Posts Tagged ‘Willem Bilderdijk’

Willem Bilderdijk, bookreview

March 30, 2011

I would like to share with you something of the newest book from Bert Engelfriet: De missie van een Genie, de spirituele wereld van orangist Willem Bilderdijk. (The mission of a genius, the spiritual world of Willem Bilderdijk) I wrote before about Willem Bilderdijk (1756-1831). It’s one of the worlds greatest spirits, at least from the last centuries. However, he was mostly slandered but also received at lot of honor, not at least from a faithful group of Reformed people. It’s like Israel, you are for or against. I tend to see him as the last prophet of the Dutch christian nation, as a remnant of the Protestants, a God-given pillar who encouraged people to go back to the roots. Before the spiritual destruction began.

And the roots are principles of God alone. He was quite against the French Revolution and its contemporary development of the human principles. He counterfeited the rational spirit which was the mainstream of the Enlightenment. To cut off the roots would be ending in Nihilism, he said. In stead of that, he recommended the “spiritual, inner enlightenment and Godly inspiration.” (p.19) The motif of his works relies on the principle of Godly inspiration through His word.

Bilderdijk was quite original. He was aware of the principle of all things from God through which everything exists. An important thing for him to deal with is self-esteem (zelfgevoel), the inner feeling. This, were it is from higher truth, is connected to the elders, the wise men, the root of the truth and to the Holy Spirit.

Bilderdijk had a great wish to join the best of the Jewish and Christian heritage together. So that the Messiah of the Jews and Christians will be recognized as the same. “We (Christians) abide Him with you (Jews), that so exalted Ruler; Your God is our God, your Savior our Prince.” (p.97) He expected a oneness but in quite another way as many church-people do: The Jews must be reinforced in their elderly faith.

As a remnant of the Protestants he was very clear to say that the (protestant) church didn’t come free from the old Roman powers. He said that the early church soon after their flourishing state, dismissed the spiritual principle of Christ and welcomed the Roman principles of power. (p.115) Also later reformations didn’t lead to a breakthrough of the “kingdom of God” because they sought too much support by worldly authority.

About trinity he won’t speak about numbers. “There’s an absolute oneness, not a number one and not a number three.” He supported trinity in a certain sense by consulting ancient rabbi’s. (p.195)

There’s a lot more to say about this beautiful book, but it costs me too much time for now.


M.history p.IV – Isaac Da Costa

June 23, 2010

There are several accounts in the English language about the person Isaac Da Costa. I’ll give some resources I found.

This first one is most satisfied and covers all the others mostly:

Isaac Da Costa – Encyclopedia Reformata

Isaac da Costa – Wikipedia

Isaac da Costa — Britannica Online Encyclopedia

Isaac da Costa – NNDB

And last my former post on Da Costa

There’s more to find, but I also came around accounts with errors.

I’ll share with you something more from the Dutch resources I have. And I will try to frequently quote his own words although, of course, translated.

Da Costa’s acquaintance with Bilderdijk was in 1813 when Da Costa attended a society of Dutch Jews[i] in Amsterdam. Bilderdijk was one of the first members of the society and in that time (1795), when many Jews were improving their knowledge in gentile History and Arts, he sought to teach them about the false doctrines of the French Revolution and on the other side of the advance of the Torah given to the Jews.[ii] Da Costa: “Did he [Bilderdijk] succeed? So much is sure that although for one heart, for one life, for one son from the people of Israel which our great Poet had so much love for because of their Fathers but most of all because of their crucified גואל (deliverer), for one it caused an eternal blessing.”[iii] As Da Costa said about himself in his biography of Bilderdijk, De Mensch en Dichter Willem Bilderdijk. The following is also extracted from this book.

Da Costa at his writing table with a sculpture of Bilderdijk

Da Costa at his writing table with a sculpture of Bilderdijk

As a 15 years old boy he gave his Hebrew teacher (Moses Lemans) a poet hewrote, and so it came before the eyes of Willem Bilderdijk. And by an arrangement of the teacher he met Bilderdijk. At that time Da Costa had many questions himself. Had the God of Israel been really revealed? To his fathers? Were there indeed Godly man who did miracles and signs and received Godly words? Did the Tenach really exists because of Divine inspiration? In these circumstances he met Bilderdijk.

Da Costa was a very brilliant student and he very frequently visited Bilderdijk. Bilderdijk became his personal teacher and a great friendship was developing.

In the year 1817 Bilderdijk for the first time recited his tremendous but not finished poet (De Ondergang der Eerste Wareld) from a manuscript to Da Costa. Just one sentence remained in the heart of the young Da Costa: Neen, Régol, neen, dit zijn geen aardsche zangen! (No, Regol, no, this aren’t earthly songs!) Da Costa’s own account on this: “But more than poetry, even the highest, the most above dust and earth reached sort and tone of poetry, was the element that from the beginning all dialogs gave life and teachings a higher purpose, it was that life’s-element of knowledge of God, it was the Divine truth.”[iv]

Bilderdijk didn’t advocate Christianity to his Jewish friend but according to Da Costa: “He devoted himself only to show his honor to the Law of Moses for me and where it fits he also would awake other ones for it. He rightly understood Israel and showed it to the foreground with an expectation of a glorious Messiah, but not omitting the suffering aspect. Many things worked forwards to the following opinion in my heart: For a suffering people a suffering Messiah!”

But at that time his soul didn’t have the personal need, and the “power and meaning of the passion wasn’t revealed yet. It was long before it came into my mind that Jesus from Nazarene could be the Messiah. Until an unforgettable day in October 1820, the veil before my eyes was gone and I faithfully might fallen down before this Jesus from Nazarene, King of the Jews, as also my Lord and my God!”[v]

To be continued.

[i] Israelitisch Genootschap Tot Nut en Beschaving

[ii] De Mensch en Dichter Willem Bilderdijk, Mr. Isaac Da Costa, 1859, p.275

[iii] Ibid, p.276

[iv] Ibid, p.281

[v] Ibid, p.283

M.History p.II – Willem Bilderdijk

May 4, 2010

After the in the Netherlands so called Further or Second Reformation (Nadere Reformatie, beginning in 1606 with the ministry of the father of the Nadere Reformatie, Willem Teellinck, and terminating in 1784 with the death of Theodorus Vander Groe), there came quite a new period. Troubling through the French Revolution which made everything upside down, the early 19th century brought an end to the well established Netherlands Reformed Church, also called the Netherlands Protestant Church. In 1834 the Secession began and faith ceased from the public more and more. Once so faithful, now we are the first country in the world legalizing abortion, gay-marriage and so on. Tears are in my eyes when I’m thinking of the past.

One person who saw very clear the developments of that time was Willem Bilderdijk (1756-1831). He was not a Jew, but I have to mention him. He is the spiritual father of the Jews Isaac Da Costa and Abraham Capadose. In his thinking he was quite a Jew. He is also called the father of the Reveil. And I would call him the last prophet of the Netherlands. And I think not only for the Netherlands, but also the broader community, the ecclesia of Christ. Hewas the one who alarmed the people of his time, from the aristocratic class to the common people for the systematic and rational thinking of the Enlightenment. But although a few heartily agree, many were against and raised hate to him. The age was changing and the spirit of unbelief perpetrated into all classes.

Bilderdijk was a genius. He was very clever and was the (yes I’ll say that) the greatest poet of the Netherlands. His spiritual son Isaac Da Costa is the second. They both called directly the Spirit of the Almighty and not the Greek Muses. I wish you could read Dutch, you would certainly agree.

A huge repository of him is to find online here. And here a biography of him written by Da Costa. (all in Dutch)

Bilderdijk was surely the greatest fighter in the world against the ideas of the Enlightenment. He wrote many poets on the subject.

Bilderdijk saw Judaism strongly connected to Christianity in contrary of his contemporaries.

He was a great thinker and it would be great to tell much about him, but that didn’t fit in a document of Messianic history. However I think it’s good to quote here some excerpts from the excellent book of Dr. L. Engelfriet: Bilderdijk en het Jodendom. It has an English summary in it at the end. Here are some quotes concerning Judaism to learn something about Bilderdijk. (It’s really just a bit about this very special person)


… In his view the insight into the Divine status of the Messiah is common to the Jews. Christ is in the centre of the prophets. Therefore Christianity is a specialization of Judaism, the Christian is an insider in the Old Testament writings.

… Bilderdijk, however, sees essential characteristics of classic Judaism in Jewish liturgy and prayers and in Jewish belief in the Messiah characteristics that may on no account be given up.

…Bilderdijk is certainly the most important sympathizer of the Jews in the early part of the nineteenth century. His point of view is religiously determined. On the basis of this view he has resisted Jewish assimilation. He highly esteemed the old and noble Jewish people because it has been chosen by God. It must never give up its Messianic hope. His rejection of the assimilation does not in the least aim at the continuation of the social discrimination of the Jews, as is the case with many of his patriotic contemporaries, but is concordant with the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies that announced the coming of the Messianic kingdom in direct connection with the return of the Jews to Palestine.

… The poems which Bilderdijk addressed to the Jews, sometimes speak of Jewish guilt, but this is not directly related to the crucifixion. In the few instances that Bilderdijk establishes this connection elsewhere, he relativizes the Jewish share by calling the greater number of his Christian contemporaries and philosophers who adhere to the principles of the Enlightenment, much more guilty. According to him the most important misconception in the Jewish view of Jesus results from their inability to see the suffering and reigning Messiah united in one person. But in this misunderstanding he also sees a Divine decree. The Jews are still expecting the Messiah ben David. Strictly speaking the Christians have rejected this Messiah through having placed highest authority in the Roman principle of power (Boldness by me, JW. This is a core in his thinking.) which is concealed behind ecclesiastical power. Besides the church has arrogated to itself the lawful succession of Israel. Jewish origin and promise, however, remain in force. Through having failed to recognize Jesus the Jews have temporarily given up their birthright, but this will certainly retum to them. The Messianic secret remains the core of the Jewish people. Bilderdijk has great respect for Jewish exilian suffering because Israel’s God has made this subservient to the salvation of the nations. He continually encourages his Jewish contemporaries to cling to their Jewish hope, but wams them against the ideals of enlightened Christianity. Instead the Jews should widen their knowledge of their own tradition and should let themselves be guided by Moses, the prophets and the rabbins.

… In the decline of the visible church Bilderdijk sees a favourable circumstance for the breakthrough of Jesus’ Messianic rule. In this respect the Netherlands could become the centre of the invisible church. In his opinion Jesus’ way and kingdom avoid human unions and separations, but is prepared in the spirit.

… The Divine unity rules Bilderdijk’s thinking. This unity is expressed in the trinity. This is a mystery which is derived from Judaism. Jesus has instituted baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in conformity with the ideas which the right-minded Jews had about God. Jesus has respected the oral tradition, but has corrected what was misunderstood in this tradition. In the later Jewish tradition, which has been influenced by rationalistic views, Bilderdijk perceives resistance to the Christian thought of trinity, but in Jewish mysticism, in the Jewish prayers and in the liturgy he discovers this notion.

… Although Bilderdijk was friendly with several Jews as the enlightened lawyer J.D. Meijer, his contacts with Da Costa and Capadose are of decisive importance for the sounding of his view on Judaism. Just as Bilderdijk most Jews showed admiration for house of Orange and were opposed to assimilation. Bilderdijk has strengthened Capadose’s Jewish self-confidence. He thought that only the complete Jew can arrive at recognition of Jesus as Messiah. Messiah Jesus is the heart of the Jewish people. On the basis of the Old Testament prophecies Bilderdijk expected that the Jews would overcome the misunderstanding of the separation of Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David. This recognition may lead to the Jews’ return to Palestine and the Messiah’s reign.

On the other hand Bilderdijk has drawn Da Costa’s attention by way of Jewish mysticism to the unity of Israel’s God and the Messiah. As a rule the rabbinical views are highly valued by Bilderdijk. This does not only apply to the old Jewish scholars but also to the later rabbins, though he sometimes differs from them in the application of prophetic pronouncements to Jesus as the Messiah. In his opinion the older Jews have recognized a plurality of persons in God’s inexpressible unity. Obviously Bilderdijk has not only spoken to Da Costa about the trinity according to the Christian tradition. He has especially attempted to trace back this artificial term to its original meaning. In doing this he draws attention to the Talmudic insight which speaks of three names to refer to God, consisting respectively of four, twelve and forty-two characters. This metaphysical connection between Judaism and christianity has made a deep impression on Da Costa. He thinks that the apostles have been acquainted with the cabbala, a Jewish form of metaphysics which contains an ‘infinity’ of Christian elements.

From a reference of Bilderdijk to the work of the rabbin Heydeck who had become a Catholic, it appears that he has at least wished to show Da Costa the truth of Christianity by way of the so-called Christian cabbala. Heydeck attempted to confirm Christian truth from Jewish sources. According to Bilderdijk true Christians are initiates in Judaism. (boldness by me) So Bilderdijk’s meeting with Da Costa is of a very special nature. It clearly differs from the pastoral contact between Da Costa and Egeling, who has guided him and Capadose to Christian baptism. Bilderdijk, who was not a communicant member of the Reformed Church, was very pleased at this. Bilderdi jk has honoured Da Costa as a kinsman of his Saviour and has impressed upon Da Costa the great weight of his descent from the old and noble people of Israel.

Together with Da Costa and Capadose he paid much attention to apocalyptical writings, to Daniel and the Revelation of John. In this connection also the mystical Jewish writings came up for consideration, especially the Zohar, and to a lesser extent, the Talmud. Egeling was not interested in this apocalyptical, mystical and eschatological way of thinking. Consequently his circle, according to Bilderdijk, was more limited. So Bilderdijk’s approach to his Jewish friends, properly speaking of Jews in general, clearly differs from the practice of the nineteenth century idea of mission.

Initially Capadose’s bond with Judaism is less strong. He is, to a greater degree than Da Costa, an advocate of mission to the Jews. However, Bilderdijk has not shown himself to be in favour of this mission and has made this clear to Capadose. He praises the courage of faith of Capadose’s ancestors, who were forced to secretly tum back to Judaism because of the iconolatry in Catholic Spain. Testifying to his great devotion to the ‘true’ Jews, Bilderdijk warned Capadose against breaking with his Jewish relations after his baptism. Bilderdijk has perhaps underestimated the resistance to baptism in Jewish circles, because in his view Jesus is the promised Messiah out of the Jews. At any rate Bilderdijk has fervently hoped for the unification of Jesus and the Jews. For David’s great Son has first of all come for Abraham’s descendants. With the Jewish believers he expected the coming of the Messiah, the assimilated Jews had been deceived by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.

…[Bilderdijk sees] the ever returning manifestation of the ancient Roman principle, which resists the reign of the Messianic Deity. This principle reveals itself in various European powers and authorities. With this the Christian history of Europe completes Daniel’s prophecy. The repetition and the strengthening of the prophetic thinking shows itself also in this. Bilderdijk’s view is clearly theocratic in so far as he ascribes a prominent position in history to the Jewish people on account of God’s covenant with Abraham. In so far as the Jews are separated from Messiah Jesus, Bilderdijk has much regretted this, because the rise of the Messianic kingdom is dependent on this unity. But he has partly denied and put into perspective the separation between Jesus and the Jewish people, which in the history of the Christian church has been expressed and practised again and again, by pointing to his belief that most Christians are farther away from Jesus as Messiah than the believing Jews.

End Quotes

For me, Bilderdijk is an important person. He is my teacher. He taught me history, through him I learned the important age in which he lived. I saw the church, I saw the Jews, I saw the Moslims. I saw the beloved Person, the King of the world, the Messiah, His reign, His past and His future. And I saw myself. He gives me the building blocks of the age in which I live now. Without him, I probably couldn’t comprehend the age I live in.

His extremely high level of knowledge and understanding and yet his so minor feelings about himself and his confession to be the least before Gods face intrigues me. Bilderdijk gives the church of the Netherlands the ability to step out their sinful deviated way. But, too bad, nobody listened. In stead of, he was hatred. When he was born, a few hours later a brick was thrown through the glasses into his house. The world was against him. The truth was denied. That’s not exceptional: “they slew thy prophets” (Neh.9:26)