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It is known that such have been the curiosity and anxiety to discover this missing book, that several forgeries under that name have appeared from time to time; and the Rev. Mr. Horne, in his Introduction to the Study of the Scripture, has been at some pains to collect a history of the various fabrications of Jasher; the most remarkable of which was originally published in England, in the year 1750, by a person called Illivc, and purported to be a translation from a Hebrew work of that name, found in Persia by Alcuin. It was republished in Bristol in the year 1829, and a copy is now in my possession. It is a miserable fabrication, occupying but sixty two and a half pages, with copious notes, making out Jasher to be one of the Judges, whereas the translation of the word is the upright, or the upright record. In the same work of Dr. Horne, a slight reference is made to the Book of Jasher, written in Rabbinical Hebrew, said to have been discovered in Jerusalem at its capture under Titus, and printed in Venice in 1613. This is the book now translated into English for the first time. Long prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews had established themselves in various parts of Spain and Italy; they traded to the bay of Gibraltar, as historians affirm, in the earliest periods of history; and Basnage mentions that in Sagunto, a town in Spain, a tombstone was discovered, bearing the following inscription in the Hebrew language : “ This is the tomb of Adoniram, an officer of King Solomon, who came to collect the tribute, and died the day,” &c. There can be no doubt that Spain, probably France and Italy, were tributary to Solomon. It is, however, certain, that the Jews carried with them into Spain, on their dispersion, an immense number of manuscripts and sacred rolls, where they remained many years, and were, in the eleventh century, placed in their great college at Cordova, and from thence were conveyed to Venice on the first discovery of printing. The printer's Hebrew preface to Jasher shows that it was a painful transcript from a very old and almost illegible Hebrew record, and printed by and with the consent of the great Consistory of Rabbins at Venice, who alone had the power of publishing such works from the Hebrew records as they deemed authentic. From the Venice edition of Jasher, another edition was many years subsequently published, in Lemberg, in Gallicia.
Both editions, in Hebrew, are now in my possession; and the Royal Asi'atic Society, having found a copy of Jasher in Calcutta, gave orders to
have it translated, which order was countermanded when it was ascer tained that considerable progress had been made in England in this translation. The following copy of a letter from the secretary to the translator, shows the estimate which that learned Society placed upon the work,
ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY HOUSE.
Grafton St., Bond St., London, Sept. 2, 1831. DEAR SIR:
I am extremely obliged by your having favored me with the sight of Mr. Noah's letter, and in reply to your letter, mention that the Oriental Translation Committee does not consider that it has any claims on your work, and if that ever the Rev. Mr. Adams translates the Book of Jasher, it will not be in the lapse of several years. Hoping that your praiseworthy and valuable labors in that interesting work will soon, in one shape or other, be presented to the public,
I remain, Dear Sir,
Whatever may have been written and published by commentators, relative to the fabrications of Jasher, I am persuaded they had no reference to this work, although this is the work slightly touched upon by Dr. Horne, as the publication in Venice, on the first discovery of printing; but of its origin and history he knew nothing beyond the rumor that it had originally been brought from Jerusalem. There are some events recorded in Jasher, that are found in the Talmud, no doubt copied from Jasher; for although we find in the Talmud, the Mishnah, and Gemarrah, many parables and fanciful tales, to effect moral and religious purposes, yet every thing that we have in Jasher we find recorded in the Bible, with this difference, that in Jasher the occurrences of the Bible are amplified and detailed at length. The celebrated philosopher, Mendelsohn, expresses a high opinion of this work. There are, nevertheless, some events which are recorded in Jasher, which may create surprise, particularly a detail of the
rape of the Sabines, which, at the first glance, I was disposed to consider as an interpolation; but a little reflection satisfied me that it was an event placed in proper chronological order. Pizron, in his Revolution of Empires, or Antiquities of Nations, says, (page 164,)“It is therefore likely from what I have said, that several of the Titans, in the reign of Uranus, or, at least, in that of Saturn, staying and fixing themselves in that part of Italy which is adjacent to the Tiber and the Appenines, were afterward called Umbrians. If such were the case, as it seems it was, the settlement of the Titans in Italy was made about the time of the calling of Abraham, that is, when he left Chaldea, to go and dwell in the land of Canaan.” Page 175, “Now, if all this came to pass, it must have happened about the time Deucalion reigned in Greece, or some years after the deluge that happened under that prince.” If as Pizron says, the separation of the Sabines from the Umbrians took place 1500 years before Christ, it will not be far distant from the time at which Jasher places the rape of the Sabine women, in the 91st year of the life of Abraham.
The following is the translator's preface, and with all his admitted learning and ability, he has been unable to do justice to the beauty, grandeur, and alike the simplicity of the original Hebrew. I also subjoin a translation of the Hebrew preface and a translation of the printer's preface, being all the documents in my possession.
Without giving it to the world as a work of Divine inspiration, or assuming the responsibility to say that it is not an inspired book, I have no hesitation in pronouncing it a work of great antiquity and interest, and a work that is entitled, even regarding it as a literary curiosity, to a great circulation among those who take pleasure in studying the Scriptures.
M. M. NOAH. New-York, April, 1839.
The age in which we live has been, and continues to be, particularly distinguished by a laudable desire in the minds of men, to inquire into the various states of knowledge, and of the arts, as they existed in times anterior to the Christian era; animated with these noble and elevated views, a considerable number of individuals, greatly distinguished for their genius and learning, have in succession turned their attention to the East-to those celebrated countries, in which the arts of civilization and the lights of science first dawned upon, enlightened, and embellished human society. The magnificent and unequalled remains of the arts in Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Palestine, and Persia, have, from time to time, been visited and explored; and it has been amidst these fallen monuments of human grandeur, that the adventurous and enlightened traveller has found himself amply rewarded for his laborious and hazardous undertakings; for, amidst these wrecks of human greatness, he has succeeded in gathering ample evidence, in confirmation of many of the most important truths recorded in sacred history
Profane histories have, indeed, conveyed down to us some account of these kingdoms, and of the mighty monarchs who, during a long succession of ages, ruled over them; but the events which they relate are evidently so mixed up with exaggeration, and so adulterated with fable, that, however celebrated their authors might have been, and however fascinating may be the style of their composition, the religious and philosophic student turns from them with dissatisfaction, to the divinely authenticated annals of the Hebrews; because, it is from these alone that he can derive true information concerning the rise, the splendour, the decline, and the real causes of the ruin of those celebrated empires.
In the sacred history we are presented with the only authentic, and, of course, the only valuable information concerning the origin of the universe, -of men and all other animated creatures, of the gradual increase of the human race,ếof the flood in the year A. M. 1656, of which mighty event there are existing evidences to the present day; evidences, so universal and so ponderous, that all the ingenuity of the sceptical geologists will never be able to remove them in order to make room for their plausible hypotheses.