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Hebrew

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HEBREW. The language of Tyre and Sidon was pure old Hebrew. Abram was a Hebrew, who spoke Aramaic as his mother tongue, but migrated from the Trans-Euphrates country, and adopted the language of Canaan. His first-born son was Sidon. 1400 years after Joseph, Canaan was occupied by the Israelite, Edomite, and Canaanite as separate nations. In the Old Testament (Isaiah xix. 18) the language of the Bible is called the language of Canaan,—in no instance Hebrew. The Hebrew language is used by the small colony of Jews residing in Cochin and its neighbourhood. Hebrew is a branch of the Semitic family of languages. Yemen and Arabia are considered by Jewish mediaeval tradi tion as the land of the Ten Tribes, where powerful Jewish kings fought against infidels ; this belief exists even now among Eastern Jews. About the middle of the 19th century, Rabbi R. Jacob Saphir visited Yemen. After R. Jacob Saphir, Joseph Halevy was sent to Yemen by the French Government, in order to copy Ilimyaritic in scriptions, and brought back manuscripts, which were partly acquired by the Bodleian Librar7. Mr. Shapira of Jerusalem revisited the Jews in Yemen, and through him the British Museum now possesses a considerable number of manuscript Bibles, many of them provided with the super linear punctuation (usually called the Assyrian' vowel-points, while the punctuation used in our Bibles is called the Palestinian '), as well as with the Massorah. The Yemen manuscripts also contain a collection of Agadic books, called Midrashim which embody many lost passages, known only from quotations by Maimonides and others. In Persia the Jews have adopted in their writings the native language, though still using Hebrew characters, just as their brethren have done in the Arabic-speaking countries, in Greece, Spain, France, and Germany, and as the Karaitic Jews have done among the Tatars. The Persian translation of the Bible to be found in manu scripts of the National Library at Paris is, according to Solomon Munk, not earlier than the 13th century and not later than the 14th • but Bishop Theodorus in the 5th century mentions a Persian translation of the Bible. So does Maimonides in the 12th century, who refers to a translation of the Pentateuch made several cen turies before Isfahomed. If this translation is not based on an early translation, the Jews in Persia must have kept up the ancient Persian dialect, just as the German Jews still speak in the ghettos the pre-Lutheran German, or as the Spanish exiles in the East speak ancient Spanish,—in a word, the ` langue des exiles,' as Voltaire styles the French of the Huguenots at Berlin. We

know, in fact, that in the time of the second temple the Pentateuch lessons read in the syna gogues (Acts xv. 21) were interpreted by the Methurgeman in the vernacular • hence the origin of the Targum or Chaldee translation. In Persia this rule was observed as late as the 13th century, for it is stated on the margin of Genesis xxxv. 22, The translation of this verse ought not to be read publicly.' The same is said in the Talmud, The history of Reuben is read (in Hebrew), but not in the translation.' In the synagogues of the Greek rite, the practice of reading the translation of the Haftarah (section of the Prophets, Luke iv. 16 ; Acts xiii. 14) was still kept up in the 12th century, according to a ritual manuscript in the Bodleian Library, which contains the Greek translation of the book of Jonah in Hebrew characters with vowel points. This book forms the prophetical lesson of the afternoon service (called Minhah) on the Day of Atonement, and it is the oldest piece in prose written in modern Greek. Besides the Hebrreo-Persian manuscripts in Paris, the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg possesses a fragment of a Hebrmo - Talmudic dictionary, written at Djorjan in 1339, and the British Museum an astronomical treatise, tran scribed in Hebrew characters from a Persian manuscript: This is about all that is 'kndivn of Jewish writing.in Persia. ,. • • . .., , Recently, Neubauer acquired in Paris 'a Pentateuch and Psalms, written at. Koom in the year 1483, to which a Jewish calendar in Persian is attached; •:Another manuscript: contains a translation of the Psalms, which is missing in the Paris collection:- The copyist states that it was for the ',great king, Kibleh-i-Alam (the Kibleh of the world), possibly Kablai Khan, who was the great protector of art and science in that dark age,-about 1294; Indeed, at that time, when Argun was the vassal king of Persia,- the . Jewish physician was his minister of finances, who 'not only restored order: to the finances of the 'kingdom, and forced the Mongol to obey law and justice, but also attracted learned men and poets to the court of his master. The most curious of the manuscripts is a fragment of an epopee, which has for its subject the whole of the biblical is simply an imitation of Firdausi ; its' author, however, remains at present unknown.