« ПретходнаНастави »
value than the original writings of the prophets-of men who “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ?” We do not at all subscribe to the opinion of Pareau, in his valuable work on “ The Principles of Interpretation of the Old Testament," that “the rudeness of the nation” would produce any laxity in the arrangement and collection of these sacred writings. However rude the Jews might be esteemed in comparison with those polished nations of antiquity, Greece and Rome, yet they attached too high a value, especially in the dawn of their existence as a nation, to their earlier sacred, writings, to show any want of care; and as for the rest, though the Jews as a nation, in seasons of religious declension, might disregard them, yet the writers themselves were too sensible of their value, and of the source from whence they proceeded, not to take every precautionary step for their preservation; and, as has just been observed, what place so safe, so proper for this as the ark? This, therefore, we deem in the main to have been the depository of these "lively oracles."
Two questions of considerable interest, however, here present themselves. One is, what became of the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua, the ooly books existing at the time, when the ark was taken? An. other, how did it happen that, during the reign of Josiah, the original copy of the Scriptures was found by accident by Hilkiah, the priest ?
In the celebrated battle with the Philistines when the ark was taken, it is very likely that its usual contents had not been removed. The Israelites imagined that no danger could be apprehended as long as the ark, the symbol of the divine presence, was with them. Hence, when it was brought into their camp, we are told the shout they set up made the earth ring again. To have, therefore, taken any thing out of the ark would have betrayed a fear of its capture, which never once entered into their minds. Terrible indeed was their dismay when they were routed, and the ark taken. Then it was that Phine. has's wife, with her dying breath, called her son Ichabod, (or the glory is departed,) in consequence of the capture of this most sacred vessel.
The ark, however, remained in the hands of the Philistines but seven months. When placed in a heathen temple, the god Dagon fell before it : “the harvests of the Philistines were wasted by mice; their per. sons afflicted by a loathsome disease.”—Milman's Hist. of Jews, vol. i, p. 173. On this account it was determined to send it back; and it was brought to Bethshemesh, a place within the borders of Israel, by milch kine, which took the direct road to this city. Here a heavy judg. ment fell upon the inhabitants for presuming with “profane curiosity" to look into it.
In view of the above facts, we ask, Is it not reasonable to suppose that the same superintending providence which watched over the ark in the land of the Philistines, and which led to its hasty restoration, preserved also from harm, during this period, the manna, Aaron's rod, the tables of stone, the law of Moses, and the book of Joshua, which were appended to it. Were certain of the inhabitants of Bethshemesh struck dead for merely looking into the ark, and would not the same power preserve what was in it? We think it fair to infer from what has been said, that when the ark was brought into their camp by the Israelites, its highly prized contents were not removed; and also, dur. ing the seven months it was in the power of the Philistines, no page
of the sacred books had been touched by any profane hand-no injury done to the manna that had fallen, and the rod that had bloomed in the desert, several hundreds of years before.
As to the discovery of the original copy of the Scriptures in the reign of Josiah, we observe, that the sixty-seven years which had elapsed from the death of Hezekiah to Josiah's eighteenth year, was by far the most irreligious, the most idolatrous period in the Jewish annals. It is true Josiah had been on the throne ten years of this time; but, however good his intentions, he could have done but little during his minority to stem the torrent of iniquity that, during the long reign of Manasseh, had deluged the land. Allowing that Manasseh repented at the close of his life, yet he did not effect a thorough reform; and nothing but this could meet the exigency of the case. Moreover, what he did, his son, it is likely, during the two years of his reign, overturned. When Josiah, the grandson of Manasseh, ascended the throne, he was but eight years of age, and the kingdom of Judah of course was governed by others. It is not therefore likely that the mind of Josiah was fully aroused to the necessity of a thorough religious reformation, until the discovery of the original copy of the Scriptures. At the age of twelve, it is true, he commenced a partial reformation; but it was but partial, and from the nature of the case could not have been otherwise.
Here, then, we have the long period of sixty-seven years, from the commencement of Manasseh's reign, who succeeded Hezekiah, until Josiah reached his eighteenth year, for irreligion to deluge the land; and indeed during this period it had overleaped all bounds. The most abominable and cruel rites of the heathen had been substituted for the worship of God. The greater part of this time the great national fes. tival of the Jews, the Passover, had been discontinued. Persecution had raged against the priests of the most high God, while the temple itself had been impiously profaned. It was during the reign of the impious and barbarous Manasseh that Isaiah is supposed to have been sawn asunder, while the streets of Jerusalem ran with innocent blood.
But the extent to which impiety went in the reign of Manasseh can be best judged of by the reformation which Josiah effected— for an account of which, as our space is limited, we refer you to the 22d chapter of the 2d book of Kings.
Is it, we ask, in view of the above account, surprising that, amid such sacrilegious profanation, such horrid persecution, with a people so inveterately prone to idolatry as the Jews, that the word of God should be disregarded? Would it not be one part of the policy of such a sacrilegious monster's reign as Manasseh's, to use every effort to put out of sight-of his own, and the people's—the word of God? And, indeed, judging from facts, it seems to have been the object of this Jewish Nero to sweep from the land the name and service of Je. hovah.
This policy, pursued through nearly two generations, will tend to account for the exceeding scarcity of the word of God when Josiah came to the throne—such a scarcity that it seems Josiah himself had never seen a copy of the Scriptures until he was eighteen. We have something parallel to this in the history of the great Protestant Re.
Vol. X.-April, 1839. 22
former, who, through the influence of a similar policy exerted against the distribution of the word of God, only by accident found a Greek Testament in some private place in his monastery, at Wittemberg.
Amid the desolating impiety that in Manasseh's reign seemed likely to sweep away every vestige of the ancient land-marks, some pious priest, probably, trembling for the venerable copy of the word of God, preserved from the first, took the precaution to deposit it in some safe concealed place in the temple, where it was providentially found by Hilkiah. Then it was that Josiah, no doubt for the first time, read the promises and threatenings contained in Deuteronomy, seeing just cause of alarm for the safety of the Jewish people, as their conduct, he knew, exposed them to the severest inflictions denounced in that book. Then was he led to purge the temple and its altars, to lead the way in a thorough religious reformation, which, though it delayed the ruin of Jerusalem, did not save it from destruction, nor the people from captivity.
The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the Babylonish captivity, soon followed. But, amid the strife and bloodshed attending the disastrous overthrow, there was Jeremiah, and during the long exile there were Daniel and Ezekiel, to watch over the sacred records. After the restoration, Ezra, as is allowed, arranged the sacred canon, adding the later books, and comparing the older ones, as is reason. ably conjectured, with “ the copies of the writings, particularly of those of Moses, which might be in possession of the priests." Pareaw on Principles of Interpretation, p. 59.*
This copy, thus arranged, was kept in the “sacred library, spoken of in 2 Maccab. ii, 13, until its destruction by Antiochus Epiphanes, when all public worship of God ceased, and whatever copies of the divine laws were discovered were torn and burnt. But not long after the sacred volume seems to have been restored and preserved till the de. struction of the temple by the Romans, wlio bore it in triumph along with the other sacred spoils of Titus. Josephus, Jewish War, book vii, 54. At last, however, it was given to Flavius Josephus, at his own request, as he himself testifies in his account of his own life. As to what became of it afterward, no probable conjecture can be formed." See Pareaw, p.
61. Thus have we given a brief outline of the history of the Hebrew text, or those sacred writings which constitute the ground of our faith, and the source of our sublimest hopes when this terrestrial scene shall close, down to the destruction of Jerusalem ; a period sufficiently late, as these books had then become the common property of Jews and Christians.
Our object will now be, in conclusion, to suggest a few considera. tions with the view to promote the study of the text itself in the original tongue.
The books belonging to the "second or silver age of the Hebrew language and literature, extending from the return from the captivity to the time of the Maccabees, or about 160 years, and in which a Chaldaic tincture is more or less apparent, are the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, the prophetical books of Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi." (Professor Bush's Introduction to his New Hebrew Grammar, now in the course of publication.)
THE STUDY OF THE HEBREW.* The first consideration that we shall present, with the view to incite especially those who are preparing for the ministry in this institution, will be the satisfaction which is undoubtedly to be found in tracing divine truth as near as possible to its original sources, and assuring our minds of the purity of the fountain by personal examination.
It was said by Gerhard, one of the Protestant reformers, as quoted by Professor Stuart, in his valuable notes on a work called “ Disser. tations on the Study of the Original Languages of the Bible, by Jahn and others,” “miseruin est in re tanta, alienis videre oculis :" and we think such as design to serve at the altar, having at the same time “ opportunity and leisure,” must subscribe to the sentiment, that it is indeed “miserum,” in so great a work as this, on which so much de. pends, to see with the eyes of others. Allowing all the excellence that is justly claimed for our own translation,-all that is claimed for the Septuagint or the Vulgate,--admitting the value of the critical labors of learned, judicious, and pious commentators-still there is a satisfac. tion, of a deep and elevated character, in being able to say, quoting partly an expression of Melancthon's, that we have at least "tasted, degustasse, with our own lips, the original fountain itself.”
It is an unspeakable satisfaction to be favored with the light of divine revelation ; to be able to read, not “the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God,” (1 Thess. ii, 13,) in our own tongue. But this satisfaction is greatly increased when we can read, though it be with the aid of Lexicon and Grammar, the language in which these heavenly truths were originally written. It is a feeling something similar, though of a far higher kind, to that of the traveler who, after tracing the course of a river which has fertilized and adorned a vast tract of country through which it has flowed, at length reaches its source. He gazes with deep interest upon the gushing fountain, which, taking its rise here, and thence flowing onward, widening and deepening in its course, has spread far and wide fertility and joy. The Hebrew is the language in which the original records of divine truth were first written. This is the source, so far as language is con. cerned, the fountain of divine truth. From this fountain the stream of divine knowledge has flowed forth, spreading through diversified channels the knowledge of God and his will; opening to the hopes of man the grand scheme of a Deliverer, a Restorer, even “ Messiah, the Prince.” Who therefore that believes in these original communications of Heaven to man, especially who that thinks it his duty to explain and enforce them to others, but that must derive inconceivable satis. faction when he reaches the original source and fountain of truth itself—when he reads for himself, in the language in which they were first written,“ what work the Almighty did in the times of old ?” Psa. xliv, 1.
Such was the satisfaction Melancthon derived from his knowledge of the Hebrew, that he says, “omnibus mundi regnis omniumque opibus longe ante pono.” He places this exquisite satisfaction he enjoyed from the knowledge of Hebrew on this ground; “propter judicium de
Extracted from an address read in the chapel of the Wesleyan Uni. versity.
religione.” He regarded religion of such incalculable importance, that the knowledge of the language which contained such exhaustless treasures for the undying soul was of far more value to him than all the kingdoms of the world, than all the wealth of the universe. So Luther, evincing the same disinterested attachment to truth, tells us, that the knowledge he had acquired of this most ancient tongue was deemed by him also of far greater value than countless treasures of gold : “infinitis milibus aureorum.” On the other hand, we are told that St. Augustine learned the Greek in advanced life, and always lamented that he had not been able to add to the Greek the knowledge of the Hebrew. The difficulties he met with from his ignorance of this tongue, induced him to exhort all who applied themselves to the study of the Scriptures to neglect no opportunity of learning it.*
Another consideration that we would suggest, as an inducement to the study of the Hebrew, is, not merely the satisfaction we receive, but the manifest advantage it may often be to us.
We can speak, in such a case, with the increased authority which a knowledge of the original language gives us, of the general correctness of our own, or any other version of the sacred Scriptures, with which we may be acquainted. It sometimes happens that the accuracy of a translation is impeached. As believers in divine revelation-as those who cherish a deep solicitude for its universal extension—as those who are desirous of removing every possible stumbling block out of the way of others, we ought in such a case to be able to speak with that authority on this subject which a familiar and accurate acquaintance with the original can alone enable us to do. It is true we may be able to refer to the agreement of different versions on the very points in dispute; we may be able to give the opinion of commentators—and all this we ought to be able to do—but, at the same time, we greatly strengthen an argument, and silence gainsayers,” perhaps, if we also speak from our own knowledge.
In addition to this, the help we reap from the critical labors of com. mentators is another advantage proceeding from the study of the Hebrew. We are thus enabled to enter with greater clearness into their exposition of the meaning of words, tracing with them the word to its original derivation, comparing it with other roots in cognate tongues, and so with them arriving at the true primary signification. Take, as a single illustration of this, the additional beauty and force which some acquaintance with the Hebrew imparts to Dr. A. Clarke's comment, in the very beginning of his admirable Commentary, on the word Elohim, or God; a philological explication this which owes its existence to this very knowledge we are endeavoring to enforce.
Another advantage arising from the study of the Hebrew is, that it leads us to study the Bible more. The following remarks from Pro. fessor Stuart on this subject will carry with them their own authority: “ If you require,” he says, “only so much knowledge of a minister as is necessary to his own personal salvation, or to state simply what is necessary to the salvation of his flock, you may dispense with a liberal, and even an academic education. But if he is to become a 'scribe well instructed in things pertaining to the kingdom of heaven,' and
For an interesting account of Augustine, see Waddington's Church History, chap. xi, P. 154.