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so, is in a great measure owing to words and phrases becoming obscure by the improvement of our own language, since the Bible was translated, and to our ignorance of the manners and customs of the age, in which it was written.
To remove in some measure these obscurities, and thus render the Scriptures more suitable for the use of schools, and for the instruction of private families, is the object of this edition of the New Testament; in which are given a concise account of the Jewish and other sects, the moral state of the heathen world at the time our Saviour visited it, prefatory remarks to each book and epistle, and short notes and illustrations. At the end are subjoined tables of the offices and conditions of men, of weights and measures, and the pronunciation and accent of difficult words according to the best authorities.
In executing this work the following authors have been consulted, and their language freely used, viz. Clarke and Pyle, Doddridge, Campbell, Macknight, Porteus, Scott, Adams, Percy, &c.
It is not presumed this work will meet the approbation of all. Some will wish more had been done, others will regret there is so much. The design is to benefit common readers, not the learned and critical; and should some obseure passages be left unnoticed, it should be remembered, that no comment is better, than a doubtful exposition.
It is recommended that parents and teachers require their children and pupils to commit the notes, especially the short ones, to memory, and to study the Jewish and other sects so as to give a correct account of them.
Should this attempt to render the New Testament more intelligible and useful to children and common readers, prove successful, it will more than compensate for all the time and labour in the execution.
Of the Jewish and other sects mentioned or alluded to in
the New Testament, The word sect signifies a party, which is distinguished by some particular tenets, or articles of belief.
There was among the Jews in the time of our Saviour a variety of sects, but the principal were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenees. "The Scribes, though not a distinct sect, yet from being so often mentioned in the New Testament, deserve to be noticed.
Beside these there were other sects of less importance ; as the Herodians, the Gaulonites, and the Nazarenes of Jewish origin; the Gnostics, the Nicolaitans, the Cerinthi. ans, &c. whose opinions were composed of the extravagant conjectures of heathen philosophers and Christian heresies.
The sect of the Pharisees arose about one hundred and fifty years before our Saviour. They believed the iinmortality of the soul, the resurrection and future reward of the righteous, whom they supposed to be Jews only; but that there was no resurrection of the wicked, though their souls at death passed immediately into punishment. But what most distinguished the Pharisees was, a superstitious attachment to peculiarities of dress, food, and religious ceremonies. They affected a most profound regard to the law of God, and the sacred books; but they explained away their meaning, so as to make them conform to the traditions of the elders or ancients. This incumbered their religion with innumerable trifling forms and observances, such as frequent washings, fastings, praying aloud in the most public turnings or corners of the streets, an affected gravity of dress, gesture, and mortified looks, scrupulous tithings of all manner of herbs, their building the tombs of the prophets, to make themselves appear more righteous than their fathers, who killed them; and their over scrupulous observance of the Sabbath, even to the exclusion of works of charity and mercy. All these our Saviour told them they did to be seen of men ; while under the cloak of religion, they were in reality most notorious hypocrites, guilty of cruelty, injustice, oppression, extortion, and all manner of
wickedness. The Pharisees, as well as all the other Jewish sects, expected in the Messiah, only a mighty, temporal prince, who should deliver them from the dominion of the Romans, and exalt the Jewish nation above all others in power, splendour, and magnificence. Of course they des. pised the Saviour's humble appearance, rejected his claim to Messiahship, closed their ears against his mild and heavenly instructions, and persecuted him with malice even to the cross, a death most disgraceful and ignominious. They considered themselves too sacred for intercourse with others, and separated themselves from Pagans, and from all Jews, who did not comply with their peculiarities. Hence probably the name of their sect from the Hebrew word Pharash, which signifies to divide or separate.
The Sadducees derived their name from one Sadoc, the founder of their sect, who lived about two hundred and sixty or seventy years before Christ. They believed that God was the only immaterial or spiritual being in the universe; that besides him, there was neither angel nor spirit. Unlike the Pharisees, they rejected all tradition, and adhered strictly to the literal expression of the sacred books, especially the Pentateuch, or the five books of Moses. They believed there would be no resurrection of the dead, nor any future state of rewards and punishments, and that death put a final period to human existence. Hence, as might be expected from such sentiments, they gave themselves up to the indulgence of pleasure, and every species of licentiousness. Of course the pure doctrines and example of our Saviour offended them, and his cutting reproofs fell upon them with such severity, that they united with their bitter enemies, the Pharisees, in pursuing him to death.
The Essenees, who seem to have been only a party of rigid Pharisees, had their rise one or two centuries before the Christian era. They believed the immortality of the soul, the existence of angels, and a future state of rewards and punishments, which they supposed extended only to the soul, considering the body, a mass of malignant matter, the prison-house of the immortal spirit. They believed every thing ordered by an eternal fatality, or chain of causes. They disallowed oaths, except on admission of new members into their society, when they were solemnly imposed, and held most sacred. They paid the highest regard to the moral precepts of the law, but neglected the ceremonial, except what regarded bodily cleanliness, making an annual
present to the temple at Jerusalem, and the observation of the Sabbath, which was so strict, that they would-scarcely move an article about them, or even attend to the calls of nature. They were sober, abstemious, and peaceable ; they fasted much, despised riches and finery, and wore out their clothes before they changed them. They lived quietly, and without noise ; some of them retiring to solitary places, where, like the Roman monks, they devoted themselves to a contemplative life, while others cultivated the earth for support. They rejected women from their society, and generally lived in a state of celibacy; and to support their society, they adopted and educated the children of other men. The Essenees are not expressly mentioned in the New Testament; but in all probability Paul alludes to them, when he inveighs against those, who forbid to marry, who command to abstain from meats, and who, through a voluntary humility, pay worship to angels; and it is probable, his epistles to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and his first to Timothy, were written against the errors introduced and inculcated by this sect.
The word Scribes was not the name of a particular sect, distinguished from all others by peculiar modes of practice and belief; but it is a general term, applicable to those of every sect, who made the law of Moses, and the prophetical and sacred books their particular study, so as to become capable of commenting upon them, and of publicly teaching the people. The Seribes were in general the descendants of Levi, who, being very numerous, and not always engaged in the immediate service of the temple, had leisure and opportunity to qualify themselves for this duty. From the frequent mention in the Gospels of the Scribes and Pharisees in connexion, it is probable the greatest number of the Scribes were, at that time, of the sect of the Pharisees. The Scribes are mentioned in the Old Testament, as performing a variety of duties, civil and religious. They registered the affairs of the king, transcribed the scriptures, discharged the duties of secretaries and clerks, executed all kinds of writing, and attended to the education of youth. They were numerous and much respected. The ecclesiastical Scribes of the New Testament, were the learned of the nation, who expounded the law, and taught the people. They were the lawyers or Doctors of the law, and at the same time the preaching clergy among the Jews. But in the time of our Saviour, they were a wicked class, pervert
ing the scriptures, and extolling the absurd traditions of the elders above them.
The Herodians were probably not a religious seet, but a political party, who derived their name from Herod the Great, and who favoured his claims, and those of his patrons, the Romans, to the sovereignty of Judea. It is supposed, that some of the Herodians might be weak enough to believe, that Herod was the Messiah, or to flatter him, that he was so, that they might the better please him, and secure his favour. The leaven of Herod, therefore, against which our Saviour warns his hearers, Mark viii. 15, might be the false idea, that Herod was the Messiah, or idolatry, to which the Jews, especially, such as were attached to the Romans, were always inclined.
The Gaulonites, though not expressly mentioned in the New Testament, existed as a party in the time of Jesus Christ. They were Galilæans, and took their name from one Judas Theudas, a native of Gaulon in Upper Galilee. In the tenth year of our Saviour he excited his countrymen, the Galilæans, and many other Jews, to take up arms, and venture upon all extremities, rather than pay tribute to the Romans. He taught his party, that they were a free nation, and ought not to be in subjection to any other; that they were the elect of God, and he alone their governor, and therefore, that they ought not to submit to any ordinance of man. He was however unsuccessful, and his followers in their first attempt were entirely routed and dispersed; yet so deeply had he infused his enthusiasm into their hearts, that they never rested, till in their own destruction, they had involved that of the city and temple. To this wild and fanatic party seem to be addressed many of those passages in the New Testament, in which obedience to magistrates is so piously and rationally inculcated.
The Nazarenes were a body of Christians, converted principally from the Pharisees. Though they embraced Christianity, they entered so little into its real spirit, that they were still fond of the beggarly elements, and carnal ordinances of the ceremonial law. To repress their inordinate superstition, seems to have been the intention of the severity, with which the law is treated in the apostolic writings, where we are taught to let no man judge us with regard to meats or drinks, or the observance of holy days, or of the new moons, or of the Sabbath days, which were a shadow of things to come, whereof Christ is the substance.