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A Hebrew Chrestomathy, designed as the first volume of a course of Hebrew Study. By Moses Stuart, associate Professor of Sacred Literature, in the Theological Institution at Andover. 1829. Pp. 243.
The publication of Professor Stuart's smaller Hebrew Grammar, of his Chrestomathy, and of Professor Gibb's Manual Lexicon, has placed in the hands of the Hebrew students of our country, a set of books eminently adapted to facilitate their acquisition of a knowledge of the Hebrew language. There is little doubt also, that they will tend to make this study more general, by removing many of the difficulties by which the path of the student of the original language of the Old Testament, has 'hitherto been beset. This is a result, in which all the friends of truth and of sound theological knowledge will rejoice. It may be considered as one of the favourable characteristics of the present day, that zeal for the study of the original Scriptures, is every where reviving. Still, it may be doubted, whether theological students generally adequately feel their obligation to make this one of the main objects of their attention. There are so many other subjects which appear to have a more immediate bearing on the practical duties of the ministry, and are to most minds, at least in the first instance, more inviting and interesting, that it generally happens, that the sacred languages, and the Scriptures themselves, are made bat secondary objects. It may be too, that the importance of intellectual culture generally, in the ministers of the Gos
pel, is not properly appreciated. There are, doubtless, many theological students who are not sufficiently aware how intimately the interests of religion are connected with the stand assumed by its ministers. This is peculiarly the case in our country. For here, influence is only to be obtained by mental and moral superiority. Among unenlightened nations, the mere fact, that a man is the minister of religion clothes him with moral power over those around him. Here ministers are men, and have little influence wbich does not arise from their personal character. They have no splendid revenues, nor lordly titles, which in most European countries secure for religion and its officers, the external respect even of the great and the worldly; but are dependent on themselves for their power to do good. Experience proves that where the clergy are ignorant, religion is degraded and in disrepute ; but where they have maintained an equality in intellectual improvement, with the best educated portions of society, the respect which the world could not withhold from them has been extended to religion itself. If the interests of religion be thus united to the character of its ministers, the solemn obligations to cultivate to the utmost the talents which God has given him, cannot be denied by any theological student, who properly appreciates the nature of the office which he seeks.
That the objects of his attention should be mainly professional, need scarcely he remarked, and that every depariment of theological knowledge should receive its due proportion of time and study, will be readily admitted. This we think with respect to the Hebrew, and indeed, the Scriptures generally, is rarely the case. The importance of this branch of theological education is not properly appreciated, and therefore, the sense of duty (which it is to be supposed regulates the conduct of candidates for the sacred office) does not secure for this subject, the amount of attention it really deserves. That it is a matter of duty, for every
man who seeks to enter the ministry, to qualify himself for the work in the best manner which his circumstances will admit, will not be denied. The only question therefore, is, whether a knowledge of the Hebrew be of such importance, that a man reglects a serious duty, who fails to make this acquisition, when the Providence of God has placed it within his reach. This would seem a question of very easy decision. Are not ministers appointed to explain, enforce, and defend the contents of the sacred volume ? Can this be done as well without a knowledge of the languages in which this volume was written, as with it? The neglecters of the Hebrew, if they act conscientiously, must answer this question in the affirmative, and must maintain that the English version is adequate to teach them, all a minister need know of the revelation of God. But the least reflection is suffi. cient to show that this cannot be the case. No version, from the nature of the case, can in all instances be an exact exhibition of its original ; because no two languages exactly correspond. Indeed, beyond some few classes of words, such as the names of natural objects, the essential relations in life, the signs of simple ideas, &c., few words can be discovered which in one language have precisely the same signification with the nearest corresponding term of another. The correspondence is, in the great majority of instances but partial, the one will generally admit of applications foreign to the other. Hence the version will often express more or less than the original, will admit of interpretations which the former cannot bear. Thus we often see men urging arguments founded upon some possi. ble or even common use of the terms of the English version, entirely foreign to the usage of the word or phrase for which it stands in the original. Admitting, therefore, that the translation was the best possible, yet from the nature of language-from the difference between the modifications of thought and feeling in every nation of which their respec
tive languages are the representative, there always will be a great difference between the version and the original. There is always a mind interposed between the reader and his author-the thoughts and feelings of the latter come transmuted and modified to the former, by passing through the process of translation. Homer in the language of Cowper, Pope, and Voss, is by no means the same. The facts of the poems are retained in all, but in each it is mainly with the mind of the translator that the reader has communion.
But a version is not only from the nature of the case inadequate, it is in every instance, more or less faulty. No translation is given by inspiration, and therefore, none is infallibly correct. Of the thousand versions of the Sacred Scriptures, there are no two which exactly agree. Now, shall the minister of the Gospel, placc himself under the necessity of taking the meaning of the word of God upon trust? Shall be expose himself to the constant danger of adopting for himself, and of urging on the consciences of others as the truth of God, what may be the mere misapprehensions of tallible translators ? Yet this is what is done every day, and in some cases, it may be, to even a fatal extent. Is there no moral obligation then, on the public expounders of the word of God, to make themselves acquainted with that word, and not to take the version either of Protestant or Catholic, as their rule of faith and practice.
But besides the essential inadequacy and frequent inaccuracy of every translation, it may further be urged as a reason for studying the original languages, that the know. ledge of them is essential to our being able properly to expound the word of God. There are two great means of ascertaining the meaning of any author. The one is the logical connexion of his thoughts, the other the signification of the individual words and phrases which he employs. With regard to the former, it may be admitted, that it may be applied with much the same success by the reader of a good
version, as by the student of the original. But with the regard to the latter, the case is very different; for it is evident it will avail us little to ascertain even the biblical usus loquendi, of a certain word or mode of expression in our English Bible, since these are by no means always employed to answer to one and the same phrase in the original. TO understand the sense of the terms used by the sacred writers, we should avail ourselves of the light thrown upon them by their etymology; by their use in the age in which the author wrote, in other parts of the sacred volume, and especially in other passages of the same writer; by tracing the word in its cognate dialects, &c. &c. These are the only proper means of ascertaining its import. It may be said that this process has already been gone through by the translators who have given us the result. But this method of investigation is often as necessary in the work of exposition, as in that of translation, A translation can give us but one of the various senses of which a passage may be susceptible, whether, that be the best supported or not we are entirely unable to judge. And if any young man would shrink from the idea of adopting opinions as to the doctrines of the Sacred Scriptures, for which he is personally responsible, on the authority of another, why adopt on authority the sense of passages of the Sacred Scriptures on which such opinions must ultimately be founded ?
As the original Sacred Scriptures are the only standard recognized by all classes of Christians, to them the appeal is made on all matters of controversy. A minister is set for the defence of the truth. For this business he is bound to prepare himself. He ought seriously to consider whether it be consistent with his duty to place himself in circumstances, in which not only his character, but the interests of the truth may be deeply involved, when the point in dispute may at any moment be carried beyond his depth, hy a reference to the standard which all parties acknow