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THE ANOINTING OF CHRIST.
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the propbet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Luke, iv. 16–21.
Without entering at length into the controversy, as to the time when synagogues, as places of public worship, began to be built by the Jews, (but 'bearing in mind the arguments which have been alledged in the discussion of the subject,) we shall assume, with Dr. Prideaux, that they were unknown before the Babylonian captivity, and add further, that the use of such places by the Jews, was a departure from the law of God. First, God never ordered such places to be built; secondly, public worship and public teaching required ministers of religion; and the Jews had only one tribe of such ministers; and the members of that one tribe (Levi,) were settled in cities by themselves, and not dispersed among the nation at large, so as to be at hand in all places to serve synagogues wherever there were any; (see Deut. 8. 8, 9; Numb. xxxv. 248; Josh. xxi.) The Jews had only one place at a time for public worship and instruction; at the first, the tabernacle, wherever that was, or the ark, for which it was built; and at last, the temple, at Jerusalem : and both these sanctuaries were formally dedicated, or consecrated; and both alike accepted of God by the same wonderful manifestation of His divine favour and glorious presence. (Exod. xl. 34, 35; 1 Kings, viii. 10, 11; ix. 3.) And hence, the dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans, (John iv. 20,) “ Ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought (i. e. publiely) to worship.” But though the controversy was still conducted on the old basis, the practice, on the part of the Jews, had considerably changed. In Ps. lxxiv. 8, we indeed read, in the authorized version, of “Synagogues;" but the original word so translated there, is not so rendered by any ancient version, observes Dr. Prideaux, except that of Aquila; nor is it so translated in the authorized version, in any other passage
in the Old Testament. Sacred places of assembly are, no doubt, intended, but not necessarily for public worship, except before the temple at Jerusalem was built. The cities of the Levites, the schools (so called) of the prophets, as well as the residences of individual prophets, were, no doubt, places of religious resort to pious persons, for various sacred purposes ; (see Gen. xxv. 22; Exod. xviii. 15; 1 Saml. ix. 6–9;x. 22 ; xxii. 9-15: 2 Kings, ii. 3,5; iv. 22–25.) Besides this, all places that had ever been hallowed, either by an altar to the Lord, or the temporary presence of the ark, before the building of the temple, were, no doubt, held sacred ever after, though no longer used; and these might have been called by the Psalmist, not Synagogues, in the later sense of that word, but “the Lord's places of assembly,” or “the Lord's appointed places :" (in Ps. lxxiv. 4. the same word is translated “congregations.") Such sacred places were numerous in the Holy Land, (see Josh. xviii. 1; 1 Saml. i. 3 ; vii. 15–17; xxii. 9, 10; Jud. xx. 26, 27; 2 Saml. vi. 15–17.) The Israelites were indeed not to be forgetful of God while in their own homes, (Deut. vi.) but for public worship they were to be distinguished from the heathen, who practised their unboly rites every where, and were to have but one place at a time, (Deut. xxi. 1-14;) there alone could they offer their sacrifices; and to it they were commanded to go, as on all extraordinary occasions, (Deut. xvii. 8-13, &c.,) so especially three times every year, (Exodus xxiii. 15—18.) Note also the peculiar phraseology in the petitions of Solomon, in his admirable dedicatory prayer, (1Kings, viii. 22–53, “in this house," " towards this place.” Some moderns, in their unhappy advocacy of non-conformity to their own solemn engagements, have based an argument on the apparent departures from a divine appointment, which are recorded in 1 Sam. vii. 5–17; and 1 Kings, xviii. 19—38; but they might as well argue for a relaxation of the eighth commandment, from Exodus xii. 36;* and of the sixth Commandment, from Numbers xxv. 8, &c., yea, and of the seventh Commandment, from Hos. i, 2, 3, &c.
We may not take it upon ourselves to decide, upon mere con
* Some superficial critics have proposed to substitute, “ ask," for “borrow," in the translation of Exod. iii. 22,–because the Hebrew there might mean either : but this device will not hold in Exod. xii. 36; where the same word is used, but in that form of conjugation, which is called, “ causative," and must be translated “ lent:" and for this reason, at all events, the translation, "borrow," is also right in Exod. iii. 22.
jecture, why God either commanded, or prohibited any particular thing; nor can it, in fact, at all be maintained, that God must needs have had, what we would call, a motive, for what He ap pointed; He can make any means answer any end; but it is manifest that, by baving only one place for public worhip, to which the people had so frequently to resort, which was always the seat of God's high priest, the home also, no doubt, of the greatest piety, and of all sacred learning, there was the greater prospect of unity, the less opportunity for being corrupted, and it so remarkably distinguished God's people, from their idolatrous heathen neighbours, by whom they were in constant danger of being seduced from their God; which, great divergency was well calculated to prevent, if any thing could do it, short of direct divine interposition: God might on this account have appointed one safe asylum of true religion ; (but see 1 Kings ix. 6–9, John iy. 21.) We will only yet add on this head, that the name by which the Jews to this day call their Synagogues, is not found in the Bible (in Hebrew); and Jewish commentators do not understand Synagogues, in Psalm lxxiv. 8. (Those who like and have access to it, may consult Jarchi in loco.)
In order the better to understand the passage at the head of this article, we will state the practice of the Jews in their Synagogues, so far as the reading of the law and the prophets, is concerned. The Jews have divided the whole Pentateuch into fiftythree pretty equal portions, which they read consecutively, on the successive Sabbath-days, so as to read through the whole five books of Moses, once every year, on their Sabbath-days, apart from appointed lessons at different times. When the year has fifty-three weeks, (as their leap years, of which they have two in every five years, of thirteen lunar months each,) then only one of those portions is read every sabbath-day; in the common year,
which consists of only twelve lunar months,* so many appointed duplicate portions are read, on certain sabbath-days, that
* The Jews are obliged to have recourse to such a disposition of years and months, in order to keep their months, and the feasts falling in them, to their appropriate seasons. (See Exod. xxxiv. 22; &c., &c.) The Mohammedans, who, like the Jews, have only lunar months, twelve to the year, but which are of course not equal to a solar year, and who have no way to harmonize their months with solar years, have their months and feasts shifting through all the seasons of the year: their great Leut month, Ramadan, fasting by day, and feasting by night, falls equally, in summer and in winter.
the whole Pentateuch is still read right through on the sabbathdays of the year. The portion read every sabbath-day is subdivided into seven lessons, or sections; to the reading of every one of which a person is called up to the raised and railed-in platform, in the middle of the synagogue, where the law is read, &c.,) every sabbath-day, thus requiring seven persons for the reading of the appointed portion of the law only. The modern practice of the Jews is, to have a kind of minister, who alone reads aloud, in Hebrew; and the person called up only pronounces a benediction, both at the beginning, and the end of his section; their ancient practice, according to Jewish records, was, that the person who was called up, or stood up, (Luke iv. 16.) to any section, read it himself; and if he could, he also translated or paraphrased it into Chaldee; and if he was not able to do that, then a minister, whose office it was, did it for him. When the portion of the law of Moses, appointed for the day, is finished, an eighth person is called up, to whom the last few verses, (not less than three,) are again repeated; after which the same person reads a lesson from the Prophets. The lessons from the Prophets are not read in order; but, on the principle of our Gospel in the communion service, they are selected to correspond, either to the section of the law which was read that day, or to the subject which happened to be particularly commemorated on that sabbath. The lessons from the Prophets, which must never consist of less than twenty-one verses, (to allow such a lesson to be divided into seven portions of not less than three verses in each, though it may be more,) are said to have been introduced into the service of Synagogue, during the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, B. c. 167 -164, when those shorter lessons from the Prophets, (a remarkable over-ruling Providence this must have been, to bring the prophecies before the Jewish Church, in preparation for the coming Saviour,) were substituted for the law, which was prescribed. But ever since that time, those prophetic lessons have been retained, though afterwards the law began again to be read.
When there was preaching; it took place after the reading of the law, and the lesson from the prophets, was done ; and the preaching always was on the subject of the day, unless there were particular reasons for a deviation. On feast, and other days, the order was a little different from the one here given, but the principle was the same; we have now, however, to do with the “sabbath day.” There is ample reason for believing,
that the Jews have changed the lessons from the Prophets, since the days of Christ : thus they read both the 52nd and 54th chapters of Isaiah ; but that most wonderful chapter, which comes between these, the 53rd, which looks more like a page taken out of one of the gospels, than a prophecy, they never read as a lesson; which fact, some ill-informed people misunderstanding, have thought and said, that the Jews had expunged that chapter from the Bible altogether, wbich is not true. So again, the Jews read the 60th chapter of Isaiah as a lesson, and the latter part, also, of the 61st chapter in conjunction with the next chapter, but leave out the first nine verses of the 61st chapter, from the beginning of which Christ took his text, applying it to himself, on the occasion now before us. It is not at all unlikely, but the 61st chapter of Isaiah was providentially the proper lesson for the day; and that the Lord Jesus, standing up, being called thereto, in the usual way, to read that lesson, read it, and then preached from it; for, be it remembered, that it is said, “ And all bore him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth :” which certainly leads to the conclusion, that we have only the purport of the divine sermon then preached, but not all of it. Let it also be remarked, that, " when he opened the book," is only a rough trapslation, but not exact; the original might have been translated, “ the book being opened,” or, “ unrolled;" the books, if we may so call them, then, like the Pentateuch used in the public service of the Synagogue an this day, having been written in columns, on long strips of parchment, of convenient breadth, many hides, properly cut, being sewn together; the two extreme ends being fastened to two wooden rollers, and the whole rolled up, part on one, and part on the other, so that the portion which was to be read, in any part of the roll, might be at once before the reader on rolling back either roller a little, with so much of the roll on the two rollers respectively, as just to expose the part wanted ; and this is the idea conveyed in the original of our text. To this day the Jews prepare, by rolling up their parchment rolls so, before they are used in the service, that no rolling may be necessary to find the passage wanted, when it is to be read in the public service. And thus the roll on which, either the prophet Isaiah was, or one on which the lessons from the Prophets only were written, having been properly prepared beforehand; that is, whatever extended of the roll to either side of the proper lesson, being rolled up on the