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it, every difficulty in the explication is at once got
I would here embrace the opportunity of recommending ardently to students of divinity, and candidates for the ministry, a close and diligent application to the Hebrew. I have known several clergymen who have spent triple the quantity of time to make themselves masters of the violin, which would have more than sufficed for the acquisition of a considerable skill in this language; the music of which they would, in the end, have found much more attractive and lasting. Many have imbibed the unhappy prejudice, that our public version is so accurate and unexceptionable, and so faithful a transcript of the original, as to supersede all labour employed this way, as superfluous and unnecessary; but, on application, they will certainly find the case to be otherwise. No translation of any classic that has ever yet appeared, has had the effect, nor, I trust, ever will, of superseding the study of the Greek and Latin. It must still be acknowledged, that the meaning of an author can be best known only in his own language; and if this be admitted in the two foresaid languages, it ought not to be denied to the Hebrew. In this tongue there are modes of expression which a translation cannot reach; and which, by supplements, injudiciously foisted into the text, are much injured; a proper
understanding of whicli, as being the [book of God, must be extremely consequential to man. The beauties of the classics are the withering blossoms of time, but the plants which rise in the soil of the Hebrew, are the children of eternity.
The greater the proficiency that is made in this tongue, the brighter will be the light which it will shed over the writings of the New Testament. In this latter, Hebrew names, Hebrew customs, Hebrew phrases, and Hebrew allusions, are perpetually occurring. These are all rendered familar and easy to the close student of the Old Testament. Of these, extended exemplifications might be given, did it not more properly belong to the body of the work, where they are to be found. Comments on various passages may be ingenious, but unless the sense of the Old Testament be kept in view, such ingenuity is but fanciful, and, at best, misapplied.
Of the injudiciousness of supplement by the translators, where there did not exist the smallest necessity, I gave an instance in Rev. i. 17. where Messiah plainly speaks himself to be Jehovah, by assuming the very epithets that are assumed by the Jehovah of the Old Testament. In our version it runs thus: “I am the first and the last; I am hé that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore:” which, as being the same person who speaks, is evidently an adoption of
the stile of the Old Testament church. « I am the first, I am the last; and besides me there is no God.” On which I would remark, that our translators have, without necessity, thrown out the second copulative, and supplied its place by the interpolation 1 am.* This occasions a' rending off the term living from its fellow epithets first and last, and joining it to the following; whereas, in the original, it appears to stand opposed to it by the third copulative, which, according to the Hebrew idiom, possesses oftentimes the force of the adversative particle but. Thus, “ I am the first and the last, and the living being; but I was dead, and, lo! I am alive for evermore."
In the study of the Hebrew original, they will be drawn to look into the version of the Seventy and Vulgate; and they will, in many instances, find that the copies from which these versions have been made, must have considerably differed from that from which our version is taken, and yields at times a plainer and a nobler sense.
Of this remark, the greater part of Dr. Lowth’s various readings and criticisms, affixed to his translation of Isaiah, is an illustration.
A new necessity has also arisen in present days, of paying a closer attention to the originals, from the unparalelled affrontery of attack that has of
* The 18th verse ought to have begun with the last clause of the 17th,
late been made on the sacred writings; and from
in me." Yet this mode of detection is not
In the following work I have endeavoured to trace, through a variety of passages of sacred writ, intimations of this state, where the definitive terms, Sheol, in the Old Testament, and Hades, in the New, are not employed. I was the more solicitous to discuss these, because containing notices of this state, which are undesigned and inadvertent; and which, however circumlocutory or figurative, were well understood by the people
of that age. In this labour, these traces struck me more forcibly in the originals than in the translations, in which, from the infelicity of the version, they are overshaded or lost. I have at times de rived considerable advantage from the Septuagint version and the Chaldee paraphrases, which generally give a faithful representation of the sense which their original copy presented.
The Jewish Rabbins are, in many things, faithful to the text of Scripture, and are sometimes happy in expanding a divine sentiment, which is couched in few words in the original. In many of their expressions they are surprisingly christian. Their phraseology, with regard to the things of the unseen world, bears a remarkable resemblance to that of Christ. *
The Apocryphal books, although not admitted into the canon of the Scripture, are nevertheless good authority in shewing what were the opinions of the people of that age, with respect to the invisible state.
Some of the writers of the heathen world are called to give their evidence; not as if Scripture needed their testimony, but chiefly to shew that their rivulets, however mixed up with the mud of
* In Evo Futuro nec est esus, nec potus, nec liberorum procreatio. In tractutu Berachoth, chap. 2.
They who are counted worthy of that world, neither marry nor are given in marriage. Luke xx. 35.