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Church. Old Testament Church
Religion of Law and Prophets
In the works of Vladimir Solovyov

Not only the religion of the law,
but also the religion of the prophets

But the revelation of the Old Testament — and herein is its full truth and justification — contains in itself the acknowledgement that the religion of the law is not the normal, true religion, but only a necessary transition to another, non-external relation or bond with the divine beginning. This acknowledgement is expressed by the prophets, and the truth of the Old Testament religion of the Bible consists in the fact that it is not only the religion of the law, but also the religion of the prophets.

In the prophetic books we find clear indications that the law and the legal cult have a purely conditional and transitory importance.

“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.” (Isaiah I, 11-14).

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.” (Jeremiah VII, 21-23).

The ceremonies and sacrifices established by the law can in no way by themselves express the will of God: as unconditional, this will cannot be connected with any external object, no external action can satisfy it — before it disappear all differences between the holy and the impure in external objects and acts. Although certain acts are established by the law of Jehovah, yet there cannot be any internal relation between them and Jehovah, and if man thinks to satisfy the absolute will merely by the execution of those acts, these acts thereby become impure and criminal.

“Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol.” (Isaiah LXVI, 1-3).

But if the divine will can have no separate definite object — and yet as a will it must relate to something — then, obviously, its object can only be all. The will of God, as absolute, cannot exclude anything from itself, or what is the same thing, desire anything exclusively: knowing no privation, it knows no envy; it equally asserts the being and good of all, and therefore is defined itself as the unconditional grace or love. “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah XXXI, 3).

But if the will of God is love, then by this is determined the internal law for the human will also.

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:” (Isaiah LVIII, 6–10).

The will of God must be the law and norm for the human will not as ratified despotism, but as the cognated (and accepted, chosen) good. Upon this internal relationship is to be (established) a new covenant between God and mankind, a new divine-human order ('godmanhood') which is to replace the other, preliminary and transitiory, religion which was grounded in the external law.

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying: Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah XXXI, 31–34).

That new divine-human covenant, based upon the internal law of love, must be free from all exclusiveness: here there can be no place for any arbitrary choice or condemnation of persons and nations; the new internal covenant is the universal covenant, which restores all humanity, and through it also the whole of nature.

“And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law (the law-Giver, Adonai, the Messiah) and the word of the Lord (the Word, Christ) from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks:” (Isaiah II, 2–4).

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people, to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11, 6–10).

The prophetic consciousness
is the universal human consciousness

We have seen that the essential principle of Judaism — the revelation of God in his unconditional oneness, as the pure I — was being set free from its exclusiveness already in the revelation of the prophets of Israel, to whom God appeared not as the pure I only, which in its activity has no other basis besides the exclusively-subjective principle of arbitrary will that subjects man to itself by external force, arousing fear in him (as such to the Jew appeared, at first El-Shaddai, the God of force and fear; and as such, mainly, even now, Allah appears to the Mohammedans). To the prophets, God was revealed as possessing a definite, essential, ideal definition, as the all-embracing love — in consequence of which the action of God upon the 'other one', his relation to man, became defined by the objective idea of the absolute good, and the law of His being appeared no longer as a purely arbitrary will (in Himself) and an external, forced necessity (for man); but as an internal necessity, or true freedom. In conformity with this broadening of the religious principle, in the prophets the Jewish national consciousness also came to be broader. If the revelation of God as the exclusive I was answered in the people of God also with an exclusive assertion of its own national ego among other nations, then the consciousness to which God revealed Himself as the universal idea, as the all-embracing love, necessarily had to be emancipated from national egoism, necessarily had to become pan-human.

Such was, indeed the consciousness of the prophets. Jonah preached the will of Jehovah to the pagans of Nineveh; Isaiah and Jeremiah heralded the coming revelation as the banner of the nations, to which all nations shall flow. Yet the Jewish prophets were at the same time really the greatest patriots, fully permeated with the national idea of Judaism; precisely because they were completely permeated with it, they had to understand it as universal, as predestined for all men — as sufficiently great and broad to be able to unite with itself inwardly all humanity and the whole world. In this regard the example of the Jewish prophets — the greatest patriots and at the same time the greatest representatives of universalism — is in the highest degree instructive for us, for it points to the fact that if true patriotism is necessarily free from national exclusiveness and egoism, then at the same time and thereby, the true pan-human point of view, the true universalism, in order to be something, in order to possess actual force and positive content, must necessarily be an expansion or universalization of a positive national idea, but not an empty and indifferent cosmopolitanism.

Thus, in the prophetic consciousness, the subjective, purely personal element of the Old Testament Jahve [the extant One] was united for the first time with the objective idea of the universal divine essence. But since the prophets were inspired men of action, were practical men in the highest sense of that word, and not contemplative thinkers, the synthetic idea of the divine being was for them more of a perception of [their] spiritual sense and the stirring of [their] moral will than an object of mental perception. Yet, in order to fill and define with itself the whole consciousness of man, that idea had to become also an object of thought. If the truth of Divinity consists in unity of God as the extant One, or [the unity of] the unconditional Subject with His absolute essence or objective idea, this unity, this inner relation of the two elements (the personal and the essential) in Divinity, must be conceived of in a certain manner, must be defined. And if one of these divine elements (the unconditional personality of God) was preeminently revealed to the genius of the Jewish people, while the other one (the absolute idea of Divinity) was perceived particularly by the genius of Hellenism, it is very easy to understand that the synthesis of these two elements (which is necessary for the full knowledge of God) could come into being the soonest at the time and the place at which the Jewish and Greek nationalities collided.

A prophet is a divinely inspired person

Without free prophesy there is no fullness of the Christian life.

The dogmatic development of the Church is connected with the prophetic function of Church life.

With the religious affirmation of the human principle, Vl. Solovyov, his understanding of prophetic ministry, free prophesying, without which there is no completeness of Christian life for him. Solovyov's concept of theocracy presupposes the existence of a prophet and a prophetic ministry. The prophetic function in the spiritual life is free spiritual creativity. A prophet is a God-inspired person, and his prophetic ministry is free inspiration, without which the religious life becomes rigid. The priesthood is the conservative foundation of religious life, it is the eternal foundation of the life of the Church. Prophecy, on the other hand, is the beginning of creativity, the beginning of movement; it is turned to the future. The theme that prophecy is possible in Christianity is an intimate theme of the entire spiritual life of Vl. Solovyov. He felt himself called to free prophecy. He is lonely and misunderstood, because he carries out a prophetic ministry. The prophet is always alone, always in conflict with the religious community. In the last depths the prophet dwells in the Church and catholicity. But it is an organ of creative development in the Church, and therefore passes through a break with the frozen forms of collective Church life. It is directed to the yet unknown future. The dogmatic development of the Church is connected with the prophetic function of Church life.

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