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In his treatise on the Laws, he divides them into what he looks upon as unwritten laws, that is to say, the living patterns of a blameless life which the scripture sets before us in Enoch, Noah, Abraham, &c., and particular laws in the narrower technical common acceptation of the word.
In the other treatises, he deduces an allegorical meaning from the plain historical account of Moses, which serves him as the foundation for his philosophical system.
In all these works he exhibits profound and varied learning, showing himself deeply versed in Greek literature of every age and description, and of considerable skill in the sciences of music, geometry, and astronomy. His style is clear, and even though he may at times be open to the charge of an over-refined subtilty, it is impossible to deny him the praise of acuteness and ingenuity, set off to their best advantage by neatness of language and felicity of expression.
For the Christian reader these treatises have a peculiar interest from the ample materials which many of them furnish for the illustration of St. Paul's Epistles; materials so copious and so valuable that an eminent divine of the present day has pronounced an opinion (referring probably more especially to the treatises on the Sacrifices of Abel and of Cain on the Different Incidents in the Life of Noalon Abraham-on the Life of Moses-ou the Ten Commandments and on Providence) that all the other ancient commentators on the Scriptures put together have not left works of greater value for that most important object. It is even asserted by Eusebius that he formed an acquaintance with St. Peter while at Rome, but that statement is generally looked upon as wanting confirmation. From his treatise against Flaccus, and in that which refers to his embassy to Rome, we likewise derive information with respect to the condition of the Jews in the time of our Saviour, and to the manner in which they were treated by the Roman governors, which supplies much incidental corroboration of some of the historical allusions contained in different parts of the New Testament.
The text which has been used in this translation has been generally that of Mangey.
On the Creation of the World'
On the Allegories of the Sacred Laws
On the Cherubim; and on the Flaming Sword; and on
the First-Born Child of Man, Cain
On the Sacrifices of Abel and Cain
On the Principle that the Worse is accustomed to be
always plotting against the Better
ON THE ACCOUNT OF
THE CREATION OF THE WORLD,
AS GIVEN BY MOSES.
I. Or other lawgivers, some have set forth what they considered to be just and reasonable, in a naked and unadorned manner, while others, investing their ideas with an abundance of amplification, have sought to bewilder the people, by burying the truth under a heap of fabulous inventions. But Moses, rejecting both of these methods, the one as inconsiderate, careless, and unphilosophical, and the other as mendacious and full of trickery, made the beginning of his laws entirely beautiful, and in all respects admirable, neither at once. declaring what ought to be done or the contrary, nor (since it was necessary to mould beforehand the dispositions of those who were to use his laws) inventing fables himself or adopting those which had been invented by others.
And his exordium, as I have already said, is most admirable; embracing the creation of the world, under the idea that the law corresponds to the world and the world to the law, and that a man who is obedient to the law, being, by so doing, a citizen of the world, arranges his actions with refe rence to the intention of nature, in harmony with which the whole universal world is regulated. Accordingly no one, whether poet or historian, could ever give expression in an adequate manner to the beauty of his ideas respecting the creation of the world; for they surpass all the power of language, and amaze our hearing, being too great and venerable to be adapted to the senses of any created being. That, however, is not a reason for our yielding to indolence on the subject, but rather from our affection for the Deity we ought to endeavour to exert ourselves even beyond our powers in describing them not as having much, or indeed anything to say of
our own, but instead of much, just a little, such as it may be probable that human intellect may attain to, when wholly occupied with a love of and desire for wisdom.
For as the smallest seal receives imitations of things o colossal magnitude when engraved upon it, so perchance in some instances the exceeding beauty of the description of the creation of the world as recorded in the Law, overshadowing with its brilliancy the souls of those who happen to meet with it, will be delivered to a more concise record after these facts have been first premised which it would be improper to pass over in silence.
II. For some men, admiring the world itself rather than the Creator of the world, have represented it as existing without any maker, and eternal; and as impiously as falsely have represented God as existing in a state of complete inactivity, while it would have been right on the other hand to marvel at the of God as the creator and father of all, and to admire the world in a degree not exceeding the bounds of moderation.
But Moses, who had early reached the very summits of philosophy, and who had learnt from the oracles of God the most numerous and important of the principles of nature, was well aware that it is indispensable that in all existing things there must be an active cause, and a passive subject; and that the active cause is the intellect of the universe, thoroughly unadulterated and thoroughly uumixed, superior to virtue and superior to science, superior even to abstract good or abstract beauty; while the passive subject is something inanimate and incapable of motion by any intrinsic power of its own, but having been set in motion, and fashioned, and endowed with life by the intellect, became transformed into that most perfect work, this world. And those who describe it as being uncreated, do, without being aware of it, cut off the most useful and necessary of all the qualities which tend to produce piety, namely, providence for reason proves that the father and creator has a care for that which has been created; for a father is anxious for the life of his children, and a workman aims at the duration of his works, and employs every device imaginable to
This is in accordance with the description of him in the Bible, where he is represented as being learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.