2) Th e re a s o n why I a m c o nvi n c e d t h a t n o m o re t h a n two re a di ng s a re
fou n d for e a c h p a s s ag e i s b e c au s e I b e l i eve t h a t t h e s c r ib e s fou n d ve r y few
c o p i e s of t h e text , p e rh ap s n o m o re t h a n two o r t h re e. I n t h e Treati s e of the
Sc ri b es ,
c h apte r
, o nly t h re e a re m e n t i o n e d, wh i c h t h ey m ai n t ai n we re
fou n d i n t h e t i m e of Ez ra , c l ai m i ng t h e n o te s we re a dde d by Ez ra h i m s e lf. I n
a ny c a s e , if t h ey h a d o nly t h re e , we c a n re a di ly c o n c e ive t h a t two of t h e m woul d
always ag re e i n a ny g ive n p a s s age. I n fact i t woul d s u re ly b e a m a z i ng if t h re e
di¡e re n t re a di ng s we re fou n d for o n e a n d t h e s a m e p a s s age i n o nly t h re e
copies. Anyone who wonders by what mischance it came about that there was
s u c h a de a r t h of c o p i e s afte r Ez ra s h o uld s i mply re a d t h e
¢ rs t c h apte r
Maccabees, or Josephus’ Antiquities,
It seems something of a miracle
that they could have preserved even these few copies through such a pro-
longed and powerful persecution. No one, I think, if he reads about this epi-
sode with any attention will doubt it. Hence, we see the reasons why there are
never more than two doubtful readings. It is decidedly not the case, therefore,
that because there are never more than two readings given, in these annotated
passages of the Bible, we may deduce that they were deliberately written incor-
rectly as a way of indicating mysteries.
As for the other contention that some passages are so de¢ciently com-
posed that there could never have been any doubt that they violate the
grammatical rules of all periods, and that hence they should simply have
corrected them instead of making notes in the margin ^ this contention
carries no weight with me, and I am not obliged to ascertain what religious
scruple persuaded them not to correct it. Perhaps it was simple sincerity,
because they wanted to bequeath the Bible to posterity in the state in
which it was found, in the few original surviving copies, pointing out dis-
crepancies between the originals not as dubious but as variant readings.
The only reason why I have called them ‘doubtful’ is because in truth I ¢nd
nearly all of them to be so uncertain that I do not know which is to be
preferred to the other.
21] Finally, apart from these doubtful readings, the scribes have also
drawn attention to several truncated
passages by putting an empty space
in the middle of a paragraph. The Masoretes tell us how many: they
enumerate twenty-eight places where a vacant space is left in the middle of
a paragraph. I do not know whether they believe that some mystery lies
concealed even in the number. The Pharisees, in any case, religiously
Sopherim. In the Babylonian Talmud.
12.256 in modern editions.
preserve a space of a certain length. For an example of this see Genesis
where the text is written thus: ‘And Cain said to Abel his brother . . . and it
came to pass, while they were in the ¢eld, that Cain’ etc., where a space is
left empty at the point where we are expecting to know what it was that
Cain said to his brother. There are twenty-eight such spaces preserved by
the scribes (apart from those we have already noted). Many of them would
not appear to be mutilated if the space had not been left there. But of all
these points enough.
Where the remaining books of the Old Testament are
examined in the same manner as the earlier ones
1] I pass to the remaining books of the Old Testament. About the two
books of Chronicles I have nothing to say that is certain and worth any-
thing, other than that they were composed long after Ezra, perhaps even
after Judas Maccabeus had restored theTemple.
1 Chronicles 9 the
historian tells us ‘which families ¢rst (i.e., at the time of Ezra) lived in
Jerusalem’, and then in verse
17 records the names of the ‘gatekeepers’, two
of whom are also mentioned in Nehemiah
11.19. This shows that these
books were written long after the rebuilding of the city. But nothing
seems to be established about their true author or their authority, utility or
doctrine. In fact, I am extremely surprised that they were admitted among
the sacred books by the same men who excluded the Book of Wisdom,
Tobias and the other so called apocryphal books from the scriptural
canon. However, it is not my intention to detract from their authority;
as they have been universally accepted, I leave it at that.
2] The Psalms too were collected and divided into ¢ve books in the
period of the Second Temple. According to Philo Judaeus,
published when King Jehoiakim was still in prison in Babylon, and Psalm
89 after the same king had regained
his liberty, something I do not think
Spinoza’s footnote: see Annotation
Philo Judaeus (c.
20 bc^c. 50 ad), Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of Alexandria.The text Spinoza is
citing (Philo Judaeus, Breviarium de temporibus, bk.
2), as several scholars have pointed out, is one of
the forged texts written by Annius of Viterbo and published in his Commentaria super opera diver-
sorum auctorum de antiquitatibus loquentium (Rome