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The History of the Jews from the destruction of Jerusalem to the nineteenth century. By Hannah Adams. Boston, John Eliot, jun. 2 vols. 12mo.
MISS ADAMS has for many years been known by the public as the author of that highly valuable work, entitled A view of Religions, and of A summary history of New England, compiled with great fidelity and judgment. Her abridgement of this last work, we are told, has been introduced into many of our schools; and we hope it will be introduced into many more. She has at times experienced some of the calamities of authors. Her equitable claims to profit were at one time cut off, not having been duly guarded in consequence of her own want of experience, and not having been duly allowed in consequence of mercenary cupidity; and again she was in danger of being supplanted in a fair and useful undertaking by a sort of literary craft alike ungenerous and dishonorable.
The last work of this useful writer is the one now under review. We were witnesses of the ardor with which she pursued her inquiries concerning the subjects of her history; and we know the promptness with which her literary friends cooperated in her undertaking; so far, at least, as to aid her in discovering and procuring the best authorities for her intended work. As far as our examination enables us to judge, she has overlooked no important authority to which she could gain access, and has cited with great fidelity such as she possessed.
In the introduction to this history, where a sketch is given of the state of the Jews from the time of their restoration to their native country by Cyrus, to the birth of Christ, the principal vouchers are the apocryphal books of Maccabees, Josephus, and Prideaux. After the destruction of Jerusalem, concerning which event Josephus furnishes the facts, Basnage becomes the principal authority. The history of the Jews by Basnage, a work of great erudition and critical skill, was intended as a continuation of Josephus, and is brought down to the time of its publication-about the commencement of the
eighteenth century. During no period however does Miss Adams confine her attention to this individual historian; and after the middle ages in particular, her researches are extensive, and embrace many highly interesting accounts of the Jews in the different quarters of the globe, from various histories, itineraries, and treatises of established reputation. The "com piler" thus acknowledges her obligations to the writings of M. Gregoire, formerly bishop of Blois, now senator, member of the National Institute, &c.-"His excellent ‘essay on the reformation of the Jews' has afforded much important information respecting this extraordinary people. His late valuable work, entitled 'Histoire des Sectes Religieuses,' published at Paris, 1810, besides interesting and entertaining accounts of the various denominations of Christians, contains several curious articles respecting the Jews. The works of David Levi," she adds, "have furnished materials for what is said of the religious tenets and ceremonies of his brethren." Some additional aid might have been derived in this department of the history from the Porta Mosis of Pocock, translated from the original Arabic of the pin of the learned Moses Maimonides, and accompanied with the text of the original. It is probably the best and clearest account of the history and nature of the Talmud, and of the Jewish faith and discipline: and among the notes of Pocock, which are appended, there is an ample account of the several opinions of the Jews, concerning the resurrection of the dead. In regard to the Masora more authorities might have been found; we would mention particularly Buxtorf's Tiberias. We have reason, on the whole however, highly to commend our author for her extensive range in the examination and comparison of authorities, and the accuracy of the facts for which they are cited.
Some of the prominent objects of the history are, as they should be, to trace the Jews, after the destruction of their city, to the various countries where they were dispersed; to describe their external condition, embracing their persecutions, their conduct under oppression, and their perseverance in their own national peculiarities; to exhibit their distinguishing rites, and ceremonies, and tenets; to give a general view of their learning,
and particularly to shew in the characters of a few distinguished men the greatest advances which they have made in learned pursuits. It is no part of our design to follow our author in the history of the political condition of the Jews; of their rebellions under the Roman jurisdiction; of the victims to cruel despots, who either gave them up to indiscriminate slaughter, or made them the objects of mercenary traffic; of their expulsion from different countries, and their miserable condition in all. Through this whole series of suffering however we cannot but remark one singular fact:-their prompt though temporary credulity in regard to every presumptuous impostor, claiming to be the real Messiah, while they, like their fathers, were so incredulous to the pretensions of the true anointed.
The rites, and ceremonies, and tenets of the Jews in different countries are found to have varied, sometimes to a degree producing mutual hostility; and, in some instances, these have been so much impaired by the subserviency of this injured people to its masters, whose vengeance must be appeased by the sacrifice of the customs of their alien subjects, that the vestiges of those customs can scarcely be traced. It was not necessary to our author's design, considering her history as intended for a popular work, to extend her account of the Jewish rites and ceremonies to any great length: but it would have been well to have given, in as short a compass as possible, a chapter, show. ing the agreement and the diversities in those respects among the Jews of different countries. We would not indeed have been so cruel as to have referred her to all the Rabbinical absurdities and learned trifles of their profound doctors: let these be the peculiar delight of a few solitary Christian-Rabbins.
The tenets of the Jews are comprised in a small compass. Maimonides has made out thirteen articles of faith. He, with his brethren, believes that the law is immutable, and that the Messiah has not yet come. But the great and fundamental article is, that the Jehovah of the Hebrews is the only true God; and here, at the very outset, the Christian, who ascribes real divinity to his Messiah, shocks the Jew, and renders the prospect of his conversion altogether hopeless. The attempt to prove the doctrine of a trinity, either from the He
brew scriptures, or the caballistic writings of the Jews, we could wish, from our charitable regard to the reputation of our Christian brethren, were wholly relinquished. "The means, which the Jewish church had to know the Messiah," says Basnage, with great reluctance, "had been more effectual, if the divinity of the Messiah had been a constant tenet among the Jews, as some learned men have attempted to prove. But notwithstanding it is our interest to be of their opinion, which besides strongly concludes against the anti-trinitarians, yet we could not be induced to father upon the Jews a tenet, which they never received, and thereby make their incredulity, which is but too deplorable, more criminal than really it is."* The doctrine of the trinity, so revolting to a people, who believe with perfect faith, that God is one, is undoubtedly a great obstacle to the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. Many of them are weary of the burden of the ceremonial law, and have either become incredulous on the subject of revelation; or disposed to come over in part to the Christian faith. In 1798 it seems that a large number of Jews in Berlin declared, that they were "ready and willing to become Christians, as far as relates to the moral doctrines of Christianity, provided they shall not be obliged to believe the miraculous part of the Christian creed, and above all the divinity of Jesus Christ." This reservation of miracles may be accounted for, by supposing that they derived from Christians generally the idea of miracles as resulting from an immediate and independent power of Christ-as God.
Of the learned productions of the Jews, Miss Adams has given short accounts, interspersed in chronological order, in the former part of the history; and has dwelt as much upon the Talmuds, the Masora, the Cabbala, &c. as a popular history of this kind requires. In travelling through the long period which it embraces, we are struck with the dearth of literature, and the paucity of literary men.. But we are not surprised on this account, when we consider how hard it must be to bear up under the incumbent pressure of contempt and tyranny. During the twelfth century some distinguished men appeared, among whom
• Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, translated by Taylor, fol. 1708. Plan of the history, page 7.
were Maimonides and the Kimchis. Maimonides was born at Cordova in Spain in the year 1131. His learning was displayed in exhibiting the wisdom of the Mosaic dispensation, and in explaining many passages of the Hebrew scriptures. But he was thought to pay too little reverence to the Talmud, He was master of several eastern languages, was well versed in the language and philosophy of Greece, and was celebrated for his medical science. David Kimchi, in his grammar and dictionary of the Hebrew language, excelled all who went before him, and is often quoted by the learned Buxtorf. "Moses Kimchi, his brother, was also distinguished for his learning, and has written a treatise, styled the garden of delight, (by 1s) the manuscript of which was preserved in the Vatican library.” This treatise was afterwards printed at Amsterdam in the original Rabbinical language, in which it was written. We have seen a copy; and among other things it contains several specimens of Hebrew verse in rhyme. Without tracing any further the literary character of the Jews, we shall content ourselves with the following extract from the history before us of that famous modern Jew, Moses Mendolsohn:→→→
"This illustrious philosopher was born at Dessau, a city of An halt in Upper Saxony, in 1729. He received the rudiments of his education from his father, who was a Jewish school-master. In these schools, which were formed merely for the children of the Hebrews, the summit of their education terminated with an introduction to the Talmud, and the student wasted the season of youth in studying this vast collection of fabulous legends and superstitions.
..."Mendolsohn, who possessed a vigorous and original genius united with an ardent desire to acquire knowledge, soon selected from the mass of rabbinical writings the superior works of Maimonides. But such was his intense application, and the irritability of his frame, that, at the early age of ten years, he was attacked with a nervous disorder of a very peculiar nature. In addition to this misfortune, he suffered all the embarrassments of poverty, being obliged to travel on foot to Berlin to find employment for subsistence. He lived in the city several years, indigent, unknown, and often destitute of the necessaries of life. This houseless wanderer was, at length, invited by a rabbi to transcribe his manuscripts; and this man initiated him into the mysteries of the theology, the jurisprudence, and the scholastic philosophy of the Jews.
"A Polish Jew, named Israel Moses, who was distinguished: for