Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

and fickleness :* but he was not the less holy he was not the less learned, nor is his testimony the less to be received, concerning the nature of the wretched country in which his ardour for study and his melancholy confined him.

Be so obliging as to read his letter to Dardanus, written in the year 414 of our era, which, according to the Jewish reckoning, is the year of the world 4000, or 4001, or 4003, or 4004, as you please.

“ I beg of those who assert, that the Jewish people, after the

coming out of Egypt, took possession of this country, which to us, by the passion and resurrection of Our Saviour, has become truly a land of promise—I beg of them, I say, to shew us what this people possessed. Their whole dominions extended only from Dan to Bersheba, about one hundred and sixty miles in length. The Holy Scriptures give no more to David and to Solomon.

I am ashamed to say what is the breadth of the land of promise, and I fear that the pagans will thence take occasion to blaspheme. It is but forty-six miles from Joppa to our little town of Bethlehem, beyond which all is a frightful

desert.”

Read also the letter to one of his devotees, in which he says, that from Jerusalem to Bethlehem there is nothing but pebbles, and no water to drink; but that further on, towards the Jordan, you find very good valleys in that country full of bare mountains. This really was a land of milk and honey, in comparison with the abominable desert of Horeb and Sinai, from which you originally came. The sorry province of Champagne is the land of promise, in relation to some parts of the Landes of Bourdeaux, the banks of the Aar are the land of promise, when compared with the little Swiss cantons; all Palestine is very bad land, in comparison with Egypt which you say you came out of as thieves; but it is a delightful country, if you compare it with the deserts of Jerusalem, Sodom, Horeb, Sinaï, Kadesh, &c. Go back to Judea as soon as you can.

* Jerome, in return, writes to Augustin, in his hundred and fourteenth letter, thus" I have not criticised your works, for I have never read them; but, if I would criticise them, I could show you that you do not understand the Greek fathers You do not even know what you are talking about."

I ask of you only two or three Hebrew families, in order to establish a little necessary trade at Mount Krapak, where I reside. For, if you are (like us) very ridiculous theologians, you are very intelligent buyers and sellers, which we are not.

SEVENTH LETTER.

Charity which God's People and the Christians should

entertain for each other. My tenderness for you has only a few words more to say. We have been accustomed for ages to hang you up between two dogs; we have repeatedly driven you away through avarice; we have recalled you through avarice and stupidity; we still, in more towns than one, make you pay for liberty to breathe the air; we have, in more kingdoms than one, sacrificed you to God; we have burned you as holocausts—for I will not follow your example, and dissemble that we have offered

up sacrifices of human blood; all the difference is, that our priests, content with applying your money to their own use, have had you burned by laymen; while your priests always immolated the human victims with their own sacred hands. You were monsters of cruelty and fanaticism in Palestine; we have been so in Europe: my friends, let all this be forgotten.

Would you live in peace? Imitate the Banians and the Guebres. They are much more ancient than you are; they are dispersed like you; they are, like you, without a country. The Guebres in particular, who are the ancient Persians, are slaves like you,

after being for a long while masters. They say not a word. Follow their example. You are calculating animalstry to be thinking ones.

JOB.

Good day, friend Job! thou art one of the most ancient originals of which books make mention; thou wast not a Jew; we know that the book which bears thy name is more ancient than the Pentateuch. If the Hebrews, who translated it from the Arabic, made use of the word Jehovah to signify God, they borrowed it from the Phenicians and Egyptians, of which men of learning are assured. The word Satan was not Hebrew; it was Chaldean, as is well known.

Thou dwelledst on the confines of Chaldea. Com. mentators, worthy of their profession, pretend that thou didst believe in the resurrection, because, being prostrate on thy dunghill, thou hast said in thy nineteenth chapter, that thou wouldst one day rise up from it. A patient who wishes his cure is not anxious for resurrection in lieu of it; but I would speak to thee of other things.

Confess that thou wast a great babbler; but thy friends were much greater. It is said that thou possessedst seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, one thousand cows, and five hundred she-asses. I will reckon

up
their value:-

Livres. Seven thousand sheep, at three livres ten sous a-piece, are

22,500 I value the three thousand camels at fifty crowns a-piece

450,000 A thousand cows, one with the other, cannot be valued at less than

80,000 And five hundred she-asses, at twenty francs

10,000

an ass

The whole amounts to

562,500 without reckoning thy furniture, rings, and jewels.

I have been much richer than thou; and though I have lost a great part of any property and am ill, like thyself I have not murmured against God, as thy friends seem to reproach thee with sometimes doing.

I am not at all pleased with Satan, who, to induce thee to sin, and to make thee forget God, demanded permission to take away all thy property and to give thee the itch. It is in this state that men always have recourse to divinity. They are prosperous people who forget God. Satan knew not enough of the world at that time; he has improved himself since; and when he would be sure of any one, he makes him a farmergeneral, or something better if possible, as our friend Pope has clearly shown in his history of the knight Sir Balaam.

Thy wife was an impertinent, but thy pretended friends Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuite, and Zophar the Naamathite, were much more insupportable. They exhorted thee to patience in a manner that would have roused the mildest of men; they made thee long sermons more tiresome than those preached by the knave V- --e at Amsterdam, and by so many other people.

It is true that thou didst not know what thou saidst, when exclaiming—“My God, am I a sea or a whale, to be shut up by thee as in a prison ?” But thy friends knew no more when they answered thee, “ that the morn cannot become fresh without dew, and that the grass of the field cannot grow without water.” Nothing is less consolatory than this axiom.

Zophar of Naamath reproacheth thee with being a prater; but none of these good friends lent thee a

I would not have treated thee thus. Nothing is more common than people who advise ; nothing more rare than those who assist. Friends are not worth much, from whom we cannot procure a drop of broth if we are in misery. I imagine, that when God

gave

thee thy riches and health, these eloquent personages dared not present themselves before thee, as the comforters of Job have become a proverb.

God was displeased with them and told them sharply, in chap. xlii. that they were tiresome and imprudent,

crown.

and he condemned them to a fine of seven bullocks and seven rams, for having talked nonsense. I would have condemned them for not having assisted their friend.

I pray thee, tell me if it is true, that thou livedst a hundred and forty years after this adventure. I like to learn that honest people live long; but men of the present day must be great rogues, since their lives are so comparatively short.

As to the rest, the book of Job is one of the most precious of antiquity. It is evident, that this book is the work of an Arab who lived before the time in which we place Moses. It is said that Eliphaz, one of the interlocutors, is of Teman, which was an ancient city of Arabia. Bildad was of Shua, another town of Arabia. Zophar was of Naamath, a still more eastern country of Arabia.

But what is more remarkable, and which shows that this fable cannot be that of a Jew, is, that three constellations are spoken of, which we now call Arcturus, Orion, and the Pleiades. The Hebrews never had the least knowledge of astronomy; they had not even a word to express this science; all that regards the mental science was unknown to them, inclusive even of the term geometry.

The Arabs, on the contrary, living in tents, and being continually led to observe the stars, were perhaps the first who regulated their years by the inspection of the heavens.

A more important observation is, that one single God alone is spoken of in this book. It is an absurd error to imagine that the Jews were the only people who recognised a sole God; it was the doctrine of almost all the east, and the Jews were only plagiaries in that as in everthing else.

In the thirty-eighth chapter, God himself speaks to Job from the midst of a whirlwind, which has been since imitated in Genesis. We cannot too often repeat, that the Jewish books are very modern. Ignorance and fanaticism exclaim, that the Pentateuch is

« AnteriorContinua »