« AnteriorContinuar »
CRITICAL AND PRACTICAL,
ON THE BOOK OF
DESIGNED AS A GENERAL HELP TO
BIBLICAL READING AND INSTRUCTION.
By GEORGE BUSH,
IN TWO VOLUMES.
CORNER OF FULTON AND NASSAU STS,
Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 100%, by
ELI FRENCH, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York
A VERY slight inspection of the pages of the present work will disclose to the reader its general character, and enable him to judge how far it is likely to supply an existing desideratum. Little therefore need be said by way of preface. My main object has been to afford facilities for the correct understanding of the sacred text-to aid the student of the Bible in ascertaining, with the utmost practicable exactness, the genuine sense of the original. With such an object in view it was perhaps impossible to avoid giving the work an aspect predominantly critical. But an apology on this score can scarcely be requisite at the present day, when the claims of sacred philology are beginning to be so highly appreciated; when it is so generally admitted that the grand aim of the Scriptural expositor should be to fix with the most absolute precision the mind of the Spirit in his own word ; and when it is so well understood that this end can be attained only by means of a familiar acquaintance with the original in its verbal and idiomatic peculiarities, its parallel usages, and its archæological illustrations. Besides, unless I have come wholly short of my aim, there will be found such a union of the practical with the critical, as to adapt the present and the ensuing volumes somewhat happily to popular use. Should this prove not to be the case, I shall feel that the failure has been rather in the execution, than in the plan ; for I know no reason to suppose the two departments intrinsically incompatible, or that the two-fold function of the exegetical and the ethical expositor may not be united in the same person. The idea of combining them to the extent in which it is done in the present volume is no doubt somewhat novel, nor am I sure that occasionally a transition may not be noticed from one
province to the other so abrupt, as to carry with it to the mind of the reader a momentary sensation of incongruity. But such cases I trust will be too few to stamp the experiment as abortive.
No one at all conversant with the subject of biblical annotation but must be aware, that there is a large mass of materials accumulated by the researches or reflections of prior commentators, and constituting a kind of common property, of which each successive labourer in the field feels at liberty to avail himself. The propriety of this is universally conceded, provided he sets up no special claim to what he thus finds made ready to his hands. Indeed it is quite obvious that the credit of originality in this department cannot be secured, but at the expense of the greatest measure of utility-an expense which I have not seen fit to incur. I have accordingly availed myself freely of all accessible sources of Scripture elucidation that could be made subservient to my plan, and have frequently interwoven with my own remarks, phrases and sentences, and, in some cases, paragraphs from other authors, without the formality of express quotation. But however large may be my indebtedness on this score, it is but justice to myself to say, that I have generally weighed in my own scales the evidence for or against a particular rendering or interpretation, and that after every abatement much will be found in the evsuing pages not to be met with any where else. Of the intrinsic value of these portions of the work the estimate must, of course, be left to those for whose benefit it has been prepared.
In cases of doubtful interpretation, I have, as a general rule, contented myself with giving what I conceived to be the right one, with the evidence in its favour, without distracting the reader's mind by an array of various and conflicting comments. Still less have I indulged the paltry propensity for introducing interpretations differing from my own, merely for the purpose of refuting them. Yet in some instances where the probabilities in favour of opposite or variant expositions were very equally balanced, it seemed but an act of justice to judicious critics to give their several constructions, and I have accordingly in such cases endeavoured to avoid the charge of undue assumption by candidly stating what might be said against as well as for a proposed interpretation. The number of passages in the compass of the sacred writings is far from small, in
respect to which a positive determination of the sense is, with our present
means of explication absolutely impossible. -An exception, however, to the ahove rule may be observed as it respects the ancient versions ; particularly the Septuagint, the Chaldee Targums, and the Syriac and Arabic versions. These I have adduced very frequently, not only in dubious and difficult places, where their authority might have weight, but often in the plainer passages, in order that the reader might have the satisfaction of seeing by what shades of difference the most ancient renderings vary from our own. An account of these several versions, together with an attempted estimate of their value as tributary to the exposition of the sacred text, will be found on a subsequent page.
To some it may be an objection that the pages of the work are so thickly interspersed with words and phrases in the Hebrew and Greek character. On this head I can only say, that if the reader will acquit me, as I readily acquit myself, of the design of giving in this way a learned air to my columns, I shall be willing to submit to some exceptions from one portion of my readers for the sake of another. My settled conviction is, that these notes will go into the hands of numbers of the religious community, especially ministers and theological students, to whom this feature of the work will be a strong recommendation; and perhaps, as the terms are almost invariably translated, besides being often given in English orthography, it is no more than a reasonable demand, that the mere vernacular reader should concede this much to the preferences of his more learned brother.
It will be matter neither of surprise nor regret to any one who bears in mind that the Bible is strictly an Eastern book, that I have drawn so largely on Oriental sources of illustration.
It is only from such sources that a large portion of the imagery, allusions, and diction of the inspired writers can be adequately explained. The works of Eastern travellers, therefore, have formed a leading department of the apparatus which I have collected together in reference to the present undertaking. Among these the 'Pictorial Bible,' recently published in London, has been a repository from which I have enriched my pages with many of their choicest contents. It is an invaluable treasury of materials for elucidating the topography, the manners and customs, the rites, ceremonies, monuments, and coslumes of the East; and this, whether we regard the Engravings or