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Title: Chosen Peoples - Being the First "Arthur Davis Memorial Lecture" delivered before the Jewish Historical Society at University College on Easter-Passover Sunday, 1918/5678
Author: Zangwill, Israel, 1864-1926
Language: English
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Works Of Israel Zangwill


The American Jewish Book Company
New York

Chosen Peoples
Copyright, 1919,
By The MacMillan Company.

Printed by
The Lord Baltimore Press
Baltimore, Md.


Being the First "Arthur Davis Memorial Lecture"
delivered before the Jewish Historical Society
at University College on Easter-Passover
Sunday, 1918/5678

                  MRS. REDCLIFFE N. SALAMAN
                   THIS LITTLE BOOK IN HER
                       FATHER'S MEMORY


The Arthur Davis Memorial Lecture was founded in 1917, under the
auspices of the Jewish Historical Society of England, by his
collaborators in the translation of "The Service of the Synagogue,"
with the object of fostering Hebraic thought and learning in honour of
an unworldly scholar. The Lecture is to be given annually in the
anniversary week of his death, and the lectureship is to be open to
men or women of any race or creed, who are to have absolute liberty in
the treatment of their subject.


Mr. Arthur Davis, in whose memory has been founded the series of
Lectures devoted to the fostering of Hebraic thought and learning, of
which this is the first, was born in 1846 and died on the first day of
Passover, 1906. His childhood was spent in the town of Derby, where
there was then no Synagogue or Jewish minister or teacher of Hebrew.
Spontaneously he developed a strong Jewish consciousness, and an
enthusiasm for the Hebrew language, which led him to become one of its
greatest scholars in this, or any other, country.

He was able to put his learning to good use. He observed the wise
maxim of Leonardo da Vinci, "Avoid studies of which the result dies
with the worker." He was not one of those learned men, of whom there
are many examples--a recent and conspicuous instance was the late Lord
Acton--whose minds are so choked with the accumulations of the
knowledge they have absorbed that they can produce little or nothing.
His output, though not prolific, was substantial. In middle life he
wrote a volume on "The Hebrew Accents of the Twenty-one Books of the
Bible," which has become a classical authority on that somewhat
recondite subject. It was he who originated and planned the new
edition of the Festival Prayer Book in six volumes, and he wrote most
of the prose translations. When he died, though only two volumes out
of the six had been published, he left the whole of the text complete.
To Mr. Herbert M. Adler, who had been his collaborator from the
beginning, fell the finishing of the great editorial task.

Not least of his services lay in the fact that he had transmitted much
of his knowledge to his two daughters, who have worthily continued his
tradition of Hebrew scholarship and culture.

Arthur Davis's life work, then, was that of a student and interpreter
of Hebrew. It is a profoundly interesting fact that, in our age,
movements have been set on foot in more than one direction for the
revival of languages which were dead or dying. We see before our eyes
Welsh and Irish in process of being saved from extinction, with the
hope perhaps of restoring their ancient glories in poetry and prose.
Such movements show that our time is not so utilitarian and
materialistic as is often supposed. A similar revivifying process is
affecting Hebrew. For centuries it has been preserved as a ritual
language, sheltered within the walls of the Synagogue; often not fully
understood, and never spoken, by the members of the congregations. Now
it is becoming in Palestine once more a living and spoken language.

Hebrew is one example among many of a language outliving for purposes
of ritual its use in ordinary speech. A ritual is regarded as a sacred
thing, unchanging, and usually unchangeable, except as the result of
some great religious upheaval. The language in which it is framed
continues fixed, amid the slowly developing conditions of the workaday
world. Often, indeed, the use of an ancient language, which has
gradually fallen into disuse among the people, is deliberately
maintained for the air of mystery and of awe which is conveyed by its
use, and which has something of the same effect upon the intellect as
the "dim religious light" of a cathedral has upon the emotions.
Further, it reserves to the priesthood a kind of esoteric knowledge,
which gives them an additional authority that they would desire to
maintain. So we find that in the days of Marcus Aurelius an ancient
Salian liturgy was used in the Roman temples which had become almost
unintelligible to the worshippers. The ritual of the religion of Isis
in Greece was, at the same period, conducted in an unknown tongue. In
the present age Church Slavonic, the ecclesiastical language of the
orthodox Slavs, is only just intelligible to the peasantry of Russia
and the neighbouring Slav countries. The Buddhists of China conduct
their services in Sanscrit, which neither the monks nor the people
understand, and the services of the Buddhists in Japan are either in
Sanscrit or in ancient Chinese. I believe it is a fact that in
Abyssinia, again, the liturgy is in a language called Geez, which is
no longer in use as a living tongue and is not understood.

But we need not go to earlier centuries or to distant countries for
examples. In any Roman Catholic church in London to-day you will find
the service conducted in a language which, if understood at all by
the general body of the congregation, has been learnt by them only for
the purposes of the liturgy.

Of all these ritual languages which have outlived their current use
and have been preserved for religious purposes alone, Hebrew is, so
far as I am aware, the only one which has ever showed signs of
renewing its old vitality--like the roses of Jericho which appear to
be dead and shrivelled but which, when placed in water, recover their
vitality and their bloom. We may join in hoping that again in
Palestine Hebrew may recover something of its old supremacy in the
field of morals and of intellect.

To render this possible the work of scholars such as Arthur Davis has
contributed. To him this was a labour of love, and for love. He would
receive no payment for any of his religious work or writings. Part of
the profits that accrued from the publication of his edition of "The
Services of the Synagogue" has been devoted to the formation of a fund
from which will be defrayed the expenses--after the first--of a series
of annual lectures on subjects of Jewish interest, to be delivered by
men of various schools of thought. We are fortunate that the initial
lecture is to be delivered to-day by the most distinguished of living
Jewish men of letters.

Arthur Davis was a man of much elevation and charm of character. He
took an active part in the work of communal, and particularly
educational, organizations. He was one of those men--not rare among
Jews, though the rest of the world does not always recognize it--who
are philanthropic in spirit, practical in action, modest,
self-sacrificing, devoted to a fine family life, having in them much
of the student and something even of the saint. It is fitting that his
memory should be kept alive.

                                                       HERBERT SAMUEL.



The claim that the Jews are a "Chosen People" has always irritated the
Gentiles. "From olden times," wrote Philostratus in the third century,
"the Jews have been opposed not only to Rome but to the rest of
humanity." Even Julian the Apostate, who designed to rebuild their
Temple, raged at the doctrine of their election. Sinai, said the
Rabbis with a characteristic pun, has evoked _Sinah_ (hatred).

In our own day, the distinguished ethical teacher, Dr. Stanton Coit,
complains, like Houston Chamberlain, that our Bible has checked and
blighted all other national inspiration: in his book "The Soul of
America," he even calls upon me to repudiate unequivocally "the claim
to spiritual supremacy over all the peoples of the world."

The recent revelation of racial arrogance in Germany has provided our
enemies with a new weapon. "Germanism is Judaism," says a writer in
the American _Bookman_. The proposition contains just that dash of
truth which is more dangerous than falsehood undiluted; and the saying
ascribed to Von Tirpitz in 1915 that the Kaiser spent all his time
praying and studying Hebrew may serve to give it colour. "As he talks
to-day at Potsdam and Berlin," says Verhaeren, in his book "Belgium's
Agony," "the Kings of Israel and their prophets talked six thousand
years ago at Jerusalem." The chronology is characteristic of
anti-Semitic looseness: six thousand years ago the world by Hebrew
reckoning had not been created, and at any rate the then Kings of
Jerusalem were not Jewish. But it is undeniable that Germanism, like
Judaism, has evolved a doctrine of special election. Spiritual in the
teaching of Fichte and Treitschke, the doctrine became gross and
narrow in the _Deutsche Religion_ of Friedrich Lange. "The German
people is the elect of God and its enemies are the enemies of the
Lord." And this German God, like the popular idea of Jehovah, is a
"Man of War" who demands "eye for eye, tooth for tooth," and cries
with savage sublimity:--

    I will render vengeance to Mine adversaries,
    And will recompense them that hate Me,
    I will make Mine arrows drunk with blood,
    And my sword shall devour flesh.

Judaism has even its Song of Hate, accompanied on the timbrel by
Miriam. The treatment of the Amalekites and other Palestine tribes is
a byword. "We utterly destroyed every city," Deuteronomy declares;
"the men and the women and the little ones; we left none remaining;
only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves with the spoil of
the cities." David, who is promised of God that his seed shall be
enthroned for ever, slew surrendered Moabites in cold blood, and Judas
Maccabæus, the other warrior hero of the race, when the neutral city
of Ephron refused his army passage, took the city, slew every male in
it, and passed across its burning ruins and bleeding bodies. The
prophet Isaiah pictures the wealth of nations--the phrase is his, not
Adam Smith's--streaming to Zion by argosy and caravan. "For that
nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish.... Aliens
shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee.
Thou shalt suck the milk of nations." "The Lord said unto me," says
the second Psalm, "Thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask
of Me and I will give the nations for thine inheritance.... Thou shalt
break them with a rod of iron."

Nor are such ideas discarded by the synagogue of to-day. Every
Saturday night the orthodox Jew repeats the prayer for material
prosperity and the promise of ultimate glory: "Thou shalt lend unto
many nations but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt rule over many
nations but they shall not rule over thee." "Our Father, our King," he
prays at the New Year, "avenge before our eyes the blood of Thy
servants that has been spilt." And at the Passover Seder Service he
still repeats the Psalmist's appeal to God to pour out His wrath on
the heathen who have consumed Jacob and laid waste his dwelling.
"Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the


Much might, of course, be adduced to mitigate the seeming ferocity or
egotism of these passages. It would be indeed strange if Prussia,
which Napoleon wittily described as "hatched from a cannon-ball,"
should be found really resembling Judæa, whose national greeting was
"Peace"; whose prophet Ezekiel proclaimed in words of flame and
thunder God's judgment upon the great military empires of antiquity;
whose mediæval poet Kalir has left in our New Year liturgy what might
be almost a contemporary picture of a brazen autocracy "that planned
in secret, performed in daring." And, as a matter of fact, some of
these passages are torn from their context. The pictures of Messianic
prosperity, for example, are invariably set in an ethical framework:
the all-dominant Israel is also to be all-righteous. The blood that is
to be avenged is the blood of martyrs "who went through fire and water
for the sanctification of Thy name."

But let us take these passages at their nakedest. Let us ignore--as
completely as Jesus did--that the legal penalty of "eye for eye" had
been commuted into a money penalty by the great majority of early
Pharisaic lawyers. Is not that very maxim to-day the clamoured policy
of Christian multitudes? "Destroy them from under the heavens of the
Lord!" When this is the imprecation of a Vehaeren or a Maeterlinck
over Belgium and not of a mediæval Jew over the desolated home of
Jacob, is it not felt as a righteous cry of the heart? Nay, only the
other Sunday an Englishwoman in a country drawing-room assured me she
would like to kill every German--man or woman--with her own hand!

And here we see the absurdity of judging the Bible outside its
historic conditions, or by standards not comparative. Said James
Hinton, "The Bible needs interpreting by Nature even as Nature by it."
And it is by this canon that we must interpret the concept of a Chosen
People, and so much else in our Scriptures. It is Life alone that can
give us the clue to the Bible. This is the only "Guide to the
Perplexed," and Maimonides but made confusion worse confounded when
by allegations of allegory and other devices of the apologist he
laboured to reconcile the Bible with Aristotle. Equally futile was the
effort of Manasseh ben Israel to reconcile it with itself. The
_Baraitha_ of Rabbi Ishmael that when two texts are discrepant a third
text must be found to reconcile them is but a temptation to that
distorted dialectic known as _Pilpul_. The only true "Conciliador" is
history, the only real reconciler human nature. An allegorizing
rationalism like Rambam's leads nowhere--or rather everywhere. The
same method that softened the Oriental amorousness of "The Song of
Solomon" into an allegory of God's love for Israel became, in the
hands of Christianity, an allegory of Christ's love for His Church.
But if Reason cannot always--as Bachya imagined--_confirm_ tradition,
it can explain it historically. It can disentangle the lower strands
from the higher in that motley collection of national literature
which, extending over many generations of authorship, streaked with
strayed fragments of Aramaic, varying from the idyll of Ruth to the
apocalyptic dreams of Daniel, and deprived by Job and Ecclesiastes of
even a rambling epical unity, is naturally obnoxious to criticism when
put forward as one uniform Book, still more when put forward as
uniformly divine. For my part I am more lost in wonder over the people
that produced and preserved and the Synagogue that selected and
canonized so marvellous a literature, than dismayed because
occasionally amid the organ-music of its Miltons and Wordsworths
there is heard the primeval saga-note of heroic savagery.


As Joseph Jacobs reminded us in his "Biblical Archæology" and as Sir
James Frazer is just illustrating afresh, the whole of Hebrew ritual
is permeated by savage survivals, a fact recognized by Maimonides
himself when he declared that Moses adapted idolatrous practices to a
purer worship. Israel was environed by barbarous practices and
gradually rose beyond them. And it was the same with concepts as with
practices. Judaism, which added to the Bible the fruits of centuries
of spiritual evolution in the shape of the Talmud, has passed utterly
beyond the more primitive stages of the Old Testament, even as it has
replaced polygamy by monogamy. That Song of Hate at the Red Sea was
wiped out, for example, by the oft-quoted Midrash in which God rebukes
the angels who wished to join in the song. "How can ye sing when My
creatures are perishing?" The very miracles of the Old Testament were
side-tracked by the Rabbinic exposition that they were merely special
creations antecedent to that unchangeable system of nature which went
its course, however fools suffered. Our daily bread, said the sages,
is as miraculous as the division of the Red Sea. And the dry retort of
the soberest of Pharisaic Rabbis, when a voice from heaven interfered
with the voting on a legal point, _en mashgîchin be-bathkol_--"We
cannot have regard to the Bath Kol, the Torah is for earth, not
heaven"--was a sign that, for one school of thought at least, reason
and the democratic principle were not to be browbeaten, and that the
era of miracles in Judaism was over. The very incoherence of the
Talmud, its confusion of voices, is an index of free thinking.
Post-biblical Israel has had a veritable galaxy of thinkers and
saints, from Maimonides its Aquinas to Crescas its Duns Scotus, from
Mendelssohn its Erasmus to the Baal-Shem its St. Francis. But it has
been at once the weakness and the strength of orthodox Judaism never
to have made a breach with its past; possibly out of too great a
reverence for history, possibly out of over-consideration for the
masses, whose mentality would in any case have transformed the new
back again to the old. Thus it has carried its whole lumber piously
forward, even as the human body is, according to evolutionists, "a
veritable museum of relics," or as whales have vestiges of hind legs
with now immovable, muscles. Already in the Persian period Judaism had
begun to evolve "the service of the Synagogue," but it did not shed
the animal sacrifices, and even when these were abruptly ended by the
destruction of the Temple, and Jochanan ben Zaccai must needs
substitute prayer and charity, Judaism still preserved through the
ages the nominal hope of their restoration. So that even were the
Jehovah of the Old Testament the fee-fi-fo-fum ogre of popular
imagination, that tyrant of the heavens whose unfairness in choosing
Israel was only equalled by its bad taste, it would not follow that
Judaism had not silently replaced him by a nobler Deity centuries ago.
The truth is, however, that it is precisely in the Old Testament that
is reached the highest ethical note ever yet sounded, not only by
Judaism but by man, and that this mass of literature is so saturated
with the conception of a people chosen not for its own but for
universal salvation, that the more material prophecies--evoked
moreover in the bitterness of exile, as Belgian poets are now moved to
foretell restoration and glory--are practically swamped. At the worst,
we may say there are two conflicting currents of thought, as there are
in the bosom of every nation, one primarily self-regarding, and the
other setting towards the larger life of humanity. It may help us to
understand the paradox of the junction of Israel's glory with God's,
if we remember that the most inspired of mortals, those whose life is
consecrated to an art, a social reform, a political redemption, are
rarely able to separate the success of their mission from their own
individual success or at least individual importance. Even Jesus
looked forward to his twelve legions of angels and his seat at the
right hand of Power. But in no other nation known to history has the
balance of motives been cast so overwhelmingly on the side of
idealism. An episode related by Josephus touching Pontius Pilate
serves to illuminate the more famous episode in which he figures. When
he brought the Roman ensigns with Cæsar's effigies to Jerusalem, the
Jews so wearied him with their petitions to remove this defiling
deification that at last he surrounded the petitioners with soldiers
and menaced them with immediate death unless they ceased to pester and
went home. "But they threw themselves upon the ground and laid their
necks bare and said they would take their deaths very willingly rather
than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed." And Pilate,
touched, removed the effigies. Such a story explains at once how the
Jews could produce Jesus and why they could not worship him.

"God's witnesses," "a light of the nations," "a suffering servant," "a
kingdom of priests"--the old Testament metaphors for Israel's mission
are as numerous as they are noble. And the lyrics in which they occur
are unparalleled in literature for their fusion of ethical passion
with poetical beauty. Take, for example, the forty-second chapter of
Isaiah. (I quote as in gratitude bound the accurate Jewish version of
the Bible we owe to America.)

    Behold My servant whom I uphold;
    Mine elect in whom My soul delighteth;
    I have put My spirit upon him,
    He shall make the right to go forth to the nations:
    He shall not fail or be crushed
    Till he have set the right on the earth,
    And the isles shall wait for his teaching.
    Thus saith God the LORD,
    He that created the heavens, and stretched them forth,
    He that spread forth the earth and that which cometh out of it,
    He that giveth bread unto the people upon it,
    And spirit to them that walk therein:
    I the LORD have called thee in righteousness,
    And have taken hold of thy hand,
    And kept thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people,
    For a light of the nations;
    To open the blind eyes,
    To bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    And them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.

Never was ideal less tribal: it is still the dynamic impulse of all
civilization. "Let justice well up as waters and righteousness as a
mighty stream." "Nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither
shall there be war any more."

Nor does this mission march always with the pageantry of external
triumph. "Despised and forsaken of men," Isaiah paints Israel. "Yet he
bore the sin of many. And made intercession for the transgressors ...
with his stripes we were healed."

Happily all that is best in Christendom recognizes, with Kuenen or
Matthew Arnold, the grandeur of the Old Testament ideal. But that
this ideal penetrated equally to our everyday liturgy is less
understood of the world. "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, who hast
chosen Israel from all peoples and given him the Law." Here is no
choice of a favourite but of a servant, and when it is added that
"from Zion shall the Law go forth" it is obvious what that servant's
task is to be. "What everlasting love hast Thou loved the house of
Israel," says the Evening Prayer. But in what does this love consist?
Is it that we have been pampered, cosseted? The contrary. "A Law, and
commandments, statutes and judgments hast Thou taught us." Before
these were thundered from Sinai, the historian of the Exodus records,
Israel was explicitly informed that only by obedience to them could
he enjoy peculiar favour. "Now therefore, if ye will hearken unto My
voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be Mine own treasure
from among all peoples; for all the earth is Mine; and ye shall be
unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." A chosen people is
really a choosing people. Not idly does Talmudical legend assert that
the Law was offered first to all other nations and only Israel
accepted the yoke.

How far the discipline of the Law actually produced the Chosen People
postulated in its conferment is a subtle question for pragmatists. Mr.
Lucien Wolf once urged that "the yoke of the Torah" had fashioned a
racial aristocracy possessing marked biological advantages over
average humanity, as well as sociological superiorities of temperance
and family life. And indeed the statistics of Jewish vitality and
brain-power, and even of artistic faculty, are amazing enough to
invite investigation from all eugenists, biologists, and statesmen.
But whether this general superiority--a superiority not inconsistent
with grave failings and drawbacks--is due to the rigorous selection of
a tragic history, or whether it is, as Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu
maintains, the heritage of a civilization older by thousands of years
than that of Europe; whether the Torah made the greatness of the
people, or the people--precisely because of its greatness--made the
Torah; whether we have a case of natural election or artificial
election to study, it is not in any self-sufficient superiority or
aim thereat that the essence of Judaism lies, but in an apostolic
altruism. The old Hebrew writers indeed--when one considers the
impress the Bible was destined to make on the faith, art, and
imagination of the world--might well be credited with the intuition of
genius in attributing to their people a quality of election. And the
Jews of to-day in attributing to themselves that quality would have
the ground not only of intuition but of history. Nevertheless that
election is, even by Jewish orthodoxy, conceived as designed solely
for world-service, for that spiritual mission for which Israel when
fashioned was exiled and scattered like wind-borne seeds, and of the
consummation of which his ultimate repatriation and glory will be but
the symbol. It is with _Alenu_ that every service ends--the prayer
for the coming of the Kingdom of God, "when Thou wilt remove the
abominations from the earth, and the idols will be utterly cut off,
when the world will be perfected under the Kingdom of the Almighty and
all the children of flesh will call upon Thy name, when Thou wilt turn
unto Thyself all the wicked of the earth.... In that day the Lord
shall be One and His name One." Israel disappears altogether in this
diurnal aspiration.


Israel disappears, too, in whole books of the Old Testament. What has
the problem of Job, the wisdom of Proverbs, or the pessimism of
Ecclesiastes to do with the Jew specifically? The Psalter would
scarcely have had so universal an appeal had it been essentially
rooted in a race.

In the magnificent cosmic poem of Psalm civ--half Whitman, half St.
Francis--not only his fellow-man but all creation comes under the
benediction of the Hebrew poet's mood. "The high hills are for the
wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the conies.... The young lions
roar after their prey, and seek their food from God ... man goeth
forth unto his work, and to his labour until the evening." Even in a
more primitive Hebrew poet the same cosmic universalism reveals
itself. To the bard of Genesis the rainbow betokens not merely a
covenant between God and man but a "covenant between God and every
living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth."

That the myth of the tribalism of the Jewish God should persist in
face of such passages can only be explained by the fact that He shares
in the unpopularity of His people. Mr. Wells, for example, in his
finely felt but intellectually incoherent book, "God the Invisible
King," dismisses Him as a malignant and partisan Deity, jealous and
pettily stringent. At most one is entitled to say with Mr. Israel
Abrahams in his profound little book on "Judaism" that "God, in the
early literature a tribal, non-moral Deity, was in the later
literature a righteous ruler, who, with Amos and Hosea, loved and
demanded righteousness in man," and that there was an expansion from a
national to a universal Ruler. But if "by early literature" anybody
understand simply Genesis, if he imagines that the evolutionary
movement in Judaism proceeds regularly from Abraham to Isaiah, he is
grossly in error. No doubt all early gods are tribal, all early
religions connected with the hearth and ancestor worship, but the God
of Isaiah is already in Genesis, and the tribal God has to be exhumed
from practically all parts of the Bible. But even in the crudities of
Genesis or Judges that have escaped editorship I cannot find Mr.
Wells's "malignant" Deity--_He_ is really "the invisible King." The
very first time Jehovah appears in His tribal aspect (Genesis xii.)
His promise to bless Abraham ends with the assurance--and it almost
invariably accompanies all the repetitions of the promise--"And in
thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Nay, as I
pointed out in my essay on "The Gods of Germany," the very first words
of the Bible, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,"
strike a magnificent note of universalism, which is sustained in the
derivation of all humanity from Adam, and again from Noah, with one
original language. Nor is this a modern gloss, for the Talmud already
deduces the interpretation. Racine's "Esther" in the noble lines
lauded by Voltaire might be almost rebuking Mr. Wells:--

    Ce Dieu, maître absolu de la terre et des cieux,
    N'est point tel que l'erreur le figure à vos yeux:
    L'Eternel est son nom, le monde est son ouvrage;
    Il entend les soupirs de l'humble qu'on outrage,
    Juge tous les mortels avec d'égales lois,
    Et du haut de son trône interroge les rois.

--there is the true Hebrew note, the note denounced of Nietzsche.

Is this notorious "tribal God" the God of the Mesopotamian sheikh
whose seed was so invidiously chosen? Well, but of this God Abraham
asks--in what I must continue to call the epochal sentence in the
Bible--"Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Abraham, in
fact, bids God down as in some divine Dutch auction--Sodom is not to
be destroyed if it holds fifty, forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty, nay
ten righteous men. Compare this ethical development of the ancestor of
Judaism with that of Pope Gregory XIII, in the sixteenth century, some
thirty-one centuries later: _Civitas ista potest esse destrui quando
in ea plures sunt hæretici_ ("A city may be destroyed when it harbours
a number of heretics"). And this claim of man to criticize God Jehovah
freely concedes. Thus the God of Abraham is no God of a tribe, but,
like the God of the Rabbi who protested against the Bath-Kol, the God
of Reason and Love. As clearly as for the nineteenth-century
Martineau, "the seat of authority in Religion" has passed to the
human conscience. God Himself appeals to it in that inversion of the
Sodom story, the story of Jonah, whose teaching is far greater and
more wonderful than its fish. And this Abrahamic tradition of free
thought is continued by Moses, who boldly comes between Jehovah and
the people He designs to destroy. "Wherefore should the Egyptians
speak, saying, For evil did He bring them forth to slay them in the
mountains...? Turn from Thy fierce wrath and repent of this evil
against Thy people." Moses goes on to remind Him of the covenant, "And
the Lord repented of the evil which He said He would do unto His
people." In the same chapter, the people having made a golden calf,
Moses offers his life for their sin; the Old Testament here, as in so
many places, anticipating the so-called New, but rejecting the notion
of vicarious atonement so drastically that the attempt of dogmatic
Christianity to base itself on the Old Testament can only be described
as text-blind. And the great answer of Jehovah to Moses's
questioning--"I AM THAT I AM"--yields already the profound
metaphysical Deity of Maimonides, that "invisible King" whom the
anonymous New Year liturgist celebrates as:

      Highest divinity,
    Dynast of endlessness,
    Timeless resplendency,
    Worshipped eternally,
      Lord of Infinity!

And the fact that Moses himself was married to an Egyptian woman and
that "a mixed multitude" went up with the Jews out of Egypt shows
that the narrow tribalism of Ezra and Nehemiah, with the regrettable
rejection of the Samaritans, was but a temporary political necessity;
while the subsequent admission into the canon of the book of "Ruth,"
with its moral of the descent of the Messiah himself from a Moabite
woman, is an index that universalism was still unconquered. We have,
in fact, the recurring clash of centripetal and centrifugal forces,
and what assured the persistence and assures the ultimate triumph of
the latter is that the race being one with the religion could not
resist that religion's universal implications. If there were only a
single God, and He a God of justice and the world, how could He be
confined to Israel? The Mission could not but come. The true God,
urges Mr. Wells, has no scorn or hatred for those who seek Him through
idols. That is exactly what Ibn Gabirol said in 1050. But those blind
seekers needed guiding. Religion, in fact, not race, has always been
the governing principle in Jewish history. "I do not know the origin
of the term Jew," says Dion Cassius, born in the second century. "The
name is used, however, to designate all who observe the customs of
this people, even though they be of different race." Where indeed lay
the privilege of the Chosen People when the Talmud defined a
non-idolater as a Jew, and ranked a Gentile learned in the Torah as
greater than the High Priest? Such learned proselytes arose in Aquila
and Theodotion each of whom made a Greek version of the Bible; while
the orthodox Jew hardly regards his Hebrew text as complete unless
accompanied by the Aramaic version popularly ascribed to the proselyte
Onkelos. The disagreeable references to proselytes in Rabbinic
literature, the difficulties thrown in their way, and the grotesque
conception of their status towards their former families, cannot
counterbalance the fact, established by Radin in his learned work,
"The Jews Among the Greeks and Romans," that there was a carefully
planned effort of propaganda. Does not indeed Jesus tell the
Pharisees: "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte"? Do not
Juvenal and Horace complain of this Judaising? Were not the Idumeans
proselytised almost by force? "The Sabbath and the Jewish fasts,"
says Lecky, doubtless following Josephus, "became familiar facts in
all the great cities." And Josephus himself in that answer to Apion,
which Judaism has strangely failed to rank as one of its greatest
documents, declares in noble language: "There ought to be but one
Temple for one God ... and this Temple common to all men, because He
is the common God of all men."

It would be a very tough tribal God that could survive worshippers of
this temper. An ancient Midrash taught that in the Temple there were
seventy sacrifices offered for the seventy nations. For the mediæval
and rationalist Maimonides the election of Israel scarcely
exists--even the Messiah is only to be a righteous Conqueror, whose
success will be the test of his genuineness. And Spinoza--though he,
of course, is outside the development of the Synagogue proper--refused
to see in the Jew any superiority save of the sociological system for
ensuring his eternity. The comparatively modern Chassidism,
anticipating Mazzini, teaches that every nation and language has a
special channel through which it receives God's gifts. Of contemporary
Reform Judaism, the motto "Have we not one father, hath not one God
created us?" was formally adopted as the motto of the Congress of
Religions at Washington. "The forces of democracy _are_ Israel," cries
the American Jew, David Lubin, in an ultra-modern adaptation of the
Talmudic scale of values. There is, in fact, through our post-biblical
literature almost a note of apology for the assumption of the Divine
mission: perhaps it is as much the offspring of worldly prudence as of
spiritual progress. The Talmud observed that the Law was only given to
Israel because he was so peculiarly fierce he needed curbing. Abraham
Ibn Daud at the beginning of the twelfth century urged that God had to
reveal Himself to some nation to show that He did not hold Himself
aloof from the universe, leaving its rule to the stars: it is the very
argument as to the need for Christ employed by Mr. Balfour in his
"Foundations of Belief." Crescas, in the fourteenth century,
declared--like an earlier Buckle--that the excellence of the Jew
sprang merely from the excellence of Palestine. Mr. Abelson, in his
recent valuable book on Jewish mysticism, alleges that when Rabbi
Akiba called the Jews "Sons of God" he meant only that all other
nations were idolaters. But in reality Akiba meant what he said--what
indeed had been said throughout the Bible from Deuteronomy downwards.
In the words of Hosea:

    When Israel was a child, then I loved him,
    And out of Egypt I called My son.

No evidence of the universalism of Israel's mission can away with the
fact that it was still _his_ mission, the mission of a Chosen People.
And this conviction, permeating and penetrating his whole literature
and broidering itself with an Oriental exuberance of legendary
fantasy, poetic or puerile, takes on in places an intimacy, sometimes
touching in its tender mysticism, sometimes almost grotesque in its
crude reminder to God that after all His own glory and reputation are
bound up with His people's, and that He must not go too far in His
chastisements lest the heathen mock. Reversed, this apprehension
produced the concept of the _Chillul Hashem_, "the profanation of the
Name." Israel, in his turn, was in honour bound not to lower the
reputation of the Deity, who had chosen him out. On the contrary, he
was to promote the _Kiddush Hashem_ "the sanctification of the Name."
Thus the doctrine of election made not for arrogance but for a sense
of _Noblesse oblige_. As the "Hymn of Glory" recited at New Year says
in a more poetic sense: "His glory is on me and mine on Him." "He
loves His people," says the hymn, "and inhabits their praises."
Indeed, according to Schechter, the ancient Rabbis actually conceived
God as existing only through Israel's continuous testimony and ceasing
were Israel--_per impossibile_--to disappear. It is a mysticism not
without affinity to Mr. Wells's. A Chassidic Rabbi, quoted by Mr.
Wassilevsky, teaches in the same spirit that God and Israel, like
Father and Son, are each incomplete without the other. In another
passage of Hosea--a passage recited at the everyday winding of
phylacteries--the imagery is of wedded lovers. "I will betroth thee
unto Me for ever, Yea I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness and
in judgment and in loving-kindness and in mercy."

But it is in the glowing, poetic soul of Jehuda Ha-Levi that this
election of Israel, like the passion for Palestine, finds its supreme
and uncompromising expression. "Israel," declares the author of the
"Cuzari" in a famous dictum, "is among the nations like the heart
among the limbs." Do not imagine he referred to the heart as a pump,
feeding the veins of the nations--Harvey was still five centuries in
the future--he meant the heart as the centre of feeling and the symbol
of the spirit. And examining the question why Israel had been thus
chosen, he declares plumply that it is as little worthy of
consideration as why the animals had not been created men. This is, of
course, the only answer. The wind of creation and inspiration bloweth
where it listeth. As Tennyson said in a similar connection:

    And if it is so, so it is, you know,
    And if it be so, so be it!


But although, as with all other manifestations of genius, Science
cannot tell us why the Jewish race was so endowed spiritually, it can
show us by parallel cases that there is nothing unique in considering
yourself a Chosen People--as indeed the accusation with which we began
reminds us. And it can show us that a nation's assignment of a mission
to itself is not a sudden growth. "Unlike any other nation," says the
learned and saintly leader of Reform Judaism, Dr. Kohler, in his
article on "Chosen People" in the _Jewish Encyclopædia_, "the Jewish
people began their career conscious of their life-purpose and
world-duty as the priests and teachers of a universal religious
truth." This is indeed a strange statement, and only on the theory
that its author was expounding the biblical standpoint, and not his
own, can it be reconciled with his general doctrine of progress and
evolution in Hebrew thought. It would seem to accept the Sinaitic
Covenant as a literal episode, and even to synchronise the Mission
with it. But an investigation of the history of other Chosen Peoples
will, I fear, dissipate any notion that the Sinaitic Covenant was
other than a symbolic summary of the national genius for religion, a
sublime legend retrospectively created. And the mission to other
nations must have been evolved still later. "The conception or feeling
of a mission grew up and was developed by slow degrees," says Mr.
Montefiore, and this sounds much nearer the truth. For, as I said,
history is the sole clue to the Bible--history, which according to
Bacon, is "philosophy teaching by example." And the more modern the
history is, and the nearer in time, the better we can understand it.
We have before our very eyes the moving spectacle of the newest of
nations setting herself through a President-Prophet the noblest
mission ever formulated outside the Bible. Through another great
prophet--sprung like Amos from the people--through Abraham Lincoln,
America had already swept away slavery. I do not know exactly when she
began to call herself "God's own country," but her National Anthem,
"My Country, 'tis of thee," dating from 1832, fixes the date when
America, soon after the second war with England, which ended in 1814,
consciously felt herself as a Holy Land; far as visitors like Dickens
felt her from the perfection implied in her soaring Spread-Eagle
rhetoric. The Pilgrim Fathers went to America merely for their own
freedom of religious worship: they were actually intolerant to others.
From a sectarian patriotism developed what I have called "The Melting
Pot," with its high universal mission, first at home and now over the
world at large.

The stages of growth are still more clearly marked in English history.
That national self-consciousness which to-day gives itself the mission
of defending the liberties of mankind, and which stands in the breach
undaunted and indomitable, began with that mere insular patriotism
which finds such moving expression in the pæan of Shakespeare:

    This happy breed of men, this little world,
    This precious stone set in the silver sea,
         .     .     .     .     .     .     .
    This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
         .     .     .     .     .     .     .
    This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land.

This sense of itself had been born only in the thirteenth century, and
at first the growing consciousness of national power, though it soon
developed an assurance of special protection--"the favour of the love
of Heaven," wrote Milton in his "Areopagitica," "we have great
argument to think in a peculiar manner propitious and propending
towards us"--was tempered by that humility still to be seen in the
liturgy of its Church, which ascribes its victories not to the might
of the English arm, but to the favour of God. But one hundred and
twenty-five years after Shakespeare, the land which the Elizabethan
translators of the Bible called "Our Sion," and whose mission,
according to Milton, had been to sound forth "the first tidings and
trumpet of reformation to all Europe," had sunk to the swaggering
militarism that found expression in "Rule, Britannia."

    When Britain first at Heaven's command
      Arose from out the azure main,
    This was the charter of the land,
      And guardian angels sung this strain:
        Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
        Britons never will be slaves.

    The nations not so blest as thee
      Must in their turn to tyrants fall;
    While thou shalt flourish, great and free,
      The dread and envy of them all.

    To thee belongs the rural reign,
      Thy cities shall with commerce shine:
    All thine shall be the subject main,
      And every shore it circles, thine.

It is the true expression of its period--a period which Sir John
Seeley in his "Expansion of England" characterizes as the period of
the struggle with France for the possession of India and the New
World: there were no less than seven wars with France, for France had
replaced Spain in that great competition of the five western maritime
States of Europe for Transatlantic trade and colonies, in which Seeley
sums up the bulk of two centuries of European history. Well may Mr.
Chesterton point to the sinking of the Armada as the date when an Old
Testament sense of being "answered in stormy oracles of air and sea"
lowered Englishmen into a Chosen People. Shakespeare saw the sea
serving England in the modest office of a moat: it was now to be the
high-road of Empire. The Armada was shattered in 1588. In 1600 the
East India Company is formed to trade all over the world. In 1606 is
founded the British colony of Virginia and in 1620 New England. It
helps us to understand the dual and conflicting energies stimulated in
the atmosphere of celestial protection, if we recall that it was in
1604 that was initiated the great Elizabethan translation of the

In Cromwell, that typical Englishman, these two strands of impulse
are seen united. Ever conceiving himself the servant of God, he seized
Jamaica in a time of profound peace and in defiance of treaty. Was not
Catholic Spain the enemy of God? _Delenda est Carthago_ is his feeling
towards the rival Holland. Miracles attend his battle. "The Lord by
his Providence put a cloud over the Moon, thereby giving us the
opportunity to draw off those horse." Yet this elect of God ruthlessly
massacres surrendered Irish garrisons. "Sir," he writes with almost
childish naïveté, "God hath taken away your eldest son by a cannon
shot." We do not need Carlyle's warning that he was not a hypocrite.
Does not Marvell, lamenting his death, record in words curiously like
Bismarck's that his deceased hero

    The soldier taught that inward mail to wear
    And fearing God, how they should nothing fear?

The fact is that great and masterful souls identify themselves with
the universe. And so do great and masterful nations. It is a dangerous

At the death of Queen Anne England stood at the top of the nations.
But it was a greatness tainted by the slave-trade abroad, and poverty,
ignorance, and gin-drinking at home. We recapture the atmosphere of
"Rule, Britannia" when we recall that Thomson wrote it to the peals of
the joy-bells and the flare of the bonfires by which the mob
celebrated its forcing Walpole into a war to safeguard British trade
in the Spanish main. Seeley claims, indeed, that the growth of the
Empire was always sub-conscious or semi-conscious at its best. This is
not wholly true, for in "The Masque of Alfred" in which "Rule,
Britannia" is enshrined, Thomson displays as keen and exact a sense of
the lines of England's destiny as Seeley acquired by painful historic
excogitation. For after a vision which irresistibly recalls the
grosser Hebrew prophecies:

    I see thy commerce, Britain, grasp the world:
    All nations serve thee; every foreign flood,
    Subjected, pays its tribute to the Thames,

he points to the virgin shores "beyond the vast Atlantic surge" and

                              This new world,
    Shook to its centre, trembles at her name:
    And there her sons, with aim exalted, sow
    The seeds of rising empire, arts, and arms.

    Britons, proceed, the subject deep command,
    Awe with your navies every hostile land.
    Vain are their threats, their armies all are vain:
    They rule the balanced world who rule the main.

But you have only to remember that Seeley's famous book was written
expressly to persuade the England of 1883 _not_ to give up India and
the Colonies, to see how little "Rule, Britannia" expressed the truer
soul of Britain. The purification of England which the Methodist
movement began and which manifested itself, among other things, in
sweeping away the slave-trade, necessitated a less crude formula for
the still invincible instinct of expansion, and in Kipling a prophet
arose, of a genius akin to that of the Old Testament, to spiritualize
the doctrine of the Chosen People. The mission which in Thomson is
purely self-centred becomes in Kipling almost as universal as the
visions of the Hebrew bards.

    The Lord our God Most High,
    He hath made the deep as dry,
    He hath smote for us a pathway to the ends of all the earth.

But it is only as the instrument of His purpose, and that purpose is
characteristically practical.

    Keep ye the Law--be swift in all obedience;
    Clear the land of evil, drive the road and bridge the ford,
        Make ye sure to each his own,
        That he reap where he hath sown;
    By the peace among our peoples let men know we serve the Lord.

And it is a true picture of British activities. Even thus has England
on the whole ruled the territories into which adventure or economic
motives drew her. The very Ambassador from Germany, Prince Lichnowsky,
agrees with Rhodes that the salvation of mankind lies in British
imperialism. But note how the less spiritual factors are ignored, how
the prophet presents his people as a nation of pioneer martyrs, how
the mission, finally become conscious of itself, gilds with backward
rays the whole path of national advance, as the trail of light from
the stern of a vessel gives the illusion that it has come by a shining
road. Missions are not discovered till they are already in action. Not
unlike those archers of whom the Talmud wittily says, they first shoot
the arrow and then fix the target, nations ascribe to themselves
purposes of which they were originally unconscious. First comes the
tingling consciousness of achievement and power, then a glamour of
retrospective legend to explain and justify it. Thus it is that that
great struggle for sea-power to which Spain, Portugal, Holland,
England, and France all contributed maritime genius and boundless
courage, becomes transformed under the half-accidental success of one
nation into an almost religious epic of a destined wave-ruler. There
could not be a finer British spirit than Mr. Chesterton's fallen
friend, the poet Vernède, yet even he writes:--

    God grant to us the old Armada weather.

Thomson was not poet enough--nor the eighteenth century naïve
enough--to create a legend in sober earnest. But the fact that he
throws "Rule, Britannia" eight centuries back to the time of Alfred
the Great, before whom this glorious pageant of his country's future
is prophetically unrolled, serves to illustrate the retrospective
habit of national missions.

The history of England is brief, and the mission evolved in her seven
centuries has not yet finally shaped itself, is indeed now shaping
itself afresh in the furnace of war. Her poets have not always
troubled with the soul of her. They have often, as Courthope
complained of Keats, turned away from her destinies to

    Magic casements opening on the foam
    Of faëry lands in perilous seas forlorn.

But Israel had abundant time to perfect her conception of herself.
From Moses to Ezra was over a thousand years, and the roots of the
race are placed still earlier. Can we doubt it was by a process
analogous to that we see at work in England, that Israel evolved into
a People chosen for world-service? The Covenant of Israel was
inscribed slowly in the Jewish heart: it had no more existence
elsewhere than the New Covenant which Jeremiah announced the Lord
would write there, no more objective reality than the Charter which
Britain received when "first at Heaven's command" she "rose from out
the azure main," or than that _Contrat Social_ by which Rousseau
expressed the rights of the individual in society. But to say this is
not to make the mission false. Ibsen might label these vitalizing
impulses "Life-illusions," but the criteria of objective truth do not
apply to volitional verities. National missions become false only when
nations are false to them. Nor does the gradualness of their evolution
rob them of their mystery. _Hamlet_ is not less inspired because
Shakespeare began as a writer of pothooks and hangers.

If it is suggested that to explain the Bible by men and nations under
its spell is to reason in a circle, the answer is that the biblical
vocabulary merely provides a medium of expression for a universal
tendency. Claudian, addressing the Emperor Theodosius, wrote:--

    O nimium dilecte deo, cui militat æther.

The Egyptian god Ammon, in the great battle epic of Rameses II,
assured the monarch:--

    Lo, I am with thee, my son; fear not, Ramessu Miammon!
    Ra, thy father, is with thee, his hand shall uphold thee in danger,
    More am I worth unto thee than thousands and thousands of soldiers.

The preamble to the modern Japanese Constitution declares it to be "in
pursuance of a great policy co-extensive with the Heavens and the


Returning now finally to our starting-point, the proposition that
"Germanism is Judaism," we are able to see its full grotesqueness. If
Germanism resembles Judaism, it is as a monkey resembles a man. Where
it does suggest Judaism is in the sense it gives the meanest of its
citizens that they form part of a great historic organism, which moves
to great purposes: a sense which the poorer Englishman has
unfortunately lacked, and which is only now awakening in the common
British breast. But even here the affinities of Germany are rather
with Japan than with Judæa. For in Japan, too, beneath all the
romance of Bushido and the Samurai, lies the asphyxiation of the
individual and his sacrifice to the State. It is the resurrection of
those ancient Pagan Constitutions for which individuality scarcely
existed, which could expose infants or kill off old men because the
State was the supreme ethical end; it is the revival on a greater
scale of the mediæval city commune, which sucked its vigorous life
from the veins of its citizens. Even so Prussia, by welding its
subservient citizens into one gigantic machine of aggression, has
given a new reading to the Gospel: "Blessed are the meek, for they
shall inherit the earth."

Nietzsche, who, though he strove to upset the old Hebrew values, saw
clearly through the real Prussian peril, defined such a State as that
"in which the slow suicide of all is called Life," and "a welcome
service unto all preachers of death"--a cold, ill-smelling, monstrous
idol. Nor is this the only affinity between Prussia and Japan. "We
are," boasts a Japanese writer, "a people of the present and the
Tangible, of the Broad Daylight and the Plainly Visible."

But Germany was not always thus. "High deeds, O Germans, are to come
from you," wrote Wordsworth in his "Sonnets dedicated to Liberty." And
it throws light upon the nature of Missions to recall that when she
lay at the feet of Napoleon after Jena, the mission proclaimed for her
by Fichte was one of peace and righteousness--to penetrate the life of
humanity by her religion--and he denounced the dreams of universal
monarchy which would destroy national individuality. Calling on his
people as "the consecrated and inspired ones of a Divine world-plan,"
"To you," he says, "out of all other modern nations the germs of human
perfection are especially committed. It is yours to found an empire of
mind and reason--to destroy the dominion of rude physical power as the
ruler of the world." And throwing this mission backwards, he sees in
what the outer world calls the invasion of the Roman Empire by the
Goths and Huns the proof that the Germans have always stemmed the tide
of tyrant domination. But Fichte belonged to the generation of Kant
and Beethoven. Hegel, coming a little later, though as non-nationalist
as Goethe, and a welcomer of the Napoleonic invasion, yet prophesied
that if the Germans were once forced to cast off their inertia, they,
"by preserving in their contact with outward things the intensity of
their inner life, will perchance surpass their teachers": and in
curiously prophetic language he called for a hero "to realize by blood
and iron the political regeneration of Germany."

If Treitschke, too, believed in force, he had a high moral ideal for
his nation. The other nations are feeble and decadent. Germany is to
hold the sceptre of the nations, so as to ensure the peace of the
world. It is only in Bernhardi that we find war in itself glorified as
the stimulus of nations. Even this ideal has a perverted nobility; as
Pol Arcas, a modern Greek writer, says: "If the devil knew he had
horns the cherubim would offer him their place." And though it was only
in the swelled head of the conqueror that the brutal philosophy of the
Will-to-Power germinated, it was not so much the "blood and iron" of
Junkerdom that perverted Prussia--Junkerdom still lives simply--as the
gross industrial prosperity that followed on the victory of 1870. A
modern German author describes his countrymen--it is true he has turned
Mohammedan, probably out of disgust--as tragically degenerated and
turned into a gold-greedy, pleasure-seeking, title-hungry pack. This
industrial transformation of the nobler soul of Germany is by
Verhaeren--attacking Judaism from another angle--ascribed to its Jews,
so it is comforting to remember that when England started the East
India Company there was scarcely a Jew in England. No, Germany is
clearly where England was in the seventeenth century, and in Prussia
England meets her past face to face. Her past, but infinitely more
conscious and consequent than her "Rule, Britannia" period, with a
ruthless logic that does not shrink from any conclusions. While
England's right hand hardly knew what her left was doing, Germany's
right hand is drawing up a philosophic justification of her sinister
activities. There is in Henry James's posthumous novel--"The Sense of
the Past"--a young man who gets locked up in the Past and cannot get
back to his own era. This is the fate that now menaces civilization.
Nor is the civilization that followed the struggle for America by the
scramble for Africa entirely blameless. Germany, federated too late for
the first mêlée and smarting under centuries of humiliation--did not
Louis XIV insolently seize Strassburg?--is avenging on our century the
sins of the seventeenth.

So far from Germanism being synonymous with Judaism, its analogies are
to be sought within the five maritime countries which preceded
Germany, albeit less efficiently, in the path of militarism. It is the
same alliance as prevailed everywhere between the traders and the
armies and navies, and the Kaiser's crime consists mainly in turning
back the movement of the world which through the Hague Conferences was
approaching brotherhood, or at least a mitigation of the horrors of
war. His blasphemies are no less archaic. He repeats Oliver Cromwell,
but with less simplicity, while his artistic aspiration complicates
the Puritan with the Cavalier. "From childhood," he is quoted as
saying, "I have been under the influence of five men--Alexander,
Julius Cæsar, Theodoric II, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon." No
great man moulds himself thus like others. It is but a theatrical
greatness. But anyhow none of these names are Jewish, and not thus
were "the Kings of Jerusalem" even "six thousand years ago." Our kings
had the dull duty of copying out and studying the Torah, and the
Rabbis reminded monarchy that the Torah demands forty-eight
qualifications, whereas royalty only thirty, and that the crown of a
good name is the best of all. Compare the German National Anthem
"Heil dir im Siegeskranz" with the noble prayer for the Jewish King in
the seventy-second psalm, if you wish to understand the difference
between Judaism and Germanism. This King, too, is to conquer his
enemies, but he is also to redeem the needy from oppression and
violence, "and precious will their blood be in his sight."


If I were asked to sum up in a word the essential difference between
Judaism and Germanism, it would be the word "Recessional." While the
prophets and historians of Germany monotonously glorify their nation,
the Jewish writers as monotonously rebuke theirs. "You only have I
known among all the families of the earth," says the message through
Amos. "_Therefore_ I will visit upon you all your iniquities." The
Bible, as I have said before, is an anti-Semitic book. "Israel is the
villain, not the hero, of his own story." Alone among epics, it is out
for truth, not high heroics. To flout the Pharisees was not reserved
for Jesus. "Behold, ye fast for strife and contention," said Isaiah,
"and to smite with the fist of wickedness." While some German writers,
not content with the great men Germany has so abundantly produced,
vaunt that all others, from Jesus to Dante, from Montaigne to Michael
Angelo, are of Teuton blood, Jewish literature unflinchingly exposes
the flaws even of a Moses and a David. It is this passion for veracity
unknown among other peoples--is even Washington's story told without
gloss?--that gives false colour to the legend of Israel's ancient
savagery. "The title of a nation to its territory," says Seeley, "is
generally to be sought in primitive times and would be found, if we
could recover it, to rest upon violence and massacre." The
dispossession of the Red Indian by America, of the Maori by New
Zealand, is almost within living memory. But in national legends this
universal process is sophisticated.

    Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento,

the Æneid told the all-invading Roman, putting of course the
contemporary ideal backwards--as all missons are put--and into the
prophetic mouth of Jove:--

    Hae tibi erunt artis, pacisque imponere morem,
    Parcere subjectis et debelare superbos.

It was for similarly exalted purposes that Israel was to occupy
Palestine, yet with what unique denigration the Bible turns upon him:
"Not for thy righteousness or for the uprightness of thy heart dost
thou go to possess this land; but for the wickedness of these nations
the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee."

In English literature this note of "Recessional" was sounded long
before Kipling. Milton, though he claimed that "God's manner" was to
reveal himself "first to His Englishmen," added that they "mark not
the methods of His counsel and are unworthy."

"Is India free," wrote Cowper, "or do we grind her still?" "Secure from
actual warfare," sang Coleridge, "we have loved to swell the
war-whoop." For Wordsworth England was simply the least evil of the
nations. And Mr. Chesterton has just written a "History of England" in
the very spirit of a Micah flagellating the classes "who loved fields
and seized them." But if in Germany a voice of criticism breaks the
chorus of self-adoration, it is usually from a Jew like Maximilian
Harden, for Jews, as Ambassador Gerard testifies, represent almost the
only real culture in Germany. I have been at pains to examine the
literature of the German Synagogue, which if Germanism were Judiasm,
ought to show a double dose of original sin. But so far from finding
any swagger of a Chosen People, whether Jewish or German, I find in its
most popular work--Lazarus's "Soziale Ethik im Judentum"--published as
late as November, 1913, by the League of German Jews--a grave
indictment of militarism. For the venerable philosopher, while justly
explaining the glamour of the army by its subordination of the
individual to the communal weal, yet pointed out emphatically that
what unites individuals separates nations. "The work of justice shall
be peace," he quotes from Isaiah. I am far from supposing that the old
Germany of Goethe and Schiller and Lessing is not still latent--indeed,
we know that one Professor suggested at a recent Nietzsche anniversary
that the Germans should try to rise not to Supermen but to Men, and
that another now lies in prison for explaining in his "Biologie des
Krieges" that the real objection to war is simply that it compels men
to act unlike men. So that, when moreover we remember that the noblest
and most practical treatise on "Perpetual Peace" came from that other
German professor, Kant, the hope is not altogether _ausgechlossen_ that
in the internal convulsion that must follow the war, there may be an
upheaval of that finer Germanism of which we should be only too proud
to say that it _is_ Judaism.


But meantime we are waiting, and the soul "waiteth for the Lord more
than watchmen look for the morning, yea, more than watchmen for the
morning." Again, as in earlier periods of history, the world lies in
darkness, listening to the silence of God--a silence that can be felt.

"Watchmen, what of the night?" Such a blackness fell upon the ancient
Jews when Hadrian passed the plough over Mount Zion. But, turning from
empty apocalyptic visions, they drew in on themselves and created an
inner Jerusalem, which has solaced and safeguarded them ever since.
Such a blackness fell on the ancient Christians when the Huns invaded
Rome, and the young Christian world, robbed of its millennial hopes,
began to wonder if perchance this was not the vengeance of the
discarded gods. But drawing in on themselves, they learned from St.
Augustine to create an inner "City of God." How shall humanity meet
this blackest crisis of all? What new "City of God" can it build on
the tragic wreckage of a thousand years of civilization? Has Israel no
contribution to offer here but the old quarrel with Christianity? But
that quarrel shrinks into comparative concord beside the common peril
from the resurrected gods of paganism, from Thor and Odin and Priapus.
And it was always an exaggerated quarrel--half misunderstanding, like
most quarrels. Neither St. Augustine nor St. Anselm believed God was
other than One. Jesus but applied to himself distributively--as
logicians say--those conceptions of divine sonship and suffering
service which were already assets of Judaism, and but for the theology
of atonement woven by Paul under Greek influences, either of them
might have carried Judaism forward on that path of universalism which
its essential genius demands, and which even without them it only just
missed. Is it not humiliating that Islam, whose Koran expressly
recalls its obligation to our prophets, should have beaten them in the
work of universalization? Maimonides acknowledged the good work done
by Jesus and Mohammed in propagating the Bible. But if the
universalism they achieved held faulty elements, is that any reason
why the purer truth should shrink from universalization? Has Judaism
less future than Buddhism--that religion of negation and
monkery--whose sacred classics enjoin the Bhiksu to camp in and
contemplate a cemetery? Has it less inspiration and optimism than that
apocalyptic vision of the ultimate victory of Good which consoles the
disciples of Zoroaster? If there is anything now discredited in its
ancient Scriptures, the Synagogue can, as of yore, relegate it to the
Apocrypha, even as it can enrich the canon with later expressions of
the Hebrew genius. Its one possible rival, Islam, is, as Kuenen
maintains, as sterile for the future as Buddhism, too irretrievably
narrowed to the Arab mentality. But why, despite his magnificent
tribute to Judaism, does this unfettered thinker imagine that the last
word is with Christianity? Eucken, too, would call the future
Christian, though he rejects the Incarnation and regards the Atonement
as injurious to religion, and the doctrine of the Trinity as a
stumbling-block rather than a help. Abraham Lincoln being only a plain
man, was not able to juggle with himself like a German theologian, and
with the simplicity of greatness he confessed: "I have never united
myself to any Church, because I have found difficulty in giving my
assent, without mental reservation, to the long, complicated
statements of the Christian doctrine which characterize their Articles
of Belief and Confessions of Faith." "When any church," he added,
"will inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualification for
membership, ... 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy might, and thy neighbour as
thyself,' that church will I join with all my heart and with all my

Can one read this and not wonder what Judaism has been about that
Lincoln did not even know there _was_ such a church? But call the
coming religious reconstruction what you will, what do names matter
when all humanity is crucified, what does anything matter but to save
it from meaningless frictions and massacres? "Would that My people
forgot Me and kept My commandments," says the Jerusalem Talmud. Too
long has Israel been silent. "Who is blind," says the prophet, "but
My servant, or deaf as My messenger?" He is not deaf to-day, he is
only dumb. But the voice of Jerusalem must be heard again when the new
world-order is shaping. The Chosen People must choose. To be or not to
be. "The religion of the Jews is indeed a light," said Coleridge in
his "Table Talk," "but it is as the light of the glow-worm which gives
no heat and illumines nothing but itself." Why let a sun sink into a
glow-worm? And even a glow-worm should turn. It does not even
pay--that prudent maxim of the Babylonian Talmud, _Dina dimalchutha
dina_ ("In Rome do as the Romans"). Despite every effort of Jews as
individual citizens the world still tends to see them as Crabbe saw
them a century ago in his "Borough":--

    Nor war nor wisdom yields our Jews delight,
    They will not study and they dare not fight.

It is because they fight under no banner of their own. But the time
has come when they must fight as Jews--fight that "mental fight" from
which that greater English poet, Blake, declared he would not cease
till he had "built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land." To
build Jerusalem in every land--even in Palestine--that is the Jewish
mission. As Nina Salaman sings--and I am glad to end with the words of
a daughter of the lofty-souled scholar in whose honour this lecture is

    Wherefore else our age-long life, our wandering landless,
      Every land our home for ill or good?
    Ours it was long since to join the hands of nations
      Through the link of our own brotherhood.


DR. ISRAEL ABRAHAMS, Reader in Talmudic and Rabbinic
Literature in the University of Cambridge, in seconding the vote of
thanks to the speakers, moved by the President of the Jewish
Historical Society (Sir Lionel Abrahams, K.C.B.), said that the
Chairman had already paid a tribute to the memory of Arthur Davis. But
a twice-told tale was not stale in repetition when the tale was told
of such a man. He was a real scholar; not only in the general sense of
one who loved great books, but also in the special sense that he
possessed the technical knowledge of an expert. His "Hebrew Accents"
reveals Arthur Davis in these two aspects. It shows mastery of an
intricate subject, a subject not likely to attract the mere
dilettante. But it also reveals his interest in the Bible as
literature. He appreciated both the music of words and the melody of
ideas. When the work appeared, a foreign scholar asked: "Who was his
teacher?" The answer was: himself. There is a rather silly proverb
that the self-taught man has a fool for his master. Certainly Arthur
Davis had no fool for his pupil. And though he had no teacher, he had
what is better, a fine capacity for comradeship in studies. "Acquire
for thyself a companion," said the ancient Rabbi. There is no
friendship equal to that which is made over the common study of books.
At the Talmud meetings held at the house of Arthur Davis were founded
lifelong intimacies. Unpretentious in their aim, there was in these
gatherings a harmony of charm and earnestness; pervading them was the
true "joy of service." Above all he loved the liturgy. Here the
self-taught man must excel. Homer said:--

    Dear to gods and men is sacred song.
    Self-taught I sing: by Heaven and Heaven alone
    The genuine seeds of poesy are sown.

And, as the expression of his inmost self, he gave us the best edition
of the Festival Prayers in any language: better than Sachs'--than
which praise can go no higher. This Prayer Book is his true memorial,
unless there be a truer still. Perhaps his feeling that he might
after all have lost something because he had no teacher made him so
wonderful a teacher of his own daughters. In their continuance of his
work his personality endures. At the end of his book on Accents he
quoted, in Hebrew, a sentence from Jeremiah, with a clever play on the
double meaning of the word which signifies at once "accent" and
"taste." Thinking of his record, and how his beautiful spirit animates
those near and dear to him, we may indeed apply to him this same text:
"His taste remaineth in him and his fragrance is not changed."


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chosen Peoples - Being the First "Arthur Davis Memorial Lecture" delivered before the Jewish Historical Society at University College on Easter-Passover Sunday, 1918/5678" ***

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