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THE STUD E N T,
OR THE 0 X f Ó R D MONTHLY MISCELLANY,
NUMBER II. February 28, 1750.
Of the À RABİCK LANGUAGE.
T HE great and almost general pursuit of Oriental
Learning in this University, the encouragement it L meets with, and the light of late thrown upon the Hebrew Bible by it, have afforded a very sensible pleasure to all those who have the honour of God and religion at heart, But it has been at the same time a matter of fome surprize to see with what warmth and violence one, and that an eminent branch of it, has been exclaimed against; I mean the study of the Arabick Language.
This has been so much depreciated and argued against by fome who have been of true service to the world by pressing, the importance of the Hebrew, by defending the Mosaic inNUMB. II.
stitutions from the low cavils of infidels, and above all by inculcating with so much pious and necessary zeal the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, that the Arabick Language should hardly be thus publickly recommended without some previqus apology.
One would be apt to imagine at first view from the opposition that is made to this language, that its defenders had some black design in promoting the further knowledge of it. But for ought I see to the contrary, they are as good Christians as the most violent Anti-Arabians, and that with them they believe the inspiration of the Old Testament; only they would propose to the world another Sister Dialect as an additional improvement to the Hebrew: which whether it be the same now as it always was, or whether it be not changed from the Samaritan, as some have asserted, I shall not take upon me to determine. The Phil-Arabians think that, as theirs is still a living language, it may be made very inftrumental in illustrating the present Hebrew text; since so many of the Radixes, which are lost in the one, are ftill preserved in the other.
The high antiquity, of, it is much disputed: the present Hebrew Professor has been imagined to banter and deceive his audience by seeming to lay some stress on the account which Ebn Shodna and Abulfeda give of the original of their name and language. But he is not single in this particular : Pococke, Bochart, and others before him, have placed it as high. * Primus (says Dr. Pococke) qui poft confufionem Babylonicam dialetti Arabicæ fundamenta pofuerit, fuit Yarabus Kahtani filius. Hic omnium Arabian Felicem incolentium parens perhibetur. Is eft Jerah Joctani filius, (Gen. C. x. V. 26.) Hujus et Jothami fratris pofteri Arabes genuini dieti, Now, Jerah by a very small alteration allowable in different dialects
* Vide Walton's Prolegomena. P. 93. Bochart, Phaleg: L. ii. C. 15, 19, 30,
is Jarab. 'Tis true the posterity of Ismael are Arabs : but then they are particularly called Arabes adscititii, fuit enim , Ismael ortu et linguâ Hebræus. And his descendants are to this day particularly distinguished by the name of Wild Arabs.
As to the opinion that the Arabick is a language of but about Itoo years standing, it is rather too trilling to be seriously argued. For as * Mahomet found most of his laws already prepared to his hands by the long pre-continued obfervation of them, so he certainly found a language, which may have been improved in and since his time ; for there were before him many excellent poets, historians, and philosophers. There is mention made of some Arabians at fcrufalem, men perhaps of some trade and consequence, who amongst others were witnesses of the effect of the Holy Gholt's descent upon the Apostles and Disciples. And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and begun to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were tonfounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.----Parthians and Elamites Cretes and ARABIANS. Acts ii. 4, 5, 6, 9, 11. Nor can it be proved, that these Arabians did not speak the same language that their children do now. Mahomet was in himself too illiterate to attempt a thorough reformation : he brought them indeed from idolatry or the worship of the stars, for they were Sabæans, and by his courage and insinuating address procured to himself followers, and was thereby the better able to carry on his schemes. But surely an alteration in language is not necessarily connected with a reformation in religion. And that we in these western parts of
the world were not fooner acquainted with the Arabick, wat not owing, as is alledged, to their stupidity or the novelty of the tongue itself; but is rather to be accounted for, partly from the little commerce that subfisted between them and us thro' their distance from us, and partly thro' the want of learning in our own countries. *
The most violent Anti-Arabian cannot but acknowledge bf what service this language is in explaining those words But once used that occur in the Holy Bible. Nay if we event look into the derivation of many of those words that frequently occur, and whose Radixes are still pretended to be preserved in the Hebrew, how forced are they, and often how contrary to the construction of the word. Some instances of which we have in Ockley's Introduction to the Oriental languages, p. 119. And many more may easily be brought by any one, who is but a little conversant in these Itudies. From what Hebrew Root for instance will you derive the famous word SHILOH? To go no farther, most of those words that we meet with in the first chapter of Genefisy have their power still preserved, and are to be derived from words of the fame signification in the Arabick.
The Hebrew Bible is the only pure Hebrew now remaining. Words therefore of a dubious or obscure fignification are to be determined by the analogy they bear to other dialects. And where can we better apply ourselves in these cases than to the Arabick, which still retains so many of them unchanged and uncorrupted.
The Hebrew language boasts of the uniformity and easi'ness of her Grammar Rules : but with much greater reason may the Arabick pride itself on that score ; there being fewer exceptions to general rules in that, than in any other
* Perhaps this argument, when fully considered, will, if it proves any thing, prove too much. About the year 1610 Pope Pius's Búll informs us of the neglect of all Oriental learning, even in the several Universities of Europe.