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HISTORY OF THE JEWS FROM THE DESTRUCTION OF
JERUSALEM TO THE PRESENT TIME.
A Coin struck at Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, representing the conquered country—she that was full of people, sitting a widow, solitary and weeping.
No mind can contemplate the ancient history of the children of Israel, the chosen people of God, without feeling a strong desire to trace their course subsequent to their excision from the Church, for their unbelief, and to know something of their present state and future prospects. In this place can be presented only a brief view of their ReSIDENCE, GOVERNMENT, RELIGION, LEARNING AND LEARNED Men, The Fate OF THEIR BELOVED CITY AND COUNTRY, THEIR FALSE CHRISTS, PERSECUTIONS AND SUFFERINGS, NUMBERS AT VARIOUS PERIODS AND COUNTRIES, EMPLOYMENT, ATTEMPTS FOR THEIR Conversion, PRESENT STATE AND PROSPECTS.
The Jews have been scattered, as Moses declared they would be, among all people, from one end of heaven to the other. When the Roman general, Titus, in the year of our Lord 72, had destroyed Jerusalem, and ploughed up its foundations, all the lands in Judea were ordered to be sold, and such oppressive acts were passed, that only
a few who felt an attachment to their land, which could not be destroyed, remained to die amidst its desolations. Multitudes retired to Egypt and the islands of the Adriatic; great numbers fled to Persia and Babylon ; and many took refuge in Italy and the western part of the Roman empire. From that day to this, they have been found, when suffered by civil governments, in every region of civilized man.
It was predicted that the sceptre should not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh should come. The Jews, with few exceptions, governed themselves until Christ came, and then the government departed from them, and they have now, for 1800 years, without a moment of independent sovereignty, been subject to others. They have, excepting in the United States, served their enemies in every land, and had an iron yoke of bondage put upon their necks. They could not, however, well long remain as a separate body, without some internal organization, and soon after their
dispersion, they divided into two great branches, the eastern and western, and chose distinguished leaders to be their guides. The head of the eastern Jews was styled the Prince of the Captivity. His residence was at Babylon or Bagdat. The head of the western, the Patriarch. He resided at Tiberias. These chiefs were of the Levitical race; and being excluded from the royal dignity, and confined to religious concerns, they never became alarming to the Romans. As the Sanhedrim could meet in no place but Jerusalem, it became extinct at the destruction of the city, but tribunals called houses of judgment, for the decision of religious disputes, were afterwards erected.
In the year 429, the office of Patriarch was abolished by imperial law, to the great grief of the western Jews. They were in consequence of this, left solely under the direction of the chiefs of the synagogues, whom they called Primates. The Princes of the captivity were splendid and powerful, but they were totally extinct in 1039, when the Jews were banished from the East. In
the Ottoman empire, the Jews are subject to a chief of their own nation, called Cochan Pasca, whose power over them is very absolute.
Every Jewish church is at present governed by a presiding Rabbi. Two or three of these Rabbis form a tribunal termed Beth Din, the house of Justice, for settling religious and sometimes civil disputes.
To their religion the Jews have adhered with an inflexible obstinacy. Such parts of their worship as were necessarily confined to Jerusalem, particularly sacrifices, have ceased; but as closely as they could, in their dispersed state, they have adhered to the Mosaic dispensation. They have continued to read the law in their synagogues, with a variety of prayers; to repeat blessings and praises to God, on all special occasions, to avoid swearing, and to treat the name of God with the greatest reverence; to abstain from meats prohibited by the Levitical law; to teach their children the law of Moses ; to venerate the Sabbath, which they have viewed as commencing an hour before sunset on Friday ; to practise circumcision; and to observe the passover, feast of pentecost, of trumpets, of tabernacles, of Purim, and the great day of expiation. They have also had many festivals not appointed by the law of Moses.
Since the destruction of Jerusalem they have had no High Priest. A rabbi or priest continues to preside in the synagogue worship, and occasionally preaches and marries. He is not confined to the tribe of Levi. The members of that tribe are now considered as laymen, yet they have some little deference paid them in the synagogue service.
The Jews in their dispersion have rigidly adhered to a few great articles of faith ; the unity of God; the inspiration and ever binding power of the law of Moses; the future appearance of the Messiah ; the resurrection of the dead; and future retribution. They have sup. posed that Christ will be a great temporal prince, will
restore the Jews to their native land, and will subdue all nations before him and the house of Judah. As the prophets have predicted his mean condition and sufferings, they have supposed that there will be two Messiahs, Ban Ephraim, a person of low and mean condition, of the tribe of Ephraim; and Ban David, a prince of great power and glory, of the tribe of Judah.
The Jews have acknowledged a two-fold law of God; the five books of Moses, and oral tradition. The oral tradition was, in their view, first delivered by God to Moses, and by Moses to the leaders of the Jews after him. The number of these traditions was constantly increasing, and had become, in the time of our Saviour, the chief objects of attention in the Jewish schools.
About the middle of the second century, rabbi Judah reduced all these traditions of the commentaries which had been made on them to one book, called the Misna. This was soon received by the Jews as a sacred book, and of equal authority with the written law. A commentary was written on the Misna by Jochanan, soon after it was formed, and called the Jerusalem Talmud, because it was composed for the Jews who remained in Judea.
In the East, Rabbi Asce began to collect in the fifth century, the sayings, debates, and decisions of the rabbis for 300 years, into 35 books. The work was compiled in about a century, and styled the Talmud of Babylon. For it, the Jews entertain the highest veneration, and view it as of divine authority.
About the sixth century, the attention of the Jews was turned to the scriptures. They much feared, as they had lost their existence as a nation, that they should lose their sacred books. To prevent this, a number of learned men composed a work in which they first fixed the true reading of the Hebrew text by vowels and accents, and then numbered, not only the chapters and sections, but even the verses, words and letters of the Old Testament. This is called the Masora, the hedge and fence of the law, and is “ the most stupendous monument, in the whole history of literature, of minute and persevering labour."
After the invention of printing, the Jews carefully printed several Hebrew bibles in folio and quarto, and lexicons and concordances. Cardinal Hugo, in 1240, had divided the scriptures into chapters. But in 1445, Mordecai Nathan, a rabbi, refined upon him, and divided the chapters into verses, but they were never marked in any printed Hebrew copy until 1661. Most of the Hebrew manuscripts, extant, were written between 1000 and 1457. One very fine copy of the Pentateuch is on 40 skins, written in 153 columns, about 22 inches deep and 5 broad, each column containing 63 lines. These skins are connected together and rolled up.
Some new sects have from time to time appeared among the Jews, but the Pharisees have ever formed the bulk of the nation. A few Caraites, who reject the traditions, and are Jewish Protestants, remain. A colony of these are on the Crimea. The Sadducees, as a sect, are nearly extinct. But there are many real Sadducees, that is, Infidels, among the Jews; men who reject all belief in revelation, and moral accountability, and any Saviour. A party has recently sprung up in Germany, who despise both the Talmud and the Old Testament. They are little better than Deists. The New Testament is read extensively.
LEARNING AND LEARNED MEN.
The Jews have never been a literary people. Rabbinical knowledge is all that has been esteemed by them of any value, and from this they have feared the study of the Greek and Roman classics would wean their youth. In the twelfth century, however, a constellation of learned men appeared in Europe, who were an honor to the nation. The chief of these were Nathan Ben Jechiel, Abram Ben Ezra, a commentator on the Old Testament ; Moses Maimonides, master of many eastern languages, a distinguished physician and an able defender of the Mosaic institution; Isaac Jarki, called by the Jews, Prince of Commentators, and the family of the Kimskis, distinguished for Hebrew learning. In a knowsledge of the Scriptures, the Jewish Rabbis always excel