« AnteriorContinuar »
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 ensuing 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 above 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 costumes of the East; and this, whether we regard the Engravings or Notes, both of which are full of new and interesting information. It is deeply to be regretted that the cost of this work is such as will be likely greatly to limit its circulation.
It is my purpose, should a favouring Providence permit, to go over all the historical books of the Old Testament on the same plan. Other indispensable engagements may make the intervals of publication somewhat wide, but if life and health are spared, the work will be continually in hand till completed; and so far as it may give presage of useful service to the cause of biblical knowledge and sound piety, I cannot hesitate to assure myself of the prayers
readers, in conjunction with my own, for the blessing of Heaven to rest upon the enterprise.
G. B. New YORK, Nov. 1st, 1838.
I.OF THE SACRED SCRIPTURES GENERALLY.
$ 1. Titles, Divisions, &c.
THAT collection of writings which is every where regarded by Christians as containing the only true revelation made by God to man, and as the sole standard of faith and practice, is familiarly known by different appellations. Thus it is frequently termed The Scriptures, as being the most important of all writings ; the Holy or Sacred Scriptures, because composed by persons divinely inspired; and sometimes the Canonical Scriptures, from a Greek word (Kaywy canon) signifying a rule, because they were regarded as an infallible rule of faith and conduct, and to distinguish them from certain books termed Apocryphal, (arokpopor hidden, concealed,) from their being of obscure and doubtful origin, not possessing the proper testimonials to entitle them to a place among the genuine inspired writings. But the most usual appellation is The Bible (Bibleov or BiBlea biblion or biblia, Lat. liber, book, from Bißdos biblos, an Egyptian reed of the bark of which paper was made). This word in its primary import simply denotes a book, but it is applied to the writings of the prophets and apostles by way of emphasis and eminence, as being the Book of Books, infinitely superior in excellence and importance to every human composition. This title originated at a very early period, principally from the usage of the Greek Fathers, and has since been generally adopted by the Christian world.
The most common and general division of the canonical Scriptures is into the Old and New Testaments ; the former containing those revelations of the divine will which were communicated to the Hebrews, Israclites, or Jews, before the birth of Christ; the latter comprising the inspired writings of the Evangelists and Apostles. This distinction is founded on 2 Cor. 3. 6, 14. Mat. 26. 28. Gal. 3. 17. Heb. 8. 8.-9. 15—20, where the ancient Latin translators have rendered diaonan diatheke (which signifies both a covenant and a testament, but in Biblical usage always answers to the Heb. Ona berith, a covenant) by Testamentum, a testament ; ' because,' says Jerome (Comment. in Mal. ch. 2. 2), they by a Græcism attributed to this word the sense of Fædus, a covenant.' Were such the usage, therefore, there would be no impropriety in terming the two main portions of the Scriptures the Old and New Covenant; implying thereby, not two distinct and unrelated covenants, but merely the former and
the latter dispensation of the one grand covenant of mercy, of which the prophet Jeremiah, ch. 31. 31—34, as expounded by the Apostle, Heb. 8. 6-13, gives so ample a description.
The books of the Old Testament again are usually farther subdivided by the Jews into the Law (1777077 hattorah), the Prophets (784337 hannebeim), and the Hagiographa (0927001 hakketubim, lit. the writings, emphatically so called); a classification expressly recognised by our Lord, Luke 24. 44, "These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me;' where by Psalms is meant, not merely the book bearing that title in the Scriptures, but what is otherwise termed the Hagiographa. In this distribution the Law comprised the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses, which were originally written in one volume, as all the manuscripts are to this day, which are read in the synagogues. The Prophets were divided into the former and latter, in reference to the time when they respectively flourished ; the first class containing the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, the two last being each considered as one book; the second comprising Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets, whose books were reckoned as one. The reason why Moses is not included among the prophets, is, because he so far surpassed all those who came after him, in eminence and dignity, that they were not accounted worthy to be placed on a level with him; and the books of Joshua and Judges are reckoned among the prophetical books because they are generally supposed to have been written by the prophet Samuel. The Ketubim or Hagiographa, that is, the Holy Writings, comprehended the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah (reckoned as one), and the two books of Chronicles, also reckoned as one. This third class or division of the sacred books has received the appellation of Ketubim, or Holy Writings, because they were not orally delivered as the law of Moses was; but the Jews affirm that they were composed by men divinely inspired, who, however, had no public mission as prophets. It is remarkable that Daniel is excluded from tho number of prophets, and that his writings with the rest of the Hagiographa, were not publicly read in the synagogues as the Law and the Prophets were. This is ascribed to the singular minuteness with which he foretold the coming of the Messiah before the destruction of the city and sanctuary, and the apprehen'sion of the Jews, lest the public reading of his predictions should lead any to embrace the doctrines of Christianity.
The subordinate division into chapters and verses is of comparatively modern date. The former is attributed to Hugo de Sancto Caro, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, who flourished about A. D. 1240 ; the latter to Rabbi Mordecai Nathan, a celebrated Jewish teacher, who lived A. D. 1445. The author of the versedivision in the New Testament was Robert Stephens, a distinguished printer of Paris, who lived in the sixteenth century. As this divisio er, is not always made with the strictest regard to the connection of parts, it may be considered, to the mere reader or interpreter of the sacred volume, who wishes to obtain a clear, connected view of the chain of narrative, precept, prophecy, or argument of a particular book, as a disadvantage. But on the other hand, the facilities afforded by it in the matter of quotation and reference are so great as