Eliezer Bassin 1840-
Eliezer was born about 1840 in Moghilev, Russia. He received the strictest Hassidic upbringing. From his earliest days at home he had a private tutor who was with him from the moment he woke up, instructing him in how to pray, and how to live as a godly Jew. Eliezer was a devoted student of Torah and the Talmud, and counted well-known rabbis as his personal friends, including the tutor who became a respected and loved rabbi.
In young adulthood, in 1869, Elieser traveled to Constantinople. There he met for the first time “meshummadim”, Jews who had become Christians. He was astonished, and determined to meet with them to set them right regarding the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth. Although his friends did all they could to dissuahe began a dialogue with Daniel Landsman, a Jewish believer who like him had received a thorough tamudic education but had been faced with the truth of his Messiah when living in Jerusalem. Elieser came up against the teachings of Jesus for the first time, and himself came to believe in him as the Messiah of Israel.
Eliezer’s testimony, in his own words:
In the beginning of 1869, I found myself in the capital of the Ottoman Porte, where I was received with
open arms by my Jewish co-religionists, who, perceiving my searching spirit, made it their first care to
warn me of the missionaries, and to put me on my guard against their “insidious arts to’ entrap the unwary
into Protestantism.” An unconquerable feeling of curiosity arose within me. What are missionaries?
What are Protestants? I asked myself. What kind of persons could they be of whom the Jews speak only
with curses and anathemas? Puffed up with pride and conceit, and sure of victory in bringing them to
see they were in error, I sought an interview with them.
My Jewish friends, in great alarm, endeavoured to dissuade me from running risk so dangerous; but, despising
all remonstrances, I determined to have my own way in the matter.
One day in 1869, as I was standing outside the door of my lodgings, with the son of my
host, I was rather startled, as a gentleman passed, to hear my companion suddenly exclaim,
amidst a volley of abuse and execrations, ” There goes that apostate who was once a teacher in our Jewish
school, and now he has deserted us. We are all very sorry that he fell into the trap of the missionaries, for
he was a pious Israelite, but through them he became a follower of the Crucified One.”
His words made me very eager to speak to that apostate, and to learn from his own lips the reason of
his falling into the snare of the missionaries. I immediately made an excuse for leaving my host so
abruptly, and followed the young Protestant, whose name was Gutman, until he had passed the bounds of
Galata, which is the Jewish quarter, that I might not be seen by the Jews, speaking to an apostate. When
we came to Peja, I went up to Mr. Gutman, and inquired from him the way to the Russian Post. This
I did in order to open a conversation with him. He evidently understood me at once, and asked if I was
of Russia. On my answering in the affirmative, he said, “And what is heard there of the Messiah? My answer was, ” We believe in Russia, as all the Jews throughout the world, that the Messiah will come, and
this is one of the articles of our faith, to believe in his coming, and to expect him every day.’ ”
I accompanied Mr. Gutman to the house of Rev. A. Tomory, then to Mr. Landsmann, with whom I had
disputes for several hours each day. On the first day as I left Mr. Landsmann, he gave me a copy of the
New Testament in Hebrew, and I did not retire to rest until I had read it through. As it was the first
time I had read this blessed book, it made upon me a very peculiar impression. I compared it with the
book Toldoth Jeahu, i.e., “the book of the generation of Jesus.” This book was fabricated by unknown rabbis
who employed all the means which enmity and ingenuity could supply, to perpetuate and strengthen the
prejudices of their nation against Christ. The book was published in Hebrew, with a Latin version, in the
year 1681, together with a refutation by Wagenseil. For a long time the Jews were exceedingly careful to
conceal this book from the eyes of Christians; and since copies have been obtained by Christians, and
published to the world and refuted, the Jews in general disowned it. But manuscripts in Hebrew are
universally circulated among the Jews, and more than that, Jewish children are taught it like nursery rhymes,
and thus grow up with prejudice against the historical relations of the gospels, very difficult to eradicate from
the Jewish mind. They who have ever spoken to a Jew concerning the history of Christ, must have heard
the reply, “You believe what is said in the gospels, but we know the real history of Jesus better.”
After I had finished reading the New Testament I retired to bed, but as I could get no rest, I got up
and paced my room, comparing the history of Christ, as I read it in the gospels, with that which was rooted
in my mind. I said to myself that both described Jesus as one who performed various miracles. Accord-
ing to the Gospel by John, he worked those miracles because the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him, but
according to the Jewish history, he accomplished them by the virtue of Shemhamphorash, or “the ineffable
name of God.” I could not come to any conclusion, and therefore went next morning very early to the
missionaries, and had again a conversation with them, which lasted for several hours. On my return home, I searched the Bible with great earnestness, comparing scripture with scripture, and every day I went to the missionaries, disputing with them for several hours. At last I came to the knowledge that the Messiah has indeed come, and that Jesus is the Messiah, according to Moses and the prophets. An especial
impression was made upon me by the tenth verse of the forty-ninth chapter of Genesis. “The sceptre
shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him
shall the gathering of the people be.” A great change took place in me after my conversations with the
missionaries. My natural pride seemed to fly from me; all my fancied holiness and righteousness appeared
as filthy rags; I felt the need of a Saviour, but could not, as yet, accept Christ in my heart. My knowledge of Him
was only that of the understanding. I could draw near to Him with my mouth, but my heart
was far from Him. To the missionaries I unbosomed my spiritual trouble, and told them I should be happy
if I could receive Christ into my heart, as I had receivedHim into my understanding. They replied that
they could instruct me about Christ from the Scriptures, but that He could only come into my heart when
I opened it to Him in earnest prayer, for we have the promise of God that He is near to all who call upon
Him in truth. I went home and entreated the Lord, with tears, to show me the truth, whether Jesus was really
the Messiah, and if He were, then to give me love to Him. The gracious Saviour had compassion on me, and
revealed Himself to me, as He does to all those who come to Him in faith. He gave me love, hope, and trust,
and I yielded myself entirely to God’s guidance. I asked Mr. Tomory to instruct me in the Christian doctrine.
After about ten weeks, under his teaching, I was baptised in the Mission Chapel, 19th April, 1869, in the
presence of a large congregation of Jews and Christians.
Inevitably, a severe persecution was unleashed on young Elieser, motivated by a desire to see him denounce his new-found faith and return to the ranks of Judaism.
Elieser was arrested on trumped-up charges of having deserted from the Russian army and was thrown into a Turkish jail, along with common criminals. His new friends were unable to do anything more than stand by him in his hour of need and keep in touch with him. He was transported in chains to prisons in Russia and delivered up to the vengeance of his countrymen. At times he was beaten, starved and mistreated by his fellows, and even disowned by his own dear mother. But there were bright moments too, as he recounts in his autobiography – the rabbi who sent him food and had him to his home for Sabbat dinner, and the crowd of Jewish supporters who rescued him from one particularly vicious attack where he was almost killed.
Ironically, the very thing that had been thought to be the final straw to break him – his induction into the Russian army – proved to be the one way he could be free to witness even in the homes of rabbis and in the synagogues with no fear of reprisal! As a soldier, wearing the uniform of the Czar, he was protected. Because of his extensive knowledge and education he was not drafted into the ranks of combat soldiers, but was able to serve in a more intellectual capacity, in a position that gave him relatively more freedom of movement.
Elieser Bassin was able to witness fearlessly of the messiah to his former friends, and to rabbis throughout Europe. There were many who received him with love and respect, listening to him and discussing the prophecies of the Bible with him for hours in Yiddish.
Eventually Elieser traveled to the land of Israel, to the then-Palestine, and trained at the London Jews Society Training Institute. He was then sent as a missionary to Jassy, Rumania.
His life story is described in “The Modern Hebrew and the Hebew Christian”, London, 1882. His story reads like a modern Saul of Tarsus! (find it on www.archive.org).
Bassin, Eliezer The Modern Hebrew and the Hebew Christian”, London, 1882
PDF file: http://www.archive.org/stream/modernhebrewand00bassgoog
Bassin, Eliezer A Finger-post to the Way of Salvation, 1882
Bassin, Eliezer Eintracht (Harmony), 1881 (a pamphlet pleading the cause of the Jews against anti-semitism in Germany)
Bernstein, A. Jewish Witnesses for Christ. Keren Ahvah Meschichit, Jerusalem. New edition 1999