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100 790, or the Book of Jasher, referred to in Joshua and Second Samuel, faithfully translated from the original Hebrew into English. New York : published by M. M. Noah, and A. S. Gould, at 144 Nassau Street. 1840. 8vo. pp. xxiv. and 268. - Both the title page and the preface of this work pretend that it is the ancient Book of Jasher, twice referred to by name in the Old Testament. Mr. Noah in his preface says distinctly,
I have no hesitation in pronouncing it a work of great antiquity and interest, and a work that is entitled - to a great circulation among those who take pleasure in studying the Scripture." p. vii. The translator adds, that with some doubtful exceptions, it is “a venerable monument of antiquity,” and is, without the smallest doubt, “a copy of the book referred to in Josh. X. 13, and 2 Samuel, i. 18.” Its contents “confirm the great and inestimable truths which are recorded in divine history.”
Such a work must be of great value, especially if it contain, as it pretends to do, “ interesting particulars not mentioned in the Bible," relating to such worthies as Jannes and Jambres, and Balaam the son of Beor. Still farther, to enhance this interest to the highest degree, the Hebrew preface here translated relates the wonderful preservation of the book, that during the destruction of Jerusalem, a Roman officer, in a secret place in a house, discovered a cask full of sacred books, and beside it an old man reading the same. The old man and the soldier and the cask of old books are rescued from peril, and find repose at last in the city of Sevilia, (Seville) of which anon. Out of this cask, in due time, came forth the Book of Jasher, “ the best and most valuable of all.” He says it is called the “ Book of Jasher,” that is, the correct book, [!] because its “ transactions ” follow in their regular historical order. Finally, there is the Hebrew Printer's Preface, of “ the humble worm and no man, Joseph,” son of Samuel the Little, who mentions his anxiety lest this work should come to an untimely end. Prefixed to this volume are testimonials from three distinguished Hebrew scholars, Professors Nordheimer, Turner, .and Bush, who attest to the general correctness of the translation. Another gentleman, Mr. “ H. V. Nathan, minister of the English and German synagogue, Kingston, Jamaica,” says, our .66 translator is an eminent scholar.” In our remarks we shall not go behind the testimony of these scholars, who speak only of the merits of the translation, but pass no judgment on the book itself.
Such then are the pretensions of the book. It is announced as an authentic, if not an inspired work, written in part before the death of Joshua. Now the book is a sheer forgery from
beginning to end ; it is full of anacronisms, profanities, and nameles abominations. It contradicts the Bible, and is inconsistent with itself. It is at variance with reason and religion, and is beside one of the most stupid and weak forgeries we remember ever to have seen. If the original book of Jasher ever existed after the time of the Maccabees, it has left no veslige of itself. No early Christian scholar knew anything of the book. Origen found manuscripts in cask," but knew nothing of the book of Jasher ; Josephus was equally ignorant of it, and the Jewish writers upon the Scriptures show very plainly by their explanations of Josh. x. 13, and 2 Sam. i. 18, that they knew of no such separate book. Some of them say the Book of Jasher is Genesis ; others that it includes the whole Pentateuch, and such explanations they would never have given had they known this present book as authentic; and it is scarcely possible a book of such great“ antiquity and interest ” should remain unknown to them till the seventeenth century.
It is evident from the book itself, that it is not the primitive Book of Jasher, for the first Hebrew Editor says it was generally called the “Generations of Adam ;” and the most careless reader sees that the author had the Pentateuch and Book of Joshua before him, and was besides familiar with the rest of the Old Testament, from which very many passages have been borrowed. It contains fables and exegetical remarks borrowed from the Talmuds. - For example, we find Rabbi Eliezer's opinion as to the time the sun and moon stood still in ch. lxxxviii. 64, therefore it must be younger than the Talmud. This book does not contain the ode referred to in Josh. x. 13, but only the words quoted from it in that passage. This book is full of absurdíties, and inconsistencies, and impossibili. ties, not to mention the numerous passages in which it contradicts itself in good set speech. We will venture at random to draw a few straws out of this rick, only premising that those we take are but a fair sample of the uncounted number left behind. Cain is made to plough the ground; he kills Abel with the iron part of his plough, for they had quarrelled, it seems, because
they were straitened for room," and Abel had trespassed on Cain's estate. Both of these sons of the earth wore woollen garments. We had fancied the first races of men knew as little of ploughs, and real estate, and iron, and woollen jackets, as some of their descendants six thousand years later. Our author solves the exegetical puzzle of Enoch's translation, and relates even the manner in which it was effected. He rode off great Horse” which“ paced in the air,” (ch. iii. 27, seq,) and eight hundred thousand men for they were counted
panied him some distance on the Earth. Three hundred and forty years after the flood, six hundred thousand of the impious assembled to build the tower of Babel. If a man fell in that work, no one would look at him ; but if a brick got broken, “they would all weep over it.” The tower at length became so high, that a whole year was necessarily spent in carrying a hod of bricks from the bottom to the top. Lot's wife, after she was changed into a pillar of salt, afforded a " sweet morsel” for the oxen
who daily licked it up to the extremities of the feet, and in the morning it would spring forth afresh.” Thus our author's lies proved his ignorance, no less than his falsehood; for a diligent antiquary should have known that the oxen in that neighborhood will not eat salt; and before indulging in the composition of the book of Jasher, it would have been well enough to ascertain, whether the Babylonians burned their bricks, and whether the term Satan was known to the Jews before the exile. Such straws show which way the stream runs. Miracles occur at every turn, like enchantments in the old ro
Monstrous animals appear in the likeness of men and beasts and Kephas, [?] and so refined are they, that they ride on asses. Scorpions and serpents hide from the face of Joseph as he is thrown into the pit; the camels lie down for fear of the Lord, and Rachel's ghost, like the king in Hamlet, speaks out of the ground to her son. The following pleasant adventure is related. Jacob, after the loss of Joseph, sends his sons to catch the wild beast that had devoured his son, that the
“ show cause” why he injured “ so sweet a youth. They bring back a living wolf, which Jacob “ with a bitter heart” addresses, " why didst thou devour my son Joseph, and how didst thou have no fear of the God of the earth ? " &c. Mr. Wolf nothing daunted answers like any Jew, in good set phrase, “ As God liveth who created us in the earth, and as thy soul liveth, I did not see thy son. I came into the field to
Do unto me as it may seem good in thy sight, but by the life of God who created me, I did not see thy son, neither has the flesh of man entered my mouth all the days of my life.”
We pass over many profane and indecent passages, and advise such as will read the book to do the same. On a certain occasion giant Og took up a stone twelve miles in length, designing therewith to crush the whole camp of Israel, but an angel, for angels are plenty as black-berries in the book, — killed the giant himself with this very stone. Judah did once upon a time, shout so loud that “all Egypt quaked at the sound," and the “walls of Egypt to the land of Goshen fell in," and still more, 66 Pharaoh also fell from his throne.”
seek my son,
The art of writing is made coeval with the human race, and we have an original letter from Jacob “ to the powerful and wise king, the revealer of secrets, king of Egypt.” Our author has an exceedingly felicitous knack of avoiding the unities of time and place; now his geography would lead us to the earth ; then it sinks us in the palpable obscure of his own fancy. He relates an event which he says occurred " in the 91st year the life of Abram,” that is, about 1905, B. C., which is the well known rape of the Sabine women by the Romans, B. C. 750. He even makes use of the names Canopia, Tuscanah, the river Tibreu, and the city Sabinah. We thought human impudence could go no farther, but were mistaken ; for turning to the preface, we find an attempt to vindicate this statement, and to show " that it was an event placed in proper chronological order." Turnus, Lucus, Romah, Bartoniah, Franca, the rivers Senah [Seine), Dubnee [Danube], and Tibreu [Tiber], are beautifully appropriate in the mouth of a contemporary of Moses. Still more remarkable is that chronology which makes Moses, Latinus, and Hannibal live in the same age.
This book contains a brief account of the second Punic war, (ch. lxxiv.) and Hannibal's invasion of Italy. The Romans under the name of Chittim often appear in the book. One of the chapters relates events that took place in the 720 year from the Israelites going down into Egypt," which it is plain could not have occurred until after the middle of the sixth century after Christ, for he speaks of the king of Bibentu (Benevento]. Now every body knows that there was no king, or duke, of Benevento, until the Lombards invaded Italy. But to expose his ignorance still more, this author has been left to mention the Lombards by name, and not by their more ancient title Langobardi or Longobardi, but by their more modern appellation Lum. bardi. (ch. x. 15.)
The names of Jania, Niblos, Zepho, Sardunia, (where we suggest to the translator to read in the second syllable a yod instead of vaw,) Abianus, Brittania, and Kernania, (as the translator misreads the Hebrew,) sound very natural in a Jew's mouth 1500 B. C. Still further, the Moorish invasion and conquest of Spain are distinctly set forth in ch. 1.) and referred to the times of Joseph, who himself led these Ishmaelites against the men of Tarshish (Spain). From v. 5, it appears the Moors held possession at the time the book was written. The mention of Sevilia in the “ Printer's preface
" alone would throw suspicion on the book, for it is notorious that this town, - anciently called Hispalis or Hispalia, - did not receive its present title
VOL. XXVIII. — 3D S. VOL. X. NO. III. 50
until after the Moorish conquest, when the Arabic name, Ixbilla, became corrupted by the Castilians to its present form Sevilla. This reference, in v. 5, is perhaps the most certain mark of the author's age, though the obscure, and only conjectural allusion to Louis xi. (ch. Ixxvi. 29, seq.) ought not perhaps to be overlooked. The alleged purity of the Hebrew, however, would place it at an earlier date ; perhaps in the eleventh or twelfth century A. C. It was scarcely necessary to say so much, to prove
spu. riousness and worthlessness of this book, nor should we have written a word, had not some popular periodicals extolled it somewhat highly. It really contains a couple of fine' moral passages, in the ninth and eleventh chapters; but these excepted, we remember nothing in the book worth reading. Sometimes the author or his translator gives us very remarkable etymologies, and the latter now and then indulges us with learned notes, which certainly display a very unusual acquaintance with the Hebrew tongue, that would have made Buxtorf and Gesenius
stare and gasp.” We will not cumber our pages with examples, and bring up the “ terrible Hebrew itself,” but refer our readers to the notes on ch. xi. 4; xiv. 16 ; xlii. 34, and xliv. 18. In ch. lvi. 9,
“ teach thy sons the bow and all weapons of war," and alluding obviously to 2 Sam. i. 18; but there a reference is made to a song called “ The Bow,” though our translators made the same mistake with this author,
but alas, the song nowhere appears
in the book, which ends with the times of Joshua, and yet the translator appeals to this passage as “ going far to prove the authenticity of the book " ! p. xiv.
If we are rightly informed, the first edition of this Book of Jasher in Hebrew, commonly known, was published at Venice, 1625, 4to. Bartolocci (Bibliotheca magna Rabbinica sub voce) mentions an earlier edition, printed at Naples, but he is probably mistaken, for the Venice editor claims to be the first, and the Jewish doctors forbid any other person to issue the book for ten years to come. But Mr. Noah says the edition in his hands was printed at Venice, 1613. The edition of 1625 was reprinted at Cracow, 1628, 4to., at Frankfort, 1706,8vo., and at Amsterdam, 1707. 8vo. It has also been translated, and published in German Jewish, and, if we mistake not, in mere German also. For farther information on this point we will refer our readers to Wolf's Treatise de Scriptis Hebræorum anonymis, with its Supplementa in his Bibliotheca Hebræa, voll. ii. and iii. sub voce; to his treatise de libris in codice Hebræo citatis sed non exstantibus, in his Bibliotheca, and especially to vol. ii. p. 219, seq.,
may be seen the various opinions