Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

There are also recorded specimens of these languages of an earlier date than any yet discovered in the dialect of Arabia. It is evident, from the considerations before adduced, that no Arabic writing extant can claim a much higher antiquity than the age of Mohammed; but the Syriac version, probably made in the first century,* the Syriac works of Ephrem, the Philoxenian version, and most of the Targumim, if not all of them, were certainly written previous to the time of that arch-impostor.

But, in the next place, Arabic possesses several advantages over these dialects. It is still a living language, spoken over an extensive portion of the globe; it contains authors in almost every department of literature; it has been investigated by native grammarians and lexicographers; and ample means exist of ascertaining its copiousness, and the signification of the words. Syriac and Chaldee, on the other hand, have suffered greatly by the ruin of time, and, in many cases, are of as doubtful interpretation as any words in the Hebrew language. Much is it to be lamented, that so few works remain in these dialects; that many writings, particularly

• Laurence on the Logos, p. 69.

in Syriac, remain in manuscript, mouldering in public libraries, and lost to the literary world; that critical editions of the valuable monuments which we do possess are wanting; and that we are yet destitute of complete Concordances to the Syriac version and the Targumim.

These two dialects, however, derive additional value from their great importance to the interpreter of the New Testament. The vernacular language of our Saviour and his Apostles was either Syriac, or a dialect of the closest affinity with it; and hence it is probable, that the Peshito, or old Syriac version, contains many of the very expressions which flowed from his hallowed lips. The Apostles could scarcely avoid introducing into the Greek in which they wrote some idioms of their native language; accordingly not only Syriac words, but Syriac phrases and modes of expression, occur in their writings.* Even in the

• Ernesti, Inst. Interp. N. T. par. 1, sect. 2, cap. 3. Gerard's Institutes of Biblical Criticism, c. 2, sect. 5. Michælis's Introduction by Marsh, cap. 4, sect. 5. “ Of all the Oriental languages,” says Bishop Marsh, “the Syriac seems to be the moșt necessary for an interpreter of the New Testament, as being the native language of the sacred writers."—Note to Michælis's Introd. cap. 4, sect. 14.) If it be true, as some writers contend, that Greek, or Hebræo-Greek, was so current in Palestine, tbat our Lord and his Apostles might have

Epistles of St. Paul, who was a native of Tarsus, in Cilicia, where Greek was the vernacular language, Hebraisms and Syriasms abound, in consequence of his education in the school of Gamaliel, and his long residence at Jerusalem. The Septuagint version, likewise, made for the use of the Egyptian Jews, and written in a dialect which has been appropriately called Hebrew-Greek, contributed not a little to the Hebrew tincture of the New Testament. In fact, the Greek of the Christian Scriptures is so manifestly Hebraic in idiom, in the arrangement of the periods, in the general tone and manner of the style, that it can neither be perfectly understood, nor duly appreciated by him who is ignorant of the Oriental languages.

Lastly, we ought not to depend upon one dialect alone, but all the kindred tongues are to be taken in conjunction in illustrating the Hebrew.* Ludolph generally prefers the Æthiopic, and no criticism can satisfy Schultens, which is not built upon his favourite Arabic; yet, as all the dialects are entitled to a voice, they ought all to be consulted. When they coincide, their evidence is undoubtedly of some weight; but when they differ, as often happens, the testimony of the Aramæan dialects, from their greater affinity to Hebrew, and from their having had greater influence upon the later sacred writers, is to be preferred to that of the Arabic.

used it when it suited their purpose, the Aramæan was certainly the mother tongue, and their Greek must have received a strong tincture from it.-See Butler's Horæ Biblicæ, vol. i. p. 23. * Bauer, Hermeneut. Sacra, $ 23, p. 119.

Upon the whole, we may conclude, from the fore-. going discussion, that Arabic affords, a very precarious and doubtful aid in Hebrew criticism ; that Syriac and. Chaldee, when their evidence is unambiguous, deserve somewhat greater regard; but that, even when all the Oriental dialects agree, a sense attributed to a Hebrew word upon their tes. timony can only be considered probable ; it never can be morally certain ; and, in general, it amounts to no more than a presumption of its truth.

-. If the assistance of the sister dialects be so scanty and uncertain, how shall the meaning of obscure and ambiguous words in the Hebrew Scriptures be determined? Unless a satisfactory answer can be given to this momentous question, no exposition of them that can be proposed will satisfy an inquisitive and rational mind. Let us, therefore, briefly review

the sources from which a knowledge of Hebrew is derived.

The first and most important means of ascertaining the meaning of Hebrew words is Biblical Usage; and, where it is indubitable, its evidence is abundantly sufficient. Other testimony may corroborate, but is not absolutely required.

If, however, the meaning cannot be established by an application to the Bible, the next, and of all others the most valuable, source of illustration is the Traditionary Interpretation of the Jews. I do not include under this title any of the ancient versions except the Targumim. The Septuagint, and the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, may, in one point of view, be considered as a Jewish interpretation; but, since the Jews have so long discarded their authority, I am justified in regarding them as separate and distinct sources. By the traditionary interpretation, then, I mean the interpretation preserved in the Glossaries and Comments of the Rabbins; which was followed by the first promoters of Hebrew learning among Christians, Reuchlin, Pagnin, and, above all, the celebrated John Buxtorf, who, in Rabbinical knowledge, has left all competitors far behind him.

« AnteriorContinuar »