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were actively engaged in improving their civil organisation, and in gathering, arranging, and revising their literature.
The civil organisation was briefly as follows. The head of the nation was the High-priest ; his office was for life and hereditary; and his dignity as spiritual chief and representative of the people was one of the highest distinction. The second great power in the commonwealth was a senate or council of seventy elders assembled in Jerusalem, called the Sanhedrin, the origin of which is by tradition traced back to the time of Moses. It was the legislative assembly, the highest administrative body, and the supreme court of justice, to which all appeals were brought from the lower courts ; its decisions were final, and it had the privilege of granting pardon. Its members were required to be strict in their religious observances, learned in the law, and well versed in the history of their people. The head or president was called Nasi or prince. If any of the members died, their places were filled up by some of their most distinguished disciples, who were permitted to be present at the deliberations of the council, and thus gained a practical knowledge of its business and duties. Presided over by the High-priest and Sanhedrin, the people, grouped in families, enjoyed full personal freedom and complete equality before the law, in accordance with the ordinances of the Pentateuch, which were now scrupulously adhered to and carried out.
The Jewish state was thus indeed a hierarchy, but at the same time it combined the elements of a monarchy in the High-priesthood, of an aristocracy in the Sanhedrin, and of a democracy in the well-protected liberties of the people. All interests and all classes were represented and had their due share of influence. So salutary and wellbalanced was this constitution, that the little community grew rapidly in strength, and were enabled, at no distant period, even to venture upon a struggle with a vastly supe
The service of the Temple, with its sacrifices and other rites, was not only restored, but in many respects enlarged; and in addition to it, private houses of prayer, or Synagogues, which had sprung up during the exile, became places of religious teaching, centres of national union, and powerful means of strengthening and extending the ceremonial law,
The literature of this period was mainly of a religious tendency. Secular works were sparingly written, and as a rule excluded from the national collections. Therefore an immense number of such productions were lost, while the care of the learned was chiefly bestowed upon the interpretation of the sacred books, and upon developing that tradition or oral law,' which was considered to date from Moses himself, and to have been handed down from gene ration to generation. But unfortunately even many works which came fairly within the scope of religious writings, were not incorporated in the Canon, probably because, in the confusion and troubles of the exile, they were lost or difficult to obtain. We find in the Old Testament itself distinct allusion made to no less than fourteen such works, many of them evidently of considerable extent, while every one would have been an invaluable aid for supplementing the fragmentary records we possess, and for procuring to us a more complete insight into the remarkable history of the Hebrews, both political and religious, than we can ever hope to obtain from our present imperfect sources. Among those works, to which reference is made, some are poetical, as 'the Book of the Wars of the Lord, and the Book of the Righteous,' both of which seem to have been collections of national songs intended to glorify deeds of valour and heroism ; some historical, as the Book of the Acts of Samuel,' the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel,' and the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah ;' while many are prophetic, or at least
written by prophets, as the Book of Nathan the Prophet, "the Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite,' the Visions of Iddo the seer,' and 'the Book of Shemaiah the prophet.' Who can estimate the value of the treasures of which we have thus for ever been deprived! Gradually, though not within centuries after the time of the last-named Highpriests, the four and twenty Books which compose the Hebrew Canon, were finally compiled and revised, and then diffused, in many and scrupulously accurate copies, as the inspired Word of God, or the Holy Scriptures. (See pp. 1, 2.)
158. THE APOCRYPHA.
Yet the literary activity of the Jews, so far from ceasing, became more intense than ever. The canonical Books were indeed looked upon as the basis of all later writings, as the unerring standard for all future authors; but a vast field was left for unfolding the germs of the inspired teaching, and for embellishing and enlarging the inspired narratives. Thus, it is true, original genius became more rare and more feeble, and at last all but vanished ; and the prophets of old were replaced by a new class of men, the scholars or scribes,' of whom Ezra seems to have been the first, or is at least the most perfect representative. Now all the works written or disseminated after the conclusion of the Hebrew Canon, and deemed, though not decisive in matters of doctrine and faith, yet beneficial for religion and spiritual guidance, were, from time to time, added to the Scriptures, by way of supplement, as distinct indeed from those older Books in weight and authority, yet recommended as profitable reading. They were comprehended under the name of Apocrypha, of which a small number has been preserved. That Greek
" Namely, the first and second Book of Esdras; Tobit and Judith; Additions to the Book of Esther; the Prayer of Manasseh; the Wisdom of
word means literally secret, hidden, or obscure, and was fitly applied to writings uncertain in origin, limited in circulation, and often vague in meaning. The Apocrypha were thus clearly opposed to the Books of the Canon, which, signifies rule or norm. They remained restricted to private perusal, while the canonical writings were publicly read, and commented upon in the Temples and the Synagogues. Only a few of them were originally written in the holy tongue;' the rest were composed in Greek. This circumstance is significant in more than one respect. However eagerly the Jews tried to keep themselves distinct from other nations, they could not long shut out foreign influence. The Egyptian Jews especially, who formed a very large colony in Alexandria, the very centre of Eastern commerce and Grecian culture, became acquainted with the Greek language, and with Greek literature and thought; the latter- especially the views and theories of Plato--they endeavoured, by allegorical erplanations of the Bible, to harmonise as much as possible with the principles of their own faith, and thus they gradually formed a new philosophical system known as that of the Jewish Alexandrian school, of which the most conspicuous representative is the great Philo. Thus living surrounded by Greek elements, the Egyptian Jews soon
Solomon, and the Wisdom of Jesus Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus); the Book a Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah; the History of Susanna, the Prayer ci Azariah, the Song of the Three Holy Children, and the History of the Destruction of Bel and the Dragon; the (4) Books of the Maccabees; and another Book of Esdras. The order in which the Apocrypha are here enumerated is that in which the Septuagint translation inserts them after the various Books of the Old Testament (see infra). Some less knowi, though partially very curious works, are omitted in this list; as the Book of Enoch, the Ascension of Moses, &c.
"Namely, the Books of Esdras (except Ch. III. and IV. of the First Book), Jesus Sirach, the First Book of the Maccabees, the greater part
of Baruch, Judith, and perhaps Tobit.
forgot the Hebrew tongue, and when Ptolemy II. (Philadelphus) desired to incorporate in his famous library the sacred writings of the Hebrews (283), he was obliged to send to Jerusalem for competent translators, who began the Greek version of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint. This translation, gradually completed (about 150), was then used not only by the Israelites of Egypt, but later by many others unfamiliar with the sacred tongue; and it was from time to time enlarged by Apocryphal books inserted after portions which seemed to treat of kindred subjects.
These Apocryphal writings, though unequal in value, include some works well worthy of a place in the Biblical Canon ; and if so beautiful a collection of moral precepts as the Wisdom of Sirach, and an historical account so admirable as the First Book of the Maccabees, were not embodied in the Scriptures, it was merely because those works were either not written or not sufficiently known when the Old Testament was concluded.
The author of one Apocryphal Book only is known to us -Jesus, the son of Sirach, of Jerusalem, who lived about the year 170 B.C. His grandson, probably of the same name, settled about forty years later in Egypt, where he prepared with much care a Greek translation of Ecclesiasticus. This Book is, at the same time, probably the oldest of the Apocrypha; the others range between that date and the first Christian century. It would be of little advantage here to epitomise the historical writings of all the Apocrypha; they are, with the exceptions already referred to, either embellished or enlarged descriptions of Biblical scenes, or they are apparently so devoid of historical truth and even of probability, that they cannot help us to understand the real course of events.