Imagens da página


The work which is now offered to the public, appeared in Germany in 1820, unaccompanied by notes or even references to Scripture. The author alleged, as a reason for this omission, that the majority of readers would not concern themselves about authorities, and that the few who did might easily find them. He was, however, soon convinced, by the expression of public opinion, that he had underrated the curiosity of the former class, as much as he had overrated the patience of the latter; and promised to remedy the deficiency. As the work had been partly translated into Dutch and illustrated with notes, by the Professors Vanderpalm and Clarisse, he purposed to add his own notes to theirs, when their translation should be completed. It was my original intention to have waited for the appearance of this appendix; but as four years have now elapsed, and I have been unable to hear any tidings of it from Germany, I thought it better to endeavour to supply the

[ocr errors]

defect. Having no clue whatever to guide me to the sources of the author's statements, it may happen that I have not assigned the precise authority which he had in view; and, in justice to him, the reader will not conclude, that all which is not fortified by a reference is destitute of a warrant from antiquity, but only that the passage in which it is found has not occurred to me.

The liberty which I have used with the original consists wholly in retrenchments. Of these alterations some have been made to prevent repetition and diffuseness : in a very few instances what appeared evidently fanciful or unfounded has been silently effaced. The reader who is not acquainted with any

other authority for Jewish antiquities than the Old and New Testament, will not, perhaps, be displeased to find here a brief statement of the sources whence the materials of the following work have been derived. He who chooses a distant age for the scene of such a fiction as this, and endeavours to give the form and colour of reality to the dim and broken outlines, will find himself at a loss, even in delineating the best known ages of Greece and Rome. But our author has undertaken a task of still greater difficulty. The Jews were entire strangers to those kinds of literary production, in which the living manners of a people are preserved to posterity : literature among them was devoted to higher objects than comedy, satire, and ethical description. The history of our Saviour, it is true, carries us into the very bosom of domestic life among his contemporaries; and the knowledge which we thus acquire is peculiarly valuable, from the stamp of truth which is impressed on every part of it. But if we learn much from this source, there is still more of which we are left ignorant. Next to the books of Scripture, the Antiquities and History of the Jews by Josephus, are the most authentic sources of information. Philo, occupied in pursuing the phantoms of allegorical interpretation, gives less aid than might have been expected from his voluminous writings. Among the Fathers of the Christian church, Jerome, who was lorig resident in Palestine, has left us, in various works, very important information respecting the geography, natural history, and customs of the country. Of the heathen writers, even the gravest and most learned so pervert and confound every thing relating to the manners and religion of the Jews, that they cannot be trusted for any thing beyond geography, and the details connected with it.

The Rabbinical writings of the Jews are chiefly occupied with that traditional law, which, in our Saviour's time, had almost strangled, by its parasitical growth, the genuine stock of the Mosaic institutions : but they also contain much information respecting civil and religious customs, especially the ritual of the second temple. According to the Jewish doctors, there existed two kinds of law; the written, promulgated on Sinai, and preserved in the Mosaic books; and the oral, delivered at the same time,* but handed down, traditionally, by a succession of teachers, to the captivity; and thence from Ezra to the time of Rabbi Judah Hakkadosh, (the holy,) who lived about the middle of the second century after Christ. As the dispersion of the Jews had rendered the oral transmission of their learning more difficult and uncertain, he reduced the traditions of the doctors into a system, to which the name of the Mishna (repetition) was given. It consists partly of civil and criminal laws, partly of a ritual for the great Jewish festivals ; in both, the Mosaic precepts bear a very small pro. portion to the later additions. The Mishna itself was soon found to need commentary and supplement; and the Gemara of Jerusalem was compiled by Rabbi Jochanan, and two disciples of Judah Hakkadosh, to supply its deficiencies. This collection appears to have been received as of authority by the Jews of Palestine, who cultivated Rabbinical learning in the academies of Tiberias and Jafnia. In the sixth century, Rabbi Asa, president of the school of Sora, in the Babylonian territory, where the Jews were numerous and flourishing, compiled another Gemara. The original work of the Mishna, with the addition of one or the other of these Gemaras, forms the Talmud (doctrine)

* See Maimonides, Preface to the Mishna, in Sureshusius, vol.i. of Jerusalem or Babylon.* The Talmud is the oracle of the Jewish doctors, venerated by the greater part of them as of equal if not greater authority than the law itself; though many, as the whole sect of Karaites, deny its authority. Probably the first step towards the religious improvement of the modern Jews, must be the abandonment of the Talmud, and a return to the simplicity of the Mosaic law.

Besides this great repository of their traditions, the Jews have commentaries of their Rabbins, of uncertain age, on books of Scripture, under the name of Medraschim ; and collections of their sayings. I do not mention here their cabalistical writings ; which are, evidently, too fanciful and absurd, to furnish materials to the antiquary.

After participating in the darkness of the middle ages, Jewish literature and science revived with great brilliancy in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, from the connection of the Jews with the Saracens of Spain, and their acquaintance with the Aristotelian philosophy. Of the learned men who arose about this time, Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and David Kimchi, are most celebrated for their grammatical and critical works : Moses Ben Maimon, or Maimonides, for the vigour of his understanding, and his knowledge of the ancient rites and ceremonies of his nation. He gave consistency and

[ocr errors][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »