« EdellinenJatka »
variety of other writers, both ancient and modern, who have treated concerning the Jews and their affairs. Of the rabbinical writers he had indeed a very mean opinion, both in respect to the credit due to them, as relaters of ancient facts, or of established customs and opinions; and in respect to their judgment, as interpreters of scripture. Maimonides, AbenEzra, and Abarbanel, are the most eminent of this class, and almost the only persons amongst them, who discover a judicious and rational turn of mind. Of Maimonides in particular it is said, that he was the first Jew who ceased to trifle,“ qui desiit desipere.” But even these authors, though more respectable than most of their brethren, come too late to have much stress laid upon their report of the sentiments and practices of the ancient Jews, if not supported or countenanced by scripture, or by some other writer of more antiquity and greater authority than themselves.
Though the learned author chose to execute his design upon the plan of the three first books of Godwin's Moses and Aaron, his work, nevertheless, doth not consist of detached remarks on the text of that writer, but of distinct and complete dissertations on the subjects treated of by him, and on some others which he hath omitted ; insomuch that it is not necessary to have recourse continually to Godwin, in the perusal of the following volume; which must have been the reader's disagreeable task, had this work been a collection of short notes and observations. In one or two places, the editor hath taken the liberty of inserting, either from Godwin or from Hottinger's notes upon him, what seemed necessary to complete the subject, and render the discourse regular and uniform; particularly in the chapter on the gates of Jerusalem, which, in the author's MS copy consisted merely of what the reader will here find on the miracle which our Saviour wrought at the pool of Bethesda; situated, as some suppose, near the Sheep Gate. Nevertheless, though it is not requisite frequently to turn to Godwin, in perusing this work, for a complete view of the subject, yet if the correspondent chapters in the two treatises are read in conjunction, we shall see reason, on the comparison, to entertain the higher opinion of the industry with which our learned author hath collected his materials, and of the judgment and skill with which he hath discussed the particular subject before him.
The editor hath taken care all along to insert the words of the texts of scripture which occur, and which in the manuscript were only quoted by the chapter and verse.
The author might reasonably expect from his pupils, that the passages referred to should be carefully consulted; but it would have been irksome and tedious to the generality of readers, to be continually turning to passages of scripture, in order to understand the meaning of the author's observations upon them, or reasoning from them. And the necessity the editor was under of introducing the texts obliged him to make some small alterations in the phraseology, especially in the connective particles and sentences, and even a few transpositions, in order to introduce them consistently with the regularity and uniformity of the whole.
The references to authors, either for proof or illustration, which are very numerous, have for the most part been carefully examined, and made very particular, for the benefit of those who are disposed to consult the authorities on which the author relies, or those writers who have treated more largely on the subject. For want of producing his authorities, Lewis's Jewish Antiquities, which are otherwise valuable, are very unsatisfactory to a man who is desirous, not only to know what hath been said, but by whom it hath been said, and what credit it deserves.
With respect to the Dissertation on the Hebrew Language, it may be observed, that the author once thought more highly of the antiquity and authority of the Masoretic readings, and of the vowel points, than he did after perusing the ingenious and learned Dr. Kennicott's two dissertations, especially his second on the Hebrew text; by which the author, as well as the generality of the learned world, was convinced, they deserved not that extravagant and superstitious regard, which the credit of the two Buxtorfs, and of some other eminent Hebraicians in the last age, had procured them from men of letters. Once in particular he expressed his sentiments on this subject to the editor, and gave some general idea of his intended alteration in the dissertation on the Jewish language; which, it is presumed, he was prevented from accomplishing by the declining state of his health for some time before his decease. The editor hath endeavoured to supply this little defect in some measure, by inserting a few references to, and observations from Dr. Kennicott, and by softening a few expressions, in conformity with the author's latest sentiments on this head.
The reader will observe some digressions, in the earlier part of the work especially, to subjects which have an affinity to those of which the author is treating. Some of these the editor hath thrown into notes, and might perhaps have done it with a few more, particularly in the chapter on the patriarchal government. As most of these relate to illustrations of scripture, the author was willing to indulge himself in them ; declaring to his pupils, that he never thought himself out of his way while he was explaining the sacred oracles. However, these digressions are not numerous, and chiefly at the beginning of the work.
Though this volume professedly treats of the subjects which are contained in the three first books of Godwin, yet several things are occasionally introduced relative to the subjects of his three last books; which was one reason why the author did not proceed to the particular consideration of them. Another was, that the three first books comprise all the subjects which relate to the sacred or ecclesiastical antiquities of the Hebrews, and which are peculiarly requisite to the understanding of the Jewish, and, consequently, in some measure, of the Christian scheme of theology.
This piece of Godwin, styled Moses and Aaron, the method of which our author chose to follow, hath been annotated and commented upon by a variety of authors. One of the most judicious, who have favoured the public with their lucubrations, is Hottinger. There are two sets of annotations in manuscript, one by the learned Witsius, which he read to his students in the university of Leyden ; a copy of which was in the hands of Dr. Jennings, who hath been, in a few instances, and but in a few, beholden to it. Another annotator, whose performance is yet in manuscript, was the late Mr. Samuel Jones, of Tewksbury. His work, of which there are several copies extant, is written in neat Latin, and contains very valuable remarks, which discover his great learning and accurate knowledge of his subject. From this writer the editor hath inserted a note at page 380, and in a few other places. Dr. Jennings never saw Mr. Jones's Annotations, though there is a similarity in a few of their observations, they having both been in possession of a copy of Witsius. But the Doctor's own work surpasses the performances of both these learned writers, as in some other respects, so particularly in compass and variety, and as it contains the opinions and improvements of later authors: and it is hoped will answer the end for which it was originally composed, and is now published, the advancement of religion and learning, and the knowledge of those oracles of God, which are able to make us wise to salvation.