Crawford Howell Toy Moïse Schwab
Protestant pastor; born at
Rouen, France, Aug. 8, 1653; died in Holland Dec.
22, 1725. At the age of twenty-three he took charge
of the Protestant Church of Rouen, succeeding
Etienne Le Moine, who had been called to Leyden as
professor of theology. After the revocation of the
Edict of Nantes, and the consequent suppression of
the Reformed Church in his native city, Basnage was
called in 1686 to the pastorate of the Walloon
Church at Rotterdam; and in 1691, at the instance of
his friend Heinsius, grand pensionary of Holland, he
was chosen pastor of the Temple of The Hague.
Is a Skilful
Though Basnage acquired a reputation as a skilful diplomat
(see analysis of his letters of 1713 by M. Levesque, in "Les
Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences et Lettres de Rouen,"
1859, pp. 269 et seq.), his interest for the present article
consists in the fact that, like his friend Fontenelle, he
employed his leisure hours in writing on theology and on the
history of religion. His workson these subjects are
enumerated as twenty-five in "La France Protestante" by Haag
(Paris, 1846-58; 2d ed., 1877, vol. i, s.v.). Chief among
them is "L'Histoire et la Religion des Juifs Depuis Jésus
Christ Jusqu'à Présent," intended as a supplement and
continuation to Josephus (Rotterdam, 1706-11).
His "History of the Jews."
This work is in five books, forming seven volumes, the sixth
of which has the following title: "L'Histoire des Juifs
Réclamée et Rétablie par Son Véritable Auteur, M. Basnage,
Contre l'Édition Anonyme et Tronquée Qui s'en Est Faite à
Paris, chez Roulland, 1710; avec Plusieurs Additions pour
Servir de Tome VI. à Cette Histoire." The mutilated edition
mentioned in this remarkable title was by Du Pin. A long
preface to the sixth volume, in twenty-eight paragraphs,
contains remarks on the criticisms passed upon Basnage's
"History of the Jews" in the "Journal des Savants" of the
time. Very justly Basnage protests against the accusation
that he had "rejected the testimony of a contemporary author
who states facts," whereas he had examined and discussed it
("Histoire des Juifs," 1st ed., book vi., ch. xiv. 1265), as
he had done, for instance, in reference to the decree of
Arcadius compelling the Jews to abide by the Roman laws (II
Codex Theodosianus, i. 87).
(see image) Jacob Christian Basnage.(From Basnage's French
translation of Josephus.)
This pirated edition testifies to the success of the book,
which on its appearance was translated into English by
Taylor, London, 1706, and later condensed into two volumes
by Crull, London, 1708. In the same year was published
"Remarks upon Mr. Basnage's History of the Jews," London,
A second and enlarged edition was brought out some years
later (The Hague, 1716-26; 7 books in 15 volumes), revised
in accordance with the criticisms made upon the first
edition, and enriched by the author's new researches. The
changes are apparent even in the first book, to which was
added the genealogy of the Hasmoneans and of the Herodians
in three parallel columns, the first of which is according
to the first edition of the "De Numeris Herodiadum" by P.
Hardouin, disproved by Basnage; the second is the same
changed by P. Hardouin in his reply to Basnage; the third is
according to the system of Josephus, followed by Basnage.
Voltaire's Favorable Estimate.
Voltaire, in his "Siècle de Louis XIV.," 1830, xix. 55, in
placing Basnage among the French writers of that period,
says: "Among the most valued of his books is his 'History of
the Jews.' Books on current events are forgotten with the
events; books of general usefulness survive." This history
is in fact the most important of Basnage's works, in quality
as well as in bulk. At the beginning of the work he calls it
"a survey of all that pertains to the religion and the
history of the Jews since Herod the Great." And he goes on
to say: "I have followed this nation into every corner of
the world where it has sought refuge, and have brought to
Light the Ten Tribes that seemed buried in the East. I have
studied the schisms, the sects, the dogmas, and the
ceremonials found in that religion."
The contents of the seven books of the history are as
Book i.: The condition and the government of Judea under the
Contents of the Work.
Book ii.: The history of the sects at the time of Jesus and
the destruction of Jerusalem; the origin, dogmas, progress,
and present condition of the Samaritans, the Sadducees, the
Pharisees, the Essenes, and the Herodians.
Book iii.: The history of the patriarchs who ruled in Judea,
the princes of the Babylonian captivity, and the successive
generations of important rabbis since the destruction of
Jerusalem; the character and works of the Talmudists,
Amoraim, Pyrrhonists or Skeptics (perhaps he meant the
Epicureans), "Excellents" or Geonim, Masoretes, and
Cabalists, together with a description of the Cabala and of
its famous teachers.
Book iv.: The Jewish dogmas and confession of faith, and the
history of the Jewish religion from the destruction of the
Book v.: Jewish rites and ceremonies.
Book vi.: The dispersion of all the tribes in the Orient and
the Occident, up to the eighth century.
Book vii.: The history of the dispersion from the eighth
century to the eighteenth century.
Of these chapters, Richard Simon (according to Haag, "La
France Protestante") praises especially those on the
Karaites, the Masorites, and the Samaritans. It is a matter
of regret that the portions relating to modern times are not
more complete. Basnage apparently did not know that in his
day there were already many European Jews in America,
occasionally banded together in religious communities;nor
was he aware of the fact that Spanish Jews had accompanied
Columbus to the New World; while he assumed, following
Manasseh b. Israel (see the account of Aaron Levi, or
Antonio de Montazinos, at the end of "L'Esperança d'Israel"),
that the remnants of the Ten Tribes, after living in Tatary,
had in the dim past crossed the Pacific to America. This
defect is perhaps due to the motives which governed Basnage
in his choice of sources. At the end of his preface Basnage
"In writing this history, we have given preference to the
writers of the Jewish nation, so long as reason and the love
of truth have not constrained us to discard them. The dogmas
and the religion we have gathered from the writings of
Maimonides, Abraham ibn Ezra, Abravanel, Manasseh b. Israel,
and the chief Cabalists. The Mishnah and its commentators
have furnished us with the rites and ceremonies. It has been
more difficult to deduce the history, since the authors of
chronicles, both short and long, Abraham b. Dior, Gedaliah
ibn Yaḥya, David Gans, and Solomon ibn Verga, dwell upon the
names of the elders of tradition rather than on general and
particular events. If Manasseh and Barrios ('Historia
Universal Judaica,' Amsterdam, 1683) had fulfilled their
promise to write this history, we should have found it most
helpful. As they were not able to carry out their plans, we
had to be satisfied with what we could find."
After this general résumé, Basnage gives a list of the
authors he has cited, of which the following is a summary
arranged according to subject-matter:
On Bible exegesis (of which, if he read English, he must
have had first-hand knowledge): Henry Ainsworth,
"Annotations upon the Five Books of Moses," London, 1639;
John Edwards, "A Discourse Concerning the Authority, Style,
and Perfection of the Books of the Old and New Testament."
London, 1693; P. Alix, "The Judgment of the Ancient Jewish
Church Against the Unitarians," London, 1699; Humphrey Hody,
"Contra Historiam Aristeæ de LXX" (Oxford, 1685); idem, "De
Bibliorum Textibus Originalibus Versionibus," etc., Oxford,
1705, in addition to the works of Everard van der Hoogt,
Johann Heinrich Hottinger, and others. Here may be added the
works on Hebrew philology cited by Basnage: Cappel, "Arcanum
Punctationis Revelatum"; Drusius, "Quæstiones Hebraicæ";
Fagius, "Targum Hierosolymitanum"; Gousset, "Commentarii
Linguæ Hebraicæ." The Hebrew writers, however, Basnage had
to read in Latin versions, so far as they had been
translated; and here again he made reservations in regard to
dogmas contradictory to Christianity. Thus, in citing the
commentary on Isaiah by "R. Moses Al-shik" he adduces for a
corrective, as it were, C. L'Empereur (Leyden, 1631); and in
order to provide a refutation of Abravanel, of whom he knew
only his commentaries on Isaiah and Obadiah, he adduces
C.L'Empereur against the former commentary (Leyden, 1613)
and Sebaldi Snell (Nuremberg, 1647) against the latter.
Moreover, for historic purposes he did not make use of the
prefaces written by the exegete Snell to the commentaries on
other books. Of Abraham ibn Ezra he knew only three short
treatises, extracted by Buxtorf from his large Bible
commentary, and appended to the version of the "Cuzari,"
Whatever knowledge of the Talmud he could under these
circumstances possess, he derived from the Latin version of
the Mishnah by Surenhuys, with the commentaries of
Maimonides and Obadiah de Bertinoro, Amsterdam, 1700; from a
translation of the Pirḳe Abot; and from the Latin version of
the two Talmudic treatises Sanhedrin and Makkot, by John
Coch or Coccejus (Amsterdam, 1629). He had some knowledge
even of the two Midrashim, one on the Book of Esther, the
other on Lamentations; and he was well acquainted with all
the works of Maimonides that had been translated into Latin,
with the exception of "Yad ha-Ḥazaḳah."
Basnage's conception of Jewish theology and his
interpretation of the religious controversies bear the marks
of the same lack of direct knowledge. In this connection he
cites Carpzov, "Introductio ad Theologiam Judaicam"
(Amsterdam); Carret, "Judæus Convertus" (appended to the "Synagoga
Judaica" of Buxtorf); "Colloquium Judæo-Christianum";
Fetchius, "Ecclesia Judaica," Strasburg, 1670; St.
Augustine, "Altercatio Synagogæ et Ecclesiæ" (ed.
Benedictine, viii., Antwerp, 1700); and Wagenseil, "Tela
Ignea Satanæ." To these may be added, as a doubtful source,
P. Alix, "De Adventu Messiæ, Dissertationes Duæ Adversus
Judæos," London, 1701. Through such reading the most
impartial mind must become biased.
Historical and Geographical Sources.
For purely historical material, Basnage consulted, in
addition to the authors named in his preface, the writings
of the bishop of Lyons, Agobard, Arias Montanus, Miguel de
Barrios, Isaac Cardoso, "Las Excellencias de los Hebreos"
(Amsterdam, 1683); Cunæus, "De Republica Hebræorum";
Frischmuth, "De Gloria Templi Secundi"; the works of
Manasseh b. Israel, collections of the reports of councils,
and the Roman codes, as well as others. For chronology, he
cites, among others, Henry Dodwell, "De Veteribus Græcorum
Romanorumque Cyclis, Obiterque de Judæorum Cyclo Ætate
Christi," Oxford, 1701; P. Hardouin, "De Paschate," Paris,
1691, and Selden. As a historian he was therefore a
For geography, Basnage carefully read: Adrichom, "Descriptio
Terræ Sanctæ," Cologne, 1682; "The Travels of Benjamin of
Tudela," translated with notes by Constantin L'Empereur (Leyden);
William Baldensel, "Odporicon ad Terram Sanctam," in the "Lectiones
Antiquæ" of Canisius, v.; Bochart, "Phaleg" (Caen), and "Hierozoicon"
(London). When he refers to the book of Eldad ha-Dani in
only its Hebrew form, he confesses thereby his ignorance of
its contents. In the same way he shows lack of knowledge
with regard to Pethahiah of Regensburg, and Abraham Farissol
he misnames "Peritsul."
Basnage profitably used the five volumes of the "Bibliotheca
Rabbinica" of Bartolocci, Rome, 1675, together with all the
works of the two Buxtorfs. He also studied the Karaite sect
in the extract from the Bible commentary of the Karaitic
Jew, Aaron b. Joseph, translated and annotated by Louis Frey
of Basel, Amsterdam, 1705, and in Simonville's "Supplement
to Leon of Modena"; and information concerning the
Samaritans he obtained from Christoph Cellarius, "Collectanea
Historiæ Samaritanæ" (Cizæ [Zeitz], 1688). He also could get
a fair picture of Jewish rites and usages from the book of
Rabbi Isaac Arias, "Tesoro de Preceptos Adonde se Encierran
las Joyas de los 613 Preceptos queEncomendos el Señor a su
Pueblo con su Declaracion, Razon y Dinim Conforme a la
Verdadera Tradicion," Amsterdam, 5449 (1689).
His One Deficiency in Reading.
Jewish philosophy Basnage knew only at second hand, through
Buddeus' "Specimen," Halle, 1702. He was acquainted also
with the works of Maimonides and his followers; but of Moses
Naḥmanides, or of Ḥizzuḳ Emunah, he had at his command only
the extracts given by Wagenseil in his "Tela Ignea." To
judge from his knowledge of the mysticism of the Zohar, he
must have read the analysis and the fragments found in Knorr
von Rosenroth's "Cabbala Denudata," in four large volumes,
containing a number of dissertations, including the "Sha'ar
ha-Shamayyim" of Abraham Cohen Herrera (whom Basnage calls
Irira). The "Sefer Yeẓirah," which he used in the translated
and annotated form by Rittangel, Amsterdam, 1642, like all
his forerunners, he ascribed unhesitatingly to the patriarch
Abraham; and, probably, had he known the "Sefer Raziel," he
would have ascribed it to Adam. This one deficiency in his
wide reading and deep study need not prevent due
acknowledgment of the depth of his researches.
Basnage's other books also cover the field of his Jewish
studies. Before publishing his large history, he issued a
"Histoire du Vieux et du Nouveau Testament, Representée par
des Figures Gravées en Taille-Douce par Romain de Hooge,
avec des Explications dans Lesquelles on Éclaircit Plusieurs
Passages Obscurs," etc., Amsterdam, 1704. Under each one of
these figures are verses by La Brune. The nine editions of
this book prove its success. It was even pirated under the
title "Grand Tableau de l'Univers." Basnage's part in the
work, however, is confined to short explanatory notes on the
pictures. In later editions he added annals of the Church
and of the world, from the Creation to the death of the
apostles, and a "Géographie Sacrée."
Later he published the "Antiquités Judaiques, ou Remarques
Critiques sur la République des Hébreux," Amsterdam, 1713.
Although this is hardly more than a sequel to G. Goerrée's
translation and continuation of Cunæus' "De Republica
Hebræorum" (three volumes), it yet reveals Basnage's
personality and independence. He does not believe, for
instance, that Moses was the first of the world's lawgivers,
nor that men like Lycurgus, Solon, and Pythagoras borrowed
from the Bible whatever was excellent in their laws.
Not confining himself to political history, he touches upon
theology; he discusses the ideas of the Jews on demonology
and divine inspiration; and examining the opinions of the
fathers of the Church on the pagan oracles, the Sibylline
Books, and other fictitious works, he does not hesitate to
accuse them either of ignorance or of unfairness.
Voltaire, in "La Bible Enfin Expliquée par Plusieurs,
Aumôniers" ("Mélanges," xlix., ed. Beuchot, p. 366), in
speaking of a captive priest of Samaria, who had returned
and taught his countrymen how to worship God, adds in a
"Basnage in his 'Jewish Antiquities' says that some scholars
take this to be the Hebrew priest, sent to the new
inhabitants of Samaria, who wrote the Pentateuch. They base
their opinion on the fact that the Pentateuch speaks of the
origin of Babylon and of other Mesopotamian cities which
Moses could not have known; that neither the ancient nor the
later Samaritans would receive the Pentateuch from the
Hebrews of the kingdom of Judah, their bitterest enemies;
that the Samaritan Pentateuch was written in Hebrew, the
language of this priest, who would not have had time to
learn Chaldee; and finally they point out the essential
differences between the Samaritan and our Pentateuch. It is
not known who these scholars are; Basnage does not name
Le Vier, the editor of one of Basnage's posthumous works,
pays the following tribute to his character in the preface
to the second volume of the "Annales des Provinces-Unies":
"In his works his candor, frankness, and sincerity are no
less evident than his great scholarship and sound
Bibliography: Mailhet, Jacques Basnage, Théologien,
Controversiste, Diplomate, et Historien, Geneva, 1880.T. M.