« AnteriorContinuar »
Sanhedrin whether subsisting after the destruSlion es Jerusalem.
where we shall find them again raising new rebellions, committing horrid maslacres, and bringing again the victorious Romans against them. A learned countryman of our ownc, however hath imagined, that the Je-wijb sanhedrin was not immediately destroyed, but only removed to Jamnia, and thence to Tiberias, where it subsisted till the death of Judah the saint; and that there were likewise academies set up in other cities, whilst the nation was still governed by a patriarch. But all this is said on the bare authority of their tradition, which is little to be depended upon where the Jewish honour is concerned, and is eminently false in this (K); for it doth not appear that that supreme court had the least shadow of power or authority left it by the Romans; but, on the contrary, that the whole nation was oppressed all manner of ways, on account of their frequent and bloody revolts; insomuch that they were not even permitted any exercise of their religion, unless they paid the annual didrachma to the emperor's treasury (L), over and above the other heavy taxes formerly laid on them; and we find that Titus, who appropriated
* Ljghtfo»t, op. posthum. p. 70.
(K) This tradition, sounded on some predictions of the Cabala, fays, that this translation was performed about forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem; whereas it is plain that Christ, St. Stephen, and St. Paul, appeared before, and were condemned by, that court sitting then in the metropolis; and Josephus informs us, that it subsisted there still in the time of the Jewish war. Neither doth it appear from his whole history to have been removed to any ether place. Those that say, that Titus granted that favour to the Jews at the request of Jochanan, the then patriarch of it, not only contradict those which pretend it was removed forty years before, but even Josephus, who would not have omitted so singular an instance of that emperor's condescension
to that pontif, who, if any such there was, must have been dead before the siege of that place. Lastly, it contradicts the common notion both of the Jews and Christians, who affirm, that that supreme court had no power to sit in any other place but in Jerusalem, as we have had occasion to shew in our ancient history *; and our Saviour seems to hint as much when he said (Luke xiii. 33.)- that it could not be that a prophet Jhould perish, orbecondemned to death, out of Jerusalem ; since the sanhedrin alone had the power of passing that sentence on him.
(L) This was a yearly tax, which each Jeiu was formerly obliged to pay to the temple, and amounted to about 1 s. 3 d. of our money; but which Titus, after the taking of Jerusalem, ordered to be paid to Jupiter
propriated that tax to his bwn use, as well as his successor Domitian, made them pay it with the utmost severity ,• insomuch • that they stript men of all ages and conditions to discover whe- Jews op. ther they were circumcised, in order to extort that tax from pressed themd. And is it credible, that a people, become so odious *u"'/* and oppressed, would be allowed to keep up such a supreme '****• court, and endowed with such an extensive authority; Or that, if Titus had made any such concession, Jofephus would not have taken notice of it, both for the honour of that emperor, and the credit of his own nation ? And as to Domitian, he is known to have hated the Jews too much to have sufferred them to enjoy any such signal privilege, and was rather 'a persecutor, than a friend or benefactor to them: it must therefore be under his successor Nerva, who prqved a much more favourable prince to them (M), that we must seek for the first appearance and Institution os these Jewish patriarchs, rather than in the two preceding reigns, during which they had met with nothing but cruelty and oppression; and therefore cannot be supposed to have been able, wider all those calamities, to have recovered themselves from their total dispersion; and to have been in a condition to obtain this new
d Sueton. lib. vii. Xiphil. in vespas.
Capitolinus (13); and was so much the heavier and disgraceful, because it obliged them to buy their liberty of religion with that very money which they used to contribute for the preservation of it, and the service of the temple.
(M) This emperor made three ordinances in favour of the Jews, "fez. 1st, That all those, that had been accused of impiety on account of their religion, should be released; and those that had been banished on that account, Ihould be recalled; which stiews that if Domitianhzd had any such favourable design towards them, as some attribute to him, he had been assassinated before he could accomplish it. idly, He forbad the molesting pf the Jews on account of their
religion: and jdly, He ordered
Ca/ttmm'a fisci Judaicisub lat a.
dignity, much less to have raised it to such a degree of authority. The rise of These are generally looked upon, not without good the patri- grounds, to have been rather of the Aaronic or Levitical race, arch us than of the tribe of Judah, which, in these parts of Judea, Judea. was either extinguished, or, at least, so far depressed that they were not only in no condition of resuming their former power, but the very least attempt to do it would have rendered them obnoxious to the resentments of the jealous Romans; but that the priests and Levites should be suffered to assume the power of teaching the people, and to that end to set up schools, to appoint masters over them, and at length to install one at the head of the rest, with the title of Rojb Abboth, or head of the fathers, to which the Greek one of Patriarch answers, and came to be most in vogue, is the more probable, because neither their tribe, which had nothing to do with the regal dignity, nor their office, which was then confined to matters of religion, could give any umbrage to the Roman power, especially as their authority over their flocks did chiefly owe its gradual growth to their great reputation for learning and piety, and consisted chiefly in deciding of cafes of conscience, and other controversies about their religion, and establishing the wisest and most effectual rules for the re-estaJcaJemies blishment and durable settlement of it. And as the towns of fa*tat Tiberias, Japhne, or Jamnia, and Lydda, appeared to them T M"3*' *^e m commodious to set up the first academies in, not, gjjL a' in all probability, without the government's permission, this might give occasion to the Jews to affirm afterwards, that the Sanhedrin had been removed to those cities. These Patriarchs having likewise gained some great reputation for their extraordinary learning, zeal, and piety, might, in time, not only bring a great concourse of other Jews from other parts, as from Egypt, and other western provinces of their dispersion, but likewise prove the means of their patriarchal authority being acknowleged there. From them they ventured, in time, to levy a kind of tribute, in order to defray the charges of their dignity, and of the officers under them, Theirgra- whose business it was to carry their orders and decisions thro* dual rife the other provinces of their dispersion, and to see them punctu*itip<rwer. aUy executed by all; that some shadow of union, at least, 1 might be kept up among the western Jews. They likewise
nominated the doctors who were to preside over their schools and academies; and these were, in process of time, stiled chiefs and winces, in order to raise the credit of that dignity, or to imply the great regard which thei» disciples were to. pay to them. These chiefs became, at length, rivals of the
patriarchs} patriarchs; and some of them possessed both dignities at once; which caused not only great confufion amongst them, but oftentimes very violent and bloody contests. However, as the Jevji/b rabbies have trumped up a much older æra for this patriarchal dignity, and have given us a succession of them down to the fifth century, in which it was abolished, it will not be amiss to give our readers the substance of what they wrote of it in the margin (N) ; and, at the same, to shew
Fabulous list offatriarcbi mentioned by the Jews.
(N) According to them, the first patriarch was Hi lie I, fnrnamed the Babylonian, because he was sent for from thence to Jerusalem, about I oo years before the ruin of their capital, or 30 years before the birth of Christ, to decide a dispute about the keeping of Eajkr, which on that year fell out on the Sabbath day; and it was, on account of his wife decision, that he was raised to that dignity, which continued in his family till the said 5th century. He was likewise looked upon as a second Moses, because he lived like him 40 years in obscurity, 40 more in great reputation for learning and sanctity, and 40 more in possession of this patriarchal dignity. They make him little inferior to that lawgiver in other of his excellencies, as well as in the great authority he gained over the whole Jeivi/i nation. The wonder will be how Herod the Great, who was so jealous of his own power, could suffer a stranger to be raised to such a height of it, barely for having decided a dispute which must, in all likelihood, have been adjudged by others long before that time.
However Hillel was succeeded by his son Simon, whom ma
ny Christians pretend to have been the venerable old person of that name, who received the divine infant in his arms (14). The Jews give him but a very obscure patriarchate; though the authors above quoted make him moreover chief of the fanhedrin; and Efiphanius fays, that the priestly tribe hated him so much for giving so ample a testimony to the divine child, that they denied him common burial. But it is hardly credible, that St. Luke should have so carelefly pasted over his twofold dignity, if he had been really possessed of them, and have given him no higher title than that of a just and devout man.
He was succeeded byjoebanan, not in right of descent, but of his extraordinary merit, which the Rabbies, according to custom, have raised to so surprising a height, that, according to them, if the whole heavens were paper, all the trees in the world pens, and all the men writers, they would not suffice to pen down all his lessons. He enjoyed his dignity but two years, according to seme, or five according to others; and was the person, who, observing the gates of the temple to open of their own accord, cried out, O temp/e, temple I <why art thou
them the absurdity and falsliood of that pretended succession 'to this imaginary dignity. By all which they will plainly
thus moved! We know, that thou art to he destroyed, feeing Zechariah hath foretold it, faying, Open thy gates, O Lebanus, and let the flames consume thy cedars. Upon this, he is further reported to have complimented Vespasian, or rather, as some have corrected the story, Titus, with the title of king, assuring him, that it was a royal person who was to destroy that edifice: on which account they pretend that general gave him leave to remove the Sanhedrin to Japhne, as was lately hinted.
'We. Jewish writers add, that he likewise erected an academy there, which subsisted till the death of Akiba; and was likewise the seat of the patriarch j and consisted of 300 schools or classes of scholars. Another he erected at Lydda, not far from Japhne, and where the Christians have buried their famed St. George. He lived 120 years; and being asked, what he had done to prolong his life? he gave this wife answer; I never made water nearer a house of prayer than four cubits: I never disguised my name: I have taken care to celebrate all festivals : and my mother hath even fold my head ornaments to buy wine enough to make me merry on such days; and left me at her death three hundred hogsheads of it, to sanctify the Sabbath. The doctors that flourished in his time were no less considerable, both for their
number and character, particularly the famed Rabbi Cbanina, of whom the Bath Col (+) was heard to fay, that the world tvas preserved for the fake of him; and R. Nicodemus, whom they pretend to have stopped the course of the sun, like another Joshua.
He was succeeded by Gamaliel, a man, according to them, of unsufferable pride; and yet, of so universal authority over all the Jews, not only in the west, but over the whole world, that the very monarchs suffered his laws to be obeyed in their dominions, not one of them offering to obstruct the execution of them (ic). In his days flourished Samuel the Less, who composed a prayer full of the bitterest curses against heretics, by which they mean the Christians, and which are still in use to this day. Gamaliel was no less an enemy to them; and yet both have been challenged, the former as the celebrated master of our great apostle, the other as his disciple in his unconverted state; for take the 0 mem from
7>J1DB', and there remaias
7KH7. Saul; and the word Kalon, or lesser, in the Hebrew, sigix&espaulusjox little,in theLatin; and as for the Q mem it being the first letter of the word Min, a heretic, it was thus taken from the name of Samuel to shew that Saul did turn Christian (16). The apocryphal author of the recog