Imagens da página

The ques•

systematic form to the Jewish doctrines, and his articles are the standard of Jewish orthodoxy. The age at which these authors lived, however, prevents us from receiving them as original testimonies to any thing which concerns the state of the Jews before the destruction of their polity, tion how far Rabbinical authority can be relied on for Jewish antiquity, resolves itself at last into the credibility of those who wrote in the first five centuries after the Christian era, and especially of the Mishna and the Gemaras.

It is now pretty generally admitted, that these works are very delusive guides, in respect to the times of the Old Testament. But it might be thought, that, having been compiled at so short an interval after the destruction of Jerusalem, we might have trusted to them safely for information respecting the times of the preaching of the Gospel, and the immediately preceding period. And it cannot be denied that some advantage is to be derived from them in this way, but much less than might have been expected.* It is not necessary to have recourse to works, which, like the Entdecktes Judenthum of Eisenmenger, have been written purposely to expose the Talmuds to contempt; it is sufficient even to consult the professed extracts of what is useful in them, such as the works of Lightfoot (a name not to be mentioned without respect and gratitude) to be convinced how large a proportion is frivolous subtlety or groundless fiction. Indulging themselves in an unbounded license of invention, to solve difficulties, or exaggerate the glories of their nation and religion, they incur the usual penalty of those who violate the truth, and are suspected of falsehood, even when they may be innocent. The rule which Schöttgenius lays downeligendum est quod Scripturæ Sacræ magis convenit et quod cæteris paribus aliorum antiquiorum auctoritas sequendum suaserit-affords no guide in respect to those accounts which Scripture does not confirm, nor yet by its silence necessarily invalidate. Here an author can only follow his own judgment and feeling of probability. The reader must determine for himself, whether, in the Pilgrimage of Helon, only due weight has been given to Rabbinical authority. I have endeavoured to enable him to ascertain, by the references, what rests on this, and what on more solid ground.

* “ Ne credant se ex Talmude multum in antiquitatibus Hebraicis profecturos. Nam ubi Judæi, post destructionem templi, inter se adhuc disputant, quomodo hæc vel illa res suscipienda fuerit, quam tuto horum decisioni credas, qui te multo quam antea incertiorem relinquunt.” Schöttgen. Hor. Heb. ii. 804.

The descriptions given by travellers of the present manners of the people of Palestine, Syria, and Arabia, have furnished another and less fallacious means of completing the picture of Jewish life. Allied to the children of Israel, according to the testimony of Scripture and their own traditions, by

a common origin, and experiencing little change from age to age, these nations still present the strongest conformity with the manners described in the Bible; nor has any thing contributed more to its illustration, than the use which modern critics have made of oriental voyages and travels. The Arab Sheikh, among his flocks and herds, recalls the very image of patriarchal times; allowing for the change which religion has made, the mourning and the festivity, the diet, dress, and habitation, of the present natives of these regions, will be found nearly what they were two thousand years ago. It is true, that we advance a step further, when, from the present state of the east, we describe what it was at this distant period, than when we merely illustrate scriptural allusions from modern oriental manners : but among

the various descriptions which might be given, that will be nearest to the truth which is most accordant with the known usages of eastern nations; and though this presumption can never amount to a positive proof of its accuracy, the reader is not misled, provided he is informed on what he relies. The author has also occasionally attributed some of the practices of the modern Jews to their ancestors of the Asmonean period; and, perhaps, the singular inflexibility which characterises the manners not less than the faith of this people, may justify him in so doing.

The reader may possibly think that too flattering a portrait of the Jews has been drawn in the Pilgrimage of Helon. Whoever is acquainted with an earlier work of the same author, Die Glockentöne, will perceive at once, that the piety, enthusiasm, and ardent feeling, the sensibility to the religio loci, which mark the hero of the narrative, are the characteristics of the writer's own mind. And as every variety of temperament exists in every age of the world, there is nothing unnatural in the creation of such a character as that of Helon among the Jewish people, if it only acts and is aeted upon, according to the principles and motives of the times to which it is referred. If, in the description of the national character, he has heightened its virtues, or touched its faults with a lenient hand, it must be remembered, that this was the almost inevitable consequence of that warm interest in his subject, without which he could have had no power to engage his readers' feelings. To those who cannot be satisfied, unless the Jews are described as sunk in all the vices which mark a people for the vengeance of heaven, I would suggest how improbable it is, that the religious and moral advantages which they enjoyed should not have made them better than those whose corrupt religion, if it had any, had a pernicious influence on their morals-or that Providence should select the instruments of the moral regeneration of mankind from among a people, whose depravity equalled or exceeded that of the heathen world. Were this a proper place for entering on such a discussion, it might not be difficult to show how unjustly we identify the whole body of the people with the hypocritical Pharisees whom our Lord rebuked; or infer their ordinary character from what Josephus says of the atrocities committed by them, when stung by oppression, engaged in a desperate struggle for independence and existence, and maddened by faction and fanaticism ; under the influence of which, Christian nations have manifested an equal disregard of justice and humanity.

The translator may perhaps be singular in regarding the Jewish people, even in the last days of their national independence, as objects rather of commiseration than abhorrence; but surely there can be no question, that the language in which they are perpetually spoken of must tend to retard the event, which every true Christian earnestly desires, the removal of that veil of prejudice which hides from them the evidence of the divine origin of the Gospel. Beneath the exterior appearance of passive submission, which fear and oppression have taught the Jew to assume, and the habits of sordid worldliness to which our unjust laws condemn him, lurks a deep-seated animosity against the Christian name-a name associated in his mind with the brutal outrages of fanatic mobs, the extortion and cruelty of tyrannical rulers; and though last, not least in bitterness, the harsh and

« AnteriorContinuar »