Imágenes de páginas

Where symbols are employed it is the duty of an expositor, instead of resorting to fancy, to employ industry; not to make, but to find out the admitted sense. In Daniel and John many of the symbols they employ are explained ; the meaning of others may be found in other prophecies; and where these fail, recourse must be had to profane authors. Nor is there more danger in seeking the meaning of a symbol in such works, than in ascertaining the sense of any word in the New Testament, by comparing the best Greek writers with each other and with the Septuagint. By following this method it can hardly be doubted that the true and genuine signification of every one of the symbols they employ may be satisfactorily ascertained. It may not be in the power of any single individual to accomplish this desirable object. Where he cannot, by his industry, discover the meaning of any particular hieroglyphic, instead of showing himself ingenious, let him be ingenuous and confess his want of success, and we may hope that others, from sources which he may not have had an opportunity of consulting, will sooner or later supply the deficiency.

On the sources whence useful information may be derived on this subject, I cannot do better than offer a quotation from Bishop Hurd, who expresses himself thus :

" Much of the Egyptian hieroglyphic, on “ which the prophetic style was fashioned, may “ be learned from many ancient records and “ monuments still subsisting; and from innu“merable hints and passages scattered through “ the Greek antiquaries and historians, which “ have been carefully collected and compared “ by learned men.

“The pagan superstitions of every form and

species, which were either derived from Egypt, “ or conducted on hieroglyphie notions, have “ been of singular use in commenting on the " Jewish prophets. Their omens, augury, and

judicial astrology, seem to have proceeded “on symbolic principles; the mystery being “ only this, that such objects as in the hierogly“phic pictures were made the symbols of cer“ tain ideas, were considered as omens of the

things themselves ........

“ But of all the pagan superstitions, that “ which is known by the name of oneirocritics,

or the art of interpreting dreams, is most directly to our purpose.

There is a curious “ treatise on this subject, which bears the name

of ACHMET, an Arabian writer; and another by ARTEMIDORUS, an Ephesian, who lived “about the end of the first century. In the “ former of these collections (for both works are

compiled out of preceding and very ancient

writers) the manner of interpreting dreams ac

cording to the use of the oriental nations is “ delivered ; as the rules, which the Grecian “ diviners followed, are deduced in the other.

For, light and frivolous as this art was, it is not to be supposed that it was taken up at hazard, or could be conducted without rules.

But the rules, by which both the “ Greek and oriental diviners justified their in“ terpretations, appear to have been formed on symbolic principles ....

So that the prophetic style, which is all over painted with hieroglyphic imagery, receives an evident il“ lustration from these two works .. “ Nor is any sanction, in the mean time, given

to the pagan practice of divining by “ dreams. For though the same symbols be in

terpreted in the same manner, yet the prophecy “ doth not depend on the interpretation, but on “the inspiration of the dream........ It follows, “ that the rules, which the ancient diviners ob“ served in explaining symbolic dreams, may be

safely and justly applied to the interpretation “ of symbolic prophecies."

To these remarks of the learned Bishop, I shall only add, that considerable help may be obtained from Pierius's work on Egyptian biero


· Hurd, Serm. ix.

glyphics, and particularly from the work that goes by the name of Horapollo. There is also a modern work on this subject, which may be consulted with advantage, Lancaster's Symbolical Dictionary; but he should be received with caution, having, in many instances, like Daubuz whom he follows, fallen into the common blunder of commentators, that of confounding tropes, figures, and metaphors with symbols.

§ 3. Of the Structure of the Apocalypse. Though the subject of this section has been in some measure embraced in the two preceding sections, there is still room for some farther observations. One point in particular, respecting the structure of this remarkable prophecy, deserves great attention. A considerable portion of the particulars detailed by John, was not, as has been generally imagined, exhibited to him in dramatic action,-if, on such a subject, I may employ such a term. On the contrary, many of the things, which he states himself to have seen in the vision, were brought to his view, precisely as he intimates in the first verse of the first chapter (see $ 2):—they were symbolised to him : they were symbolical representations, such as he describes ;-that is, pictures of some kind,

contained in a book, which was unrolled before him. Had translators properly attended to the circumstance, that, in this part of the prophecy, especially from the beginning of the sixth to the end of the ninth chapter, John, besides describing the other circumstances of the vision, gives a detailed account of things, circumstances, and actions, seen by him in pictorial representations, in the unsealed roll itself, they would, perhaps, have succeeded better in attaining the author's sense; and many of the sudden changes in moods and tenses which occur, and which hasty critics have presumed to stigmatise as arbitrary, capricious, and not to be accounted for, would have been seen to be perfectly appropriate, and absolutely required by the very nature of the detail.

It is the more surprising that recent expositors should have so generally overlooked the circumstance of the sealed book or roll, of which the Apocalypse treats, exhibiting, when opened, a series of symbolical pictures ; as the fact had occurred to Mr. Harmer, and had been stated by him in his very useful work on Oriental customs. His words are: “St. John evidently supposes

paintings, or drawings, in that volume which “ he saw in the visions of God, and which was “ sealed with seven seals; the first figure being “ that of a man on a white horse, with a bow

« AnteriorContinuar »