Marcus Bergmann 1846-1923
Bergmann was born in the town of Wieruszow on the borders of Silesia. His father, a Talmudic scholar, died when he was one year old, and his mother died when he was six. He was left with one elder brother who was already established in business and one sister, who was reared by the Chief Rabbi of Breslau. Marcus was raised by his uncle, Wolf Bergmann, who like his parents belonged to the Chassidic sect. At the age of fourteen he was sent to study under the Chief Rabbi in Breslau for three years, and following that, to study with an uncle who served as Rabbi in Frankenstein, Germany.
In 1866 Marcus left his home and moved to England. He established a small synagogue in London and served as minister there for nearly two years, without any pay, living off of his inheritance and financial help from his sister. He writes of this time:
“It pleased the Lord at this time to lay His hand upon me, and I was laid aside for six weeks in the German hospital. When feeling a little better I began to look into the Hebrew Bible, which was on the shelf in the war. As a reader in the synagogue I knew the letter of the whole of the Pentateuch and other portions of the Old Testament by heart.
“The portion of Scripture that made a great impression on me at the time of my illness was Daniel ix. Several verses of this chapter are repeated each Monday and Thursday by every Jew; but the latter part of the chapter, which so plainly prophesies the suffering of the Messiah, is never read – in fact the Rabbis pronounce a dreadful curse upon any one who investigates the prophecy of these seventy weeks….Remembering this anathema, it was with fear and trembling that I read the passage about the seventy weeks, and coming to verse 26, “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself’ – though we Jews are most careful not to let a Hebrew book drop to the ground – I threw that Hebrew Bible out of my hand, thinking in my ignorance that it was one of the missionaries’ Bibles. But although I threw the Bible away, I could not throw away the words I had just read: ‘Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.’ These words sank deeper and deeper into my soul, and wherever I looked I seemed to see them in flaming Hebrew characters, and I had no rest for some time. One morning I again took up the bible, and without thinking of looking for any particular passage, my eyes were arrested by these words … ‘For He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of My people was He stricken.’ (Isa. liii. 8).
‘This seemed to be the answer to the question that I was constantly asking myself during this time of soul-conflict: Messiah shall be cut off. but not for Himself. For whom was it? Here it was plainly revealed to me. For the transgression of My people, and surely I belonged to His (God’s) people, and therefore, Messiah was cut off from me”
“Shortly after this I left the hospital and was again among my Jewish friends, but I could not banish from my mind those two passages!” One morning I put on my phylacteries and tallith in order to perform the prescribed prayers, but I could not utter a single sentence out of the prayer book before me. One passage (Psalm cxix. 18), ‘Open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law,’ came into my mind, and that I repeated over and over again, and for nearly two hours that was the cry of my soul. After laying aside the phylacteries and tallith I left the house without tasting food, and as I walked along the streets I prayed again in the words of the Psalmist, ‘Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, for Thou are the God of my salvation, on Thee do I wait all the day long.’ My heart was burdened with a very great load, and yet I dared not open my mind to any one. In this state I believe the Spirit of God led me to Palestine Place. My heart failed me when I reached the door of the late Rev. Dr. Ewald’s house.
“After several vain attempts, I ventured to knock, and was admitted to see that venerable servant of the Lord. To him I unburdened my soul and told him all that was in my heart. He asked me whether I was willing to come into his Home for enquirers in order to be instructed in the truth as it is in the Lord Jesus. I told him that was just what I needed, and at once accepted his kindness and I did not return to my Jewish friends. This was just one week before the Passover.” [published in September 1894 issue of “The Hebrew Christian” (New York)]
The Jewish community did not take this lying down. In an effort to bring him back, he was arrested on trumped up charges of theft. When his day in court arrived, he gave clear testimony to his newfound faith, and as the testimonies of the false witnesses was contradictory he was released with no harm done to his record. He returned to his believing friends, and was baptised in 1868 at the age of 21. He is best known today for his translation of the Bible into Yiddish, for which even his uncle commended him in a rare communication, though in no wise condoning his faith. He worked for many years in the London City Mission as a witness to the Jewish people in east London.
Thirty-one years later, he wrote “I can look back upon all these years and say that not one good thing hath failed of all His gracious promises.”
Bernstein, A. Jewish Witnesses for Christ. 1909 O.J.C.I. London. New edition by Keren Ahvah Meshichit, 1999, Jerusalem.
Retrieved 31/5/2009 from www.lcm.org.uk/publisher/file.aspx?ID-8604
“How a Jew Discovered that Jesus was the Messiah”, retrieved May 31, 2009 from http://www.ensignmessage.com/archives/discovery.html