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That there was among the Jews a jurisdiction and government Ecclesiastical, distinct from the civil.


That there was among the Jews a jurisdiction and government Ecclesiastical, distinct from the civil.

James Dodson


George Gillespie
Scottish Commissioner
To the Assembly of Divines
At Westminster.




First, they had Elders who were Spiritual or Ecclesiastical (not civil) rulers. Whence it is that Salmasius de primatu papae, pag: 3. and long before Ambrose in 1 Tim: 5. doeth parallel the Jewish Elders not to the Christian Magistrate, but to the Elders of the Christian Church ordained by the Apostles. I do not say that they had no Elders who were civil Magistrates; but they had some Elders who were Church Governors, or had an Ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Which I prove 1. By the arguments brought before, Book 1 chap: 3. pag: 26. 27.

2. The Jews when they had lost their State, power, and civil Government, had still under the Roman Emperors their Presbyteri and Archisynagogi. Whereof Mr. Selden in Eutych: pag: 15. 16. brings clear instances under Arcadius and Honorius. Now the Roman Emperors did not permit to the Jews their own civil Government, but only an Autonomy in Religion. So ibid: pag: 34. he sheweth us that the Kings of England have permitted to the Jews in England their Presbyteratus, which he doth not deny, but half yield, to have been the same with their Sacerdotium.

3. Although Mr. Selden, comment: in Eutych: Orig: pag. 17. &c. to 34. and in his Vxor Ebraica. lib. 1. chap. 15. holdeth that the Jewish Elders or Presbyters, were such as were created by imposition of hands, receiving thereby a judicial faculty or degree, so that thence forth they were capable of membership in the Sanhedrim, either of 23. or 71. and were fit to preside in judging of civil causes: and so endeavoureth to shew that it was a civil, not a sacred or Ecclesiastical dignity and preferment; Yet he furnisheth me with some considerable arguments to confirm my opinion, beside that which was last mentioned. As 1. He tells us in Eutych. pag. 16. that nomina officiorum Sacrorum, ut patriarcha, Presbyter, Apostolus, Diaconus, Primas Et Episcopus, in Christianismum ex Iudaismi veteris usu, &c. manarunt. But if the Jewish Elders were not promoted to a sacred, but to a civil jurisdiction, that name should have been transferred to Magistrates, Judges, Parliament men, rather than to Church officers. 2. He tells of a divided, distinct, bounded & particular Ordination of the Jewish Elders, some of them being ordained to a faculty or power of judging, but not to judge of lawful or unlawful rites, others of them being ordained to judge of rites, but not of pecuniary causes. The form of words which he citeth, is this, Et sit tibi sacultas judicandi, sed ita ut minime sit tibi facultas decernendi quinam ritus illiciti, quinam liciti, aut sit tibi hujusmodi facultas decernendi, ita tamen ut causas pecuniarias non sit tibi facultas judicandi. Behold a sacred and a civil jurisdiction distinguished. Mr. Selden himself, uxor. Ebr. lib. 1 cap. 15. tells us that the word Presbyters or Elders, is by the Talmudicall writers used not only for those who were created by imposition of hands to a Magistratical or judiciall facultie, such as the members of the Sanhedrim, or such as were candidates in that facultie, and as it were expectants of a place, and memberships in their Courts of justice, but also for other fit and idoneous [suitable] persons, who might be called for counsel or advice. Therefore, all their Elders were not civil Magistrates.

My second Argument shall be taken from the Jewish Ordination of Elders, (Ordination being an act of the power of jurisdiction, not of order) with imposition of hands, from which Mr. Selden, Eutych. pag. 24. 25. tells us, the Christian Ordination and imposition of hands upon Presbyters, was borrowed (even as the Christian baptism from the Jewish baptism at the admission of Proselytes, and the Lords Supper from what was used in the Passover,) whereunto he saith, any man will assent, if he consider what is found in the Talmudical writers of the number of three, (which was the least number which could suffice to the ordaining of a Jewish Elder; and the same was the least number which the ancient Church thought sufficient for Ordination:) Also of the internal effect of that Jewish Ordination, with laying on of hands, which effect was the resting of the holy Ghost upon the Elder so ordained. And this was drawn from Num. 11. 26. Deut. 34. 9. See ibid. 21. 22. There is so much of the Christian Ordination borrowed from the Jewish, that D. Buxtorf: lex: Rabbin. pag: 1499. where he speaks of the Jewish Ordination, refers us to 1 Tim. 4. 14. I will add other three cited by Mr. Selden, ibid: pag: 22. First, I. Scaliger, Elench. Triher: cap: 20. When I turn to this place, I find Scaliger moves the question, how it came to pass that Christ was permitted to sit, and to teach among the Doctors in the Temple, not being ordained. (Mark here an Ordination which was for public teaching, not for a power of civil judicature, which Christ never assumed) and how it came that both he and John Baptist were called Rabbi: also he parallels one newly ordained among the Jews, with a young Bishop in the ancient Canons. The next shall be, H. Grotius annot. in Evan. pag: 329. When I turn hither, I find Grotius speaking thus, Manuum impositio apud Iudaeos indicabat invocationem divinae potentiae: ut alibi diximus. unde factum est ut munia publica eo ritu conferentur, etiam civilia ut Senatorum. Sed & in archisynagogis & senioribus synagogae, idem observatum, unde mos χεὶροθεσίας ad Christianos transiit. Here is an Ecclesiastical Ordination to offices in the Synagogue, which he distinguisheth from civill offices. Lastly I turn to Itiner Beni. pag: 73. 74. Where I read of one D. Daniel Filius Husday, called caput exulum, unto whom the dispersed Jews in several Provinces, have their recourse for Ordination of their Preachers or Teachers. Hi omnes Israelitarum caetus ab exulum capite potestatem accipiunt, sibi in singulis Congregationibus professorem & concionatorem praeficiendi. Nam ipsum conveniunt, ut manuum impositione potestatem accipiant. Was this Ordination now to a civil rule or judicature? A Doctor or Professor in the School, and a Preacher in the Synagogue, are here joined as the common and ordinary rulers in the particular Assemblies of the Jews, as L’ Empereur noteth, not. in Benjam: 148. 149. where he also cleareth, that this חזן Chazan mentioned there by Benjamin was not a civil ruler, but praelector & concionator, a reader & expounder of Scripture. See Buxtorf: lex: Rabbin. at the same word. Hic maxime oratione sive precibus & cantu Ecclesiae praeibat, praeerat lectioni legali, docens quod & quomodo legendum, & similibus quae ad sacra pertinebant. And after he sayeth of this word, pro Ministro Sacrorum passim usitatissimum. tis a rabbinical word, sounding somewhat near chozim, seers, which was a name given to the Prophets, from חזה vidit. Moreover observe this passage of Elias in Tishbite, at the word חבר Cuicunque manus imposita est ad Magisterium, sed non dum idoneus est ut doceat dogma, quo vocetur doctor noster Magister, eum Magistri socium seu familiarem dicunt. This is cited by Scaliger, Elench Triher. cap: 20. and by L’ Empereur not. in Benjam: pag: 188. Where he illustrateth it by the fellows in the English Universities, who though not yet Masters, yet are diverse times promoted to the degree of Batchellours; yea, Doctors of Divinity. So then hands were laid on such a person as intended to be a Teacher, and if he had not yet a dogmatical faculty for Teaching, he was counted but a fellow.

A third argument I take from the Synagoga magni, see Aarons Rod, pag. 4. 5. 137. 146. Add Mr. Selden in Eutych. pag: 42. where he tells us out of the Jerusalem Gemara, Centum & viginti Presbyteri, è quibus octoginta prophetae fuere aut instar Prophetarum, hanc precandi formulam institueruut. Marke they were Elders, and that an Assembly was an Eldership or Sanhedrim. But is it credible that Ezra Zerubbabell, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachia would consent that such an Assembly, for which there been neither institution nor president before, should assume that great power in Church affaires? Salom. Glassius Phil. sacr: lib. 1. Tract. 1. pag: 26. 27. Rectius est originem ejus (Masorae) ad veros Synagogae seu consistorii magni (cujus praeses Ezra sacerdos, legis divinae peritissimus, Ezra 7.6. Symmistae & συνεργοι, Haggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias, Nehemias, Zorobabel, Sacerdos, Jehoshua, aliique primarii Sacerdotes & Levitae, ducis Zorobabelis ex Babylonia comites, numero centum viginti) reducere, Ezra 7. 10. & haec communis Hebraeorum est sententia. Following the most received opinion of the Hebrews themselves, ascribes the making and composing of the Masora (a most ingenious and laborious critical doctrine upon the Hebrew Text) to the men of the great Synagogue.

Fourthly, consider the triple Crowne which the Hebrews speak of Pirke Aboth, cap. 4. sect: 13. Tres sunt coronae, corona legis, sacerdotii, & regni. Here is an Ecclesiasticall and civill Government, and jus divinum over both. Pirke Aboth. cap. 6. sect. 5. Major est lex sacerdotio aut regno. See Aarons rod, pag: 36. Philo saith, Moses divided the Civil and Ecclesiastical administration.

The fifth Argument I shall take from that Ecclesiastical Government and discipline which the Jews since their dispersion and the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple, have exercised, where they had at all liberty to exercise their Religion. I read much in Itinerarium Benjaminis of the Antistites, praepositi, praesides, praefecti, Moderatoris Synagoga, synedria & capita synedriorum, among the dispersed Iewes. pag. 70. decem in istâ civitate (in Bagdado) sunt concessus sive Synedria, Chrisost. lib. 1, quod Christus sit Deus, makes mention of a Patriarch of the dispersed Jews, ὁ πατριάρχης, and he had a great power and rule among the Jews, as may be collected from that and other places of Chrysostom. This can be no civil Government or Magistratical courts (though Benjamin is too vainglorious that way) as Const. L’ Empereur in his preface to the reader, proves from the Testimonies of Jews themselves, Kimchi, Abrabaniel, Maimonides, and the Chaldee paraphrase on Hos. 3. all making it manifest, that after their second dispersion, they had no Magistratical nor judicial power: See also for this, L’ Empereur his annotations in Benjam. pag: 196. 200. Which answereth that of Mr. Selden in prolegom. ante lib. de success: Nullo adeo in aevo fere non erat hoc nationi huic (judaeorum) singulare, suis fere legibus alieno in regno seu republica uti. Well, what then was the power of those rulers and courts of the Iewes in Benjamins observation, who wrote in the twelfth Century? He tells pag: 30. of their excommunicating of Epicurean Jews, and pag: 73. 74. 115. of their ordaining of Rabbis, Readers and Preachers. From pag. 92, he tells a story of one David Alroi, who being a witty sorcerer, rebelled against the King of the Persians, called himself the King of the Jews, and got some followers. After he was in the hands of this King of the Persians, he escaped by his magical Arts, and though pursued, could not be overtaken and caught, whereupon this Persian King, writes to Caliphas a Machumetan Prince residing at Bagdadum, that he would deal with D. Daniel filius Has dai caput exulum, and with the capita Synedriorum, there also residing, to forbid this David Alroi, and to restrain him, otherwise said the Persian King, I will kill all the Jews whom I find in my Kingdome, which put all the Jews throughout Persia in great fear, so that they wrote ad exulum principem & Synedriorum capita qui Bagdadi habitabant, to their Pope, as I may so say, and heads of the Courts at Bagdadum, that they would by their authority prohibit that man, through whom they were in danger of their lives. After this, the heads of those Sanhedrims at Bagdadum by their authority gave forth letters to this purpose. Scito redemptionis tempus nondum advenisse, necdum signa nostra à nobis conspecta: nam inflato suo animo nemo praevalebit. Ita{que} jubemus ut te cohibeas, quo minus talia in posterū moliaris: quod si non pareas, esto excommunicatus a toto Israele.

Observe here when the Jewish Government and Discipline at that time, was driven to the height, even for preventing the destruction of many of their brethren, they had not a Magistratical secular power; but they did dogmatically declare against that man, and ordained him to be excommunicated in case of his obstinacy, which maketh manifest these two things, that they had not a Magistratical power, and that they had an Ecclesiastical power of Government and censures. But all this prevailed not with David Alroi, who still persisted in his course, till Zin Al-din a Turkish King sent against him some who killed him.

And if we will learn from Chrysostom what the Patriarchs of the dispersed Jews were in those days, see him, Tom: 5. Orat: 4. adversus Iudaeos. Will thou that I rehearse unto thee Laws concerning the Priesthood, that so thou mayest understand that they who are now among you called Patriarchs, are not Priests, but hypocritically act the part of Priests; &c. A little after he concludes, because they had not sacrifices, nor sprinkling of blood, nor the anointing of oil, &c. tis manifest that the Priest which is now among them (meaning their Patriarch who pretended to be a Priest) is impure unlawful, and profane. Whence it appears, that among the dispersed Jews there remained a shadow and footstep of Ecclesiastical Governors and Government.