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I shall probably be obliged to delay until Sunday next, the second portion of my argument—that is to say, regarding the difficulties in the Catholic interpretation which are supposed to drive us to the figurative meaning; because before leaving this explanation of the phraseology I have to meet one or two objections which may lead me into some details.
In mentioning the first, I must own that I feel some little degree of difficulty or delicacy; and I would have kept myself within the bounds of general observation had it not been for a particular circumstance which may make it necessary perhaps to intrude a little more personally upon your notice than I should otherwise have been inclined to do, in order that I may meet a difficulty which has been repeated again and again, and which owes its origin to Dr. Adam Clarke, in the very work to which I have already referred on the Eucharist, and in the very paragraph in which he gives these parallel passages wbich I have qucted.
Dr. Clarke enjoyed considerable reputation for an acquaintance with the original languages of the sacred Scriptures, particularly that dialect which is supposed to throw considerable light on biblical interpretation, being the dialect in which our Saviour and his apostles spoke. Dr. Clarke from this language raised a difficulty against the Catholic interpretation, and this was copied by Mr. Horne in the passage to which I bave referred, and has been repeated again and again by almost every writer on the subject. Instead of giving the quotation from the book itself, I prefer doing it from a letter which a few days ago, after I commenced this course of instruction, was directed to me. It is on account of this circumstance, that I think it right to come more personally before you on this question than I otherwise should have been inclined to do. The objection of Dr. Clarke is as follows.
In the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Chaldeo-Syriac languages, there is no term which expresses to mean, signify, or denote, though both the Greek and Latin abound with them. Hence the Hebrews use a figure, and say it is, for it signifies.
Then come all the passages which I have already quoted, and I hope sufficiently discussed.
“ That our Lord neither spoke in Greek nor Latin on this occasion ”that is, the Institution of the Eucharist-"needs no proof. It was most probably in what was formerly called the Chaldaic, now the Syriac, that he conversed with his disciples. In Matthew xxvi. 26, 27, the words in the original version are “HOVAU PAGREE,” this is my body; DEMEE,” this is my blood; of which forms of speech the Greek is a verbal translation ; nor would any man at the present day, speaking in the same language, use among the people to whom it was vernacular,
other terms than the above to express, • This represents my body; this represents my blood.'”
Here are three distinct assertions : first, that in the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Chaldeo-Syriac, there is no word for “to represent;" and consequently if our Saviour wished to institute a sign or representation of his body, he had no choice but to say, “ This is my body.” Secondly, that it was common and familiar with the people who spoke the language of our Saviour when he instituted the Eucharist, to say “to be," when they meant to say, “ to represent.” Thirdly, that if any one speaking among this people meant to say, “ This represents my body,” he could do it in no other way except by saying, “ This is my body."
Now the utmost conclusion that could be drawn from this reasoning, supposing it all true, would be, that if our Saviour had wished to establish a sign or symbol, he would have been obliged to say, “ This is ;" but it does not prove that he did mean to establish a symbol, because he must equally have used the phrase if he wished to establish the Real Presence. Therefore, at most it would be a doubtful expression, and we should have to look elsewhere for an interpretation.
But the writer of the letter concludes in these words, “ I cannot but feel surprised, that a doctrine should be so strongly upheld and defended by one who is a professor of Oriental languages, and who has access to the various versions of the Scriptures; and I humbly hope, Sir, that you will be led to see the error of your ways."
I am thankful, exceedingly thankful, to the writer of such a letter, in the first place, because it shows an interest regarding myself personally, which is always a matter of obligation to every one. And in regard to the doctrines which I am endeavouring to explain, I am also thankful to him, because it gives me reason to see that this objection is still popular, still known; and that, on the other hand, its confutation is not known; and therefore I shall venture to enter more fully into the answer than perhaps I should otherwise bave done.
Now I am challenged, at least I am called on by these words, to account how, having possessed myself of some little knowledge of the languages here alluded to, I can maintain a doctrine so completely at variance, as Dr. Clarke boldly asserts, with the language, or the Scriptural version, or the literature to which I have been accustomed. And I answer, that if there were any thing upon earth which could have attached me more to our interpretation, which could have more strongly rooted me in my belief of the Catholic doctrine, it would have been the little knowledge which I have been enabled to acquire in these matters; and I will show how, so far from this assertion of Dr. Clarke's weakening my faith in the Catholic doctrine, it must, on the contrary, necessarily have confirmed it.
It is now about eight years ago, when more actively employed upon the study of these very matters, that I saw the passage from Dr. Adam Clarke, as quoted by Mr. Horne, and according to the principles which I had then adoptedand in which I hope always to persevere—in conducting my inquiries, I determined to examine it fully and impartially, Here was a bold assertion, that in this language there was not a single word signifying to represent; that it was common to use the verb “ to be” in that sense ; that in this language it was impossible for a person to express the idea, “ This represents my body,” otherwise than by saying, “ This is my body." I determined to treat it as a simple question of philological literature, to see whether a language was so poor and wretched, especially the Syriac, as not to afford a single word expressive of “representation.” I looked through the dictionaries and lexicons of that language, and I found two words supported by one example enough to confute the assertion, but still not enough to satisfy my mind. I saw, therefore, that the only way to ascertain this fact was by reading the authors who have written on this language ; and in a work which I now have in my hand, I published the result of my researches under the title of “ Philological Examination of the objections brought against the literal sense of the phrase in which the Eucharist was instituted, from the Syriac language, containing a specimen of a Syriac Dictionary”-that is to say, simply considering it as a question interesting to learned men to know, how far a language possessed words of a certain meaning or not. I determined to show the imperfection of the dictionaries in that language ; I resolved to publish it in that form, and to give a slight specimen of a dictionary pointing out the defects of others by simply giving those words which mean, “to denote, to represent, to typify.” What do you think is the number wbich that list contains a list which extends through pretty nearly thirty or forty pages! In other words, how many expressions do you suppose the Syriac language, which is said by Dr. Clarke not to contain one word signifying “ to represent,” does possess? How many does the English language possess ? Not above four or five-“to denote, to signify, to represent, to typify :" I think after these we have arrived pretty nearly at the end of the list. In the Greek and Latin we have much about the same number, I should doubt whether ten words can be brought forward in either. How many do you think the Syriac contains ? Upwards of FORTY! Forty words, of which I have given examples from every one of the classical writers, either edited or in manuscript, in some cases with upwards of one hundred references, in many twenty, thirty, or forty, and in some I did not put down one half which I discovered. Here, then, is the first assertion, that the Syriac language contains no word which could have been used conveying the idea, “ This represents my body," whereas forty-one might have been employed-more I will venture to say than any other, either dead or living, language presents. So far for the first bold assertion.
I mention this, not merely for the purpose of confutation, but to show how easy it is to make a general assertion. Any one, not acquainted with the language, knowing Dr. Clarke to have been a learned man, and believing that he was an honest man, would take for granted that it was as he states, and might think that it afforded a strong argument against the Catholic doctrine. You see how it is applied to myself. The assertion is most incorrect: the Syriac language has plenty of words, more than any other for the purpose required.
The second assertion is, that it is common for writers in this language, to use the verb “to be” for “ to represent.” Proceeding to that point I examined it, and I think I demonstrated satisfactorily, that it is less common to these writers than to any other. I will, in a very simple manner, show you how. Of course the argument is complete, when we have shown, that our Saviour could have used the verb “to represent.” One example would have been sufficient instead of so many, but let us see whether it is common so to use the word. I find, for instance, in the oldest commentator on the Scriptures in that language, that these words, meaning to represent, are crowded together in such a way, that they will not stand translation. In the writings of St. Ephrem, the oldest writer in the Syriac language, although he tells us, in the first place, that he is going to interpret through all his commentaries, figuratively or symbolically, and, consequently, we should be prepared for the constant use of the verb “ to be: yet, in his commentary on the book of Numbers, that verb occurs only twice, or, at most, four times, in the sense of “ to represent;" whereas the words, meaning “ to represent,” occur sixty times. In his Commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy, he uses the verb-substantive “ to be,” in the sense of “to represent,” six times; but the words which mean to represent seventy times, so that the proportion is as seventy to four or six. In the second place, he avoided the use of the verb “to be” in such an extraordinary way, and crowded the other words so thickly, that, in a Latin version, it was often necessary to use the verb “to be,” where he used the verb “ to represent,” showing, that it was easier to use the verb-substantive in the Latin than in the Syriac. In the third place, I find, that these words come so close to each other, that though in his Edition there were only half lines, the text occupying one-half of the page, and the translation the other, so that there are often not more than three or four words in a line; yet I find, that in eighteen lines he uses the word, signifying “ to represent,” twelve times. In page 283, he uses these verbs eleven times in seventeen lines. St. James, of Sarug, employs them in thirteen lines ten times; and Barhebræus, another valuable commentator in the same language, uses them eleven
times in eleyen lines. So much for the frequency with which writers use the verb “to be” instead of " to represent."
But the third and more important point is, that it is said, that any person now-a-days, wishing to say, “ This represents my body," would be driven necessarily to say, “ This is my body.” I took the appeal in the strictest sense, and determined to verify it by seeing whether this was the case. I found, in an old Syriac writer, Dionysius Barsalibous, not a Catholic moreover, but an historian, these extraordinary words, “ They are called, and are the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in truth, and not figuratively.” He, therefore, shows, that in his language, there was a means of expressing a figure; for he tells us expressly, that they were not figurative. He finds a word, and, therefore, so much for there being no means in that language of expressing “ to represent.” But let us go on yet further. We have another passage from an old writer, the original of which, in Syriac, is lost, but which has been translated into Arabic by Archbishop David, in the ninth or tenth century. But as it is a question of language, bis translation of a passage, which must be supposed to be contained in the original, will show how far Dr. Clarke is correct. It says, “ He gave us his body, blessed be his name for the remission of our sins, nor is there a tittle in it, because he said, “ This is my body,' and did not say * This is a figure of my body.'” Supposing that the Syriac language possessed no expression to signify “ represent,” how could this author, who wrote in that language, have said, that our Saviour did not tell us, • This is a figure of my body?” According to Dr. Clarke the passage must have run thus, There is no figure because he said, “ This is my body," and did not say, “ This is the figure of my body.” But there is another, and still stronger passage in St. Maruthas, who wrote between three hundred and four hundred years after Christ. He is one of the most venerable Fathers of the oriental church, and the passage is written in the original language: “ Besides this, the faithful, who came after his time, would have been deprived of his body and blood." He is giving a reason why our Saviour instituted this sacrament: “ But now, as often as we approach to the body and blood, and take them in our hands, we believe that we embrace his body, and that we are made partakers of his body and of his bones, according to wbat is written, truly Christ did not call it a type or figure, but he said, " This is truly my body, this is my blood.'”.
Now, therefore, so far from the writers in that language believing that our Saviour wished to institute a figure, and that he had no means of doing so except by saying, “ This is my body;" they tell us, that we must believe our Saviour to have spoken literally because he says, “ This is my body,” and does not sly, “ This is a figure of my body."
I ask you now, if any knowledge wbich I may bave of these