Page images

and eloquence of composition ; but then we shall give them no such preference as to the verity of ancient history, and least of all as to that part which concerns the affairs of our own several countries.

6. As to the care of writing down the records from the earlieft antiquity among the Egyptians and Babylonians; that the priests were intrusted therewith, and employed a philofophical concern about it ; that they were the Chaldean priests that did so among the Babylonians, and that the Phenicians, who were mingled among the Greeks, did especially make 'use of their letters, both for the common affairs of life, and for the delivering down the history of common transactions, I think I may omit any proot, because all men allow it so to be. But now as to our forefathers, that they took no less care ahout writing such records (for I will not say they took greater care than the others I spoke of) and that they committed that matter to their high-priests and to their prophets, and that these records have been written all along down to our own times with the uterost accuracy ; nay, it it be not too bold for me to say it, our history will be so written hereafter, I shall endeavour briefly to inform you.

7. For our forefathers did not only appoint the best of these priests, and those that attended upon the divine worship, for that design from the beginning, but made provision that the stock of the priests should continue unmixed and pure ; for he who is partaker of the priesthood must propagate of a wife of the same nation, without having any regard to money, or any other dignities; but he is to make a scrutiny, and take his wife's genealogy from the ancient tables,* and procure many witnefles to it. And this is our practice not only in Judea, but wheresoever any body of men of our nation do live; and even there an exact catalogue of our priest's marriages are kept; I mean at Egypt and Babylon, or in any other place of the rest of the habitable earth, whitherloever our priests are scattered ; for they send to Jerusalem the ancient names of their parents in writing, as well as those of their remoter anceftors, and signify who are the witnesses allo. But if any war talls out, such as have fallen out a great many of them already, when Antiochus Epiphanes made an invasion upon our country, as also when Pompey the Great and Quintilius Varus did so also, and principally in the wars that have happened in our own times; those priests that survive them compole new tables of genealogy out of the old records, and examine the circumftances of the women that remain; for ftill they do not admit of those that have been captives, as suspecting that they had conversation with some foreigners. But what is the

* Of this accuracy of the Jews before, and in our Saviour's time, in carefully preserving their genealogies all along, particularly those of the priefts, see Josephus's Life, a. Vol. 11. Tiis accuracy seems to have ended at the deftruction of Jerufalem by Titus, or however at that by Adria.

Atrongest argument of our exact management in this matter is what I am now going to say, That we have the names of our high priests from father to fon set down in our records, for the interval of two thousand years; and it any of these have been tranfgreflors of these rules, they are prohibited to present themselves at the altar, or to be partakers of any other of our purtfications: And this is jully or rather necessarily done, because every one is not permitted of his own accord to be a writer, nor is there any disagreement in what is written; they being only prophets that have written the original and earliest ac. counts of things, as they learned them of God himself by in. fpiration; and others have written what hath happened in their own times, and that in a very distinct manner allo.

8. For we have not an innumerable multitude of books a. mong us, disagreeing trom, and contradicting one another, (as the Greeks have], but only twenty-two * books, which con, tain the records of all the past time ; which are juftly believed to be divine, And of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws, and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time from the death of Moses til the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the con. duet of human life. It is true, our history hath been wrinea fince Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets {ince that time: And how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation, is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one hath been so bold as either to add any thing to them, to take any ching from them, or to make any change in them ; but it is become patural to all Jews, immediately and from their very birth, to elteein these books to contain divine doctrines, and to perlift in them, and, if occasion be, willingly to die for them. For it is no new thing for our captives, many of them in number, and frequently in time, to be seen to endure racks and deaths of all kinds upon the theatres, that they may not be obliged to say one word against our laws and the records that contain them; whereas there are none at all among the Greeks who would undergo the least barm on that account, no nor in cafe all the writings that are among them were to be destroyed; for they take them to be such

discourses as are framed agreeably to the inclinations of those that write them; and they have

* Which were these twenty-two sacre i books of the Old Testament, see the Supe plement to Essay on the Old Testament, p 25–29 viz. thole we call canonical, all excepting the Canticle ; but still with this farther exception, that the firti book of apocryphal Eldras be taken into that number, inftead of our carwrical Ezra, which kems to be no more than a laser epitrme of the other : Which iwo books of Calle sicles and Ezra, it no way appears that our Jofepbus ever law.

juftly the same opinion of the ancient writers, since they fee fome of the present generation bold enough to write about fuch affairs, wherein they were not present, nor had concern enough to inform themselves about thein from those that knew them; examples of which may be had in this late war of ours, where some persons have written histories, and published them, without having been in the places concerned, or having been near them when the actions were done ; but these men put a few things together by hearlay, and infolently abuse the world, and call thele writings by the name of Histories.

9. As for myself, I have composed a true history of that whole war, and of all the particulars that occurred therein, as having been concerned in all its transactions ; for 1 acted as general of those among us that are named Galileáns, as long as it was possible for us to make any opposition. I was then seized on by the Romans, and became a captive : Vespasian also and Titus had me kept under a guard, and forced me to attend them continually. At the first I was put into bonds, but was set at liberty afterward, and sent to accompany Titus when he came from Alexandria to the siege of Jerusalem; during which time there was nothing done which escaped my knowledge; for what happened in the Roman camp I saw, and wrote down carefully; and what informations the deserto ers brought (out of the city), I was the only man that understood them. Afterward I got leisure at Rome ; and when all my materials

were prepared for that work, I made use of some persons to assist me in learning the Greek tongue, and by these means I composed the history of those transactions. And I was so well assured of the truth of what I related, that I first of all appealed to those that had the lupreme command in that war, Vespasian and Titus; as witnesses for me ; for to thein I presented those books first of all, and after them to many of the Romans who had been in the war. i also sold them to ma. ny of our own men who understood the Greek philosophy; among whom were Julius Archelaus, Herod [king of Chalcis], a person of great gravity, and king Agrippa himself, a person that deserved the greatest admiration. Now all these men bore their teftimony to me, that I had the stricteft regard to truth : Who yet would not have dissembled the matter, nor been filent, if I, out of ignorance. or out of favour to any fide, either had given false colours to actions, or omitted any of them.

10. There have been indeed some bad men, who have at. tempted to calumniate my history, and took it to be a kind of fcholastic performance for the exercise of young men. A frange sort of acculation and calumny this ! fince every one that undertakes to deliver the history of actions truly ought to know them accurately himselt in the first place, as cither having been concerned in them himself, or been informed of them by such as knew them. Now, both these methods of knowl. edge I may very properly pretend to in the composition ot both my works ; for, as I said, I have translated the Antiqnities out of our sacred books ; which I easily could do, fince I was a priest by my birth, and bave studied that philosophy which is contained in those writings : And for the History of the War, I wrote it as having been an actor myself in many of its transactions, an eye witness in the greatest part of the rest, and was not unacquainted with any thing whatsoever that was either said or done in it. How impudent then must thole deserve to be esteemed, that undertake to contradict me about the true state of those affairs? who, although they pretend to have made use of both the emperor's own memoirs, yet could not they be acquainted with our affairs, who fought againīt them.

11. This digression I have been obliged to make out of neceffity, as being desirous to expose the vanity of those that profess to write histories; and I suppose I have sufficiently declared that this custom of transmitting down the histories of ancient times hath been better preserved by those nations which are called Barbarians, than by the Greeks themselves. I am now willing, in the next place, to say a few things to those that endeavour to prove that our constitution is but of late time, for this reason, as they pretend, that the Greek writers have said nothing about us; atter which I shall produce testimonies for our antiquity out of the writings of foreigners: I shall also demonftrate that such as cast reproaches upon our nation do it very unjustly.

12. As for ourselves, therefore, we neither inhabit a maritime country, nor do we delight in merchandise, nor in such a mixture with other men as arises from it; but the cities we dwell in are remote from the sea, and having a fruitful country for our habitation, we take pains in cultivating that only. Our principal care of all is this, to educate our children well; and we think it to be the most necessary business of our whole life, to observe the laws that have been given us, and to keep those rules of piety that have been delivered down to us. Since, therefore, besides what we have already taken notice ot, we have had a peculiar way of living of our own. there was no occasion offered us in ancient ages for intermixing, among the Greeks, as they had for mixing among the Egy plians, by their intercourse of exporting and importing their leveral goods; as they also mixed with the Phenicians, who lived by the sea-side, by means of their love of lucre in trade and mer. chandise. Nor did our foretathers betake themselves, as did some others, to robbery ; nor did they, in order to gain more wealth, fall into foreign wars, although our country contain. ed many ten thousands of men of courage sufficient for that purpole. For this reason it was that the Phenicians tbemselves came soon by trading and navigation to be known to the Gre. cians, and by their means the Egyptians became known to the Grecians also, as did all those people whence the Pheni. cians in long voyages over the seas carried wares to the Gre.

cians. The Medes also and the Persians, when sos, that is, lords of Asia, became well known to them; and this weo the facially true of the PerGans, who led their armies as far ass acother continent, (Europe). The Thracians were also knowled to them by the nearness of their countries; and the Scythians by the means of thole that failed to Pontus ; for it was so in general that all maritime nations, and those that inhabited near the eastern or western seas, became most known to thole that were delirous to be writers; but such as had their habitations farther from the sea were for the most part unknown to them : Which things appear to have happened as to Europe also, where the city of Rome, that hath this long time been poflefl ed of so much power, and hath performed such great actions in war, is yet never mentioned by Herodotus, nor by Thucydides, nor by any one of their contemporaries ; and it was very late, and with great difficulty, that the Romans became known to the Greeks. Nay, those that were reckoned the most exa&t historians, and Ephorus for one, were so very ignorant of the Gauls and the Spaniards, that he supposed the Spaniards, who inbabit so great a part of the western regions of the earth, to be no more than one city. Those historians also have ventured to describe such customs as were made use of by them, which they never had either done or said ; and the reason why thele writers did not know the truth of their affairs, was this, that they had not any commerce together ; but the reason why they wrote such falsities was this, that they had a mind to appear to know things which others had not known. How can it then be any wonder, it our nation was no more known to many of the Greeks, nor had given them any occasion to mention them in their writings, while they were so remote from the sea, and had a condu&t of life so pea culiar to themselves.

13. Let us now put the case, therefore, that we made use of this argument concerning the Grecians, in order to prove that their nation was not ancient, because nothing is said of them in our records ; would not they laugh at us all, and probably give the same reasons for our silence that I have now alleged, and would produce their neighbour nations as witnefles to their own antiquity ? Now the very same thing will I endeavour to do; for I will bring the Egyptians and the Phenicians as my principal witnesses, becaule nobody can complain of their testimony as false, on account that they are known to have borne the greatest ill.will towards us : I mean this as to the Egyptians in general all of them, while of the Phenicians it is known the Tyrians have been most of all in the same ill disposition towards us : Yet do I contess that I cannot say the same of the Chaldeans, fince our first leaders and ancestors were derived from thein, and they do make mention of us Jews in their records, on accountotihe kindred there is between us. Now, when I shall have made my assertions good, so far.



« PreviousContinue »