« PreviousContinue »
the Great Synagogue, made a collection of the sacred writings (o), which had been increased,
assured Eumenes was the inventor, in the second century before Christ. Ink or paint must have been used to write on linen, and pens must have been reeds or canes, like those now used in Persia, which agrees better with the Hebrew word we render pen." Harmer's Observ. vol. ii.-Nearchus, who accompanied Alexander in his expedition into India, says, that the Indians "write on linen or cotton cloth, and that their character is beautiful." Arrian, 717.
(0) "What the Jews call the great synagogue were a number of elders, amounting to 120, who, succeeding some after others, in a continued series, from the return of the Jews again into Judea, after the Babylonish captivity to the time of Simon the Just, laboured in the restoring of the Jewish church and state in that country; in order whereto, the holy Scriptures being the rule they were to go by, their chief care and study was to make a true collection of those Scriptures, and publish them accurately to the people. Ezra, and the men of the great synagogue that lived in his time, completed this work as far as I have said; and as to what remained farther to be done in it, where can we better place the performing of it, and the ending and finishing of the whole thereby, than in that time when those men of the great synagogue ended, that were employed therein, that is, in the time of Simon the Just, who was the last of them?" Prideaux, part 1. book 8. It is also generally admitted that Ezra transcribed the Scriptures in the Chaldaic or square letters, which we now call Hebrew, and which, from the long residence of the Jews in Babylon, were then better understood than the antient Hebrew or Phoenician charac
since the Jews were carried into captivity, by the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and the prophecies of Ezekiel, of Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah; and as Ezra was himself inspired, we may rest assured, that whatever received his sanction, was authentic. To this genuine collection, which, according to former custom, was placed in the temple, were afterwards annexed the sacred compositions of Ezra himself, as well as those of Nehemiah and Malachi, which were written after the death of Ezra. This addition, which was probably made by Simon the Just, the last of the great synagogue, completed the
ters. When the Jewish church was re-established after the captivity, a rule was made to erect a synagogue in every place where there were ten persons of full age and free condition always ready to attend the service of it, ten being thought necessary to make a congregation; and it is said that Ezra himself distributed 300 copies of the Law for the use of these synagogues. The service performed in the synagogues was, prayer (for which they had a liturgy) reading and expounding the Scriptures, and preaching. The Pentateuch was divided into sections, that the whole might be read in the course of a year. When the reading of the Law was prohibited by Antiochus Epiphanes, they read the prophets instead of the Law, to evade the penalty of death; but as soon as they were freed from his tyranny, they read both the Law and the prophets every Sabbath, and have continued to do so ever since: but the prayers now in use are different from the antient liturgies. Vide Prideaux.
Canon of the Old Testament; for after Malachi no prophet arose till the time of John the Baptist, who, as it were, connected the two covenants, and of whom Malachi foretold, that he should precede "the great day of the Lord (p)" that is, the coming of the Messiah. It cannot now be ascertained, whether Ezra's copy of the Scriptures was destroyed by Antiochus Epiphanes, when he pillaged the temple; nor is it material, since we know that Judas Maccabæus repaired the temple, and replaced every thing requisite for the performance of divine worship, which included a correct, if not Ezra's own, copy of the Scriptures. This copy, whether Ezra's or not, remained in the temple till Jerusalem was taken by Titus, and it was then carried in triumph to Rome, and laid up with the purple veil in the royal palace of Vespasian (q).
Thus, while the Jewish polity continued, and nearly 500 years after the time of Ezra, a complete and faultless copy of the Hebrew canon was kept in the temple (r) at Jerusalem, with which all others might be compared. And it ought to be observed, that although Christ frequently
(p) Mal. c. 4. v. 5.
(9) Joseph. de Bell. Jud. lib. 7. cap. 5.
(r) Josephus mentions the Scriptures deposited in the temple. Ant. Jud. lib. 3. cap. 1. and lib. 5. cap. 1.
reproved the rulers and teachers of the Jews for their erroneous and false doctrines, yet he never accused them of any corruption in their written Law, or other sacred books: and St. Paul reckons among the privileges of the Jews, "that unto them were committed the oracles of God (s),' without insinuating that they had been unfaithful to their trust. After the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, there was no established standard of the Hebrew Scriptures; but from that time the dispersion of the Jews into all countries, and the numerous converts to Christianity, became a double security for the preservation of a volume held equally sacred by Jews and Christians, and to which both constantly referred as to the written word of God, They differed in the interpretation of these books, but never disputed the validity of the text in any material point.
But though designed corruption was utterly impracticable, and was indeed never suspected, yet the carelessness and inadvertence of transcribers, in a long series of years, would unavoidably introduce some errors and mistakes. Great pains have been taken by learned men, and especially by the diligent and judicious Dr. Kennicott, to collate the remaining manuscripts of the (s) Rom. c. 3. v. 2.
Hebrew Bible; and the result has been satisfactory in the highest degree. Many various readings of a trivial kind have been discovered, but scarcely any of real consequence. These differences are indeed of so little moment, that it is sometimes absurdly objected to the laborious work of Dr. Kennicott, which contains the collations of nearly 700 Hebrew manuscripts, that it does not enable us to correct a single important passage in the Old Testament; whereas this very circumstance implies, that we have in fact derived from that excellent undertaking the greatest advantage which could have been wished for by any real friend of revealed religion; namely, the certain knowledge of the agreement of the copies of the antient Scriptures, now extant in their original language, with each other, and with our Bibles. This point, thus clearly established, is still farther confirmed by the general coincidence of the present Hebrew copies with all the early translations of the Bible, and particularly with the Septuagint (t) Version, the earliest of them all, and
(t) This is a Translation of the Old Testament into Greek, made at Alexandria, when Ptolemy Philadelphus was king of Egypt. Aristeas relates, that Ptolemy applied to Eleazer, the high priest at Jerusalem, for proper persons to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek lan