You order me to draw you a faithful picture of the spirit of the Jews, and of their history, and — without entering into the ineffable ways of Providence, which are not our ways — you seek in the manners of this people the source of the events which that Providence prepared.
It is certain that the Jewish nation is the most singular that the world has ever seen; and although, in a political view, the most contemptible of all, yet in the eyes of a philosopher, it is, on various accounts, worthy consideration.
The Guebers, the Banians, and the Jews, are the only nations which exist dispersed, having no alliance with any people, are perpetuated among foreign nations, and continue apart from the rest of the world.
The Guebers were once infinitely more considerable than the Jews, for they are castes of the Persians, who had the Jews under their dominion; but they are now scattered over but one part of the East.
The Banians, who are descended from the ancient people among whom Pythagoras acquired his philosophy, exist only in India and Persia; but the Jews are dispersed over the whole face of the earth, and if they were assembled, would compose a nation much more numerous than it ever was in the short time that they were masters of Palestine. Almost every people who have written the history of their origin, have chosen to set it off by prodigies; with them all has been miracle; their oracles have predicted nothing but conquest; and such of them as have really become conquerors have had no difficulty in believing these ancient oracles which were verified by the event. The Jews are distinguished among the nations by this — that their oracles are the only true ones, of which we are not permitted to doubt. These oracles, which they understand only in the literal sense, have a hundred times foretold to them that they should be masters of the world; yet they have never possessed anything more than a small corner of land, and that only for a small number of years, and they have not now so much as a village of their own. They must, then, believe, and they do believe, that their predictions will one day be fulfilled, and that they shall have the empire of the earth.
Among the Mussulmans and the Christians they are the lowest of all nations, but they think themselves the highest. This pride in their abasement is justified by an unanswerable reason — viz., that they are in reality the fathers of both Christians and Mussulmans. The Christian and the Mussulman religion acknowledge the Jewish as their parent; and, by a singular contradiction, they at once hold this parent in reverence and in abhorrence.
It were foreign to our present purpose to repeat that continued succession of prodigies which astonishes the imagination and exercises the faith. We have here to do only with events purely historical, wholly apart from the divine concurrence and the miracles which God, for so long a time, vouchsafed to work in this people’s favor.
First, we find in Egypt a family of seventy persons producing, at the end of two hundred and fifteen years, a nation counting six hundred thousand fighting men; which makes, with the women, the children and the old men, upward of two millions of souls. There is no example upon earth of so prodigious an increase of population; this people, having come out of Egypt, stayed forty years in the deserts of Stony Arabia, and in that frightful country the people much diminished.
What remained of this nation advanced a little northward in those deserts. It appears that they had the same principles which the tribes of Stony and Desert Arabia have since had, of butchering without mercy the inhabitants of little towns over whom they had the advantage, and reserving only the young women. The interests of population have ever been the principal object of both. We find that when the Arabs had conquered Spain, they imposed tributes of marriageable girls; and at this day the Arabs of the desert make no treaty without stipulating for some girls and a few presents.
The Jews arrived in a sandy, mountainous country, where there were a few towns, inhabited by a little people called the Midianites. In one Midianite camp, alone, they took six hundred and seventy-five thousand sheep, seventy-two thousand oxen, sixty-one thousand asses, and thirty-two thousand virgins. All the men, all the wives, and all the male children, were massacred; the girls and the booty were divided between the people and the sacrificers.
They then took, in the same country, the town of Jericho; but having devoted the inhabitants of that place to the anathema, they massacred them all, including the virgins, pardoning none but Rahab, a courtesan, who had aided them in surprising the town.
The learned have agitated the question whether the Jews, like so many other nations, really sacrificed men to the Divinity. This is a dispute on words; those whom the people consecrated to the anathema were not put to death on an altar, with religious rites; but they were not the less immolated, without its being permitted to pardon any one of them. Leviticus (xxvii., 29) expressly forbids the redeeming of those who shall have been devoted. Its words are, “They shall surely be put to death.” By virtue of this law it was that Jephthah devoted and killed his daughter, that Saul would have killed his son, and that the prophet Samuel cut in pieces King Agag, Saul’s prisoner. It is quite certain that God is the master of the lives of men, and that it is not for us to examine His laws. We ought to limit ourselves to believing these things, and reverencing in silence the designs of God, who permitted them.
It is also asked what right had strangers like the Jews to the land of Canaan? The answer is, that they had what God gave them.
No sooner had they taken Jericho and Lais than they had a civil war among themselves, in which the tribe of Benjamin was almost wholly exterminated — men, women, and children; leaving only six hundred males. The people, unwilling that one of the tribes should be annihilated, bethought themselves of sacking the whole city of the tribe of Manasseh, killing all the men, old and young, all the children, all the married women, all the widows, and taking six hundred virgins, whom they gave to the six hundred survivors of the tribe of Benjamin, to restore that tribe, in order that the number of their twelve tribes might still be complete.
Meanwhile, the Phœnicians, a powerful people settled in the coasts from time immemorial, being alarmed at the depredations and cruelties of these newcomers, frequently chastised them; the neighboring princes united against them; and they were seven times reduced to slavery, for more than two hundred years.
At last they made themselves a king, whom they elected by lot. This king could not be very mighty; for in the first battle which the Jews fought under him, against their masters, the Philistines, they had, in the whole army, but one sword and one lance, and not one weapon of steel. But David, their second king, made war with advantage. He took the city of Salem, afterwards so celebrated under the name of Jerusalem, and then the Jews began to make some figure on the borders of Syria. Their government and their religion took a more august form. Hitherto they had not the means of raising a temple, though every neighboring nation had one or more. Solomon built a superb one, and reigned over this people about forty years.
Not only were the days of Solomon the most flourishing days of the Jews, but all the kings upon earth could not exhibit a treasure approaching Solomon’s. His father, David, whose predecessor had not even iron, left to Solomon twenty-five thousand six hundred and forty-eight millions of French livres in ready money. His fleets, which went to Ophir, brought him sixty-eight millions per annum in pure gold, without reckoning the silver and jewels. He had forty thousand stables, and the same number of coach-houses, twelve thousand stables for his cavalry, seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines. Yet he had neither wood nor workmen for building his palace and the temple; he borrowed them of Hiram, king of Tyre, who also furnished gold; and Solomon gave Hiram twenty towns in payment. The commentators have acknowledged that these things need explanation, and have suspected some literal error in the copyist, who alone can have been mistaken.
On the death of Solomon, a division took place among the twelve tribes composing the nation. The kingdom was torn asunder, and separated into two small provinces, one of which was called Judah, the other Israel — nine tribes and a half composing the Israelitish province, and only two and a half that of Judah. Then there was between these two small peoples a hatred, the more implacable as they were kinsmen and neighbors, and as they had different religions; for at Sichem and at Samaria they worshipped “Baal” — giving to God a Sidonian name; while at Jerusalem they worshipped “Adonai.” At Sichem were consecrated two calves; at Jerusalem, two cherubim — which were two winged animals with double heads, placed in the sanctuary. So, each faction having its kings, its gods, its worship, and its prophets, they made a bloody war upon each other.
While this war was carried on, the kings of Assyria, who conquered the greater part of Asia, fell upon the Jews; as an eagle pounces upon two lizards while they are fighting. The nine and a half tribes of Samaria and Sichem were carried off and dispersed forever; nor has it been precisely known to what places they were led into slavery.
It is but twenty leagues from the town of Samaria to Jerusalem, and their territories joined each other; so that when one of these towns was enslaved by powerful conquerors, the other could not long hold out. Jerusalem was sacked several times; it was tributary to kings Hazael and Razin, enslaved under Tiglath-Pileser, three times taken by Nebuchodonosor, or Nebuchadnezzar, and at last destroyed. Zedekiah, who had been set up as king or governor by this conqueror, was led, with his whole people, into captivity in Babylonia; so that the only Jews left in Palestine were a few enslaved peasants, to sow the ground.
As for the little country of Samaria and Sichem, more fertile than that of Jerusalem, it was re-peopled by foreign colonies, sent there by Assyrian kings, who took the name of Samaritans.
The two and a half tribes that were slaves in Babylonia and the neighboring towns for seventy years, had time to adopt the usages of their masters, and enriched their own tongue by mixing with it the Chaldæan; this is incontestable. The historian Josephus tells us that he wrote first in Chaldæan, which is the language of his country. It appears that the Jews acquired but little of the science of the Magi; they turned brokers, money-changers, and old-clothes men; by which they made themselves necessary, as they still do, and grew rich.
Their gains enabled them to obtain, under Cyrus, the liberty of rebuilding Jerusalem; but when they were to return into their own country, those who had grown rich at Babylon, would not quit so fine a country for the mountains of Cœlesyria, nor the fruitful banks of the Euphrates and the Tigris, for the torrent of Kedron. Only the meanest part of the nation returned with Zorobabel. The Jews of Babylon contributed only their alms to the rebuilding of the city and the temple; nor was the collection a large one; for Esdras relates that no more than seventy thousand crowns could be raised for the erection of this temple, which was to be that of all the earth.
The Jews still remained subject to the Persians; they were likewise subject to Alexander; and when that great man, the most excusable of all conquerors, had, in the early years of his victorious career, begun to raise Alexandria, and make it the centre of the commerce of the world, the Jews flocked there to exercise their trade of brokers; and there it was that their rabbis at length learned something of the sciences of the Greeks. The Greek tongue became absolutely necessary to all trading Jews.
After Alexander’s death, this people continued subject in Jerusalem to the kings of Syria, and in Alexandria to the kings of Egypt; and when these kings were at war, this people always shared the fate of their subjects, and belonged to the conqueror.
From the time of their captivity at Babylon, the Jews never had particular governors taking the title of king. The pontiffs had the internal administration, and these pontiffs were appointed by their masters; they sometimes paid very high for this dignity, as the Greek patriarch at Constantinople pays for his at present.
Under Antiochus Epiphanes they revolted; the city was once more pillaged, and the walls demolished. After a succession of similar disasters, they at length obtained, for the first time, about a hundred and fifty years before the Christian era, permission to coin money, which permission was granted them by Antiochus Sidetes. They then had chiefs, who took the name of kings, and even wore a diadem. Antigonus was the first who was decorated with this ornament, which, without the power, confers but little honor.
At that time the Romans were beginning to become formidable to the kings of Syria, masters of the Jews; and the latter gained over the Roman senate by presents and acts of submission. It seemed that the wars in Asia Minor would, for a time at least, give some relief to this unfortunate people; but Jerusalem no sooner enjoyed some shadow of liberty than it was torn by civil wars, which rendered its condition under its phantoms of kings much more pitiable than it had ever been in so long and various a succession of bondages.
In their intestine troubles, they made the Romans their judges. Already most of the kingdoms of Asia Minor, Southern Africa, and three-fourths of Europe, acknowledged the Romans as their arbiters and masters.
Pompey came into Syria to judge the nation and to depose several petty tyrants. Being deceived by Aristobulus, who disputed the royalty of Jerusalem, he avenged himself upon him and his party. He took the city; had some of the seditious, either priests or Pharisees, crucified; and not long after, condemned Aristobulus, king of the Jews, to execution.
The Jews, ever unfortunate, ever enslaved, and ever revolting, again brought upon them the Roman arms. Crassus and Cassius punished them; and Metellus Scipio had a son of King Aristobulus, named Alexander, the author of all the troubles, crucified.
Under the great Cæsar, they were entirely subject and peaceable. Herod, famed among them and among us, for a long time was merely tetrarch, but obtained from Antony the crown of Judæa, for which he paid dearly; but Jerusalem would not recognize this new king, because he was descended from Esau, and not from Jacob, and was merely an Idumæan. The very circumstance of his being a foreigner caused him to be chosen by the Romans, the better to keep this people in check. The Romans protected the king of their nomination with an army; and Jerusalem was again taken by assault, sacked, and pillaged.
Herod, afterwards protected by Augustus, became one of the most powerful sovereigns among the petty kings of Arabia. He restored Jerusalem, repaired the fortifications that surrounded the temple, so dear to the Jews, and rebuilt the temple itself; but he could not finish it, for he wanted money and workmen. This proves that, after all, Herod was not rich; and the Jews, though fond of their temple, were still fonder of their money.
The name of king was nothing more than a favor granted by the Romans; it was not a title of succession. Soon after Herod’s death, Judæa was governed as a subordinate Roman province, by the proconsul of Syria, although from time to time the title of king was granted, sometimes to one Jew, sometimes to another, for a considerable sum of money, as under the emperor Claudius, when it was granted to the Jew Agrippa.
A daughter of Agrippa was that Berenice, celebrated for having been beloved by one of the best emperors Rome can boast. She it was who, by the injustice she experienced from her countrymen, drew down the vengeance of the Romans upon Jerusalem. She asked for justice, and the factions of the town refused it. The seditious spirit of the people impelled them to fresh excesses. Their character at all times was to be cruel; and their fate, to be punished.
This memorable siege, which ended in the destruction of the city, was carried on by Vespasian and Titus. The exaggerating Josephus pretends that in this short war more than a million of Jews were slaughtered. It is not to be wondered at that an author who puts fifteen thousand men in each village should slay a million. What remained were exposed in the public markets; and each Jew was sold at about the same price as the unclean animal of which they dare not eat.
In this last dispersion they again hoped for a deliverer; and under Adrian, whom they curse in their prayers, there arose one Barcochebas, who called himself a second Moses — a Shiloh — a Christ. Having assembled many of these wretched people under his banners, which they believed to be sacred, he perished with all his followers. It was the last struggle of this nation, which has never lifted its head again. Its constant opinion, that barrenness is a reproach, has preserved it; the Jews have ever considered as their two first duties, to get money and children.
From this short summary it results that the Hebrews have ever been vagrants, or robbers, or slaves, or seditious. They are still vagabonds upon the earth, and abhorred by men, yet affirming that heaven and earth and all mankind were created for them alone.
It is evident, from the situation of Judæa, and the genius of this people, that they could not but be continually subjugated. It was surrounded by powerful and warlike nations, for which it had an aversion; so that it could neither be in alliance with them, nor protected by them. It was impossible for it to maintain itself by its marine; for it soon lost the port which in Solomon’s time it had on the Red Sea; and Solomon himself always employed Tyrians to build and to steer his vessels, as well as to erect his palace and his temple. It is then manifest that the Hebrews had neither trade nor manufactures, and that they could not compose a flourishing people. They never had an army always ready for the field, like the Assyrians, the Medes, the Persians, the Syrians, and the Romans. The laborers and artisans took up arms only as occasion required, and consequently could not form well-disciplined troops. Their mountains, or rather their rocks, are neither high enough, nor sufficiently contiguous, to have afforded an effectual barrier against invasion. The most numerous part of the nation, transported to Babylon, Persia, and to India, or settled in Alexandria, were too much occupied with their traffic and their brokerage to think of war. Their civil government, sometimes republican, sometimes pontifical, sometimes monarchial, and very often reduced to anarchy, seems to have been no better than their military discipline.
You ask, what was the philosophy of the Hebrews? The answer will be a very short one — they had none. Their legislator himself does not anywhere speak expressly of the immortality of the soul, nor of the rewards of another life. Josephus and Philo believe the soul to be material; their doctors admitted corporeal angels; and when they sojourned at Babylon, they gave to these angels the names given them by the Chaldæans — Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel. The name of Satan is Babylonian, and is in somewise the Arimanes of Zoroaster. The name of Asmodeus also is Chaldæan; and Tobit, who lived in Nineveh, is the first who employed it. The dogma of the immortality of the soul was developed only in the course of ages, and among the Pharisees. The Sadducees always denied this spirituality, this immortality, and the existence of the angels. Nevertheless, the Sadducees communicated uninterruptedly with the Pharisees, and had even sovereign pontiffs of their own sect. The prodigious difference in opinion between these two great bodies did not cause any disturbance. The Jews, in the latter times of their sojourn at Jerusalem, were scrupulously attached to nothing but the ceremonials of their law. The man who had eaten pudding or rabbit would have been stoned; while he who denied the immortality of the soul might be high-priest.
It is commonly said that the abhorrence in which the Jews held other nations proceeded from their horror of idolatry; but it is much more likely that the manner in which they at the first exterminated some of the tribes of Canaan, and the hatred which the neighboring nations conceived for them, were the cause of this invincible aversion. As they knew no nations but their neighbors, they thought that in abhorring them they detested the whole earth, and thus accustomed themselves to be the enemies of all men.
One proof that this hatred was not caused by the idolatry of the nations is that we find in the history of the Jews that they were very often idolaters. Solomon himself sacrificed to strange gods. After him, we find scarcely any king in the little province of Judah that does not permit the worship of these gods and offer them incense. The province of Israel kept its two calves and its sacred groves, or adored other divinities.
This idolatry, with which so many nations are reproached, is a subject on which but little light has been thrown. Perhaps it would not be difficult to efface this stain upon the theology of the ancients. All polished nations had the knowledge of a supreme God, the master of the inferior gods and of men. The Egyptians themselves recognized a first principle, which they called Knef, and to which all beside was subordinate. The ancient Persians adored the good principle, named Orosmanes; and were very far from sacrificing to the bad principle, Arimanes, whom they regarded nearly as we regard the devil. Even to this day, the Guebers have retained the sacred dogma of the unity of God. The ancient Brahmins acknowledged one only Supreme Being; the Chinese associated no inferior being with the Divinity, nor had any idol until the times when the populace were led astray by the worship of Fo, and the superstitions of the bonzes. The Greeks and the Romans, notwithstanding the multitude of their gods, acknowledged in Jupiter the absolute sovereign of heaven and earth. Homer, himself in the most absurd poetical fictions, has never lost sight of this truth. He constantly represents Jupiter as the only Almighty, sending good and evil upon earth, and, with a motion of his brow, striking gods and men with awe. Altars were raised, and sacrifices offered to inferior gods, dependent on the one supreme. There is not a single monument of antiquity in which the title of sovereign of heaven is given to any secondary deity — to Mercury, to Apollo, to Mars. The thunderbolt was ever the attribute of the master of all, and of him only.
The idea of a sovereign being, of his providence, of his eternal decrees, is to be found among all philosophers and all poets. In short, it is perhaps as unjust to think that the ancients equalled the heroes, the genii, the inferior gods, to him whom they called “the father and master of the gods,” as it would be ridiculous to imagine that we associate with God the blessed and the angels.
You then ask whether the ancient philosophers and law-givers borrowed from the Jews, or the Jews from them? We must refer the question to Philo; he owns that before the translation of the Septuagint the books of his nation were unknown to strangers. A great people cannot have received their laws and their knowledge from a little people, obscure and enslaved. In the time of Osias, indeed, the Jews had no books; in his reign was accidentally found the only copy of the law then in existence. This people, after their captivity at Babylon, had no other alphabet than the Chaldæan; they were not famed for any art, any manufacture whatsoever; and even in the time of Solomon they were obliged to pay dear for foreign artisans. To say that the Egyptians, the Persians, the Greeks, were instructed by the Jews, were to say that the Romans learned the arts from the people of Brittany. The Jews never were natural philosophers, nor geometricians, nor astronomers. So far were they from having public schools for the instruction of youth, that they had not even a term in their language to express such an institution. The people of Peru and Mexico measured their year much better than the Jews. Their stay in Babylon and in Alexandria, during which individuals might instruct themselves, formed the people to no art save that of usury. They never knew how to stamp money; and when Antiochus Sidetes permitted them to have a coinage of their own, they were almost incapable of profiting by this permission for four or five years; indeed, this coin is said to have been struck at Samaria. Hence, it is, that Jewish medals are so rare, and nearly all false. In short, we find in them only an ignorant and barbarous people, who have long united the most sordid avarice with the most detestable superstition and the most invincible hatred for every people by whom they are tolerated and enriched. Still, we ought not to burn them.
Their law must appear, to every polished people, as singular as their conduct; if it were not divine, it would seem to be the law of savages beginning to assemble themselves into a nation; and being divine, one cannot understand how it is that it has not existed from all ages, for them, and for all men.
But it is more strange than all that the immortality of the soul is not even intimated in this law, entitled “Vaicrah and Addebarim,” Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
In this law it is forbidden to eat eels, because they have no scales; and hares, because they chew the cud, and have cloven feet. Apparently, the Jews had hares different from ours. The griffin is unclean, and four-footed birds are unclean, which animals are somewhat rare. Whoever touches a mouse, or a mole is unclean. The women are forbidden to lie with horses or asses. The Jewish women must have been subject to this sort of gallantry. The men are forbidden to offer up their seed to Moloch; and here the term seed is not metaphorical. It seems that it was customary, in the deserts of Arabia, to offer up this singular present to the gods; as it is said to be usual in Cochin and some other countries of India, for the girls to yield their virginity to an iron Priapus in a temple. These two ceremonies prove that mankind is capable of everything. The Kaffirs, who deprive themselves of one testicle, are a still more ridiculous example of the extravagance of superstition.
Another law of the Jews, equally strange, is their proof of adultery. A woman accused by her husband must be presented to the priests, and she is made to drink of the waters of jealousy, mixed with wormwood and dust. If she is innocent, the water makes her more beautiful; if she is guilty, her eyes start from her head, her belly swells, and she bursts before the Lord.
We shall not here enter into the details of all these sacrifices, which were nothing more than the operations of ceremonial butchers; but it of great importance to remark another kind of sacrifice too common in those barbarous times. It is expressly ordered, in the twenty-seventh chapter of Leviticus, that all men, vowed in anathema to the Lord, be immolated; they “shall surely be put to death”; such are the words of the text. Here is the origin of the story of Jephthah, whether his daughter was really immolated, or the story was copied from that of Iphigenia. Here, too, is the source of the vow made by Saul, who would have immolated his son, but that the army, less superstitious than himself, saved the innocent young man’s life.
It is then but too true that the Jews, according to their law, sacrificed human victims. This act of religion is in accordance with their manners; their own books represent them as slaughtering without mercy all that came in their way, reserving only the virgins for their use.
It would be very difficult — and should be very unimportant — to know at what time these laws were digested into the form in which we now have them. That they are of very high antiquity is enough to inform us how gross and ferocious the manners of that antiquity were.
It has been pretended that the dispersion of this people had been foretold, as a punishment for their refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah; the asserters affecting to forget that they had been dispersed throughout the known world long before Jesus Christ. The books that are left us of this singular nation make no mention of a return of the twelve tribes transported beyond the Euphrates by Tiglath-Pileser and his successor Shalmaneser; and it was six hundred years after, that Cyrus sent back to Jerusalem the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which Nebuchodonosor had brought away into the provinces of his empire. The Acts of the Apostles certify that fifty-three days after the death of Jesus Christ, there were Jews from every nation under heaven assembled for the feast of Pentecost. St. James writes to the twelve dispersed tribes; and Josephus and Philo speak of the Jews as very numerous throughout the East.
It is true that, considering the carnage that was made of them under some of the Roman emperors, and the slaughter of them so often repeated in every Christian state, one is astonished that this people not only still exists, but is at this day no less numerous than it was formerly. Their numbers must be attributed to their exemption from bearing arms, their ardor for marriage, their custom of contracting it in their families early, their law of divorce, their sober and regular way of life, their abstinence, their toil, and their exercise.
Their firm attachment to the Mosaic law is no less remarkable, especially when we consider their frequent apostasies when they lived under the government of their kings and their judges; and Judaism is now, of all the religions in the world, the one most rarely abjured — which is partly the fruit of the persecutions it has suffered. Its followers, perpetual martyrs to their creed, have regarded themselves with progressively increasing confidence, as the fountain of all sanctity; looking upon us as no other than rebellious Jews, who have abjured the law of God, and put to death or torture those who received it from His hand.
Indeed, if while Jerusalem and its temple existed, the Jews were sometimes driven from their country by the vicissitudes of empires, they have still more frequently been expelled through a blind zeal from every country in which they have dwelt since the progress of Christianity and Mahometanism. They themselves compare their religion to a mother, upon whom her two daughters, the Christian and the Mahometan, have inflicted a thousand wounds. But, how ill soever she has been treated by them, she still glories in having given them birth. She makes use of them both to embrace the whole world, while her own venerable age embraces all time.
It is singular that the Christians pretend to have accomplished the prophecies by tyrannizing over the Jews, by whom they were transmitted. We have already seen how the Inquisition banished the Jews from Spain. Obliged to wander from land to land, from sea to sea, to gain a livelihood; everywhere declared incapable of possessing any landed property, or holding any office, they have been obliged to disperse, and roam from place to place, unable to establish themselves permanently in any country, for want of support, of power to maintain their ground, and of knowledge in the art of war. Trade, a profession long despised by most of the nations of Europe, was, in those barbarous ages, their only resource; and as they necessarily grew rich by it, they were treated as infamous usurers. Kings who could not ransack the purses of their subjects, put the Jews, whom they regarded not as citizens, to torture.
What was done to them in England may give some idea of what they experienced in other countries. King John, being in want of money, had the rich Jews in his kingdom imprisoned. One of them, having had seven of his teeth drawn one after another, to obtain his property, gave, on losing the eighth, a thousand marks of silver. Henry III. extorted from Aaron, a Jew of York, fourteen thousand marks of silver, and ten thousand for his queen. He sold the rest of the Jews of his country to his brother Richard, for the term of one year, in order, says Matthew Paris, that this count might disembowel those whom his brother had flayed.
In France they were put in prison, plundered, sold, accused of magic, of sacrificing children, of poisoning the fountains. They were driven out of the kingdom; they were suffered to return for money; and even while they were tolerated, they were distinguished from the rest of the inhabitants by marks of infamy. And, by an inconceivable whimsicality, while in other countries the Jews were burned to make them embrace Christianity, in France the property of such as became Christians was confiscated. Charles IV., by an edict given at Basville, April 4, 1392, abrogated this tyrannical custom, which, according to the Benedictine Mabillon, had been introduced for two reasons:
First, to try the faith of these new converts, as it was but too common for those of this nation to feign submission to the gospel for some personal interest, without internally changing their belief.
Secondly, because as they had derived their wealth chiefly from usury, the purity of Christian morals appeared to require them to make a general restitution, which was effected by confiscation.
But the true reason of this custom, which the author of the “Spirit of Laws” has so well developed, was a sort of “droit d’amortissement” — a redemption for the sovereign, or the seigneurs, of the taxes which they levied on the Jews, as mortmainable serfs, whom they succeeded; for they were deprived of this benefit when the latter were converted to the Christian faith.
At length, being incessantly proscribed in every country, they ingeniously found the means of saving their fortunes and making their retreats forever secure. Being driven from France under Philip the Long, in 1318, they took refuge in Lombardy; there they gave to the merchants bills of exchange on those to whom they had entrusted their effects at their departure, and these were discharged.
The admirable invention of bills of exchange sprang from the extremity of despair; and then, and not until then, commerce was enabled to elude the efforts of violence, and to maintain itself throughout the world.
When, forty-four years ago, your countryman Medina became a bankrupt in London, being twenty thousand francs in my debt, he told me that “it was not his fault; that he was unfortunate”; that “he had never been one of the children of Belial”; that “he had always endeavored to live as a son of God”— that is, as an honest man, a good Israelite. I was affected; I embraced him; we joined in the praise of God; and I lost eighty per cent.
You ought to know that I never hated your nation; I hate no one; not even Fréron.
Far from hating, I have always pitied you. If, like my protector, good Pope Lambertini, I have sometimes bantered a little, I am not therefore the less sensitive. I wept, at the age of sixteen, when I was told that a mother and her daughter had been burned at Lisbon for having eaten, standing, a little lamb, cooked with lettuce, on the fourteenth day of the red moon; and I can assure you that the extreme beauty that this girl was reported to have possessed, had no share in calling forth my tears, although it must have increased the spectators’ horror for the assassins, and their pity for the victim.
I know not how it entered my head to write an epic poem at the age of twenty. (Do you know what an epic poem is? For my part I knew nothing of the matter.) The legislator Montesquieu had not yet written his “Persian Letters,” which you reproach me with having commented on; but I had already of myself said, speaking of a monster well known to your ancestors, and which even now is not without devotees:
Il vient; le fanatisme est son horrible nom;
Enfant dénaturé de la religion;
Armé pour la défendre, il cherche à la détruire,
Et reçu dans son sein, l’embrasse et le déchire,
C’est lui qui dans Raba, sur les bords de l’Arnon
Guidait les descendans du malheureux Ammon,
Quand à Moloch leur dieu des mères gémissantes
Offraient de leurs enfans les entrailles fumantes.
Il dicta de Jephté le serment inhumain;
Dans le cœur de sa fille il conduisait sa main.
C’est lui qui, de Calchas ouvrant la bouche impie
Demanda par sa voix la mort d’Iphigénie.
France, dans tes forêts il habita long-temps,
À l’affreux Tentatès il offrit ton encens.
Tu n’a point oublié ces sacres homicides,
Qu’ à tes indignes dieux présentaient tes druides.
Du haut du capitole il criait aux Païens.
“Frappez, exterminez, déchirez les chrétiens.”
Mais lorsqu’au fils de Dieu Rome enfin fut soumise,
Du capitole en cendre il passa dans l’Église;
Et dans les cœurs chrétiens inspirant ses fureurs,
De martyrs qu’ils étaient les fit persécuteurs.
Dans Londres il a formé la secte turbulente
Qui sur un roi trop faible a mis sa main sanglante;
Dans Madrid, dans Lisbonne, il allume ces feux,
Ces buchers solennels où des Juifs malheureux
Sont tous les ans en pompe envoyés par des prêtres,
Pour n’avoir point quitté la foi de leurs ancêtres.
He comes; the fiend Fanaticism comes —
Religion’s horrid and unnatural child —
Armed to defend her, arming to destroy —
Tearing her bosom in his feigned embrace.
’Twas he who guided Ammon’s wretched race
On Arnon’s banks, where mothers offered up
Their children’s mangled limbs on Moloch’s altars.
’Twas he who prompted Jephthah’s barbarous oath,
And aimed the poniard at his daughter’s heart.
’Twas he who spoke, when Calchas’ impious tongue
Called for the blameless Iphigenia’s death.
France, he long revelled in thy forest shades,
Offering thy incense to the grim Tentates,
Whetting the savage Druid’s murderous knife
To sate his worthless gods with human gore.
He, from the Capitol, stirred Pagan hearts
To exterminate Christ’s followers; and he,
When Rome herself had bowed to Christian truth,
Quitted the Capitol to rule the church —
To reign supreme in every Christian soul,
And make the Pagans martyrs in their turn.
His were in England the fierce sect who laid
Their bloody hands on a too feeble king.
His are Madrid’s and Lisbon’s horrid fires,
The yearly portion of unhappy Jews,
By priestly judges doomed to temporal flames
For thinking their forefathers’ faith the best.
You clearly see, then, that even so long ago I was your servant, your friend, your brother; although my father and mother had preserved to me my foreskin.
I am aware that virility, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, has caused very fatal quarrels. I know what it cost Priam’s son Paris, and Agamemnon’s brother Menelaus. I have read enough of your books to know that Hamor’s son Sichem ravished Leah’s daughter Dinah, who at most was not more than five years old, but was very forward for her age. He wanted to make her his wife; and Jacob’s sons, brothers of the violated damsel, gave her to him in marriage on condition that he and all his people should be circumcised. When the operation was performed, and all the Sichemites, or Sechemites, were lying-in of the pains consequent thereupon, the holy patriarchs Simeon and Levi cut all their throats one after another. But, after all, I do not believe that uncircumcision ought now to produce such abominable horrors; and especially I do not think that men should hate, detest, anathematize, and damn one another every Saturday and Sunday, on account of a morsel more or less of flesh.
If I have said that some of the circumcised have clipped money at Metz, at Frankfort on the Oder, and at Warsaw (which I do not remember) I ask their pardon; for, being almost at the end of my pilgrimage, I have no wish to embroil myself with Israel.
I have the honor to be (as they say),
I have ever agreed, having read a few historical books for amusement, that you are a very ancient people, and your origin may be dated much farther back than that of the Teutones, the Celts, the Slavonians, the Angles, and Hurons. I see you assembling as a people in a capital called, sometimes Hershalaïm, sometimes Shaheb, on the hill Moriah, and on the hill Sion, near a desert, on a stony soil, by a small torrent which is dry six months of the year.
When you began to establish yourselves in your corner, I will not say of land, but of pebbles, Troy had been destroyed by the Greeks about two centuries.
Medon was archon of Athens. Echestratus was reigning in Lacedæmon. Latinus Sylvius was reigning in Latium; and Osochor in Egypt. The Indies had been flourishing for a long succession of ages.
This was the most illustrious period of Chinese history. The emperor Tchin-wang was reigning with glory over that vast empire; all the sciences were there cultivated; and the public annals inform us that the king of Cochin China, being come to pay his respects to this emperor, Tchin-wang, received from him a present of a mariner’s compass. This compass might have been of great service to your Solomon, for his fleets that went to the fine country of Ophir, which no one has ever known anything about.
Thus, after the Chaldæans, the Syrians, the Persians, the Phœnicians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Indians, the Chinese, the Latins, and the Etruscans, you are the first people upon earth who had any known form of government.
The Banians, the Guebers, and yourselves, are the only nations which, dispersed out of their own country, have preserved their ancient rites; if I make no account of the little Egyptian troops, called Zingari in Italy, Gypsies in England, and Bohemians in France, which had preserved the antique ceremonies of the worship of Isis, the sistrum, the cymbals, the dance of Isis, the prophesying, and the art of robbing hen-roosts.
These sacred troops are beginning to disappear from the face of the earth; while their pyramids still belong to the Turks, who perhaps will not always be masters of them — the figure of all things on this earth doth so pass away.
You say, that you have been settled in Spain ever since the days of Solomon: I believe it, and will even venture to think that the Phœnicians might have carried some Jews thither long before, when you were slaves in Phœnicia, after the horrid massacres which you say were committed by the robber Joshua, and by that other robber Caleb.
Your books indeed say, that you were reduced to slavery under Chushan-Rashataim, king of Mesopotamia, for eight years; under Eglon, king of Moab, for eighteen years; then under Jabin, king of Canaan, for twenty years; then in the little canton of Midian, from which you had issued, and where you dwelt in caverns, for seven years; then in Gilead, for eighteen years — notwithstanding that Jair, your prince, had thirty sons, each mounted on a fine ass — then under the Phœnicians (called by you Philistines), for forty years — until at last the Lord Adonai sent Samson, who tied three hundred foxes, one to another by the tails, and slew a thousand Philistines with the jaw-bone of an ass, from which issued a fountain of clear water; which has been very well represented at the Comédie Italienne.
Here are, by your own confession, ninety-six years of captivity in the land of promise. Now it is very probable that the Syrians, who were the factors for all nations, and navigated as far as the great ocean, bought some Jewish slaves, and took them to Cadiz, which they founded. You see that you are much more ancient than you think. It is indeed very likely that you inhabited Spain several centuries before the Romans, the Goths, the Vandals, and the Moors.
I am not only your friend, your brother, but moreover your genealogist. I beg, gentlemen, that you will have the goodness to believe, that I never have believed, I do not believe, and I never will believe, that you are descended from those highway robbers whose ears and noses were cut off by order of King Actisanes, and whom, according to Diodorus of Sicily, he sent into the desert between Lake Sirbo and Mount Sinai — a frightful desert where water and every other necessary of life are wanting. They made nets to catch quails, which fed them for a few weeks, during the passage of the birds.
Some of the learned have pretended that this origin perfectly agrees with your history. You yourselves say, that you inhabited this desert, that there you wanted water, and lived on quails, which in reality abound there. Your accounts appear in the main to confirm that of Diodorus; but I believe only the Pentateuch. The author does not say that you had your ears and noses cut off. As far as I remember, (for I have not Diodorus at hand), you lost only your noses. I do not now recollect where I read that your ears were of the party; it might be in some fragments of Manetho, cited by St. Ephraem.
In vain does the secretary, who has done me the honor of writing to me in your name, assure me that you stole to the amount of upwards of nine millions in gold, coined or carved, to go and set up your tabernacle in the desert. I maintain, that you carried off nothing but what lawfully belonged to you, reckoning interest at forty per cent., which was the lawful rate.
Be this as it may, I certify that you are of very good nobility, and that you were lords of Hershalaïm long before the houses of Suabia, Anhalt, Saxony, and Bavaria were heard of.
It may be that the negroes of Angola, and those of Guinea, are much more ancient than you, and that they adored a beautiful serpent before the Egyptians knew their Isis, and you dwelt near Lake Sirbo; but the negroes have not yet communicated their books to us.
Far from accusing you, gentlemen, I have always regarded you with compassion. Permit me here to remind you of what I have read in the preliminary discourse to the “Essay on the Spirit and Manners of Nations,” and on general history. Here we find, that two hundred and thirty-nine thousand and twenty Jews were slaughtered by one another, from the worshipping of the golden calf to the taking of the ark by the Philistines — which cost fifty thousand and seventy Jews their lives, for having dared to look upon the ark, while those who had so insolently taken it in war, were acquitted with only the piles, and a fine of five golden mice, and five golden anuses. You will not deny that the slaughter of two hundred and thirty-nine thousand and twenty men, by your fellow-countrymen, without reckoning those whom you lost in alternate war and slavery, must have been very detrimental to a rising colony.
How should I do otherwise than pity you? seeing that ten of your tribes were absolutely annihilated, or perhaps reduced to two hundred families, which, it is said, are to be found in China and Tartary. As for the two other tribes, I need not tell you what has happened to them. Suffer them my compassion, and do not impute to me ill-will.
Be not displeased at my asking from you some elucidation of a singular passage in your history, with which the ladies of Paris and people of fashion are but slightly acquainted.
Your Moses had not been dead quite thirty-eight years when the mother of Micah, of the tribe of Benjamin, lost eleven hundred shekels, which are said to be equivalent to about six hundred livres of our money. Her son returned them to her; the text does not inform us that he had not stolen them. The good Jewess immediately had them made into idols, and, according to custom, built them a little movable chapel. A Levite of Bethlehem offered himself to perform the service for ten francs per annum, two tunics, and his victuals.
A tribe (afterwards called the tribe of Dan) searching that neighborhood for something to plunder, passed near Micah’s house. The men of Dan, knowing that Micah’s mother had in her house a priest, a seer, a diviner, a rhoë, inquired of him if their excursion would be lucky — if they should find a good booty. The Levite promised them complete success. They began by robbing Micah’s chapel, and took from her even her Levite. In vain did Micah and his mother cry out: “You are carrying away my gods! You are stealing my priest!” The robbers silenced them, and went, through devotion, to put to fire and sword the little town of Dan, whose name this tribe adopted.
These freebooters were very grateful to Micah’s gods, which had done them such good service, and placed them in a new tabernacle. The crowd of devotees increasing, a new priest was wanted, and one presented himself. Those who are not conversant with your history will never divine who this chaplain was: but, gentlemen, you know that it was Moses’ own grandson, one Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses and Jethro’s daughter.
You will agree with me, that the family of Moses was rather a singular one. His brother, at the age of one hundred, cast a golden calf and worshipped it; and his grandson turned chaplain to the idols for money. Does not this prove that your religion was not yet formed, and that you were a long time groping in the dark before you became perfect Israelites as you now are?
To my question you answer, that our Simon Peter Barjonas did as much; that he commenced his apostleship with denying his master. I have nothing to reply, except it be, that we must always distrust ourselves; and so great is my own self-distrust, that I conclude my letter with assuring you of my utmost indulgence, and requesting yours.
— I have been somewhat uncourteous to your secretary. It is against the rules of politeness to scold a servant in the presence of his master; but self-important ignorance is revolting in a Christian who makes himself the servant of a Jew. I address myself directly to you, that I may have nothing more to do with your livery.
Permit me, in the first place, to lament over all your calamities; for, besides the two hundred and thirty-nine thousand and twenty Israelites killed by order of the Lord, I find that Jephthah’s daughter was immolated by her father. Turn which way you please — twixt the text as you will — dispute as you like against the fathers of the Church; still he did to her as he had vowed; and he had vowed to cut his daughter’s throat in thanksgiving to God. An excellent thanksgiving!
Yes, you have immolated human victims to the Lord; but be consoled; I have often told you that our Celts and all nations have done so formerly. What says M. de Bougainville, who has returned from the island of Otaheite — that island of Cytherea, whose inhabitants, peaceful, mild, humane, and hospitable, offer to the traveller all that they possess — the most delicious of fruits — the most beautiful and most obliging of women? He tells us that these people have their jugglers; and that these jugglers force them to sacrifice their children to apes, which they call their gods.
I find that seventy brothers of Abimelech were put to death on the same stone by this Abimelech, the son of Gideon and a prostitute. This son of Gideon was a bad kinsman, and this Gideon, the friend of God, was very debauched.
Your Levite going on his ass to Gibeah — the Gibeonites wanting to violate him — his poor wife violated in his stead, and dying in consequence — the civil war that ensued — all your tribe of Benjamin exterminated, saving only six hundred men — give me inexpressible pain.
You lost, all at once, five fine towns which the Lord destined for you, at the end of the lake of Sodom; and that for an inconceivable attempt upon the modesty of two angels. Really, this is much worse than what your mothers are accused of with the goats. How should I have other than the greatest pity for you, when I find murder and bestiality established against your ancestors, who are our first spiritual fathers, and our near kinsmen according to the flesh? For after all, if you are descended from Shem, we are descended from Japhet. We are therefore evidently cousins.
Your Samuel had good reason for not wishing you to have kings; for nearly all your kings were assassins, beginning with David, who assassinated Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, his tender friend, whom he “loved with a love greater than that of woman”; who assassinated Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba; who assassinated even the infants at the breast in the villages in alliance with his protector Achish; who on his death-bed commanded the assassination of his general Joab and his counsel Shimei — beginning, I say, with this David, and with Solomon, who assassinated his own brother Adonijah, clinging in vain to the altar, and ending with Herod “the Great,” who assassinated his brother-in-law, his wife, and all his kindred, including even his children.
I say nothing of the fourteen thousand little boys whom your petty king, this mighty Herod, had slaughtered in the village of Bethlehem. They are, as you know, buried at Cologne with our eleven thousand virgins; and one of these infants is still to be seen entire. You do not believe this authentic story, because it is not in your canon, and your Flavius Josephus makes no mention of it. I say nothing of the eleven hundred thousand men killed in the town of Jerusalem alone, during its siege by Titus. In good faith, the cherished nation is a very unlucky one.
Among your calamities, which have so often made me shudder, I have always reckoned your misfortune in having eaten human flesh. You say that this happened only on great occasions; that it was not you whom the Lord invited to His table to eat the horse and the horseman, and that only the birds were the guests. I am willing to believe it.
You assert that your mothers had no commerce with he-goats, nor your fathers with she-goats. But pray, gentlemen, why are you the only people upon earth whose laws have forbidden such commerce? Would any legislator ever have thought of promulgating this extraordinary law if the offence had not been common?
You venture to affirm that you have never immolated human victims to the Lord. What, then, was the murder of Jephthah’s daughter, who was really immolated, as we have already shown from your own books?
How will you explain the anathema of the thirty-two virgins, that were the tribute of the Lord, when you took thirty-two thousand Midianitish virgins and sixty-one thousand asses? I will not here tell you, that according to this account there were not two asses for each virgin; but I will ask you, what was this tribute for the Lord? According to your Book of Numbers, there were sixteen thousand girls for your soldiers, sixteen thousand for your priests, and on the soldiers’ share there was levied a tribute of thirty-two virgins for the Lord. What became of them? You had no nuns. What was the Lord’s share in all your wars, if it was not blood? Did not the priest Samuel hack in pieces King Agag, whose life King Saul had saved? Did he not sacrifice him as the Lord’s share?
Either renounce your sacred books, in which, according to the decision of the church, I firmly believe, or acknowledge that your forefathers offered up to God rivers of human blood, unparalleled by any people on earth.
Let your secretary no longer evade — no longer equivocate, respecting the carnage of the Midianites and their villages. I feel great concern that your butcher-priest Eleazar, general of the Jewish armies, should have found in that little miserable and desert country, seventy-five thousand oxen, sixty-one thousand asses, and six hundred and seventy-five thousand sheep, without reckoning the rams and the lambs.
Now if you took thirty-two thousand infant girls, it is likely that there were as many infant boys, and as many fathers and mothers. These united amount to a hundred and twenty-eight thousand captives, in a desert where there is nothing to eat, nothing to drink but brackish water, and which is inhabited by some wandering Arabs, to the number of two or three thousand at most. You will besides observe, that, on all the maps, this frightful country is not more than eight leagues long, and as many broad.
But were it as large, as fertile, and as populous as Normandy or the Milanese, no matter. I hold to the text, which says, the Lord’s share was thirty-two maidens. Confound as you please Midian by the Red Sea with Midian by Sodom; I shall still demand an account of my thirty-two thousand virgins. Have you employed your secretary to calculate how many oxen and maidens the fine country of Midian is capable of feeding?
Gentlemen, I inhabit a canton which is not the Land of Promise; but we have a lake much finer than that of Sodom, and our soil is moderately productive. Your secretary tells me that an acre of Midian will feed three oxen: I assure you, gentlemen, that with us an acre will feed but one. If your secretary will triple the revenue of my lands, I will give him good wages, and will not pay him with drafts on the receivers-general. He will not find a better situation in all the country of Midian than with me; but unfortunately this man knows no more of oxen than he does of golden calves.
As for the thirty-two thousand maidenheads, I wish him joy of them. Our little country is as large as Midian. It contains about four thousand drunkards, a dozen attorneys, two men of sense, and four thousand persons of the fair sex, who are not uniformly pretty. These together make about eight thousand people, supposing that the registrar who gave me the account did not exaggerate by one-half, according to custom. Either your priests or ours would have had considerable difficulty in finding thirty-two thousand virgins for their use in our country. This makes me very doubtful concerning the numberings of the Roman people, at the time when their empire extended just four leagues from the Tarpeian rock, and they carried a handful of hay at the end of a pole for a standard. Perhaps you do not know that the Romans passed five hundred years in plundering their neighbors before they had any historian, and that their numberings, like their miracles, are very suspicious.
As for the sixty-one thousand asses, the fruits of your conquests in Midian — enough has been said of asses.
I tell you, that your fathers immolated their children; and I call your prophets to witness. Isaiah reproaches them with this cannibalish crime: “Slaying the children of the valleys under the clefts of the rocks.”
You will tell me, that it was not to the Lord Adonaï that the women sacrificed the fruit of their womb — that it was to some other god. But what matters it whether you called him to whom you offered up your children Melkom, or Sadaï, or Baal, or Adonai? That which it concerns us to know is, that you were parricides. It was to strange idols, you say, that your fathers made their offerings. Well — I pity you still more for being descended from fathers at once both parricidal and idolatrous. I condole with you, that your fathers were idolaters for forty successive years in the desert of Sinai, as is expressly said by Jeremiah, Amos, and St. Stephen.
You were idolaters in the time of the Judges; and the grandson of Moses was priest of the tribe of Dan, who, as we have seen, were all idolaters; for it is necessary to repeat — to insist; otherwise everything is forgotten.
You were idolaters under your kings; you were not faithful to one God only, until after Esdras had restored your books. Then it was that your uninterruptedly true worship began; and by an incomprehensible providence of the Supreme Being, you have been the most unfortunate of all men ever since you became the most faithful — under the kings of Syria, under the kings of Egypt, under Herod the Idumæan, under the Romans, under the Persians, under the Arabs, under the Turks — until now, that you do me the honor of writing to me, and I have the honor of answering you.
Do not reproach me with not loving you. I love you so much that I wish you were in Hershalaïm, instead of the Turks, who ravage your country; but who, nevertheless, have built a very fine mosque on the foundations of your temple, and on the platform constructed by your Herod.
You would cultivate that miserable desert, as you cultivated it formerly; you would carry earth to the bare tops of your arid mountains; you would not have much corn, but you would have very good vines, a few palms, olive trees, and pastures.
Though Palestine does not equal Provence, though Marseilles alone is superior to all Judæa, which had not one sea-port; though the town of Aix is incomparably better situated than Jerusalem, you might nevertheless make of your territory almost as much as the Provençals have made of theirs. You might execute, to your hearts’ content, your own detestable psalmody in your own detestable jargon.
It is true, that you would have no horses; for there are not, nor have there ever been, about Hershalaïm, any but asses. You would often be in want of wheat, but you would obtain it from Egypt or Syria.
You might convey merchandise to Damascus and to Saïd on your asses — or indeed on camels — which you never knew anything of in the time of your Melchim, and which would be a great assistance to you. In short, assiduous toil, to which man is born, would fertilize this land, which the lords of Constantinople and Asia Minor neglect.
This promised land of yours is very bad. Are you acquainted with St. Jerome? He was a Christian priest, one of those men whose books you do not read. However, he lived a long time in your country; he was a very learned person — not indeed slow to anger, for when contradicted he was prodigal of abuse — but knowing your language better than you do, for he was a good grammarian. Study was his ruling passion; anger was only second to it. He had turned priest, together with his friend Vincent, on condition that they should never say mass nor vespers, lest they should be too much interrupted in their studies; for being directors of women and girls, had they been moreover obliged to labor in the priestly office, they would not have had two hours in the day left for Greek, Chaldee, and the Jewish idiom. At last, in order to have more leisure, Jerome retired altogether, to live among the Jews at Bethlehem, as Huet, bishop of Avranches, retired to the Jesuits, at the house of the professed, Rue St. Antoine, at Paris.
Jerome did, it is true, embroil himself with the bishop of Jerusalem, named John, with the celebrated priest Rufinus, and with several of his friends; for, as I have already said, Jerome was full of choler and self-love, and St. Augustine charges him with levity and fickleness: but he was not the less holy, he was not the less learned, nor is his testimony the less to be received, concerning the nature of the wretched country in which his ardor for study and his melancholy confined him.
Be so obliging as to read his letter to Dardanus, written in the year 414 of our era, which, according to the Jewish reckoning, is the year of the world 4000, or 4001, or 4003, or 4004, as you please.
“I beg of those who assert that the Jewish people, after the coming out of Egypt, took possession of this country, which to us, by the passion and resurrection of our Saviour, has become truly a land of promise — I beg of them, I say, to show us what this people possessed. Their whole dominions extended only from Dan to Beersheba, about one hundred and sixty miles in length. The Holy Scriptures give no more to David and to Solomon . . . . I am ashamed to say what is the breadth of the land of promise, and I fear that the pagans will thence take occasion to blaspheme. It is but forty-six miles from Joppa to our little town of Bethlehem, beyond which all is a frightful desert.”
Read also the letter to one of his devotees, in which he says, that from Jerusalem to Bethlehem there is nothing but pebbles, and no water to drink; but that farther on, towards the Jordan, you find very good valleys in that country full of bare mountains. This really was a land of milk and honey, in comparison with the abominable desert of Horeb and Sinai, from which you originally came. The sorry province of Champagne is the land of promise, in relation to some parts of the Landes of Bordeaux — the banks of the Aar are the land of promise, when compared with the little Swiss cantons; all Palestine is very bad land, in comparison with Egypt, which you say you came out of as thieves; but it is a delightful country, if you compare it with the deserts of Jerusalem, Sodom, Horeb, Sinai, Kadesh, etc.
Go back to Judæa as soon as you can. I ask of you only two or three Hebrew families, in order to establish a little necessary trade at Mount Krapak, where I reside. For, if you are (like us) very ridiculous theologians, you are very intelligent buyers and sellers, which we are not.
My tenderness for you has only a few words more to say. We have been accustomed for ages to hang you up between two dogs; we have repeatedly driven you away through avarice; we have recalled you through avarice and stupidity; we still, in more towns than one, make you pay for liberty to breathe the air: we have, in more kingdoms than one, sacrificed you to God; we have burned you as holocausts — for I will not follow your example, and dissemble that we have offered up sacrifices of human blood; all the difference is, that our priests, content with applying your money to their own use, have had you burned by laymen; while your priests always immolated the human victims with their own sacred hands. You were monsters of cruelty and fanaticism in Palestine; we have been so in Europe: my friends, let all this be forgotten.
Would you live in peace? Imitate the Banians and the Guebers. They are much more ancient than you are; they are dispersed like you; they are, like you, without a country. The Guebers, in particular, who are the ancient Persians, are slaves like you, after being for a long while masters. They say not a word. Follow their example. You are calculating animals — try to be thinking ones.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01