« PreviousContinue »
of the same kind, the like danger may not be escaped, if the Hebrew language, and its scholastic history, should be neglected.
When we consult Mr. Parkhurst's Hebrew Lexicon, it is pleasant to see how many passages of Scripture are illustrated; how many difficulties cleared up by the author: and whoever follows his examples, will soon discover how much his prospects are enlarged when he studies the Bible in the original.
He that should read the New Testament in the Greek, and be under the necessity of taking all his knowledge of it from the Latin of the Vulgate, would be thought very deficient in his learning; and the case is parallel, if, in the interpretation of the Old Testament, we are unable to compare the Greek version of the Septuagint with the original Hebrew; which it is often necessary to do. Many discoveries arise, if this comparison is faithfully made: among other things it appears, from the different manner in which the Greek Translators have pronounced many proper names, that they did not translate from a copy with the present Vowel Points *, such as are used by the Jews; against whom we are to provide ourselves with weapons, as against the most dangerous enemies of the Gospel : and who, but a Hebrew Christian, can be a
* The Hexapla of Origen is a work to which I have at present no access ; but I set down what I suppose to be a faithful account of it. He gives the Hebrew Text in Greek letters : wherein he “uniformly expresses what the Masorites call the quiescent letters, the Alep, He, Vau, and Jod, by Vowels; but so variously, that it is clear he considered it to be a matter of indifference by what vowel he should denote them. He always treats the Ain and Heth as vowels: and, when two consonants occur, he seems to have considered it optional, what vowel he should admit between them. All this is diametrically opposite to the system of the Masorites.” Horæ Biblicæ, p. 77.
match for them in their own way? In the New Testament there is a sort of Greek, which cannot be reconciled with ordinary Greek authors: because there is a frequent use of such forms of language (we call them Idioms) as are transferred to the Greek from the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and which cannot otherwise be accounted for.
But now, lastly, I recommend the Hebrew chiefly on this consideration ; because the language is in itself instructive; its words give us light into things, in a manner different from those of any other language in the world: and this, beyond all other arguments, convinces me of its divine original. I will give you some examples. The word clothe, in Latin vestio, in Greek svdvw, gives us no instruction; but the Hebrew way LeBeSH to clothe, comprehends the idea of Va BeSH Shame, (whence the English bashful and abash) and, with 5 prefixed, it is for, or on account of shame : so the term not only stands for the thing, as in other languages, but gives us the reason of the thing; it refers us to the moral history and origin of clothing; and all this in three letters.
The English word hail, in Latin grando, in Greek xalača, gives us no information about the nature of the thing: but, if we take the word 772 BeReD in Hebrew, as we took LeBeSH, it resolves itself into 79—1, which signifies in descensu, and so describes to us the physiological formation of hail; which, as philosophers agree, is first formed into drops of rain, and, as it falls, is frozen into hail *
When a Gentleman very learned in the Hebrew saw this account of 773, he observed upon it that yan Egg was such another word compounded of 3 and 839; for it is remarkable in the physiology of the egg, that the shell acquires its hardness in exitu, as it comes forth.
In roots of the Hebrew language, which consist mostly of two letters, some idea is taken from nature; and the word, with some new modification, is carried on, and applied to other objects; and, if there were no other argument, this alone would convince me that the Hebrew, from the simple fabrication of its terms, is not only the first of languages, but of a construction beyond the invention of human wisdom. Thus, for example, the word hy Tzelem signifies an image: but why so ? because by Tzel is a shadow, the first of images, such as nature itself makes : the light of the sun forms it naturally, and presents it to the sight of man. In many words, two ideas are comprehended, because they are found together in nature. It is impossible for us, in many cases, from our imperfect knowledge of things, to account for and reconcile the kindred senses of Hebrew words; but in many the reason of them is too plain to be contradicted. The word w8, RASH signifies the Head and it signifies Poison ; and the relation appears in nature, which has placed the most deadly of poisons in the head of the Serpent: a creature of great signification in Hebrew doctrine. I do not see that this reason is assigned by the learned Mr. Parkhurst; but I find it in Marius-Sunt qui dicunt sic appellari, eo quod venenum sit in capite aspidis.
The same word which signifies the hoar-frost signifies to cover ; because the hoar-frost is a sudden and universal covering spread over the face of the ground. The word also signifies an atonement ; by which, as it appears from several passages of the Scripture, either the face of the person offended is understood to be covered, so that he no longer looks upon the offence; or the sin itself is so covered that it can no longer be seen, and even assumes a new appearance from the
nature and quality of the covering; just as the face of the earth becomes white and pure when the hoar-frost is upon it: which conveys a very beautiful and pleasant idea of atonement and propitiation. All this is expressed by the word 702 CaPHaR; whence is plainly derived our English word cover. This term admits of an accident, which may seem to contradict our system of kindred ideas, but does really confirm it. The word which signifies hoar-frost does also signify pitch; the one as white as snow, the other as black as a coal: but the leading idea of covering is still preserved, for pitch is the most effectual covering in the world to keep out water and weather. In Gen. vi. 14, it is applied to the covering of Noah's ark; and the reader will find that the pitch and the covering are both expressed by the same word.
sa GaL is a root which, as a verb, signifies to roll round, or circulate; and, as a noun, any round thing.
lence it signifies to dance ; because the motions of the dance were circular, to imitate the motions of the heavenly bodies. It signifies also to be glad; because gladness is that way expressed. And likewise a wheel, from its form and its revolution; and particularly the watering wheel of the East, which yields its water by a circulation: Solomon is supposed to have used this term in that famous allegory of Eccles. xii. with an allusion to the circulation of the blood in the human body, which ceases in death: the passage is well worth considering. Hence also we have a name for the human skull *, from the roundness of its figure; and also for the thistle down, or winged seed, because it is a light round body, and has a rotation as it rolls along before the wind. And I may add, what is as curious
* Hence the word Golgotha in the New Testament.
as any thing, that the root in question gives us the word oba GeLeM, which-signifies the human fætus or embryo; and with philosophical propriety, because in that the body is rolled up or folded together. From Gelem comes the word glomus a ball of thread, and glomero to wind about or gather together.
How simple is the construction of that language, which, beginning with the preposition Sy OL, upon or over, adds another letter, and turns it into a verb, by OLaH, to ascend; which, becoming a noun, signifies a burnt-offering ; teaching us to consider it as an ascension, because the smoke and flame of it goes up towards heaven, which cannot happen unless it is consumed by fire; on which much might be said ! The barbarous people of Madagascar have a sacrifice which they call an Owley ; retaining the very word of the Mosaic law. From the same root we have a word for the wild goat of the mountains, from its climbing upwards ; also for the leaf of a tree, from its superior situation; whence, with the f, or digamma prefixed, we have the Latin folium. It furnishes us also with a word for stairs, because people ascend by them; and for a lord or ruler, because he is over others : in alliance with which we have one of the names of God, by Olion, because he is over all; and it is rendered by the word Altissimus in Latin, in English the Most High.
Compare this set of words with one another in Latin, and you will find neither root, branch, 'nor relation among them. Super has no alliance with scando; nor scando with gradus; nor gradus with folium ; nor folium with altus ; nor altus with rupicapra: every word, when compared with the rest, is an unrelated individual; and the case would be found the same in the Greek, or any other language of more modern use