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As a new foundation its inhabitants were denizens of every nation. There was no old aboriginal population to cold shoulder every new comer, but every man ready to prove himself a good citizen was accepted and protected. We thus find Alexandria home of most diverse races. They were colonists drawn from every country. Though founded in Egypt its inhabitants do not seem to have been particularly Egyptian. It was essentially cosmopolitan in its people as well as character. We see the Jews there. They run to tens of thousands. A combination of reasons make them distinctive in story, but probably their case was but parallel of many others. Probably a census would show that all the then civilized world was represented in this amazing city. Over all was the Greek, but he was in no predominating numbers. Rather he was as host who made guests welcome from every land. He was first, but amongst such guests equality reigned. Each met the other on equal footing and superiority was to be found in the individual and not in his race. And pride of place was given to letters. Ptolemy, himself historian of Alexander's wars, was ever eager to welcome to his city any who could contribute to its pre-eminence in literature, in science, or in art. A man, no matter what his country or people, needed no passport to his favour other than distinction in some branch of learning. He was always well served by genius, for in him genius ever found most generous of patrons. And thus the family tradition. To his son, Philadelphus, for example, we owe the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Its importance cannot be overstated. Christ Himself used it, and from it the quotations in the New Testament are taken. Though our translation is from the Hebrew the relative authority is debateable, and in the troubles that overtook the race it is possible that this Hebrew original might have been lost sight of but for the widespread renown that this Septuagint version had obtained. Philadelphus may have have had some leaning to the religion of the Jews or as likely may not, but he knew of the distinctive excellence of their holy books and was instrumental in their being translated into the vernacular Greek. This was in the year B.C. 287 and was typical of the royal attitude to genius in every form. Thus all thought in its highest phases found fullest expression in this most magnificent of cities. Poetry had its masters there; mathematics and science their students—the schoolboy will be interested in the name of Euclid, one of its citizens -philosophy its profoundest teachers, and history its greatest professors. Above all, religion in its thousand and one forms was in no want of worthiest of protagonists. Here every shade of opinion found its own especial exponent and he would have been of strange cult indeed who could not meet there his own people and his own creed. Were he pious Buddhist, reaction from the too idealistic Pantheism of the Brahman here he would find a brotherhood and ceremonial with which he was in full accord. Nor would the same Panthiest with the simplicity of his creed-God is everything and everything is God -- feel strange in that city of all the faiths. And here also every mean, with its appropriate ritual and service, from the extreme theism and idealism of the east to the ultra anthropomorphism and realism of the west, was to have its own especial following, and here, far more than in Athens, might have been erected an altar to the UNKNOWN GOD. The Greek in his sunny naturalism found outward expression of his religion in the glories of his art, and never did pantheon know more exquisite representation of a deified world. But with it all was consciousness that beneath all these superficialities—beautiful and simple, fantastic or absurd—was a deeper meaning one with the mystery of existence itself. If God could have taken human form how all-glorious He must have been, and the summit of his art was an endeavour to give form and substance to such fond imaginings. And so missionaries to-day tell us that the intelligent savage rarely confounds the demons of his fears and worship
with the great Spirit, the great fountain of all creation. Still less the cultured man of the past, whether Jew, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian or Greek. Underlying all outward forms and observances they alike knew but this one great first cause. Hence the toleration of each other's creeds. Forms might vary, but the same God was sought by one and all. But here a distinction, too great for human comprehension, it was rare that in all his supreme majesty he was made direct object of worship. It was in his attributes as found in humanity and nature that he was seen and it was in his attributes that he was to be approached. Around this great central conception, no doubt, grew up a host of secondary or derived deities; of local divinities and tribal gods; with yet a third class of demigods and heroes; of demons, spirits, devils, hobgoblins, bogies, and others, who, save in name, do not seem to have otherwise vastly differed in the attributes associated with them. Local conditions moulded local superstitions in those days exactly as in these more enlightened times. So what essentially gave distinction to the religion of the Jew was his sacred writings. As the Parthenon to the Athenian, so his “ Book” to his race, and a world realized the supremacy of both. In the “Great Unknown," he may possibly have continued to see his tribal god, though this is doubtful, but in the sublime conception of his prophets was the highest note yet struck of the majesty of the deity.
Thus home and epitome of ancient thought and belief we see this Alexandria—the city of the past. It is enriched with all that art or genius can imagine, and matchless with a museum-otherwise library—that was one of the wonders of all time. Conquerers were to come and go, empires were to rise and fall, but Alexandria, home of Greek thought, was still to be mistress of the intellectual world. Rome, jealous of any pre-eminence but her own, several times laid her in ruins, and even Julius Caesar allowed her library to be destroyed; but, phoenix-like, she arose from her ashes and again and yet again raised her proud head on high. But with Omar, A.D. 640, came the end, and it is another city with other traditions that now fills the place of that once great home of the Greeks. Its history is the history of a civilization, and of a Hellenism which died with it. A new era, a new millennium, is to mark the rebirth of both.
THE JEWS IN EARLY DAYS. 17. A study of the geographical features of Palestine goes far to give us some insight into the characteristics of its inhabitants. For the moment interest centres in the Jewish people, and looking at Jerusalem and noting its situation and surroundings, we realize how essentially they were hillmen—the Highlanders of those parts. In fact, they seem to have had many points in common with this sturdy race. At home we see them chiefly as peasants, a wild, fierce, fanatical and straight-living clan. “It is ill taking the breeks off a Highlander," is an old saying—infinitely troublesome in the taking not worth taking when taken; not even if he had any to take. This in especial applied to them, and in their fastnesses they were a race not lightly to be meddled with. Hornets were pleasanter to stir up in their nest. And in their education they had also much in common with the Scotch. In this respect both owed no little to their religion. The synagogue Jesus taught in and the conventicle of an old Covenanter had much in common. A short service of prayer and praise, a reading of the law, and then an exposition of it; such the order of the day. If a great stranger were present he was asked to say a few words, and thus we see our Lord, St. Paul, and other apostles. “ Thy law hath been my meditation day and night," saith the Psalmist; and certainly it made a fine and thoughtful citizen. It was far more in this than in any special monotheistic views that the Jew was out of sympathy with his neighbours. In the exoteric, or outward forms of belief and ceremonial we may mark no great differences; but in the depths of their religious consciousness, amongst the initiate of both, we find them at the antipodes of thought. With the ancient world Temple worship, more especially as it found expression in their mysteries, was one elaborated sensuous appeal to the emotions. Nothing was wanting that could quicken the imagination or inflame the passions. A service of purification, maybe itself preceded by fasting, prepared the minds of the devout for the principal ceremony. Oneness with the deity was the great consummation to be achieved. To secure this all the resources of science and art with those of superstition and magic were put under contribution. The gorgeous temple with its half-lights, its sumptuous appointments, its fragrant incense, and its general atmosphere so mysterious, was infinitely suggestive of a world not wholly this. And then the gentle breathing of song in strophe and anti-strophe, the processions and choregic dances; the exhortation, the roll of sonorous verse; all working up in a mighty crescendo of fervid excitement and expectation; when as final climax, exhibition was made of the sacred emblems themselves. And now the god is very present indeed, and every degree of religious experience is to prevail. Now we have the rapture of elation, the exaltation of the ascetic, the trance of the medium, and the unseen is now the only real existence. In these phenomena the scientist of to-day sees but varying hypnotic stages, but the old world knew in them the spirit of the god alone. And in their culmination, in a frenzy which found vent in self-inflicted torture and mutilation; in a defiance of all natural law and pain; we find them on the border of that emotional dementia which only now to some small extent we are beginning to appreciate and understand.