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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 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, by 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
lencies; and all of them have eludicated, with considerable talent and effect, the objects they severally proposed. These, however, have been various : Michaelis proposes to consider the Mosaic Laws, not as a Theologian, but as a Civilian; Graves, and Shaw vindicate their Divine Authority against Infidels; Lowman, and Fergus defend their general importance; Woodward refutes the opinions of Dr. Spencer, in his work, “ De Legibus Hebræorum ;” and Jahn and Fleury illustrate the Jewish Antiquities. Maimonides's work, therefore, though brief, enters more into detail, and exhibits more fully than the others, the sentiments of the intelligent and learned of the Hebrew nation, on the reasons and peculiar objects of their Ceremonial Law.
To the reader who wishes to pursue the subject beyond the range of English authors, the present writer would recommend, amongst others, Dr. Spencer's learned work, “De Legibus Hebræorum ;” and Sir John Marsham's “Canon Chronicus Ægyptiacus,” &c. corrected in some of their peculiar opinions by Witsius's “ Ægyptiaca ;” and Meyer's Treatise, “De Temporibus et Festis Diebus Hebræorum;" Cunæus, “De Republica Hebræorum ;” and Bochart's “Hierozoicon,” a work replete with various and recondite information.
In concluding his prefatory remarks, the Translator is aware that a work commenced and completed amidst the interruptions of official duties, must have occasion to claim indulgence for defects; but assured by former approbation, that his consciousness of a sincere desire to serve the best interests of mankind, will be met by corresponding candour, he submits the present Translation and accompanying Dissertations and Notes, with confidence to the public, hoping that the Blessing of the God of Jacob will accompany this attempt to vindicate the wisdom, and equity, and benevolence of Institutions Divinely authorized, and solemnly promulged.