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phet being raised up amongst the Jews from the Death of Malachi until the Coming of St. John Baptist.
Ezra then and his Companions of the great Synagogue, First, made a Collection and Canon of the sacred Books. Secondly, As he and some others who joined with him were divinely inspired, that is, guided by the Holy Ghost, who preserved them from Error in this great Work, the Copy written by them and lodged in the Temple was perfect and without Miftake. Thirdly, They changed the old Hebrew Letters for those of the Chaldeans, as better known to the Jews, whọ had lived so long at Babylon : And besides, as they resolved to have no Dealings with the Samaritans, who, as much as they were able, had hindered the rebuilding of Jerufalem and the Temple, they would not write with the same Letters which the Samaritans made use of, that the Samaritans might not read the Jewish Books, nor the Jews any of the Samaritans. Fourthly, They added some Connections and Explications. Thus we find in the Pentateuch several Things which we may be convinced were 'not written by Moses. As Gen. xxxvi. 31. These are the Kings that reigned in the Land of Edom, before there reigned any King over the Children of Israel. The Author of this Verse and of the Catalogue of the Kings of Edom preceding it, must live at the Time when there were or had been Kings of Ifrael, since he denotes the Time, when the Israelites began to have Kings. Again, it is said Gen. xiv. 14. That Abraham pursued the Kings he had overcome unto Dar. Now the Name of Dan was not given to this place until a long Time, not only after Abraham's Days, but also after the Days of Moses, when 600 Men of the Tribe of Dan took Laish, as we read Judges xviij. 29. These and many other like Passages have been urged by some Persons to prove that Moses was not the Writer of the Pentateuch, since even in the historical Parts there are several Things mentioned which happened not until aiter his Death. But thcse Things may reasonably be supposed to have been put in by Ezra, an inspired Writer, and the great Synagogue, for the better Information of their Contemporaries, when they made this new and compleat Edition of the Canon of all the Holy Scriptures as delivered to the Jews. Which contained those, and only those, which our Church in her fixth Article holds to be Canonical in the Old Testament. This Edition of Ezra, an inspired Writer, being written by him, a ready Scribe, and reposited in the Temple, was cere tainly without Fault or Mistake. And from thence many Copies were foon taken for the Use of the Synagogues and private Persons.
But this Original Book of Holy Scripture written by Ezra, and reposited in the Temple, was destroyed by that bloody Perfecutor of the Fews (the only Church of God at that Time) Antiochus Epiphanes, who, as we read i Maccab. i. 21. 56. entered proualy into the Sanctuary, and took away the golden Altar, and the Candlestick of Light, and all the Velje's thereof. And when they had torn in Pieces thé Books of the Law, they burnt ibem with Fire. But when Judas Maccabeus recovered the City and the Temple, (2 Maccab. x. 1.) and cleansed and purified the Temple, we cannot doubt but he provided a Book of the Law and the Prophets to be there reposited as before ; either one which belonged to
kis Father Matlathias, or one very fairly and correctly transcribed from the beft Copies that could be procured: And took good Care also to fupply the Synagogues whose Books were destroyed as well as those of the Temple. But none of these could be equally free from all Mistakes, as was that of Ezra, an inspired Writer. And there also were for the most Part destroyed by the Romans, when the Temple and Synagogues of Judea were burnt by the Soldiers of Vefpafian and Titus. that particular Book, which to the Tiine of this final Destruction had been reposited in the Temple, was any where preserved, is un. certain.
Josephus, who was taken Prisoner by the Romans at that Time, and was an Eye-witness of the Desolation and Destruction of his Country, in his Account of his own Life (c. 75.) tells us, that having had Leave given him by Titus, to take whatever he pleased out of the Ruins of his Country, says, that he valued nothing so much, after Liberty for himself and Family, as the facred Books which he accepted as a Present from Titus. · Again, in his seventh Book of ihe Wars of the jews, (c. 5.) he makes mention, that the Copy of the Law, which they had taken from the Temple, or out of some Synagogue, was last in order carried in Triumph at Rome, after the golden Table and Can-dlestick ; and that Titus commanded the same Copy, together with the purple Veils of the most holy Place, to be carefully reposited in the Temple of Peace. The former Paffage gives not the leaft Hint, that Josephus sought or took out of the Temple' the facred Books granted him by the Favour of Titus: And the latter Testimonies do directly contradict and deny it. Which I think proper to observe, becaufe some have allerted that folephus obtained froin Titus the authentick Copy reposited in the Temple But I conceive it is evident from yoJephur's own Account of the Matter, that neither he nor any of the Jews had the Happiness to preserve the Copy there reposited.
I have already observed to you, that in Books copied by writing from others, there will be Mistakes made, unless the Transcribers are guided by an infallible Spirit. I must now also observe that this has also actually happened in the Hebrew Bibles, as well as other Books. This has not ouly been asserted by Ludovicus Capellus, and others, who may be thought not to have that due Respect which we ought to have for the present Hebrew Copies : For even Buxtorf, Arnold Boot, and the Lord Primate Usher, the most zealous Affertors of the Integrity of the present Hebrew Text, have acknowledged that Text has not been free from such Errors as Transcribers are liable to make : And this they have been obliged to, by the various Readings which are found in the feveral Manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible.
Some have indeed gone to far as to have accused the Jews of having wilfully altered the Hebrew Text. But this is certainly an unjust Accusation. Had they made any such Alterations before the Coming of our Lord Jesus Chrif, he and his Apoftics, who so freely taxed the Scribes and Pharisees with their other Crimes, would not have failed to ' have taken Notice of one so heinous as the corrupting the Holy Scriptures, by changing the Text to support their false Doctrines. But our blessed Saviour was so far from laying any such Thing to thuir Charge, A 4
that be plainly intimates the contrary, when, Joh. iii. 39. he dire&ts his Followers to search the Scriptures ; which he would not have done in such general Words, if they had been falsified, without taking Notice of such Falsifications, if there had been any. Also Mat. xxiii. 2, 3. he says, The Scribes and Pharisees fit in Mofes Seat, whatsoever therefore they bid you observe, that observe and do. Can any one believe that our blessed Lord would direct any Persons to read corrupted or falsified Scriptures, or give his Followers a Charge to hear those who had corrupted them?
I here is just Reason also to believe, that the fews have not wilfully or maliciously altered or corrupted their Scriptures since the Days of Christ and his Apoftles ; because we still find those Texts of the Old Testament, which are cited in the New, in our present Hebrew Bibles. If the fews had been disposed to alter their Scriptures, would they not have changed those Texts, that they might have had a Pretence to have accused Christ and his Apostles with Misquotations and Misrepresentations of their Scriptures ? Again, if the Jews had wilfully corTupted the Scriptures, through Hatred to the Christians, as fome fuppose them to have done, they would, no Doubt, have done it in those Prophecies which particularly relate to Christ, and in such Places as relate to the Mysteries of the Christian Religion. Yet learned Men bave observed, in some places where the Hebrew Books differ from the Greek and Latin, the Hebrew is more opposite to the Jews, than either the Greek or Latin : As in Psal. ii. 12. where the Greek and Latin read, Lay hold of Discipline, left the Lord be angry. The Hebrew has it, Kiss the Son, left he be angry. Which Reading more plainly refers to Chrift, than the other. Who can believe the Jews would' wilfully make Alterations in those Places, where there is no Controversy between them and us, yet change nothing in those Passages which make so plainly for us against themselves! Besides, as the Jews are dif- , persed into so many distant Countries, it is morally impossible they should all meet together, and agree to corrupt their Books, or that any Thould do it, without some general Agreement with the rest, who might, and no Doubt would, complain of such Alterations. And as luch Complaints of one Party of Jews against the other have not been made, we may for these Reasons believe the Jews have made no wilful Alterations in the Holy Scriplures since the Coming of Christ.
But although the Jews have not wilfully corrupted the Hebrew Text, that is the Letters, yet they have affixed such Vowel Points and Pauses to the Letters, as give a Sense to many Words, very different from the Sense those Words were judged to bear by the LXX, and other ancient Translators. About A. D. 500, or later, the Jews of Tiberias, where that people had then their chief School of Learning, taking all the Hebrew Letters as Consonants, invented several Points, which they put under every Letter to serve instead of Vowels, in order to direct how every Word should be pronounced. Some have maintained, that these Vowel Points are at least as old as the Time of Ezra, if not of Mofes. But the Generality of the Learned, I think, are of Opinion that they are no older than A. D. 500, if so old. The Matter has ben controverted pretty much, and the late Dean Prideaux (in his
Consertion of the Hiftory of the Old and New Testament, Part I. Book v. P. 346. Edit. 8°) has given us all the Arguments pro and con upon this Question : And declares himself to be of Opinion that the Vowel Points were used, if not in the Time of Ezra, yet very soon after, and long before the Deftruction of the second Temple. Yet he confesses that they are not mentioned by any Author, either Jew or Christian, until tome Hundreds of Years after the Destruction of Jerusalem. That neither Origen, who gave us the Hebrew Scriptures in one Column written in Hebrew Characters, and in another Column in Greek Characters ; nor St. Jerom, who translated the whole Bible from the Hebrew, take any Notice of these Points. Also, that to this Day all the Bibles used in the Jewish Synagogues are written without any Points either of Pause or Lection. Likewise, that he himself, or any other Mafter of the Hebrew Language, would at this Time choose to read in an Hebrew Book that was unpointed. The Reason which he gives for this Opinion of his, is, that although when a Man is acquainted with a Language, he may read it without Vowels, yet until he has learned the Language, it is impoffible for him to read it so written. And as the Hebrew was become a dead Language from very near the Return of the Jews from the Babylonish Captivity, that is from Ezra's Days, and to be learned from Books only, it was impossible to be learned without the Vowel Points: Consequently those Points must have been in Use from Ezra's Time, or soon after.
But all this fine Reasoning is overthrown, not only by the Silence of the Ancients, both fews and Christians, but also by the positive Testimony of St. Jerom, who lived 800 Years after Ezra's Time, and after the Hebrew was become a dead Language, yet was taught that Language by a few, without the Assistance of any Points. For this Fa. ther, in his Epistle to Evagrius concerning Melchisedeck, fays, Non refert utrum Salem an Salim nominetur, cum vocalibus in medio literis perraro, utantur Hebræi: Et, pro voluntate leElor um atque varietate Regionum, eadem verba diverfis finis atque accentibus proferantur. should think that by his saying perraro utantur, he may mean that Vowel Points were then sometimes used, though but feldom, confequently that this is a Proof of their being used in his Time, and long before, I must inform you, that he cannot mean Vowel Points in this Place, but real literal Vowels, such as all Languages in these western Parts of the World make use of: And such the Hebrews always had, though most of their Words be written without any of them. These Vowels are X, 1, !, y, that is, a short, o, ou, or u, i and a long; to which some add 1 and 17, that is, e short and long. But the MasoTites, who invented the Points, make all these Letters to be Consonants; but give them no other Sound than what belongs to the Points placed under them, or, if any, it is no more than an Aspirate. These Letters indeed perraré utantur in medio : But that cannot be said of Points, which are now affixed to all initial and middle Letters. Befides St. Jerom says, vocalibus literis, but the Points are not literæ, neither are called so by those who have pleaded the most for them. This positive Testimony of St. Jerom, that the Hebrews seldom placed a Vowel in the Middle of a Word, and that it was indifferent what
And left you Vowel you made Use of in the Pronunciation, is a plain Teftimong that no Vowel Points were used in his Time, that is, until the Beginning of the fifth Century after Chrift. Those therefore who place the Invention of the Points to about the Year 500, place it early enough.
The Inventors of these Points are called Maforites, and their Work Mafora, or the Mafore, which is derived from the Hebrew Word 700 Masar, tradidit, becaule, after the Hebrew became a dead Language, thele Maforites, from Age to Age, delivered down the Manner how the Hebrew Words were to be written, read and pronounced. And that these might be preserved to all future Ages, they invented a great Number of Points for Vowels, Pauses, and Accents, which the Reader. 1hould observe. I shall not trouble myself nor you concerning the nice Curiosity and needless Labour of these Maforites, not only to number the Verses contained in every Book of the Law and the Prophets, and in all of them together, but likewise the Words, and even the Letters. The Points' are all I shall take Notice of; because the Learned, until of late, have thought them to be of great Use, and that the Hebrew Language cannot be learned without the Knowledge, at least of the Vowel Points. Even those who have thought the Vowel Points, as well as those of Pause or Accent, deserve no Regard to ascertain or fix the Sense of a Word, yet think a Beginner must learn them, the Language not being otherwise to be learned. But Mafclef, a Priest and , Canon of Amiens in France, has, not many Years since, published a Hebrew Grammar, whereby he tells us, that Language may be learned without any Knowledge of the Vowel Points ; and that he himself, being puzzled with the many Rules given with Relation to the Points, threw them all aside, and found it much easier and better to learn the Language without them.
It is pretended by those who lay a great Stress on the Points, that the same Word, as most of the Hebrew Words are, being written with Consonants only, has various Significations, according to the Vowels with which you read or pronounce it. For Consonants alone cannot be read or pronounced without the Alistance of Vowels : And the Signification of Words in all Languages depends upon the Pronunciation of the Vowels, as well as of the Consonants; and that in the Hebrew, though most of the Words are written without any Vowels, as mult be confessed by those who will not allow all the Letters to be Consonants; therefore, where Words are written with Consonants only, and yet have different Significations according to their different Pronunciation, they must have different Vowels affixed to them, and for this Realon the Mafiritės have done well to affix different Vowels to the same Word, to ascertain the sense of it. Thus, for Instance, the three Letters 727 dbr have at least five different Significations. 1. He spake. 2. Speaking. 3. A Word. 4. A Pestilence. 5: A Fold for Sheep or Cattle.' No Doubt, but while the Hebrew was a living Language, the Word composed of these three Letters was understood in its different Significations by the different Vowels they used when they spake it. And such Vowel Points the Majorites have now affixed to it, by which le inay know when and where thole three Letters fignify one Thing and when another. When it significs he spoke, they affix the