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THE CHARACTER OF THE JEWS. 27 Each of these events, too, was in its way significant. But the event of the age was the dispersion of the Jewish people, and their influence upon the religious condition of the nations among whom they were driven.
Hitherto the favoured race had been confined to Judæa. Frequent access to other countries was difficult, and even illegal ; nor had they, passionately loving their own land as they did, any temptation to wander. Henceforth, however, their character seems changed ; Judæa and Jerusalem are beloved still, but to the love of country there is added, as in the case of the Scotch and Swiss of our own times, a strong tendency to settle among other nations. Both captivities were intended as a punishment of national sins ; they were repeatedly foretold, and the sins which caused them were repeatedly denounced. It was foretold, also, to the people of Judah that one fruit of their exile should be repentance, and that on repentance they should be restored. All these predictions were fulfilled. The Jews in Babylon wept when they remembered Zion ; they sought the God of their fathers, and on their restoration to Palestine many of their former national sins were abandoned. Idolatry was entirely abolished, never to be revived; and their reverence for the law seems to have become most profound, ending, indeed, even in a superstitious regard for it--a regard which sacrificed the spirit to the letter of their ancient institutions.
But the captivity produced other results.
DISPERSION OF THE JEWS.
Jerusalem was no longer the virgin daughter of Zion ; its towers had been thrown down; its temple profaned ; and the symbols of the presence of its great Inhabitant were gone. To the Jew, therefore, Jerusalem was to some extent less dear. In Babylon, moreover,
the condition of the people had become more prosperous than many of them had hoped ; in the peace of the city they found their peace. So kindly were they treated by their conquerors, that when Cyrus gave them permission to return to Judæa the majority remained in their new home, where their descendants were to be found even in apostolic times, and long after in the rabbinical schools of that city. Other bands of them may be traced to the shores of the Caspian, and even to China. In Egypt a settlement had been made from the time of the murder of the Babylonian governor of Judæa, and with their history the name of Jeremiah is connected. To the descendants of this body of settlers Alexander gave peculiar privileges, and the Jewish quarter in Alexandria is often mentioned in history. Antiochus the Great established colonies of them in Lydia and Phrygia, and the policy of his predecessor, Seleucus, the builder of Antioch, induced many of them to take up their abode in that city. The disorders in Palestine drove others of the nation into voluntary exile; so that when Christ came Jews were to be found in large numbers throughout Asia, Greece, and Italy. The three great capitals of the world were crowded with them
THE JEWISH CAPTIVITY AND THE BIBLE.
Alexandria, the seat of eastern learning ; Antioch, of eastern commerce ; and Rome, the mistress of both.
The effect of these changes on the history of the Bible is very important. The captivity ultimately produced the Targuins, and the dispersion circulated the Septuagint. By the Targums a knowledge of Jewish literature and antiquities has been handed down to our times. By the Septuagint much of the same knowledge was extended throughout the ancient civilized
world. When the Jews returned after the captivity to Palestine, the old Hebrew had become obsolete. It sounded to the ears of the people as middleSaxon might sound to a modern Englishman. Its roots they recognised, but its forms and appearance were peculiar. It became necessary, therefore, to make provision for explaining the law in the common tongue.
With this view, synagogues were built in the cities of Judæa. The living voice became a necessary addition to the written word, and in process of time, as copies of the law were multiplied, the version in the vernacular dialect was naturally added to each, and even the notes and explanations given by ancient teachers. The reduction of such exposition to writing, however, must have been a very gradual work. Few of the people could read, and still fewer could afford to buy what must have been expensive volumes.
For three centuries before Christ this kind of teaching continued. When it was first reduced to writing is uncertain, but within two or
three hundred years after Christ we find several Targums, (as the text and notes together were called,) each being a translation of part of the sacred text in the vernacular Aramæan or Chaldee, with comments, grammatical, historical, and religious. These translations originated in the necessities of the people. Their utility to ourselves it is impossible to overrate. First of all, they afford a large body of materials for fixing the meaning of old Hebrew. As it is, many of its words are found only in one passage of Scripture, and without the Targums some of them at least would be unintelligible. They enable us, moreover, to ascertain the precise readings of the original text, and show with what vast care the whole was preserved. They illustrate in a remarkable manner the accuracy of the descriptions given in the New Testament of the character and sophistry of the Jewish rabbis. From the Targums alone a model teacher, according to Jewish notions, might be drawn to the life, and he would be found the very counterpart of those scribes and Pharisees whom our Lord rebuked. Above all, they prove that the views of the ancient prophetical Scriptures given in the New Testament, and now adopted by most Christian expositors, were the views taken by the earliest commentators among the Jews themselves. Men may now ask whether it is certain that the twenty-second Psalm and the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah really apply to the Messiah. To the old Jewish expositor such a question admitted of but one reply. He
THE HEBREW BIBLE.
81 believed that the prophet spoke in both cases, not of himself, but of another, and that other-Him " who was to come.
Any one at all acquainted with a Hebrew Bible may have noticed that there are various divisions in it, not found in the English translation. Looking more closely, he may find peculiar letters: there is one, for example, in Lev. xi. 42 ; another in Lev. x. 13; another in Psalm lxxx. 14; and another in Psalm lxxviii. 36. Sometimes the letter is of an unusual size; sometimes it is in an unusual position. In Lev. xi. 42, the peculiar letter is the middle letter in the book of the law. In Lev. x. 13, it indicates the middle word of the law. And so of the letters in the Psalms. These facts and many others are all noted with the most scrupulous care in the comments to which we have referred. “In the letter" most emphatically did the Bible come to the ancient Jew rather than " in the spirit ;” and with such reverence are those comments still regarded, that no modern Jew deems a Bible properly printed, in which these distinctions are not observed. Some imaginative interpreters among them give most curious explanations of these distinctions themselves.
The fact is without a parallel in the history of literature. Our Hebrew Bible contains a language which has not been spoken, except as a sacred tongue, for nearly two thousand years. The language itself was spoken four thousand years ago; and the very points, and accents, and divisions we now employ in writing it, were put