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they are mere paraphrases, full of rabbinical notions. They
are, however, valuable as indications of the ideas of the times
in which they were written, and are full of matter interesting
to the general reader.

2. The Masora. — The Jews, as has been said, became
worshippers of the letter of the Scripture. Every word, every
letter, of the Old Testament became sacred in their eyes. This
would have been well enough if they had not at the same time
shut their eyes to the deeper spiritual meaning of the Bible.
The study of biblical words was called masora, and the learned
men who pursued it were the Masorites. What they did was
this: 1. It was necessary, of course, that the Scriptures should
be read correctly in the synagogue; and therefore they fixed on
a standard pronunciation (as our dictionaries try to do). In
order to indicate the pronunciation they devised signs for the
vowel-sounds; hitherto only the consonants of Hebrew words
had been written, thus: niJk, which in English you can pronounce
only milk, might in Hebrew be pronounced melek, molek, melok,
maluk, or malak. They pronounced after the manner of their
time, which may not have been exactly that of the time of Da-
vid and Isaiah. 2. They counted the words and letters of the
Old Testament, in order to be sure, that none were left out in
copying manuscripts. 3. They settled the text of the Scripture,


that is, decided that such and such words belonged in certain
places and not other words. All manuscripts were then written
after the standard copy. All existing Hebrew manuscripts give
the masoretic text; and therefore, though about 1,400 are known,
they only tell us how the Old Testament was read by the Jews
in the sixth century of our era.

3. Grammars and Dictionaries. — After the Moslem con-
quest of Syria, Babylonia, and Egypt (from the seventh century
on), the Jews in regions learned to speak Arabic, and soon
felt the need of books which should give the Arabic equivalents
for Hebrew words. Then they caught the grammatical spirit
from the Arabs, who had got it from the Greeks and Syrians.
Many Jews wrote Hebrew grammars and dictionaries, and they
have continued this sort of work up to the present day. The
most famous of the earlier grammarians is Elias Levita, who
was a contemporary of Martin Luther, and the teacher of many
Christians; at that time the Christian world was just waking
up to the study of Hebrew.

4. Expository and Philosophical Works. — Ever since

the composition of the Talmud the Jews have been writing com-
mentaries on it and on the Old Testament. There is a good
deal of sameness in these works, and for the most part they are
not very valuable. (This remark is not meant to apply to recent
Jewish commentaries, which follow scientific methods of exege-
sis.) The most noted commentators on the Bible are Rashi
(France, eleventh century), Aben Ezra (Spain, twelfth century),
David Kimchi (France, thirteenth century), and Abarbanel
(Spain, fifteenth century). The most famous expounder of the
Talmud is JNIaimonides (Spain, twelfth century), called by the
Jews Ranibam, that is. Rabbi IMoses Ben Maimon (R M B M).
He was at the same time the boldest and most philosophical of
mediaeval Jewish writers, ranking, indeed, with the foremost
thinkers of that period. The Jews expressed their judgment of
him in the saying: " From Moses to Moses there has arisen
none like Moses," that is, Maimonides had not his equal since
the days of the great lawgiver of Israel. In those days the


Jews learned philosophy from the Arabic translations of Aris-
totle, and in their turn became the teachers of Christian phil-
osophers. The philosophy of the Jews was thus not their own ; it
was borrowed from their neighbors. So it has been ever since.
They have followed the movements of tlie peoples among whom
they lived. After the establishment of the modern method of
investigation (tlie inductive method) by Bacon and Descartes,
they produced Benedict Spinoza (Holland and France, seven-
teenth century), one of the greatest of the world's thinkers;
but he was a follower of Descartes, and gave up Judaism. So
JVIoses Mendelssohn was a disciple of the German philosophers
of his time. It is religion and not philosophy that Israel has
given to the world.

5. Cabbala. — The mystical or gnostic teaching of the Jews
is called Cabbala (the word means " tradition "), and those who
study it Cabbalists. It is an attempt to explain the universe
(including man) and its relation to God mystically. The Jews
began this study early, but how they were led to it we don't
know. No doubt it was once useful in inciting men to think
about the problems of the soul; but it is too fanciful to produce
permanently good results. The two great books of the Cabbala
are tlie Yesii-a and the Sohar, written about the thirteenth

6. The Karaites. — It is interesting to observe that one
small section of the Jews did not follow the Talmud, that is,
the oral tradition, but confined themselves to the Scripture,
whence they were called Karaites (from the Hebrew word kara,
" scripture," or, " to read "). They are a small and uninfluen-
tial body, strict in life, but narrow in thought and culture.
They are now found chiefly in Russia, Turkey, and Egypt.

7. Poetry. — We should expect to find that so active a peo-
ple as the Jews had addicted themselves somewhat to poetry in
the various lands of their dispersion. In fact, they have always
followed the lead of their neighbors in this respect. In Alex-
andria they imitated the Greek poets (Lesson XXII.). At a
later time they felt the stimulus of the Syrian Christians and
the Moslem Arabs. When they settled in Europe, they wrote


poetry in Spain, France, Italy, and Germany, which was based
on models furnished them in these countries. And therefore,
though there is a large mass of poetry written by Jews since the
origination of the Talmud, there is, properly speaking, no Jew-
ish poetry. As the Israelites spoke Arabic or Spanish or French
or German or Italian, so they wrote Arabic, Spanish, French,
German, or Italian poetry, though they may have used the He-
brew language. They have always kept up the study of their
ancient tongue.


1. On Philo and Josephus: articles in cyclopedias. Man-
gay's English translation of Philo is published by Bohn. Eng-
lish translations of Josephus are easily accessible; of the Wars
the best is Trail's.

2. On the Targums: there is a very good article in Smith's
Bible Dictionary; English translations of Oukelos and Jona-
than, by J. W. Etheridge, London.

3. On the Masora: articles in Herzog and Schenkel; books
of Introduction.

4. On the commentators, philosophers, and cabbalists: Jost,
" Geschichte des Judenthums;" Etheridge, " Introdiiction to
Hebrew Literature."

5. On the poets: the above-mentioned; and Delitzsch's
" Geschichte der Jiidischen Poesie."


What is the relation of the Talmud to the Pentateuch ? What may
these two books be sa'd to give ? Before looking at the later literature, what
two famous Jewish writers must be mentioned ? What do they represent ?
When did Philo live ? What did he do V What is the date of Josephus ?
The outline of his life V What did he write ?

1. Why did the Jews have translations of their Scriptures V What ver-
sion had they in Egypt ? What are targums? Were they at first oral or
written? Which is the earliest of the written targums ? What new Greek
version was produced at this time? Why was it written ? What was the
next targum after Onkelos? What targums followed? In what respect
are they valuable V


2. What is the masoraV Who are the Masorites ? Can you mention the
three things that they did V What text of the Old Testament do existing
Hebrew manuscripts giveV Can we learn from them certainly the text of
Christ's time? What earlier authorities for this latter text have we ? [The
Greek and Aramaic versions, and the quotations in the New Testament.]

3. From whom did the Jews catch the grammatical spirit ? Did they
make many Hebrew grammars and dictionaries V Can 3'ou mention one
famous grammarian? Of whom was he a contemporary ? When did Chris-
tian Europe begin the study of Hebrew ?

4. Have the Jews composed many commentaries on the Bible and the
Talmud ? Are these valuable ? Who is the most famous Talmud commen-
tator ? What saj-ing had the Jews about him ? Have the Jews ever had
any real philosophy of their own V What great Jewish thiuker lived in the
seventeenth century ?

5. What is the Cabbala ? Is it now useful ? Was it formerly useful ?

6. Who are the Karaites ? Have they ever been influential ? Where
are some of them now found V

7. Have the Jews written much poetry since the time of the Talmud ?
Is it, properly speaking, Israelitish or Jewish poetry ? Why not ? Have
they always kept up the study of Hebrew ?



1. Proselyting. — It is a noteworthy fact that, for several
centuries about the beginning of our era, the religion of Israel
made numerous converts among the pagan peoples. Judaism
was not missionary, it was proselyting; which is equivalent to
saying that it was a national and not a universal religion like
Christianity: it did not make organized efforts to press its na-
tional faith on other peoples, but it required them, when they
adopted it, to become Jews. It was anxious for the triumph of
Judaism rather than of pure religion ; this was the disposition
that Jestis denounced (Matt, xxiii. 1.5). About the

beginning of our era the old religions of the Greek, Roman, and
Semitic world were in process of dissolution; the people had out-


grown them, find ceased to find in them satisfaction for their
religious needs. Judaism, with its lofty conception of God and
its strict ethical code and its authoritativeness, proved attractive
to many minds. There were thousands of proselytes all over the
Roman empire, and in the outlying lands. These were of two
classes: the proselytes of the gate" conformed to Jewish customs
except circumcision ; the proselytes of righteousness were cir-
cumcised, and became members of the Jewish people; the for-
mer are called "devout men "in the English New Testament.
The Jewi-sh faith was everywhere influential. A wife of the
Emperor Nero is said to have been a proselyte. The satirist
Juvenal ridicules the power of Jewish teachers over the Roman
women. The royal family of Adiabene (a country lying just
east of the Tigris, near Nineveh) embraced Judaism; King
Izates underwent circumcision, and his mother, Helena, enriched
the temple with great gifts. This was in the time of the Em-
peror Claudius. There were Jewish tribes in Arabia, and not a
few of the inhabitants adopted their faith. But these triumphs
of the religion of Israel were destined to be short-lived. They
served chiefly to prepare the way for Christianity and Islam.
The national faith of Israel could not permanently pass the
boundaries of the nation.

2. History in Palestine. — The outward history of the
Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem has little general interest.
It is the history not of a nation but of detached communities.
In Palestine they were restless under the heavy yoke of the
Romans, and in Trajan's time (a.d. 115) thei-e were bloody
uprisings by their brethren in Cyrene and Cyprus. The Romans
resolved to root out the Israelitish religion, which they felt to be
incompatible with the unity of the empire. Trajan caused the
temple-mount to be ploughed up. His successor, Hadrian, built
a Roman city on the site of Jerusalem, called it Aelia, after his
family, and forbade Jews to enter it. This harshness drove the
unhappy people to revolt. An adventurer, who went by the
name of Bar-cochba (Son of a Star, in allusion to Num. xxiv.
17), proclaimed himself the Messiah, sent by God to deliver the
nation from the Romans. He was acknowledged by the famous


rabbi Akiba; thousands of men flocked to his standard, and a
fierce war ensued, speedily terminated by the defeat and death
of the pretended Messiah and the execution of Akiba and thou-
sands of his countrymen. The Jews were again crushed to
the earth, and after this made no more attempts at indepen-
dence in their own land. They continued for some time to have a
religious organization, at the head of which was a Nasi, or Prince,
whose religious authority was acknowledged by the whole Jewish
world; but Palestine was no longer theirs. Some of them have
lived on there ever since; a few thousands are now dwelling on
the sacred soil, to which many go to die and be buried; but the
body of the people have transferred themselves to other lands.
Whether the nation will ever return to Palestine, it is impossible
to say ; it seems unlikely now.

3. In Babylonia. — The Babylonian Jews had formed a
prosperous community ever since the Exile, surviving repeated
changes of foreign dynasties, and pursuing legal studies with
marked success. In this later time, as the Palestinians had their
Nasi, so the Babylonians had tlieir Resh Glutha, or Head of the
Captivity, who exercised the functions of a civil and religious
chief in his own district, and paid a partial and not always
willing homage to his metropolitan brother in Palestine. There
was considerable activity in the schools, resulting in elaboration
of the ritual and ethical law, but there was no real advance in
religion. The Babylonian Jews had their trials and

sufferings, like their brethren in other parts of the world. The
monarchs of the new Persian kingdom (the Sassanide, founded
in the third century of our era) were zealous adherents of the
Zoroastrian religion, and not unfrequently persecuted their Jew-
ish subjects. In 651 a.d. the Sassanide kingdom was conquered
by the Moslem Arabs, and the Jews remained undisturbed under
the rule of their new masters. Apart from the oppression of
local governors, indeed, their condition was bettered by this
change of affairs. The Arabian Califs became patrons of science
and art. Learned Jews were put into positions of trust, and
Jewish thought was affected by Arabian science. So it con-
tinued till towards the middle of the eleventh century, when the


Jewish Babylonian Pati'i arch ate (that is, the office of the Rosh
Glutha) ceased to exist, and the people were scattered. Many
of them went to Egypt, Spain, and other countries, and those
who remained were absorbed in the neighboring population.

4. In Europe. — Driven out of Asia the Jews began a new
and vigorous life in Europe. They settled by thousands in
Spain and the adjoining countries. They devoted themselves
to learning and the accumulation of wealth. They became
famous as bankers, physicians, and philosophers. Self-contained
and persistent, they were equally necessary to the Moslem and
the Christian princes of Spain in the long series of wars between
these powers. The histories of the IVIiddle Ages abound in cu-
rious narratives of Jewish energy and success. The Moslems
favored and fostered them. Chi-istian bigotry finally drove
them from Spain (Ferdinand and Isabella). But they flourished
in France, England, Italy, and Germany. They had innumer-
able synagogues, schools, and commercial houses. Often perse-
cuted and plundered, hated and despised as enemies of Chris-
tianity, they grew steadily in numbers and power. As the
Christian nations advanced in enlightenment, they saw the folly
of their treatment of the Jews, and accorded them more and more
privileges. At the present day their legal status is, with a few ex-
ceptions, the same as that of other people. Their social ostracism
remains ; this is partly the fault of their intense self-assertion
and lack of social culture, and partly the fault of Christian race-
prejudice. Their religion has ceased to have any attraction for
those who are not born Jews.

5. Messianic Expectations. — After Bar-cochba's failure
the rabbis continued to di.scuss the Messianic question, but
without notable result. The opinion sprang up that there would
be two Messfahs, one a son of Joseph, who should suffer and
perish, the other a son of David, who should be victorious and
found a Jewish kingdom. But circumstances rarelj' permitted
the scattered sons of Israel to make a serious attempt at estab-
lishing a nationality. One curious episode of this sort may be
mentioned: a certain Shabbathai Zvvi, born in Smyrna in 16il,


raised the Messianic standard in Turkey. Thousands of Jews,
including many learned men, acknowledged his pretensions and
followed him. The East was filled with joy; Zvvi set out to
march to Jerusalem, and was everywhere received by his coun-
trvmen with royal honors. But the farce speedily ended. The
pretender was summoned before the sultan, and there denied
his Messianic claims, and embraced Islam. There was a simi-
lar attempt a few years ago in Yemen (Arabia), and the Ortho-
dox Jews still look for a son of David who shall lead them back
to their own land.


Etheridge's Introduction; Jost's Geschichte; various histo-
ries of the Moslems, of Spain, England, and other European
countries; F. D. Mocatta, " The Jews of Spain and Portugal,"
London, 1877.


1. Did Judaism make converts among the pagans ? Was it a missionarr
religion ? What is a proselyting spirit V What was true of the old religion
at the beginning of our era? Why did Judaism prove attractive to manj-
minds V What were the two classes of proselytes ? What instances can you
give of the spread of Jewish religious ideas ? Were these triumphs per-
manent? For what did they serve V

2. Wliy has the later outward liistorj- of the Jews little general interest ?
What was the condition in Palestine ? What did the Romans resolve to
do? What did Trajan do ? — Hadrian? Wliat was the result? Canyon
describe the uprising under Bar-cochba ? What organization did the Pal-
estine Jews continue to have? Have they ever since possessed the land?
Do some of them still dwell there ? What of the nation's again returning
thither ?

3. What had been the condition of the Babylonian Jews since the Exile ?
What organization had they in later times ? What was the result of the
work of the schools? What was the condition of the Babylonian Jews
under the Sassanide kingdom? — under the Moslems? How long did the
Babylonian Patriarchate last ? What then became of the people ?

4. Whither did the Jews go from Asia? In what countries did they set-
tle ? To what did they devote themselves ? Were the}- especially successful
sn Spain ? Which power favored them ? AVhat drove them from Spain ?
When ? Where did thev flourish ? AVhat has b en the result of the ad-


vancement of Christian nations in enlightenment V What is the present
legal status of tiie Jews '? What are the reasons of their social ostracism V
Is tht-ir religion attractive to other peoples '?

5. In later times what opinion concerning the Messiah sprang up ? Could
the Jews easily attempt to establish a nationality V Can jou relate the epi-
sode of Shabbathai Zwi? For what do the Orthodox Jews still look?



1. Intellectual Isolation of the Jews. — The main reason
why the Jews in Europe remained devoted to their religious
traditions was their ignorance of the advancing culture of the
world. In Spain, it is true, where they were liberally treated by
the Moslems, they had learned something of Greek philosophy
through Arabic translations. But in the succeeding centuries,
under bigoted Christian governments, they were cut off by
Christian prejudice from intercourse with the new world of
thought. They were condemned to live in separate quarters in
cities (like the Ghetto in Rome) ; they were denied access to
the universities; they were treated in all respects as unclean,
and it was thought a great kindness that they were barely toler-
ated. Thus they were shut up within themselves, and the
breath of modern thought did not blow upon thein.

2. Progress. — But the condition of things gradually im-
proved. This separation between man and man, the result of
barbarous ignorance and prejudice, could not exist in the face
of growing enlightenment. Here and there were Israelites who
came under the influence of wider spheres of thought, and broke
through the trammels of their national tradition. Some of
these became Christians, some rejected both Christianity and
Judaism, and many, no doubt, remaining in the Lsraelitish
community, became centres of more liberal tliought in small
circles. The eighteenth century brought with it an


upheaval of old social, political, and religious ideas. In France
this movement culminated in tlie Revolution, but it made itself
felt all over Europe, and the Jews reaped benefit from it, espe-
cially in Prussia. Germany was destined to be the cradle of the
Jewish emancipation, as it had been of the Christian two and
a half centuries before. In 1750 Frederick the Great issued
his famous edict defining the status of the Jews, and ordering
their life. The effect of this decree was to bring the long-ban-
ished people back into relation with their fellows, and to subject
them to the influence of the broader Christian thought. The
result began to be seen immediately. Some of the Jews availed
themselves of their new opportunities. Then naturally two
parties arose, one favoring the adoption of new ideas, the other
devoted to the maintenance of the old (and this was not the
first time that such a state of things had existed in Israel). The
party of progress increased slowly, but it lacked a leader. This
lack was shortly supplied by the appearance of the remarkable
man of whom we must now say a word.

3. Moses Mendelssohn. — The third Moses was destined to
exert a hardly less controlling influence over his countrymen than
his two great predecessors (see Lesson XXVII. 4). He appeared
at the critical time when the Jews needed a directing mind to
bring their national feeling and thought into harmony with the
scientific and philosophical culture of the new Europe. To this
work he devoted his whole life with rare single-mindedness,
simplicity, and soundness of judgment. He was twenty-one
years old when Frederick's edict was issued, and he lived up to
the verge of the French Revolution (died, 1786) ; he was thus in
the centre of the great German and European movement of
enlightenment. He had been introduced, almost by accident, to
the modern broader thought, of which he became an expounder
to his countrymen. He worked his way into sympathy with the
best and most active minds of the time; he was the friend of
Lessing and Lavater. At the same time he remained an Israelite.
His national feeling was strong; what he tried to do was to show
his people that they might remain true Israelites, and yet accept
what was valuable in the philosophical and religious thought of


the time. He was not radical in feeling or action, but rather
made it his aim to build on the existing foundation of Jewish
thought. In order to provide biblical reading for his children
he began a German translation of the Old Testament, with
notes; and this translation, in which the utterances of the
ancient inspired men of Israel were" treated as fresh, living
truth, and disengaged from the rabbinical mummy-cloths, proved
of inestimable advantage to the people, by bringing them into
contact with simple, earnest religious truth and life. It was in
this way that he led them into a new path, and became the
founder of the Reform. He was bitterly opposed by a portion
of the rabbinical party, but he kept on his way undisturbed.
He sowed seeds that were to bring forth fruit beyond what he
himself thought of.

4. Progress since Mendelssohn. — The impulse given by
Mendelssohn produced various tendencies in Jewish thought and
effort, and gave rise to various problems. He himself, though
opposed by some of the rabbis, had, through his conservatism,
maintained friendly relations with the rabbinical party in gen-
eral, and some of his friends and followers continued to pursue
this course. Others were more inclined to break with rabbinism,
and throw off everything distinctively Jewish. Others, again,
attempted, but unsuccessfully, a union with the Christians.
These different tendencies have continued to exist up to the
present day. At the same time measures were taken to organ-

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Online LibraryCrawford Howell ToyThe history of the religion of Israel : an Old Testament primer .. → online text (page 14 of 15)