IT may not be altogether without interest, as illustrating the growth of some of the ideas referred to in the preceding chapters, to take a brief glance at some of the eschatological ideas contained in the later Jewish literature. Frequently, however, what is said on the subject in this literature reflects much earlier thought; so that while in some cases we may trace development, in others it is nothing more than the crystallisation of traditions that have been handed down for generations.
In Rabbinical writings the technical term for the terrors of the "last times," previous
to the Advent of the Messiah, is Cheble ha-Meshiach or Cheblo shel Mashiach, the "birth-pangs," 1 or "travail" of the Messiah (Shabbath 118a). In the Mishnah tractate, Sota ix. 15, we have the following account of these travails: "As traces of the approach of Messiah are to be regarded that arrogance increases, ambition shoots up, that the vine yields fruit and yet wine is dear. The government turns to heresy. There is no instruction. The place of assembly (the synagogue) is devoted to lewdness. Galilee is destroyed, Gablan laid waste. The inhabitants of a district go from city to city without finding compassion. The wisdom of the learned is hated, the godly despised, truth is absent. Boys insult old men, old men stand in the presence of children. The son depreciates his father, the daughter rebels against the mother, the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law. A man's enemies are his house-fellows." 2 In the "years" immediately preceding the Advent of the Messiah each year is to be characterised by a special plague; the rise of false Messiahs
is also one of the signs of the end the study of the Torah ("Law") will cease, heresy will increase, and men will give up hoping for the Messiah 1 (Sanhedrin 97a); see also Pesikta 51b. In the Apocalypse of Abraham xxx., a Jewish work of the second century A.D., ten "plagues" are mentioned as portents of the Advent of the Messiah: distress, fire, pestilence among the beasts, famine, earthquakes, and wars, hail and frost, ravening wild beasts, pestilence and death among men, destruction and flight, and subterranean noises. The War of Gog and Magog is also frequently referred to in Rabbinical literature (Berachoth 7b, Pesikta 79a, etc.; see, for further references, the Jewish Encyclopædia, v. 212; and §iii. of this chapter).
In Rabbinical literature there is never any ambiguity about the central person of the Eschatological Drama; in the Old Testament it is sometimes Jehovah Himself Whose Advent as Judge is looked for, at other times it is one who is subordinate to Him; in the Apocalyptic literature also we come across passages in which God Himself is the central
figure at the "last times," though more generally it is His Messiah. In the writings which we are now considering it is invariably the Messiah, and none other, whose Advent is spoken of. But it is taught that the Advent of the Messiah is only an episode in the life of one who has existed from all time; King Messiah, it is said, pre-existed before the Creation of the world. 1 According to Weber, however, the meaning of this statement is that it was God's will from all eternity to create the Messiah and to send Him into the world; 2 that is to say, He existed potentially, but not actually, from all time. In the later Jewish theology it is taught that the Messiah lives in the Garden of Eden. But in spite of this pre-existence of the Messiah, whether from all eternity or of more limited duration, He is to be born of a woman and is to be of the seed of David (Bereshith rabbah c. xii., Sanhedrin 93b); it is said in Pesikta 149a: "Happy the hour in which the Messiah was born, happy the womb from which he came forth! 3 Happy the generation that sees him; happy the eye that is honoured by looking up him!" 4 Thus the Messiah is always regarded
as human and nothing more, and this in spite of His being reckoned as superior to the angels. It is instructive to observe that the accounts of the actual Advent of the Messiah in Rabbinical literature are generally wanting in all the supernatural traits which we read of in the Old Testament descriptions of the Advent as well as in those of the Apocalyptic literature; this must in great part, if not altogether, be due to the purely human character ascribed to the Messiah in Rabbinical literature. He comes as the warring champion of His people to deliver them from the oppression of their enemies; this is clearly seen in the Targum of Jonathan to Isa. lii. 14, 15; it is here said that at the Messiah's Advent He will destroy many peoples, and He will silence Kings by His wonderful deeds; then, in dealing with Isa. liii. 2, the Targum tells of the coming Messiah as the Righteous One; and there follows a description of His power and majesty; He will annihilate the wealthy and the great, and thus take away the reproach of His people. As the deliverer (Goel; "Redeemer" seems too strong a word to use, as it connotes more in Christian phraseology than in Jewish) of His people, the Messiah is compared to Moses, who delivered the Israelites from the Egyptian
bondage (cf. 1 Cor. x. 1-4); and it is said, therefore, that just as Moses lived in retirement before he came forth for his work of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, so will the Messiah be in hiding for some time previous to His Advent; this is brought out in Pesikta 49b: "Just as the first Goel (i.e., Moses) manifested himself to Israel and then hid himself from them, so will the last Goel (i.e., the Messiah) manifest himself first, and then hide himself from the people. For how long?--For forty-five days, according to Dan. xii. 11. 12. And whither will he lead them? Some say: into the Judæan desert; others: into the desert of Sihon and Og, according to Hos. ii. 16. . . ." 1
These passages are sufficient to show that the teaching in Rabbinical literature concerning the actual Advent differs considerably from that of the Old Testament and Apocalyptic literature.
One of the main elements in Rabbinical Eschatology is the War of Gog and Magog (cf. chap. iii. §ii.); this idea is, of course,
based on Ezek. xxxviii. 14-xxxix. 16, but it is greatly elaborated in this later literature. This "War" represents the final attack of the Gentiles, expressed collectively by the term "Gog and Magog," upon the Messiah and His faithful followers; the point of the whole conception is to set forth the doctrine of the Judgement upon the Wicked in the "last times." As is to be expected, a Particularistic attitude is taken in the Rabbinical writings, that is to say, the Gentiles are as a body regarded as the "Wicked," and as such are to be condemned to eternal punishment, while the people of the Messiah, i.e., the Jews, are to inherit the happiness and glory of the Messianic Kingdom. At the same time, it is only fair to remember that the Rabbis were to a large extent forced into this Particularistic attitude by their contemplation of the actual sinfulness of the non-Jewish world; above all, the non-recognition of Jehovah and the non-observance of His Law on the part of the Gentile world must have made the heathen peoples appear as outside the pale of divine mercy in the eyes of the Rabbis. This is well illustrated in Abodah Zarah 8b, where it is said that the War of Gog and Magog against the Messiah is not
only undertaken because of the enmity of the Gentiles towards the Messiah, but also because they desire to do away altogether with the Law of God. Moreover, it is not only against the Law of God that the Gentiles are described as fighting in the "last times," but against God Himself; thus Rabbi Levi, in Pesikta 79a, explains the words of Zech. xiv. 3 (Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle) as referring to the "last times," and God is made to say to the Gentiles: "Sinner, thou comest to try conclusions with Me! As thou livest, I will make war against thee." 1 In the same way in Mechilta 48b, Psalm ii. is explained as referring to the War of Gog and Magog; Jehovah laughs them to scorn, the armies of Gog and Magog will suffer the fate of Pharaoh and his host, they will be swallowed up by the deep, so that the very fish will tremble (cf. Ezek. xxxviii. 20); it is Jehovah Himself Who will fight against Gog and Magog, and will destroy the Gentile hosts, Israel alone will be saved. 2 (See, further, the next section.)
Speaking generally, therefore, the Judgement
on the Wicked in the "last times" is to be executed, according to Rabbinical teaching, rather on account of Gentile enmity than on account of their wickedness; though they are reckoned among the wicked indiscriminately because of their repudiation of the Law of Jehovah. (See, further, the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan on Num. xi. 26.)
From what has been said in the preceding section we shall expect to find Particularistic views held with regard to the Righteous in Rabbinical literature; and for the most part this is so. It is Israel, the people of the Law, for whom Blessedness is reserved. The materialistic views always held with regard to the Messianic Kingdom naturally resulted in the idea, not infrequently expressed, that in the Messianic Era the requirements of the Law--in particular the sacrificial and priestly laws--would be strictly observed; it was this observance which constituted righteousness, and brought with it its reward. It is true that sometimes another and very remarkable view is met with, viz., that a new Law would be proclaimed by the Messiah; in the Targum
to Isa. xii. 3, for example, it says: "Ye shall receive a new Law from the Elect One of the Righteous"; and a Midrashic passage, commenting on Eccles. xi. 8. (All is vanity), declares: "The Law which man learns in this world is nothing in comparison with the Law of the Messiah" (Midrash Koheleth, on xi. 8). But the Righteous who are to enjoy this Law are the Chosen People, and they only. The general attitude of Rabbinical teaching on this subject is expressed in the Talmud thus: "In the Messianic time no proselytes will be received" (Abodah Zarah 3b). But within the ranks of Israel a great differentiation is made between the righteous and the evil, and their lot in the "last times" is very different. The wicked Israelites share the same fate as the heathen Gentiles; they are to die the eternal death in Gehenna; this is their merited punishment. This teaching is, however, often found modified; it is taught that originally Gehenna was never intended to receive Israelites, but only Gentiles; but, at any rate, for Israelites it is only a place of purification, while for the Gentiles it is a place of punishment. Then, again, it is taught that Gehenna is only for those Gentiles who have forsaken God and served idols
[paragraph continues] (Sanhedrin 105a), so that here the blessedness of the Righteous among the Gentiles is contemplated. Later Judaism takes this milder and more rational view. 1 Of the lot of the Righteous and the Wicked, generally, after the "last times," the few following references will give a good idea: in Abodah Zarah 3b it is said of the sun that with its blazing rays it will torment the Wicked, but refresh the Righteous; in Shemoth rabbah c. xiv. it is said that in Gehenna the Wicked are covered in darkness; in Bereshith rabbah c. xii. it is said that death shall be altogether taken away; this must, of course, be spoken of in reference to the Righteous; above all things, after the terrors of the "last times" have passed away, the Righteous who will have been spared will enjoy great peace in the Messianic Kingdom.
From the two preceding sections it will be seen that the Judgement upon the Wicked and the Blessedness of the Righteous include the subjects of the Gathering of the Gentiles and the Ingathering of Israel; for the final gathering together of these is, speaking quite generally, for the purpose of assigning to them their punishment and reward respectively. It will, therefore, not be necessary to devote
special sections here to the consideration of their final gathering. (See chaps. iii. §§ii., iii.; vi. §§i. ii.)
As we have already seen (chaps. iii. §iv.; vi. §iii.), the Resurrection formed part of the Messianic hope both in Old Testament and Apocalyptic writings. The Rabbinical literature has much to say on this subject; in the first place, "the very term used to express the idea of sharing in the future life is 'to inherit the land' (Sanhedrin xi. 1, with reference to Isa. lx. 21). The Resurrection, therefore, was believed to take place solely in the Holy Land (Pesikta rabbah i. after Psalm cxvi. 9). . . . Jerusalem alone is the city of which the dead shall blossom forth like grass (Kethuboth 111b, after Psalm lxxii. 16). Those that are buried elsewhere will therefore be compelled to creep through cavities in the earth until they reach the Holy Land (Pesikta rabbah i., with reference to Ezek. xxxvii. 13; Kethuboth 111a)." 1 Here again we meet with Particularistic views (in later times Universalistic ideas on the subject came to the fore, see below), and
this is further illustrated by the fact that it was taught that in order that all Israel might partake of the joys of the Messianic Kingdom, those who had died before the coming of the Messiah and who were gathered in Sheol, would be brought up from there; the one condition was that they should have the mark of the Covenant (i.e. Circumcision); this, of course, precluded the Gentiles, according to the early Rabbinical view, from hoping for the Resurrection. It was further taught that all those who are imprisoned in Sheol should be brought out by the Messiah, who Himself would come and fetch them thence (cf. 1 Pet. iii. 19); 1 in Bereshith rabbah we read: "And when they that were bound in Gehinnom saw the light of the Messiah, they rejoiced in receiving Him, and said, This is He who will lead us out of darkness" (see Jellinek, Beth Hamidrash ii. 50). After they have been brought out of Sheol there will follow the Resurrection of the Just. God, it is said further, will give the Messiah the "Key" of the Resurrection of the dead (Sanhedrin 113a). Elsewhere (Jer. Targum to Exod. xx. 15, cf. Berachoth 15b) it is said that the trumpet shall be blown to arouse the
dead, and that this will be the signal for the Resurrection. (Cf. Isa. xxvii. 13; 1 Cor, xv. 52; 1 Thess. iv. 16). Another interesting belief was that men would rise from the dead in the same clothes in which they had been laid in the tomb. In Sanhedrin 90b this is paralleled by the example of a grain of wheat, which does not come forth from the earth naked, but covered in its garment (cf. 1 Cor. xv. 37); and if this is so with a grain of wheat, how much more with the human body! It is for this reason that minute directions are given by dying Rabbis regarding the clothes in which they are going to be buried. 1 But in later times the circumscribed idea of the Resurrection of Israel alone gave way to that of a general Resurrection; "as in the course of time the national hope with its national resurrection and final day of judgement no longer satisfied the intellect and human sentiment, the resurrection assumed a more universal and cosmic character. It was declared to be solely the act of God, Who alone possesses the Key that will unlock the tombs (Berachoth 15b). . . . Nor is the wrath of the last judgement believed any longer to be brought upon the heathen solely as such.
[paragraph continues] All evil-doers who have blasphemed God and His Law, or acted unrighteously, will meet with their punishment (Tos. Sanh. xiii.; Midr. Teh. vi. 1, ix. 15)." 1
This has been referred to in chap. iii. v. and vi. §iv., where we saw that the subject is mentioned several times in the Apocalyptic literature; it plays a more prominent part in Rabbinical literature, thus, in the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan to Num. xi. 26 ff., in the prophecy of Eldad and Medad, we are told of this Messianic Banquet at which the Israelites will feast with great joy upon the ox that has been prepared for them for this purpose from the beginning. Bousset (Die Religion des Judenthums im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter, p. 271) mentions a parallel idea in Iranian Eschatology, according to which the marrow of the slain ox Hadhayos is to be the food of immortality for the Righteous. But it is in connection with Leviathan that the Messianic Banquet is usually referred to in Rabbinical literature; for example, in Baba Bathra 74a,
it is said that at the time of the Resurrection a banquet will be given by God to the Righteous, and that at this feast the flesh of Leviathan will be eaten. Very quaint ideas of a haggadic character (i.e. didactic narrative) figure in this literature; according to one, it appears that prior to the Banquet the Righteous will take part in the hunting of Leviathan and Behemoth; the angel Gabriel has the task of slaying Leviathan, but he will not be able to accomplish it without the help of God, Who will therefore come and divide the monster with His sword. According to another haggadah, when Gabriel fails, God will order Leviathan to engage in a battle with the "ox of the mountain," which will result in the death of both of them (Baba Bathra 75a); then Leviathan will be cut up and eaten by the Righteous. These haggadahs are probably based upon such passages as Isa. xxvii. 1: In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the swift serpent, and Leviathan the crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea? Psalm lxxiv. 12-15: . . . . Thou didst break the heads of the Leviathan, thou wilt give him for food . . . .; 1 Job. xxvi.
[paragraph continues] 12, 13, and others. As Leviathan represents the principle of evil, his destruction symbolises the end of sin; 1 the banquet on his flesh, which is a much later idea, is interpreted by Maimonides as being an allusion to the spiritual enjoyment of the intellect; 2 originally it probably connoted something far more materialistic, and it may be safe to say that it was based upon the ordinary custom of royal banquets.
The thought of the "Forerunner" is so prominent in the Gospels that a brief reference to it as regards Jewish post-biblical literature will not be out of place here. The fact of Elijah's appearance is mentioned first in Mal. iv. 5: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord come; though this is, of course, referred to in Mal. iii. 1, but Elijah is not mentioned by name there; and in the Gospels the words in Isa. xl. 3, are adapted to the same purpose,
though in their original context the reference is to the historical conditions of the time: The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. How firm the belief was, long before the Christian Era, that Elijah was to fill this office may be seen from Sir. xlviii. 4-10: How wast thou glorified, O Elijah, in thy wondrous deeds! And who shall glory like unto thee? . . . Who was recorded for reproofs in their seasons, to pacify anger before it brake forth into wrath; to turn the heart of the father unto the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob." According to a tradition contained in Yalkut Shimeoni, it is said in reference to Isa. lii. 7, that three days before the Advent of the Messiah, Elijah will appear upon the mountains of Israel, and will announce to the world that the time of peace is about to come; so loud will his voice be that it will be heard from one end of the earth to the other. According to Erubin 43a, Elijah will first present himself before the Sanhedrin when he comes. In connection with this it is interesting to note that at the appearance of John the Baptist, priests and Levites from Jerusalem, and therefore without doubt emissaries from the central
[paragraph continues] Jewish authorities, came to the Baptist in the wilderness to enquire who he was (John i. 19: And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent unto him from Jerusalem priests and Levites to ask him, Who art thou?). But the most important part of the Rabbinical teaching on the subject is that Elijah will lead the Jews to repentance when he appears; thus in Pirqe de-Rabbi Elieser c. 43, it says "Israel will not bring forth the 'great repentance' before Elijah comes" 1 (see Luke i. 16, 17).
128:1 These sections should be compared with the corresponding ones in chaps. ii., iii., v., vi.
129:1 The meaning assigned to the expression "birth-pangs of the Messiah" is, perhaps, a later figurative adaptation of what was in the first place understood literally. It may be a survival of the myth wherein the birth of the Messiah of the "woman" was described (cf. Rev. xii. 1 ff.; Oesterley and Box, op. cit. p. 218).
129:2 See Schürer, The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, II. ii. p. 155.
120:1 A saying of Rabbi Simon ben Jochai.
121:1 Cf. John viii. 68.
121:2 Weber, Juedische Theologie, p. 366 ff.
121:3 Cf. Luke xi. 27.
121:4 Weber, op. cit. p. 366.
133:1 Weber, op. cit. p..3 4.
135:1 Weber, op. cit. p. 389.
138:1 Weber, op. cit. pp. 390 ff.
139:1 Jewish Encycl. x. 383b.
140:1 Weber, op. cit. p. 368.
141:1 Weber, op. cit. p. 370.
142:1 Jewish Encycl. x. 384a.
143:1 Cf. The Evolution of the Messianic Idea, p. 53.
144:1 Cf. The Evolution of the Messianic Idea, pp. 185 ff.
144:2 Jewish Encycl. viii. 38a.
146:1 For these references to the Rabbinical literature see Weber, op. cit. pp. 352 ff., Jewish Encycl. v. 126 ff., where many more examples will be found.