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The Talmud
by [?]

The JEWS have their TALMUD; the CATHOLICS their LEGENDS of Saints; and the TURKS their SONNAH. The PROTESTANT has nothing but his BIBLE. The former are three kindred works. Men have imagined that the more there is to be believed, the more are the merits of the believer. Hence all traditionists formed the orthodox and the strongest party. The word of God is lost amidst those heaps of human inventions, sanctioned by an order of men connected with religious duties; they ought now, however, to be regarded rather as CURIOSITIES OF LITERATURE. I give a sufficiently ample account of the TALMUD and the LEGENDS; but of the SONNAH I only know that it is a collection of the traditional opinions of the Turkish prophets, directing the observance of petty superstitions not mentioned in the Koran.

The TALMUD is a collection of Jewish traditions which have been orally preserved. It comprises the MISHNA, which is the text; and the GEMARA, its commentary. The whole forms a complete system of the learning, ceremonies, civil and canon laws of the Jews; treating indeed on all subjects; even gardening, manual arts, etc. The rigid Jews persuaded themselves that these traditional explications are of divine origin. The Pentateuch, say they, was written out by their legislator before his death in thirteen copies, distributed among the twelve tribes, and the remaining one deposited in the ark. The oral law Moses continually taught in the Sanhedrim, to the elders and the rest of the people. The law was repeated four times; but the interpretation was delivered only by word of mouth from generation to generation. In the fortieth year of the flight from Egypt, the memory of the people became treacherous, and Moses was constrained to repeat this oral law, which had been conveyed by successive traditionists. Such is the account of honest David Levi; it is the creed of every rabbin.–David believed in everything but in Jesus.

This history of the Talmud some inclined to suppose apocryphal, even among a few of the Jews themselves. When these traditions first appeared, the keenest controversy has never been able to determine. It cannot be denied that there existed traditions among the Jews in the time of Jesus Christ. About the second century, they were industriously collected by Rabbi Juda the Holy, the prince of the rabbins, who enjoyed the favour of Antoninus Pius. He has the merit of giving some order to this multifarious collection.

It appears that the Talmud was compiled by certain Jewish doctors, who were solicited for this purpose by their nation, that they might have something to oppose to their Christian adversaries.

The learned W. Wotton, in his curious “Discourses” on the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, supplies an analysis of this vast collection; he has translated entire two divisions of this code of traditional laws, with the original text and the notes.

There are two Talmuds: the Jerusalem and the Babylonian. The last is the most esteemed, because it is the most bulky.

R. Juda, the prince of the rabbins, committed to writing all these traditions, and arranged them under six general heads, called orders or classes. The subjects are indeed curious for philosophical inquirers, and multifarious as the events of civil life. Every order is formed of treatises; every treatise is divided into chapters, every chapter into mishnas, which word means mixtures or miscellanies, in the form of aphorisms. In the first part is discussed what relates to seeds, fruits, and trees; in the second, feasts; in the third, women, their duties, their disorders, marriages, divorces, contracts, and nuptials; in the fourth, are treated the damages or losses sustained by beasts or men; of things found; deposits; usuries; rents; farms; partnerships in commerce; inheritance; sales and purchases; oaths; witnesses; arrests; idolatry; and here are named those by whom the oral law was received and preserved. In the fifth part are noticed sacrifices and holy things; and the sixth treats of purifications; vessels; furniture; clothes; houses; leprosy; baths; and numerous other articles. All this forms the MISHNA.