Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. XIX.

On Customs borrowed from the Jews.

Many Heathen legislators affected to have been enlightened by Divine Revela. tions, as Zoroastres and Zamocles.

Lycurgus, who established bis institutions about 840 years before Christ, laid claim to inspiration ; and Numa Pompilius, endeavouring to give a mysterious solemnity to bis regulations, pretended to hold converse with the goddess Egeria.

The practices of consulting oracles, of conjecturing by dreams, and other modes of procuring divine knowledge, together with a respect for the distinctions of the priesthood kept up in almost all countries, were probably founded on imitation of Hebrew observances.

Rays of truth penetrated through the thickest shades of Heathen darkness, and tinctured the opinions of all nations upon

cesa

these subjects. They prerailed, not only among the earlier people of the East, but among the Greeks and Romans *, and in some instances among the Celis and lodians t, the Gauls of Britain, and even among the different tribes of America , as may be collected from various circumstances.

The Heathen writers also borrowed images from the accounts communicated in Scripture, and attributed to their deities distinc. tions similar to those which are ascribed to the Divine Majesty, when God manifested himself to the world,

The Heathen dejties are represented || to be veiled in clouds as Jehovah appeared f.

• Oracul. Orph. Vers. in prolegom. Scalig. Emend. Temp.

+ Those nations digested their accounts by weeks; vide Philo, lib. iii. c. 13. Dion. Cass. lib. xiii. et Hieron. lib. ii.

The same may be observed of the Sclavonians; see Hermolet. lib. xi. c. 84.

Joseph. Acosta. Hist. lib. v. c. 27. lib. vi. sat. 2. and Antonio Herrera de Orig. Amer. pref, lib. 104. c. 15. Leon. Hist. Nat.

|| Hom. II. Lib V. v. 185. Horat. lib. i. Ode 2. v. 31. Jaseph. Antiq. lib. v. Ovid. Metam. lib. ix, v. 271. Livius l. 1. 16. Wolf, in act. i. v. 9.

Exod. xiii. 21. xl. 34. 1 Kings viï. 10. .

· Many of their religious institutions were evidently derived from the Mosaic appointments, as that of marriage and the observance of stated days, particularly of ihe Sabbath * among the Greeks and Romans, and indeed among almost all nations.

The rite of circumcision, which was appointed by God as a sign of distinctive covenant with Abraham, and designed to be expressive of spiritual purity t, was adopted by other people. The Egyptians and Ethiopians are supposed by some writers to have derived the rite from Cronus, who is said to have been circumcised ; and not from Abraham, who was not circumcised till after he had left Egypt. The custom prevailed also among the Odomanti, a people of Thrace. The Scholiast upon Aristophanes informs us, that they were reputed to be Jews.

There are other particulars in which the Heathens seem to have borrowed customs from the Jews. Solon, agreeably to the Jewish practice, decreed, that the time of the sun setting on the mountains should be the last hour. His law was copied by the Decemviri.

• Vide Joseph. cont. Apion, lih. ii. Philo de Die Sal. Clem. Alex. Strom. lib. v. Selden de Jure Nat. et Gent. lib. iii. c. 5 Euseb. lib. xii. c. 12. Theophil ad Autolic, lib. ii. Lucian Paleolog.

4 Gen. xvi. 12. Rom. ii, 28, 29. i hilip. ii. 3.

It should be observed, also, that the Arabians and the Numidians, in Lybia, computed time by nights or by lunar revolutions, as did also the ancient Germans*. Cæsar relates the same story of the Gauls t, and Ptolemy of the Druids. The inbabitants of Bohemia and Poland still keep up the custom, and the English retain the use of the terms se'nnight and fortnight.

The laws of the twelve tables with respect to the inheritance and adoption of children, retribution in punishment of corporeal injuries, and other points, seem to have been framed upon principles sanctioned by Moses ; and traces of resemblance between the Hebrew and Roman codes are still to be discovered in the institutes of Justinian .

The devotion of human victims on a re

* Nicol. Damasc. Tacitus de Moribus German. Spiceleg. Saxon. lib. i art. iii. 67.

+ De Bell. Gall. lib. vi. $ 18. Aulus Gellius, lib. iii. cap, 2. | Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. xvi. c. 95. Edit. Hard.

. Ś Comp. Numb. xxvii. 8. with Just. Inst. lib. iii. tit. 1, 2. Exod. xxi. 24, 25. comp. with Instit. lib. iv. tit. 4. See also Exod. xxi. 35, 36. et Aulus Gellius, Noct. Attic. 1. xx. c.

ligious principle, and the reverential regard to oaths, (even to the extent of considering them binding to the perpetration of actions against the dictates of nature, and the wishes of those who respected them) are illustrated by Heathen relations, tending to confirm the credibility of events recorded in Scripture, which are not consistent with the established opinions and ordinary conduct of men. Thus, with respect to the former practice, we might refer to the accounts concerning Diomed, Codrus, Curtius, and the Decii; and with regard to the second, the surrender of Daniel by Darius to the malice of his enemies, and the beheading of John the Baptist, by Herod, in conformity with his inconsiderate promise, may be compared with what is recorded by Herodotus in the history of Xerxes and Amestris *.

The appropriation of a tithe of the produce of the land, of spoils, and of other things, to religious purposes, is mentioned by many Heathen writers of Lycurgus dis

* Lib. ix. c 108-112.

+ Herod. lib. vii. c. 114. Dion. Hal. Pindar. Olymp. Ode ii. Eurip. Rhes. Act iji. Pausan. in Phocis. Doughtæi Analect. Sacr. Excurs. Amst. 1684.

« PreviousContinue »