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The "law," or the books of Moses they call () the five, or the Pentateuch, from the number of the books. These they divide into sections, whereof they read one every Sabbath day in their synagogues, Genesis into twelve, Exodus into eleven, Leviticus into ten, Numbers into ten, and Deuteronomy into ten, which all make fifty-three; whereby, reading one each day, and two on one day, they read through the whole in the course of a year, beginning at the feast of tabernacles. See Acts xv, 21.
The books given by the "spirit of prophecy," they
make of two sorts:
1. The former prophets, which are all the historical books written before the captivity, Ruth only excepted, that is, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings.
2. The prophetical books, peculiarly so called, Daniel only excepted, that is Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets.
Those which, according to them, are written by the "inspiration of the Holy Ghost," are the poetical books, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Canticles, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes; to which they add Ruth, Daniel, and the historical books written after the captivity, Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, which make up the canon of the Old Testament:
Why sundry of these books, particularly Ruth and Daniel, should be cast into the last sort, they can give no tolerable account; and those written after the captivity are plainly of the same nature with those which they call the former prophets; in short, they have not any reason for this distribution.
§3. The "law" they divide into lesser sections of two sorts, open and close, which have their distinct marks in their bibles; and many superstitious observances they
have about the beginning and ending of them.* They divide it, moreover, into 153 (70) sedarim, distinctions; of which Geneses contains 42, Exodus 29, Leviticus 23, Numbers 32, Deuteronomy 27; which kind of distinctions they also observe throughout the scriptures.†
Besides, they distribute the prophets into what they call Haphters, that answer to the sections which are read every Sabbath day in their synagogues; which division they affirm to have been made in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, whom they call you that wicked one, when the reading of the law was prohibited.
§4. Having for a long season lost the promise of the Spirit, and therewith all saving spiritual knowledge of the mind and will of God in the scripture, the best of their employment about it hath been in reference to the words and letters of it; wherein their diligence hath been of use in preserving the copies of it free from corruption: for after the canon of the Old Testament was completed in the days of Ezra, and points or vowels added to the letters, to preserve the knowledge of the tongue, and facilitate the reading and learning of it, it is incredible what industry and curiosity they have used about the letter of scripture. The collection of their pains to this purpose is called the Massora, begun, it may be, from the days of Ezra, and continued until the time of composing the Talmud, with some additional observations annexed to it since. The composers of this work they call (b) the men or masters of the Massora, whose principal observa
* Of the first sort there are in Genesis 43, of the latter 48, &c. &c.
Besides, they observe, that in 3 Lev. xi, 42, is the middle letter of the law; Lev. x, 16, the middle word, and Lev. xiii, 33, the middle verse.
tions were gathered and published by R. Jacob Chaiim, and annexed to the Venetian bibles, whereas before, the Massora was written in other books innumerable. In this their critical doctrine they give us the number of verses, words, and even letters in the bible, and how often each letter is severally used, &c. the sum of which is gathered by Buxtorf, in his excellent treatise on that subject. And herein is the knowledge of their masters bounded; but are more blind than moles in the spiritual sense of it. And thus they continue an example of the righteous judgment of God, in giving them up to the counsels of their own heart; and an evident instance how unable the letter of scripture is to furnish men with the saving knowledge of the will of God, while they enjoy not the spirit promised in the covenant made to the church, Isa. lix, 21.
§5. To that ignorance of the mind of God in the scripture, they have added another prejudice against the truth, in a strange figment of an oral law, which they make equal, yea, in many things superior, to the written law. The scripture becoming with them a lifeless letter, it was impossible that they should content themselves with what it reveals. For as the word, whilst improved according to the mind of God, is found full of sweetness and life, wisdom and knowledge; so, when it is enjoyed merely on an outward account, without a dispensation of suitable light and grace, it will yield men no satisfaction; which makes them turn aside to other means. This being eminently so in the Jews, and the medium they have fixed on to supply a supposed want in the scripture, proving to be the great engine of their obstinate infidelity; I shall
I. Declare what it is that they intend by the oral law; and then,
II. Briefly shew the absurdity and falseness of their pretensions about it.
§6. (I.) This oral law they affirm to be an unwritten tradition and exposition of the written law of Moses, given to him on mount Sinai, and committed by him to Joshua and the sanhedrim, to be by them delivered by oral tradition to those who should succeed them in the government of the church. It doth not appear, that in the days of Christ or his apostles, whilst the temple was yet standing, there was any stated opinion amongst them about this oral law; nay, it is evident there was no such law then acknowledged; for the Sadducees, who utterly rejected all the main principles of it, were not only tolerated, but also in chief rule, one of them being high priest. That they had multiplied many superstitious observances under the name of traditions, is most clear; but it doth not appear that they knew whom to assign their original to, and therefore called them indefinitely 'the traditions of the elders,' or, those that lived of old.' After the destruction of their temple, when they had lost the life and spirit of that worship which the scripture revealed, betaking themselves only to their traditional figments, they began to bethink themselves how they might give countenance to their apostasy from the perfection and doctrine of the written law. For this end they began to fancy that these traditions were no less from God than the written law itself. For, when Moses was forty days and forty nights on the mount, they say, that in the day-time he wrote the law from the mouth of God, and in the night God instructed him in the unwritten exposition of it, which they have received by tradition from him. For when he came down from the mount, after he had read to them the
written law, as they say, he repeated to Aaron, Elea. zer, and the sanhedrim, all that secret instruction which he had received in the night from God, which it was not lawful for him to write; and he committed the whole especially to Joshua. Joshua did the same to Eleazer; as he also did to his son Phineas; after whom they give us a catalogue of several prophets that lived in the ensuing generations whom they employ in this service.
The last person, who, according to them, preserved the oral law absolutely pure, was that Simeon, whom they call the just,' mentioned by Jesus, the son of Syrach; chap. i. And it is very observable, that the latter Jews have left out Simeon, the son of Hillel, whom their ancient masters placed upon the roll of the preservers of this treasure, supposing he might be that Simeon who in his old age received our Savior in his arms, when he was presented in the temple, Luke ii, 25; a crime sufficient, among them, to brand him with perpetual ignominy. How happy were it, if they alone were concerned in "turning men's glory "into shame!"
$7. After the destruction of the temple and city, when the evil husbandmen were slain, and the vineyard of the Lord let out to others, the kingdom given to another nation, and therewith the covenant sanctified use of the scripture; the remaining Jews having wholly lost the mind of God therein, betook themselves vigorously to their traditions. Awhile after (about two hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem) Rabbi Judah, surnamed, the Prince and the Holy, took upon him to gather their scattered traditions, and cast them into some form and order, in