1902 Encyclopedia > Christianity > The Relation of Christ and Christianity To What Went Before

Christianity
(Part 3)




The Relation of Christ and Christianity To What Went Before

Jesus Christ claimed to have a definite relation to the past history of that people among whom He was born. In His teaching He put himself at the end of the Old Testa-ment, and declared that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Christianity, therefore, however it be explained, has a close connection with Judaism, and the religion of Jesus cannot be considered without regard to the religion of Moses. This is now universally acknowledged, however variously the relation between the two may be explained. Criticism finds an ample confirmation of the claims of Christ in the intimate connection in which His teaching, life, and work stand to the Old Testament and the past life of the inspired Hebrew people. The whole of the Mosaic dispensation, the whole of the Jewish economy, with its prophecy, priesthood, and kingship, is recognized as summed up in the person and work of Christ. The Old Testament, which without Christ is but a collection of sacred books written at different times and in various manners is regarded when looked at through Christ as an harmonious whole of anticipatory revelation. Indeed, one of the chief differences which critical apologetic finds between the Old Testament and other so-called sacred books is, that Christ is at the end of the Old Testament, and that no other scriptures have such a conclusion. But all this implies that Christianity is a development from Judaism, and that our idea of the one will be modified by our conception of the other. Those who refuse to admit that Judaism is more than one of the many natural religions of mankind can hardly admit the supernatural character of Christianity, or regard it in any other light than as the outcome, perhaps the highest outcome possible, of that side in man's nature which has been called by some the religious faculty. Those who attempt to derive Mosaic institutions from Egypt, who seek the basis of Hebrew prophecy in epileptic tendencies, and see nothing in the theocratic idea which was not suggested by ordinary kingship, cannot have much difficulty in analyzing Christianity into the natural develop-ment of the religious sentiment aided by a somewhat extravagant enthusiasm. Those, on the other hand, who find it impossible to accept the assumptions, and to get over the innumerable difficulties attending the naturalist theory' of the Old Testament and of the history of the Hebrew people, find in Christianity something different in kind as well as in degree from all natural religions. Modern criticism even of the negative kind often indirectly supports the supernaturalist theory of the Old Testament and of Christianity, for its fundamental maxim, that waters cannot rise higher than their source, has proved the impossibility of explaining away Old Testament institutions and New Testament truths into merely the natural outcome of the religious faculties of a peculiar people. It has proved that the Old Testament religion contains materials which were not got from the intercourse of the Jews with other nations, and which did not arise naturally from the geographical position or the ethnographical characteristics of the Hebrew people. It has shown that the Old Testament religion was not a natural stream gathered from many a smaller rill, but came forth gushing, like the water of Hebrew history, from the Rock which contained it; and in doing so it has given its testimony to the altogether unique and supernatural character of Christianity.






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