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Straining at Gnats

From the October 1877 Sword and Trowel


"Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel."—Matthew 23:24.

AHE note on this in the "Pictorial Bible" is valuable:—"In the East, where insects of all kinds abound, it is difficult to keep clear of insects liquors which are left for the least time uncovered; for which reason it was and is usual to strain the wine before drinking, to prevent insects from passing into the drinking vessel. Beside the common motive of cleanliness for this practice, the Jews considered that they had another and more important one—that of religious purity. For as the law forbade them to eat 'flying creeping things,' they thought themselves bound to be particularly careful in this matter . . . The Talmud contains many curious explanations and directions relating to it. Thus, 'One that eats a flea or a gnat is an apostate, and is no more to be counted one of the congregation.' It seems, however, that a person doing this might, under certain circumstances, escape further consequences by submitting to be scourged. 'Whosoever eats a whole fly, or a whole gnat, whether dead or alive, is to be beaten on account of the flying creeping thing."
    The resemblance between modern and ancient Ritualists is remarkable and somewhat amusing, as appears in the "Directorium Anglicanum.' After having ordained that "if by any negligence any of the Blood be spilled upon a table, the priest officiating must do penance forty days" (p. 90), it proceeds:—
    "But if the chalice have dripped upon the altar, the drop must be sucked up, and the priest must do penance for three days.
    "Also if anyone by accident of the throat vomit up the Eucharist . . . if he be a cleric, monk, presbyter, or deacon, he must do penance for forty days, a bishop seventy days, a laic thirty.
    "But who does not keep the Sacrament well, so that a mouse or other animal devoured it, he must do penance forty days" (p. 91).
    Modern ritualists breathe the same spirit as their Jewish predecessors; but they very discreetly prefer penance to scourging.—From Spalding's "Scripture Difficulties."

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