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applied the sequel of the Burden on Damascus, ch. xv.
(A. V. xvii.) to Christ's Advent, and proceeds to reject their interpretation. He can draw useful distinctions, as when he distributes the term Jerusalem over four heads, (1.) the earthly city, un-loved (he says,) of God; (2.) the general assembly of saints; (3.) the angelic host; (4.) the Millennial city, or New Jerusalem, descending from Heaven ; which last he sternly rejects, as an heretical fiction (A. V. xlix.). Again, he can be insane, when he makes the land beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, ch. xvi. (A. V. xviii.) mean the transcendent impiety of heretics, and turns the Ethiopian ambassadors into apostles of Marcion. “O angeli hæreticorum ite veloces.” Of his constant and overbearing unfairness to the Jews, it would be only painful to give instances. Let us rather mention in parting with him, that he bestowed infinite pains on what he regarded as a sacred work; he has preserved for us much material for reflexion, though much that the Christian Divine should avoid, instead of filtering it into modern shapes; he has the merit of affirming in the Prophets a self-conscious and reflective intelligence, instead of the clairvoyance of the Montanists; he was in his kind a reformer, who essayed the rectification of ideas; and by claiming, to the best of his knowledge, for philology her due, he brought on himself the anathemas of men not more religious, but equally passionate, rude, unfair, far narrower of mind.
Rabbinical interpretations, subsequent in period to St. Jerome, but representing an inheritance of thought which in its earlier stages, must have moulded his manner of treating the text, have been collected in sufficient number by our own Lightfoot, by his German amplificator Schættgen, and by a writer well-versed in Rabbinism, whose
Schættgen. Horæ Hebraicæ. Dresdæ et Lipsiæ, 1742.
orthodoxy never lessened his ingenuousness, Mr. Oxlee. The remark, to which the vast body of such interpretations are open, is this : hardly any of them descend from the true antiquity, in which the Bible was read according to its plain, literal, and grammatical sense; most of them are derived from that less happy period, in which the Alexandrian method (commencing, I suppose, under the Ptolemies,) had turned the histories of Israel into vehicles for mystical parable, and the monitions of her preachers or poets into predictions of a future repeatedly postponed. Thus, if Jerome made Edom heresy, he followed a precedent which first made it Rome. In turn, he has been followed by Protestants, who made it the Church of Rome. When such a method is established, it may produce any extravagancies. Thus in Isaiah xiii. 6. (A. V. xiv. 29.) an Assyrian basilisk, or other hostile serpent, is introduced threatening Philistia. The Targum on this text is, “out of the descendants of Jesse proceeds the Messiah, whose exploits shall be among you as a flying serpent.” Again in xii. 11, (A. V. xiii. 12,) it is part of the burden upon Babylon, that man shall be scarcer in her than gold-upon this the Sohar (a-late production) remarks : “King Messiah is intended, who will be extolled and precious above all.” It is not enough to smile at two such interpretations, unless we open our mind to the conception of them as specimens of a method, which is equally unfounded, when its instances are less absurd. If the palm of irrationality be disputed between the mediæval or Patristic Rabbins and our Divines, they set us the example; we sin against greater light. · Both contravene the noble spirit of our Homilies, by leading men from the clear fountains of Scripture to the putrid sink of tradition. The only exception in favour of the Rabbins is where some fragment of purer inheritance, or necessity of inspecting the text, suggested to them an historical, which for the most part was a contemporaneous interpretation. Thus they understood the child born, in Isaiah viï. (A. V. ix.) as Hezekiah, with almost unanimous consent, as Mr. Oxlee truly acknowledges (On the Trinity, ii. pp. 313—15.). It should be remembered to the honour of this single-hearted scholar, that even in proving, as he conceived, the Holy Trinity out of Isaiah, he felt bound to translate the words El-Gibbor as 'Mighty Hero,' thereby standing in ingenuous contrast to a painfully characteristic account of the passage
3 Oxlee. Trinity and Incarnation maintained. York and London, 1820. 3rd vol. in 1850.
Lightfoot I do not happen to have at hand.
and of its translators' motives, recently given by Dr. Pusey in his “Lectures on Daniel.” One wields the old English sword, the other the Italian stiletto. The reasons why, with sincere respect for Mr. Oxlee's memory, I am not guided by his Hermeneutics, appear best from a perusal of my version. The appeal is to Scripture; to Scripture let us go.
If it be asked, how could Christ and the Scribes quote the Prophets equally on two sides so different, the answer seems chiefly this : Christ, whom we regard as manifesting Divinity through Humanity, spoke on the human side the language of fresh emotion, pure instinct, spiritual feel. ing. The Prophets had spoken the same. Whereas the Scribes, by no means opposing the Prophets (as seems commonly conceived), but jealous for their honour, and building their tombs, not the less incorporated their language into a system of dogmatical tradition and routine. It does not follow that their exposition of texts was universally wrong. While they argue from Prophecy that Christ must be born in Bethlehem' (St. Matth. ï. 4, 5, and must be by descent 'the Son of David' (St. Matth. xxii. 42,) Jesus himself urges from the same Prophets, that God loves kindness more than sacrifice (St. Matth. xii. 7); that the Son of God is David's lord (St. Matth. xxii. 43); that his birth is purely spiritual (St. John i. 12—14); that the signs of his coming are meekness and great humility (St. Matth. xxi. 5); that the way into his kingdom is by suffering, (St. Luke xxiv. 26—45,) by serving, (St. Luke xxii. 27,) by conformity in spirit and in fate to the Prophets which were before (St. Matth. v. 10–12). Often he transfers temporal language to spiritual things : sometimes his followers may have transferred spiritual language to things temporal. But when our Lord says, (St. Matth. xv. 7) “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias pro“phesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh to me “ with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips,”. he certainly never intended to exclude from Isaiah xxv. 13, (A. V. xxix. 13,) the Prophet's direct reference to his contemporaries; the new adaptation of words is a warning to the hearers lest they incur an ancient condemnation. One of the better among our Colonial Bishops, being overpowered by fulsome compliment, exclaimed, “Give God the praise : we know that this man is a sinner"—thereby he did not claim to be predicted in St. John ix. 24; but made his case exemplify an ancient saying. So, returning to Isaiah xxv. 11, (A. V. xxix. 11,) if one said, with no sarcasm, but with sorrow, the Prophet's own book is now sealed alike against learned and unlearned, all that would be asserted would be an exemplification, so far a fulfilment, of his words. Nothing could be more truly said: so much does tradition, aided by powerful misrepresentation, obscure it: so many accumulations of commentary must be removed to reach the soil.
Other difficulties may await us in the conflict of ages between faith and sense, the unseen and the seen, the Church and the world; something certainly as regards inspiration and finiteness or spontaneity; something perhaps in miracles and causation ; something in the relation of an ancient Orientalism to our changed world ; or again, in that of a scholastic and polemical ecclesiasticism to a book of life, feeling, practice; something possibly in the permanence of personality, traversed by physical organization; but the supererogatory difficulty, which first arises, from setting Scripture against itself by distorting its history and interpretation, without benefit to its authority, is entirely the creation of our rulers, or our own.
I have enjoyed upon Isaiah, in addition to previous aids, the great assistance of the learned, and on most points exhaustive, commentary of Gesenius ; the Handbuch of Knobel, a judicious kind of writer; Bishop Lowth’s version, defaced by undue license of conjectural emendation; and some important illustrations, due to Mr. Francis Newman; many of whose remarks I should have preferred refuting, if they had not been associated with truths, a frank acknowledgment of which is an indispensable preliminary to
any ultimate settlement. I have also consulted with the aid of Archdeacon Tattam the Coptic Version; but being of late date, it has rendered no real service in this part of my work : if I should be spared to complete the second part, I have reason to anticipate from it an useful suggestion.