Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Unity of Mankind

Unity of Mankind.


The doctrine by which Judaism exerted the greatest influence upon the history of the world is, however, that of the unity of the human family. The first eleven chapters of Genesis, whatever the origin of the narrative may be (see Babylonia and Genesis), teach that all the tribes of men have descended from one parent, Adam (= "man"), and that consequently the various races constitute one family. This doctrine is the logical consequence of the other, the unity of God. The theology of Judaism shaped its anthropology also. Childlike as the story of the confusion of tongues at the building of the Tower of Babel may appear (Gen. xi. 1-9, probably based upon an old Babylonian myth relating to the battle of the giants with the celestial gods), the Jewish genius made it convey a great truth, namely: God dispersed men in order to cause the whole earth to be the habitation of the human race, and thus to found and establish the higher unity of man upon the greatest possible diversity. Accordingly the end of history is that the Lord shall "turnto the nations [A. V., incorrectly, "the people"] a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent" (Zeph. iii. 9; comp. Gen. ix. 1).

Here is foreshadowed the world-plan of salvation, the Kingdom of God, an idea peculiar to Judaism. As Creation is centered upon man, so is the perfection of humanity, through the unfolding of all the powers of man in the world, the aim of the world-drama of history (Gen. i. 28; Isa. xlv. 18). "The world was created for man" (Ber. 6b). "Abraham, the true type of humanity, would have been the first-created man had God not seen the necessity of making him the restorer of a world corrupted by sin since Adam's day." "The Torah given to Israel on Sinai was originally intended for Adam as the first man; but, seeing that the six Noachian commandments—that is, the unwritten laws of humanity—were kept by him, God reserved the Torah for the descendants of Abraham" (Eccl. R. iii. 11; comp. Gen. R. xvi. 9, xxiv. 5). By their non-observance of the Noachian laws (Gen. R. xxiii., xxxviii.) the early generations of men all failed to fulfil the design of the Creator; Abraham was therefore selected to bring men back to the way of righteousness (Gen. xviii. 19; Josh. xxiv. 3), and thus to reunite the world by making the God of heaven God of the earth also (Gen. R. xxxix. 13, lix. 11).

The Ten Words of Sinai, too, were intended for every nation; but when all the others refused to accept them and Israel alone merited the priesthood by promising "What the Lord sayeth we will do," the Owner of the whole earth rendered Israel "His peculiar treasure among the nations, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. xix. 1-8, xxiv. 7; Mek., Yitro, Bahodesh, 5; Sifre, Deut. 343; Pesiḳ. R. xxi.). In fact, the Ten Words of Sinai were promulgated in seventy languages in order that they might be understood by all of the seventy nations (Shab. 88b). "Had Israel not accepted the Law, the world would have been turned into chaos" (Shab. 88a).

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