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and systems of interpretation. At the same time he becomes more fully qualified to maintain and defend the faith once delivered to the saints.
It was the distinguishing advantage of the Jewish people that they were entrusted with the oracles of God (Rom. iii, 1, 2). But during the long period between Moses and the Babylonian captivity they showed little appreciation of their heavenly treasure. The law was ignored, the prophets were persecuted, the people turned to idolatry, and the penalty of exile and dispersion, foreannounced by Jehovah himself (Deut. xxviii, 63, 64), followed at last with terrible severity. In the land of exile, a descendant of Aaron the
high priest, hopeless of Israel's rise by worldly prowEzra the scribe.
ess, set his heart upon the devout study of the ancient Scriptures. “Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of Jehovah and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra vii, 10). Possibly the one hundred and nineteenth psalm was the result of that study, and shows the impression the law made upon that studious priest while yet a young man. A profound appreciation of God's law, such as this psalm evinces, would prompt a man like Ezra to seek the reformation of Israel by calling them to a rigid obedience of the commandments. We may, accordingly, date the beginning of formal exposition of the Scriptures in the time of Ezra. A need was then felt, as not before, of appealing to the oracles of God. The Book of the Law was recognized as fundamental in the records of divine revelation. The noblest Israelite was he who delighted in Jehovah's law, and meditated therein by night and by day (Psa. i, 2; comp. Psa. cxix, 34, 35, 97). The loss of temple, throne, palace, and regal splendour turned the heart of the devout Jew to a more diligent inquiry after the words of Jehovah.
Ezra, accordingly, led a company of exiles back to Jerusalem and instituted numerous reforms. The commandments forbidding inPublic instruc- termarriage with the heathen were rigidly enforced, and tion in the law. the legal feasts and fasts were observed. The public instruction of the people, as recorded in Neh. viii, 1–8, was a measure designed to make known the will of Jehovah, and to develop a purer religious sentiment among the people. Thenceforth the office and work of the scribe became important. He was no longer the
mere recorder of passing events, the secretary, clerk, or work of the registrar of the king (2 Sam. viii, 17; 1 Kings iv, 3),
but the copyist and authorized expounder of the sacred books. Their devotion to the study and interpretation of the law brought to the scribes after a time the title of lawyers (voulkoi).
The office and
At an early period they became known as a distinct class, and were spoken of as families or guilds (1 Chron. ii, 55). Ezra is to be regarded as a distinguished representative of his class. He was not the only scribe who returned from Babylon (Ezra viii, 16). On the occasion of the public reading of the law he had the assistance of learned Levites, who were able to explain the ancient Scriptures to the people. Constant searching of these holy writings led to the various reforms narrated in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
The progress of Jewish exegesis from the time of Ezra to the beginning of the Christian era may be dimly traced in
Progress of scattered notices of the learned Jews of that period, Jewish exegesis in the pre-Christian apocryphal and pseudepigraphal after Ezra. literature, in the works of Philo Judæus and Josephus, and in the Talmud. The rigid measures adopted by Ezra, Nehemiah, and their associates would seem to have prepared the way for Pharisaism. The scribes of the period succeeding that of Nehemiah not only copied the sacred books, and explained their general import, but took measures to make a hedge about the law. They set a value on the very letters of the law, and counted their number.' They scrupulously guarded against interpolations and changes, but, at the same time, they gathered up traditions and constructed an oral law which in time came to have with them an authority Halachah and equal to that of the sacred books. Thus originated Hagadah. the Jewish Halachah and Hagadah, the legal and homiletic exegesis. These expositions constitute the Midrashim, or most ancient Jewish commentary. The Halachic, or legal exegesis, was confined to the Pentateuch, and aimed, by analogy and combinanation of specific written laws, to deduce precepts and rules on subjects which had not been formally treated in the Mosaic Code. This was, in the main, a reading into the laws of Moses a great variety of things which they could not, by any fair interpretation, be made to teach. The Hagadic exegesis, on the other hand, was extended over the entire Old Testament Scriptures, and was of a more practical and homiletical character. It aimed, by means of memorable sayings of illustrious men, parables, allegories, marvellous legends, witty proverbs, and mystic interpretations of Scripture events, to stimulate the Jewish people to pious activity and obedience. The Midrashim thus became a vast treasury of Hebrew national lore. It was developed gradually, by public lectures and homilies, and became more and more comprehensive and complicated as new legends, secret meanings, hidden wisdom, and allegor. ical expositions were added by one great teacher after another. We have the substance of the Midrashim preserved in the Talmud and the Hagadic literature of the first three centuries of the Christian era.'
* See Ginsburg, article Scribes, in Kitto's Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature.
The later Jewish exegesis was influenced by controversies with Christians, and by the sect of the synagogue known as the Karaites (O'X72, readers, or literalists), who rejected the authority of the oral law, and all the traditions and precepts of Hagadic literature. The strict methods of these literalists tended to restrain the extravagance of the rabbinical schools, and to promote a more rational study of the Hebrew Scriptures.
We naturally look to the New Testament for the earliest indicaMethods of
tions of the spirit and methods of Christian exegesis. Christian exe- The divine Founder of Christianity constantly appealed gesis indicated in the New to the Scriptures of the Old Testament as to a sacred Testament.
authority, and declared that they bore testimony of himself (John v, 39; comp. Luke xxiv, 27). With equal emphasis did he condemn the current Halachic and Hagadic tradition of the elders, which in some instances nullified the commandments of God (Matt. xv, 1-9; Mark vii, 1–13). He reproved the Sadducees also for not understanding the Scriptures and the power of God (Matt. xxii, 29). The error of the disciples in construing the prophecy of the coming of Elijah (Mal. iv, 5) to mean a literal return of the ancient Tishbite—an error which they had received from the scribes -was exposed by showing that the “spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke i, 17) had reappeared in John the Baptist (Matt. xi, 14; xvii, 10-13). Paul makes mention of his proficiency in Judaism (év TỘ 'Iovdaïouw), and his excessive zeal for the traditions of his fathers, for which he was noted before his conversion (Gal. i, 13, 14); but after it pleased God to give him the revelation of his grace in Jesus Christ, he denounced “Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn away from the truth” (Titus i, 14), and also “foolish questionings and genealogies and strife and fightings (or controversies) about the law” (Titus iii, 9). He counselled Timothy to “turn away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the falsely named knowledge” (tñs Yevdwvýpov yvūnews, 1 Tim. vi, 20), and warned the Colossians against the spoiling tendencies of “philoso
1 Ishmael Ben-Elisa's Commentary on Exodus xii-xxiii, called Mechilta (anban), is an allegorical treatment of various Mosaic ceremonies, and is one of the oldest specimens of formal Jewish exposition. Ishmael Ben-Elisa flourished about the close of the first and the beginning of the second century of our era, and was the author of several mystic treatises which are still extant. His Mechilta with a Latin translation is given by Ugolino in the Thesaurus Antiquitatum Sacrarum, vol. xiv, Venice, 1752. A German translation of numerous ancient Midrashim is given by Wünsche, Biblio. theca Rabbinica; eine Sammlung alter Midrashim zum ersten Male ins Deutsche übertragen, Lpz., 1880-1881, 12 thin vols., 8vo.
NEW TESTAMENT METHODS.
phy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. ii, 8; comp. 1 Tim. i, 4; iv, 7; 2 Tim. ii, 14-16, 23). In these admonitions and warnings there is a manifest reference to the Jewish Midrashim and the speculative tendencies of that age. It was a time of intense mental activity throughout the Roman world, especially in the more eastern cities, where Greek philosophy and oriental mysticism met and blended, as in the case of Philo of Alexandria. The Hagadic methendless genealogies and the falsely named knowledge odscondemned. indicate the beginnings of heretical Gnosticism, already disturbing the faith and practice of the Christian Church. From all which it appears that neither the Hagadic exegesis and ancestral traditions of the Jews, nor the allegorizing and speculative habit of Hellenists like Philo, received encouragement from Christ or his apostles. Paul's single instance of allegorizing the history of Hagar and Sarah was essentially an argumentum ad hominem, professedly put as a special plea to those “who desire to be under law” (Gal. iv, 21). Its exceptional character only serves to set in stronger light Paul's constant habit elsewhere of construing the Scriptures according to the simple and natural import of the words. Our Lord's answer to the Sadducees, in Matt. xxii, 31–33, is also to be regarded as an exceptional and peculiar argument, designed to confound and silence captious assailants, not to encourage or sanction subtle uses of the Scriptures.
But though the New Testament exhibits in itself the principles and methods of a sound and trustworthy exegesis, the
Allegorizing widely prevalent Hellenistic habit of allegorizing what tendency of the
post-apostolic seemed offensive to philosophic taste carried along with its strong tide many of the Christian writers of the post-apostolic age. The Church of this early period was too much engaged in struggles for life to develop an accurate or scientific interpretation of Scripture. There was great intellectual activity, and the early forms of heresy which disturbed the Church developed by controversy great strength and subtlety of reasoning. But the tone and style of the earlier writers were apologetical and polemical rather than exegetical. Harassed by persecution, distracted by occasional factions, and exposed to manifold dangers, the early Christian propagandists had no opportunities to cultivate those habits of careful study which lead to broad generalization and impartial decisions. In the hurry and pressure of exciting times men take readily what first comes to hand, or serves an immediate purpose, and it was very natural that
many of the early Christian writers should make use of methods of Scripture interpretation which were widely prevalent at the time.
After the beginning of the third century biblical interpretation School of Alex- was notably influenced by the famous schools of Alex. andria.
andria and Antioch. Long before the time of Christ Alexandria had become a great literary centre. The Asiatic mystic, the Jewish rabbi, and the Greek and Roman philosopher there came together and interchanged their thoughts. In the writings of Philo Judæus we trace the development of the Halachic and Hagadic principles as they became coloured by Hellenic culture. This philosophical Jew united a deep reverence for the Mosaic revelation with an absorbing fondness for Grecian metaphysics. In his writings he appears at times to allow the literal sense of a passage, but his great aim is to exhibit the mystic depths of significance which lie concealed beneath the sacred words. He shows no conception of the historical standpoint of his author, no appreciation of the truthfulness or accuracy of the statements of Moses, but often writes as if he really thought the Hellenic philosophy was a natural and necessary part of the laws of the Pentateuch. But Philo was not the author of this system of exegesis, nor did it end with him. The mingling of diverse religionists and philosophies in that great metropolis encouraged all manner of speculation, and we need not wonder that the great lights of the Alexandrian Church fell into habits of mystical and allegorical exposition. One of the earliest representatives of this school whose works have come down to us was Titus Flavius Clement. He was preceded by Pantænus and others, who, like Apollos, had profited by Alexandrian culture and were “mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts xviii, 24). But Clement was a fanciful interpreter. He was charmed with the Greek philosophy, read Philo's work with avidity, and adopted his allegorical methods of exposition. He was succeeded at Alexandria by a pupil greater than himself, a man of purest character, who, while yet a little child disclosed a remarkable insight into the depth and fulness of the Scriptures, and later, by his untiring devotion to multifarious studies, and his indomitable firmness through bitter trials, acquired the name of Man of Adamant. This man was Origen, the most distinguished biblical critic of the ancient Church. His veneration for the Scriptures led him to ascribe a sort of magical value to the original text, and he accordingly sought to establish it by the widest possible collation and comparison of existing versions. In his Hexapla he arranged, in six parallel columns, the Hebrew text, a Greek transliteration of the same, the Septuagint, and the Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. Some pages, which contained books of which other versions were extant, were arranged in seven, eight, or nine columns, according to the number of the versions. On