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CHAPTER III

ARTICLES OF FAITH

It is often said that Judaism left belief free while it put conduct

into fetters. Neither half of this assertion is strictly true. Belief

was not free altogether; conduct was not altogether controlled. In the

_Mishnah_ (Sanhedrin, x. 1) certain classes of unbelievers are

pronounced portionless in the world to come. Among those excluded

from Paradise are men who deny the resurrection of the dead, and men

who refuse assent to the doctrine of the Divine origin of the Torah,

or Scripture. Thus it cannot be said that belief was, in the Rabbinic

system, perfectly free. Equal y inaccurate is the assertion that conduct

was entirely a matter of prescription. Not only were men praised for

works of supererogation, performance of more than the Law required; not

only were there important divergences in the practical rules of conduct

formulated by the various Rabbis; but there was a whole class of actions

described as 'matters given over to the heart,' delicate refinements

of conduct which the law left untouched and were a concern exclusively

of the feeling, the private judgment of the individual. The right of

private judgment was passionately insisted on in matters of conduct, as

when Rabbi Joshua refused to be guided as to his practical decisions by

the Daughter of the Voice, the supernatural utterance from on high. The

Law, he contended, is on earth, not in heaven; and man must be his own

judge in applying the Law to his own life and time. And, the Talmud adds,

God Himself announced that Rabbi Joshua was right.

Thus there was neither complete fluidity of doctrine nor complete rigidity

of conduct. There was freedom of conduct within the law, and there was

law within freedom of doctrine.

But Dr. Emil Hirsch puts the case fairly when he says: 'In the

same sense as Christianity or Islam, Judaism cannot be credited with

Articles of Faith. Many attempts have indeed been made at systematising

and reducing to a fixed phraseology and sequence the contents of the

Jewish religion. But these have always lacked the one essential element:

authoritative sanction on the part of a supreme ecclesiastical body'

(_Jewish Encyclopedia_, ii. 148).

Since the epoch of the Great Sanhedrin, there has been no central

authority recognised throughout Jewry. The Jewish organisation has long

been congregational. Since the fourth century there has been no body

with any jurisdiction over the mass of Jews. At that date the Calendar

was fixed by astronomical calculations. The Patriarch, in Babylon,

thereby voluntarily abandoned the hold he had previously had over the

scattered Jews, for it was no longer the fiat of the Patriarch that

settled the dates of the Festivals. While there was something like a

central authority, the Canon of Scripture had been fixed by Synods, but

there is no record of any attempt to promulgate articles of faith. During

the revolt against Hadrian an Assembly of Rabbis was held at Lydda. It was

then decided that a Jew must yield his life rather than accept safety from

the Roman power, if such conformity involved one of the three offences:

idolatry, murder, and unchastity (including, incest and adultery). But

while this decision throws a favourable light on the Rabbinic theory of

life, it can in no sense be cal ed a fixation of a creed. There were

numerous synods in the Middle Ages, but they invariably dealt with

practical morals or with the problems which arose from time to time in

regard to the relations between Jews and their Christian neighbours. It is

true that we occasional y read of excommunications for heresy. But in

the case, for instance, of Spinoza, the Amsterdam Synagogue was much

more anxious to dissociate itself from the heresies of Spinoza than to

compel Spinoza to conform to the beliefs of the Synagogue. And though

this power of excommunication might have been employed by the mediaeval

Rabbis to enforce the acceptance of a creed, in point of fact no such

step was ever taken.

Since the time of Moses Mendelssohn (1728-1786), the chief Jewish

dogma has been that Judaism has no dogmas. In the sense assigned above

this is clearly true. Dogmas imposed by an authority able and wil ing

to enforce conformity and punish dissent are non-existent in Judaism.

In olden times membership of the religion of Judaism was almost entirely

a question of birth and race, not of confession. Proselytes were admitted

by circumcision and baptism, and nothing beyond an acceptance of the

Unity of God and the abjuration of idolatry is even now required by way

of profession from a proselyte. At the same time the earliest passage

put into the public liturgy was the Shema' (Deuteronomy vi. 4-9), in

which the unity of God and the duty to love God are expressed. The Ten

Commandments were also recited daily in the Temple. It is instructive to

note the reason given for the subsequent removal of the Decalogue from the

daily liturgy. It was feared that some might assume that the Decalogue

comprised the whole of the binding law. Hence the prominent position

given to them in the Temple service was no longer assigned to the Ten

Commandments in the ritual of the Synagogue. In modern times, however,

there is a growing practice of reading the Decalogue every Sabbath day.

What we do find in Pharisaic Judaism, and this is the real answer to

Harnack (_supra_, p. 15), is an attempt to reduce the whole Law

to certain fundamental principles. When a would-be proselyte accosted

Hillel, in the reign of Herod, with the demand that the Rabbi should

communicate the whole of Judaism while the questioner stood on one foot,

Hillel made the famous reply: 'What thou hatest do unto no man; that

is the whole Law, the rest is commentary.' This recal s another famous

summarisation, that given by Jesus later on in the Gospel. A little

more than a century later, Akiba said that the command to love one's

neighbour is the fundamental principle of the Law. Ben Azzai chose for

this distinction another sentence: 'This is the book of the generations

of man,' implying the equality of al men in regard to the love borne by

God for His creatures. Another Rabbi, Simlai (third century), has this

remarkable saying: 'Six hundred and thirteen precepts were imparted unto

Moses, three hundred and sixty-five negative (in correspondence with

the days of the solar year), and two hundred and forty-eight positive

(in correspondence with the number of a man's limbs). David came and

established them as eleven, as it is written: A psalm of David--Lord

who shal sojourn in Thy tent, who shal dwel in Thy holy mountain?

(i) He that walketh uprightly and (ii) worketh righteousness and (ii )

speaketh the truth in his heart. (iv) He that backbiteth not with his

tongue, (v) nor doeth evil to his neighbour, (vi) nor taketh up a reproach

against another; (vii) in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, (vii ) but

who honoureth them that fear the Lord. (ix) He that sweareth to his own

hurt, and changeth not; (x) He that putteth not out his money to usury,

(xi) nor taketh a bribe against the innocent. He that doeth these things

shal never be moved. Thus David reduced the Law to eleven principles.

Then came Micah and reduced them to three, as it is written: 'What doth

the Lord require of thee but (i) to do justice, (ii) to love mercy, and

(i i) to walk humbly with thy God? Then came Habbakuk and made the whole

Law stand on one fundamental idea, 'The righteous man liveth by his faith'

(Makkoth, 23 b).

This desire to find one or a few general fundamental passages on

which the whole Scripture might be seen to base itself is, however,

far removed from anything of the nature of the Christian Creeds or

of the Mohammedan Kalimah. And when we remember that the Pharisees

and Sadducees differed on questions of doctrine (such as the belief in

immortality held by the former and rejected by the latter), it becomes

clear that the absence of a formal declaration of faith must have been

deliberate. The most that was done was to introduce into the Liturgy a

paragraph in which the assembled worshippers declared their assent to

the truth and permanent validity of the Word of God. After the Shema'

(whose contents are summarised above), the assembled worshippers daily

recited a passage in which they said (and stil say): 'True and firm is

this Thy word unto us for ever.... True is it that Thou art indeed our

God ... and there is none beside Thee.'

After all, the difference between Pharisee and Sadducee was political

rather than theological. It was not till Judaism came into contact,

contact alike of attraction and repulsion, with other systems that a

desire or a need for formulating Articles of Faith was felt. Philo, coming

under the Hellenic spirit, was thus the first to make the attempt. In

the last chapter of the tract on the Creation (_De Opifico_, lxi.),

Philo enumerates what he terms the five most beautiful lessons, superior

to al others. These are--(i) God is; (i ) God is One; (ii ) the World

was created (and is not eternal); (iv) the World is one, like unto God in

singleness; and (v) God exercises a continual providence for the benefit

of the world, caring for His creatures like a parent for his children.

Philo's lead found no imitators. It was not for many centuries that

two causes led the Synagogue to formulate a creed. And even then it

was not the Synagogue as a body that acted, nor was it a creed that

resulted. The first cause was the rise of sects within the Synagogue. Of

these sects the most important was that of the Karaites or Scripturalists.

Rejecting tradition, the Karaites expounded their beliefs both as a

justification of themselves against the Traditionalists and possibly as

a remedy against their own tendency to divide within their own order

into smaller sects. In the middle of the twelfth century the Karaite

Judah Hadassi of Constantinople arranged the whole Pentateuch under

the headings of the Decalogue, much as Philo had done long before.

And so he formulates ten dogmas of Judaism. These are--(i) Creation

(as opposed to the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of the world);

(i ) the existence of God; (i i) God is one and incorporeal; (iv) Moses

and the other canonical prophets were called by God; (v) the Law is the

Word of God, it is complete, and the Oral Tradition was unnecessary;

(vi) the Law must be read by the Jew in the original Hebrew; (vi ) the

Temple of Jerusalem was the place chosen by God for His manifestation;

(vi i) the Resurrection of the dead; (ix) the Coming of Messiah, son of

David; (x) Final Judgment and Retribution.

Within the main body of the Synagogue we have to wait for the same

moment for a formulation of Articles of Faith. Maimonides (1135-1204)

was a younger contemporary of Hadassi; he it was that drew up the one

and only set of principles which have ever enjoyed wide authority in

Judaism. Before Maimonides there had been some inclination towards

a creed, but he is the first to put one into set terms. Maimonides

was much influenced by Aristotelianism, and this gave him an impulse

towards a logical statement of the tenets of Judaism. On the other side,

he was deeply concerned by the criticism of Judaism from the side of

Mohammedan theologians. The latter contended, in particular, that the

biblical anthropomorphisms were destructive of a belief in the pure

spirituality of God. Hence Maimonides devoted much of his great treatise,

_Guide for the Perplexed_, to a philosophical al egorisation of the

human terms applied to God in the Hebrew Bible. In his Commentary on the

_Mishnah_ (Sanhedrin, Introduction to Chelek), Maimonides declares

'The roots of our law and its fundamental principles are thirteen.' These

are--(i) Belief in the existence of God, the Creator; (i ) belief in

the unity of God; (i i) belief in the incorporeality of God; (iv) belief

in the priority and eternity of God; (v) belief that to God and to God

alone worship must be offered; (vi) belief in prophecy; (vii) belief that

Moses was the greatest of al prophets; (vii ) belief that the Law was

revealed from heaven; (ix) belief that the Law wil never be abrogated,

and that no other Law wil ever come from God; (x) belief that God knows

the works of men; (xi) belief in reward and punishment; (xii) belief in

the coming of the Messiah; (xi i) belief in the resurrection of the dead.'

Now here we have for the first time a set of beliefs which were a test of

Judaism. Maimonides leaves no doubt as to his meaning. For he concluded

by saying: 'When all these principles of faith are in the safe keeping

of a man, and his conviction of them is wel established, he then enters

into the general body of Israel'; and, on the other hand: 'When, however,

a man breaks away from any one of these fundamental principles of belief,

then of him it is said that he has gone out of the general body of

Israel and he denies the root-truths of Judaism.' This formulation of

a dogmatic test was never confirmed by any body of Rabbis. No Jew was

ever excommunicated for declaring his dissent from these articles. No

Jew was ever called upon formal y to express his assent to them. But, as

Professor Schechter justly writes: 'Among the Maimonists we may probably

include the great majority of Jews, who accepted the Thirteen Articles

without further question. Maimonides must have fil ed up a great gap

in Jewish theology, a gap, moreover, the existence of which was very

general y perceived. A century had hardly lapsed before the Thirteen

Articles had become a theme for the poets of the Synagogue. And almost

every country can show a poem or a prayer founded on these Articles'

(_Studies in Judaism_, p. 301).

Yet the opposition to the Articles was both impressive and

persistent. Some denied altogether the admissibility of Articles,

claiming that the whole Law and nothing but the Law was the Charter of

Judaism. Others criticised the Maimonist Articles in detail. Certainly

they are far from logical y drawn up, some paragraphs being dictated

by opposition to Islam rather than by positive needs of the Jewish

position. A favourite condensation was a smaller list of three Articles:

(i) Existence of God; (i ) Revelation; and (ii ) Retribution. These three

Articles are usual y associated with the name of Joseph Albo (1380-1444),

though they are somewhat older. There is no doubt but that these Articles

found, in recent centuries, more acceptance than the Maimonist Thirteen,

though the latter stil hold their place in the orthodox Jewish Prayer

Books. They may be found in the _Authorised Daily Prayer Book_,

ed. Singer, p. 89.

Moses Mendelssohn (1728-1786), who strongly maintained that Judaism

is a life, not a creed, made the practice of formulating Articles of

Judaism unfashionable. But not for long. More and more, Judaic ritual has

fal en into disregard since the French Revolution. Judaism has therefore

tended to express itself as a system of doctrines rather than as a body

of practices. And there was a special reason why the Maimonist Articles

could not remain. Reference is not meant to the fact that many Jews came

to doubt the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch. But there were lacking in

the Maimonist Creed al emotional elements. On the one hand, Maimonides,

rationalist and anti-Mystic as he was, makes no al owance for the doctrine

of the Immanence of God. Then, owing to his unemotional nature, he laid

no stress on all the affecting and moving associations of the belief in

the Mission of Israel as the Chosen People. Before Maimonides, if there

had been one dogma of Judaism at al , it was the Election of Israel.

Jehuda Halevi, the greatest of the Hebrew poets of the Middle Ages,

had at the beginning of the twelfth century, some half century before

Maimonides, given expression to this in the famous epigram: 'Israel is

to the nations like the heart to the limbs.'

Though, however, the Creed of Maimonides has no position of authority

in the Synagogue, modern times have witnessed no successful intrusion of

a rival. Most writers of treatises on Judaism prefer to describe rather

than to define the religious tenets of the faith. In America there have

been several suggestions of a Creed. Articles of faith have been there

chiefly formulated for the reception of proselytes. This purpose is a

natural cause of precision in belief; for while one who already stands

within by birth or race is rarely called upon to justify his faith,

the newcomer is under the necessity to do so. In the pre-Christian

Judaism it is probable that there was a Catechism or short manual of

instruction called in Greek the _Didache_, in which the Golden Rule

in Hillel's negative form and the Decalogue occupied a front place. Thus

we find, too, modern American Jews formulating Articles of Faith as a

Proselyte Confession. In 1896 the Central Conference of American Rabbis

adopted the fol owing five principles for such a Confession: (i) God

the Only One; (ii) Man His Image; (i i) Immortality of the Soul; (iv)

Retribution; (v) Israel's Mission. During the past few months a tract,

entitled 'Essentials of Judaism,' has been issued in London by the Jewish

Religious Union. The author, N. S. Joseph, is careful to explain that he

is not putting forth these principles as 'dogmatic Articles of Faith,'

and that they are solely 'suggestive outlines of belief which may be

gradual y imparted to children, the outlines being afterwards fil ed

up by the teacher. But the eight paragraphs of these Essentials are at

once so ably compiled and so informing as to the modern trend of Jewish

belief that they will be here cited without comment.

According then to this presentation, the Essentials of Judaism are: '(i)

There is One Eternal God, who is the sole Origin of all things and forces,

and the Source of all living souls. He rules the universe with justice,

righteousness, mercy, and love. (i ) Our souls, emanating from God, are

immortal, and will return to Him when our life on earth ceases. While

we are here, our souls can hold direct communion with God in prayer and

praise, and in silent contemplation and admiration of His works. (ii )

Our souls are directly responsible to God for the work of our life on

earth. God, being All-merciful, wil judge us with loving-kindness, and

being All-just, wil allow for our imperfections; and we, therefore,

need no mediator and no vicarious atonement to ensure the future

welfare of our souls. (iv) God is the One and only God. He is Eternal

and Omnipresent. He not only pervades the entire world, but is also

within us; and His Spirit helps and leads us towards goodness and truth.

(v) Duty should be the moving force of our life; and the thought that God

is always in us and about us should incite us to lead good and beneficent

lives, showing our love of God by loving our fel ow-creatures, and working

for their happiness and betterment with al our might. (vi) In various

bygone times God has revealed, and even in our own days continues to

reveal to us, something of His nature and will, by inspiring the best

and wisest minds with noble thoughts and new ideas, to be conveyed to

us in words, so that this world may constantly improve and grow happier

and better. (vii) Long ago some of our forefathers were thus inspired,

and they handed down to us--and through us to the world at large--some

of God's choicest gifts, the principles of Religion and Morality, now

recorded in our Bible; and these spiritual gifts of God have gradually

spread among our fel ow-men, so that much of our religion and of its

morality has been adopted by them. (vi i) Til the main religious and

moral principles of Judaism have been accepted by the world at large,

the maintenance by the Jews of a separate corporate existence is a

religious duty incumbent upon them. They are the "witnesses" of God, and they must adhere to their religion, showing forth its truth and

excellence to al mankind. This has been and is and wil continue to

be their mission. Their public worship and private virtues must be the

outward manifestation of the fulfilment of that mission.'