{extract from J.P. Stehelin, 1748, pp. [1]-[29], digitized from a facsimile reprint; see the BLUE note near the end for source information}

{Due to the difficulty of reproducing text using non-Latin characters, Hebrew text is shown as [hhh] and Greek text [ggg] herein. Old-style ‘s’ letters have been rendered in the more modern form.  –JR, ed. of this HTML text}

THIS TEXT FIRST POSTED AS HTML on http://www.jrbooksonline.com September 4, 2008.


THE Nation of the Jews, descended from the Family of Abraham had distinguish'd itself in an extraordinary manner from all other Families, by being publick Worshippers of the one True God, while all other were overspread by the absurdest Idolatries; and God, accordingly, had been pleased to distinguish that Family and Nation, with repeated Promises of the greatest Blessings: He declared that he would be their God, and they should be his People: St. Paul tells us, that one of their chief Advantages was, because unto them were committed the Oracles of God. And the Psalmist exhorteth them to praise the Lord, for his shewing his Word unto Jacob, his Statutes and his judgments unto Israel, which he had not done to any Nation, so that they did not know them. The Jews who value themselves highly upon this Account, Pretend that besides the Written Law, or the Books of Moses and the Prophets, they have received an Oral Law, which was preserved by Tradition, and is contained in the Talmud.

THE Account given by the Rabbanists of this Oral Law, may be seen in Prideaux's Connection, Book V. Maimonides in his Preface to Seder Seraim, and in his Book Jad Hasakah tells us: When God revealed himself to Moses, he delivered to him the Law for the Children of Israel, with the Comments or Explications. Moses committed the Law to Writing, but delivered The Comments to Aaron and his Sons, and to the Elders of Israel, by Word of Mouth, who by oral Tradition handed them down to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Synagogue. This Opinion is founded upon a Passage of the Talmud in Berachos, p. 1. where it is said, that by [hhh] the Tables are meant the Ten Commandments, by [hhh] the Law, the Scripture, by [hhh] the Precept, the Mishna, by [hhh] which I have written, the Books of the Prophets, and of the Hagiographers; and by [hhh] to teach them, the Gemara. And that by the latter we learn, They all were given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Some add, that Esdras, after the Captivity of Babylon, created a new Office, and appointed a Person under the Name of Nasi or Prince, who was the Depositary of Tradition, resolved Cases of Conscience, and taught the Oral Law.

THE Caraites, another Sect of the Jews, who as it is generally pretended (though without Foundation, as we shall shew in its proper Place) reject all Traditions, give an Account of the Rise and Progress of the Oral Law very different from the former. They say that King Alexander Jannaeus ordered all the Chacamim or wise Men to be slain, because they upbraided him with being unfit to execute the Office of High Priest, his Mother (or rather his Grand-mother) having been carried into Captivity upon Mount Modin, and that two only escap'd his Fury, viz. R. Juda the Son of Tabbai, and R. Simeon the Son of Shetach: This Simeon was Brother to the Queen, who sent him secretly to No-Ammon or Alexandria in Egypt, where he lived for several Years: Being at the Queen's intercession recall'd from Banishment, and finding all the wise Men were slain, he forged a great number of Traditions, and taught them his Disciples, pretending they were given to Moses on Mount Sinai, and conveyed down to him by Word of Mouth: But R. Juda having also some time after obtained his Liberty, he rejected the Traditions of Simeon, and affirmed, there was no Oral Law given to Moses; from that time the Jews were divided in two Sects, the Siga Assembly or School of R. Juda the Son of Tabbai, whose Disciples and Followers were afterwards called Caraites, and the School of R. Simeon, the Son of Shetach, whose Traditions were received and propagated by the Rabbanists.

WE shall proceed now to enquire into the Truth of these Accounts: There is something so Romantic in that of the Rabbinists, that it is almost impossible not to subscribe to the opinion of Alting, who saith, They invented those Fables to give Sanction to their Traditions. 1. The LXX Elders appointed by Moses were Judges in Civil and Criminal Causes, and not Teachers in the Church. 2. As there is no mention made of them in the History of the Judges, nor in that of the Kings, we have good Reasons to presume they were not continued after the Conquest of Canaan, nor had any Successors. 3. Soon after the Death of Joshua, the Children of Israel forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the Groves, Judges iii. v. 7. which could not have happen'd, had there been a constant sitting Council of LXX Elders. 4. The Levite, whose Concubine was abused, till she died, did not apply to the Great Sanhedrim, but having cut her dead Body into twelve Parts, rent one to every Tribe, that a general Assembly of Israel, might consider what was fit to be done for the punishment of this wickedness. Judges xix. [v. ?] 5. We read Judges xxi. 25. That there was no King in Israel, and that every Man did what was right in his own Eyes; which intimates, there neither was any ruling Council of Elders. 6. It appears plainly from several Passages of the Scripture, 1 Samuel viii. v. 1. 2 Sam. x. v. 2. 1 Kings iii. v. 16. that the Judges and Kings governed by their own Authority, and ordered every thing according to their pleasure, without taking the advice of the Sanhedrim, or Elders.

As there was no Sanhedrim or Council establish'd by Moses, and continued under the judges and Kings, to be the Depositary of Tradition, so after the Captivity of Babylon, there was not a Convention of cxx Persons, called the Great Synagogue, under the Presidency of Ezra. We find in the Talmud an ample Description of this great Synagogue, its President, its Members, their Qualifications, and the Functions of their Office. We are told this Council was composed of cxx Persons, among whom were the Prophets Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, &c. and the chief of the People, Zorobabel, Mordecai, Jeshua, Seraja, Nehemiah, and Simeon the Just, who survived all the rest, and with whom this great Synagogue expired. {a} Ezra was the President of it; by their assistance he, 1. wrote the Books of Ezekiel, Daniel, the xii Prophets, Ezra, and Esther. {b} 2. He left off writing in the old Samaritan Character, and made use of the Assyrian Letters {c}. 3. He collected, transcrib'd and set forth a new and correct Edition of the holy Scriptures, and divided them into the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographers {d}. 4. He made a Hedge to the Law {e}. 5. He preserved and propagated the Traditions {f}. 6. He composed for the use of the Synagogues Eighteen Prayers, called Shemon' efre, and order'd to conclude them all with this Doxology, Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel [hhh], for ever and ever {g}. 7. He instituted the Feast of Purim {h}. Not only the Jewish Rabbins, Maimonides, R. Salomon Jarchi, commonly called Raphi, R. Obadias Bartenor, &c. have received these Relations as Matters of Fact, but several learned Chri-

(a) Talmud. Cod. Megilla. f. 17. (b) Cod. Baba Bathra, f. 15. (c) Cod. Sanhedrim, f. 21. (d) Ibid. (e) Pirke Abhot. Ch. 1. (f) Ibid. (g) Talm. Cod. Megilla. f. 17. (h) Megill. f. 2.


[p. 5] stians, Selden {a}, Buxtorf {b}, Hottinger, {c} Drusus {d}, &c. have endeavour'd to prove the Truth of them.

OTHERS less credulous, tho' very well vers'd in the History and Antiquities of the Jews, Alting {e}, Burman {f}, Witsius {g}, Vitringa {h}, Loesher {i}, Buddeus {k}, and lately Rau {1}, have proved by irrefragable Arguments that this Story was first invented by the Author of Pirke Abhot, and propagated by the Gemarists, in order to give Sanction to their Traditions; they conclude this from the Silence of Ezra, the pretended President of this great Synagogue, of Nehemiah one of the chief Members of it, of the Prophets Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi; of the Apocryphal Writers, the Author of the Books of the Maccabees, and Jesus the Son of Sirach, who in the L. Chapter of Ecclesiasticus, bestoweth great Encomiums upon Simeon the Just, but maketh no Mention of his having been Member of this great Council, and having preserved the Traditions; and of the Historians Josephus, Ben-Gorion, Seder Olam Rabba, and Seder Olam Kuta: To this negative Argument, they add several others: 1. Malachi, after having complained of the People's Irreligiousness, Rebellion, and Idolatry, and reproved the Priests for their neglect of the Covenant, and the Judges for having been partial in the Law, doth not reprimand the Members of the great Synagogue for having neglected their Duty, in not preventing and punishing these Disorders, nor exhort the People to apply to them, but to the Priests, The Priests Lips shall keep Knowledge, and they shall seek the Law at his Mouth, for he is the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts. Malachi ii. v. 7. 2. In the Account of the Rabbinists we find manifest Contradictions, gross Absurdities, and ridiculous Anachro-

(a) Selden de Synedriis, Lib. II. c. xvi. (b) Buxtorf. Tiberias, cap. x. (c) Hotting. Thesaur. Philolog. Lib. I. cap. ii. (d) Drusius Observat. Sac. Lib. XVI. c. xxiii. (e) Alting. op. Tom V. (f) Fr. Burm. Synops. Theol. Lib. IV. cap. xxxvii. (g) Witsius Miscell. Sacrae. Lib. II. Dissert. iii. (h) Campeg. Vitring. Hypotyp. Histor. Sacrae. Period. VI. (i) Val. Ern. Loescher, de Caus. Ling. Heb. Lib. I. cap. v. (k) J. F. Budd. Hist. Eccl. V. T. Tom. II. Per. 2. (1) J. Bern. Rau de Synag. Mag.


nisms. They differ, 1. About the Name of this great Council, some call it [hhh] the Senate of Ezra, and others [hhh] the great Synagogue. 2. About the time it was instituted; The Gemarists in Megilla, f. 17. and Rashi think this Council was establish'd during the Captivity of the Jews in Babylon; others by Zerubabel and Jeshua, after their first Return into Judea, Ezra II. v. 2. and others by Ezra in the seventh Year of Artaxerxes, Ezra VII. 8. 3. About the Members of this great Synagogue. Maimonides {a} Abarbanel {b}, and Bartenora, reckon among them, the Prophets Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, but R. Nathan in Abhot, Chap. I. and the Author of the Book Cozri, Part. III. §. 65. pretend no Prophet had any Right to sit and vote therein, because it is said in Pirke Abhot, that Moses deliver'd the Law to Joshua, Joshua to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets, to the Men of the great Synagogue. 4. About the Time this Council continued, Maimonides and others relate, that all the Members of it were Contemporaries, that if one of them died, no other was chosen to succeed him, and that Simeon the Just survived all the rest, and was the last of them: But R. Azaria in his Book Meor Enaim affirms, they did not live at the same time, but succeeded one to another, during the space of eight Generations: To prove it, he quoteth Nehemiah XII. 10. 11. where it is recorded, that Jeshua begat Joiakim, Joiakim Eliashib, Eliashib Joiada, Joiada Jonathan, and Jonathan Jaddua: He adds, that it is known by Tradition, that Jaddua begat Onia, and Onia Simeon the Just, which maketh eight Generations. 5. About the Authors of the XVIII. Prayers called Shemon 'efre: The Gemarsts in Megilla, f. 17. say; the Tradition is, that the CXX Elders, among whom were several Prophets, composed the XVIII. Prayers in the Order they are now in; and in another

(a) J. Bern. Rau de Synag. Mag. (b) Maim. Pref. Lib. Jad. Hazaka. (n) Abarb. Comment. ad Lib. Nahalar Abhot.


Place they tell us, that Simeon the Cotton-Merchant composed them before Rabban Gamaliel, in the City of Jafne.

BESIDES these Contradictions, the Account the Rabbinsts give us of the great Synagogue, is full of gross Absurdities. 1. They confound Ezra with Malachi, and alledge for a Reason, that there never was any Man whose Name was Malachi, since this Word signifies an Angel or Messenger, but that Ezra was called so on account of his Office. 2. The Prophets had express Orders from God to write their Visions, and Predictions, Habbakkuk II. v. 2. and the Book of Esther was written by Mordecai, Esther IX. v. 20. 23. It is therefore absurd to say Ezra with the Assistance of the Men of the great Synagogue wrote the Books of Ezekiel, Daniel, the XII. Small Prophets, and Esther. 3. In the Prayers V. X. XI. XIV. XVII. of Shemon 'efre, the Jews call upon God to turn their Captivity, to gather them from all the Corners of the Earth, where they are dispers'd, to restore their Judges as at first, and their Counsellors as at the beginning, to rebuild Jerusalem and to re-establish his true Worship in the Temple; which sheweth those Prayers were composed after the Destruction of Jerusalem and not by Ezra. 4. The Feast of Purim was not instituted by the Men of the great Synagogue, but by Mordecai, and confirmed by the Decree of Esther. Esther IX. v. 31. 32. The Partition of the Holy Scriptures into [hhh] the Law, the Prophets and the Hagiographers, and the Order in which those Books are placed, has not been observed and followed by the LXX. Interpreters, nor by Josephus in his First Book against Apion, and therefore cannot be so old as Ezra's time. 6. It is highly improbable, that immediately after the Return of the Jews from Babylon, there would have been so great a Number of Learned Men among them, as to Compose a Council of LXX Persons, especially when we are told in the Talmud {a} that the Bran only (that is

(a) Talmud Babylon. in Kidhushim.


the Dregs of the People) return'd to Jerusalem, and that all the fine Flour staid behind at Babylon.

LASTLY, the Rabbinists in their Account of the Great Synagogue are guilty of ridiculous Anachronisms. 1. They make Ezra Contemporary with Baruch, who lived before the Captivity of Babylon, with the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, with Plato and Demosthenes, and with Alexander the Great. 2. They confound Simeon the Just with the High-Priest Jaddus, who received Alexander the Great into the City of Jerusalem, and make him to have lived 350 Years; some even say he was the same Simeon that took Jesus Christ in his Arms. 3. They pretend the Persian Empire did not continue above fifty two Years, and that Darius, Hystaspis, Artaxerxes, who sent Ezra and Nehemiah into Judea, and Darius Codomannus, who was defeated by Alexander, were only one and the same Person.

IF the Account of the Rabbinists is fabulous, that of the Caraites is imperfect. It is true, whatever the former may cavil, that R. Simeon the Son of Shetach retired into Egypt, and was re-call'd at the Intercession of the Queen: He is called in Juchasin, p. 17. [hhh] Brother in Law to King Jannaeus, and R. Abraham the Son of David, speaking of the same Jannaeus saith, he did slay all the Wisemen, except Simeon the Son of Shetach, who was Brother to the Queen. R. Moses Beschitzi the Son of Eliah, in his Book Matte Elohim relates, that being at Alexandria in Egypt, the Rabbinists shewed him a Turkish Mosque of a solid and curious Structure, which had been formerly a Synagogue, built by Simeon the Son of Shetach, during his Stay in that City in which there was an Altar, where he offered Sacrifices: He adds, that this Account was confirmed to him by the Ismaelites (the Turks) who had a great Veneration for this Altar: Joseph the Son of Gorion, Rabbi Abraham the Son of Zacuth, the Authors of Cozri, Part III. p. 240. and of Kiddushin, Chap. III. make also mention of Simeon's retiring into, and his Stay in Egypt. It is true also, that this Simeon forged a great Number of Traditions. Having been instructed at Alexandria in the Philosophy of Plato, and in the Hieroglyphics of the Egyptians, he borrowed from them several Tenets, which he pretended to be the Oral Law, delivered to Moses on Sinai. It is true, moreover, that the Origin of the Schism among the Jews, and of the Sects of Rabbinists and Caraites ought to be dated as it is in Juchasin, p. 15. and in Cosri, Part III. p. 240. from the Time of Simeon, and was occasioned by his Disputes with R. Juda the Son of Tabbai; but it is not true that before Simeon the Jews had no Traditions.

To clear up this Point, we shall first explain what is meant by Traditions. Secondly, we shall prove that ever since the time of Moses there have been Traditions among the Jews: In the third Place we shall inquire, how the Bulk of these Traditions increased, and lastly, we shall give an Account of the several Collections R. Yuda the Saint, and the Gemarists made of these Traditions.

I. BY Tradition we do not mean such Doctrines as are not founded upon the Scriptures, or cannot be deduced from them; much less Doctrines manifestly contrary to the Sacred Truths contained in them; but only Explications of some Doctrines, Mysteries, Types, Prophecies and Precepts, which were revealed obscurely; and in a manner hid under a Veil. The Standard of Religion has always been Divine Revelation, or the Written Law, to this all were to have Recourse, all were obliged to submit to its Decisions, and to follow this sacred Rule, To the Law, and to the Testimony, if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no Light in them, saith the Prophet Isa. VIII. v. 20. but the Oral Law was a Sort of Catechism or Instruction established in the time of Moses, and continued afterwards, in order to explain the whole Doctrine of Religion, and to make it clear and obvious to the meanest Capacities: The Jews themselves R. Aben Ezra, R. Solomon Jarchi, R. Bechai and others relate that God explained to Moses upon Mount Sinai the true Meaning, [p. 10] Sense, Reason, Manner, Measure, and Foundation of every Precept of the Law, and ordered him to instruct the Israelites in them, and they prove it from Deut. IV. v. 14. where Moses saith, The Lord commanded me at that Time to teach you Statutes and judgments; by which Statutes, &c. they pretend is meant the Oral Law.

THE ancient Jews knew and believed several Mysteries which were but obscurely revealed to them in the Scriptures, as the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the Redemption of Mankind by the expiatory Sacrifice of Christ, the Incarnation of the Son of God, his Mediatorial Office, &c. The learned Mr. Bedford in his Defence of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and of the Incarnation of the Son of God; lately publish'd, has proved from the Apocrypha, the Chaldee Paraphrasts, the Septuagint, Josephus, Philo, the Authors of the Books Zohar, Midrash Tehillim, Bereshit Rabba and others, that it was the constant Belief of the ancient Jewish Church. 1. That there is a Plurality in the Divine Essence. 2. That this Plurality is a Trinity. 3. That the three Persons are the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 4. That the Second Person is called the Word of God. 5. That the Messias was to be God and Man. 6. That as Mediator between God and Man he was to be Prophet, High-Priest, and King. The Belief of these Mysteries was certainly founded upon the Holy Scriptures, but they were more clearly explained to the Jews by Word of Mouth or Tradition. The Passages of Ecclesiasticus Ch. LI. v. 10. I call'd upon the Lord, the Father of my Lord; and of Judith XVI, v. 14. prove the Continuance of this Tradition among them, even after the Gift of Prophecy ceased: The Targum maketh mention of Jehova, the Word of Jehova, and the Shekina, as of three distinct Persons; and Philo acknowledges besides the Being that exists, two other Principles, one whereof he calleth God, and the other Lord: According to him these two Principles are Uncreated, Eternal, Infinite, and Incomprehensible. We could produce innumerable Testimonies to prove, that the ancient Jews did believe these great Doctrines of Christianity, the Trinity the Incarnation of the Messias or Son of God, and the Atonement he was to make for our Sins by his Death, as firmly as we do at this time, and that they were instructed in them by Tradition.

THE Obscurity of the Types and Prophecies, as well as of several Precepts of the Jewish Law, was another Reason which obliged them to have Recourse to Oral Explications; accordingly we find, they were instructed in the true Meaning of them by Tradition. The Legal Dispensation was wholly Typical, all the Sacrifices from the beginning of that Institution were so many Types of the Sacrifice of Christ, the Passover represented our Redemption by his Death; the Legal Purifications, the Ablution or waffling away of our Sins by his Blood; and the Smoak of the Incense, the Prayers of the Saints which come up before God. Psal. CXLI. v. 2. The Jews understood the Meaning of these Types, they acknowledged in all Ages, that in several Passages of the Scripture there was a Typical as well as a literal Sense, relating to the Messias and his Kingdom; and Josephus {a} tells us, that in old Times when Prophecies were frequent, and Types and Allegories constantly made use of, they had certain Rules and Methods of Interpretation, which thro' length of time, and the Corruption of succeeding Ages are lost. Our Saviour and his Apostles often silenced them with the Application of Types, which they never could have done, had it not been agreed on all hands, that there were Types as well Personal, as Real, and that the Antitypes represented and prefigured by them, were the thing which the Holy writers had particularly in View. Two or three Instances will be sufficient to convince us of it. David was a type of Christ, who is stiled David, because as he was prefigured by David, so he was to descend from him: Hoseas Chap. III. v. 5. foretells, They shall seek

(a) Joseph. de Bell. Judaic. Lib. III. c. 14.


David their King in the latter Days; the Chaldee Paraphrast applieth this Passage to the Messias the Anti-type, and renders it thus, They shall obey the Messias the Son of David their King. The Manna which the Israelites did eat in the Wilderness, was a Figure of our Saviour, who is the Bread of Life: Accordingly Philo saith {a} the Manna is called, What is it? which is the general Expression for all Things, but that which is more general is God, and the Second is the Word of God. He adds, that this Word is the Bread which God giveth us to eat, and is above all the World, more ancient and general than all the Creatures. The same Philo {b} makes the Rock in the Wilderness to be synonimous with the Manna, which he calls the most ancient of Beings, and the Divine Word.

THE ancient Jews explain'd likewise the several Prophecies of, and applied them, to the Messias: Jonathan and the Jerusalem Targum expound the promis'd Seed Gen. III. 16. as an Oracle, which was to be fulfilled in the Days of the Messias. When Eve saith, I have gotten a Man from the Lord, Jonathan renders it, I have gotten a Man, even the Angel of the Lord. The Jerusalem Targum expresseth the Words of Jacob, I have waited for thy Salvation, O Lord, thus: 'My Soul doth not desire the Redemption of Gideon, the Son of Joash, for that is but for an Hour, nor the Redemption of Simeon, tho' he has brought us some Deliverance but my Soul expects that Redemption, even that Redemption of thine, which thou hast promis'd should come to thy People Israel by thy Word.' The Psalms XLV. and LXXII. and the Prophecies Isai. IV. v. 2. IX. 6. 7. XI. 1. XXVIII. 5. Jerem. XXIII. 5. Mich. V. 2. are by the Chaldee Paraphrasts expressly applied to the Messiah, all which shews, they understood the true Meaning of their Prophecies, and were instruc-

(a) Philo de Legis allegoriis, Lib. III. p. 852.   (b) Phil. Quod deterior potiori insidiari Soleat. p. 137.


ted by Tradition how to apply them. S. Peter says therefore, they enquired and search'd diligently who prophesied of the Grace to come. I. Pet. I. 10. We may add to this that several Precepts of the Ceremonial Law wanted to be explain'd, and that in the Talmud Gemar Ketuvoth, 106, and in Shir hashirim Rabba 22, we are told there were [hhh] learned Priests, who instructed the others in the Functions of their Office, and taught them [hhh] the Manner of killing the Beasts in Sacrificing, of sprinkling the Blood, and of offering the Incense.

II. THAT there were Traditions among the Jews in the time of Jesus Christ, and of his Apostles, is a Point which can't be disputed: When the Scribes, and the Pharisees said to our Saviour, why do thy Disciples transgress the Tradition of the Elders? He answer'd, why do you also transgress the Commandment of God, by your Tradition? And although he rejected those Traditions, by which they made void the Law of God, yet he allowed of those which tended only to inforce that Law, or to explain the Holy Writ: It was for this Reason, he said to the Multitude, The Scribes, and the Pharisees sit in Moses Seat, all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do, but do not ye do after their Works, for they say, and do not. Matth. XXIII. v. 2. 3. The Apostles often made use of the Traditions of the Jews, to convince them of the Truth of the Gospel: As the Chaldee Paraphrase was a short Explication of the Text of the Scripture, according to the Sense of the most learned among the Jews, St. Paul who was instructed by Gamaliel, did penetrate into the most refined Points of their Traditions, and mystical Interpretations, and from them he argued against their Teachers in his Epistles to the Galatians and to the Hebrews: It was by Tradition he knew, that the Names of the Magicians of Egypt, who withstood Moses, were Jannes, and Jambres. 2 Tim. III. v. 8 that when God gave the Law to Israel upon Mount Sinai, the Sight was so terrible that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and tremble, Heb. XII. 21. that when the first Testament was dedicated, Moses sprinkled with Water and scarlet Wool, and Hyssop both the Book and all the People. Heb. IX. 19. It was from Tradition St. Jude related the Dispute of Michael the Archangel with the Devil about the Body of Moses, and the Prophecy of Enoch; The Revelation of St. John makes continually Allusion to the publick Worship of God in the Temple, and particularly to the Solemnity of the Day of Expiation, and to the Sacrifices offered during the seven Days of the Feast of Tabernacles, all which Ceremonies were known by Tradition.

THE Caraites themselves, as we have observed already, do not reject all Traditions in general, but only those which have no Foundation in the Scriptures, or are contrary to them: R. Mordecai in his Treatise, c. 8. saith, 'We receive the Traditions, which our Doctors have transmitted to us as [hhh] a hereditary Yoke, and a Doctrine handed down to us by an uninterrupted Succesfion:' And Chap. 9. we read these Words of the Author of the Book Matte Elohim, 'The Foundation upon which we build are the Sentiments of Shamai and his Sanhedrim, from whom we have received our Doctrine, and the Copy of the Law:' According to R. Jehuda ben Eliezer, the Principles of the Religion of the Caraites are 1. [hhh] the Scripture. 2. [hhh] Arguments or Reasoning, and 3. [hhh] the hereditary Yoke or Traditions. Several of their Doctors quote the Mishna, and recommend the Study of it, as well as that of the Talmud, or the Gemara, They borrow from them, and from the Treatise Pirke Avoth, several Maxims, Phrases, and Expressions, from all which it follows evidently, that the Caraites as well as the Rabbinists, have their Traditions, and that the only Difference is, that the Traditions of the former are fewer in Number, and not of the same Authority with the Written Law.

[p. 15] III. AFTER having proved, there were Traditions among the Jews, ever since the time of Moses, it is necessary to examine, how these Traditions were propagated: The first Teachers in the Jewish Church were the Priests: As they had no Lands to cultivate, nor Trade to carry on, but lived upon Tythes, they had Leisure to instruct the People: Being dispersed throughout all the Cities of the Israelites, Opportunities enough offered to teach the Mysteries of Religion and the Moral Duties every where: That it was their Employment and Duty so to do, appears from the express Order of God. Levit. X. 10, 11. where they are enjoined to explain the Law to all the People, to teach them the Difference between the Holy and the Profane, the Unclean and the Clean, and to judge in Controversy: It is for this Reason Malachi saith, The Priests Lips shall keep Knowledge, and they shall seek the Law at his Mouth. Mal. II. 7. accordingly we read, that in the Reign of Jehoshaphat the Priests went about throughout all the Cities of Juda, and taught the People. 2 Chron. XVII. 9.

WHEN the Priests began to degenerate and Men thereby became estranged from the Worship of God, the Prophets undertook to instruct and reprove the People. By the Word Prophet we are to understand not only one, who being endued with the Gift of Prophecy foretells future Events, but also one who is an Instructor, to others. Abraham is call'd a Prophet Gen. XX. 7. because he taught his Children and his Houshold to keep the Way of the Lord. Gen. XVIII. 19. When God saith to Moses, I have made thee a God to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy Brother shall be thy Prophet. Exod. VII. 1. it is evident that by the Word [hhh] Prophet, he means no more than [hhh] an Interpreter. Praising God with Songs and Instruments of Musick in the House of the Lord is called prophesying with Harps, with Psalteries and Cymbals 1 Chron. XXV. 1. 6. 7. and St. Paul generally chuses to express preaching the Mysteries and duties of Religion by Prophesying. Rom. XII. 6. I Thess. V. 20. In the Christian Church God has appointed among the different Officers Prophets, whose Office is to expound and interpret the Scriptures, Ephes. IV. 11. 1 Cor. XIV. 31, 32. It is therefore manifest that the Prophets were Publick Teachers.

THESE Prophets had Schools, where they instructed their Disciples and all the People in the Law of God. The first Institution of these Schools, was probably about the time of Samuel, since there is no mention made of them, before the Account given us of Saul's meeting and joining himself to a Company of Prophets at the Hill of God, 1 Sam. X. 5. We read of a like Company of Prophets, at Naioth in Rama, prophesying with Samuel, who stood as appointed over them. 1 Sam. XIX. 20. In the second Book of Kings several other such Schools are mentioned, as subsisting in the Days of Elijah and Elisha, as the Sons of the Prophets that were at Bethel, and others that were at Jericho. 2 Kings II. 3. 5. The Sons of the Prophets that were sitting before Elisha at Gilgal, Ch. IV. 38. the Sons of the Prophets who belonged to Mount Ephraim, ib. Ch. V. 22. and the College where a Prophetess dwelt at Jerusalem, ib. Ch. XXII. 14. These Sons of the Prophets were their Disciples, brought up under their Tuition and Care, and therefore their Instructors or Masters were called their Fathers; Elisha calls out to his Master Elijah, My Father, my Father, 2 Kings II v. 12. and when one asks, who is the Father of the Prophets at the Hill of God. 1 Sam. X. 12. he is understood to mean, who is their Head and Teacher: Samuel's standing as appointed over the Prophets at Naioth, or as Jonathan renders it, as teaching over them, and the Account of the Sons of the Prophets sitting before Elisha at Gilgal shew, that they were Governors and Instructors to their respective Pupils, and the Question which the Shunamite was asked by her Husband, when she was going to Elisha, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to Day, it is neither new Moon nor Sabbath, 2 Kings ch. IV. 25. evidently proves that the People resorted to the Prophets, at those solemn Times, in order to be instructed by them in the Law of God. 

To the Prophets succeeded the Sopherim or Scribes. After the Gift of Prophecy had ceased Publick Teachers were called Scribes, in imitation of Ezra, who is stiled Sopher mahir, a ready Scribe in the Law of Moses. Ez, VII. 6. the Scribe, even a Scribe of the Words of the Commandments of the Lord, and of his Statutes to Israel, ib. v. 11. A perfect Scribe of the Law of the God of Heaven, v. 12. And in the third Book of Ezra, [ggg], Reader of the Law. Their Office was to teach the Law, to expound the Scriptures, to answer all Objections and Difficulties, to resolve Cases of Conscience, and to direct the People in the Worship of God. They, as well as the Prophets had their publick Schools, where they instructed their Disciples, and where some of the most learned among them presided over them. The Author of the first Book of the Maccabees, Ch. VII. 12. speaks of a Synagogue of Scribes, and Eleazer is called one, [ggg] of the presiding or chief Scribes. 2. Maccab. VI. 18. we read in S. Luke, Ch. II. 46. that there were Doctors sitting in the Temple and teaching: Christ saith: The Scribes and the Pharisees sit (as Teachers) in Moses Seat, Matth. XXIII. 2. and it is related that those of Copernaum were astonished at the Doctrine of Jesus, because he taught them as one that had Authority, and not as the Scribes, Mark I. 22. They were called sometimes [ggg] Lawyers, and [ggg], Doctors of the Law. It is true, several learned Men pretend these last were two Sorts of Teachers, different from the Scribes, but he that asked Jesus Christ a Question tempting him and saying, Master, which is the great Commandment in the Law? is called in St. Mark, Ch. XII. 28. 32. [ggg] the Scribe, and [ggg], one of the Scribes; and in St. Matthew, Ch. XXII. [ggg] one of the Pharisees, which was a Lawyer, and the same Persons who are stiled [ggg] Scribes, Mark II. 6. go under the Title of [ggg], Doctors of the Law, Luke V. 17. Their Authority was great, and it was by their Orders, that Jesus Christ was taken, examined, and condemned. Mark X. 33. Luke XXII. 2. Triglandius, Alting, and Basnage endeavour to prove they were Caraites and rejected all Traditions, Rhenferd on the contrary saith, they were those of the Pharisees, who taught publickly both the Law and the Traditions, but none of them give sufficient Proofs of their Assertions: It seems to us very probable, that the Name of [ggg] Scribe, denoted a certain Office, and not a Sect, and that there were Scribes or Teachers who were Pharisees, others who were Sadducees, and others still who were Caraites: The Talmud makes frequently mention of [hhh] the Scribes of the Sadducees; on the other hand Gamaliel was a Pharisee, and at the same time [ggg], a Doctor of the Law. Acts V. 34. and what is said of the Pharisees, Matth. XXIII. 6. is attributed to the Scribes, Mark XII. 39. Luke XX. 46. all this shews, that some of the Scribes, or as Lightfoot conjectures, those at least who were called [ggg], and [ggg] were Pharisees, or as it is said, Acts XXIII. 9. of the Pharisees Part, and that others differed from them.

SOME time before the Birth of Christ, the Teachers among the Jews, not contented to be called Scribes, carried their Vanity farther, and took the Title of Rabbi: We have already spoken of R. Simeon, the Son of Shetach, and R. Juda, the Son of Tabbai, who differ'd in their Opinions about Traditions, and gave Rise to the two Sects of the Rabbinists and of the Caraites. After them Hillel and Shammai were the most famous of the Jewish Doctors: Josephus the Historian {a} calls them Pollio and Sammeus, and relates that Herod having made himself Master of Jerusalem spared their Lives, when he put all the other Members of the Sanhedrim to Death. Hillel was born at Babylon, in the Year of the World 3648. Though his Mother was descended from the Royal Blood of David, he suffer'd great Want and Po-

(a) Joseph. Antiq. Lib. XIV. c. 28. & Lib. XV. c. 1.


verty, his Thirst after Learning was insatiable: Being instructed by Shemaia and Abtalion, he became very eminent in the Knowledge of the Law; when he was forty Years of Age, he removed with all his Family to Jerusalem, where he was in great Favour with King Herod, and kept a publick School. The Jewith Historians {a} say, he bred up above a thousand Scholars, of whom thirty were worthy, on whom the Divine Glory should rest, as it did upon Moses, thirty for whom the Sun should stand still, as it did for Joshua and twenty others of a middling Size: Hottinger {b} conjectures that the Hellenians of whom it is spoken in the Dialogue of Justin Martyr with Tryphon, were the Disciples of Hillel, and should have been called Hellelians: Jonathan Ben Uzziel the Author of the Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophets, was one of them. Some make Onkelos the Author of the Targum, or Chaldee Paraphrase on the Law, contemporary with him: Others pretend this Onkelos survived Gamaliel the Elder, and that he died eighteen Years before the Destruction of Jerusalem, but Dr. Prideaux {c} is of Opinion, that Onkelos was before Jonathan, having written in better Chaldee, and that Jonathan did not translate the Law, because Onkelos had done it before him.

THE most eminent of Hillel's Scholars was Shammai, who afterwards differ'd from his Master in several Points, Particularly about the First Fruits, the Proselytes, the Sabbath, and the Divorce. In a Conference they had together, in the House of R. Chanania, at which their Disciples were present, they agreed upon eighteen Decrees or Constitutions, but disputing about some others, they fell from Words to Blows, and R. Joshua Onia saith, that several of Hillel's Disciples were then killed, from that Time they were divided into two Sects, [hhh] the School of Hillel, and [hhh] the 

[aZacut in Juchasin, Gedalia, Ganz Tsemach David. [b] Hotting. Thesaur. Philolog. p. 42. [c] Prid. Connex. P. II. p. 535.


[p. 20] School of Shammai. The Rabbinists give the Preference to Hillel, they pretend he alone preserved the Law and the Traditions; we read in the Talmud, that after the Disciples of Hillel and Shammai had disputed three Years, and both of them pretended, that the Decision was according to their Opinion, the Bath-kol, or Voice from Heaven said: Both are the Words of the living God, but the {a} Decision is according to the School of Hillel. They represent Shammai as a morose, restless, and quarrelsome Man, and call his Disciples [hhh], which by Ephiphanius is translated {b} [ggg], Dissenters. The Caraites on the other Hand prefer the Decisions of Shammai, they pretend that little or no Credit is to be given to the Bath-kol, or Voice from Heaven, which is only a Fable invented by the Rabbinists, in order to give Sanction to their Traditions; that if the Scholars of Shammai were fewer in Number, they were more learned, more diligent, and more strict; that Hillel having substituted the practice of certain Ceremonies to true Holiness of Life, and endeavoured to make the Yoke of the Law easy, it is no Wonder he had more Disciples, than Shammai, who was more strict, and endeavour'd to inforce the Law.

To Hillel who attained the Age of 120 Years, and was therefore called [hhh] Hillel the old, succeeded his Son Simeon, Lightfoot {c} and several others pretend he is the same Simeon, who Luke II. 25, 26, 27, 28. is called a Man just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and who took the Child Jesus up in his Arms: Gamaliel his Son was his Successor, at whose Feet St. Paul was brought up in the City of Jerusalem, and taught according to the perfect Manner of the Law of the Fathers. Acts XXII. 3. and who spoke in Behalf of the Apostles, Acts V. 34. Simeon the Second, his Son, perish'd in the Destruction of Jerusalem

[a] Talmud in [hhh] f. 13. [b] Hotting. Thes. Philol. p. 43. [c] Lightfoot Hor. Talmud in Lucam.


by the Romans, but at the intercession of R. Jochanan, the son of Zaccai, the Life of Gamaliel, Simeon's Son, was preserved; this R. Jochanan was in great Favour with the Roman General, and afterwards Emperor Titus, who gave him Leave to retire to Joppa, and to build there a Synagogue and a School, in which he presided and taught publickly the Law and the Traditions: During the Space of Five Years, the abovesaid Gamaliel, Son of Simeon the Second, succeeded him, and after his Death Simeon the Third, Gamaliel's Son. R. Akiba, the Author of the Book Jetzira, of whom it is said that he had 24000 Scholars, R. Tarphon, probably the same with R. Tryphon, who disputed against Justin Martyr, and R. Eliezer taught publickly in the School of Joppa, and R. Juda the Saint, Son of Simeon the Third, at Tiberias. As there was a continued Series of Doctors among the Jews, so they had their publick Schools, of which after the Destruction of Jerusalem the most famous were in Judea at Joppa, and at Tiberias, and in Babylon at Sora, at Nehardea, and at Pumbeditha.

HAVING proved that there were Traditions among the Jews, ever since the time of Moses, and examined how and by whom they were preserved and propagated, it is necessary to inquire, in what manner their Bulk increased, which was by ingrafting the Tenets of the Heathen Philosophers into the Body of their own Divinity, by making a Hedge to the Law, and by collecting all the various Opinions and Sayings of their Teachers. Selden in his excellent Treatise De Jure Naturae & Gentium, Lib. I. c. 2. and Braunius in his Selecta Sacra, Lib. V. Exerc. 2. quote a great many Passages of Jewish, Christian and Pagan Authors, Aristobulus {a}, Josephus {b}, Clemens Alexandrinus {c}, Justin {d}, Eusebius {e},

[a] Clement. Alex. Strom. Euseb. Praep. Evang. L. IX. c. 6. [b] Joseph. cont. Apion. L. I. [ c] Clem. Alex. Strom. ae. [d] Justin ParaenetApol. 2. [e] Euseb. Praep. Evang. L. IX.


Theodoret {a}, Ambrosius {b}, Hermippus {c}, Porphyrius {d}; and Numenius {e}, to prove that Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle have converted with the Jews, and borrowed from the Law of Moses, and from the Writings of the Prophets all their Learning and Morals, but the Authority of the Jewish and Christian Writers is not a sufficient Proof, and all what can be inferred from the Quotations of Hermippus and Porphyrius is, that Pythagoras and Plato agreed with the Jews about the Being, the Attributes and Unity of God, and the Immortality of the Soul: It appears on the contrary, that after the Captivity of Babylon, the Jews being dispersed throughout all the world, and subject to the Kings of Persia, Syria and Egypt, studied the different Systems of the Heathen Philosophers and borrowed many Things from them, as from Pythagoras the Pre-existence of the Souls, and their Transmigration after Death; from Plato the Doctrine of the Demons, their Origins, Stations and Employments; from Aristotle the Opinion that the heavenly Bodies are animated; from Anaximander the Plurality of Worlds. We have already observed that Simeon the son of Shetach, during his Abode in Egypt, learned of the Egyptians their Method of handling Divinity and Religion: What the Rabbins say of the Angels agrees perfectly with Plato's Philosophy, They pretend that both the [hhh] and the [hhh], The Angels and the Genii have Bodies made of Fire, Psal. CIV. 4. or of Water {f}. They assign to the Genii for their Habitation the upper Region of the Air, and affirm that dwelling in the Spheres of the Elements they foresee future Events, and learn them from the Princes of the Planets {g}. They divide the Angels into several Classes, of whom some animate the heavenly Bodies, others preside over the Earth, and others are the Guardians and Protectors

[a] Theod. Therapeut. L. II. c. 6. [b] Ambras. ad Psal. 118. [c] Origin [sic] cont. Cels. L. I. [d] in vita Pythagora. [e] Hesychius & Suidas. [f] Bereshit. Rabba. [g] R. Bechai.


of the several Countries and Nations. They conclude from Deuter. XXXII. 8. that the LXX different Nations and from Daniel X. 13. that each of these Nations has an Angel for its Ruler and Protector, that the Archangel Michael {a} presides over the Israelites, Raphael over the Empire of Persia, Jurka {b} over Hail, Gabriel over the Fire: They make of the Angels a kind of Mediators between God and Men, and in [hhh] Fol. XX. it is said, that every Man hath his Angel, who is his Mazzal or Intercessor, and who presents his Prayers to God, entreating him to hear them. They add that there is nothing in the whole Universe, not even the least Herb, that is not under the Care of a particular Angel, who presides over it.

THE three famous Sects among the Jews, viz. the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes, differed chiefly in their Systems of Philosophy. Josephus, who in his Antiquities of the Jews, Lib. XIII. c. 9. calls them [ggg], three Sects, speaks of them Lib. XVIII. c. 2. under the Name of [ggg], three Philosophies: He informs us in the first of these two Passages, that they differ'd [ggg], about Human Things, or Philosophical Questions; and in the second he expresseth himself thus: [ggg]. The Jews from ancient times had three Systems of Philosophy, that of the Essenes, that of the Sadducees, and the third, which those called Pharisees studied and taught. The Pharisees were the most numerous, and as St. Paul observeth, the most strictest Sect, not only the learned Men, but also the common People sided with them: They were Stoics, and submitted all Things to Fate: Josephus {a} saith [ggg], they ascribe all Things to Fate and God: according to them it is in Man's Power to do Good or

[a] [hhh] f. 46. [b] Gem. [hhh] f. 118. [c] [hhh] f. 147. [d] Joseph. de Bello Jud. Lib. II. c. 12. Antiq. Lib. XIII. c. 9. & Lib. XVIII. c. 2.


Evil, but not without the Direction and Assistance of Fate. The Sadducees were of the Sect of Epicurus, and denied the Existence of Angels and Spirits, or that there was a future State: The Jews under the Asmonean Princes were grown powerful and rich, their Wealth produced Luxury and Vice, to free their Consciences from the Fear of Punishment, they embraced those impious Tenets of the Epicurean Philosopher. As at Rome in Ciccero's time, the chief of the Senators and of the Nobility were Epicureans, and the others Stoics, so among the Jews their learned Men, and the common People were Pharisees, but the Men of Vanity and Riches, as it appears from the Scriptures and from Josephus, were Sadducees. The Descriptions which the same Josephus and Philo the Jew give us of the Essenes, and of their peculiar Way of living, shew they were Pythagoreans. All these Sects borrowed several Tenets from the Heathen Philosophers, and ingrafted them into the Body of their Traditions, and therefore it is no Wonder the Bulk of there Traditions increased so much.

THE second Mean by which the Number of the Traditions increased among the Jews, was the pretended Decree of the Men of the Great Synagogue, related in Pirke Abhot, Be slow in judgment, instruct a great many Disciples, and [hhh], make a Hedge to the Law. After the Captivity of Babylon Iniquity abounded, Men's Defects, in what is good were innumerable, and their Practices of what is ill incorrigible. The Author of the second Book of Esdras, ch. XV. 6. describes the Corruption of Manners in that Age thus, Wickedness has exceedingly polluted the whole Earth, and their hurtful Works are fulfilled: The judges were Evening-wolves, who loved Gifts, and followed after Rewards: The Priests polluted the Sanctuary, did Violence to the Law, and profaned the Covenant. The People neglected the Worship of God, and the Practice of Virtue: Infidelity and Wickedness prevailed, Scoffers made a Scorn of Religion, and those who called themselves the People of God, fell into all the Vices of the Heathen Nations.

[p. 25] To find out a proper Remedy against this universal Corruption, and to bring about a true Reformation, it is said, the Men of the Great Synagogue recommended to the Judges to be slow in judging, to the Priests to instruct a great Number of Disciples, and to the Scribes to make a Hedge to the Law, in order to terrify the People from breaking thro' it. Actions indifferent in themselves were then prohibited or commanded, to the End that bad Actions might be more carefully avoided, and good ones promoted and practiced. The Design was certainly innocent and good, but by these Means Human Inventions were by Degrees substituted to the Law of God; mere external Forms and Precepts took place of the Eternal and unchangeable Duties of Religion and Piety; the real practice of true Virtue was neglected, the most eminent Men for Learning and Holiness of Life, Pharisees, Scribes, Doctors, and Expounders of the Law, became very strict and jealous even to Superstition, in observing the Rites and Ceremonies of the Law, in outward Purifications; in the washing of Pots and Cups, and the like: While they took no care at all to purify their own Minds from all Unrighteousness, and to practice those great Duties which are briefly summon'd up in the Love of God and of our Neighbour.

THE third Means, by which the Bulk of the Traditions among the Jews increased, was by collecting all the various Opinions and Sayings of their Teachers. After the Death of Simeon the Just, there arose a sort of Doctors called Tannaim, who made it their Business, to study and explain the Oral Law or Traditions, which had been received and allowed by the Ancients, and to draw from them Inferences, which they ingrafted into the Body of those ancient Traditions: The Jews give these Doctors all sorts of Elogies, and ascribe to them the Privilege of speaking to Angels, of commanding Devils, and of restraining Sorcerers: Among their Sayings there are several excellent Precepts of Morality, and useful Maxims; as when Simeon the Just said; The World was built upon the Law, upon Religious Worship;[p. 25] and the Retribution of Benefits; and Jose, Son of Jochanan in order to recommend Charity and Hospitality expressed himself thus, Let the Door of the House that is towards the Highway be open'd: but to those useful Maxims, they added many ridiculous Decisions, and bold Hyperboles: By these Means the Bulk of their Traditions was so considerably enlarged, as to exceed the possibility of being conveyed by Word of Mouth.

In order to preserve them from being forgotten and lost, R. Juda the Son of Simeon, sirnamed Hakkadosh the Saint, who was Rector of the School of Tiberias, in Galilee, and President of the Sanhedrim, made in the time of the Emperor Antoninus Pius (with whom he was in great Favour) a Collection of all the Decrees, Statutes, Decisions, and Sayings of the Chakamin, or Wise Men, and of all the Ordinances that had been made, as well by the pretended Men of the Synagogue, as by the Council and the Tannaim, which Collection he called the Mishna. This Work was compleated about the 180th Year of the Christian AEra, and is divided into six Parts. The first runs upon the Distinction of Seed in the Fields. The second regulates the Observation of Feasts. The third treats of Women and determines matrimonial Causes. The fourth turns upon the Suits, that proceed from Commerce. The fifth Part respects Oblations. And in the last is examined all that is necessary to Purification. As this Book is a Code of the Canon, and Civil Institutes of the Jews, it was received with great Applause, and R. Gamaliel Son of R. Juda the Saint, who succeeded his Father in the Headship of the Captivity, and in the Presidentship of the Sanhedrim, had it approv'd by all the Nations.

Tho' the Mishna seemed a compleat Book, yet two considerable Faults were observed in it, one that it was very confus'd, reporting the Opinions of different Doctors, and contrary Decisions, without determining, which of them deserved the Preference: the other, that it resolved only a small Part of the Doubts and Questions, which were debated among the Jews: To remedy these Disorders R. Jochanan, with the Assistance of Rab and Samuel two Disciples of R. Juda the Saint, wrote a Commentary upon it, which he call'd the Gemara, or Complement, because the Mishna being fully explained by it, all the traditionary Doctrines of the Jews were thereby compleated: This Gemara with the Mishna, is what the Jews call the Jerusalem Talmud: It was not finish'd before the Reign of Diocletian, whose Name is mentioned in it.

As the Jerusalem Talmud contained the Opinions of a small Number of Doctors, was written in a barbarous Language, such as was spoken in Judea, when corrupted by a mixture of strange Nations, and by consequence was obscure and hard to be understood, the Babylonian Doctors call'd Amoraim, undertook a new Explication of the Traditions contained in the Mishna. R. Asa, who kept a School at Sora, near Babylon, began to write a Commentary upon them, which after his Death was finish'd by his Sons and Scholars. This Commentary is call'd the Gemara or Talmud of Babylon; It was publish'd in the sixth Century, and is now chiefly followed by the Rabbinists, who look upon it as a compleat System of Divinity, Moral, Civil and Cannon Law: All their learned Men place their Studies in this Book, and none can be Teacher in their Schools or Synagogues without understanding it.

IF the Talmud was received with great Applause by the Jews: the Christians look'd upon it as a Book very Pernicious, abounding with ridiculous Fables, insignificant Decisions, and manifest Contradictions. The Emperor Justinian in his 14th Novel: Lewis the Saint, King of France in the Year 1240. Philip IV. King of Spain; the Pope Gregory the IXth. Innocent the IVth. Honorius the IV. John the XXIIth [sic]. Clement the VIth, Julius the IIId. Paul the IVth. Pius the Vth. Gregory the XIIIth. Clement the VIIIth, &c. forbid the reading of it: The Cardinal-Inquisitors at Rome, by a Decree made in the Year 1563. and confirmed afterwards in the Year 1627. order'd all the Copies of it to be burn'd: In Consequence of which, the famous Library of the Jews at Cremona, was in the Year 1569 plunder'd, and about 12000 Copies, as well of the Talmud, as of other Rabbinical Books committed to the Flames. About the Year 1580. A Jew call'd Pfeffercorn, who had turn'd Christian, endeavour'd to persuade the Emperor Maximilian the Ist, to order all the Jewish Books to be burn'd; the Emperor consulted about it John Reuchlin, a Man famous for his Skil in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and several other Parts of Learning, who advis'd the burning of two Jewish Books, viz: Nizzachon, and Toledos Jeshu, because they were full of Blasphemies against CHRIST, and against the Christian Religion, but he told, that it was neither possible nor profitable to destroy all the other Books of the Jews, and particularly all the Copies of the Talmud: He was very much hated by the Monks, for this Advice: Hoogstraten a famous Divine at Cologn wrote several virulent Tracts, against him; the University of Paris declared for Hoogstraten; the other Divines of Cologn, and all the Monks espoused his Opinion; the Elector of Mentz pass'ed Sentence against Reuchlin, and his Book written in Defence of his Advice, was publickly burnt at Cologn; Reuchlin appealed to Rome, where the Cause was superseded and Prosecution stopp'd.

[See p. 54 of Michael Hoffman's essay in the Independent History and Research (2006) edition of The Traditions of the Jews for a discussion of the inadequacy of Stehelin's above description of the Pfeffercorn/Reuchlin controversy. Go to http://www.revisionisthistory.org for ordering information.  –JR, ed. of this HTML text]

ALTHO' after the Reformation several learned Men applied themselves to study the Talmud and other Rabbinical Books, yet there are some who look'd upon them as Books not only useless, but even pernitious: Basnage in his History of the Jews says: "The Talmudists boldly make Anachronisms write the grossest Absurdities, and without any scruple of Conscience corrupt the Truth of History:" And others pretend that both the Mishna and the Gemara are full of Blasphemies, Fables, and Contradictions.

To prove this Assertion, they quote several Passages from the Talmud, where it is said, that God laughs, {a} weeps, {b} laments, and saith, Wo unto me, because I have destroyed my House, burnt my Palace, and carried my Children in Captivity, {c} pray's, {d} wears Frontlets, {e} and studieth the Law, {f} the Description of Birds, Reptiles, Fishes and vegetables of a monstrous Size: the Fables of the travelling of Ground, and of the speaking of Trees, Mountains and Stones; the Opinions of the Rabbins concerning the Messiah; the time of his Appearing; his gathering the Jews from all Nations and Parts of the World, his conducting them to the Land of Canaan; the Royal Banquet, to which he shall invite them, when sitting at a golden Table, they shall feast upon the great Ox Shor Habbor, or Behemot, the monstrous Fish Leviathan, the Female of the Leviathan, which shall be served as Salt-Fish, and the roasted Fowl Barjuchne; their Account of the Mariage of the Messiah and of his Childern. &c.

IT can't be denied that there are several Things related in the Talmud, which, taken in a literal Sense, seem ridiculous and absurd, but the most Learned among the Jews look upon them as so many [hhh] Parables, and explain them in a mystical Sense: The Rabbins for the more delightful Entertainment of the People, indulg'd themselves in the ancient and useful way of Instructing by Metaphors, and figurative Expressions; Their Books abound every where with Parables, Similitudes and Figures of Speech: if accordingly we take several Passages of the Talmud in a Mystical Sense, we find, that far from being ridiculous and absurd, they contain very useful Maxims: . . .

[a] Avoda Sara, c. I. p. 13. [b] Rabboth fol. 289. [c] Ibid. [d] Berachor. c. I. fol. 7. [e] Ibid. f. 6. Jalkut, f. 58. [f] Avoda Sara, f. 3. Jalkut Shimeon. P. II. f. 50.


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