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ANTIQUITIES

OF

THE JE W S.

PART IX.

LEARNING OF THE JEWS.

SECT. I.

Jewish Manner of Writing.

Origin of writing. Engraving on brass, stone tables, on rock. The inscriptions

on the mountains of Faran, in the wilderness of Sinai; in the plain of Mummies in Egypt; at the river Lycus; on the bricks of Babylon. One of these seen by the author. Engraving on lead. Books written on painted linen, papyrus, parchment, leaves, and inner bark of trees, plates of wood covered with wax. Their pens or styles : sometimes iron; sometimes a reed. The ancient form of books in rolls. A copy of the Veda described, as seen by the author. Rolls commonly written on one side; but sometimes on both. Writings how preserved. Letters, or private epistles in the form of rolls : how sealed. Description of an eastern letter seen by the author.

Various disputes have arisen as to the origin of writing. Some supposing that it was of divine original, and never known till the time of Moses; and others, that it was known long prior to him. But, in a matter of such high antiquity, it is impossible to come at certainty. It would seem, however, from the perfection of Moses' style, that it was known before; unless we conclude, that God not only wrote the law on two tables of stone; but that the Holy Spirit enabled Moses to write the Pentateuch in a language till that time only spoken, but never committed to writing ; and consequently, that the five books of Moses are remarkable, VOL. II.

С

not only as being the most ancient code of laws ever promulgated, but as being the first specimen of writing that ever existed, which, although maintained by some, is certainly carrying the argument too far. The materials on which the Jews and other eastern nations wrote were various. The most ancient we read of, were the two tables of stone on which the Decalogue was written; and the two altars mentioned in Deut. xxvii. 8., that were erected for a similar purpose, unless we account the book of Job of an ancienter date. For in Job xix. 23, 24, we have three ways of writing mentioned, viz. writing in book, engraving on lead, and engraving on a rock. It would

appear, that engraving on rock especially, was the way in which the ancients chose to preserve inscriptions. For the Prefetto of Egypt mentions a place not far from the mountains of Faran in the wilderness of Sinai, where, for the distance of three miles, they met with ancient unknown characters, cut here and there on the hard marble rock, at the distance of 12 or 14 feet from the ground, with the greatest industry. Maillet mentions something of the same kind in the plain of Mummies in Egypt, (Lett. 7.) Maundrell gives an account of figures and inscriptions like these abovementioned, which are graven on polished parts of the natural rock, and at some height above the road, which he found near the river Lycus (p. 37.) And Mr. Macdonald Kinneir, when speaking of Babylon, says, that he observed several kinds of bricks that appear to have been in use among the Babylonians, some of which were burnt by the fire for facing, and others dried in the sun for the heart of the building. Of the former he distinguished four kinds, but the most common were about a foot square, and three inches thick, with a distich of the characters so common at Persepolis, and similar in appearance to the barb of an arrow. The author of the present work saw one of these bricks, exactly answering the above description, which had been brought from Babylon by one of the suite of General Sir John Malcolm.

It is generally thought that engraving on brass and lead, and on a rock or tablet of stone, was the form in which the public laws were written ; but that rolls of linen, first painted and then written upon, was the common form of books. Two things corroborate this opinion. 1st. That tablets of stone or plates of metal could not have been cut with a knife and thrown into the fire, as Jeremiah's roll was by Jehoiakim. And 2dly, The linen bandages which surround the mummies are commonly filled with hieroglyphical characters. Prideaux informs us, that the Egyptian papyrus (from whence our English word paper is derived) was not known till the building of Alexandria, by Alexander the Great, and consequently later than the times of the prophets; and that parchment (pergamena, from Pergamus in Asia Minor, where it was first used,) was of later date than the papyrus. The leaves and inner bark of trees (called Bußros and Liber) were indeed sometimes used instead of paper; as were the thin plates of wood (ta. bellæ) either plain or covered with wax, but both the Jews and other nations resorted at length to the linen or parchment, as being most convenient; for paper, like that in present use, is only a modern invention. The Jewish manner of writing was suited to their materials. For when stone, lead, brass, wood, wax, or papyrus, were used, they wrote with a bodkin or style of iron; and hence it is that every man's writings or com

2

· Geograph. Memoir of the Persian Empire, A. D. 1810, p. 279.
b Ch, Xxxvi. 23. Prideaux Connect, A.AC. 332. # 18, XXX. 8

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