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Part 2—Chapters VI to X


Endnote 6. (1) We doubt of the existence of God, and consequently of all else, so long as we have no clear and distinct idea of God, but only a confused one. (2) For as he who knows not rightly the nature of a triangle, knows not that its three angles are equal to two right angles, so he who conceives the Divine nature confusedly, does not see that it pertains to the nature of God to exist. (3) Now, to conceive the nature of God clearly and distinctly, it is necessary to pay attention to a certain number of very simple notions, called general notions, and by their help to associate the conceptions which we form of the attributes of the Divine nature. (4) It then, for the first time, becomes clear to us, that God exists necessarily, that He is omnipresent, and that all our conceptions involve in themselves the nature of God and are conceived through it. (5) Lastly, we see that all our adequate ideas are true. (6) Compare on this point the prolegomena to book, "Principles of Descartes's philosophy set forth geometrically."


Endnote 7. (1) "It is impossible to find a method which would enable us to gain a certain knowledge of all the statements in Scripture." (2) I mean impossible for us who have not the habitual use of the language, and have lost the precise meaning of its phraseology.

Endnote 8. (1) "Not in things whereof the understanding can gain a clear and distinct idea, and which are conceivable through themselves." (2) By things conceivable I mean not only those which are rigidly proved, but also those whereof we are morally certain, and are wont to hear without wonder, though they are incapable of proof. (3) Everyone can see the truth of Euclid's propositions before they are proved. (4) So also the histories of things both future and past which do not surpass human credence, laws, institutions, manners, I call conceivable and clear, though they cannot be proved mathematically. (5) But hieroglyphics and histories which seem to pass the bounds of belief I call inconceivable; yet even among these last there are many which our method enables us to investigate, and to discover the meaning of their narrator.


Endnote 9. (1) "Mount Moriah is called the mount of God." (2) That is by the historian, not by Abraham, for he says that the place now called "In the mount of the Lord it shall be revealed," was called by Abraham, "the Lord shall provide."

Endnote 10. (1) "Before that territory [Idumoea] was conquered by David." (2) From this time to the reign of Jehoram when they again separated from the Jewish kingdom (2 Kings viii:20), the Idumaeans had no king, princes appointed by the Jews supplied the place of kings (1 Kings xxii:48), in fact the prince of Idumaea is called a king (2 Kings iii:9).

(3) It may be doubted whether the last of the Idumaean kings had begun to reign before the accession of Saul, or whether Scripture in this chapter of Genesis wished to enumerate only such kings as were independent. (4) It is evidently mere trifling to wish to enrol among Hebrew kings the name of Moses, who set up a dominion entirely different from a monarchy.


Endnote 11. (1) "With few exceptions." (2) One of these exceptions is found in 2 Kings xviii:20, where we read, "Thou sayest (but they are but vain words)," the second person being used. (3) In Isaiah xxxvi:5, we read "I say (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war," and in the twenty-second verse of the chapter in Kings it is written, "But if ye say," the plural number being used, whereas Isaiah gives the singular. (4) The text in Isaiah does not contain the words found in 2 Kings xxxii:32. (5) Thus there are several cases of various readings where it is impossible to distinguish the best.

Endnote 12. (1) "The expressions in the two passages are so varied." (2) For instance we read in 2 Sam. vii:6, "But I have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle." (3) Whereas in 1 Chron. xvii:5, "but have gone from tent to tent and from one tabernacle to another." (4) In 2 Sam. vii:10, we read, "to afflict them," whereas in 1 Chron. vii:9, we find a different expression. (5) I could point out other differences still greater, but a single reading of the chapters in question will suffice to make them manifest to all who are neither blind nor devoid of sense.

Endnote 13. (1) "This time cannot refer to what immediately precedes." (2) It is plain from the context that this passage must allude to the time when Joseph was sold by his brethren. (3) But this is not all. (4) We may draw the same conclusion from the age of Judah, who was than twenty-two years old at most, taking as basis of calculation his own history just narrated. (5) It follows, indeed, from the last verse of Gen. xxx., that Judah was born in the tenth of the years of Jacob's servitude to Laban, and Joseph in the fourteenth. (6) Now, as we know that Joseph was seventeen years old when sold by his brethren, Judah was then not more than twenty-one. (7) Hence, those writers who assert that Judah's long absence from his father's house took place before Joseph was sold, only seek to delude themselves and to call in question the Scriptural authority which they are anxious to protect.

Endnote 14. (1) "Dinah was scarcely seven years old when she was violated by Schechem." (2) The opinion held by some that Jacob wandered about eight or ten years between Mesopotamia and Bethel, savours of the ridiculous; if respect for Aben Ezra, allows me to say so. (3) For it is clear that Jacob had two reasons for haste: first, the desire to see his old parents; secondly, and chiefly to perform, the vow made when he fled from his brother (Gen. xxviii:10 and xxxi:13, and xxxv:1). (4) We read (Gen. xxxi:3), that God had commanded him to fulfill his vow, and promised him help for returning to his country. (5) If these considerations seem conjectures rather than reasons, I will waive the point and admit that Jacob, more unfortunate than Ulysses, spent eight or ten years or even longer, in this short journey. (6) At any rate it cannot be denied that Benjamin was born in the last year of this wandering, that is by the reckoning of the objectors, when Joseph was sixteen or seventeen years old, for Jacob left Laban seven years after Joseph's birth. (7) Now from the seventeenth year of Joseph's age till the patriarch went into Egypt, not more than twenty-two years elapsed, as we have shown in this chapter. (8) Consequently Benjamin, at the time of the journey to Egypt, was twenty-three or twenty- four at the most. (9) He would therefore have been a grandfather in the flower of his age (Gen. xlvi:21, cf. Numb. xxvi:38, 40, and 1 Chron. viii;1), for it is certain that Bela, Benjamin's eldest son, had at that time, two sons, Addai and Naa-man. (10) This is just as absurd as the statement that Dinah was violated at the age of seven, not to mention other impossibilities which would result from the truth of the narrative. (11) Thus we see that unskillful endeavours to solve difficulties, only raise fresh ones, and make confusion worse confounded.

Endnote 15. (1) "Othniel, son of Kenag, was judge for forty years." (2) Rabbi Levi Ben Gerson and others believe that these forty years which the Bible says were passed in freedom, should be counted from the death of Joshua, and consequently include the eight years during which the people were subject to Kushan Rishathaim, while the following eighteen years must be added on to the eighty years of Ehud's and Shamgar's judgeships. (3) In this case it would be necessary to reckon the other years of subjection among those said by the Bible to have been passed in freedom. (4) But the Bible expressly notes the number of years of subjection, and the number of years of freedom, and further declares (Judges ii:18) that the Hebrew state was prosperous during the whole time of the judges. (5) Therefore it is evident that Levi Ben Gerson (certainly a very learned man), and those who follow him, correct rather than interpret the Scriptures.

(6) The same fault is committed by those who assert, that Scripture, by this general calculation of years, only intended to mark the period of the regular administration of the Hebrew state, leaving out the years of anarchy and subjection as periods of misfortune and interregnum. (7) Scripture certainly passes over in silence periods of anarchy, but does not, as they dream, refuse to reckon them or wipe them out of the country's annals. (8) It is clear that Ezra, in 1 Kings vi., wished to reckon absolutely all the years since the flight from Egypt. (9) This is so plain, that no one versed in the Scriptures can doubt it. (10) For, without going back to the precise words of the text, we may see that the genealogy of David given at the end of the book of Ruth, and I Chron. ii., scarcely accounts for so great a number of years. (11) For Nahshon, who was prince of the tribe of Judah (Numb. vii;11), two years after the Exodus, died in the desert, and his son Salmon passed the Jordan with Joshua. (12) Now this Salmon, according to the genealogy, was David's great-grandfather. (13) Deducting, then, from the total of 480 years, four years for Solomon's reign, seventy for David's life, and forty for the time passed in the desert, we find that David was born 366 years after the passage of the Jordan. (14) Hence we must believe that David's father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great- great-grandfather begat children when they were ninety years old.

Endnote 16. (1) "Samson was judge for twenty years." (2) Samson was born after the Hebrews had fallen under the dominion of the Philistines.

Endnote 17. (1) Otherwise, they rather correct than explain Scripture.

Endnote 18. (1) "Kirjath-jearim." Kirjath-jearim is also called Baale of Judah. (2) Hence Kimchi and others think that the words Baale Judah, which I have translated "the people of Judah," are the name of a town. (3) But this is not so, for the word Baale is in the plural. (4) Moreover, comparing this text in Samuel with I Chron. Xiii:5, we find that David did not rise up and go forth out of Baale, but that he went thither. (5) If the author of the book of Samuel had meant to name the place whence David took the ark, he would, if he spoke Hebrew correctly, have said, "David rose up, and set forth from Baale Judah, and took the ark from thence."


Endnote 19. (1) "After the restoration of the Temple by Judas Maccaboeus." (2) This conjecture, if such it be, is founded on the genealogy of King Jeconiah, given in 1 Chron. iii., which finishes at the sons of Elioenai, the thirteenth in direct descent from him: whereon we must observe that Jeconiah, before his captivity, had no children; but it is probable that he had two while he was in prison, if we may draw any inference from the names he gave them. (3) As to his grandchildren, it is evident that they were born after his deliverance, if the names be any guide, for his grandson, Pedaiah (a name meaning God hath delivered me), who, according to this chapter, was the father of Zerubbabel, was born in the thirty-seventh or thirty-eighth year of Jeconiah's life, that is thirty-three years before the restoration of liberty to the Jews by Cyrus. (4) Therefore Zerubbabel, to whom Cyrus gave the principality of Judaea, was thirteen or fourteen years old. (5) But we need not carry the inquiry so far: we need only read attentively the chapter of 1 Chron., already quoted, where (v. 17, sqq.) mention is made of all the posterity of Jeconiah, and compare it with the Septuagint version to see clearly that these books were not published, till after Maccabaeus had restored the Temple, the sceptre no longer belonging to the house of Jeconiah.

Endnote 20. (1) "Zedekiah should be taken to Babylon." (2) No one could then have suspected that the prophecy of Ezekiel contradicted that of Jeremiah, but the suspicion occurs to everyone who reads the narrative of Josephus. (3) The event proved that both prophets were in the right.

Endnote 21. (1) "And who wrote Nehemiah." (2) That the greater part of the book of Nehemiah was taken from the work composed by the prophet Nehemiah himself, follows from the testimony of its author. (See chap. i.). (3) But it is obvious that the whole of the passage contained between chap. viii. and chap. xii. verse 26, together with the two last verses of chap. xii., which form a sort of parenthesis to Nehemiah's words, were added by the historian himself, who outlived Nehemiah.

Endnote 22. (1) "I suppose no one thinks" that Ezra was the uncle of the first high priest, named Joshua (see Ezra vii., and 1 Chron. vi:14), and went to Jerusalem from Babylon with Zerubbabel (see Nehemiah xii:1). (2) But it appears that when he saw, that the Jews were in a state of anarchy, he returned to Babylon, as also did others (Nehem. i;2), and remained there till the reign of Artaxerxes, when his requests were granted and he went a second time to Jerusalem. (3) Nehemiah also went to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in the time of Cyrus (Ezra ii:2 and 63, cf. x:9, and Nehemiah x:1). (4) The version given of the Hebrew word, translated "ambassador," is not supported by any authority, while it is certain that fresh names were given to those Jews who frequented the court. (5) Thus Daniel was named Balteshazzar, and Zerubbabel Sheshbazzar (Dan. i:7). (6) Nehemiah was called Atirsata, while in virtue of his office he was styled governor, or president. (Nehem. v. 24, xii:26.)

Endnote 23. (1) "Before the time of the Maccabees there was no canon of sacred books." (2) The synagogue styled "the great" did not begin before the subjugation of Asia by the Macedonians. (3) The contention of Maimonides, Rabbi Abraham, Ben-David, and others, that the presidents of this synagogue were Ezra, Daniel, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, &c., is a pure fiction, resting only on rabbinical tradition. (4) Indeed they assert that the dominion of the Persians only lasted thirty-four years, and this is their chief reason for maintaining that the decrees of the "great synagogue," or synod (rejected by the Sadducees, but accepted by the Pharisees) were ratified by the prophets, who received them from former prophets, and so in direct succession from Moses, who received them from God Himself. (5) Such is the doctrine which the Pharisees maintain with their wonted obstinacy. (6) Enlightened persons, however, who know the reasons for the convoking of councils, or synods, and are no strangers to the differences between Pharisees and Sadducees, can easily divine the causes which led to the assembling of this great synagogue. (7) It is very certain that no prophet was there present, and that the decrees of the Pharisees, which they style their traditions, derive all their authority from it.

End of Endnotes to Part II.—Chapters VI to X.A Theologico-Political Treatise by Baruch Spinoza

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