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M A RC H, 1812.
Some account of the Researches of the German Literati on the
subject of Ancient Literature and History; drawn up from a Report made to the French Institute,' by CHARLES VILLERS, Corresponding Member of the class of Ancient History, &c. &c.
BIBLICAL LITERATURE.—THE OLD AND New TESTAMENT.
MR. Villers prefaces this part of his subject with the following observations :
-« The great charts of our holy religion ; i. e. the books and fragments, of which the Bible is composed, form an object of constant interest to all Protestant nations : as it is the peculiar excellence of their creed to invite the attention of the learned to these precious monuments of so many and various ages and countries. While we admit in all these writings, however, the character of sanctity which revelation ascribes to them, we ought not the less to consider them as being drawn up during the transaction of the events which they record. Although they have been dictated by divine inspiration, they are nevertheless in their form and language the productions of human beings, 'and may
therefore be examined with the same freedom as the fragments of Linus or Sanchoniathon, or any other monuments of antiquity. The labors therefore of the German Literati in this department, their recent advances in this branch of criticism, the intimate connexion between these researches and the Mytho
Vol. y. No. IX.
logy of the remotest ages, concur to rivet the attention of thinking men of all countries, whatever may be their religious tenets.
“ Researches on the subject of the Hebrew writings more properly belong to the department of Oriental literature, in the same way as those which relate to the New Testament belong for the most part to Greek literature, but on the present occasion, I have thought it best to unite both under one head, were it only for the purpose of showing more distinctly the peculiar shade of scientific activity which marks in a particular manner the national character of the Germans."
1. The OLD TESTAMENT. 1. Professor Jahn of Vienna, who has already enriched the collections of the learned with several valuable works, and who published in 1802 a Chrestomathia Arabica, with an Arabic and Latin lexicon, published in 1808 a “ Biblia Hebraica," in four volumes, with notes variorum, &c.
2. In 1803, M. Eichhorn of Gottingen published the third edition (in three volumes) of his celebrated « Introduction to the Study of the Old Testament.” The first edition appeared in 1780, and the second in 1787. This Introduction, which may be truly called classical, in the strictest sense of the word, has given a new turn to the study of the ancient Hebrew authorities, and has produced a learned and useful polemical controversy.
We shall now mention the two chief antagonists of M. Eichhorn on this occasion.
3. One of these is M. Vater, whose name has been already repeatedly mentioned: he published a very profound and solid commentary on the Pentateuch, the third and last volume of which appeared in 1805. He there hazards some opinions different from those of M. Eichhorn as to the five books ascribed to Moses. The third volume, in particular, contains a remarkable dissertation, which occupies more than 300 pages, “ On the origin of the Pentateuch.” M. Vater here employs his whole critical acumen in order to prove that the books of this collection are composed of fragments which were never intended to be joined together. One of the German Journalists who gave an account of this commentary, has remarked that M, Vater seems to have fulfilled the wishes of the celebrated Richard Simon, who, after speaking in his History of the Old Testament) of Acarbanel and of his criticism on some of the Scriptures, adds: “We have only to apply to the Pentateuch the same reasoning which Acarbanel employs, to prove that the books, which bear the names of Joshua and Solomon, were not' written by them, and we shall be convinced that the Pentateuch could not be the. entire work of Moses."