« PreviousContinue »
THE work, now presented to the public, owes its birth to the following cause: having been foranumber of years in the habit of studying the Scriptures in their original languages, I could not help remarking and dwelling on various intimations given in these languages, which modern versions have rendered in such a way, as by no means to convey the sense intended in the original. I regretted this the more, as the Hebrew information was important, and reflected new light on the doctrines taught by Christ, and his apostles. In nothing more did this strike the view, than in the frequent notices that are given of the invisible state. Deeply impressed with the idea that these books came from God, and that they contained information of the utmost importance to man, I returned often to the perusal, and went over many passages, not without wondering at the light and perspicuity which the original exhibited, while the translation was oftentimes dark or obscure.
It may perhaps be said, that a disquisition of this nature is of little moment to mankind, and seems more curious than useful. But, as I apprehend, it ought to be deemed a matter of primary importance, to comprehend rightly what Scripture teaches with respect to a future and an invisible state. The utility of that must be confessed, which discovers information hitherto overlooked; which throws new light on many passages, and which furnishes a key to others that seem mysterious and dark. Why should attempts at further elucidation be discouraged, as, if in searching the Scriptures, we ought to stop at the sense in which our fathers understood them; and, as if already possessed of all the information that could be given, to imagine that no new accession of light could arise from a close investigation of the original, or from hints, dropt either in the ancient versions, or in the writings of the Rabbins? These were much more accustomed, than Christian commentators, to dwell upon and to catch the light which are reflected from the Hebrew.
If the invisible state, or world of souls, appear much oftener in the OldTestament than modern versions are willing to acknowledge, shall it be deemed unuseful or unimportant to point this out, and to shew even where it is remotely hinted; the writer being confident that such hints would be well understood by the people of that age, who took these
terms in their true import, and to whom they were perfectly familiar? There is that beam of light which the Heathen world sought, but never found. In the present day, researches of this kind are so much the more necessary, as every attempt is avowedly put in practice to drive men away from revelation, and the light which it affords. To them, who are enlightened in the knowledge of the divine word, no scheme, no system of belief can be presented, from which they will not turn away with abhorrence, and with renewed relish come unto Messiah, and say, " to whom can we go but unto thee, thou alone hast the words of eternal life!"
The Hebrew original connects the Mosaic economy closer with the world of souls than what any modern version does; and, as if to keep this perpetually in view, is careful to repeat, that this and that is a type or model corresponding to something similar in that invisible state (Le-hukatholam) in our version," an ordinance for ever." 18 Such was the anxiety of Moses to refer these models to their invisible originals, that he never once thinks of the frequent repetition grating upon and loading the ear of the reader. No; the upper house was never from his view, and to this he constantly pointed. It was this accuracy of reference that brought him the praise of being faithful in all the house of God. While our version,
in many instances, presents a medium too thick for the rays of the intermediate state to penetrate, the great original, like a prism, faithfully transmits them in their native brightness.
If such is the state of the Old Testament, is it not to be expected that it will much influence and give a similar tinge to the language of the New? The writers of the New Testament were mostly Hebrews, and educated in the bosom of the Jewish church. Their ideas, their views, their phraseology, must, of course, in many cases, be Hebrew. Unless we view these in the light of that ancient church, we shall be in danger of missing their true import, and of affixing to them a sense altogether foreign to the mind of the writers. Neglecting to do this, has been the cause of some commentators missing, altogether, the meaning of the three first verses of St. John's gospel. There the phraseology is local, and plainly alluding to the mode of expression common in the Chaldee paraphrases, and to the faith of the ancient Jewish church, with respect to the Mimra or Word. He attempts to shew that this Mimra, to the mention of which the ears of their fathers had been so much accustomed, is the very person to whom John the Baptist bore witness, as the only begotten of the Father, become flesh and dwelling among them.