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CHAPTER THE FOURTH:
OF THE JEWISH SECTS.
I. Of the Scribes.-11. Of the Pharisees.-II. Of the
Sadducees.-IV. Of the Nazarites.-V. Of the
Proselites.-X. Of the Karaites. 1. It is universally agreed, that while the spirit of prophecy continued, there were no religious sects among the Jews, the authority of the prophets being sufficient to prevent any difference of opinion. The sects, which afterwards prevailed among them sprang up gradually, and it is difficult to ascertain the time of their origin with precision; but as almost all of them seem to have arisen from the doctrines taught by the Scribes, after the return from the Babylonian captivity, it will be useful to give some account of that class of persons though they are not usually considered as a' religious sect themselves.
The Scribes are mentioned very early in the sacred history, and many authors suppose that they were of two descriptions, the one ecclesiastical, the other civil. It is said, "out of Zabulon come they that handle the pen of the writer (a);” and the Rabbis state, that the Scribes were chiefly of the tribe of Simeon; but it is thought that only those of the tribe of Levi were allowed to transcribe the holy Scriptures. These Scribes are frequently called, "wise men," and “counsellors;" and those who were remarkable for writing well were held in great esteem. In the reign of David, Seraiah (b), in the reign of Hezekiah, Shebna (c), and in the reign of Josiah, Shaphan, (d), are called Scribes, and are ranked with the chief officers of the kingdom; and Elishama the Scribe (e), in the reign of Jehoiakim, is mentioned among the princes. We read also of the “ principal Scribe of the host (f)” or army; and it is probable that there were Scribes in other departments of the state. Previous to the Babylonian captivity, the word Scribe seems to have been applied to any person who was concerned in writing, in the same
(a) Judges, C. 5. V. 14. (b) 2 Sam. c. 8. v. 17. (C) 2 Kings, c. 18. v. 18. (d) 2 Kings, C. 22. V. 3. (e) Jer. c. 36. v. 12. (f) Jer. c. 52. V. 25.
manner as the word Secretary is with us. The civil Scribes are not mentioned in the New Testament. .
It appears that the office of the ecclesiastical Scribes, if this distinction be allowed, was originally confined to writing copies of the law, as their name imports; but the knowledge, thus necessarily acquired, soon led them to become instructors of the people in the written law, which, it is believed, they publicly read. Baruch was an amanuensis or Scribe to Jeremiah, and Ezra is called “a ready Scribe in the law of Moses, having prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments (g);" but there is no mention of the Scribes being formed into a distinct body of men till after the cessation of prophecy. When, however, there were no inspired teachers in Israel, no divine oracle in the temple, thc Scribes presumed to interpret, expound, and comment upon the law and the prophets in the schools and in the synagogues. Hence arose those numberless glosses, and interpretations, and opinions (h), which so
much (8) Ezra, c. 7. v. 6. 10.
(h) These Traditions, as they were called, became too numerous, by the middle of the second century after Christ, to be preserved by the memory, and therefore the rabbi Judah, president of the sanhedrim, as they continued much perplexed and perverted the text, instead of explaining it; and hence arose that unauthorized maxim, which was the principal source of all the Jewish sects, that the oral or traditionary law was of divine origin, as well as the written law of Moses. Ezra had examined the various traditions concerning the antient and approved usages of the Jewish church, which had been in practice before the captivity, and were remembered by the chief and most aged of the Elders of the people; and he had given to some of these traditionary customs and opinions the sanction of his authority. The Scribes therefore, who lived after the time of Simon the Just, in order to give
.. . weight
to call the council of a remnant of the people, which remained some time in Galilee, collected them into six books, which were called the Mishna, or Repetition of the Oral Law. The Mishna soon becaine the study of all the learned Jews, who employed themselves in making comments upon it. These comments they call the Gemara or Complement, because by them the Mishna is fully explained, and the whole traditionary doctrine of their law and religion completed. Thus the Mishna is the text, and the Gemara the comment, and both together make what they call the Talmud. That made by the Jews in Judæa is called the Jerusalem Talmud, and that by the Jews in Babylon is called the Babylonian
Talmud; the former was completed about the year of · our Lord 300, and the latter in the beginning of the
sixth century.. Vide Prideaux.
weight to their various interpretations of the law, at first pretended that they also were founded upon tradition, and added them to the opinions which Ezra had established as authentic; and in process of time it came to be asserted, that when Moses was forty days on Mount Sinai, he received from God two laws, the one in writing, the other oral; that this oral law was communicated by Moses to Aaron and Joshua; and that it passed unimpaired and uncorrupted from generation to generation, by the tradition of the Elders or great national council established in the time of Moses; and that this oral law was to be considered as supplemental and explanatory of the written law, which was represented as being in many places obscure, scanty, and defective. In some cases, they were led to expound the law by the traditions, in direct opposition to its true intent and meaning; and it may be supposed that the intercourse of the Jews with the Greeks, after the death of Alexander, contributed much to increase those “ vain subtleties," with which they had perplexed and burthered the doctrines of religion. · During our Saviour's ministry, the Scribes were those who made the law of Moses their particular study, and who were employed in instructing the people. Their reputed skill