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present work contains a picture of the Jewish people, in which their ecclesiastical and civil constitution, their social and domestic life are represented, as they existed at the time when the advent of the Messiah was at hand.
From his boyhood the author had been inspired, by the perusal of similar works on Pagan antiquities, with the wish to exhibit such a picture of the Jewish nation; and, encouraged by men whose opinion he valued, he had at an early period of life formed the resolution to undertake it, had sketched the general outline of his work, and even executed particular parts of it. Just at this time, however, it pleased the Disposer of events to call him from the situation of leisure in which he had hitherto been placed, to the execution of an office, whose multiplied duties left him little time for any other occupations; and he was compelled to abandon the design which he had so long cherished. It was not without pain that he resolved to make this
sacrifice of an object which had long directed and animated his studies. The images which it had left in his mind recurred from time to time, and revived his former wishes. In particular, whenever he had occasion, in the discharge of his pastoral duty, to narrate the histories of the Bible, the question arose in his mind, whether it might not be possible to delineate the peculiar system of life in which these writings originated, according to the picture which they had left in his own mind, without descending to all the minutiæ of antiquarian detail? In pursuance of this thought, he has devoted his few and interrupted hours of leisure, to the work which he now offers to the indulgence of the reader, for which he hopes with the more confidence, having had such large experience of it on a former occasion.
The plan of the work is the following. A young Jew, who had been enamoured of the prevailing Grecian philosophy, has returned to the observance of the law of his fathers, at one of those important crises in life which decide the character of succeeding periods. Bent on the fulfilment of the law, which he believes it impossible to accomplish any where but in the place where the altar of Jehovah is fixed, he makes a journey from Alexandria, where he had been brought up, accompanied by his uncle, to Jerusalem, in the spring of the year 109 before the birth of Christ, remains there during the half year which included the prin
cipal religious festivals; becomes a priest; enters into the married state; and, by the guidance of Providence, and varied experience, attains to the conviction, that peace of mind is only to be found in believing in Him who has been promised for the consolation of Israel.
The plan now traced, while it offered an opportunity of delineating the progress of an interesting change in the sentiments of Helon himself, seemed also to present the means of combining with this a living picture of the customs, opinions, and laws of the Jewish people. No period of their history seemed so well adapted to the design of this work, as that of John Hyrcanus. It is about this time that the books of the Maccabees close; it is the last era of the freedom and independence of the people, whose character and institutions at the same time were so nearly developed and fixed, that very little change took place between this and the time of our Saviour. It was possible, therefore, to give a picture which, as far as relates to usages and manners, should be applicable to the times of the New Testament. By selecting this period, it was more easy to avoid the inconvenience of placing fictitious characters in contact with the real personages of history, than if the time of our Saviour had been chosen. Hyrcanus and his sons have only in one instance been brought upon the scene, and even here care has been taken to keep them as much as possible in the back-ground, to avoid mingling the individual realities of history with a series of events, which the author has invented to answer the design of his work.
It was in the last years of the long reign of Hyrcanus that the opposing sects of Sadducees and Pharisees first became conspicuous, and the one hundred and ninth year before the Christian era is the date of the destruction of Samaria. . In the description of the temple, however, I have allowed myself to anticipate a little, in order to describe its magnificence in the days of Herod, whose temple was that to which our Saviour resorted. In the description of the customs of sacrifice and prayer, I have ventured to use, but with moderation, the accounts of later times.
One thing it must be allowed to the author to remark, in order to prevent the misapprehensions of those, who do not know what properly belongs to a work like the present, and that is, that he is by no means to be understood as uniformly declaring his own views; and hé particularly wishes this to be borne in mind in reading the first part.*
* The translator wishes by no means to be supposed to agree even in those opinions, which, from the manner of bringing them forward, appear to be the author's own. The discourses of the old man of the temple with Helon, in the second volume, are evidently an anticipation of Christianity, founded upon the author's views of the doctrines of the New Testament. Those who agree with him in these views will think it reason
It is well known that the want of a lively and distinct picture of those local and national peculiarities which are presented in the Bible, revolts many from the perusal of it, and exposes others to very erroneous conceptions. It is the author's prayer to Him, from whom these precious records have proceeded, that the present work may serve, under his blessing, to make the perusal of the Scriptures more attractive and edifying ; and he hopes those who shall drink with pleasure from his humble rill, will not be satisfied without going to the fountain of living waters.
able, that such anticipations of the nature and office of the Messiah should be attributed to a Jew who was piously expecting his appearance ; those who do not, will perceive that the prolepsis which the author has allowed himself adds nothing to the evidence of the doctrines in question. I have passed over these parts of the work generally without remark, the only authority which could have been alleged in support of them being passages of Scripture, respecting the meaning of which the Christian world is far from being unanimous in its opinion,