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took up the usus loquendi as they found it, modifying it, as is quite natural, by the relations internal and external amid which they thought and wrote." The same writer also observes: “ The grammatico-historical sense is made out by the application of grammatical and historical considerations. The great object to be ascertained is the usus loquendi, embracing the laws or principles of universal grammar which form the basis of every language. These are nothing but the logic of the mind, comprising the modes in which ideas are formed, combined, and associated, agreeably to the original susceptibilities of the intellectual constitution. They are the physiology of the human mind as exemplified practically by every individual. General grammar is wont to be occupied, however, with the usage of the best writers; whereas the laws of language as observed by the writers of Scripture should be mainly attended to by the sacred interpreter, even though the philosophical grammarian may not admit them all to be correct. It is the Usus loquendi of the inspired authors which forms the subject of the grammatical principles recognized and followed by the expositor. The grammar he adopts is deduced from the use of the language employed in the Bible. This may not be conformed to the practice of the best writers; it may not be philosophically just; but he must not, therefore, pronounce it erroneous.
The modes of expression used by each writer-the utterances of his mental associations, constitute his usus loquendi. These form his grammatical principles; and the interpreter takes them as his own in the business of exegesis. Hence, too, there arises a special as well as a universal grammar. Now we attain to a knowledge of the peculiar usus loquendi in the way of historical investigation. The religious, moral, and psychological ideas, under whose influence a language has been formed and moulded; all the objects with which the writers were conversant, and the relations in which they were placed, are traced out historically. The costume of the ideas in the minds of the biblical authors originated from the character of the times, country, place, and education, under which they acted. Hence, in order to ascertain their peculiar usus loquendi, we should know all those institutions and influences whereby it was formed or affected.” 1
The general principles and methods by which we ascertain the General princi
usus loquendi of single terms, or words, have been preples and meth- sented in the preceding chapter. Substantially the
same principles are to serve us as we proceed to investigate the grammatico-historical sense. We must attend to the
Davidson, Sacred Hermeneutics, pp. 225, 226.
THE OBVIOUS MEANING.
tences but one
definitions and construction which an author puts upon
his own terms, and never suppose that he intends to contradict himself or puzzle his readers. The context and connection of thought are also to be studied in order to apprehend the general subject, scope, and purpose of the writer. But especially is it necessary to ascertain the correct grammatical construction of sentences. Subject and predicate and subordinate clauses must be closely analyzed, and the whole document, book, or epistle, should be viewed, as far as possible, from the author's historical standpoint.
A fundamental principle in grammatico-historical exposition is that words and sentences can have but one significa- Words and sention in one and the same connection. The moment we
meaning in one neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of un- place. certainty and conjecture. It is commonly assumed by the universal sense of mankind that unless one designedly put forth a riddle, he will so speak as to convey his meaning as clearly as possible to others. Hence that meaning of a sentence which most readily suggests itself to a reader or bearer, is, in general, to be received as the true meaning, and that alone. Take, for example, the account of Daniel and his three companions, as given in the first chapter of the Book of Daniel. The simplest child readily grasps the meaning. There can be no doubt as to the general import of the words throughout the chapter, and that the writer intended to inform his readers in a particular way how God honoured those young men because of their abstemiousness, and because of their refusal to defile themselves with the meats and drinks which the king had appointed for them. The same may be said of the lives of the patriarchs as recorded in the Book of Genesis, and, indeed, of any of the historical narratives of the Bible. They are to be accepted as a trustworthy record of facts.
This principle holds with equal force in the narratives of miraculous events. For the miracles of the Bible are recorded as facts, actual occurrences, witnessed by few or literally underby many as the case might be, and the writers give no intimation that their statements involve any thing but plain literal truth. Thus, in Josh. v, 13-vi, 5, a man appears to Joshua, holding a sword in his hand, announcing himself as “a prince of the host of Jehovah” (verse 14), and giving directions for the capture of Jericho. This may, possibly, have occurred in a dream or a waking vision; but such a supposition is not in strictest accord with the statements. For it would involve the supposition that Joshua dreamed that he fell on his face, and took off his shoes from his feet, as well as looked and listened. Revelations from Jehovah
Miracles to be
were wont to come through visions and dreams (Num. xii, 6), but the simplest exposition of this passage is that the angel of Jehovah openly appeared to Joshua, and the occurrences were all outward and actual, rather than by vision or dream. The simple but mournful narrative of the offering up of Jeph
thah's daughter (Judg. xi, 30–40) has been perverted to Jephthah's daughter a mean that Jephthah devoted his daughter to perpetual burnt-offering.
virginity—an exposition that arose from the a priori assumption that a judge of Israel must have known that human sacrifices were an abomination to Jehovah. But no one presumes to question that he vowed to offer as a burnt-offering that which came forth from the doors of his house to meet him (verse 31). Jephthah could scarcely have thought of a cow, or a sheep, or goat, as coming out of his house to meet him. Still less could he have contemplated a dog, or any unclean animal. The awful solemnity and tremendous force of his vow appear, rather, in the thought that he contemplated no common offering, but a victim to be taken from among the inmates of his house. But he then little thought that of all his household-servants, young men, and maidens-his daughter and only child would be the first to meet him. Hence his anguish, as indicated in verse 35. But she accepted her fate with a sublime heroism. She asked two months of life in which to bewail her virginity, for that was to her the one only thing that darkened her thoughts of death. To die unwedded and childless was the sting of death to a Hebrew woman, and especially one who was as a princess in Israel. Take away that bitter thought, and with Jephthah's daughter it were a sublime and enviable thing to “die for God, her country, and her sire."
The notion that, previously to her being devoted to a life of virginity and seclusion, she desired two months to mourn over such a fate, appears exceedingly improbable, if not absurd. For, as Cappellus well observes, “If she desired or felt obliged to bewail her virginity, it were especially suitable to bewail that when shut up in the monastery; previously to her being shut up it would have been more suitable, with youthful friends and associates, to have spent those two months joyfully and pleasantly, since afterward there would remain to her a time for weeping more than sufficiently
The sacred writer declares (verse 39) that, after the two months, Jephthah did to his daughter the vow which he had vowed -not something else which he had not vowed. He records, not as the manner in which he did his vow, but as the most thrilling knell that in the ears of her father and companions sounded over that
· Critici Sacri, tom. ii, p. 2076.
daughter's funeral pile, and sent its lingering echo into the later times, that “she knew no man.” 1
The narratives of the resurrection of Jesus admit of no rational explanation aside from that simple grammatico-histori
Jesus' cal sense in which the Christian Church has ever under- rection a literal stood them. The naturalistic and mythical theories, historical fact, when applied to this miracle of miracles, utterly break down. The alleged discrepancies between the several evangelists, instead of disproving the truthfulness of their accounts, become, on closer inspection, confirmatory evidences of the accuracy and trustworthiness of all their statements. If the New Testament narratives are deserving of any credit at all, the following facts are evident: (1) Jesus foretold his death and resurrection, but his disciples were slow to comprehend him, and did not fully accept his statements. (2) Immediately after the crucifixion the disciples were smitten with deep dejection and fear; but after the third day they all claimed to have seen the Lord, and they gave minute details of several of his appearances. (3) They affirm that they saw him ascend into the heavens, and soon afterward are found preaching “Jesus and the resurrection in the streets of Jerusalem and in all Palestine and the regions beyond. (4) Many years afterward Paul declared these facts, and affirmed that Jesus appeared at one time to above five hundred brethren, of whom the greater part were still alive (1 Cor. xv, 6). He affirmed, that, if Christ had not been raised from the dead, the preaching of the Gospel and the faith of the Church were
We gain nothing by attempting to evade the obvious import of any of the biblical narratives. On the treatment of this account of Jephthah's daughter Stanley ob
“As far back as we can trace the sentiment of those who read the passage, in Jonathan the Targumist, and Josephus, and through the whole of the first eleven centuries of Christendom, the story was taken in its literal sense as describing the death of the maiden, although the attention of the Church was, as usual, diverted to distant allegorical meanings. Then, it is said, from a polemical bias of Kimchi, arose the interpretation that she was not killed, but immured in celibacy. From the Jewish theology this spread to the Christian. By this time the notion had sprung up that every act recorded in the Old Testament was to be defended according to the standard of Christian morality; and, accordingly, the process began of violently wresting the words of Scripture to meet the preconceived fancies of later ages. In this way entered the hypothesis of Jephthah's daughter having been devoted as a nun; contrary to the plain meaning of the text, contrary to the highest autho of the Church, contrary to all the usages of the old dispensation. In modern times a more careful study of the Bible has brought us back to the original sense. And with it returns the deep pathos of the original story, and the lesson which it reads of the heroism of the father and daughter, to be admired and loved, in the midst of the fierce superstitions across which it plays like a sunbeam on a stormy sea."-Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church. First Series, p. 397.
accuracy to be looked for in
but an empty thing, based upon a gigantic falsehood. This conclusion follows irresistibly from the above-named facts. We must either accept the statements of the evangelists, in their plain and obvious import, or else meet the inevitable alternative that they knowingly put forth a falsehood (a concerted testimony which was essentially a lie before God), and went preaching it in all the world, ready to seal their testimony by tortures and death. This latter alternative involves too great a strain upon our reason to be accepted for a moment, especially when the unique and straightforward Gospel narratives furnish such a clear and adequate historical basis for the marvellous rise and power of Christianity in the world.
Winer's Grammar of the New Testament, and the modern critical commentaries on the whole or on parts of the New Testamentsuch as those of Meyer, De Wette, Alford, Ellicott, and Godethave served largely to place the interpretation of the Christian Grammatical Scriptures on a sound grammatico-historical basis, and
a constant use of these great works is all-important to the Scriptures. the biblical scholar. He must, by repeated grammatical praxis, make himself familiar with the peculiarities of the New Testament dialect. The significance of the presence or the absence of the article has often much to do with the meaning of a passage. “In the language of living intercourse," says Winer, “it is utterly impossible that the article should be omitted where it is decidedly necessary, or employed where it is not demanded. "Opoc can never denote THE mountain, nor tò poc a mountain.” i The position of words and clauses, and peculiarities of grammatical structure, may often serve to emphasize important thoughts and statements. The special usage of the genitive, the dative, or the accusative case, or of the active, middle, or passive voice, often conveys a notable significance. The same is also true of conjunctions, adverbs, and prepositions. These serve to indicate peculiar shades of meaning, and delicate and suggestive relations of words and sentences, without a nice apprehension of which the real sense of a passage may be lost to the reader. The authorized version often obscures an important passage of the New Testament by a mistranslation of the aorist tense. Take, as a single example, 2 Cor. v, 14: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.” The if is now allowed to be an
error in the text and should be omitted. The verse
should then be translated: “For the love of Christ constrains us, having judged this, that one died for all; therefore the all died.” The first verb, constrains (ovvexel), is in the present
1 New Testament Grammar, p. 116, Andover, 1874.