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KNOWLEDGE TO BE ACQUIRED.
Natural sci. ence.
The science of chronology is also indispensable to the proper in. terpretation of the Scriptures. The succession of events, the division of the
genealogical tables, and the fixing of dates, are important, and call for patient study and laborious care. Nor can the interpreter dispense with the study of antiquities, the habits, customs,
Antiquities. and arts of the ancients. He should inquire into the antiquities of all the ancient nations and races of whom any records remain, for the customs of other nations may often throw light upon those of the Hebrews. The study of politics, including international law and the various theories and systems of civil government, will add greatly to the other accomplishments of the exegete, and enable him the better to appreciate the Mosaic legislation, and the great principles of civil government set forth in the New Testament. Many a passage, also, can be illustrated and made more impressive by a thorough knowledge of natural science. Geology, mineralogy, and astronomy, are incidentally touched by statements or allusions of the sacred writers, and whatever the knowledge of the ancients on these subjects, the modern interpreter ought to be familiar with what modern science has demonstrated. The same may be said of the history and systems of speculative thought, the various
Philosophy. schools of philosophy and psychology. Many of these philosophical discussions have become involved in theological dogma, and have led to peculiar principles and methods of interpretation, and, to cope fairly with them, the professional exegete should be familiar with all their subtleties. It is also of the first importance that the interpreter possess a profound and accu
tongues. rate knowledge of the sacred tongues. No one can be a master in biblical exposition without such knowledge. To a thorough acquaintance with Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek, he should add some proficiency in the science of comparative phi- Comparative lology. Especially will a knowledge of Syriac, Arabic, philology. and other Semitic languages help one to understand the Hebrew and the Chaldee, and acquaintance with Sanskrit and Latin and other Indo-European tongues will deepen and enlarge one's knowledge of the Greek. To all these acquirements the interpreter of God's word should add a familiar acquaintance with gen- General literal literature. The great productions of human genius, erature. the world-renowned epics, the classics of all the great nations, and the bibles of all religions, will be of value in estimating the oracles of God.
It is not denied that there have been able and excellent exposi
tors who were wanting in many of these literary qualifications. But he who excels as a master can regard no literary attainments as superfluous; and, in maintaining and defending against scepticism and infidelity the faith once delivered to the saints, the Christian apologist and exegete will find all these qualifications in. dispensable.
SPIRITUAL QUALIFICATIONS. Intellectual qualities, though capable of development and disci. Partly a gift, pline, are to be regarded as natural endowments; edupartly acquired. cational or literary acquirements are to be had only by diligent and faithful study; but those qualifications of an interpreter which we call spiritual are to be regarded as partly a gift, and partly acquired by personal effort and proper discipline. Under this head we place all moral and religious qualities, dispositions, and attainments. The spirit is that higher moral nature which especially distinguishes man from the brute, and renders him capable of knowing and loving God. To meet the wants of this spiritual nature the Bible is admirably adapted; but the perverse heart and carnal mind may refuse to entertain the thoughts of God. “The natural man,” says Paul, “ does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are a folly to him, and he is not able to know, because they are spiritually discerned ” (1 Cor. ii, 14).
First of all, the true interpreter needs a disposition to seek and Desire to know know the truth. No man can properly enter upon the
study and exposition of what purports to be the revelation of God while his heart is influenced by any prejudice against it, or hesitates for a moment to accept what commends itself to his conscience and his judgment. There must be a sincere desire and purpose to attain the truth, and cordially accept it when attained. Such a disposition of heart, which may be more or less strong in early childhood, is then easily encouraged and developed, or as easily perverted. Early prejudices and the natural tendency of the human soul to run after that which is evil, rapidly beget habits and dispositions unfriendly to godliness. “For the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. viii, 7), and readily cleaves to that which seems to remove moral obligation. “Every one that does evil hates the light, and comes not to the light lest his deeds should be reproved" (John iii, 20). A soul thus perverted is incompetent to love and search the Scriptures.
A pure desire to know the truth is enhanced by a ten
der affection for whatever is morally ennobling. The writings of John abound in passages of tender feeling, and suggest
Enthusiasm for the word.
how deep natures like his possess an intuition of godliness. Their souls yearn for the pure and the good, and they exult to find it all in God. Such tender affection is the seat of all pure love, whether of God or of man. The characteristic utterance of such a soul is: “ Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God, and every one that loves has been begotten of God, and knows God.
God is love; and he that abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John iv, 7, 16).
The love of the truth should be fervent and glowing, so as to beget in the soul an enthusiasm for the word of God. The mind that truly appreciates the Homeric poems must imbibe the spirit of Homer. The same is true of him who delights in the magnificent periods of Demosthenes, the easy numbers and burning thoughts of Shakspeare, or the lofty verse of Milton. What fellowship with such lofty natures can he have whose soul never kindles with enthusiasm in the study of their works? So the profound and able exegete is he whose spirit God has touched, and whose soul is enlivened by the revelations of heaven.
Such hallowed fervour should be chastened and controlled by a true reverence.
“The fear of Jehovah is the begin- Reverence for ning of knowledge” (Prov. i, 7). There must be the God. devout frame of mind, as well as the pure desire to know the truth. “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John iv, 24). Therefore, they who would attain the true knowledge of God must possess the reverent, truth-loving spirit; and, having attained this, God will seek them (John iv, 23) and reveal himself to them as he does not unto the world. Comp. Matt. xi, 25; xvi, 17. Nor should we allow ourselves to be deluded by the idea that the human mind must be a tabula rasa in order to arrive at sound conclusions. To conform to such an assumption is well pronounced by Neander to be impracticable. “The very attempt," he observes, “contradicts the sacred laws of our being. We cannot entirely free ourselves from presuppositions, which are born with our nature, and which attach to the fixed course of progress in which we ourselves are involved. They control our consciousness, whether we will or no; and the supposed freedom from them is, in fact, nothing else but the exchange of one set for another. Some of these prepossessions, springing from a higher necessity, founded in the moral order of the universe, and derived from the eternal laws of the Creator, constitute the very ground and support of our nature. From them we must not free our. selves.” 1 "Life of Jesus Christ. Translated by McClintock and Blumenthal; p. 1. N. Y.,
Finally, the expounder of the Holy Scriptures needs to have liv.
ing fellowship and communion with the Holy Spirit. Communion with the Holy Inasmuch as “all Scripture is God-breathed
(2 Tim. Spirit.
iii, 16), and the sacred writers spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. i, 21), the interpreter of Scripture must be a partaker of the same Holy Spirit. He must, by a profound experience of the soul, attain the saving knowledge of Christ, and in proportion to the depth and fulness of that experience he will know the life and peace of the “mind of the Spirit” (Rom. vi, 6). “We speak God's wisdom in a mystery,” says Paul (1 Cor. ii, 7-11), the hidden spiritual wisdom of a divinely illuminated heart, which none of the princes of this world have known, but (as it is in substance written in Isa. lxiv, 4), a wisdom relating to “what things (á) eye did not see, and ear did not hear, and into man's heart did not enter-whatever things (8oa) God prepared for them that love him; for to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who of men knows the things of the man except the spirit of the man which is in him ? So also the things of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” He, then, who would know and explain to others “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. xiii, 11) must enter into blessed communion and fellowship with the Holy One. He should never cease to pray (Eph. i, 17, 18) “ that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give him the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the full knowledge (étríyvwois) of him, the eyes of his heart being enlightened for the purpose of knowing what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe.”
We follow here the reading of Westcott and Hort, who receive yáp into the text. This reading has the strong support of Codex B, and would have been quite liable to be changed to the more numerously supported reading dé by reason of a failure to apprehend the somewhat involved connection of thought. The yáp gives the reason why we speak God's mysterious wisdom, for to us God revealed it through the Spirit. "Is it in truth the word of God," says T. Lewis, "is it really God speaking to us? Then the feeling and the conclusion which it necessitates are no hyperboles. We cannot go too far in our reverence, or in our expectation of knowledge surpassing in kind, if not in extent. The wisdom of the earth, of the seas, of the treasures hid. den in the rocks, and all deep places, or of the stars afar off, brings us not so nigh the central truth of the heavens, the very mind and the thought of God, as one parable of Christ.” The Divine Human in the Scriptures, pp. 25, 26. New York, 1859.
CAUSES OF VARIOUS INTERPRETATIONS.
tory of inter
A KNOWLEDGE of the history of biblical interpretation is of inestimable value to the student of the Holy Scriptures. Value and imIt serves to guard against errors and exhibits the portance of hisactivity and efforts of the human mind in its search pretation. after truth and in relation to noblest themes. It shows what influences have led to the misunderstanding of God's word, and how acute minds, carried away by a misconception of the nature of the Bible, have sought mystic and manifold meanings in its contents. From the first, the Scriptures, like other writings, were liable to be understood in different ways. The Old Testament prophets complained of the slowness of the people to apprehend spiritual things (Isa. vi, 10; Jer. v, 21; Ezek. xii, 2). The apostolical epistles were not always clear to those who first received them (comp. 2 Thess, ii, 2; 2 Pet. iii, 16). When the Old and New Testaments assumed canonical form and authority, and became the subject of devout study and a means of spiritual discipline, they furnished a most inviting field for literary research and theological controversy. On the one hand, there were those who made light of what
Origin and vathe prophets had written, attacked the sacred books, riety of inter
pretations. and perverted their meaning; on the other, there arose apologists and defenders of the holy volume, and among them not a few who searched for hidden treasures, and manifold meanings in every word. Besides assailants and apologists there were also many who, withdrawing from the field of controversy, searched the Scriptures on account of their religious value, and found in them wholesome food for the soul. The public teachers of religion, in oral and written discourses, expounded and applied the oracles of God to the people. Hence, in the course of ages, a great variety of expositions and a vast amount of biblical literature have appeared. The student who acquaints himself with the various methods of exposition, and with the works of the great exegetes of ancient and modern times, is often saved thereby from following new developments of error, and is guarded against the novelties of a restless fancy. He observes how learned men, yielding to subtle speculation and fanciful analogies, have become the founders of schools