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Misd. Leslie French
THE Laws and INSTITUTIONS of Moses con
stitute the earliest and most original system of ecclesiastical and civil jurisprudence and polity, with which the world has ever been favoured. Suited to the genius, the habits, and the circumstances of the people to whom they were delivered, they comprize not merely a code of political and moral regulations, for the wise and
prosperous conduct of the Jews, as a distinct and peculiar people; but rules of economy, for the promotion of their health and domestic comfort. Justly claiming to be a revelation from God, they are marked with the authority, and inculcate the unity, purity, and goodness, of Jehovah; and promise that temporal prosperity to the obedient, which the enactments of no other legislator ever dared to propose. Designed to introduce another religious dispensation, many of the rites were symbolical in their character, and being succeeded by a series of prophetic, enunciations, served gradually to develope the
scheme of human redemption by the incarnation and death of the Messiah.
Amongst the innumerable commentators and expounders of the Mosaic writings, Maimonides deservedly ranks among the foremost for intelligence and learning. His fame as a writer on Jewish Literature and Antiquities, is fully established by the sanction of the learned of different ages and countries, whether Jews or Christians, who constantly refer to him as indisputable authority on every topic of Hebrew Legislation and Tradition. His writings are multifarious and voluminous; but in none of them do we discover more extensive knowledge or sounder judgment, than in his More Nevochim, or “ Teacher of the Perplexed.” Of this work, which contains critical remarks on Hebrew Words and Phrases, and explanatory observations on Jewish opinions, no portion is more deservedly esteemed or does greater credit to the writer, than that which is devoted to the examination of the Reasons of the Laws of Moses." Yet it is a singular fact, that, although this part has been uniformly referred to, and quoted by almost every writer on the Mosaic Institutes, no entire English translation has ever yet appeared; and the reader of the various interesting extracts made from it by Bishop Patrick, in his learned and valuable น
Commentary, as well as by others of considerable note, has only to regret that he is not in possession of the whole exposition.
Impressed with a conviction of the importance and general excellence of this compendious defence of the Ritual of Moses, the translator, without pledging himself to the absolute correctness of every opinion maintained by the author, has attempted to give a faithful, but not a servile translation of it. The copies of the work which were before him, were R. Samuel Aben Tybbon's Hebrew edition, with the triple Rabbinical commentaries of RR. Shem Tob, Ephodæus, and Karshakas, printed in folio, at Jaznetz, in 1742, -and the Latin versions of Justinian, and Buxtorf, the former in folio, printed in 1520, at Paris, by Jodocus Badius Ascensius, in a beautiful Gothic character; the latter, in quarto, printed at Basle, hy J. J. Genath, in 1629.—In a few instances, the translator, from motives of delicacy, has ventured to abridge the details of the author, but has generally inserted them in the Notes, from Buxtorf.
To the Translation, are prefixed a LIFE OF MAIMONIDES, with several DISSERTATIONS on different subjects connected with the object of the work; and which, with the Notes appended at the close, the translator trusts, will serve to elucidate the views and positions of the author, and occasionally to rectify what has been regarded as erroneous or uncertain.
In presenting the result of his labours to the public, the Translator is far from wishing to depreciate any similar works which have been previously published. The principal publications of this nature, accessible to the English reader, (except those which are restricted to the Antiquities or Customs of the Jews,) are, Michaelis's “ Commentaries on the Laws of Moses,” 4 vols. 8vo., translated from the German, by Dr. Smith; Lowman's “Rational of the Ritual of the Hebrew Worship;" Shaw's “ History and Philosophy of Judaism ;" Graves, “ On the Four last Books of Moses," 2 vols.; Woodward, “ On the Wisdom of the Egyptians,” 4to.; Fergus, “On the Reasonableness of the Laws of Moses ;" Atkins's “ Attempt to illustrate the Jewish Law;" Jahn's “Biblical Archæology,” translated from the German, by T. C. Upham; Fleury's “ Manners of the Israelites,” by Dr. A. Clarke ; and the “ Commentaries” of Bishop Patrick and Dr. A. Clarke. For although other Commentators have occasionally explained and defended the Mosaic Ritual, these have exhibited the greatest learning and research.
These works have each their respective excel