with a few exceptions, persevered in this malice until now. And it is for this crime, and in order to render testimony to our faith, that they have been dispersed over the earth.
Again. For a very long time, no sign of sanctity or of true religion has appeared among the Hebrew people. They have been distinguished for avarice and other sins. The gift of prophecy has failed among them. And God does not now, as in times past, show, by any sign, that they are His people. On the other hand, the Church of the Gentiles manifests all holiness of life, true religion, and the wonderful works of Christ and of His saints. Thus is verified the prophecy of Malachy, who, speaking in the person of God, to the Jews, says, “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will not receive a gift of your hand. For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, My name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean oblation: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal. i. 10, 11). If God, who is no longer with the Hebrew people, be not with the Gentiles, He must have utterly forsaken the human race.
Again. If it be true that God does not despise small things, neither does He contemn such as are greater. He has foretold by His Prophets many events, such as matters concerning the small kingdoms of the Idumeans, Moabites, Ammonites, far less important than the deeds of Christ and of His Church. Surely, then, it would be an extraordinary thing, were He to pass over in silence these wonderful works; the more so as he made known, before the coming of our Lord, all the evils which have since befallen the Jews. Now, as the Kingdom of Christ was to be to the Jews a far greater and more enduring calamity than any other, is it reasonable to suppose that God, who warned them of the minor evils which would come upon them from Nabuchodonosor, and other kings and nations, would have made no reference in the Scripture to the advent of Christ? But, as the Scriptures do contain abundant mention of Him; and as, by comparing His works with the words of the Prophets, we see that no prophecies can apply to Him, save those that refer to the Messiah, we are driven to conclude, either that God has deceived us, or that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
If, again, we study history, we shall see, that, before the coming of our Lord, God continually showed forth His wonders among the Jewish people; but since the advent of Christ, no marvellous sign has ever been wrought amongst them. This proves that they are forsaken of God. That the Almighty has abandoned them, is further shown, by the blindness of their understanding. For their doctrines are full of fables so foolish, that no one, with any sense, would propagate them. And their expositions of Holy Scripture are so palpably erroneous, that one wonders that shame has not prevented their publishing, or even conceiving, the fallacies in which they abound.
We might adduce many other proofs in refutation of the Jews. But the doctors of the Church have written very fully on this matter; so, that which we have said about it must suffice. However, if any one will study the arguments just brought forward against the Jews, together with those adduced in our Second Book, he will most certainly conclude, that Jesus of Nazareth is the true God, and the Messiah foretold by the Prophets.
[1 ] The author, quoting the Book of Leviticus, has already said (p. 183), that the “week” of Daniel’s prophecy is to be interpreted as being a week of years. He here reminds his readers that in the middle of the week our Lord was crucified, i.e., after three years and a half (or half of seven years) preaching. “He shall confirm His covenant with many, in one week: and in the half of the week the victim and sacrifice shall fail” (Dan. ix. 27).—Editor.
[1 ] Probably a reference to St. Paul’s words: “For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery (lest you should be wise in your own conceits), that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in. And so all Israel should be saved, as it is written: there shall come out of Sion, He that shall deliver, and shall turn away impiety from Jacob. . . . According to the Gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake: but according to election they are most dear for the sake of the fathers” (Rom. xi. 25, 26, 28).—Editor.