BY ADOLPH SAPHIR
This article is a chapter excerpt from Saphir's Christ and the Scriptures.
It was originally published in 1869.
Jesus was not merely man: He was a Jewish man; He belonged to Israel. We have already seen that this was according to God’s idea. But it may be necessary to add, that Jesus never gave up the Divine thought of Israel’s priority and peculiar position in the kingdom of God. While He protested the traditions of men, against Pharisaic pride and narrowness, He confirmed the promises made unto the Fathers. He spake of Jerusalem as the city of the great King, of the times of the Gentiles, and of Israel’s future return to Him; and in the full possession of the Spirit, He anticipated the time when every jot and tittle of the law and prophets shall be fulfilled. Jesus was the true Israelite. His nationality is apparent throughout. Israel, the chosen nation, the servant of God, the nation of priests unto God finds its true exponent and fulfilment, flower and perfect fruit, in Jesus, even as He is the spirit and root of Israel, root and Lord of David.
And it is for this very reason is Jesus the man for all men of all nations. For the only centre of catholicity is Jerusalem. The Jews were chosen to be a nation separate, but in order to bless all mankind Israel is to be the centre of light and blessedness for all people; the purpose of their election is universal; the secret aim of their isolation is expansion; the very joy and glory of their destiny is a world-wide influence. Jesus as the King of the Jews, Jesus as the true Israel, is appointed to draw all men and to rule all men.
As it is with Jesus, so it is with Scripture. It is Jewish and universal. Universal, not in spite, but in virtue, of Jewish character. In order to be universal, it must not be Paganised or Gentilised, or stript of its Jewish character. Its Jewish character is not a garment in which it is accidentally clothed; it is the body which the Spirit, according to God’s plan, has prepared. Eliminate the Jewish character, and you lose the essence: Christ and Christ’s thoughts are Jewish, and that according to God’s plan.
The Pagan and Gentile element in the Church has, to a very great extent, been the source of theoretical heresy and practical apostasy. And not even the Reformation has entirely got rid of the Gentile, though it freed itself nearly altogether form the Pagan element. Shem is to give room to Japheth; not Japheth to modify Shem. The facts and doctrines of the evangelists and apostles are Jewish; not otherwise can they be true understood.
The Messiah, the sin-bearing Lamb, the blood of Jesus Christ and all its efficacy, the kingdom of Israel, all the great, substantial, and glorious truths of the so-called “New Testament” have been often converted into Japhetic abstractions, in the well-meant hope of making them thereby accessible, plausible, and practical, to the Occidental mind. But in reality the offense of the cross is the ultimate source of this procedure. “Salvation is of the Jews;” and to Gentilise (Platonise) Jewish facts and ideas, is to falsify the Gospel, in order to please the Greeks who desire wisdom. Our theology (even that of believers) is far too abstract, unhistorical; looking at doctrines logically, instead of viewing them in connection with the history of the Kingdom and the Church. It is Japhetic, not Shemitic; it is Roman, logical, well-arranged, methodized, and scheduled; not Eastern according to the spirit and method of Scripture, which breathes in the atmosphere of a living God, who visits his people, and is coming again to manifest his glory.
The Scripture is like Jesus Christ, because He is the Spirit of Israel, and Scripture is the record of Israel, Viewing thus the Scripture as an organic growth (not an aggregate, a stone; but a plant), many interesting facts are explained, of which I single out only three:—
First. Every part is complete, containing the seed, the germ; and though subsequent parts contain a much fuller unfolding of the germ, the do not render their predecessors superfluous or antiquated. Thus the whole Gospel is in Genesis; even in Gen. iii. the Protevangelion contains the whole counsel of God in germ. More fully in Leviticus, more fully in David’s Psalms, more fully in Isaiah’s prophecy, more fully in Paul’s epistles. As Israel developed and grew in stature and wisdom (or rather the revelation of Christ in Israel, for the nation always fell short of the glory of God), so the Scripture develops. It is not that something is added to the old stock (as another stone to a collection of stones), but the plant, the organism, the body, grows. Beautiful and benign arrangement of our great and blessed God! Abraham rejoiced, and David rejoiced, and Isaiah rejoiced,, and Paul rejoiced; because to each there was given all, though on a different scale, in different degree and measure.
But though Paul possesses this whole more perfectly than David and Moses, does he throw aside David and Moses as a scaffolding is thrown aside when the building is finished? By no means: and, among many reasons, for this reason also,—that in Genesis, and in the Psalms, and the prophets, there is the revelation of a great comprehensive plan, the fulfillment of which reaches into the ages to come; so that without the previous portions of the Word we, and future generations, cannot be perfect; there is much of this whole which yet remains to be unfolded, and manifested in reality and actual existence. Thus the Apocalypse returns to Genesis, and the eleventh chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans leads us back to Moses and the prophets.
If the Bible were like a collection of stones, we might select some and put aside others, as less valuable and beautiful; and although in such selection we might make great mistakes, we should still be in possession of something more or less complete. But the Bible is like a plant, and all its parts are not mechanically or accidentally connected, but organically united, and hence a law of life rules here; an He who reveres life will neither add nor take away from the beautiful plant, which the Father hath planted in and through Christ by the Spirit.
Secondly. If the Bible is a plant, a growth, or body, there are portions which are inferior in importance, value, beauty, but none which can be separated from it, or in which the same blood, or sap, or spirit, does not live. No person denies that in the human body the lungs are more important than the limbs; the heart more essential to life than the eyes; the eye a more delicate and noble part than the foot. Nobody asserts that a man would be killed if you cut off his hair or his nails. But there is a vital union of all the members. If you cut off my little finger I shall survive it, but it is my little finger you cut off, and it is a loss, a disfigurement. So with the Bible. Who would assert, that a chapter of names in the book of Chronicles is as important and precious as the third chapter of John’s gospel? Or that the account of Paul’s shipwreck is as essential as the account of Christ’s sufferings? But what we say is, that all Scripture is one organism, and that the same wisdom and love have formed the whole; and that down to every branch, and bough, and lead, it lives and breathes, and is beautiful and good. And the reason why many historical, and statistical, and prophetic portions of Scripture seem to us unimportant and even unmeaning, is because we do not sufficiently live in the whole circle of Divine ideas and purposes.
Thirdly. Christ being thus the Spirit of Scripture as well as the Spirit of Israel, the substance of Scripture throughout is Himself. All divine revelations have Christ not merely for their Mediator, but for their centre. We have not merely a succession of prophetic announcements of his coming, his work, and glory, but in all God’s dealings with Israel He revealed Himself to them in Christ. Abraham beheld the day of Christ; the Rock that followed Israel through the wilderness was Christ. In his love and sympathy, in his sufferings and faith, David was a type of the great Shepherd-King, even as Solomon prefigured his glory and widespread dominion. Through all the festivals and sacrifices shone the light of God in Christ. That God would descend from heaven to earth was impressed on Israel by the constant appearance of God as angel or messenger, as Angel of the Covenant, Angel, in whom is God’s name; as God manifest, whom man can see face to face. And that from earth, from among Israel, would grow up before God One who was perfect, the Servant of the Lord, filled with the Spirit and the delight of the Father, a child born unto Israel, a Son given unto them, and yet the “PELE,” Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; this also the prophets expressed. Christ was thus beheld in a twofold aspect (which it must have been difficult to combine), Jehovah coming down, an Israel’s Representative, the Son of the Virgin of Zion, ascending from earth to heaven. They expected the Messenger of the Covenant from above. They saw a man who was Jehovah’s equal.
And as Christ’s person was the substance of all Jewish history and Scripture, his sufferings were continually witnessed in word, type, and experience.
Christ and Israel are thus connected, and for all ages, Scripture testifies of this Jehovah as Israel’s David, in whom glory cometh to the nation, and salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth. For the view which is so prevalent, that Israel is a shadow of the Church, and now the the type is fulfilled vanishes from our horizon, is altogether unscriptural. Israel is not the shadow fulfilled and absorbed in the Church, but the basis on which the Church rests. And although during the times of the Gentiles Israel, as a nation, is set aside, Israel is not cast away, because Israel is not a transitory and temporary, but an integral part of God’s counsel. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Israel was chosen to be God’s people, the centre of his influence and reign on earth in the ages to come. The Church in the present parenthetic period does not supplant them. The book of the Kingdom awaits its fulfilment; and the Church, instructed by Jesus and the apostles, is not ignorant of this mystery.
This view explains many portions of the Scripture, and likewise explains why many portions are obscure,—passages which refer not to the present dispensation, but to the Kingdom of which all prophets bear witness.
In the book of the Church we see, rooted in Israel, and beginning at Jerusalem, the history of Jesus and of the body joined to Him by the Spirit.
 Romans 15:8
 This view meets us in all the apostolic writings. I would direct the reader’s attention to the testimony of John, whose Gospel has been called “the Spiritual Gospel.” His use of the word “nation” (Israel) is striking (John xi. 52). Jesus should die, not only for that nation, but “that He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” We have here a nation and an election from among all peoples. Just as we read in Rev. vii. of the twelve tribes, and after this the great multitude of all nations, etc. Strange to say, this latter passage (verse 9) has been quoted to show that there is no more distinction between Israel and the other nations! See Romans 11