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THE apocryphal books of the Old Testament have been greatly neglected by English divines. No critical commentary in the English language has appeared since that of Richard Arnald (died 1756), first published in London 1744, and for the fourth time (with corrections by Pitman), in 1822, and embodied in the Critical Commentary of Patrick, Lowth, Arnald, Whitby, and Lowman. Since the British and Foreign, and the American Bible Societies have ceased to circulate them, it is even difficult for the ordinary reader to obtain them.
They are, it is true, not equal in authority to the canonical books: they did not belong to the Hebrew canon; they were written after the extinction of prophecy; they are not quoted in the New Testament (the Book of Enoch referred to by Jude is not among the Apocrypha); the most learned among the Christian fathers, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome, excluded them from the canon in its strict sense, although they made frequent use of them; they contain some Jewish superstitions, and furnish the Roman Catholics proof-texts for their doctrines of purgatory, prayers for the dead, and the meritoriousness of good works.
Nevertheless they have very great historical importance: they fill the gap between the Old and New Testaments; they explain the rise of that condition of the Jewish people, their society and religion, in which we find it at the time of Christ and the Apostles; they contain much valuable and useful information. The books of the Maccabees make us acquainted with the heroic period of Jewish history: Ecclesiasticus is almost equal to the Proverbs for its treasures of practical wisdom; Tobit and Judith are among the earliest and most interesting specimens of religious fiction. The Apocrypha are first found in the Greek Version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), from this they passed into the Latin Vulgate, and from this into all the older Protestant versions and editions, though sometimes in smaller type, or with the heading that, while they are useful and edifying reading, they must not be put on a par with the inspired books of the Bible.
It has been deemed timely to issue, as a supplementary volume to Lange's Bible-work (which is confined to the canonical books), a revised version of the Apocrypha, with critical and historical introductions and explanations. Homiletical hints would, of course, be superfluous for Protestant ministers and students.
This work has been intrusted to the Rev. Dr. EDWIN CONE BISSELL, who is well known as the author of a work on "The Historic Origin of the Bible" (New York, 1873), and who has for several years devoted special attention to the Apocrypha, in Germany and in this country. Fritzsche's Greek text (Libri Apocryphi Veteris Testamenti, Lipsiæ, 1871) has been used as the basis, and carefully collated with the Vatican Codex (II.) in the new edition of Cozza, as well as with other important publications.
The author desires to express his very deep sense of obligation to Dr. Eberhard Nestle, of the University of Tübingen, and to Dr. Ezra Abbot, of Cambridge, Mass., for invaluable suggestions and corrections as the work was passing through the press.
Biblical students will welcome this book as an important contribution to exegetical litera
It is not without profound gratitude to God, and to the many friends and patrons, that now, after sixteen years of editorial labor, I take leave of this voluminous Commentary, the success of which in America and England has surpassed my most sanguine expectations.
NEW YORK, June 14, 1880.
Allensons 1/30/63 6y(21
REVIEW OF JEWISH HISTORY IN THE PERSIAN AND GRECIAN PERIODS.
FROM the time of Cyrus and the reëstablishment of the Jews in Palestine to Alexander lies a period of two hundred years. Eventful years in Israelitish history they can scarcely be called when considered apart from the notable event that preceded and shaped them. But in all that relates to the inner development of Judaism there is no period of greater importance. Up to this time the Jews had been simply a people existing under the shadow of other and more powerful peoples on their borders. They came back from the exile in Babylon to develop, and, as it were, become a religious system, a system so original, so universal and indestructible in its nature, that political revolutions and dynastic changes could have but little effect upon it. Political freedom had disappeared; but so, too, had idolatry and the traditional love for it. Tribal relations had fallen into confusion, but the controlling idea that underlay all Israelitish institutions was still safe. It was felt that Judaism was more than Judah, and the commonwealth than the nation. The conception of a world religion gradually took possession of the mind, and proselytism came to be included within the circle of the higher duties. Prophecy ceased; prayer, however, public and private, assumed on every hand a new importance. Beside the formal ceremonies of the temple sprang up the simpler and more spiritual worship of the synagogues. Inward conflicts, moreover, and outward oppression did for the Israel of this period what it did for the Israel of a later day, fixed needed attention on the written "oracles of God." A new office arose, unknown before the captivity, and the scribe became the equal of the priest. Above all, repeated disappointments in outward material things on which the heart had too exclusively fastened revealed a deeper need, awakened a spiritual apprehension such as no prophet's appeal had been able to do. Faith was recognized as something more than bare belief. The veil was drawn from the unseen world, and Jacob's vision became a reality in the experiences of men. But the false and the exaggerated were not always distinguished from the true. The wisest and best in Israel did not always avoid dangerous and wicked extremes. From this very period fanaticism has some of its worst examples, and the noble word "hierarchy" is stamped with its evil other sense. Still all had an evident purpose. Parallel instances are not wanting in history where something simply strong has seemed to be the almost sole resultant of the mightiest moral forces, but it has later proved to be the welcome strength of the iron casket that carries a precious jewel safely within it.
It is no longer in dispute that the Cyrus of profane history and of the Old Testament are identical.1 That Greek historians did not know of the intimacy of the relations which sprang up between the great conqueror and the Israelitish people, or, know- the Jews to ing it, that they did not appreciate its real character, should not surprise us. And, Cyrus. on the other hand, admitting the reality of these relations, and estimating them at their full worth, it ought not to prevent us from acknowledging that Cyrus may also have had weighty political reasons for what he did. When, after the capture of Sardis, the Greek cities of Asia Minor unitedly made to him offers of allegiance, he refused the tender with one exception. The submission of Miletus, the strongest and most influential of these cities, he accepted; that of the others he preferred to enforce by the might and terror of his arms. The 1 See Studien u. Krit., 1853, pp. 624-700.
policy clearly was to
divide and conquer.' And it may also be safely assumed that political motives were not wanting in his peculiarly friendly treatment of the Jews. We know that, for many years, the conquest of Egypt had formed a part of his gigantic plans. 2 Could he have acted more wisely than in binding to himself and his throne, through generous treatment, the land that lay between it and his own dominions? Others choose to say that, in this act of apparent clemency, Cyrus was simply true to himself, since it was a principle with him not to carry the subjection of conquered provinces to the point of extinguishing their nationality. Hence, regarding the wholesale deportation of the Jews from Palestine by Nebuchadnezzar as a political mistake, he did his best to repair the injury: removed at once this foreign element from Babylon, and won thereby the lasting gratitude of the liberated people.
Be this as it may, it is clear that the simple fact of a generous deliverance and restoration to their homes was by no means the only event that served to awaken the thankfulness of the Jews, and nourish in them a warm attachment toward the Persian king. The same providential blow that struck off their fetters had also given a fatal wound to that vast system of idolatry which, for two thousand years, had been incorporated with the highest forms of Semitic civilization, and been the mightiest antagonistic and corrupting influence of the world to prevent the spread of a pure religion. From Baal to Ormuzd was a real step in advance, and Cyrus was its immediate promoter. If he had no special sympathy with the details of the Jewish faith, still he was the champion and foremost representative of the great monotheistic idea underlying and governing it. One has but to examine the picture that is given of him in Isaiah and Daniel to learn how fully this championship was realized, and how tenderly it was cherished by his Jewish wards.4
In his personal character, moreover, Cyrus was not without noble qualities. His immense power he generally wielded with discretion. He was not upset by the suddenness sonal char- of his elevation. Surrounded with all the splendors of an oriental court, he preserved, to a good extent, his previous simplicity of mind and manners. He was mild and generous in his treatment of the conquered. His personal ambition never led him to forget or ignore the interests of his people, or the religion of his fathers. He enjoyed more than the admiration of his subjects, -- their affection. It is a fact full of suggestion that they were wont to make his countenance the very type of perfect physical beauty. his domestic relations he was a model of abstemiousness in a corrupt age. Along with exhausting military duties and a restless spirit of conquest, he knew how to value and encourage the amenities of art. But suddenly, in the midst of vast, unexecuted plans which embraced a world-wide empire, he was wounded in battle, and died soon after, in the twenty ninth year of his reign (B. C. 529).
The elder of his two sons, Cambyses, succeeded him. Cyrus had also made arrangements in his will that the younger son, Smerdis, should have a subordinate share Cambyses. in the government. The good intention, however, was defeated through the jealousy of Cambyses, who had the latter privately put to death. In fact, the deed was of so private a nature that it naturally furnished occasion, not long after, for the rise of a pseudoSmerdis, who impersonated the murdered brother, and introduced serious complications into the affairs of the empire. In the mean time, Cambyses determined on carrying out the uncompleted military conquests of his father. Four years were spent in maturing his plans and collecting the necessary forces for a descent upon Egypt. During this period self-interest, if there had been no other motive, would have led him to cherish the friendship of the late captive Israelites.
His expedition against
The long-planned expedition, as far as simple subjugation was meditated, was in the end successful. But embittered by unlooked for resistance and revolt which had sprung up during his temporary absence, Cambyses laid aside his earlier conciliaEgypt. tory policy, and enforced submission by the harshest measures. Inasmuch as the priests had been the chief promoters of the new rebellion, he expended upon them and the national religion the utmost violence of his fury and contempt. Their god Apis he ruthlessly stabbed, and publicly scourged its honored priests; forced his way into places held sacred, opened the receptacles of the dead, and gave to the flames the most revered and in1 Rawlinson, Ancient Mon., iii. 378.
2 Herod., i. 153.
8 Fritzsche in Schenkel's Bib. Lex.. Art. "Cyrus " 4 Is. xliv. 28; xlv. 183; xlvi. 1; xlviii. 14; Dan. v. 28, 30; vi. 5 See, for instance, his alleged conversation with Croesus, Herod., i. 87-90.
6 Rawlinson, Ancient Mon., iii. 389.