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A Theologico-Political Treatise [Part II]

by Benedict de Spinoza

Also known as Baruch Spinoza

Translated by R. H. M. Elwes

July, 1997 [Etext #990]

*The Project Gutenberg Etext of A Theologico-Political Treatise*
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Part 1 - Chapters I to V - 1spnt10.txt
Part 2 - Chapters VI to X - 2spnt10.txt
Part 3 - Chapters XI to XV - 3spnt10.txt
Part 4 - Chapters XVI to XX - 4spnt10.txt

Sentence Numbers, shown thus (1), have been added by volunteer.

A Theologico-Political Treatise
Part 2 - Chapters VI to X
by Baruch Spinoza

A Theologico-Political Treatise
Part 2 - Chapters VI to X
by Baruch Spinoza


CHAPTER VI - Of Miracles.

Confused ideas of the vulgar on the subject.

A miracle in the sense of a contravention of natural laws an absurdity.

In the sense of an event, whose cause is unknown,
less edifying than an event better understood.

God's providence identical with the course of nature.
How Scripture miracles may be interpreted.

CHAPTER VII - Of the Interpretation of Scripture.

Current systems of interpretation erroneous.

Only true system to interpret it by itself.

Reasons why this system cannot now be carried out in its entirety.

Yet these difficulties do not interfere with our understanding
the plainest and most important passages.

Rival systems examined - that of a supernatural
faculty being necessary - refuted.

That of Maimonides.


Traditions of the Pharisees and the Papists rejected.

CHAPTER VIII. - Of the authorship of the Pentateuch,
and the other historical books of the Old Testament.

The Pentateuch not written by Moses.

His actual writings distinct.

Traces of late authorship in the other historical books.

All the historical books the work of one man.

Probably Ezra.

Who compiled first the book of Deuteronomy.

And then a history, distinguishing the books by the names of their subjects.

CHAPTER IX. - Other questions about these books.

That these books have not been thoroughly revised and made to agree.

That there are many doubtful readings.

That the existing marginal notes are often such.

The other explanations of these notes refuted.

The hiatus.

CHAPTER X.- An Examination of the remaining books of
the Old Testament according to the preceding method.

Chronicles, Psalms, Proverbs.

Isaiah, Jeremiah.

Ezekiel, Hosea.

Other prophets, Jonah, Job.

Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.

The author declines to undertake a similar detailed
examination of the New Testament.

Author's Endnotes to the Treatise


(1) As men are accustomed to call Divine the knowledge which transcends
human understanding, so also do they style Divine, or the work of God,
anything of which the cause is not generally known: for the masses think
that the power and providence of God are most clearly displayed by events
that are extraordinary and contrary to the conception they have formed of
nature, especially if such events bring them any profit or convenience: they
think that the clearest possible proof of God's existence is afforded when
nature, as they suppose, breaks her accustomed order, and consequently they
believe that those who explain or endeavour to understand phenomena or
miracles through their natural causes are doing away with God and His
providence. (2) They suppose, forsooth, that God is inactive so long as
nature works in her accustomed order, and vice versa, that the power of
nature and natural causes are idle so long as God is acting: thus they
imagine two powers distinct one from the other, the power of God and the
power of nature, though the latter is in a sense determined by God, or (as
most people believe now) created by Him. (3) What they mean by either, and
what they understand by God and nature they do not know, except that they
imagine the power of God to be like that of some royal potentate, and
nature's power to consist in force and energy.

(4) The masses then style unusual phenomena, "miracles," and partly from
piety, partly for the sake of opposing the students of science, prefer to
remain in ignorance of natural causes, and only to hear of those things
which they know least, and consequently admire most. (5) In fact, the common
people can only adore God, and refer all things to His power by removing
natural causes, and conceiving things happening out of their due course, and
only admires the power of God when the power of nature is conceived of as in
subjection to it.

(6) This idea seems to have taken its rise among the early Jews who saw the
Gentiles round them worshipping visible gods such as the sun, the moon, the
earth, water, air, &c., and in order to inspire the conviction that such
divinities were weak and inconstant, or changeable, told how they themselves
were under the sway of an invisible God, and narrated their miracles,
trying further to show that the God whom they worshipped arranged the whole
of nature for their sole benefit: this idea was so pleasing to humanity that
men go on to this day imagining miracles, so that they may believe
themselves God's favourites, and the final cause for which God created and
directs all things.

(7) What pretension will not people in their folly advance! (8) They have no
single sound idea concerning either God or nature, they confound God's
decrees with human decrees, they conceive nature as so limited that they
believe man to be its chief part! (9) I have spent enough space in setting
forth these common ideas and prejudices concerning nature and miracles, but
in order to afford a regular demonstration I will show -

(10) I. That nature cannot be contravened, but that she preserves a fixed
and immutable order, and at the same time I will explain what is meant by a

(11) II. That God's nature and existence, and consequently His providence
cannot be known from miracles, but that they can all be much better
perceived from the fixed and immutable order of nature.

(12) III. That by the decrees and volitions, and consequently the providence
of God, Scripture (as I will prove by Scriptural examples) means nothing but
nature's order following necessarily from her eternal laws.

(13) IV. Lastly, I will treat of the method of interpreting Scriptural
miracles, and the chief points to be noted concerning the narratives of

(14) Such are the principal subjects which will be discussed in this
chapter, and which will serve, I think, not a little to further the object
of this treatise.

(15) Our first point is easily proved from what we showed in Chap. IV. about
Divine law - namely, that all that God wishes or determines involves eternal
necessity, and truth, for we demonstrated that God's understanding is
identical with His will, and that it is the same thing to say that God wills
a thing, as to say, that He understands it; hence, as it follows
necessarily, from the Divine nature and perfection that God understands a
thing as it is, it follows no less necessarily that He wills it as it is.
(16) Now, as nothing is necessarily true save only by, Divine decree, it is
plain that the universal laws of nature are decrees of God following from
the necessity and perfection of the Divine nature. (17) Hence, any event
happening in nature which contravened nature's universal laws, would
necessarily also contravene the Divine decree, nature, and understanding; or
if anyone asserted that God acts in contravention to the laws of nature, he,
ipso facto, would be compelled to assert that God acted against His own
nature - an evident absurdity. (18) One might easily show from the same
premises that the power and efficiency, of nature are in themselves the
Divine power and efficiency, and that the Divine power is the very essence
of God, but this I gladly pass over for the present.

(19) Nothing, then, comes to pass in nature (N.B. I do not mean here by
"nature," merely matter and its modifications, but infinite other things
besides matter.) in contravention to her universal laws, nay, everything
agrees with them and follows from them, for whatsoever comes to pass, comes
to pass by the will and eternal decree of God; that is, as we have just
pointed out, whatever comes to pass, comes to pass according to laws and
rules which involve eternal necessity and truth; nature, therefore, always
observes laws and rules which involve eternal necessity, and truth, although
they may not all be known to us, and therefore she keeps a fixed and mutable
order. (20) Nor is there any sound reason for limiting the power and
efficacy of nature, and asserting that her laws are fit for certain
purposes, but not for all; for as the efficacy, and power of nature, are the
very, efficacy and power of God, and as the laws and rules of nature are the
decrees of God, it is in every way to be believed that the power of nature
is infinite, and that her laws are broad enough to embrace everything
conceived by, the Divine intellect; the only alternative is to assert that
God has created nature so weak, and has ordained for her laws so barren,
that He is repeatedly compelled to come afresh to her aid if He wishes that
she should be preserved, and that things should happen as He desires: a
conclusion, in My opinion, very far removed from reason. (21) Further, as
nothing happens in nature which does not follow from her laws, and as her
laws embrace everything conceived by the Divine intellect, and lastly, as
nature preserves a fixed and immutable order; it most clearly follows that
miracles are only intelligible as in relation to human opinions, and merely
mean events of which the natural cause cannot be explained by a reference to
any ordinary occurrence, either by us, or at any rate, by the writer and
narrator of the miracle.

(22) We may, in fact, say that a miracle is an event of which the causes
annot be explained by the natural reason through a reference to ascertained
workings of nature; but since miracles were wrought according to the
understanding of the masses, who are wholly ignorant of the workings of
nature, it is certain that the ancients took for a miracle whatever they
could not explain by the method adopted by the unlearned in such cases,
namely, an appeal to the memory, a recalling of something similar, which is
ordinarily regarded without wonder; for most people think they sufficiently
understand a thing when they have ceased to wonder at it. (23) The ancients,
then, and indeed most men up to the present day, had no other criterion for
a miracle; hence we cannot doubt that many things are narrated in Scripture
as miracles of which the causes could easily be explained by reference to
ascertained workings of nature. (24) We have hinted as much in Chap. II., in
speaking of the sun standing still in the time of Joshua, and to say on the
subject when we come to treat of the interpretation of miracles later on in
this chapter.

(25) It is now time to pass on to the second point, and show that we cannot
gain an understanding of God's essence, existence, or providence by means of
miracles, but that these truths are much better perceived through the fixed
and immutable order of nature. (26) I thus proceed with the demonstration.
(27) As God's existence is not self-evident (6) it must necessarily be
inferred from ideas so firmly and incontrovertibly true, that no power can
be postulated or conceived sufficient to impugn them. (28) They ought
certainly so to appear to us when we infer from them God's existence, if we
wish to place our conclusion beyond the reach of doubt; for if we could
conceive that such ideas could be impugned by any power whatsoever, we
should doubt of their truth, we should doubt of our conclusion, namely, of
God's existence, and should never be able to be certain of anything. (29)
Further, we know that nothing either agrees with or is contrary to nature,
unless it agrees with or is contrary to these primary ideas; wherefore if we
would conceive that anything could be done in nature by any power whatsoever
which would be contrary to the laws of nature, it would also be contrary to
our primary ideas, and we should have either to reject it as absurd, or else
to cast doubt (as just shown) on our primary ideas, and consequently on the
existence of God, and on everything howsoever perceived. (30) Therefore
miracles, in the sense of events contrary to the laws of nature, so far from
demonstrating to us the existence of God, would, on the contrary, lead us to
doubt it, where, otherwise, we might have been absolutely certain of it, as
knowing that nature follows a fixed and immutable order.

(31) Let us take miracle as meaning that which cannot be explained through
natural causes. (32) This may be interpreted in two senses: either as that
which has natural causes, but cannot be examined by the human intellect; or
as that which has no cause save God and God's will. (33) But as all things
which come to pass through natural causes, come to pass also solely
through the will and power of God, it comes to this, that a miracle, whether
it has natural causes or not, is a result which cannot be explained by its
cause, that is a phenomenon which surpasses human understanding; but from
such a phenomenon, and certainly from a result surpassing our understanding,
we can gain no knowledge. (34) For whatsoever we understand clearly and
distinctly should be plain to us either in itself or by means of something
else clearly and distinctly understood; wherefore from a miracle or a
phenomenon which we cannot understand, we can gain no knowledge of God's
essence, or existence, or indeed anything about God or nature; whereas when
we know that all things are ordained and ratified by God, that the
operations of nature follow from the essence of God, and that the laws of
nature are eternal decrees and volitions of God, we must perforce conclude
that our knowledge of God, and of God's will increases in proportion to our
knowledge and clear understanding of nature, as we see how she depends on
her primal cause, and how she works according to eternal law. (35) Wherefore
so far as our understanding goes, those phenomena which we clearly and
distinctly understand have much better right to be called works of God, and
to be referred to the will of God than those about which we are entirely
ignorant, although they appeal powerfully to the imagination, and compel
men's admiration.

(36) It is only phenomena that we clearly and distinctly understand, which
heighten our knowledge of God, and most clearly indicate His will and
decrees. (37) Plainly, they are but triflers who, when they cannot explain a
thing, run back to the will of God; this is, truly, a ridiculous way of
expressing ignorance. (38) Again, even supposing that some conclusion could
be drawn from miracles, we could not possibly infer from them the existence
of God: for a miracle being an event under limitations is the expression of
a fixed and limited power; therefore we could not possibly infer from an
effect of this kind the existence of a cause whose power is infinite, but at
the utmost only of a cause whose power is greater than that of the said
effect. (39) I say at the utmost, for a phenomenon may be the result of many
concurrent causes, and its power may be less than the power of the sum of
such causes, but far greater than that of any one of them taken
individually. (40) On the other hand, the laws of nature, as we have
shown, extend over infinity, and are conceived by us as, after a fashion,
eternal, and nature works in accordance with them in a fixed and immutable
order; therefore, such laws indicate to us in a certain degree the infinity,
the eternity, and the immutability of God.

(40) We may conclude, then, that we cannot gain knowledge of the existence
and providence of God by means of miracles, but that we can far better infer
them from the fixed and immutable order of nature. (41) By miracle, I here
mean an event which surpasses, or is thought to surpass, human
comprehension: for in so far as it is supposed to destroy or interrupt the
order of nature or her laws, it not only can give us no knowledge of God,
but, contrariwise, takes away that which we naturally have, and makes us
doubt of God and everything else.

(42) Neither do I recognize any difference between an event against the laws
of nature and an event beyond the laws of nature (that is, according to
some, an event which does not contravene nature, though she is inadequate to
produce or effect it) - for a miracle is wrought in, and not beyond nature,
though it may be said in itself to be above nature, and, therefore,
must necessarily interrupt the order of nature, which otherwise we conceive
of as fixed and unchangeable, according to God's decrees. (43) If,
therefore, anything should come to pass in nature which does not follow from
her laws, it would also be in contravention to the order which God has
established in nature for ever through universal natural laws: it would,
therefore, be in contravention to God's nature and laws, and, consequently,
belief in it would throw doubt upon everything, and lead to Atheism.

(44) I think I have now sufficiently established my second point, so that we
can again conclude that a miracle, whether in contravention to, or beyond,
nature, is a mere absurdity; and, therefore, that what is meant in Scripture
by a miracle can only be a work of nature, which surpasses, or is believed
to surpass, human comprehension. (45) Before passing on to my third point, I
will adduce Scriptural authority for my assertion that God cannot be known
from miracles. (46) Scripture nowhere states the doctrine openly, but it can
readily be inferred from several passages. (47) Firstly, that in which Moses
commands (Deut. xiii.) that a false prophet should be put to death, even
though he work miracles: "If there arise a prophet among you, and giveth
thee a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder come to pass, saying, Let us
go after other gods . . . thou shalt not hearken unto the voice of that
prophet; for the Lord your God proveth you, and that prophet shall be put to
death." (48) From this it clearly follows that miracles could be wrought
even by false prophets; and that, unless men are honestly endowed with the
true knowledge and love of God, they may be as easily led by miracles to
follow false gods as to follow the true God; for these words are added: "For
the Lord your God tempts you, that He may know whether you love Him with all
your heart and with all your mind."

(49) Further, the Israelites, from all their miracles, were unable to form a
sound conception of God, as their experience testified: for when they had
persuaded themselves that Moses had departed from among them, they
petitioned Aaron to give them visible gods; and the idea of God they had
formed as the result of all their miracles was - a calf!

(50) Asaph, though he had heard of so many miracles, yet doubted of the
providence of God, and would have turned himself from the true way, if he
had not at last come to understand true blessedness. (See Ps. lxxxiii.) (51)
Solomon, too, at a time when the Jewish nation was at the height of its
prosperity, suspects that all things happen by chance. (See Eccles. iii:19,
20, 21; and chap. ix:2, 3, &c.)

(52) Lastly, nearly all the prophets found it very hard to reconcile the
order of nature and human affairs with the conception they had formed of
God's providence, whereas philosophers who endeavour to understand things by
clear conceptions of them, rather than by miracles, have always found the
task extremely easy - at least, such of them as place true happiness solely
in virtue and peace of mind, and who aim at obeying nature, rather than
being obeyed by her. (53) Such persons rest assured that God directs nature
according to the requirements of universal laws, not according to the
requirements of the particular laws of human nature, and trial, therefore,
God's scheme comprehends, not only the human race, but the whole of nature.

(54) It is plain, then, from Scripture itself, that miracles can give no
knowledge of God, nor clearly teach us the providence of God. (55) As to the
frequent statements in Scripture, that God wrought miracles to make Himself
plain to man - as in Exodus x:2, where He deceived the Egyptians, and gave
signs of Himself, that the Israelites might know that He was God,- it does
not, therefore, follow that miracles really taught this truth, but only that
the Jews held opinions which laid them easily open to conviction by
miracles. (56) We have shown in Chap. II. that the reasons assigned by the
prophets, or those which are formed from revelation, are not assigned
in accordance with ideas universal and common to all, but in accordance with
the accepted doctrines, however absurd, and with the opinions of those to
whom the revelation was given, or those whom the Holy Spirit wished to

(57) This we have illustrated by many Scriptural instances, and can further
cite Paul, who to the Greeks was a Greek, and to the Jews a Jew. (58) But
although these miracles could convince the Egyptians and Jews from their
standpoint, they could not give a true idea and knowledge of God, but only
cause them to admit that there was a Deity more powerful than anything known
to them, and that this Deity took special care of the Jews, who had just
then an unexpectedly happy issue of all their affairs. (59) They could not
teach them that God cares equally for all, for this can be taught only by
philosophy: the Jews, and all who took their knowledge of God's providence
from the dissimilarity of human conditions of life and the inequalities of
fortune, persuaded themselves that God loved the Jews above all men, though
they did not surpass their fellows in true human perfection.

(60) I now go on to my third point, and show from Scripture that the decrees
and mandates of God, and consequently His providence, are merely the order
of nature - that is, when Scripture describes an event as accomplished by
God or God's will, we must understand merely that it was in accordance with
the law and order of nature, not, as most people believe, that nature had
for a season ceased to act, or that her order was temporarily interrupted.
(61) But Scripture does not directly teach matters unconnected with its
doctrine, wherefore it has no care to explain things by their natural
causes, nor to expound matters merely speculative. (62) Wherefore our
conclusion must be gathered by inference from those Scriptural narratives
which happen to be written more at length and circumstantially than usual.
(63) Of these I will cite a few.

(64) In the first book of Samuel, ix:15, 16, it is related that God revealed
to Samuel that He would send Saul to him, yet God did not send Saul to
Samuel as people are wont to send one man to another. (65) His "sending" was
merely the ordinary course of nature. (66) Saul was looking for the asses he
had lost, and was meditating a return home without them, when, at the
suggestion of his servant, he went to the prophet Samuel, to learn from him
where he might find them. (67) From no part of the narrative does it appear
that Saul had any command from God to visit Samuel beyond this natural

(68) In Psalm cv. 24 it is said that God changed the hearts of the
Egyptians, so that they hated the Israelites. (69) This was evidently a
natural change, as appears from Exodus, chap.i., where we find no slight
reason for the Egyptians reducing the Israelites to slavery.

(70) In Genesis ix:13, God tells Noah that He will set His bow in the cloud;
this action of God's is but another way of expressing the refraction and
reflection which the rays of the sun are subjected to in drops of water.

(71) In Psalm cxlvii:18, the natural action and warmth of the wind, by which
hoar frost and snow are melted, are styled the word of the Lord, and in
verse 15 wind and cold are called the commandment and word of God.

(72) In Psalm civ:4, wind and fire are called the angels and ministers of
God, and various other passages of the same sort are found in Scripture,
clearly showing that the decree, commandment, fiat, and word of God are
merely expressions for the action and order of nature.

(73) Thus it is plain that all the events narrated in Scripture came to pass
naturally, and are referred directly to God because Scripture, as we have
shown, does not aim at explaining things by their natural causes, but only
at narrating what appeals to the popular imagination, and doing so in the
manner best calculated to excite wonder, and consequently to impress the
minds of the masses with devotion. (74) If, therefore, events are found in
the Bible which we cannot refer to their causes, nay, which seem entirely to
contradict the order of nature, we must not come to a stand, but assuredly
believe that whatever did really happen happened naturally. (75) This view
is confirmed by the fact that in the case of every miracle there were many
attendant circumstances, though these were not always related, especially
where the narrative was of a poetic character.

(76) The circumstances of the miracles clearly show, I maintain, that
natural causes were needed. (77) For instance, in order to infect the
Egyptians with blains, it was necessary that Moses should scatter ashes in
the air (Exod. ix: 10); the locusts also came upon the land of Egypt by a
command of God in accordance with nature, namely, by an east wind blowing
for a whole day and night; and they departed by a very strong west wind
(Exod. x:14, 19). (78) By a similar Divine mandate the sea opened a way for
the Jews (Exo. xiv:21), namely, by an east wind which blew very strongly all

(79) So, too, when Elisha would revive the boy who was believed to be dead,
he was obliged to bend over him several times until the flesh of the child
waxed warm, and at last he opened his eyes (2 Kings iv:34, 35).

(80) Again, in John's Gospel (chap. ix.) certain acts are mentioned as
performed by Christ preparatory to healing the blind man, and there are
numerous other instances showing that something further than the absolute
fiat of God is required for working a miracle.

(81) Wherefore we may believe that, although the circumstances attending
miracles are not related always or in full detail, yet a miracle was never
performed without them.

(82) This is confirmed by Exodus xiv:27, where it is simply stated that
"Moses stretched forth his hand, and the waters of the sea returned to their
strength in the morning," no mention being made of a wind; but in the song
of Moses (Exod. xv:10) we read, ,Thou didst blow with Thy wind (i.e. with a
very strong wind), and the sea covered them." (83) Thus the attendant
circumstance is omitted in the history, and the miracle is thereby enhanced.

(84) But perhaps someone will insist that we find many things in Scripture
which seem in nowise explicable by natural causes, as for instance, that the
sins of men and their prayers can be the cause of rain and of the earth's
fertility, or that faith can heal the blind, and so on. (85) But I think
I have already made sufficient answer: I have shown that Scripture does not
explain things by their secondary causes, but only narrates them in the
order and the style which has most power to move men, and especially
uneducated men, to devotion; and therefore it speaks inaccurately of God and
of events, seeing that its object is not to convince the reason, but to
attract and lay hold of the imagination. (86) If the Bible were to describe
the destruction of an empire in the style of political historians, the
masses would remain unstirred, whereas the contrary is the case when it
adopts the method of poetic description, and refers all things
immediately to God. (87) When, therefore, the Bible says that the earth is
barren because of men's sins, or that the blind were healed by faith, we
ought to take no more notice than when it says that God is angry at men's
sins, that He is sad, that He repents of the good He has promised and done;
or that on seeing a sign he remembers something He had promised, and other
similar expressions, which are either thrown out poetically or related
according to the opinion and prejudices of the writer.

(88) We may, then, be absolutely certain that every event which is truly
described in Scripture necessarily happened, like everything else, according
to natural laws; and if anything is there set down which can be proved in
set terms to contravene the order of nature, or not to be deducible
therefrom, we must believe it to have been foisted into the sacred writings
by irreligious hands; for whatsoever is contrary to nature is also contrary
to reason, and whatsoever is contrary to reason is absurd, and, ipso facto,
to be rejected.

(89) There remain some points concerning the interpretation of miracles to
be noted, or rather to be recapitulated, for most of them have been already
stated. (90) These I proceed to discuss in the fourth division of my
subject, and I am led to do so lest anyone should, by wrongly interpreting a
miracle, rashly suspect that he has found something in Scripture contrary to
human reason.

(91) It is very rare for men to relate an event simply as it happened,
without adding any element of their own judgment. (92) When they see or hear
anything new, they are, unless strictly on their guard, so occupied with
their own preconceived opinions that they perceive something quite
different from the plain facts seen or heard, especially if such facts
surpass the comprehension of the beholder or hearer, and, most of all, if he
is interested in their happening in a given way.

(93) Thus men relate in chronicles and histories their own opinions rather
than actual events, so that one and the same event is so differently related
by two men of different opinions, that it seems like two separate
occurrences; and, further, it is very easy from historical chronicles to
gather the personal opinions of the historian.

(94) I could cite many instances in proof of this from the writings both of
natural philosophers and historians, but I will content myself with one only
from Scripture, and leave the reader to judge of the rest.

(95) In the time of Joshua the Hebrews held the ordinary opinion that the
sun moves with a daily motion, and that the earth remains at rest; to this
preconceived opinion they adapted the miracle which occurred during their
battle with the five kings. (96) They did not simply relate that that day
was longer than usual, but asserted that the sun and moon stood still, or
ceased from their motion - a statement which would be of great service to
them at that time in convincing and proving by experience to the Gentiles,
who worshipped the sun, that the sun was under the control of another deity
who could compel it to change its daily course. (97) Thus, partly through
religious motives, partly through preconceived opinions, they conceived of
and related the occurrence as something quite different from what really

(98) Thus in order to interpret the Scriptural miracles and understand from
the narration of them how they really happened, it is necessary to know the
opinions of those who first related them, and have recorded them for us in
writing, and to distinguish such opinions from the actual impression made
upon their senses, otherwise we shall confound opinions and judgments with
the actual miracle as it really occurred: nay, further, we shall confound
actual events with symbolical and imaginary ones. (99) For many things are
narrated in Scripture as real, and were believed to be real, which were in
fact only symbolical and imaginary. (100) As, for instance, that God came
down from heaven (Exod. xix:28, Deut. v:28), and that Mount Sinai smoked
because God descended upon it surrounded with fire; or, again that Elijah
ascended into heaven in a chariot of fire, with horses of fire; all these
things were assuredly merely symbols adapted to the opinions of those who
have handed them down to us as they were represented to them, namely, as
real. (101) All who have any education know that God has no right hand nor
left; that He is not moved nor at rest, nor in a particular place, but that
He is absolutely infinite and contains in Himself all perfections.

(102) These things, I repeat, are known to whoever judges of things by the
perception of pure reason, and not according as his imagination is affected
by his outward senses. (103) Following the example of the masses who imagine
a bodily Deity, holding a royal court with a throne on the convexity of
heaven, above the stars, which are believed to be not very, far off from the

(104) To these and similar opinions very many narrations in Scripture are
adapted, and should not, therefore, be mistaken by philosophers for

(105) Lastly, in order to understand, in the case of miracles, what actually
took place, we ought to be familiar with Jewish phrases and metaphors;
anyone who did not make sufficient allowance for these, would be continually
seeing miracles in Scripture where nothing of the kind is intended by the
writer; he would thus miss the knowledge not only of what actually happened,
but also of the mind of the writers of the sacred text. (106) For instance,
Zechariah speaking of some future war says (chap. xiv;7): "It shall be one
day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night; but at even time
it shall be light." In these words he seems to predict a great miracle, yet
he only means that the battle will be doubtful the whole day, that the issue
will be known only to God, but that in the evening they will gain the
victory: the prophets frequently used to predict victories and defeats of
the nations in similar phrases. (107) Thus Isaiah, describing the
destruction of Babylon, says (chap. xiii.): "The stars of heaven, and the
constellations thereof, shall not give their light; the sun shall be
darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to
shine." (108) Now I suppose no one imagines that at the destruction of
Babylon these phenomena actually occurred any more than that which the
prophet adds, "For I will make the heavens to tremble, and remove the earth
out of her place."

(109) So, too, Isaiah in foretelling to the Jews that they would return from
Babylon to Jerusalem in safety, and would not suffer from thirst on their
journey, says: "And they thirsted not when He led them through the deserts;
He caused the waters to flow out of the rocks for them; He clave the rocks,
and the waters gushed out." (110) These words merely mean that the Jews,
like other people, found springs in the desert, at which they quenched their
thirst; for when the Jews returned to Jerusalem with the consent of Cyrus,
it is admitted that no similar miracles befell them.

(111) In this way many occurrences in the Bible are to be regarded merely as
Jewish expressions. (112) There is no need for me to go through them in
detail; but I will call attention generally to the fact that the Jews
employed such phrases not only rhetorically, but also, and indeed chiefly,
from devotional motives. (113) Such is the reason for the substitution of
"bless God" for "curse God" in 1 Kings xxi:10, and Job ii:9, and for all
things being referred to God, whence it appears that the Bible seems to
relate nothing but miracles, even when speaking of the most ordinary
occurrences, as in the examples given above.

(114) Hence we must believe that when the Bible says that the Lord hardened
Pharaoh's heart, it only means that Pharaoh was obstinate; when it says that
God opened the windows of heaven, it only means that it rained very hard,
and so on. (115) When we reflect on these peculiarities, and also on the
fact that most things are related very shortly, with very little details and
almost in abridgments, we shall see that there is hardly anything in
Scripture which can be proved contrary to natural reason, while, on the
other hand, many things which before seemed obscure, will after a little
consideration be understood and easily explained.

(116) I think I have now very clearly explained all that I proposed to
explain, but before I finish this chapter I would call attention to the fact
that I have adopted a different method in speaking of miracles to that which
I employed in treating of prophecy. (117) Of prophecy I have asserted
nothing which could not be inferred from promises revealed in Scripture,
whereas in this chapter I have deduced my conclusions solely from the
principles ascertained by the natural light of reason. (118) I have
proceeded in this way advisedly, for prophecy, in that it surpasses human
knowledge, is a purely theological question; therefore, I knew that I could
not make any assertions about it, nor learn wherein it consists, except
through deductions from premises that have been revealed; therefore I was
compelled to collate the history of prophecy, and to draw therefrom certain
conclusions which would teach me, in so far as such teaching is possible,
the nature and properties of the gift. (119) But in the case of miracles, as
our inquiry is a question purely philosophical (namely, whether anything can
happen which contravenes or does not follow from the laws of nature), I was
not under any such necessity: I therefore thought it wiser to unravel the
difficulty through premises ascertained and thoroughly known by could also
easily have solved the problem merely from the doctrines and fundamental
principles of Scripture: in order that everyone may acknowledge this, I will
briefly show how it could be done.

(120) Scripture makes the general assertion in several passages that
nature's course is fixed and unchangeable. (121) In Ps. cxlviii:6, for
instance, and Jer. xxxi:35. (122) The wise man also, in Eccles. i:10,
distinctly teaches that "there is nothing new under the sun," and in verses
11, 12, illustrating the same idea, he adds that although something
occasionally happens which seems new, it is not really new, but "hath been
already of old time, which was before us, whereof there is no remembrance,
neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with
those that come after." (123) Again in chap. iii:11, he says, "God hath made
everything beautiful in his time," and immediately afterwards adds, "I know
that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever; nothing can be put to it,
nor anything taken from it."

(124) Now all these texts teach most distinctly that nature preserves a
fixed and unchangeable order, and that God in all ages, known and unknown,
has been the same; further, that the laws of nature are so perfect, that
nothing can be added thereto nor taken therefrom; and, lastly, that miracles
only appear as something new because of man's ignorance.

(125) Such is the express teaching of Scripture: nowhere does Scripture
assert that anything happens which contradicts, or cannot follow from the
laws of nature; and, therefore, we should not attribute to it such a

(126) To these considerations we must add, that miracles require causes and
attendant circumstances, and that they follow, not from some mysterious
royal power which the masses attribute to God, but from the Divine rule and
decree, that is (as we have shown from Scripture itself) from the laws and
order of nature; lastly, that miracles can be wrought even by false
prophets, as is proved from Deut. xiii. and Matt. xxiv:24.

(127) The conclusion, then, that is most plainly put before us is, that
miracles were natural occurrences, and must therefore be so explained as to
appear neither new (in the words of Solomon) nor contrary to nature, but, as
far as possible, in complete agreement with ordinary events. (128) This can
easily be done by anyone, now that I have set forth the rules drawn from
Scripture. (129) Nevertheless, though I maintain that Scripture teaches this
doctrine, I do not assert that it teaches it as a truth necessary to
salvation, but only that the prophets were in agreement with ourselves on
the point; therefore everyone is free to think on the subject as he
likes, according as he thinks it best for himself, and most likely to
conduce to the worship of God and to singlehearted religion.

(130) This is also the opinion of Josephus, for at the conclusion of the
second book of his "Antiquities," he writes: Let no man think this story
incredible of the sea's dividing to save these people, for we find it in
ancient records that this hath been seen before, whether by God's
extraordinary will or by the course of nature it is indifferent. (131) The
same thing happened one time to the Macedonians, under the command of
Alexander, when for want of another passage the Pamphylian Sea divided to
make them way; God's Providence making use of Alexander at that time as His
instrument for destroying the Persian Empire. (132) This is attested by all
the historians who have pretended to write the Life of that Prince. (133)
But people are at liberty to think what they please."

(134) Such are the words of Josephus, and such is his opinion on faith in miracles.


(1) When people declare, as all are ready, to do, that the Bible is the Word
of God teaching man true blessedness and the way of salvation, they
evidently do not mean what they, say; for the masses take no pains at all to
live according to Scripture, and we see most people endeavouring to hawk
about their own commentaries as the word of God, and giving their best
efforts, under the guise of religion, to compelling others to think as they
do: we generally see, I say, theologians anxious to learn how to wring their
inventions and sayings out of the sacred text, and to fortify, them with
Divine authority. (2) Such persons never display, less scruple or
more zeal than when they, are interpreting Scripture or the mind of the Holy
Ghost; if we ever see them perturbed, it is not that they fear to attribute
some error to the Holy Spirit, and to stray from the right path, but that
they are afraid to be convicted of error by, others, and thus to overthrow
and bring into contempt their own authority. (3) But if men really believed
what they verbally testify of Scripture, they would adopt quite a different
plan of life: their minds would not be agitated by so many contentions, nor
so many hatreds, and they would cease to be excited by such a blind and rash
passion for interpreting the sacred writings, and excogitating novelties
in religion. (4) On the contrary, they would not dare to adopt, as the
teaching of Scripture, anything which they could not plainly deduce
therefrom: lastly, those sacrilegious persons who have dared, in several
passages, to interpolate the Bible, would have shrunk from so great a
crime, and would have stayed their sacrilegious hands.

(5) Ambition and unscrupulousness have waxed so powerful, that religion is
thought to consist, not so much in respecting the writings of the Holy
Ghost, as in defending human commentaries, so that religion is no longer
identified with charity, but with spreading discord and propagating
insensate hatred disguised under the name of zeal for the Lord, and eager

(6) To these evils we must add superstition, which teaches men to despise
reason and nature, and only to admire and venerate that which is repugnant
to both: whence it is not wonderful that for the sake of increasing the
admiration and veneration felt for Scripture, men strive to explain it so as
to make it appear to contradict, as far as possible, both one and the other:
thus they dream that most profound mysteries lie hid in the Bible, and weary
themselves out in the investigation of these absurdities, to the neglect of
what is useful. (7) Every result of their diseased imagination they
attribute to the Holy Ghost, and strive to defend with the utmost zeal and
passion; for it is an observed fact that men employ their reason to defend
conclusions arrived at by reason, but conclusions arrived at by the passions
are defended by the passions.

(8) If we would separate ourselves from the crowd and escape from
theological prejudices, instead of rashly accepting human commentaries for
Divine documents, we must consider the true method of interpreting Scripture
and dwell upon it at some length: for if we remain in ignorance of this we
cannot know, certainly, what the Bible and the Holy Spirit wish to teach.

(9)I may sum up the matter by saying that the method of interpreting
Scripture does not widely differ from the method of interpreting nature - in
fact, it is almost the same. (10) For as the interpretation of nature
consists in the examination of the history of nature, and therefrom
deducing definitions of natural phenomena on certain fixed axioms, so
Scriptural interpretation proceeds by the examination of Scripture, and
inferring the intention of its authors as a legitimate conclusion from its
fundamental principles. (11) By working in this manner everyone will
always advance without danger of error - that is, if they admit no
principles for interpreting Scripture, and discussing its contents save such
as they find in Scripture itself - and will be able with equal security to
discuss what surpasses our understanding, and what is known by the natural
light of reason.

(12) In order to make clear that such a method is not only correct, but is
also the only one advisable, and that it agrees with that employed in
interpreting nature, I must remark that Scripture very often treats of
matters which cannot be deduced from principles known to reason: for it is
chiefly made up of narratives and revelation: the narratives generally
contain miracles - that is, as we have shown in the last chapter, relations
of extraordinary natural occurrences adapted to the opinions and judgment of
the historians who recorded them: the revelations also were adapted to the
opinions of the prophets, as we showed in Chap. II., and in themselves
surpassed human comprehension. (13) Therefore the knowledge of all these -
that is, of nearly the whole contents of Scripture, must be sought from
Scripture alone, even as the knowledge of nature is sought from nature. (14)
As for the moral doctrines which are also contained in the Bible, they may
be demonstrated from received axioms, but we cannot prove in the same manner
that Scripture intended to teach them, this can only be learned from
Scripture itself.

(15) If we would bear unprejudiced witness to the Divine origin of
Scripture, we must prove solely on its own authority that it teaches true
moral doctrines, for by such means alone can its Divine origin be
demonstrated: we have shown that the certitude of the prophets depended
chiefly on their having minds turned towards what is just and good,
therefore we ought to have proof of their possessing this quality before we
repose faith in them. (16) From miracles God's divinity cannot be proved, as
I have already shown, and need not now repeat, for miracles could be

wrought by false prophets. (17) Wherefore the Divine origin of Scripture
must consist solely in its teaching true virtue. (18) But we must come to
our conclusion simply on Scriptural grounds, for if we were unable to do so
we could not, unless strongly prejudiced accept the Bible and bear
witness to its Divine origin.

(19) Our knowledge of Scripture must then be looked for in Scripture only.

(20) Lastly, Scripture does not give us definition of things any more than
nature does: therefore, such definitions must be sought in the latter case
from the diverse workings of nature; in the former case, from the various
narratives about the given subject which occur in the Bible.

(21) The universal rule, then, in interpreting Scripture is to accept
nothing as an authoritative Scriptural statement which we do not perceive
very clearly when we examine it in the light of its history. (22) What I
mean by its history, and what should be the chief points elucidated, I will
now explain.

(23) The history of a Scriptural statement comprises -

(23) I. The nature and properties of the language in which the books of the
Bible were written, and in which their authors were, accustomed to speak.
(24) We shall thus be able to investigate every expression by comparison
with common conversational usages.

(25) Now all the writers both of the Old Testament and the New were Hebrews:
therefore, a knowledge of the Hebrew language is before all things
necessary, not only for the comprehension of the Old Testament, which was
written in that tongue, but also of the New: for although the latter was
published in other languages, yet its characteristics are Hebrew.

(26) II. An analysis of each book and arrangement of its contents under
heads; so that we may have at hand the various texts which treat of a given
subject. (27) Lastly, a note of all the passages which are ambiguous or
obscure, or which seem mutually contradictory.

(28) I call passages clear or obscure according as their meaning is inferred
easily or with difficulty in relation to the context, not according as their
truth is perceived easily or the reverse by reason. (29) We are at work not
on the truth of passages, but solely on their meaning. (30) We must take
especial care, when we are in search of the meaning of a text, not to be led
away by our reason in so far as it is founded on principles of natural
knowledge (to say nothing of prejudices): in order not to confound the
meaning of a passage with its truth, we must examine it solely by means of
the signification of the words, or by a reason acknowledging no foundation
but Scripture.

(31) I will illustrate my meaning by an example. (32) The words of Moses,
"God is a fire" and "God is jealous," are perfectly clear so long as we
regard merely the signification of the words, and I therefore reckon them

among the clear passages, though in relation to reason and truth they are
most obscure: still, although the literal meaning is repugnant to the
natural light of reason, nevertheless, if it cannot be clearly overruled on
grounds and principles derived from its Scriptural "history," it, that is,
the literal meaning, must be the one retained: and contrariwise if these
passages literally interpreted are found to clash with principles derived
from Scripture, though such literal interpretation were in absolute harmony
with reason, they must be interpreted in a different manner, i.e.

(33) If we would know whether Moses believed God to be a fire or not, we
must on no account decide the question on grounds of the reasonableness or
the reverse of such an opinion, but must judge solely by the other opinions
of Moses which are on record.

(34) In the present instance, as Moses says in several other passages that
God has no likeness to any visible thing, whether in heaven or in earth, or
in the water, either all such passages must be taken metaphorically, or else
the one before us must be so explained. (35) However, as we should depart as
little as possible from the literal sense, we must first ask whether this
text, God is a fire, admits of any but the literal meaning - that is,
whether the word fire ever means anything besides ordinary natural fire.
(36) If no such second meaning can be found, the text must be taken
literally, however repugnant to reason it may be: and all the other
passages, though in complete accordance with reason, must be brought into
harmony with it. (37) If the verbal expressions would not admit of being
thus harmonized, we should have to set them down as irreconcilable, and
suspend our judgment concerning them. (38) However, as we find the name fire
applied to anger and jealousy (see Job xxxi:12) we can thus easily reconcile
the words of Moses, and legitimately conclude that the two propositions God
is a fire, and God is jealous, are in meaning identical.

(39) Further, as Moses clearly teaches that God is jealous, and nowhere
states that God is without passions or emotions, we must evidently infer
that Moses held this doctrine himself, or at any rate, that he wished to
teach it, nor must we refrain because such a belief seems contrary to
reason: for as we have shown, we cannot wrest the meaning of texts to suit
the dictates of our reason, or our preconceived opinions. (40) The whole
knowledge of the Bible must be sought solely from itself.

(41) III. Lastly, such a history should relate the environment of all the
prophetic books extant; that is, the life, the conduct, and the studies of
the author of each book, who he was, what was the occasion, and the epoch of
his writing, whom did he write for, and in what language. (42) Further,
it should inquire into the fate of each book: how it was first received,
into whose hands it fell, how many different versions there were of it, by
whose advice was it received into the Bible, and, lastly, how all the books
now universally accepted as sacred, were united into a single whole.

(43) All such information should, as I have said, be contained in the
"history" of Scripture. (44) For, in order to know what statements are set
forth as laws, and what as moral precepts, it is important to be acquainted
with the life, the conduct, and the pursuits of their author: moreover,
it becomes easier to explain a man's writings in proportion as we have more
intimate knowledge of his genius and temperament.

(45) Further, that we may not confound precepts which are eternal with those
which served only a temporary purpose, or were only meant for a few, we
should know what was the occasion, the time, the age, in which each book was
written, and to what nation it was addressed.(46) Lastly, we should have
knowledge on the other points I have mentioned, in order to be sure,
in addition to the authenticity of the work, that it has not been tampered
with by sacrilegious hands, or whether errors can have crept in, and, if so,
whether they have been corrected by men sufficiently skilled and worthy of
credence. (47) All these things should be known, that we may not be led away
by blind impulse to accept whatever is thrust on our notice, instead of only
that which is sure and indisputable.

(48) Now when we are in possession of this history of Scripture, and have
finally decided that we assert nothing as prophetic doctrine which does not
directly follow from such history, or which is not clearly deducible from
it, then, I say, it will be time to gird ourselves for the task of
investigating the mind of the prophets and of the Holy Spirit. (49) But in
this further arguing, also, we shall require a method very like that
employed in interpreting nature from her history. (50) As in the examination
of natural phenomena we try first to investigate what is most universal
and common to all nature - such, for instance, as motion and rest, and their
laws and rules, which nature always observes, and through which she
continually works - and then we proceed to what is less universal; so, too,
in the history of Scripture, we seek first for that which is most universal,
and serves for the basis and foundation of all Scripture, a doctrine, in
fact, that is commended by all the prophets as eternal and most profitable
to all men. (51) For example, that God is one, and that He is omnipotent,
that He alone should be worshipped, that He has a care for all men, and that
He especially loves those who adore Him and love their neighbour as
themselves, &c. (52) These and similar doctrines, I repeat, Scripture
everywhere so clearly and expressly teaches, that no one was ever in doubt
of its meaning concerning them.

(53) The nature of God, His manner of regarding and providing for things,
and similar doctrines, Scripture nowhere teaches professedly, and as eternal
doctrine; on the contrary, we have shown that the prophets themselves did
not agree on the subject; therefore, we must not lay down any doctrine as
Scriptural on such subjects, though it may appear perfectly clear on
rational grounds.

(54) From a proper knowledge of this universal doctrine of Scripture, we
must then proceed to other doctrines less universal, but which,
nevertheless, have regard to the general conduct of life, and flow from the
universal doctrine like rivulets from a source; such are all particular
external manifestations of true virtue, which need a given occasion for
their exercise; whatever is obscure or ambiguous on such points in Scripture
must be explained and defined by its universal doctrine; with regard to
contradictory instances, we must observe the occasion and the time in which
they were written. (55) For instance, when Christ says, "Blessed are they
that mourn, for they shall be comforted" we do not know, from the actual
passage, what sort of mourners are meant; as, however, Christ afterwards
teaches that we should have care for nothing, save only for the kingdom of
God and His righteousness, which is commended as the highest good (see
Matt. vi;33), it follows that by mourners He only meant those who mourn for
the kingdom of God and righteousness neglected by man: for this would be the
only cause of mourning to those who love nothing but the Divine kingdom and
justice, and who evidently despise the gifts of fortune. (56) So, too, when
Christ says: "But if a man strike you on the right cheek, turn to him the
left also," and the words which follow.

(57) If He had given such a command, as a lawgiver, to judges, He would
thereby have abrogated the law of Moses, but this He expressly says He did
not do (Matt. v:17). (58) Wherefore we must consider who was the speaker,
what was the occasion, and to whom were the words addressed. (59) Now Christ
said that He did not ordain laws as a legislator, but inculcated precepts as
a teacher: inasmuch as He did not aim at correcting outward actions so
much as the frame of mind. (60) Further, these words were spoken to men who
were oppressed, who lived in a corrupt commonwealth on the brink of ruin,
where justice was utterly neglected. (61) The very doctrine inculcated here
by Christ just before the destruction of the city was also taught by
Jeremiah before the first destruction of Jerusalem, that is, in similar
circumstances, as we see from Lamentations iii:25-30.

(62) Now as such teaching was only set forth by the prophets in times of
oppression, and was even then never laid down as a law; and as, on the other
hand, Moses (who did not write in times of oppression, but - mark this -
strove to found a well-ordered commonwealth), while condemning envy and
hatred of one's neighbour, yet ordained that an eye should be given for
an eye, it follows most clearly from these purely Scriptural grounds that
this precept of Christ and Jeremiah concerning submission to injuries was
only valid in places where justice is neglected, and in a time of
oppression, but does not hold good in a well-ordered state.

(63) In a well-ordered state where justice is administered every one is
bound, if he would be accounted just, to demand penalties before the judge
(see Lev:1), not for the sake of vengeance (Lev. xix:17, 18), but in order
to defend justice and his country's laws, and to prevent the wicked
rejoicing in their wickedness. (64) All this is plainly in accordance with
reason. (65) I might cite many other examples in the same manner, but I
think the foregoing are sufficient to explain my meaning and the utility of
this method, and this is all my present purpose. (66) Hitherto we have only
shown how to investigate those passages of Scripture which treat of
practical conduct, and which, therefore, are more easily examined, for on
such subjects there was never really any controversy among the writers of
the Bible.

(67) The purely speculative passages cannot be so easily, traced to their
real meaning: the way becomes narrower, for as the prophets differed in
matters speculative among themselves, and the narratives are in great
measure adapted to the prejudices of each age, we must not, on any, account
infer the intention of one prophet from clearer passages in the writings of
another; nor must we so explain his meaning, unless it is perfectly plain
that the two prophets were at one in the matter.

(68) How we are to arrive at the intention of the prophets in such cases I
will briefly explain. (69) Here, too, we must begin from the most universal
proposition, inquiring first from the most clear Scriptural statements what
is the nature of prophecy or revelation, and wherein does it consist; then
we must proceed to miracles, and so on to whatever is most general till we
come to the opinions of a particular prophet, and, at last, to the meaning
of a particular revelation, prophecy, history, or miracle. (70) We have
already pointed out that great caution is necessary not to confound the mind
of a prophet or historian with the mind of the Holy Spirit and the truth
of the matter; therefore I need not dwell further on the subject. (71) I
would, however, here remark concerning the meaning of revelation, that the
present method only teaches us what the prophets really saw or heard, not
what they desired to signify or represent by symbols. (72) The latter may be
guessed at but cannot be inferred with certainty from Scriptural premises.

(73) We have thus shown the plan for interpreting Scripture, and have, at
the same time, demonstrated that it is the one and surest way of
investigating its true meaning. (74) I am willing indeed to admit that those
persons (if any such there be) would be more absolutely certainly right, who
have received either a trustworthy tradition or an assurance from the
prophets themselves, such as is claimed by the Pharisees; or who have a
pontiff gifted with infallibility in the interpretation of Scripture, such
as the Roman Catholics boast. (75) But as we can never be perfectly sure,
either of such a tradition or of the authority of the pontiff, we cannot
found any certain conclusion on either: the one is denied by the oldest sect
of Christians, the other by the oldest sect of Jews. (76) Indeed, if we
consider the series of years (to mention no other point) accepted by the
Pharisees from their Rabbis, during which time they say they have handed
down the tradition from Moses, we shall find that it is not correct, as I
show elsewhere. (77) Therefore such a tradition should be received with
extreme suspicion; and although, according to our method, we are bound to
consider as uncorrupted the tradition of the Jews, namely, the meaning of
the Hebrew words which we received from them, we may accept the latter while
retaining our doubts about the former.

(78) No one has ever been able to change the meaning of a word in ordinary
use, though many have changed the meaning of a particular sentence. (79)
Such a proceeding would be most difficult; for whoever attempted to change
the meaning of a word, would be compelled, at the same time, to explain all
the authors who employed it, each according to his temperament and
intention, or else, with consummate cunning, to falsify them.

(80) Further, the masses and the learned alike preserve language, but it is
only the learned who preserve the meaning of particular sentences and books:
thus, we may easily imagine that the learned having a very rare book in
their power, might change or corrupt the meaning of a sentence in it, but
they could not alter the signification of the words; moreover, if anyone
wanted to change the meaning of a common word he would not be able to keep
up the change among posterity, or in common parlance or writing.

(81) For these and such-like reasons we may readily conclude that it would
never enter into the mind of anyone to corrupt a language, though the
intention of a writer may often have been falsified by changing his phrases
or interpreting them amiss. (82) As then our method (based on the principle
that the knowledge of Scripture must be sought from itself alone) is the
sole true one, we must evidently renounce any knowledge which it cannot
furnish for the complete understanding of Scripture. (83) I will now point
out its difficulties and shortcomings, which prevent our gaining a complete
and assured knowledge of the Sacred Text.

(84) Its first great difficulty consists in its requiring a thorough
knowledge of the Hebrew language. (85) Where is such knowledge to be
obtained? (86) The men of old who employed the Hebrew tongue have left none
of the principles and bases of their language to posterity; we have from
them absolutely nothing in the way of dictionary, grammar, or rhetoric.

(87) Now the Hebrew nation has lost all its grace and beauty (as one would
expect after the defeats and persecutions it has gone through), and has only
retained certain fragments of its language and of a few books. (88) Nearly
all the names of fruits, birds, and fishes, and many other words have
perished in the wear and tear of time. (89) Further, the meaning of many
nouns and verbs which occur in the Bible are either utterly lost, or are
subjects of dispute. (90) And not only are these gone, but we are lacking in
a knowledge of Hebrew phraseology. (91) The devouring tooth of time has
destroyed turns of expression peculiar to the Hebrews, so that we know them
no more.

(92) Therefore we cannot investigate as we would all the meanings of a
sentence by the uses of the language; and there are many phrases of which
the meaning is most obscure or altogether inexplicable, though the component
words are perfectly plain.

(93) To this impossibility of tracing the history of the Hebrew language
must be added its particular nature and composition: these give rise to so
many ambiguities that it is impossible to find a method which would
enable us to gain a certain knowledge of all the statements in Scripture,
[Endnote 7]. (94) In addition to the sources of ambiguities common to all
languages, there are many peculiar to Hebrew. (95) These, I think, it worth
while to mention.

(96) Firstly, an ambiguity often arises in the Bible from our mistaking one
letter for another similar one. (97) The Hebrews divide the letters of the
alphabet into five classes, according to the five organs of the month
employed in pronouncing them, namely, the lips, the tongue, the teeth, the
palate, and the throat. (98) For instance, Alpha, Ghet, Hgain, He, are
called gutturals, and are barely distinguishable, by any sign that we know,
one from the other. (99) El, which signifies to, is often taken for hgal,
which signifies above, and vice versa. (100) Hence sentences are often
rendered rather ambiguous or meaningless.

(101) A second difficulty arises from the multiplied meaning of conjunctions
and adverbs. (102) For instance, vau serves promiscuously for a particle of
union or of separation, meaning, and, but, because, however, then: ki, has
seven or eight meanings, namely, wherefore, although, if, when, inasmuch as,
because, a burning, &c., and so on with almost all particles.

(103) The third very fertile source of doubt is the fact that Hebrew verbs
in the indicative mood lack the present, the past imperfect, the pluperfect,
the future perfect, and other tenses most frequently employed in other
languages; in the imperative and infinitive moods they are wanting in all
except the present, and a subjunctive mood does not exist. (104) Now,
although all these defects in moods and tenses may be supplied by certain
fundamental rules of the language with ease and even elegance, the ancient
writers evidently neglected such rules altogether, and employed
indifferently future for present and past, and vice versa past for future,
and also indicative for imperative and subjunctive, with the result of
considerable confusion.

(105) Besides these sources of ambiguity there are two others, one very
important. (106) Firstly, there are in Hebrew no vowels; secondly, the
sentences are not separated by any marks elucidating the meaning or
separating the clauses. (107) Though the want of these two has generally
been supplied by points and accents, such substitutes cannot be accepted by
us, inasmuch as they were invented and designed by men of an after age whose
authority should carry no weight. (108) The ancients wrote without points
(that is, without vowels and accents), as is abundantly testified; their
descendants added what was lacking, according to their own ideas of
Scriptural interpretation; wherefore the existing accents and points are
simply current interpretations, and are no more authoritative than any other

(109) Those who are ignorant of this fact cannot justify the author of the
Epistle to the Hebrews for interpreting (chap. xi;21) Genesis (xlvii:31)
very differently from the version given in our Hebrew text as at present
pointed, as though the Apostle had been obliged to learn the meaning of
Scripture from those who added the points. (110) In my opinion the latter
are clearly wrong. (111) In order that everyone may judge for himself, and
also see how the discrepancy arose simply from the want of vowels, I will
give both interpretations. (112)Those who pointed our version read, "And
Israel bent himself over, or (changing Hqain into Aleph, a similar letter)
towards, the head of the bed." (113) The author of the Epistle reads, "And
Israel bent himself over the head of his staff," substituting mate for mita,
from which it only differs in respect of vowels. (114) Now as in this
narrative it is Jacob's age only that is in question, and not his illness,
which is not touched on till the next chapter, it seems more likely that the
historian intended to say that Jacob bent over the head of his staff (a
thing commonly used by men of advanced age for their support) than that he
bowed himself at the head of his bed, especially as for the former reading
no substitution of letters is required. (115) In this example I have desired
not only to reconcile the passage in the Epistle with the passage in
Genesis, but also and chiefly to illustrate how little trust should be
placed in the points and accents which are found in our present Bible, and
so to prove that he who would be without bias in interpreting Scripture
should hesitate about accepting them, and inquire afresh for himself. (116)
Such being the nature and structure of the Hebrew language, one may easily
understand that many difficulties are likely to arise, and that no possible
method could solve all of them. (117) It is useless to hope for a way out of
our difficulties in the comparison of various parallel passages (we have
shown that the only method of discovering the true sense of a passage out of
many alternative ones is to see what are the usages of the language), for
this comparison of parallel passages can only accidentally throw light on a
difficult point, seeing that the prophets never wrote with the express
object of explaining their own phrases or those of other people, and also
because we cannot infer the meaning of one prophet or apostle by the meaning
of another, unless on a purely practical question, not when the matter is
speculative, or if a miracle, or history is being narrated. (118) I might
illustrate my point with instances, for there are many inexplicable phrases
in Scripture, but I would rather pass on to consider the difficulties and
imperfections of the method under discussion.

(119) A further difficulty attends the method, from the fact that it
requires the history of all that has happened to every book in the Bible;
such a history we are often quite unable to furnish. (120) Of the authors,
or (if the expression be preferred), the writers of many of the books, we
are either in complete ignorance, or at any rate in doubt, as I will point
out at length. (121) Further, we do not know either the occasions or the
epochs when these books of unknown authorship were written; we cannot say
into what hands they fell, nor how the numerous varying versions
originated; nor, lastly, whether there were not other versions, now lost.
(122) I have briefly shown that such knowledge is necessary, but I passed
over certain considerations which I will now draw attention to.

(123) If we read a book which contains incredible or impossible narratives,
or is written in a very obscure style, and if we know nothing of its author,
nor of the time or occasion of its being written, we shall vainly endeavour
to gain any certain knowledge of its true meaning. (124) For being in
ignorance on these points we cannot possibly know the aim or intended aim of
the author; if we are fully informed, we so order our thoughts as not to be
in any way prejudiced either in ascribing to the author or him for whom the
author wrote either more or less than his meaning, and we only take into
consideration what the author may have had in his mind, or what the time and
occasion demanded. (125) I think this must be tolerably evident to all.

(126) It often happens that in different books we read histories in
themselves similar, but which we judge very differently, according to the
opinions we have formed of the authors. (127) I remember once to have read
in some book that a man named Orlando Furioso used to drive a kind of winged
monster through the air, fly over any countries he liked, kill unaided vast
numbers of men and giants, and such like fancies, which from the point of
view of reason are obviously absurd. (128) A very similar story I read in
Ovid of Perseus, and also in the books of Judges and Kings of Samson, who
alone and unarmed killed thousands of men, and of Elijah, who flew through
the air, said at last went up to heaven in a chariot of fire, with horses of
fire. (129) All these stories are obviously alike, but we judge them very
differently. (130) The first only sought to amuse, the second had a
political object, the third a religious object.(131) We gather this simply
from the opinions we had previously formed of the authors. (132) Thus it
is evidently necessary to know something of the authors of writings which
are obscure or unintelligible, if we would interpret their meaning; and for
the same reason, in order to choose the proper reading from among a great
variety, we ought to have information as to the versions in which the
differences are found, and as to the possibility of other readings having
been discovered by persons of greater authority.

(133) A further difficulty attends this method in the case of some of the
books of Scripture, namely, that they are no longer extant in their original
language. (133) The Gospel according to Matthew, and certainly the Epistle
to the Hebrews, were written, it is thought, in Hebrew, though they no
longer exist in that form. (134) Aben Ezra affirms in his commentaries that
the book of Job was translated into Hebrew out of another language, and that
its obscurity arises from this fact. (135) I say nothing of the apocryphal
books, for their authority stands on very inferior ground.

(136) The foregoing difficulties in this method of interpreting Scripture
from its own history, I conceive to be so great that I do not hesitate to
say that the true meaning of Scripture is in many places inexplicable, or at
best mere subject for guesswork; but I must again point out, on the other
hand, that such difficulties only arise when we endeavour to follow the
meaning of a prophet in matters which cannot be perceived, but only
imagined, not in things, whereof the understanding can give a clear idea,
and which are conceivable through themselves:, [Endnote 8], matters which by
their nature are easily perceived cannot be expressed so obscurely as to be
unintelligible; as the proverb says, "a word is enough to the wise." (137)
Euclid, who only wrote of matters very simple and easily understood, can
easily be comprehended by anyone in any language; we can follow his
intention perfectly,, and be certain of his true meaning, without having a
thorough knowledge of the language in which he wrote; in fact, a quite
rudimentary acquaintance is sufficient. (138) We need make no researches
concerning the life, the pursuits, or the habits of the author; nor need we
inquire in what language, nor when he wrote, nor the vicissitudes of his
book, nor its various readings, nor how, nor by whose advice it has been

(139) What we here say of Euclid might equally be said of any book which
treats of things by their nature perceptible: thus we conclude that we can
easily follow the intention of Scripture in moral questions, from the
history we possess of it, and we can be sure of its true meaning.

(140) The precepts of true piety are expressed in very ordinary language,
and are equally simple and easily understood. (141) Further, as true
salvation and blessedness consist in a true assent of the soul - and we
truly assent only to what we clearly understand - it is most plain that we
can follow with certainty the intention of Scripture in matters relating to
salvation and necessary to blessedness; therefore, we need not be much
troubled about what remains: such matters, inasmuch as we generally cannot
grasp them with our reason and understanding, are more curious than

(142) I think I have now set forth the true method of Scriptural
interpretation, and have sufficiently explained my own opinion thereon.
(143) Besides, I do not doubt that everyone will see that such a method only
requires the aid of natural reason. (144) The nature and efficacy of the
natural reason consists in deducing and proving the unknown from the known,
or in carrying premises to their legitimate conclusions; and these are the
very processes which our method desiderates. (145) Though we must admit that
it does not suffice to explain everything in the Bible, such imperfection
does not spring from its own nature, but from the fact that the path
which it teaches us, as the true one, has never been tended or trodden by
men, and has thus, by the lapse of time, become very difficult, and almost
impassable, as, indeed, I have shown in the difficulties I draw attention

(146) There only remains to examine the opinions of those who differ from
me. (147) The first which comes under our notice is, that the light of
nature has no power to interpret Scripture, but that a supernatural faculty
is required for the task. (148) What is meant by this supernatural faculty I
will leave to its propounders to explain. (149) Personally, I can only
suppose that they have adopted a very obscure way of stating their complete
uncertainty about the true meaning of Scripture. (150) If we look at their
interpretations, they contain nothing supernatural, at least nothing but the
merest conjectures.

(151) Let them be placed side by side with the interpretations of those who
frankly confess that they have no faculty beyond their natural ones; we
shall see that the two are just alike - both human, both long pondered over,
both laboriously invented. (152) To say that the natural reason is
insufficient for such results is plainly untrue, firstly, for the reasons
above stated, namely, that the difficulty of interpreting Scripture arises
from no defect in human reason, but simply from the carelessness (not to say
malice) of men who neglected the history of the Bible while there were still
materials for inquiry; secondly, from the fact (admitted, I think, by all)
that the supernatural faculty is a Divine gift granted only to the faithful.
(153) But the prophets and apostles did not preach to the faithful only, but
chiefly to the unfaithful and wicked. (154) Such persons, therefore, were
able to understand the intention of the prophets and apostles, otherwise the
prophets and apostles would have seemed to be preaching to little boys and
infants, not to men endowed with reason. (155) Moses, too, would have given
his laws in vain, if they could only be comprehended by the faithful, who
need no law. (156) Indeed, those who demand supernatural faculties for
comprehending the meaning of the prophets and apostles seem truly lacking in
natural faculties, so that we should hardly suppose such persons the
possessors of a Divine supernatural gift.

(157) The opinion of Maimonides was widely different. (158) He asserted
that each passage in Scripture admits of various, nay, contrary,
meanings; but that we could never be certain of any particular one till we
knew that the passage, as we interpreted it, contained nothing contrary or
repugnant to reason. (159) If the literal meaning clashes with reason,
though the passage seems in itself perfectly clear, it must be interpreted
in some metaphorical sense. (160) This doctrine he lays down very plainly in
chap. xxv. part ii. of his book, "More Nebuchim," for he says: "Know that we
shrink not from affirming that the world hath existed from eternity,
because of what Scripture saith concerning the world's creation. (161) For
the texts which teach that the world was created are not more in number than
those which teach that God hath a body; neither are the approaches in this
matter of the world's creation closed, or even made hard to us: so that we
should not be able to explain what is written, as we did when we showed
that God hath no body, nay, peradventure, we could explain and make fast the
doctrine of the world's eternity more easily than we did away with the
doctrines that God hath a beatified body. (162) Yet two things hinder me
from doing as I have said, and believing that the world is eternal.
(163) As it hath been clearly shown that God hath not a body, we must
perforce explain all those passages whereof the literal sense agreeth not
with the demonstration, for sure it is that they can be so explained. (164)
But the eternity of the world hath not been so demonstrated, therefore
it is not necessary to do violence to Scripture in support of some common
opinion, whereof we might, at the bidding of reason, embrace the contrary."

(165) Such are the words of Maimonides, and they are evidently sufficient to
establish our point: for if he had been convinced by reason that the world
is eternal, he would not have hesitated to twist and explain away the words
of Scripture till he made them appear to teach this doctrine. (166) He would
have felt quite sure that Scripture, though everywhere plainly denying the
eternity of the world, really intends to teach it. (167) So that, however
clear the meaning of Scripture may be, he would not feel certain of having
grasped it, so long as he remained doubtful of the truth of what, was
written. (168) For we are in doubt whether a thing is in conformity with
reason, or contrary thereto, so long as we are uncertain of its truth,
and, consequently, we cannot be sure whether the literal meaning of a
passage be true or false.

(169) If such a theory as this were sound, I would certainly grant that some
faculty beyond the natural reason is required for interpreting Scripture.
(170) For nearly all things that we find in Scripture cannot be inferred
from known principles of the natural reason, and, therefore, we should be
unable to come to any conclusion about their truth, or about the real
meaning and intention of Scripture, but should stand in need of some
further assistance.

(171) Further, the truth of this theory would involve that the masses,
having generally no comprehension of, nor leisure for, detailed proofs,
would be reduced to receiving all their knowledge of Scripture on the
authority and testimony of philosophers, and, consequently, would be
compelled to suppose that the interpretations given by philosophers were

(172) Truly this would be a new form of ecclesiastical authority, and a new
sort of priests or pontiffs, more likely to excite men's ridicule than their
veneration. (173) Certainly our method demands a knowledge of Hebrew for
which the masses have no leisure; but no such objection as the foregoing can
be brought against us. (174) For the ordinary Jews or Gentiles, to whom the
prophets and apostles preached and wrote, understood the language, and,
consequently, the intention of the prophet or apostle addressing them; but
they did not grasp the intrinsic reason of what was preached, which,
according to Maimonides, would be necessary for an understanding of it.

(175) There is nothing, then, in our method which renders it necessary that
the masses should follow the testimony of commentators, for I point to a set
of unlearned people who understood the language of the prophets and
apostles; whereas Maimonides could not point to any such who could arrive at
the prophetic or apostolic meaning through their knowledge of the causes
of things.

(176) As to the multitude of our own time, we have shown that whatsoever is
necessary to salvation, though its reasons may be unknown, can easily be
understood in any language, because it is thoroughly ordinary and usual; it
is in such understanding as this that the masses acquiesce, not in the
testimony of commentators; with regard to other questions, the ignorant and
the learned fare alike.

(177) But let us return to the opinion of Maimonides, and examine it more
closely. In the first place, he supposes that the prophets were in entire
agreement one with another, and that they were consummate philosophers and
theologians; for he would have them to have based their conclusions on the
absolute truth. (178) Further, he supposes that the sense of Scripture
cannot be made plain from Scripture itself, for the truth of things is not
made plain therein (in that it does not prove any thing, nor teach the
matters of which it speaks through their definitions and first causes),
therefore, according to Maimonides, the true sense of Scripture cannot be
made plain from itself, and must not be there sought.

(179) The falsity of such a doctrine is shown in this very chapter, for we
have shown both by reason and examples that the meaning of Scripture is only
made plain through Scripture itself, and even in questions deducible from
ordinary knowledge should be looked for from no other source.

(180) Lastly, such a theory supposes that we may explain the words of
Scripture according to our preconceived opinions, twisting them about, and
reversing or completely changing the literal sense, however plain it may be.
(181) Such licence is utterly opposed to the teaching of this and the
preceding chapters, and, moreover, will be evident to everyone as rash and

(182) But if we grant all this licence, what can it effect after all?
Absolutely nothing. (183) Those things which cannot be demonstrated, and
which make up the greater part of Scripture, cannot be examined by reason,
and cannot therefore be explained or interpreted by this rule; whereas,
on the contrary, by following our own method, we can explain many questions
of this nature, and discuss them on a sure basis, as we have already shown,
by reason and example. (184) Those matters which are by their nature
comprehensible we can easily explain, as has been pointed out, simply by
means of the context.

(185) Therefore, the method of Maimonides is clearly useless: to which we
may add, that it does away with all the certainty which the masses acquire
by candid reading, or which is gained by any other persons in any other way.
(186) In conclusion, then, we dismiss Maimonides' theory as harmful,
useless, and absurd.

(187) As to the tradition of the Pharisees, we have already shown that it is
not consistent, while the authority of the popes of Rome stands in need of
more credible evidence; the latter, indeed, I reject simply on this ground,
for if the popes could point out to us the meaning of Scripture as surely as
did the high priests of the Jews, I should not be deterred by the fact that
there have been heretic and impious Roman pontiffs; for among the Hebrew
high-priests of old there were also heretics and impious men who gained the
high- priesthood by improper means, but who, nevertheless, had Scriptural
sanction for their supreme power of interpreting the law. (See
Deut. xvii:11, 12, and xxxiii:10, also Malachi ii:8.)

(188) However, as the popes can show no such sanction, their authority
remains open to very grave doubt, nor should anyone be deceived by the
example of the Jewish high-priests and think that the Catholic religion also
stands in need of a pontiff; he should bear in mind that the laws of Moses
being also the ordinary laws of the country, necessarily required some
public authority to insure their observance; for, if everyone were free to
interpret the laws of his country as he pleased, no state could stand, but
would for that very reason be dissolved at once, and public rights would
become private rights.

(189) With religion the case is widely different. Inasmuch as it consists
not so much in outward actions as in simplicity and truth of character, it
stands outside the sphere of law and public authority. (190) Simplicity and
truth of character are not produced by the constraint of laws, nor by
the authority of the state, no one the whole world over can be forced or
legislated into a state of blessedness; the means required for such a
consummation are faithful and brotherly admonition, sound education, and,
above all, free use of the individual judgment.

(191) Therefore, as the supreme right of free thinking, even on religion, is
in every man's power, and as it is inconceivable that such power could be
alienated, it is also in every man's power to wield the supreme right and
authority of free judgment in this behalf, and to explain and interpret
religion for himself. (192) The only reason for vesting the supreme
authority in the interpretation of law, and judgment on public affairs in
the hands of the magistrates, is that it concerns questions of public right.
(193) Similarly the supreme authority in explaining religion, and in passing
judgment thereon, is lodged with the individual because it concerns
questions of individual right. (194) So far, then, from the authority of the
Hebrew high-priests telling in confirmation of the authority of the Roman
pontiffs to interpret religion, it would rather tend to establish individual
freedom of judgment. (195) Thus in this way also, we have shown that our
method of interpreting Scripture is the best. (196) For as the highest power
of Scriptural interpretation belongs to every man, the rule for such
interpretation should be nothing but the natural light of reason which is
common to all - not any supernatural light nor any external authority;
moreover, such a rule ought not to be so difficult that it can only be
applied by very skilful philosophers, but should be adapted to the natural
and ordinary faculties and capacity of mankind. (197) And such I have shown
our method to be, for such difficulties as it has arise from men's
carelessness, and are no part of its nature.


(1) In the former chapter we treated of the foundations and principles of
Scriptural knowledge, and showed that it consists solely in a trustworthy
history of the sacred writings; such a history, in spite of its
indispensability, the ancients neglected, or at any rate, whatever they may
have written or handed down has perished in the lapse of time, consequently
the groundwork for such an investigation is to a great extent, cut from
under us. (2) This might be put up with if succeeding generations had
confined themselves within the limits of truth, and had handed down
conscientiously what few particulars they had received or discovered without
any additions from their own brains: as it is, the history of the Bible is
not so much imperfect as untrustworthy: the foundations are not only too
scanty for building upon, but are also unsound. (3) It is part of my purpose
to remedy these defects, and to remove common theological prejudices. (4)
But I fear that I am attempting my task too late, for men have arrived at
the pitch of not suffering contradiction, but defending obstinately whatever
they have adopted under the name of religion. (5) So widely have these
prejudices taken possession of men's minds, that very few, comparatively
speaking, will listen to reason. (6) However, I will make the attempt, and
spare no efforts, for there is no positive reason for despairing of success.

(7) In order to treat the subject methodically, I will begin with the
received opinions concerning the true authors of the sacred books, and in
the first place, speak of the author of the Pentateuch, who is almost
universally supposed to have been Moses. (8) The Pharisees are so firmly
convinced of his identity, that they account as a heretic anyone who differs
from them on the subject. (9) Wherefore, Aben Ezra, a man of enlightened
intelligence, and no small learning, who was the first, so far as I know,
to treat of this opinion, dared not express his meaning openly, but confined
himself to dark hints which I shall not scruple to elucidate, thus throwing,
full light on the subject.

(10) The words of Aben Ezra which occur in his commentary on Deuteronomy are
as follows: "Beyond Jordan, &c . . . If so be that thou understandest the
mystery of the twelve . . . moreover Moses wrote the law . . . The
Canaanite was then in the land . . . . it shall be revealed on the mount of
God . . . . then also behold his bed, his iron bed, then shalt thou know
the truth." (11) In these few words he hints, and also shows that it was not
Moses who wrote the Pentateuch, but someone who lived long after him, and
further, that the book which Moses wrote was something different from any
now extant.

(12) To prove this, I say, he draws attention to the facts:

(13) 1. That the preface to Deuteronomy could not have been written by
Moses, inasmuch as he ad never crossed the Jordan.

(14) II. That the whole book of Moses was written at full length on the
circumference of a single altar (Deut. xxvii, and Josh. viii:37), which
altar, according to the Rabbis, consisted of only twelve stones: therefore
the book of Moses must have been of far less extent than the Pentateuch.
(15) This is what our author means, I think, by the mystery of the twelve,
unless he is referring to the twelve curses contained in the chapter of
Deuteronomy above cited, which he thought could not have been contained in
the law, because Moses bade the Levites read them after the recital of the
law, and so bind the people to its observance. (16) Or again, he may have
had in his mind the last chapter of Deuteronomy which treats of the death of
Moses, and which contains twelve verses. (17) But there is no need to dwell
further on these and similar conjectures.

(18) III. That in Deut. xxxi:9, the expression occurs, "and Moses wrote the
law:" words that cannot be ascribed to Moses, but must be those of some
other writer narrating the deeds and writings of Moses.

(19) IV. That in Genesis xii:6, the historian, after narrating that Abraham
journeyed through the and of Canaan, adds, "and the Canaanite was then in
the land," thus clearly excluding the time at which he wrote. (20) So that
this passage must have been written after the death of Moses, when the
Canaanites had been driven out, and no longer possessed the land.

(21) Aben Ezra, in his commentary on the passage, alludes to the difficulty
as follows:- "And the Canaanite was then in the land: it appears that
Canaan, the grandson of Noah, took from another the land which bears his
name; if this be not the true meaning, there lurks some mystery in the
passage, and let him who understands it keep silence." (22) That is, if
Canaan invaded those regions, the sense will be, the Canaanite was then in
the land, in contradistinction to the time when it had been held by another:
but if, as follows from Gen. chap. x. Canaan was the first to inhabit the
land, the text must mean to exclude the time present, that is the time at
which it was written; therefore it cannot be the work of Moses, in
whose time the Canaanites still possessed those territories: this is the
mystery concerning which silence is recommended.

(23) V. That in Genesis xxii:14 Mount Moriah is called the mount of God,
[Endnote 9], a name which it did not acquire till after the building of the
Temple; the choice of the mountain was not made in the time of Moses, for
Moses does not point out any spot as chosen by God; on the contrary, he
foretells that God will at some future time choose a spot to which this name
will be given.

(24) VI. Lastly, that in Deut. chap. iii., in the passage relating to Og,
king of Bashan, these words are inserted: "For only Og king of Bashan
remained of the remnant of giants: behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of
iron: is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the
length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a
man." (25) This parenthesis most plainly shows that its writer lived long
after Moses; for this mode of speaking is only employed by one treating of
things long past, and pointing to relics for the sake of gaining credence:
moreover, this bed was almost certainly first discovered by David, who
conquered the city of Rabbath (2 Sam. xii:30.) (26) Again, the historian a
little further on inserts after the words of Moses, "Jair, the son of
Manasseh, took all the country of Argob unto the coasts of Geshuri and
Maachathi; and called them after his own name, Bashan-havoth-jair, unto this
day." (27) This passage, I say, is inserted to explain the words of Moses
which precede it. (28) "And the rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, being the
kingdom of Og, gave I unto the half tribe of Manasseh; all the region of
Argob, with all Bashan, which is called the land of the giants." (29) The
Hebrews in the time of the writer indisputably knew what territories
belonged to the tribe of Judah, but did not know them under the name of the
jurisdiction of Argob, or the land of the giants. (30) Therefore the writer
is compelled to explain what these places were which were anciently so
styled, and at the same time to point out why they were at the time of his
writing known by the name of Jair, who was of the tribe of Manasseh, not of
Judah. (31) We have thus made clear the meaning of Aben Ezra and also the
passages of the Pentateuch which he cites in proof of his contention. (32)
However, Aben Ezra does not call attention to every instance, or even the
chief ones; there remain many of greater importance, which may be cited.
(33) Namely (I.), that the writer of the books in question not only speaks
of Moses in the third person, but also bears witness to many details
concerning him; for instance, "Moses talked with God;" "The Lord spoke with
Moses face to face; " "Moses was the meekest of men" (Numb. xii:3); "Moses
was wrath with the captains of the host; "Moses, the man of God, "Moses, the
servant of the Lord, died;" "There was never a prophet in Israel like
unto Moses," &c. (34) On the other hand, in Deuteronomy, where the law which
Moses had expounded to the people and written is set forth, Moses speaks and
declares what he has done in the first person: "God spake with me " (Deut.
ii:1, 17, &c.), "I prayed to the Lord," &c. (35) Except at the end of the
book, when the historian, after relating the words of Moses, begins again to
speak in the third person, and to tell how Moses handed over the law which
he had expounded to the people in writing, again admonishing them, and
further, how Moses ended his life. (36) All these details, the manner of
narration, the testimony, and the context of the whole story lead to the
plain conclusion that these books were written by another, and not by Moses
in person.

(37) III. We must also remark that the history relates not only the manner
of Moses' death and burial, and the thirty days' mourning of the Hebrews,
but further compares him with all the prophets who came after him, and
states that he surpassed them all. (38) "There was never a prophet in Israel
like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." (39) Such testimony
cannot have been given of Moses by, himself, nor by any who immediately
succeeded him, but it must come from someone who lived centuries afterwards,
especially, as the historian speaks of past times. (40) "There was never a
prophet," &c. (41) And of the place of burial, "No one knows it to this

(42) III. We must note that some places are not styled by the names they
bore during Moses' lifetime, but by others which they obtained subsequently.
(43) For instance, Abraham is said to have pursued his enemies even unto
Dan, a name not bestowed on the city till long after the death of Joshua
(Gen. xiv;14, Judges xviii;29).

(44) IV. The narrative is prolonged after the death of Moses, for in
Exodus xvi:34 we read that " the children of Israel did eat manna forty
years until they came to a land inhabited, until they came unto the borders
of the land of Canaan." (45) In other words, until the time alluded to in
Joshua vi:12.

(46) So, too, in Genesis xxxvi:31 it is stated, "These are the kings that
reigned in Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel."
(47) The historian, doubtless, here relates the kings of Idumaea before that
territory was conquered by David [Endnote 10] and garrisoned, as we read
in 2 Sam. viii:14. (48) From what has been said, it is thus clearer than the
sun at noonday that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but by someone
who lived long after Moses. (49) Let us now turn our attention to the books
which Moses actually did write, and which are cited in the Pentateuch; thus,
also, shall we see that they were different from the Pentateuch. (50)
Firstly, it appears from Exodus xvii:14 that Moses, by the command of God,
wrote an account of the war against Amalek. (51) The book in which he did so
is not named in the chapter just quoted, but in Numb. xxi:12 a book is
referred to under the title of the wars of God, and doubtless this war
against Amalek and the castrametations said in Numb. xxxiii:2 to have been
written by Moses are therein described. (52) We hear also in Exod. xxiv:4 of
another book called the Book of the Covenant, which Moses read before the
Israelites when they first made a covenant with God. (53) But this book or
this writing contained very little, namely, the laws or commandments of God
which we find in Exodus xx:22 to the end of chap. xxiv., and this no one
will deny who reads the aforesaid chapter rationally and impartially. (54)
It is there stated that as soon as Moses had learnt the feeling of the
people on the subject of making a covenant with God, he immediately wrote
down God's laws and utterances, and in the morning, after some ceremonies
had been performed, read out the conditions of the covenant to an assembly
of the whole people. (55) When these had been gone through, and doubtless
understood by all, the whole people gave their assent.

(56) Now from the shortness of the time taken in its perusal and also from
its nature as a compact, this document evidently contained nothing more than
that which we have just described. (57) Further, it is clear that Moses
explained all the laws which he had received in the fortieth year after the
exodus from Egypt; also that he bound over the people a second time to
observe them, and that finally he committed them to writing (Deut. i:5;
xxix:14; xxxi:9), in a book which contained these laws explained, and the
new covenant, and this book was therefore called the book of the law of God:
the same which was afterwards added to by Joshua when he set forth the fresh
covenant with which he bound over the people and which he entered into
with God (Josh. xxiv:25, 26).

(58) Now, as we have extent no book containing this covenant of Moses and
also the covenant of Joshua, we must perforce conclude that it has perished,
unless, indeed, we adopt the wild conjecture of the Chaldean paraphrast
Jonathan, and twist about the words of Scripture to our heart's content.
(59) This commentator, in the face of our present difficulty, preferred
corrupting the sacred text to confessing his own ignorance. (60) The passage
in the book of Joshua which runs, "and Joshua wrote these words in the
book of the law of God," he changes into "and Joshua wrote these words
and kept them with the book of the law of God." (61) What is to be done with
persons who will only see what pleases them? (62) What is such a proceeding
if it is not denying Scripture, and inventing another Bible out of our own
heads? (63) We may therefore conclude that the book of the law of God which
Moses wrote was not the Pentateuch, but something quite different, which the
author of the Pentateuch duly inserted into his book. (64) So much is
abundantly plain both from what I have said and from what I am about to add.
(65) For in the passage of Deuteronomy above quoted, where it is related
that Moses wrote the book of the law, the historian adds that he handed it
over to the priests and bade them read it out at a stated time to the whole
people. (66) This shows that the work was of much less length than the
Pentateuch, inasmuch as it could be read through at one sitting so as to be
understood by all; further, we must not omit to notice that out of all the
books which Moses wrote, this one book of the second covenant and the song
(which latter he wrote afterwards so that all the people might learn it),
was the only one which he caused to be religiously guarded and preserved.
(67) In the first covenant he had only bound over those who were present,
but in the second covenant he bound over all their descendants also (Dent.
xxix:14), and therefore ordered this covenant with future ages to be
religiously preserved, together with the Song, which was especially
addressed to posterity: as, then, we have no proof that Moses wrote any
book save this of the covenant, and as he committed no other to the care of
posterity; and, lastly, as there are many passages in the Pentateuch which
Moses could not have written, it follows that the belief that Moses was the
author of the Pentateuch is ungrounded and even irrational. (68) Someone
will perhaps ask whether Moses did not also write down other laws when they
were first revealed to him - in other words, whether, during the course of
forty years, he did not write down any of the laws which he promulgated,
save only those few which I have stated to be contained in the book of the
first covenant. (69) To this I would answer, that although it seems
reasonable to suppose that Moses wrote down the laws at the time when he
wished to communicate them to the people, yet we are not warranted to take
it as proved, for I have shown above that we must make no assertions in such
matters which we do not gather from Scripture, or which do not flow as
legitimate consequences from its fundamental principles. (70) We must not
accept whatever is reasonably probable. (71) However even reason in this
case would not force such a conclusion upon us: for it may be that the
assembly of elders wrote down the decrees of Moses and communicated them to
the people, and the historian collected them, and duly set them forth in his
narrative of the life of Moses. (72) So much for the five books of Moses: it
is now time for us to turn to the other sacred writings.

(73) The book of Joshua may be proved not to be an autograph by reasons
similar to those we have just employed: for it must be some other than
Joshua who testifies that the fame of Joshua was spread over the whole
world; that he omitted nothing of what Moses had taught (Josh. vi:27; viii.
last verse; xi:15); that he grew old and summoned an assembly of the whole
people, and finally that he departed this life. (74) Furthermore, events are
related which took place after Joshua's death. (75) For instance, that the
Israelites worshipped God, after his death, so long as there were any old
men alive who remembered him; and in chap. xvi:10, we read that "Ephraim and
Manasseh did not drive out the Canaanites which dwelt in Gezer, but the
Canaanite dwelt in the land of Ephraim unto this day, and was tributary to
him." (76) This is the same statement as that in Judges, chap. i., and the
phrase "unto this day" shows that the writer was speaking of ancient times.
(77) With these texts we may compare the last verse of chap. xv., concerning
the sons of Judah, and also the history of Caleb in the same chap. v:14.
(78) Further, the building of an altar beyond Jordan by the two tribes and a
half, chap. xxii:10, sqq., seems to have taken place after the death of
Joshua, for in the whole narrative his name is never mentioned, but the
people alone held council as to waging war, sent out legates, waited for
their return, and finally approved of their answer.

(79) Lastly, from chap. x:14, it is clear that the book was written many
generations after the death of Joshua, for it bears witness ,there was
never any, day like unto, that day, either before or after, that the Lord
hearkened to the voice of a man," &c. (80) If, therefore, Joshua wrote any
book at all, it was that which is quoted in the work now before us,
chap. x:13.

(81) With regard to the book of Judges, I suppose no rational person
persuades himself that it was written by the actual Judges. (82) For the
conclusion of the whole history contained in chap. ii. clearly shows that it
is all the work - of a single historian. (83) Further, inasmuch as the
writer frequently tells us that there was then no king in Israel, it is
evident that the book was written after the establishment of the monarchy.

(84) The books of Samuel need not detain us long, inasmuch as the narrative
in them is continued long after Samuel's death; but I should like to draw
attention to the fact that it was written many generations after Samuel's
death. (85) For in book i. chap. ix:9, the historian remarks in a,
parenthesis, "Beforetime, in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus
he spake: Come, and let us go to the seer; for he that is now called a
prophet was beforetime called a seer."

(86) Lastly, the books of Kings, as we gather from internal evidence, were
compiled from the books of King Solomon (I Kings xi:41), from the chronicles
of the kings of Judah (1 Kings xiv:19, 29), and the chronicles of the kings
of Israel.

(87) We may, therefore, conclude that all the books we have considered
hitherto are compilations, and that the events therein are recorded as
having happened in old time. (88) Now, if we turn our attention to the
connection and argument of all these books, we shall easily see that they
were all written by a single historian, who wished to relate the antiquities
of the Jews from their first beginning down to the first destruction of the
city. (89) The way in which the several books are connected one with the
other is alone enough to show us that they form the narrative of one and the
same writer. (90) For as soon as he has related the life of Moses, the
historian thus passes on to the story of Joshua: "And it came to pass after
that Moses the servant of the Lord was dead, that God spake unto Joshua,"
&c., so in the same way, after the death of Joshua was concluded, he passes
with identically the same transition and connection to the history of the
Judges: "And it came to pass after that Joshua was dead, that the children
of Israel sought from God," &c. (91) To the book of Judges he adds the story
of Ruth, as a sort of appendix, in these words: "Now it came to pass in the
days that the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land."

(92) The first book of Samuel is introduced with a similar phrase; and so is
the second book of Samuel. (93) Then, before the history of David is
concluded, the historian passes in the same way to the first book of Kings,
and, after David's death, to the Second book of Kings.

(94) The putting together, and the order of the narratives, show that they
are all the work of one man, writing with a create aim; for the historian
begins with relating the first origin of the Hebrew nation, and then sets
forth in order the times and the occasions in which Moses put forth his
laws, and made his predictions. (95) He then proceeds to relate how the
Israelites invaded the promised land in accordance with Moses' prophecy
(Deut. vii.); and how, when the land was subdued, they turned their backs on
their laws, and thereby incurred many misfortunes (Deut. xxxi:16, 17). (96)
He tells how they wished to elect rulers, and how, according as these rulers
observed the law, the people flourished or suffered (Deut. xxviii:36);
finally, how destruction came upon the nation, even as Moses had foretold.
(97) In regard to other matters, which do not serve to confirm the law, the
writer either passes over them in silence, or refers the reader to other
books for information. (98) All that is set down in the books we have
conduces to the sole object of setting forth the words and laws of Moses,
and proving them by subsequent events.(99) When we put together these three
considerations, namely, the unity of the subject of all the books, the
connection between them, and the fact that they are compilations made many
generations after the events they relate had taken place, we come to the
conclusion, as I have just stated, that they are all the work of a single
historian. (100) Who this historian was, it is not so easy to show; but I
suspect that he was Ezra, and there are several strong reasons for adopting
this hypothesis.

(101) The historian whom we already know to be but one individual brings his
history down to the liberation of Jehoiakim, and adds that he himself sat at
the king's table all his life - that is, at the table either of Jehoiakim,
or of the son of Nebuchadnezzar, for the sense of the passage is ambiguous:
hence it follows that he did not live before the time of Ezra. (102) But
Scripture does not testify of any except of Ezra (Ezra vii:10), that he
"prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to set it forth, and
further that he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses." (103) Therefore, I
can not find anyone, save Ezra, to whom to attribute the sacred books.

(104) Further, from this testimony concerning Ezra, we see that he prepared
his heart, not only to seek the law of the Lord, but also to set it forth;
and, in Nehemiah viii:8, we read that "they read in the book of the law of
God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the

(105) As, then, in Deuteronomy, we find not only the book of the law of
Moses, or the greater part of it, but also many things inserted for its
better explanation, I conjecture that this Deuteronomy is the book of the
law of God, written, set forth, and explained by Ezra, which is referred to
in the text above quoted. (106) Two examples of the way matters were
inserted parenthetically in the text of Deuteronomy, with a view to its
fuller explanation, we have already given, in speaking of Aben Ezra's
opinion. (107) Many others are found in the course of the work: for
instance, in chap. ii:12: "The Horims dwelt also in Seir beforetime; but the
children of Esau succeeded them, when they had destroyed them from before
them, and dwelt in their stead; as Israel did unto the land of his
possession, which the Lord gave unto them." (108) This explains verses 3 and
4 of the same chapter, where it is stated that Mount Seir, which had come to
the children of Esau for a possession, did not fall into their hands
uninhabited; but that they invaded it, and turned out and destroyed the
Horims, who formerly dwelt therein, even as the children of Israel had done
unto the Canaanites after the death of Moses.

(109) So, also, verses 6, 7, 8, 9, of the tenth chapter are inserted
parenthetically among the words of Moses. Everyone must see that verse 8,
which begins, "At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi,"
necessarily refers to verse 5, and not to the death of Aaron, which is only
mentioned here by Ezra because Moses, in telling of the golden calf
worshipped by the people, stated that he had prayed for Aaron.

(110) He then explains that at the time at which Moses spoke, God had chosen
for Himself the tribe of Levi in order that He may point out the reason for
their election, and for the fact of their not sharing in the inheritance;
after this digression, he resumes the thread of Moses' speech. (111) To
these parentheses we must add the preface to the book, and all the passages
in which Moses is spoken of in the third person, besides many which we
cannot now distinguish, though, doubtless, they would have been plainly
recognized by the writer's contemporaries.

(112) If, I say, we were in possession of the book of the law as Moses wrote
it, I do not doubt that we should find a great difference in the words of
the precepts, the order in which they are given, and the reasons by which
they are supported.

(113) A comparison of the decalogue in Deuteronomy with the decalogue in
Exodus, where its history is explicitly set forth, will be sufficient to
show us a wide discrepancy in all these three particulars, for the fourth
commandment is given not only in a different form, but at much greater
length, while the reason for its observance differs wholly from that stated
in Exodus. (114) Again, the order in which the tenth commandment is
explained differs in the two versions. (115) I think that the differences
here as elsewhere are the work of Ezra, who explained the law of God to his
contemporaries, and who wrote this book of the law of God, before anything
else; this I gather from the fact that it contains the laws of the country,
of which the people stood in most need, and also because it is not joined to
the book which precedes it by any connecting phrase, but begins with the
independent statement, "these are the words of Moses." (116) After this task
was completed, I think Ezra set himself to give a complete account of the
history of the Hebrew nation from the creation of the world to the entire
destruction of the city, and in this account he inserted the book of
Deuteronomy, and, possibly, he called the first five books by the name of
Moses, because his life is chiefly contained therein, and forms their
principal subject; for the same reason he called the sixth Joshua, the
seventh Judges, the eighth Ruth, the ninth, and perhaps the tenth, Samuel,
and, lastly, the eleventh and twelfth Kings. (117) Whether Ezra put the
finishing touches to this work and finished it as he intended, we will
discuss in the next chapter.


(1) How greatly the inquiry we have just made concerning the real writer of
the twelve books aids us in attaining a complete understanding of them, may
be easily gathered solely from the passages which we have adduced in
confirmation of our opinion, and which would be most obscure without it. (2)
But besides the question of the writer, there are other points to notice
which common superstition forbids the multitude to apprehend. (3) Of these
the chief is, that Ezra (whom I will take to be the author of the aforesaid
books until some more likely person be suggested) did not put the finishing
touches to the narrative contained therein, but merely collected the
histories from various writers, and sometimes simply set them down, leaving
their examination and arrangement to posterity.

(4) The cause (if it were not untimely death) which prevented him from
completing his work in all its portions, I cannot conjecture, but the fact
remains most clear, although we have lost the writings of the ancient Hebrew
historians, and can only judge from the few fragments which are still
extant. (5) For the history of Hezekiah (2 Kings xviii:17), as written in
the vision of Isaiah, is related as it is found in the chronicles of the
kings of Judah. (6) We read the same story, told with few exceptions,
[Endnote 11], in the same words, in the book of Isaiah which was contained
in the chronicles of the kings of Judah (2 Chron. xxxii:32). (7) From this
we must conclude that there were various versions of this narrative of
Isaiah's, unless, indeed, anyone would dream that in this, too, there lurks
a mystery. (8) Further, the last chapter of 2 Kings 27-30 is repeated in the
last chapter of Jeremiah, v.31-34.

(9) Again, we find 2 Sam. vii. repeated in I Chron. xvii., but the
expressions in the two passages are so curiously varied [Endnote 12], that
we can very easily see that these two chapters were taken from two different
versions of the history of Nathan.

(10) Lastly, the genealogy of the kings of Idumaea contained in Genesis
xxxvi:31, is repeated in the same words in 1 Chron. i., though we know that
the author of the latter work took his materials from other historians, not
from the twelve books we have ascribed to Ezra. (10) We may therefore be
sure that if we still possessed the writings of the historians, the matter
would be made clear; however, as we have lost them, we can only examine the
writings still extant, and from their order and connection, their various
repetitions, and, lastly, the contradictions in dates which they contain,
judge of the rest.

(11) These, then, or the chief of them, we will now go through. (12) First,
in the story of Judah and Tamar (Gen. xxxviii.) the historian thus begins:
"And it came to pass at that time that Judah went down from his brethren."
(13) This time cannot refer to what immediately precedes [Endnote 13], but
must necessarily refer to something else, for from the time when Joseph was
sold into Egypt to the time when the patriarch Jacob, with all his family,
set out thither, cannot be reckoned as more than twenty-two years, for
Joseph, when he was sold by his brethren, was seventeen years old, and when
he was summoned by Pharaoh from prison was thirty; if to this we add the
seven years of plenty and two of famine, the total amounts to twenty-two
years. (14) Now, in so short a period, no one can suppose that so many
things happened as are described; that Judah had three children, one after
the other, from one wife, whom he married at the beginning of the period;
that the eldest of these, when he was old enough, married Tamar, and that
after he died his next brother succeeded to her; that, after all this,
Judah, without knowing it, had intercourse with his daughter-in-law, and
that she bore him twins, and, finally, that the eldest of these twins became
a father within the aforesaid period. (15) As all these events cannot have
taken place within the period mentioned in Genesis, the reference must
necessarily be to something treated of in another book: and Ezra in this
instance simply related the story, and inserted it without examination among
his other writings.

(16) However, not only this chapter but the whole narrative of Joseph and
Jacob is collected and set forth from various histories, inasmuch as it is
quite inconsistent with itself. (17) For in Gen. xlvii. we are told that
Jacob, when he came at Joseph's bidding to salute Pharaoh, was 130 years
old. (18) If from this we deduct the twenty-two years which he passed
sorrowing for the absence of Joseph and the seventeen years forming Joseph's
age when he was sold, and, lastly, the seven years for which Jacob served
for Rachel, we find that he was very advanced in life, namely, eighty four,
when he took Leah to wife, whereas Dinah was scarcely seven years old when
she was violated by Shechem, [Endnote 14]. (19) Simeon and Levi were aged
respectively eleven and twelve when they spoiled the city and slew all the
males therein with the sword.

(20) There is no need that I should go through the whole Pentateuch. (21) If
anyone pays attention to the way in which all the histories and precepts in
these five books are set down promiscuously and without order, with no
regard for dates; and further, how the same story is often repeated,
sometimes in a different version, he will easily, I say, discern that all
the materials were promiscuously collected and heaped together, in order
that they might at some subsequent time be more readily examined and reduced
to order. (22) Not only these five books, but also the narratives contained
in the remaining seven, going down to the destruction of the city, are
compiled in the same way. (23) For who does not see that in Judges ii:6 a
new historian is being quoted, who had also written of the deeds of Joshua,
and that his words are simply copied? (24) For after our historian has
stated in the last chapter of the book of Joshua that Joshua died and was
buried, and has promised, in the first chapter of Judges, to relate what
happened after his death, in what way, if he wished to continue the thread
of his history, could he connect the statement here made about Joshua with
what had gone before?

(25) So, too, 1 Sam. 17, 18, are taken from another historian, who assigns a
cause for David's first frequenting Saul's court very different from that
given in chap. xvi. of the same book. (26) For he did not think that David
came to Saul in consequence of the advice of Saul's servants, as is
narrated in chap. xvi., but that being sent by chance to the camp by his
father on a message to his brothers, he was for the first time remarked by
Saul on the occasion of his victory, over Goliath the Philistine, and was
retained at his court.

(27) I suspect the same thing has taken place in chap. xxvi. of the same
book, for the historian there seems to repeat the narrative given in chap.
xxiv. according to another man's version. (28) But I pass over this, and go
on to the computation of dates.

(29) In I Kings, chap. vi., it is said that Solomon built the Temple in the
four hundred and eightieth year after the exodus from Egypt; but from the
historians themselves we get a much longer period, for:
Moses governed the people in the desert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Joshua, who lived 110 years, did not, according to Josephus and
others' opinion rule more than . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 26
Cusban Rishathaim held the people in subjection . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Othniel, son of Kenag, was judge for . . . . . . . . . . . [Endnote 15] 40
Eglon, King of Moab, governed the people . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Ehucl and Shamgar were judges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Jachin, King of Canaan, held the people in subjection . . . . . . . . . 20
The people was at peace subsequently for . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . 40
It was under subjection to Median . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . 7
It obtained freedom under Gideon for . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
It fell under the rule of Abimelech . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Tola, son of Puah, was judge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Jair was judge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . 22
The people was in subjection to the Philistines and Ammonites . . . . . 18
Jephthah was judge . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Ibzan, the Bethlehemite, was judge . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 7
Elon, the Zabulonite . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Abclon, the Pirathonite . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
The people was again subject to the Philistines . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Samson was judge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [Endnote 16] 20
Eli was judge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
The people again fell into subjection to the Philistines,
till they were delivered by Samuel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
David reigned . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Solomon reigned before he built the temple . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . 4

(30) All these periods added together make a total of 580 years. (31) But to
these must be added the years during which the Hebrew republic flourished
after the death of Joshua, until it was conquered by Cushan Rishathaim,
which I take to be very numerous, for I cannot bring myself to believe that
immediately after the death of Joshua all those who had witnessed his
miracles died simultaneously, nor that their successors at one stroke bid
farewell to their laws, and plunged from the highest virtue into the depth
of wickedness and obstinacy.

(32) Nor, lastly, that Cushan Rishathaim subdued them on the instant; each
one of these circumstances requires almost a generation, and there is no
doubt that Judges ii:7, 9, 10, comprehends a great many years which it
passes over in silence. (33) We must also add the years during which Samuel
was judge, the number of which is not stated in Scripture, and also the
years during which Saul reigned, which are not clearly shown from his
history. (34) It is, indeed, stated in 1 Sam. xiii:1, that he reigned two
years, but the text in that passage is mutilated, and the records of his
reign lead us to suppose a longer period. (35) That the text is mutilated I
suppose no one will doubt who has ever advanced so far as the threshold of
the Hebrew language, for it runs as follows: "Saul was in his -- year, when
he began to reign, and he reigned two years over Israel." (36) Who, I say,
does not see that the number of the years of Saul's age when he began to
reign has been omitted? (37) That the record of the reign presupposes a
greater number of years is equally beyond doubt, for in the same book, chap.
xxvii:7, it is stated that David sojourned among the Philistines, to whom he
had fled on account of Saul, a year and four months; thus the rest of the
reign must have been comprised in a space of eight months, which I think
no one will credit. (38) Josephus, at the end of the sixth book of his
antiquities, thus corrects the text: Saul reigned eighteen years while
Samuel was alive, and two years after his death. (39) However, all the
narrative in chap. Xiii. is in complete disagreement with what goes before.
(40) At the end of chap. vii. it is narrated that the Philistines were so
crushed by the Hebrews that they did not venture, during Samuel's life, to
invade the borders of Israel; but in chap. xiii. we are told that the
Hebrews were invaded during the life of Samuel by the Philistines, and
reduced by them to such a state of wretchedness and poverty that they were
deprived not only of weapons with which to defend themselves, but also of
the means of making more. (41) I should be at pains enough if I were to try
and harmonize all the narratives contained in this first book of Samuel so
that they should seem to be all written and arranged by a single historian.
(42) But I return to my object. (43) The years, then, during which Saul
reigned must be added to the above computation; and, lastly, I have not
counted the years of the Hebrew anarchy, for I cannot from Scripture gather
their number. (44) I cannot, I say, be certain as to the period occupied by
the events related in Judges chap. xvii. on till the end of the book.

(45) It is thus abundantly evident that we cannot arrive at a true
computation of years from the histories, and, further, that the histories
are inconsistent themselves on the subject. (46) We are compelled to confess
that these histories were compiled from various writers without previous
arrangement and examination. (47) Not less discrepancy is found between the
dates given in the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah, and those in the
Chronicles of the Kings of Israel; in the latter, it is stated that Jehoram,
the son of Ahab, began to reign in the second year of the reign of Jehoram,
the son of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings i:17), but in the former we read that
Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, began to reign in the fifth year of
Jehoram, the son of Ahab (2 Kings viii:16). (48) Anyone who compares the
narratives in Chronicles with the narratives in the books of Kings, will
find many similar discrepancies. (49) These there is no need for me to
examine here, and still less am I called upon to treat of the commentaries
of those who endeavour to harmonize them. (50) The Rabbis evidently let
their fancy run wild. (51) Such commentators as I have, read, dream, invent,
and as a last resort, play fast and loose with the language. (52) For
instance, when it is said in 2 Chronicles, that Ahab was forty-two years old
when he began to reign, they pretend that these years are computed from the
reign of Omri, not from the birth of Ahab. If this can be shown to be the
real meaning of the writer of the book of Chronicles, all I can say is, that
he did not know how to state a fact. (53) The commentators make many other
assertions of this kind, which if true, would prove that the ancient Hebrews
were ignorant both of their own language, and of the way to relate a plain
narrative. (54) I should in such case recognize no rule or reason in
interpreting Scripture, but it would be permissible to hypothesize to one's
heart's content.

(55) If anyone thinks that I am speaking too generally, and without
sufficient warrant, I would ask him to set himself to showing us some fixed
plan in these histories which might be followed without blame by other
writers of chronicles, and in his efforts at harmonizing and interpretation,
so strictly to observe and explain the phrases and expressions, the order
and the connections, that we may be able to imitate these also in our
writings, [Endnote 17]. (56) If he succeeds, I will at once give him my
hand, and he shall be to me as great Apollo; for I confess that after long
endeavours I have been unable to discover anything of the kind. (57) I may
add that I set down nothing here which I have not long reflected upon, and
that, though I was imbued from my boyhood up with the ordinary opinions
about the
Scriptures, I have been unable to withstand the force of what I have urged.

(58) However, there is no need to detain the reader with this question, and
drive him to attempt an impossible task; I merely mentioned the fact in
order to throw light on my intention.

(59) I now pass on to other points concerning the treatment of these books.
(60) For we must remark, in addition to what has been shown, that these
books were not guarded by posterity with such care that no faults crept in.
(61) The ancient scribes draw attention to many doubtful readings, and some
mutilated passages, but not to all that exist: whether the commentaries of
those who endeavour to harmonize them. (62) The Rabbis evidently let their
fancy run wild. (63) Such commentators as I have, read, dream, invent, and
as a last resort, play fast and loose with the language. (64) For instance,
when it is said in 2 Chronicles, that Ahab was forty-two years old when he
began to reign, they pretend that these years are computed from the reign of
Omri, not from the birth of Ahab. (65) If this can be shown to be the real
meaning of the writer of the book of Chronicles, all I can say is, that he
did not know how to state a fact. (66) The commentators make many other
assertions of this kind, which if true, would prove that the ancient Hebrews
were ignorant both of their own language, and of the way to relate a plain
narrative. (67) I should in such case recognize no rule or reason in
interpreting Scripture, but it would be permissible to hypothesize to one's
heart's content.

(68) If anyone thinks that I am speaking too generally, and without
sufficient warrant, I would ask him to set himself to showing us some fixed
plan in these histories which might be followed without blame by other
writers of chronicles, and in his efforts at harmonizing and interpretation,
so strictly to observe and explain the phrases and expressions, the order
and the connections, that we may be able to imitate these also in our
writings (17). (69) If he succeeds, I will at once give him my hand, and he
shall be to me as great Apollo; for I confess that after long endeavours I
have been unable to discover anything of the kind. (70) I may add that I set
down nothing here which I have not long reflected upon, and that, though I
was imbued from my boyhood up with the ordinary opinions about the
Scriptures, I have been unable to withstand the force of what I have urged.

(71) However, there is no need to detain the reader with this question, and
drive him to attempt an impossible task; I merely mentioned the fact in
order to throw light on my intention.

(72) I now pass on to other points concerning the treatment of these books.
(73) For we must remark, in addition to what has been shown, that these
books were not guarded by posterity with such care that no faults crept in.
(74) The ancient scribes draw attention to many doubtful readings, and some
mutilated passages, but not to all that exist: whether the faults are
of sufficient importance to greatly, embarrass the reader I will not now
discuss. (75) I am inclined to think that they are of minor moment to those,
at any rate, who read the Scriptures with enlightenment: and I can
positively, affirm that I have not noticed any fault or various reading in
doctrinal passages sufficient to render them obscure or doubtful.

(76) There are some people, however, who will not admit that there is any
corruption, even in other passages, but maintain that by some unique
exercise of providence God has preserved from corruption every word in the
Bible: they say that the various readings are the symbols of profoundest
mysteries, and that mighty secrets lie hid in the twenty-eight hiatus which
occur, nay, even in the very form of the letters.

(77) Whether they are actuated by folly and anile devotion, or whether by
arrogance and malice so that they alone may be held to possess the secrets
of God, I know not: this much I do know, that I find in their writings
nothing which has the air of a Divine secret, but only childish
lucubrations. (78) I have read and known certain Kabbalistic triflers, whose
insanity provokes my unceasing as astonishment. (79) That faults have crept
in will, I think, be denied by no sensible person who reads the passage
about Saul, above quoted (1 Sam. xiii:1) and also 2 Sam. vi:2: "And David
arose and went with all the people that were with him from Judah, to bring
up from thence the ark of God."

(80) No one can fail to remark that the name of their destination, viz.,
Kirjath-jearim [Endnotee 18], has been omitted: nor can we deny that
2 Sam. xiii:37, has been tampered with and mutilated. "And Absalom fled, and
went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. (81) And he mourned for
his son every day. So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three
years." (82) I know that I have remarked other passages of the same kind,
but I cannot recall them at the moment.

(83) That the marginal notes which are found continually in the Hebrew
Codices are doubtful readings will, I think, be evident to everyone who has
noticed that they often arise from the great similarity, of some of the
Hebrew letters, such for instance, as the similarity between Kaph and Beth,
Jod and Van, Daleth and Reth, &c. (84) For example, the text in
2 Sam. v:24, runs "in the time when thou hearest," and similarly in
Judges xxi:22, "And it shall be when their fathers or their brothers come
unto us often," the marginal version is "come unto us to complain."

(85) So also many various readings have arisen from the use of the letters
named mutes, which are generally not sounded in pronunciation, and are taken
promiscuously, one for the other. (86) For example, in Levit. xxv:29, it is
written, "The house shall be established which is not in the walled city,"
but the margin has it, "which is in a walled city."

(87) Though these matters are self-evident, [Endnore 6], it is necessary, to
answer the reasonings of certain Pharisees, by which they endeavour to
convince us that the marginal notes serve to indicate some mystery, and were
added or pointed out by the writers of the sacred books. (88) The first of
these reasons, which, in my, opinion, carries little weight, is taken from
the practice of reading the Scriptures aloud.

(89) If, it is urged, these notes were added to show various readings which
could not be decided upon by posterity, why has custom prevailed that the
marginal readings should always be retained? (90) Why has the meaning which
is preferred been set down in the margin when it ought to have been
incorporated in the text, and not relegated to a side note?

(91) The second reason is more specious, and is taken from the nature of the
case. (92) It is admitted that faults have crept into the sacred writings by
chance and not by design; but they say that in the five books the word for a
girl is, with one exception, written without the letter "he," contrary to
all grammatical rules, whereas in the margin it is written correctly
according to the universal rule of grammar. (93) Can this have happened by
mistake? Is it possible to imagine a clerical error to have been committed
every, time the word occurs? (94) Moreover, it would have been easy, to
supply the emendation. (95) Hence, when these readings are not accidental
or corrections of manifest mistakes, it is supposed that they must have been
set down on purpose by the original writers, and have a meaning. (96)
However, it is easy to answer such arguments; as to the question of custom
having prevailed in the reading of the marginal versions, I will not spare
much time for its consideration: I know not the promptings of superstition,
and perhaps the practice may have arisen from the idea that both readings
were deemed equally good or tolerable, and therefore, lest either should be
neglected, one was appointed to be written, and the other to be read. (97)
They feared to pronounce judgment in so weighty a matter lest they should
mistake the false for the true, and therefore they would give preference to
neither, as they must necessarily have done if they had commanded one only
to be both read and written. (98) This would be especially the case where
the marginal readings were not written down in the sacred books: or the
custom may have originated because some things though rightly written down
were desired to be read otherwise according to the marginal version, and
therefore the general rule was made that the marginal version should be
followed in reading the Scriptures. (99) The cause which induced the scribes
to expressly prescribe certain passages to be read in the marginal version,
I will now touch on, for not all the marginal notes are various readings,
but some mark expressions which have passed out of common use, obsolete
words and terms which current decency did not allow to be read in a public
assembly. (100) The ancient writers, without any evil intention, employed no
courtly paraphrase, but called things by their plain names. (101)
Afterwards, through the spread of evil thoughts and luxury, words which
could be used by the ancients without offence, came to be considered
obscene. (102) There was no need for this cause to change the text of
Scripture. (103) Still, as a concession to the popular weakness, it became
the custom to substitute more decent terms for words denoting sexual
intercourse, exereta, &c., and to read them as they were given in the

(104) At any rate, whatever may have been the origin of the practice of
reading Scripture according to the marginal version, it was not that the
true interpretation is contained therein. (105) For besides that, the
Rabbins in the Talmud often differ from the Massoretes, and give other
readings which they approve of, as I will shortly show, certain things are
found in the margin which appear less warranted by the uses of the Hebrew
language. (106) For example, in 2 Samuel xiv:22, we read, "In that the king
hath fulfilled the request of his servant," a construction plainly
regular, and agreeing with that in chap. xvi. (107) But the margin has it
"of thy servant," which does not agree with the person of the verb. (108)
So, too, chap. xvi:25 of the same book, we find, "As if one had inquired at
the oracle of God," the margin adding "someone" to stand as a nominative to
the verb. (109) But the correction is not apparently warranted, for it is
a common practice, well known to grammarians in the Hebrew language, to use
the third person singular of the active verb impersonally.

(110) The second argument advanced by the Pharisees is easily answered from
what has just been said, namely, that the scribes besides the various
readings called attention to obsolete words. (111) For there is no doubt
that in Hebrew as in other languages, changes of use made many words
obsolete and antiquated, and such were found by the later scribes in the
sacred books and noted by them with a view to the books being publicly read
according to custom. (112) For this reason the word nahgar is always found
marked because its gender was originally common, and it had the same meaning
as the Latin juvenis (a young person). (113) So also the Hebrew capital was
anciently called Jerusalem, not Jerusalaim. (114) As to the pronouns himself
and herself, I think that the later scribes changed vau into jod (a very
frequent change in Hebrew) when they wished to express the feminine gender,
but that the ancients only distinguished the two genders by a change of
vowels. (115) I may also remark that the irregular tenses of certain verbs
differ in the ancient and modern forms, it being formerly considered a mark
of elegance to employ certain letters agreeable to the ear.

(116) In a word, I could easily multiply proofs of this kind if I were not
afraid of abusing the patience of the reader. (117) Perhaps I shall be asked
how I became acquainted with the fact that all these expressions are
obsolete. (118) I reply that I have found them in the most ancient Hebrew
writers in the Bible itself, and that they have not been imitated by
subsequent authors, and thus they are recognized as antiquated, though the
language in which they occur is dead. (119) But perhaps someone may press
the question why, if it be true, as I say, that the marginal notes of the
Bible generally mark various readings, there are never more than two
readings of a passage, that in the text and that in the margin, instead of
three or more; and further, how the scribes can have hesitated between two
readings, one of which is evidently contrary to grammar, and the other a
plain correction.

(120) The answer to these questions also is easy: I will premise that it is
almost certain that there once were more various readings than those now
recorded. (121) For instance, one finds many in the Talmud which the
Massoretes have neglected, and are so different one from the other that
even the superstitious editor of the Bomberg Bible confesses that he cannot
harmonize them. (122) "We cannot say anything," he writes, "except what we
have said above, namely, that the Talmud is generally in contradiction to
the Massorete." (123) So that we are nor bound to hold that there never were
more than two readings of any passage, yet I am willing to admit, and
indeed I believe that more than two readings are never found: and for the
following reasons:-(124) (I.) The cause of the differences of reading only
admits of two, being generally the similarity of certain letters, so that
the question resolved itself into which should be written Beth, or Kaf,
Jod or Vau, Daleth or Reth: cases which are constantly occurring, and
frequently yielding a fairly good meaning whichever alternative be adopted.
(125) Sometimes, too, it is a question whether a syllable be long or short,
quantity being determined by the letters called mutes. (126) Moreover, we
never asserted that all the marginal versions, without exception, marked
various readings; on the contrary, we have stated that many were due to
motives of decency or a desire to explain obsolete words. (127) (II.) I am
inclined to attribute the fact that more than two readings are never found
to the paucity of exemplars, perhaps not more than two or three, found by
the scribes. (128) In the treatise of the scribes, chap. vi., mention is
made of three only, pretended to have been found in the time of Ezra, in
order that the marginal versions might be attributed to him.

(129) However that may be, if the scribes only had three codices we may
easily imagine that in a given passage two of them would be in accord, for
it would be extraordinary if each one of the three gave a different reading
of the same text.

(130) The dearth of copies after the time of Ezra will surprise no one who
has read the 1st chapter of Maccabees, or Josephus's "Antiquities," Bk. 12,
chap. 5. (131) Nay, it appears wonderful considering the fierce and daily
persecution, that even these few should have been preserved. (132) This
will, I think, be plain to even a cursory reader of the history of those

(133) We have thus discovered the reasons why there are never more than two
readings of a passage in the Bible, but this is a long way from supposing
that we may therefore conclude that the Bible was purposely written
incorrectly in such passages in order to signify some mystery. (134) As to
the second argument, that some passages are so faultily written that they
are at plain variance with all grammar, and should have been corrected in
the text and not in the margin, I attach little weight to it, for I am not
concerned to say what religious motive the scribes may have had for acting
as they did: possibly they did so from candour, wishing to transmit the few
exemplars of the Bible which they had found exactly in their original state,
marking the differences they discovered in the margin, not as doubtful
readings, but as simple variants. (135) I have myself called them doubtful
readings, because it would be generally impossible to say which of the two
versions is preferable.

(136) Lastly, besides these doubtful readings the scribes have (by leaving a
hiatus in the middle of a paragraph) marked several passages as mutilated.
(137) The Massoretes have counted up such instances, and they amount to
eight-and-twenty. (138) I do not know whether any mystery is thought to lurk
in the number, at any rate the Pharisees religiously preserve a certain
amount of empty space.

(139) One of such hiatus occurs (to give an instance) in Gen. iv:8, where it
is written, "And Cain said to his brother . . . . and it came to pass while
they were in the field, &c.," a space being left in which we should expect
to hear what it was that Cain said.

(140) Similarly there are (besides those points we have noticed) eight-and-
twenty hiatus left by the scribes. (141) Many of these would not be
recognized as mutilated if it were not for the empty space left. But I have
said enough on this subject.


(1) I now pass on to the remaining books of the Old Testament. (2)
Concerning the two books of Chronicles I have nothing particular or
important to remark, except that they were certainly written after the time
of Ezra, and possibly after the restoration of the Temple by Judas
Maccabaeus [Endnote 19]. (2) For in chap. ix. of the first book we find a
reckoning of the families who were the first to live in Jerusalem, and in
verse 17 the names of the porters, of which two recur in Nehemiah. (3) This
shows that the books were certainly compiled after the rebuilding of the
city. (4) As to their actual writer, their authority, utility, and doctrine,
I come to no conclusion. (5) I have always been astonished that they have
been included in the Bible by men who shut out from the canon the books of
Wisdom, Tobit, and the others styled apocryphal. (6) I do not aim at
disparaging their authority, but as they are universally received I will
leave them as they are.

(7) The Psalms were collected and divided into five books in the time of the
second temple, for Ps. lxxxviii. was published, according to Philo-Judaeus,
while king Jehoiachin was still a prisoner in Babylon; and Ps. lxxxix. when
the same king obtained his liberty: I do not think Philo would have made the
statement unless either it had been the received opinion in his time, or
else had been told him by trustworthy persons.

(8) The Proverbs of Solomon were, I believe, collected at the same time, or
at least in the time of King Josiah; for in chap. xxv:1, it is written,
"These are also proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of
Judah, copied out." (9) I cannot here pass over in silence the audacity
of the Rabbis who wished to exclude from the sacred canon both the Proverbs
and Ecclesiastes, and to put them both in the Apocrypha. (10) In fact, they
would actually have done so, if they had not lighted on certain passages in
which the law of Moses is extolled. (11) It is, indeed, grievous to think
that the settling of the sacred canon lay in the hands of such men; however,
I congratulate them, in this instance, on their suffering us to see these
books in question, though I cannot refrain from doubting whether they have
transmitted them in absolute good faith; but I will not now linger on this

(10) I pass on, then, to the prophetic books. (11) An examination of these
assures me that the prophecies therein contained have been compiled from
other books, and are not always set down in the exact order in which they
were spoken or written by the prophets, but are only such as were collected
here and there, so that they are but fragmentary.

(12) Isaiah began to prophecy in the reign of Uzziah, as the writer himself
testifies in the first verse. (13) He not only prophesied at that time, but
furthermore wrote the history of that king (see 2 Chron. xxvi:22) in a
volume now lost. (13) That which we possess, we have shown to have been
taken from the chronicles of the kings of Judah and Israel.

(14) We may add that the Rabbis assert that this prophet prophesied in the
reign of Manasseh, by whom he was eventually put to death, and, although
this seems to be a myth, it yet shows that they did not think that all
Isaiah's prophecies are extant.

(15) The prophecies of Jeremiah, which are related historically are also
taken from various chronicles; for not only are they heaped together
confusedly, without any account being taken of dates, but also the same
story is told in them differently in different passages. (16) For instance,
in chap. xxi. we are told that the cause of Jeremiah's arrest was that he
had prophesied the destruction of the city to Zedekiah who consulted him.
(17) This narrative suddenly passes, in chap xxii., to the prophet's
remonstrances to Jehoiakim (Zedekiah's predecessor), and the prediction he
made of that king's captivity; then, in chap. xxv., come the revelations
granted to the prophet previously, that is in the fourth year of Jehoiakim,
and, further on still, the revelations received in the first year of the
same reign. (18) The continuator of Jeremiah goes on heaping prophecy
upon prophecy without any regard to dates, until at last, in chap. xxxviii.
(as if the intervening chapters had been a parenthesis), he takes up the
thread dropped in. chap. xxi.

(19) In fact, the conjunction with which chap. xxxviii. begins, refers to
the 8th, 9th, and 10th verses of chap. xxi. Jeremiah's last arrest is then
very differently described, and a totally separate cause is given for his
daily retention in the court of the prison.

(20) We may thus clearly see that these portions of the book have been
compiled from various sources, and are only from this point of view
comprehensible. (21) The prophecies contained in the remaining chapters,
where Jeremiah speaks in the first person, seem to be taken from a
book written by Baruch, at Jeremiah's dictation. (22) These, however, only
comprise (as appears from chap. xxxvi:2) the prophecies revealed to the
prophet from the time of Josiah to the fourth year of Jehoiakim, at which
period the book begins. (23) The contents of chap. xlv:2, on to chap.
li:59, seem taken from the same volume.

(24) That the book of Ezekiel is only a fragment, is clearly indicated by
the first verse. (25) For anyone may see that the conjunction with which it
begins, refers to something already said, and connects what follows
therewith. (26) However, not only this conjunction, but the whole text
of the discourse implies other writings. (27) The fact of the present work
beginning the thirtieth year shows that the prophet is continuing, not
commencing a discourse; and this is confirmed by the writer, who
parenthetically states in verse 3, "The word of the Lord came often unto
Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans," as if to
say that the prophecies which he is about to relate are the sequel to
revelations formerly received by Ezekiel from God. (28) Furthermore,
Josephus, 11 Antiq." x:9, says that Ezekiel prophesied that Zedekiah should
not see Babylon, whereas the book we now have not only contains no such
statement, but contrariwise asserts in chap. xvii. that he should be taken
to Babylon as a captive, [Endnote 20].

(29) Of Hosea I cannot positively state that he wrote more than is now
extant in the book bearing his name, but I am astonished at the smallness of
the quantity, we possess, for the sacred writer asserts that the prophet
prophesied for more than eighty years.

(30) We may assert, speaking generally, that the compiler of the prophetic
books neither collected all the prophets, nor all the writings of those we
have; for of the prophets who are said to have prophesied in the reign of
Manasseh and of whom general mention is made in 2 Chron. xxxiii:10, 18, we
have, evidently, no prophecies extant; neither have we all the prophecies of
the twelve who give their names to books. (31) Of Jonah we have only, the
prophecy concerning the Ninevites, though he also prophesied to the children
of Israel, as we learn in 2 Kings xiv:25.

(32) The book and the personality of Job have caused much controversy. (33)
Some think that the book is the work of Moses, and the whole narrative
merely allegorical. (34) Such is the opinion of the Rabbins recorded in the
Talmud, and they are supported by, Maimonides in his "More Nebuchim." (35)
Others believe it to be a true history, and some suppose that Job lived in
the time of Jacob, and was married to his daughter Dinah. (36) Aben Ezra,
however, as I have already stated, affirms, in his commentaries, that the
work is a translation into Hebrew from some other language: I could wish
that he could advance more cogent arguments than he does, for we might then
conclude that the Gentiles also had sacred books. (37) I myself leave the
matter undecided, but I conjecture Job to have been a Gentile, and a man of
very stable character, who at first prospered, then was assailed with
terrible calamities, and finally, was restored to great happiness. (38) (He
is thus named, among others, by Ezekiel, xiv:12.) (39) I take it that the
constancy of his mind amid the vicissitudes of his fortune occasioned many
men to dispute about God's providence, or at least caused the writer of the
book in question to compose his dialogues; for the contents, and also the
style, seem to emanate far less from a man wretchedly ill and lying among
ashes, than from one reflecting at ease in his study. (40) I should also be
inclined to agree with Aben Ezra that the book is a translation, for its
poetry seems akin to that of the Gentiles; thus the Father of Gods summons a
council, and Momus, here called Satan, criticizes the Divine decrees with
the utmost freedom. (41) But these are mere conjectures without any solid

(42) I pass on to the book of Daniel, which, from chap. viii. onwards,
undoubtedly contains the writing of Daniel himself. (43) Whence the first
seven chapters are derived I cannot say; we may, however, conjecture that,
as they were first written in Chaldean, they are taken from Chaldean
chronicles. (44) If this could be proved, it would form a very striking
proof of the fact that the sacredness of Scripture depends on our
understanding of the doctrines therein signified, and not on the words, the
language, and the phrases in which these doctrines are conveyed to us;
and it would further show us that books which teach and speak of whatever is
highest and best are equally sacred, whatever be the tongue in which they
are written, or the nation to which they belong.

(45) We can, however, in this case only remark that the chapters in question
were written in Chaldee, and yet are as sacred as the rest of the Bible.

(46) The first book of Ezra is so intimately connected with the book of
Daniel that both are plainly recognizable as the work of the same author,
writing of Jewish history from the time of the first captivity onwards. (47)
I have no hesitation in joining to this the book of Esther, for the
conjunction with which it begins can refer to nothing else. (48) It cannot
be the same work as that written by Mordecai, for, in chap. ix:20-22,
another person relates that Mordecai wrote letters, and tells us their
contents; further, that Queen Esther confirmed the days of Purim in their
times appointed, and that the decree was written in the book that is (by a
Hebraism), in a book known to all then living, which, as Aben Ezra and the
rest confess, has now perished. (49) Lastly, for the rest of the acts of
Mordecai, the historian refers us to the chronicles of the kings of
Persia. (50) Thus there is no doubt that this book was written by the same
person as he who recounted the history of Daniel and Ezra, and who wrote
Nehemiah, [Endnote 21], sometimes called the second book of Ezra. (51) We
may, then, affirm that all these books are from one hand; but we /have no
clue whatever to the personality of the author. (52) However, in order to
determine whence he, whoever he was, had gained a knowledge of the histories
which he had, perchance, in great measure himself written, we may remark
that the governors or chiefs of the Jews, after the restoration of the
Temple, kept scribes or historiographers, who wrote annals or chronicles of
them. (53) The chronicles of the kings are often quoted in the books of
Kings, but the chronicles of the chiefs and priests are quoted for the first
time in Nehemiah xii:23, and again in 1 Macc. xvi:24. (54) This is
undoubtedly the book referred to as containing the decree of Esther and the
acts of Mordecai; and which, as we said with Aben Ezra, is now lost. (55)
From it were taken the whole contents of these four books, for no other
authority is quoted by their writer, or is known to us.

(56) That these books were not written by either Ezra or Nehemiah is plain
from Nehemiah xii:9, where the descendants of the high priest, Joshua are
traced down to Jaddua, the sixth high priest, who went to meet Alexander the
Great, when the Persian empire was almost subdued (Josephus, "Ant." ii.
108), or who, according to Philo-Judaeus, was the sixth and last high priest
under the Persians. (57) In the same chapter of Nehemiah, verse 22, this
point is clearly brought out: "The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada,
and Johanan, and Jaddua, were recorded chief of the fathers: also the
priests, to the reign of Darius the Persian" - that is to say, in the
chronicles; and, I suppose, no one thinks, [Endnote 22], that the lives of
Nehemiah and Ezra were so prolonged that they outlived fourteen kings of
Persia. (58) Cyrus was the first who granted the Jews permission to rebuild
their Temple: the period between his time and Darius, fourteenth and last
king of Persia, extends over 230 years. (59) I have, therefore, no doubt
that these books were written after Judas Maccabaeus had restored the
worship in the Temple, for at that time false books of Daniel, Ezra, and
Esther were published by evil-disposed persons, who were almost certainly
Sadducees, for the writings were never recognized by the Pharisees, so far
as I am aware; and, although certain myths in the fourth book of Ezra are
repeated in the Talmud, they must not be set down to the Pharisees, for all
but the most ignorant admit that they have been added by some trifler: in
fact, I think, someone must have made such additions with a view to casting
ridicule on all the traditions of the sect.

(60) Perhaps these four books were written out and published at the time I
have mentioned with a view to showing the people that the prophecies of
Daniel had been fulfilled, and thus kindling their piety, and awakening a
hope of future deliverance in the midst of their misfortunes. (61) In
spite of their recent origin, the books before us contain many errors, due,
I suppose, to the haste with which they were written. (62) Marginal
readings, such as I have mentioned in the last chapter, are found here as
elsewhere, and in even greater abundance; there are, moreover, certain
passages which can only be accounted for by supposing some such cause as

(63) However, before calling attention to the marginal readings, I will
remark that, if the Pharisees are right in supposing them to have been
ancient, and the work of the original scribes, we must perforce admit that
these scribes (if there were more than one) set them down because they
found that the text from which they were copying was inaccurate, and did yet
not venture to alter what was written by their predecessors and superiors.
(64) I need not again go into the subject at length, and will, therefore,
proceed to mention some discrepancies not noticed in the margin.

(65) I. Some error has crept into the text of the second chapter of Ezra,
for in verse 64 we are told that the total of all those mentioned in the
rest of the chapter amounts to 42,360; but, when we come to add up the
several items we get as result only 29,818. (66) There must, therefore, be
an error, either in the total, or in the details. (67) The total is probably
correct, for it would most likely be well known to all as a noteworthy
thing; but with the details, the case would be different. (68) If, then, any
error had crept into the total, it would at once have been remarked, and
easily corrected. (69) This view is confirmed by Nehemiah vii., where this
chapter of Ezra is mentioned, and a total is given in plain correspondence
thereto; but the details are altogether different - some are larger, and
some less, than those in Ezra, and altogether they amount to 31,089.
(70) We may, therefore, conclude that both in Ezra and in Nehemiah the
details are erroneously given. (71) The commentators who attempt to
harmonize these evident contradictions draw on their imagination, each to
the best of his ability; and while professing adoration for each letter and
word of Scripture, only succeed in holding up the sacred writers to
ridicule, as though they knew not how to write or relate a plain narrative.
(72) Such persons effect nothing but to render the clearness of Scripture
obscure. (73) If the Bible could everywhere be interpreted after their
fashion, there would be no such thing as a rational statement of which
the meaning could be relied on. (74) However, there is no need to dwell on
the subject; only I am convinced that if any historian were to attempt to
imitate the proceedings freely attributed to the writers of the Bible, the
commentators would cover him with contempt. (75) If it be blasphemy to
assert that there are any errors in Scripture, what name shall we apply to
those who foist into it their own fancies, who degrade the sacred writers
till they seem to write confused nonsense, and who deny the plainest and
most evident meanings? (76) What in the whole Bible can be plainer than the
fact that Ezra and his companions, in the second chapter of the book
attributed to him, have given in detail the reckoning of all the Hebrews who
set out with them for Jerusalem? (77) This is proved by the reckoning being
given, not only of those who told their lineage, but also of those who were
unable to do so. (78) Is it not equally clear from Nehemiah vii:5, that the
writer merely there copies the list given in Ezra? (79) Those, therefore,
who explain these pas sages otherwise, deny the plain meaning of Scripture -
nay, they deny Scripture itself. (80) They think it pious to reconcile one
passage of Scripture with another - a pretty piety, forsooth, which
accommodates the clear passages to the obscure, the correct to the faulty,
the sound to the corrupt.

(81) Far be it from me to call such commentators blasphemers, if their
motives be pure: for to err is human. But I return to my subject.

(82) Besides these errors in numerical details, there are others in the
genealogies, in the history, and, I fear also in the prophecies. (83) The
prophecy of Jeremiah (chap. xxii.), concerning Jechoniah, evidently does not
agree with his history, as given in I Chronicles iii:17-19, and especially
with the last words of the chapter, nor do I see how the prophecy, "thou
shalt die in peace," can be applied to Zedekiah, whose eyes were dug out
after his sons had been slain before him. (84) If prophecies are to be
interpreted by their issue, we must make a change of name, and read
Jechoniah for Zedekiah, and vice versa (85) This, however, would be too
paradoxical a proceeding; so I prefer to leave the matter unexplained,
especially as the error, if error there be, must be set down to the
historian, and not to any fault in the authorities.

(86) Other difficulties I will not touch upon, as I should only weary the
reader, and, moreover, be repeating the remarks of other writers. (87) For
R. Selomo, in face of the manifest contradiction in the above-mentioned
genealogies, is compelled to break forth into these words (see his
commentary on 1 Chron. viii.): "Ezra (whom he supposes to be the author of
the book of Chronicles) gives different names and a different genealogy to
the sons of Benjamin from those which we find in Genesis, and describes most
of the Levites differently from Joshua, because he found original
discrepancies." (88) And, again, a little later: "The genealogy of Gibeon
and others is described twice in different ways, from different tables of
each genealogy, and in writing them down Ezra adopted the version given in
the majority of the texts, and when the authority was equal he gave both."
(89) Thus granting that these books were compiled from sources originally
incorrect and uncertain.

(90) In fact the commentators, in seeking to harmonize difficulties,
generally do no more than indicate their causes: for I suppose no sane
person supposes that the sacred historians deliberately wrote with the
object of appearing to contradict themselves freely. (91) Perhaps I
shall be told that I am overthrowing the authority of Scripture, for that,
according to me, anyone may suspect it of error in any passage; but, on the
contrary, I have shown that my object has been to prevent the clear and
uncorrupted passages being accommodated to and corrupted by the faulty ones;
neither does the fact that some passages are corrupt warrant us in
suspecting all. (92) No book ever was completely free from faults, yet I
would ask, who suspects all books to be everywhere faulty? (93) Surely no
one, especially when the phraseology is clear and the intention of the
author plain.

(94) I have now finished the task I set myself with respect to the books of
the Old Testament. (95) We may easily conclude from what has been said, that
before the time of the Maccabees there was no canon of sacred books,
[Endnote 23], but that those which we now possess were selected from a
multitude of others at the period of the restoration of the Temple by the
Pharisees (who also instituted the set form of prayers), who are alone
responsible for their acceptance. (96) Those, therefore, who would
demonstrate the authority of Holy Scripture, are bound to show the authority
of each separate book; it is not enough to prove the Divine origin of a
single book in order to infer the Divine origin of the rest. (97) In that
case we should have to assume that the council of Pharisees was, in its
choice of books, infallible, and this could never be proved. (98) I am led
to assert that the Pharisees alone selected the books of the Old Testament,
and inserted them in the canon, from the fact that in Daniel ii. is
proclaimed the doctrine of the Resurrection, which the Sadducees denied;
and, furthermore, the Pharisees plainly assert in the Talmud that they so
selected them. (99) For in the treatise of Sabbathus, chapter ii., folio 30,
page 2, it is written: R. Jehuda, surnamed Rabbi, reports that the experts
wished to conceal the book of Ecclesiastes because they found therein words
opposed to the law (that is, to the book of the law of Moses). (100) Why did
they not hide it? (101) Because it begins in accordance with the law, and
ends according to the law;" and a little further on we read: "They sought
also to conceal the book of Proverbs." (102) And in the first chapter of the
same treatise, fol. 13, page 2: "Verily, name one man for good, even he who
was called Neghunja, the son of Hezekiah: for, save for him, the book of
Ezekiel would been concealed, because it agreed not with the words of the

(103) It is thus abundantly clear that men expert in the law summoned a
council to decide which books should be received into the canon, and which
excluded. (104) If any man, therefore, wishes to be certified as to the
authority of all the books, let him call a fresh council, and ask every
member his reasons.

(105) The time has now come for examining in the same manner the books in
the New Testament; but as I learn that the task has been already performed
by men highly skilled in science and languages, and as I do not myself
possess a knowledge of Greek sufficiently exact for the task; lastly, as we
have lost the originals of those books which were written in Hebrew, I
prefer to decline the undertaking. (106) However, I will touch on those
points which have most bearing on my subject in the following chapter.

End of Part 2.

Part 2 - Chapters VI to X


Endnote 6. (1) We doubt of the existence of God, and consequently of
all else, so long as we have no clear and distinct idea of God, but only a
confused one. (2) For as he who knows not rightly the nature of a triangle,
knows not that its three angles are equal to two right angles, so he who
conceives the Divine nature confusedly, does not see that it pertains to the
nature of God to exist. (3) Now, to conceive the nature of God clearly and
distinctly, it is necessary to pay attention to a certain number of very
simple notions, called general notions, and by their help to associate the
conceptions which we form of the attributes of the Divine nature. (4) It
then, for the first time, becomes clear to us, that God exists necessarily,
that He is omnipresent, and that all our conceptions involve in themselves
the nature of God and are conceived through it. (5) Lastly, we see that all
our adequate ideas are true. (6) Compare on this point the prologomena to
book, "Principles of Descartes's philosophy set forth geometrically."


Endnote 7. (1) "It is impossible to find a method which would enable us to
gain a certain knowledge of all the statements in Scripture." (2) I mean
impossible for us who have not the habitual use of the language, and have
lost the precise meaning of its phraseology.

Endnote 8. (1) "Not in things whereof the understanding can gain a clear and
distinct idea, and which are conceivable through themselves." (2) By things
conceivable I mean not only those which are rigidly proved, but also those
whereof we are morally certain, and are wont to hear without wonder, though
they are incapable of proof. (3) Everyone can see the truth of Euclid's
propositions before they are proved. (4) So also the histories of things
both future and past which do not surpass human credence, laws,
institutions, manners, I call conceivable and clear, though they cannot be
proved mathematically. (5) But hieroglyphics and histories which seem to
pass the bounds of belief I call inconceivable; yet even among these last
there are many which our method enables us to investigate, and to discover
the meaning of their narrator.


Endnote 9. (1) "Mount Moriah is called the mount of God." (2) That is by the
historian, not by Abraham, for he says that the place now called "In the
mount of the Lord it shall be revealed," was called by Abraham, "the Lord
shall provide."

Endnote 10. (1) "Before that territory [Idumoea] was conquered by David."
(2) From this time to the reign of Jehoram when they again separated from
the Jewish kingdom (2 Kings viii:20), the Idumaeans had no king, princes
appointed by the Jews supplied the place of kings (1 Kings xxii:48), in fact
the prince of Idumaea is called a king (2 Kings iii:9).

(3) It may be doubted whether the last of the Idumaean kings had begun to
reign before the accession of Saul, or whether Scripture in this chapter of
Genesis wished to enumerate only such kings as were independent. (4) It is
evidently mere trifling to wish to enrol among Hebrew kings the name of
Moses, who set up a dominion entirely different from a monarchy.


Endnote 11. (1) "With few exceptions." (2) One of these exceptions is found
in 2 Kings xviii:20, where we read, "Thou sayest (but they are but vain
words), "the second person being used. (3) In Isaiah xxxvi:5, we read "I
say (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war," and
in the twenty-second verse of the chapter in Kings it is written, "But if ye
say," the plural number being used, whereas Isaiah gives the singular. (4)
The text in Isaiah does not contain the words found in 2 Kings xxxii:32. (5)
Thus there are several cases of various readings where it is impossible to
distinguish the best.

Endnote 12. (1) "The expressions in the two passages are so varied." (2) For
instance we read in 2 Sam. vii:6, "But I have walked in a tent and in a
tabernacle." (3) Whereas in 1 Chron. xvii:5, "but have gone from tent to
tent and from one tabernacle to another." (4) In 2 Sam. vii:10, we read, "to
afflict them,"whereas in 1 Chron. vii:9, we find a different expression. (5)
I could point out other differences still greater, but a single reading of
the chapters in question will suffice to make them manifest to all who are
neither blind nor devoid of sense.

Endnote 13. (1) "This time cannot refer to what immediately precedes." (2)
It is plain from the context that this passage must allude to the time when
Joseph was sold by his brethren. (3) But this is not all. (4) We may draw
the same conclusion from the age of Judah, who was than twenty-two years old
at most, taking as basis of calculation his own history just narrated. (5)
It follows, indeed, from the last verse of Gen. xxx., that Judah was born in
the tenth of the years of Jacob's servitude to Laban, and Joseph in the
fourteenth. (6) Now, as we know that Joseph was seventeen years old when
sold by his brethren, Judah was then not more than twenty-one. (7) Hence,
those writers who assert that Judah's long absence from his father's
house took place before Joseph was sold, only seek to delude themselves and
to call in question the Scriptural authority which they are anxious to

Endnote 14. (1) "Dinah was scarcely seven years old when she was violated by
Schechem." (2) The opinion held by some that Jacob wandered about eight or
ten years between Mesopotamia and Bethel, savours of the ridiculous; if
respect for Aben Ezra, allows me to say so. (3) For it is clear that Jacob
had two reasons for haste: first, the desire to see his old parents;
secondly, and chiefly to perform, the vow made when he fled from his brother
(Gen. xxviii:10 and xxxi:13, and xxxv:1). (4) We read (Gen. xxxi:3), that
God had commanded him to fulfill his vow, and promised him help for
returning to his country. (5) If these considerations seem conjectures
rather than reasons, I will waive the point and admit that Jacob, more
unfortunate than Ulysses, spent eight or ten years or even longer, in this
short journey. (6) At any rate it cannot be denied that Benjamin was born in
the last year of this wandering, that is by the reckoning of the objectors,
when Joseph was sixteen or seventeen years old, for Jacob left Laban seven
years after Joseph's birth. (7) Now from the seventeenth year of Joseph's
age till the patriarch went into Egypt, not more than twenty-two years
elapsed, as we have shown in this chapter. (8) Consequently Benjamin, at the
time of the journey to Egypt, was twenty-three or twenty- four at the most.
(9) He would therefore have been a grandfather in the flower of his age
(Gen. xlvi:21, cf. Numb. xxvi:38, 40, and 1 Chron. viii;1), for it is
certain that Bela, Benjamin's eldest son, had at that time, two sons, Addai
nd Naa-man. (10) This is just as absurd as the statement that Dinah was
violated at the age of seven, not to mention other impossibilities
which would result from the truth of the narrative. (11) Thus we see that
unskillful endeavours to solve difficulties, only raise fresh ones, and make
confusion worse confounded.

Endnote 15. (1) "Othniel, son of Kenag, was judge for forty years." (2)
Rabbi Levi Ben Gerson and others believe that these forty years which the
Bible says were passed in freedom, should be counted from the death of
Joshua, and consequently include the eight years during which the people
were subject to Kushan Rishathaim, while the following eighteen years
must be added on to the eighty years of Ehud's and Shamgar's judgeships. (3)
In this case it would be necessary to reckon the other years of subjection
among those said by the Bible to have been passed in freedom. (4) But the
Bible expressly notes the number of years of subjection, and the number of
years of freedom, and further declares (Judges ii:18) that the
Hebrew state was prosperous during the whole time of the judges. (5)
Therefore it is evident that Levi Ben Gerson (certainly a very learned man),
and those who follow him, correct rather than interpret the Scriptures.

(6) The same fault is committed by those who assert, that Scripture, by this
general calculation of years, only intended to mark the period of the
regular administration of the Hebrew state, leaving out the years of anarchy
and subjection as periods of misfortune and interregnum. (7) Scripture
certainly passes over in silence periods of anarchy, but does not, as they
dream, refuse to reckon them or wipe them out of the country's annals. (8)
It is clear that Ezra, in 1 Kings vi., wished to reckon absolutely all the
years since the flight from Egypt. (9) This is so plain, that no one versed
in the Scriptures can doubt it. (10) For, without going back to the
precise words of the text, we may see that the genealogy of David given at
the end of the book of Ruth, and I Chron. ii., scarcely accounts for so
great a number of years. (11) For Nahshon, who was prince of the tribe of
Judah (Numb. vii;11), two years after the Exodus, died in the desert, and
his son Salmon passed the Jordan with Joshua. (12) Now this Salmon,
according to the genealogy, was David's great-grandfather. (13) Deducting,
then, from the total of 480 years, four years for Solomon's reign, seventy
for David's life, and forty for the time passed in the desert, we find that
David was born 366 years after the passage of the Jordan. (14) Hence we
must believe that David's father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-
great-grandfather begat children when they were ninety years old.

Endnote 16. (1) "Samson was judge for twenty years." (2) Samson was born
after the Hebrews had fallen under the dominion of the Philistines.

Endnote 17. (1) Otherwise, they rather correct than explain Scripture.

Endnote 18. (1) "Kirjath-jearim." Kirjath-jearim is also called Baale of
Judah. (2) Hence Kimchi and others think that the words Baale Judah, which I
have translated "the people of Judah," are the name of a town. (3) But this
is not so, for the word Baale is in the plural. (4) Moreover, comparing this
text in Samuel with I Chron. Xiii:5, we find that David did not rise up
and go forth out of Baale, but that he went thither. (5) If the author of
the book of Samuel had meant to name the place whence David took the ark, he
would, if he spoke Hebrew correctly, have said, "David rose up, and set
forth from Baale Judah, and took the ark from thence."


Endnote 19. (1) "After the restoration of the Temple by Judas Maccaboeus."
(2) This conjecture, if such it be, is founded on the genealogy of King
Jeconiah, given in 1 Chron. iii., which finishes at the sons of Elioenai,
the thirteenth in direct descent from him: whereon we must observe that
Jeconiah, before his captivity, had no children; but it is probable that he
had two while he was in prison, if we may draw any inference from the names
he gave them. (3) As to his grandchildren, it is evident that they were born
after his deliverance, if the names be any guide, for his grandson, Pedaiah
(a name meaning God hath delivered me), who, according to this chapter, was
the father of Zerubbabel, was born in the thirty-seventh or thirty-eighth
year of Jeconiah's life, that is thirty-three years before the restoration
of liberty to the Jews by Cyrus. (4) Therefore Zerubbabel, to whom Cyrus
gave the principality of Judaea, was thirteen or fourteen years old. (5) But
we need not carry the inquiry so far: we need only read attentively
the chapter of 1 Chron., already quoted, where (v. 17, sqq.) mention is made
of all the posterity of Jeconiah, and compare it with the Septuagint version
to see clearly that these books were not published, till after Maccabaeus
had restored the Temple, the sceptre no longer belonging to the house of

Endnote 20. (1) "Zedekiah should be taken to Babylon." (2) No one could then
have suspected that the prophecy of Ezekiel contradicted that of Jeremiah,
but the suspicion occurs to everyone who reads the narrative of Josephus.
(3) The event proved that both prophets were in the right.

Endnote 21. (1) "And who wrote Nehemiah." (2) That the greater part of the
book of Nehemiah was taken from the work composed by the prophet Nehemiah
himself, follows from the testimony of its author. (See chap. i.). (3) But
it is obvious that the whole of the passage contained between chap. viii.
and chap. xii. verse 26, together with the two last verses of chap. xii.,
which form a sort of parenthesis to Nehemiah's words, were added by the
historian himself, who outlived Nehemiah.

Endnote 22. (1) "I suppose no one thinks" that Ezra was the uncle of the
first high priest , named Joshua (see Ezra vii., and 1 Chron. vi:14), and
went to Jerusalem from Babylon with Zerubbabel (see Nehemiah xii:1). (2) But
it appears that when he saw, that the Jews were in a state of anarchy, he
returned to Babylon, as also did others (Nehem. i;2), and remained there
till the reign of Artaxerxes, when his requests were granted and he went a
second tim to Jerusalem. (3) Nehemiah also went to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel
in the time of Cyrus (Ezra ii:2 and 63, cf. x:9, and Nehemiah x:1). (4) The
version given of the Hebrew word, translated "ambassador," is not supported
by any authority, while it is certain that fresh names were given to those
Jews who frequented the court. (5) Thus Daniel was named Balteshazzar,
and Zerubbabel Sheshbazzar (Dan. i:7). (6) Nehemiah was called Atirsata,
while in virtue of his office he was styled governor, or president.
(Nehem. v. 24, xii:26.)

Endnote 23. (1) "Before the time of the Maccabees there was no canon of
sacred books." (2) The synagogue styled "the great" did not begin before the
subjugation of Asia by the Macedonians. (3) The contention of Maimonides,
Rabbi Abraham, Ben-David, and others, that the presidents of this synagogue
were Ezra, Daniel, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, &c., is a pure fiction,
resting only on rabbinical tradition. (4) Indeed they assert that the
dominion of the Persians only lasted thirty-four years, and this is their
chief reason for maintaining that the decrees of the "great synagogue," or
synod (rejected by the Sadducees, but accepted by the Pharisees) were
ratified by the prophets, who received them from former prophets, and so in
direct succession from Moses, who received them from God Himself. (5) Such
is the doctrine which the Pharisees maintain with their wonted obstinacy.
(6) Enlightened persons, however, who know the reasons for the convoking of
councils, or synods, and are no strangers to the differences between
Pharisees and Sadducees, can easily divine the causes which led to the
assembling of this great synagogue. (7) It is very certain that no prophet
was there present, and that the decrees of the Pharisees, which they style
their traditions, derive all their authority from it.

End of Endnotes to Part II. - Chapters VI to X.

End of Part II of
The Project Gutenberg Etext of A Theologico-Political Treatise

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