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The Second Volume of the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge. BIBLIOTHECA SACRA
SPIRITUALITY OF THE BOOK OF JOB AS EXHIBITED IN A COMMENTARY ON CHAPTER XIV, EXAMINED IN CONNECTION WITH OTHER PASSAGES.
By Tayler Lewis, LL. D., Professor of Greek in the University of the City of New York.
The chief point of interest in this portion of Holy Writ is found in the touching interrogatory contained in the fourteenth verse-If a man die, shall he live again? It was to be expected that the unevangelical or Grotian class of commentators would give the least spiritual view of this and other similar passages. Critics of this kind generally profess to be, beyond all other expositors, free from any bias that may lead to results not sanctioned by the most legitimate principles of hermeneutics. And yet it may be maintained, that even they, with all their boasted claims to fairness and freedom from prejudice, do actually start with a prejudged theory, which modifies, controls, and in many cases, suggests the very interpretations on which they so strongly insist as arising directly from the usus loquendi, or strict philological examination of the text.
They too, we maintain, have their prejudged theory. They start with the assumption that neither the writer of the book of Job, whoever he may have been, nor the age, nor the country in which he lived, could have had any idea of a future, separate, spiritual state of existence, much less of any future judgment, much less of any resurVol. VI. No. 22.
rection of the body, and still less of any Divine Redeemer to appear in the flesh.
By the light of this theory, opposed as it is to what we know of the most ancient nations mentioned in profane history, must its advocates, of course, decide all questions of probability. When, therefore, they meet with passages, which, as far as grammatical interpretation is alone concerned, may present either a spiritual or a naturalistic aspect according to the side from whence they are viewed, such interpreters do not hesitate to adopt the latter as the most easy, the most obvious, the most in accordance with what they assume to be the usus loquendi of the writer, and of the age in which he lived. What makes this, in some respects, the more strange, is the fact, that such an unevangelical view is held the more firmly by those who insist upon bringing down the date of the book to the latest period,-even to the time when, according to another of their favorite theories, the Jews themselves began to learn the doctrine of a future life from the nations among whom they had been led captive. These nations, too, they can believe, bad long been in possession of it, whilst the chosen people of God had never risen above the grossest materialistic belief in our merest animal existence, and had never exhibited the least trace of that which forms the first essential element of spiritual religion.
We may keep very far from that extreme which finds almost any doctrine of the New Testament in the book of Job, and yet believe, both from external and internal evidence, that it manifests a higher spirituality than has generally been conceded to it. The internal evidence of this kind may be concisely presented under three heads.
1st. Its pure moral theism, embracing such sublime views of the Divine purity, holiness and uncompromising righteousness, as have never, in any other age or country been found associated with materialism in respect to man.
2d. The positive doctrine of a spiritual world as presented in the introductory chapters, and to which we may rightly attach a similar inferential scholium, namely, that the belief in angels, or sons of God, and ministering spirits, and evil demons, has never since been found joined with that remaining dogma of the Sadducean creed which denies a separate spiritual life of the human soul.
3d. The revelation of an antagonism going on in this spiritual world for the trial of our moral integrity, which representation necessarily suggests the correlative idea of some great beneficent heavenly power contending on our behalf against the evil adversary, thus making probable what have been regarded as Job's allusions to a Redeemer, or Messiah, and also rendering easy of belief the supposition that he 1849.]
Key of the Poem in the Introduction.
sometimes speaks of deliverances connected with another state of existence.
Under these general heads we would briefly present a few introductory inferences, which the reader is desired to keep in mind throughout the whole of the following interpretation. The true key of the poem, we assume, is most naturally to be sought in the first two chapters. Nothing could seem at first view, and on almost any view, to be fairer than such a position as this ; and yet it has been strangely overlooked by almost all who have written on the book. In these introductory chapters, there can be no doubt of an intention to bring before the mind, in some way, vivid ideas of invisible or spiritual beings, and of a spiritual world. This would seem clear enough as a fact in itself, whatever we may think of the manner of making the representation,—whether we regard it as subjective or objective, as mythical or real. The poem, most strikingly commences with the supernatural, the superhuman, and the unearthly. It also most impressively closes in the same remarkable manner. It is not easy, therefore, nor natural, to suppose that the intervening parts suddenly lose every trace of this character, and have reference only to earthly trials, earthly retributions, earthly vindications of the divine justice, and contain only a sort of Confucian morality, presenting the merest earthly manifestations of man's highest accountabilities. Again, it is hard to believe, that the writer meant to represent the great evil spiritual being as playing so important a part in these impressive opening scenes, and then that there should be not the least allusion to him in anything that follows. Among all other manifestations of religious belief, or in all other mythologies (to use a favorite phrase of the unevangelical school), the doctrine of a spiritual world inhabited by good and bad spiritual agents, has ever existed in conjunction with the idea of a surviving and separate future life for the human spirit. And so, on the other hand, as far as we can historically trace its effects, either as a philosophical or a popular tenet, a denial of such a separate and surviving human principle, or, in other words, materialism in respect to man, has ever, and from the very nature of the connection between the two dogmas, must ever ally itself with some species of atheism in respect to the universe. We do not believe that a pure moral theism, especially so sublime an aspect of it as is exhibited in the Psalms and in the book of Job, could exist for one century among a people who had no such belief in the soul as a separate essence surviving dissolution. Such a theism could have no moral sustaining power, and would inevitably soon sink down into a pantheistic impersonal naturalism.
In the view we have thus presented of the book, it would indeed be, what it has so often been styled without much meaning,—a grand drama, or rather epic,-a inost sublime poetical representation in which revelation withdraws the curtain from one scene in that universal battle (uáxn do dvaros) between good and evil, and between good and evil powers, which has been going on from the creation. In this sacred Iliad, if we may so speak of it, the field of the strife may be said to lie in the hopes, and fears, and faith of the tempted sufferer. The prize of victory is his moral integrity, in view of all the influences that might be brought to bear upon it both from the good and evil department of the spiritual or superhuman world. There is a more than Homeric grandeur of conception here. The aslov proposed in this spiritual uyar is something far transcending that of the ordinary heroic.
ούχ ιερήϊον, ουδε βοείη, αλλά περί ΨΥΧΗΣ μάρνανται αθανάτοιο.! Again, this grand conflict necessarily suggests the idea of two chief antagonistic powers essentially pertaining to it. In respect to one of these the introduction, or argument of the poem, leaves no doubt. It is Satan, the old adversary, the enemy of man, the accuser, who is represented as roving to and fro in the earth, in search of the victims of his never sleeping malice.2 Who then can be the other but HE, who, as we have good reason to believe, is repeatedly alluded to throughout the book ? Who else can it be but Satan's ancient and everlasting opponent—The Only Begotten among the Sons of GodThe Angel of the Presence, The Guardian Angel of the people of God in all ages—The Goel, or the Near Kinsman—The Angel Mediator— The Interpreter— The Witness on high- The Friend of man—The Divine Redeemer whose incarnation was promised away
An accommodation or rather elevation of Homer. Iliad XXII. 161. ? It would certainly be very strange, as we have said, that Satan should never again be alluded 10 after the opening chapters, or that there should be no intimation of Job's having any belief or knowledge of the evil being, who was the immediate cause of all his miseries. We therefore think that there are such allusions in repeated instances, especially in those agonizing speeches in which the tempted sufferer is supposed to utter such violent and even blasphemous declarations against his Maker, but which, in reality may have been directed against his tormenting adversary! Of such a nature may be regarded those in Chap. 16: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. In verse 11, he would seem to have in his mind's eye a company or legion of mocking fiends“ They have gaped upon me with their mouth," etc. In verse 11, 5972., instead of ungodly, may be rendered, The evil one ; and when thus viewed, compare it with ch. 1: 12. 2: 6. How natural then the transition to The Friend on High, verse 19.