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A Commentary on the New Testament
from the Talmud and Hebraica
A Chorographical Century
Perea. Beyond Jordan.
"The length of Perea was from Macherus to Pella: the breadth from Philadelphia to
"The mountainous part of it was mount Macvar, and Gedor," &c. "The
plain of it was Heshbon, with all its cities, which are in the plain, Dibon, and
Bamoth-Baal, and Beth-Baal-Meon," &c. "The valley of it is Beth-Haran, and
Beth-Nimrah, and Succoth," &c.
The mention of the mountains of Macvar occurs in that hyperbolical tradition of R.
Eleazar Ben Diglai, saying, "The goats in the mountains of Macvar sneezed at
the smell of the perfume of the incense in the Temple." The word Macherus is derived
The whole country, indeed, which was beyond Jordan, was called Perea: but it was so
divided, that the southern part of it was particularly called Perea; the other part was
called Batanea, Auranitis, Trachonitis. So it is called by Josephus, because, by the
donation of Augustus, "Perea and Galilee came into the possession of Herod Antipas:
and Batanea, and Trachon, and Auranitis, into that of Philip."
Bashan passed into Batanea, according to the Syriac idiom, that changeth Shin
into Thau: Batanin, in the Samaritan interpreter; Matanin, in the
Targumists, by the alternate use of Mem and Beth, which is not unusual with them.
Golan was the chief city of this country, Joshua 20:8. Whence is Gaulonitis, and that
"Upper and Nether Gaulonitis."
In the Jews we read, "Trachon, which is bounded at Bozra." Not Bozrah of
Edom, Isaiah 63:1; nor Bezer of the Reubenites, Joshua 20:8; but another, to wit, Bosorra,
or Bosor, in the land of Gilead. Concerning which, see Josephus, and the First Book of
While we speak of the difference between Bezer and Bozrah, we cannot pass by a simple
example of this thing, propounded by the Babylonian Talmudists. "The prince of
Rome" [viz. Samael, the angel of death, as the Gloss tells us] "did formerly
commit a threefold error; as it is written, 'Who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from
Bozrah?' In this matter he errs, because there is no refuge but in Bezer, and he betook
himself to Bozrah," &c.
"Batanea is bounded by Trachonitis."
Auranitis.--Josephus sometimes calls it 'Abranitis.'--"Caesar (saith he) gave to
Herod [the Great] Trachon, and Batanea, and Abranitis"; and that, that he should
restrain and subdue the robbers, who most miserably vexed those countries, &c.
Adam and Zaretan, Joshua 3.
I suspect a double error in some maps, while they place these two towns in Perea; much
more, while they place them at so little a distance.
We do not deny, indeed, that the city Adam was in Perea; but Zaretan was not so. Of
Adam is mention, Joshua 3:16; where discourse is had of the cutting-off, or cutting in
two, the waters of Jordan, that they might afford a passage to Israel; The waters rose
up upon a heap afar off in Adam. For the textual reading "In Adam,"
the marginal hath "From Adam." You may very fitly apply both readings.
Adam was the centre, where the waters parted: here was the station of the ark of the
covenant, now ready to enter Jordan. Hence the Psalmist, The tabernacle which he had
fixed in Adam, Psalm 78:60. Therefore, the textual reading "inAdam,"
holds well; because there was the centre of the cutting in two of the waters: but the
marginal reading "from Adam," does moreover add light, because the
gathering those waters together on a heap was far above it.
"R. Jochanan saith, Adam is a city, and Zaretan is a city, and they are distant
from one another twelve miles." From Adam to Zaretan, were the waters dried up; from
Zaretan and upwards, they stood on a heap. Adam was in Perea, over-against Jericho;
Zaretan was in the land of Manasseh on this side Jordan. It is called Zarthanah, 1 Kings
4:12, and is defined to be near Beth-shean, which was the furthest bounds of the land of
Manasseh northward. The brazen vessels of the Temple are said to be cast in the plain of
Jordan, in the clay ground between Zaretan (on this side Jordan) and Succoth (beyond it),
1 Kings 7:46. Therefore, the words cited in Joshua, far off from Adam, which is beside
Zaretan, are so to be understood, as not so much to denote the nearness of Adam and
Zaretan, as to intimate that the heaping up of the waters was by Zaretan. They are to be
rendered in this sense, "And the waters that came down from above stood together;
they rose up into one heap, in a very long distance from the city Adam," namely, to
that distance, which is by Zaretan.
Adam and Zaretan, on this and the other side, were both something removed from Jordan:
but they are named in that story, because there the discourse is of the time, when Jordan
contained not itself within its own channel, but had overflown its banks.
There were two Juliases, both in Perea, one built by Herod, called before
'Betharamphtha': of which Josephus; "At Betharamphtha, which before was the city's
name, Herod compassed Julias with a wall, calling it by the name of the empress." The
other built by Philip, heretofore called Bethsaida, of which the same author writes thus:
"Philip, having raised the town Bethsaida on the lake of Gennesaret to the honour of
a city, both in respect of the number of the inhabitants, and other strength, gave it the
same name with Julia, the emperor's daughter."
The maps have one Julias only: not amiss, because they substitute the name of Bethsaida
for the other:--but they do not well agree about the situation of both.
Julias-Betharamphtha was seated at the very influx of Jordan into the lake of Gennesaret.
For thus Josephus; "Jordan, having measured a hundred furlongs more from the lake
Samochonitis, after the city Julias, cuts the lake of Gennesar in the middle." Do not
these words argue that Jordan, being now ready to enter into the lake, did first glide by
Julias? To which those things which are said elsewhere by the same author do agree.
"Sylla (saith he) encamped five furlongs from Julias, and stopped up the
ways;--namely, that which led to Cana, and that which led to the castle Gamala. But I,
when I understood this, sent two thousand armed men, under Jermias their captain; and they
having encamped a furlong from Julias near the river Jordan," &c. Note that, when
they were distant from Julias a furlong only, they are but a little way off of Jordan. The
maps place it more remote from the influx of Jordan into the lake of Gennesaret than these
words will bear.
Julias-Bethsaida was not seated in Galilee, as it is in the maps, but beyond the sea of
Galilee in Perea. This we say upon the credit of Josephus: "Philip (saith he) built
Caesarea in Paneas [mark that]: and Julias [which before-time was Bethsaida] in Nether
Gaulonitis." But now, there is nobody but knows that Gaulonitis was in Perea. This
certainly is that Julias which Pliny placeth eastward of the lake of Gennesaret (for the
other Julias was scarcely near the sea at all); and that Julias of which Josephus speaks,
when he saith, "that a certain mountainous country beyond Jordan runs out from Julias
These things determine the situation of Gamala:--1. It was "in lower Gaulon,"
in which, as we have seen, Bethsaida was. 2. It was "upon the lake [of
Gennesaret]." 3. It was "over-against Tarichee." Compare the maps, whether
in their placing of it they agree with these passages. Here was Judas born, commonly
called 'Gaulanites,' and as commonly also, the 'Galilean.' So Peter and Andrew and Philip
were Gaulanites; of Bethsaida, John 1:44; and yet they were called 'Galileans.'
While we are speaking of Bethsaida, Chorazin comes into our mind, which is joined with
it, in the words of Christ, Matthew 11:21, as partaking with it in his miracles, and being
guilty of equal ingratitude. If you seek for the situation of this place, where will you
find it? Some maps place it on this side Jordan, and other beyond Jordan: but on what
authority do both depend? It is mere conjecture, unless I am deceived. Let me also
The word Chorashin, denotes woody places, both in the Holy Bible and in
the Rabbinical writings. Hence we suppose the Chorazin that is now before us is called,
namely, because it was seated in some woody place. For such places the land of
Nephthali was famous above the other tribes: to which the words of Jacob have regard,
"Nephthali is a hind let loose," Genesis 49; that is, Nephthali shall abound
with venison; as Asher (of whom mention is made in the words going before) shall abound in
bread, and royal dishes. Those words also of the Talmudists refer to this, "It is
lawful for cattle to feed in common, in the woods, yea, for the tribe of Judah [to
feed] in the tribe of Nephthali." Hence 'Harosheth of the Gentiles' hath its
name, Judges 4:2, which was in that tribe. Led by these reasons, I suppose our Chorazin to
have been in Galilee, rather than in Perea, where most maps place it.
But when this place seems to have been so famous for the frequent presence and miracles
of Christ, it is a wonder that it hath nowhere else so much as a mention in the
gospel-story, but in the bare remembrance of it in those words of Christ, "Woe to
thee, Chorazin," &c.; whereas Bethsaida and Capernaum, places that he mentioneth
with it, are spoken of elsewhere. What if, under this name, Cana be concluded, and some
small country adjacent, which, from its situation in a wood, might be named 'Chorazin,'
that is, 'the woody country'? Cana is famous for the frequent presence and miracles of
Christ. But away with conjecture, when it grows too bold.
Some towns upon the very limits of the land. Out of the Jerusalem Talmud, Demai,
fol. 22. 4.
In the place cited, discourse is had about the tithing of some herbs and seeds, namely,
of rice, nuts, onions, Egyptian beans, &c.; and inquiry is made, what is to be
resolved of tithing them, if they grow in places which seem to be without the land; and
these words are presently after brought in:--
"These cities are forbid in the borders, Tsur, Sezeth, and Bezeth, Pi Mazobah,
upper and lower Canothah, Beth Badia, Rosh Maja, Amon, and Mazi (R. Mena saith, So it was
called anciently, but now Susitha): Ainosh, En Teraa, Ras, Berin, Jion, Jadot, Caphar,
Charob, Chaspia, and Caphar Tsemach. These cities are permitted in the borders, Nebi, Tsur,
Tsijar, Gasmi, Zivian, Jagdi, Chatam, Debab, Charbatha, and Cheraccah" (or "Debab,
and its wilderness, and its fortification").
You see the name Tsur, here once and again, of which we have spoken before: let
us add these words elsewhere: "I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living:
and are there not other lands of the living besides Tsur and her companions,--and Caesarea
and her companions?"
Of Caphar Tsemach, there is mention also in the place first cited, col. 3, in
these words: "Rabbi looseth Bethshan. Rabbi looseth Caesarea. R. looseth Beth-Gubrim.
Rabbi looseth Caphra Tsemach" (from the obligation, as it seemeth, of the Demai).
"Rabbi permitted to take herbs, in the end of the seventh year: but all were against
him. He said to them, Come, and let us judge of the matter. 'It is written' (concerning
Hezekiah) 'And he beat in pieces the brazen serpent.' What! was not any one righteous from
Moses unto his times, who did this? But God reserved that crown for him, that he might be
crowned with it: and God hath reserved this crown for us, that we may be crowned with
The consistories of more note: out of the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedr. fol. 32. 2.
"The Rabbins deliver, Follow after righteousness, follow after righteousness. Go
to (Beth-Din) the famous consistory, to R. Eleazar to Lydda, to Rabban Jochanan Ben
Zaccai. A tradition; The sound of mills in Burni. The sons' week, the sons' week. A
candle in Beror Chel. A feast is there, a feast is there."
These things are something obscure, and do require light.
Beror Chel, seems to design a place: but what place? Indeed, the Sanhedrim of R.
Jochanan was in Jabneh; but his consistory, his seat of judgment, seems to be
distinguished from the Sanhedrim. So Paul was brought up at the feet of Rabban Gamaliel;
not in his Sanhedrim, but in his consistory or school. So you may
conjecture, that Rabban Jochanan, besides that he sat president of the chief Sanhedrim,
had his peculiar consistory in Jabneh itself, or in some neighbour place.
That which follows, "A tradition, the sound of mills," &c. is cleared by
the Glossers: "The sound of mills in Burni was a sign that there was a circumcision
there; as if it had been publicly proclaimed, The infant's week expires in this place. And
the sound of a mill was a sign that spices were ground to be applied to the wound of the
circumcision. It was a time of persecution, wherein it was forbidden to circumcise: they
feared, therefore, by any public notice to make known that there was to be a circumcision;
but they appointed this sign."
'A candle in Beror Chel.'--The Gloss writes, "The light of one candle in the
day-time, but many candles burning in the night, gave a sign, as if one had given notice
by a public proclamation that a feast of circumcision was there," &c.
Another Gloss is thus: "They were wont to light candles at a circumcision. It was
also a custom to spread a tablecloth at the door: hence is that, A custom prevailed at
Jerusalem, that as long as the tablecloth was spread at the door, travellers went
The Aruch writes thus; "In the time of persecution they could not celebrate public
matrimony, nor public circumcision; therefore, they did them secretly: wheresoever,
therefore, were lighted candles on the lintel of the door, they knew that there was a
wedding-feast there; and wheresoever was the sound of mills, there was a
The Jerusalem Talmudists add, "Although the persecution ceased, yet that custom
The Babylonian Talmudists go on. "Go to R. Josua to Pekiin." In the
Jerusalem Talmudists it is Bekiin, in this story that follows:
"R. Jochanan Ben Bruchah, and R. Eliezer the blind, travelled from Jabneh to
Lydda, and received R. Josua in Bekiin."
"Go to Rabban Gamaliel to Jabneh. Go to Rabbi Akiba to Bene Barak. Go to R. Mathia
to Roma. Go to R. Chananiah Ben Teradion to Sicni. To R. Jose to Zippor. To R. Judah Ben
Betirah to Nisibin. To R. Josua to the captivity (viz. to Pombeditha). To Rabbi to
Beth-Shaaraim. To the Wise men in the chamber Gazith."
The cities of the Levites.
Concerning them, see Numbers, chapter 35, and Joshua chapter 21.
"The suburbs of the cities of the Levites were three thousand cubits on every
side; viz. from the walls of the city, and outwards; as it is said, 'From the walls of the
city and outwards a thousand cubits: and thou shalt measure from without the city two
thousand cubits' (Num 35:4,5). The former thousand were the suburbs, and the latter two
thousand were for fields and vineyards. They appointed the place of burial to every one of
those cities to be without these bounds; for within them it was not lawful to bury a dead
corpse." Do you ask the reason? It was not so much for the avoiding pollution, which
might be contracted from a sepulchre, as by reason of the scribes' curious interpretation
of the law, that saith, The suburban lands of these cities were given to the Levites for
their cattle and oxen, "and for all their living" (creatures), Numbers
35:3:--therefore, say they, not for the dead or for burial.
All the cities of the Levites were cities of refuge; but with this distinction from
those six which were properly so called; that those six afforded refuge to every one that
dwelt in them, whether he betook himself thither for that end or no: but the other
Levitical cities were not so. And also, that the unwitting manslayer, flying to those six
cities, dwelt there at free cost, without paying any rent for his house; but in the other
Levitical cities he lived not at free cost.
Those forty-eight cities of the Levites were so many universities, where the
ministerial tribe, distributed in companies, studied the law, became learned; and thence
scattered through the whole nation, dispersed learning and the knowledge of the law in all
Two things are, not without good reason, to be observed here, which, perhaps, are not
seriously enough observed by all.
I. The settled ministry of the church of Israel was not prophets, but priests and
Levites, Malachi 2:7. For it was not seldom when there were no prophets; and the prophets
send the people to the priests for instruction, Haggai 2:11, and Malachi, in the place
II. That tithes were granted to the priests and Levites, not only when they ministered
at the altar or in the Temple, but when they studied in the universities and preached in
Behold the method of God's own institution. God chooseth Israel to be a peculiar people
to himself: to this chosen people he gives a law and a clergy: on the clergy he enjoins
the study of the law: to their studies he suits academical societies: on the universities
he bestows lands and tithes: on the synagogues he bestows tithes and university-men.
And the schools of the prophets were little universities, and colleges of students. For
their governor they had some venerable prophet, inspired with the Holy Spirit, and that
partook of divine revelations. The scholars were not inspired indeed with the same
prophetical spirit, but received prophecies from the mouth of their master. He revealed to
them those things that were revealed to him, of the will of God and the state of the
people, of the times and events of Israel, and above all, of the mysteries of the gospel;
of the Messias, of his coming, times, death, resurrection, and those things that were to
be done by him.
In these small universities, "the prophets, who prophesied of the grace that
should come (as the apostle Peter speaks), inquired diligently of salvation; searching
what, or what manner of time that was, which was pointed out by the Spirit of Christ that
was in them, when he foretold the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should
follow." These things, not to be fetched out by the mere and bare study of the law,
were here taught; and so the studies of the law and gospel together rendered the minister
of the divine word complete.
Some miscellaneous matters respecting the face of the land.
I. Let us begin with that canon concerning reading the Book of Esther in the feast of
Purim. "Towns that were begirt with walls from the days of Joshua read it on the
fifteenth day" of the month Adar: "Villages and great cities read it the
fourteenth day": "Unless that the villages anticipate it, to the day of the
You see a threefold distinction of cities and towns:
1. Fortifications, or towns girt with walls from the days of Joshua. But whence
shall we know them? They are those which are mentioned in the Book of Joshua; "which,
however in after-times they were not begirt with walls, are nevertheless reckoned under
the catalogue of them, as to the reading of that book."
2. Great cities. That was called a great city in which was a synagogue. So it is
defined by the Piske Tosaphoth, "That is a great city, in which are ten men at
leisure to pray and read the law." See what we say concerning these things on Matthew
4:23, when we speak of synagogues.
3. Villages. That is, such where there was not a synagogue. Yea, saith the Piske
Harosh, "a fortified town, wherein are not ten men of leisure" (or such as
'ceased from the things of the world'; and these made up a synagogue), "is reputed as
a village," &c.
That which is added in the text of the Misna, "Unless the villages do anticipate
it to the day of the congregation," is thus explained by the Glossers: "When
towns, girt with walls, read the Book of Esther on the fifteenth day, and those that were
not walled, on the fourteenth (see Esther 9:21): and yet it is said before" (in the
same text of the Misna), "that that book is read the eleventh, twelfth, and
thirteenth days; the wise men granted liberty to the villages to preoccupate the reading,
namely, on that day wherein they resorted to the synagogue: that is, either the second day
of the week, that went before the fourteenth day of the month, or the fifth day of the
week: which were days of assembly, in which the villages resorted into the cities to
judgment. For the second and fifth days of the week, the judiciary consistories sat in the
cities by the appointment of Ezra. Now the villagers were not skillful in reading;
therefore it was needful that they should have some reader in the city."
II. Let the canons and cautions of the spaces and places next joining to the city or
town be observed:
1. "A dovecote was not built within fifty cubits from the city": and that,
lest the pigeons might do injury to the gardens that were sown.
2. "They permitted not a tree within five-and-twenty cubits from the city."
"And this (as the Gloss speaks) for the grace of the city."
3. "They allowed not a barn-floor within fifty cubits from the city": that,
when they fanned their corn, their chaff might not offend the citizens.
4. "They permitted not dead carcases, or burying-places, nor a tanner's shop, to
be within fifty cubits from the city" (because of the stink). "Nor did they
allow a tanner's workshop at all, but on the east side of the city. R. Akiba saith, On any
side, except the west, but at the distance of fifty cubits."
III. From the cities let us walk forth into their ploughed grounds and fields.
Here you might see, in some places, certain tokens hung upon some fig-trees, to show of
what year the fruit that grew there was. See what we say on Matthew 21:19. In other
places, you might see barren trees stigmatized with some mark of infamy. "A tree
which shook off its fruits before they were ripe, they mark with red, and load it
You might see the ploughing and mowing of their fields, the dressing of their vines,
and their vintage, to be done by the rules of the scribes, as well as by the art of the
husbandman, or the vine-dresser. For such was the care and diligence of the Fathers of the
Traditions, concerning tithing corn and fruits, concerning leaving a corner for the poor,
concerning the avoiding of sowing different seeds, and of not transgressing the law
concerning the seventh year; that they might not plough, nor sow, nor reap, but according
to the traditional rule. Hence are those infinite disputes in the books Peah, Demai,
Kilaim, Sheviith, of the corner of the field to be left, what and how much the portion of
it was, and of what things such corners ought to consist? Of those that divide the field
so that a double corner of it is due to the poor: Whether a corner is due from beds of
corn that grow among olive trees? Whether from a field whose sowing and reaping is
various? What are the trees whose fruits are Demai? Of what things is the tithing of the
Demai? How long the same plot of ground may be sown with different seeds, so as not to
offend against the law? Of sowing different seeds:--How many vines make a vineyard? Of
their rows, of the beds of the vineyard, of sowing within the press, &c. and
innumerable decisions of that nature, which did so keep the countryman within bounds, that
he could not plough nor mow his land according to his own will, but according to the rule
"The inhabitants of Beth-Namer measured out a corner for the poor with a line, and
they gave a corner out of every row. Abba Saul saith, They make mention of them to their
praise, and to their dispraise: to their dispraise, because they gave one part out of a
hundred; to their praise, because, measuring with a line, they collected and gave a corner
out of every row": that is, meeting with a measuring line, they yielded the hundredth
part of the field to the poor, and that out of every row of sheaves.
Subterraneous places. Mines. Caves.
Thus having taken some notice of the superficies of the land, let us a little search
into its bowels. You may divide the subterraneous country into three parts: the metal
mines, the caves, and the places of burial.
This land was eminently noted for metal mines, so that "its stones," in very
many places, "were iron, and out of its hills was digged brass," Deuteronomy
8:9. From these gain accrued to the Jews: but to the Christians, not seldom slavery and
misery; being frequently condemned hither by tyrants. So Eusebius of Edesius, "He was
condemned to the metal mines of Palestine." And again, concerning others, "Then
passing to the other confessors of Christ, he condemns them all to the brass mines, which
were in Pheno of Palestine."
On the north part of the land, in the country of Asher, were mines of metal. Hence is
that in Deuteronomy 33:25, "Thy shoes shall be iron and brass." On the south, in
the desert of Sin, the utmost bounds of Judea, were mines also: hence--and shall pass
to Zin, as our translation reads, Numbers 34:4,--in the Jerusalem Targumist, is over-against
the mountain of iron: and in Jonathan, unto the palm-trees of the mountain of iron:
and in the Talmudists, the palm-trees of the mountain of iron are fit to make a
small bundle to carry in the hand in the feast of Tabernacles. On the east coast of Perea
was also "an iron mountain,"--witness Josephus. And without doubt there were
other such-like mines, scattered here and there in other parts of that land, though of
them we have no mention.
You will not at all wonder at these underminings of the earth, seeing they brought so
much profit and gain with them, and were so necessary to the life of man. But what shall
we say of those dens and caves in rocks and mountains, whence no gain seemed to be digged,
but rather danger arose to the neighbouring places oftentimes? For what were these, but
lurking-places for wild beasts and robbers? There is infinite mention of these caves both
in the Holy Scriptures and in other writings, especially in Josephus, where subterraneous
passages, and dens, are mentioned a thousand times. And many of these were of a
vast largeness, scarcely to be credited; those especially in the Talmudists, which are
called "The dens of Zedekiah," not a few miles in distance.
But were those hollows the work of nature, or of the hands and industry of man? By one
example, taken out of Josephus, the thing may be determined. Relating the story of a
castle built by Hyrcanus in Perea, among other things he speaks thus: "Out of the
rock against the mountain, having cut in two the prominent parts of it, he made dens of
many furlongs long." And a little after, "He made the mouths that opened into
these dens to be strait, that but one might go in at a time, and no more": "and
this he did on purpose for security's sake, and for avoiding danger, in case he should be
besieged by his brethren."
These dens, therefore, were cut out of mountains and rocks for the uses of war, that
they might serve for refuge and strength. And it is probable the Canaanites, a warlike and
gigantic nation, had digged very many of these caves before the entrance of the Israelites
into that land; and that the Israelites also increased the number of them. See concerning
these caves, Joshua 10:16; Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 22:1, and 24:3; 1 Kings 18:13; Isaiah
Of the places of Burial.
There were more common and more noble sepulchres. The common were in public
burying-places, as it is with us: but they were without the city. "And through that
place was no current of waters to be made; through it was to be no public way; cattle were
not to feed there, nor was wood to be gathered from thence."
"Nor was it lawful to walk among the sepulchres with phylacteries fastened to
their heads, nor with the book of the law hanging at their arm."
Some sepulchres were extraordinary; that is, in reference to the place of their
situation. As, 1. A sepulchre found; that is, when a sepulchre is in somebody's
field without his knowledge; but at last the sepulchre is discovered. 2. A sepulchre
that is publicly noxious; that is, digged near some place of common walk or travel:
from the nearness of which the passengers contract pollution.
The more noble sepulchres were hewn out in some rock, in their own ground, with no
little charge and art. You have the form of them described in the place noted in the
margin, in these words:
"He that selleth his neighbour a place of burial, and he that takes of his
neighbour a place of burial, let him make the inner parts of the cave four cubits, and six
cubits; and let him open within it eight sepulchres." They were not wont, say the
Glosses, to bury men of the same family here and there, scatteringly, and by themselves,
but altogether in one cave: whence, if any one sells his neighbour a place of burial, he
sells him room for two caves, or hollows on both sides, and a floor in the middle. Coffin
is the very place where the dead corpse is laid.
The tradition goes on: "Three sepulchres are on this side, and three on
that, and two near them. And those sepulchres are four cubits long, seven high, and six
To those that entered into the sepulchral cave, and carried the bier, there was first a
floor, where they stood, and set down the bier, in order to their letting it down into the
sepulchre: on this and the other side, there was a cave, or a hollowed place, deeper than
the floor by four cubits, into which they let down the corpse, divers coffins being there
prepared for divers corpses. "R. Simeon saith, The hollow of the cave consists of six
cubits, and eight cubits, and it opens thirteen sepulchres within it, four on this side
and four on that, and three before them, and one on the right hand of the door, and
another on the left. And the floor within the entrance into the cave consists of a square,
according to the dimensions of the bier, and of them that bear it: and from it, it opens
two caves, one on this side, and another on that. R. Simeon saith, Four at the four sides
of it. Rabban Simeon Ben Gamaliel saith, The whole is made according to the condition of
These things are handled by the Gemarists and Glossers very curiously and very largely,
whom you may consult. From these things now spoken, you may more plainly understand many
matters which are related of the sepulchre of our Saviour. Such as these:
Mark 16:5: "The women, entering into the sepulchre, saw a young man sitting on the
right hand": in the very floor, immediately after the entrance into the sepulchre.
Luke 24:3: "Going in they found not his body," &c. Verse 5: "While
they bowed down their faces to the earth, Peter ran to the sepulchre, and, when he had
stooped down, he saw the linen-clothes"; that is, the women, and Peter after them,
standing in the floor, bow down their faces, and look downward into the place where the
sepulchres themselves were (the cave of the graves), which, as we said before, was
four cubits deeper than the floor.
John 20:5: "The disciple whom Jesus loved came first to the sepulchre; and when he
had stooped down" (standing in the floor, that he might look into the burying-place),
"saw the linen clothes lie; yet went he not in. But Peter went in," &c.;
that is, from the floor he went down into the cave itself, where the rows of the graves
were (in which, nevertheless, no corpses had been as yet laid, besides the body of Jesus):
thither also after Peter, John goes down. And verse 11: "But Mary, weeping, stood at
the sepulchre without: and while she wept, she stooped down to the sepulchre, and saw two
angels in white sitting, one at the head, and another at the feet, where the body of
Christ had lain."
"She stood at the sepulchre without"; that is, within the cave, on the floor,
but without that deeper cave, where the very graves were, or the places for the bodies:
bowing herself, to look down thither, she saw two angels at the head and foot of that coffin
wherein the body of Christ had been laid.
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