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writers could supply me with; but these, I must confess, are very poor ones. of the succession of the presidents and vice-presidents of their Sanhedrin, by whom they say their traditions were handed down from Simon the Just, and the men of the great synagogue, I have given their names as far as this History goes. But, besides their names, there being scarce any thing related of them, but what carries with it a manifest air of improbability and fable, I have forborne troubling the reader with such trash. Only about Hillel and Shammai I have enlarged: for their followers constituting two opposite sects among the Jews, in the same manner as the Scotists and Thomists among the schoolmen, their names run through both their Talmuds and all their Talmudic writings, and they are of all that have been in that station within the compass of this History, of the most eminent note and fame among them, and have had more said of them than all the rest. And therefore I have given as full an account of them as the Jewish writers can afford me within the limits of a just credibility.
But nothing can be more jejune and empty than the histories which the rabbinical Jews give of themselves. Josephus's History in Greek is a noble work; but they disown and condemn it, and instead of it would obtrude upon us an Hebrew Josephus, under the name of Josippon Ben Gorion. This, they say, is the true and authentic Josephus; but ours, that is, the Greek Josephus, a false one. There is a Josephus Ben Gorion mentioned in Josephus's History of the Jewish War, who is there said to have been one of the three to whose conduct that war was first committed. This person, the impostor who composed this book, mistaking for Josephus the historian, set forth that spurious work under his name, intending thereby to quash the credit of the true Josephus, which we have in Greek, as if that were the imposture, and this in Hebrew the only true and authentic work of that historian; but the book itself proves the fraud: for there is in it mention made both of names and things, which had no being till many hundreds of years after the time in which it is pretended the book was written, neither was it heard of, or ever quoted by any author, till above a thousand years after that time. Solomon Jarchi, a French Jew, who flourished about the year of our Lord 1140, is the first who makes mention of it. After that it is quoted by Aben Ezra, Abraham Ben Dior, and R. David Kimchi, who all three lived in the same century. After this it became generally owned by the Jews, and hath obtained that credit and esteem among them, as to be held, next the sacred writings, a book of principal value among them; and was one of the earliest of their books that hath been published in print by them: for it was printed at Constantinople in the year of our Lord 1490, which was within fifty years after the first invention of that art; and hereon it became so generally received and valued by that people, that, twenty years after, there came out ano ther edition of it from the same place, and after that a third, at Venice, A. D. 1544. What Munster hath published of it is no more than an epitome of this author; but the whole of it is in the Constantinopolitan and Venice editions. It is divided into six books and ninety-seven chapters. The best that can be said of it is, that it is written in an elegant Hebrew style, and therefore on this account is very fit for the use of young students in the Hebrew language. But as to the subject matter, it is every where stuffed with apocryphal and Talmudic fables; most of that, which is not of this sort, is taken from the true Josephus; but, it is to be observed, that what the impostor takes from him is from the Latin version of Ruffinus, and not from the Greek original, which leads him into several blunders. But who this author was, or where or when he wrote his book is uncertain. Scaliger conjectures that he was a Jew of Tours in France; but his reason for it being only, that he speaks more of the places about Tours, than of any other parts of France, this doth not prove the thing. But it being sufficiently proved that the book is an imposture, it is of no moment to know who was the true author of it, or where or when he lived. Mr. Gagnier, a French gentleman, now living in Oxford, hath lately giren a very accurate Latin version of this work, according to the best edition of it. It is to be wished that his learned pains had been employed about a better author.
1 Lib. 2. Ks. MB. 2 For in that book there is mention made of Lombardy, France, England, Hungary, Turkey, &c. which are all modern names, and never heard of till several hundred years after the time in which it is pretended This book was written. 3 In Elencho Trihør. Nicolai Serarii, cap. 4.
For several hundred years after the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, where Josephus ends, no other Jew hath written any history of the affairs of that people, till about the tenth century after Christ. But the sect of the Karraites (who, adhering only to the written word, rejected all traditions) then prevailing, and often pressing the Rabbinists, their antagonists in this controversy, to make good the succession through which they pretended to have received their traditions, this did put several of their learned men upon the hunt for it; and they having raked through both their Talmuds, and from them gotten together some historical scraps to serve for this purpose, with these poor materials have endeavoured to compose something like a history of their nation, giving an account therein, how their traditions were delivered down from Moses to the prophets, and from the prophets to the men of the great synagogue, and from the men of the great synagogue to the doctors, who afterward, in a cortinued series, handed them down from one to another, through after generations. Of this sort they have some few historical composures among them, but such as are very mean and contemptible. They all begin from the creation of the world, and, as far as the scriptures of the Old Testament go, they write from them, but often interpose fabulous glosses and additions of their own. From the time where the Old Testament scriptures end, the two Talmuds supply them, and from the time where the Talmuds end, they are supplied from the traditions that were afterward preserved among them. And an account of their doctors, and the succession of them in their chief schools and academies in Judea, Babylonia, and elsewhere, is the main subject which, after the scriptural times, they treat of. And of these historical books there are but seven in all, that I know of, among them, and they are these following: 1. Sede Olam Rabbah; 2. Teshuvoth Ř. Sherira Gaon; 3. Seder Olam Zeutah; 4. Kabbalah R. Abraham Levita Ben Dior; 5. Sepher Juchasin; 6. Shalsheleth Haccabbalah; 7. Zemach David. The four first are the ancientest, but all of them have been written since the beginning of the ninth century, and are very short. The three last are much larger, but of a very modern composure, being all of them written since the time of our King Henry VIII. I will here give an account of each of them in their order.
I. Seder Olam Rabbah, i. e. the Larger Chronicon, is so called, in respect to Seder Olam Zeutah, i. e. the Lesser Chronicon, which was afterward composed. However, notwithstanding this great name, it is but a short history, and treats mostly of the scriptural times. Buxtorf' tells us it reached down to the time of Adrian the Roman emperor, and his vanquishing Ben Chuzibah the impostor, who did then set up for the Messiah. I have not seen any copy of that chistory which reacheth down so far, but no doubt that great and learned man did, otherwise he would have told us so. The author is commonly said to have been R. Jose Ben Chaliptha, who flourished a little after the beginning of the second century after Christ, and is said to have been master to Ř. Judah Hakkadosh, who composed the Mishnah. But R. Azarias, the author of Meor Enaim, in the third part of that book (which he calls Imre Binah,) tells us, that he had seen an ancient copy of this book, in which it was written, that the author lived seven hundred and sixty-two years after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, which refers his time to the year of Christ 832. It was most certainly written after the Babylonish Talmud; for it contains many fables and dotages taken from thence.
II. Teshuvoth R. Sherira Gaon, i. e. the Answers of R. Sherira, Sublime Doctor, is an historical tract, written by way of questions and answers by him
I Bibliotheca Rabbinica, p. 386.
-- whose name it bears. It is a very short piece, and is usually inserted with some other historical fragments in the editions of Juchasin. He was Æchmalotarch in Babylonia, and head of all the Jewish schools and academies in that country, which dignity he obtained A. D. 967, and continued in it thirty years, that is, till the year 997, when he resigned it to R. Haia his son, who was the last that bore the title of Gann, or Sublime Doctor. For in his time, i. e. Anno 1037, the Mahometan king that then reigned over Babylon,' expeiied the jews out of all those parts, and thereon' all their schools and academies which they had there were dissolved, and all the degrees and titles of honour, which on the account of learning used to be conferred in them, utterly ceased; and ne learned man hath since that time, among the Jews, assumed any higher name or title of honour in respect of his learning than that of Rabbi.
III. Seder Olam Zeutah, i. e. the Lesser Chronicon, is so called in respect to Seder Olam Rabbah, or the Greater Chronicon. This book was written, as it is therein expressed, one thousand and fifty-three years after the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, that is, in the year of our Lord 1123. Who was the author of it is not known. It is, agreeable to its name, a very short chronicon, and is carried down from the beginning of the world to the year 452 after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, that is, to the year of our Lord 522. Eight generations after are named in it, but nothing more than their names is there mentioned of them.
IV. Sepher Kabbalah R. Abraham Levita, 'Ben Dior, i. e. the Book of Tradition, by Rabbi Abraham the Levite, the son of Dior, is an historical tract, chiefly intended to give an account of the succession of those, by whom the traditions of the Jews, as they pretend, from the time of Moses, were handed down to them from generation to generation. It begins from the creation of the world, and ends at the year of Christ 1160. The author of it was R. Abraham the Levite, whose name it bears in the title. He flourished in the time where his book ends. He writes much from Josippon Ben Gorion, and was one of the first that gave credit to that spurious book.
V. Sepher Juchasin, i. e. the Book of Genealogies, is a history of the Jews, much larger than all the four above mentioned put together. It begins from the creation of the world, and is continued down to the year of our Lord 1500. In the process and series of it an account is given of the succession of the Jewish traditions from Mount Sinai, and of all their eminent doctors, teaching and professing them, down to the time where the book ends. The author of it was R. Abraham Zacuth, who first published it at Cracow, in Poland, in the year of our Lord 1580.
VI. Shalsheleth Haccabbalah, i. e. the Chain of Tradition, is an historical book of the same contents with Sepher Juchasin. The author of it was Rabbi Gedaliah Ben Jechaiah, who first published it at Venice in the year of our Lord 1587.
VII. Zemach David, i. e. a Branch or Sprout of David, is a history treating of the same subject as the two last preceding. It begins as they do, from the creation of the world, and is continued down to the year of Christ 1592, in which
year it was first published at Prague in Bohemia. The author was Rabbi David Gans, a Bohemian Jew. There is extant a Latin version of this book, composed by William Henry Vorstius, the son of Conrad Vorstius, and published by him at Leyden, A. D. 1641.
By this it may be seen how little light into ancient times is to be gotten from histories of so modern and mean a composure, neither can any thing better be expected from their own writings. If any thing of ancient history be found any where in them more than what is scriptural, it is either taken from one of the histories which I have here given an account of, or from the Talmud, which is the common fountain from which they all draw. For this is the best authority they have, and how mean this is I have already shown.
1 On this expulsion out of the east, they flocked into the west, and from that time Spain, France England, and Germany, were filled with them. 2 The chiefest of their academies were Naherda, Sora, and Pombeditba, towns in Babylonia.
3 Others call him R. Abraham Ben David, but by mistake, for that R. Abraham was another person. See Buxtorfs Bibliotheca Rabbinica, p. 403.
My living at a distance from the press hath deprived me of the opportunity of correcting the errors of it: but this defect hath been supplied by my very worthy friend Mr. Brampton Gurdon, who hath been pleased to take on him the trouble of correcting the last revise of every sheet; and I know no one more able to correct the errors, not only of the printer, but also of the author, wherever I
may have been mistaken in any particular contained in this book, he being a person eminently knowing in all those parts of literature that are treated of through the whole of it, and otherwise of that worth and learning, as may justly recommend him to every man's esteem.
I shall be glad if this Second Part of my History may be as acceptable to the public as the former hath been. I must confess it hath been written under greater disadvantages, by reason of the decays which have since grown upon me. It hath always been the comfort as well as the care of my life, to make myself as serviceable as I could in all the stations which I have been called to. With this view it hath been, that I have entered on the writing of any of those works that I have offered to the public; and I hope I have by all of them in some measure served my generation. But being now broken by age, and the calamitous distemper mentioned in the Preface to the former Part of this History, I find myself superannuated for any other undertaking, and therefore must, I fear, spend the remainder of my days in a useless state of life, which to me will be the greatest burden of it. But since it is from the hand of God, I will comport myself with all patience to submit hereto, till my great change shall come, and God shall be pleased to call me out of this life into a better: for which I wait with a thorough hope and trust in his great and infinite mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory, honour, and praise, for ever and ever.
HUMPHREY PRIDEAUX. Norwich, Jan. 1, 1717–18.