« PreviousContinue »
SECT. III. Of the Jewish Affairs under PTOLEMY SOTER, PTOLEMY PHILADELPHUS, and PTOLEMY PHILOPATER, Kings of Egypt. Of the great Synagogues, the Jewish Traditions, their Mishnah and Talmud; and of the Septuagint Tranflation of the Bible into Greek.
1QHOW did Ptolemy, King of Egypt, deal with the Jews?
A. Ptolemy defigning to make Alexandria, which was built by Alexander, in Egypt, his capital City, he perfuaded a Multitude of Jews to fettle there, granting them the fame Privileges as Alexander had done before him; whence it came to pafs, that Alexandria had a greater Number of Jews ftill flocking to it.
2 Q. What remarkable Story is related of one Mofollam, a Jew, who followed Ptolemy about this Time?
A.When a certain Soothsayer, or Cunning-Man, advised a Jewish Troop of Horse, in which Mofollam rode, to ftand ftill, upon the Sight of a Bird in the Way, and told them, they should either go backward or forward, as that Bird took its Flight; the Jew, being a great Archer, immediately fhot the Bird with an Arrow, and faid, "How could "that poor wretched Bird foreshew us our For"tune, which knew nothing of its own?" Hereby he defigned to expofe and condemn the Superftition of the Heathens.
3 Q. How did it fare with the Jews that were difperfed about Babylon?
A. Seleucus, another of Alexander's Generals, who ruled in the greater and the leffer Afia, built many Cities;, fixteen of which he called Antioch, from
rom Antiochus his Father; nine were called Seeucia, from his own Name; fix Laodicea, from the Name Laodice, his Mother; others Apamea and Stratonice, from his Wives; in all which he planted Jews, and gave them equal Privileges with the Greeks or Macedonians, especially at Antioch, in Syria, where they fettled in great Numbers.
4Q. What confiderable Perfon rofe among the Jews at Jerufalem about this Time?
A. Simon the Juft, who is spoken of fo honourably in the fiftieth chapter of Ecclefiafticus: He was a High Priest of the Jews about this Time, who merited the Surname of the Just, by his great Holinefs toward, God, and Juftice toward Men; and he was the laft of the Men of the Great Synagogue.
5 Q. What was this Great Synagogue, and who were the Men that compofed it?
A. An hundred and twenty Ellers, who, in a continued Succeffion, after the Return of the Jews from Babylon, laboured in restoring the Jewish Church and State; and made it their chief Care to publish the Scriptures to the People with great Accuracy.
6 Q. What Part of this Work is attributed to -Simon?
A. It is fuppofed by fome learned Men, that he added the two Books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Efther, and the Prophecy of Malachi, to the Canon of Scripture; which Books were fcarce fuppofed to be inferted by Ezra, becaufe feveral of them are thought to be written by Ezra himfelf; and the Books of Nehemiah and Malachi were mo.P likely written after Ezra's Time.
7 Q. Did the Jews after this Time, when the Old Teitament was completed, religiously cofie themfeives to the Doctrine of Scripture? A. After
A. After this Time their Traditions began to prevail; that is, the Sayings of the Ancients delivered down by Tradition.
Note, Though Traditions prevailed about this Time, yet the Mishnah, which is their Secondary Law, or a Collection of Traditions, and which they pretend to be dictated from God to Mofes, was not compiled and put together till above a hundred Years after the Time of Chrift by Rabbi Judah Hakkadefh: And this Mishnah, together with their Comments on these Things, are called the Talmud. Note, There are two Talmuds; that of Jerufalem, which was complete about three hundred Years after Chrift; and that of Babylon, about five hundred Years: But each of them have the fame Mifhnah, though with different Comments, which Comments are called the Gemara.
8 Q. Who were the chief Teachers of this Secondary Law or Traditions?
A. Antigonus of Sochó was the first of them, who being an eminent Scribe in the Law of God, was Prefident of the Sanhedrim, or Senate of the Elders at Jerufalem, great Mafter of the Jewish School, and a Teacher of Righteoufnefs to the People, and of thefe Traditions. Afterward all the Teachers or Doctors of the Jewish Law, were in the New Teftament fometimes called Scribes, fometimes Lawyers, or those who fat in Mofes's Seat.
9Q. What special Honour was paid to thefe Men? A. Befides other Refpects fhewed them by the People, who called them Rabbi, and highly ifteemed them, it was out of thefe Doctors that the great Sanhedrim, or Council of Seventy-two, was chofen, to govern the whole Nation; and the leffer Council of Twenty-three, which was in every City of Judea.
Note, These were called Rulers, or Eldere, or Counsellors; fuch were Nicodemus, Jofeph of Arimathea, and Gamaliel.
Note here alfo, That in the Jewish Talmudical Books, or their fabulous Writings, on which we cannot much depend, we are told, that about this Time one Sadoc miftook the Doctrine of Antigonus, of Socho, his Mafter, who taught, "that we ought "not to serve God in a fervile Manner, merely
with Respect to the Reward;" and inferred from hence, that there were no Rewards after this Life, and begun the Sect of the Sadducees: Though it may be justly doubted, whether this, and other dangerous Doctrines of this Sect, arose so early among the Jews.
10 Q Since the Jews were difperfed into fo many Countries, did they not acquaint the Gentiles with their Religion?
A. Yes; for Ptolemy Soter fet up a College of learned Men at Alexandria in Egypt, and begun a Library there; which Ptolemy Philadelphus, his youngest Son and Succeffor, improved to one hun dred thoufand Volumes: This Prince is reported to have commanded the Hebrew Law to be tranflated into Greek, to add to this Library of his,, that the Gentiles might read it; and accordingly. it was done.
Note, This College of learned Men was encouraged, and the Library increased by several Ptolemies fuc-, ceffively, till it arose to Seven hundred thousand Books. Both thefe Things made Alexandria a famous Place of Refidence and Refort for learned Men for several Ages. It happened that the larger Half of this Library was burnt by Julius Cæfar in his Alexandrian War: The other Part was, by continual Recruits, enlarging to a vafter Number than the whole Library before; but it was finally burnt and destroyed by the Saracens, in the Year of our Lord 642.
11 Q. In
11 Q. In what Manner is this Tranflation reported to be made?
A. Arifteas, the most ancient Writer on this Subject, and Jofephus the Hiftorian, who follows him,acquaints us, that after this Ptolemy had gained the Favour of the Jews, by paying the Ranfom of a hundred thoufand of their Countrymen, who were enflaved in Egypt, he procured fix Elders out of every Tribe of Ifrael, (which were in all Seventy-two) to come to his Court; and after a Trial of their Wisdom, by fome particular Queftion being put to each of them, he appointed them to tranflate the Law of Mofes, by conferring together about the Senfe of it, in the Ifle of Pharos ; which being afterwards read to him, and approved by him, he gave them a liberal Reward. Upon this Account this Tranflation is called the Septuagint, that is, the Translation of the Seventy, or Seventy-two Elders.
12 Q But did not this Story, in following Times grow much more fabulous?
A.. Philo the Jew, who lived about our Saviour's Time, reports, that each of these Seventytwo Elders were put into a diftinct Cell, and were required to tranflate the whole Bible apart; and that they performed it fo exactly alike, Word for Word, that it was approved as Miraculous and Divine: And even feveral Fathers of the Chriftian Church, being too credulous and fond of Miracles, have received this Story, and conveyed it down in their Writings.
13 Q. How doth it appear to be a Fable?
A. The great Imperfection of this Translation, discovers that it was no divine Work, nor performed by Miracle: Befides, the feveral Contradictions, and the Uncertainties that are mingled up