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One chief reason for this fact was their comparative ignorance of
the original languages of the Bible. A notable excepHippolytus.
tion is that of Hippolytus, bishop of Portus, at the mouth of the Tiber, near Rome. It is doubtful whether he should be claimed more by the West than the East, for he was a disciple of Irenæus, and a friend and admirer of Origen, and, according to Baronius, a disciple of Clement of Alexandria. Nevertheless, it is quite certain that he spent the greater portion of his life in Rome and its vicinity. His great work, recently discovered, on the Refutation of all Heresies, contains numerous expositions of different passages of Scripture, and shows that he was an extreme allegorist. He appears to have written commentaries on most of the Bible, and numerous fragments remain. His exegetical method is substantially that of Philo, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, and in some things, if possible, even more extravagant. Nevertheless, his writings are of great value as exhibiting the heresies and disputes of his time, and some of his Scripture expositions are thoughtful and suggestive. In the later part of the fourth and the earlier part of the fifth
century there flourished, contemporaneously, the great
est biblical scholar, the greatest theologian, and the most distinguished heretic, of the ancient Western Church. These were Jerome, Augustine, and Pelagius. Jerome was born at Stridon, on the borders of Pannonia, but early in life removed to Rome, where he diligently prosecuted his studies under the best masters. He afterward travelled through Gaul, and transcribed Hilary's commentary on the Psalms. About A. D. 372 he visited the East, passing through the most interesting provinces of Asia Minor, and pausing for a time at Antioch in Syria. Here he was prostrated by a severe fever, and in a dream received strong condemnation for his devotion to the heathen classics, which he thereupon vowed to renounce forever. He betook himself to monastic life, and thought to crucify his taste for Roman literature by the study of Hebrew. He afterward visited Constantinople, and pursued his studies, especially in Greek, under Gregory of Nazianzum. Here he translated Eusebius' Chronicle, and the commentaries of Origen on Jeremiah and Ezekiel. About A. D. 386 he settled in Bethlehem of Judæa, and there, in monkish seclusion and assiduous study, spent the rest of his life. He wrote commentaries npon most of the books of the Bible, revised the old Latin version, and made a new translation of
1 The extant works of Hippolytus have been published in many editions, the best of which is, perhaps, that of Lagarde, Lps., 1858. An English translation is given in vols. vi and ix of the Edinburgh Ante-Nicene Christian Library,
JEROME AS AN EXEGETE.
the Old Testament from the original Hebrew text. His generation was not competent to appreciate these literary labours, and not a few regarded it as an impious presumption to assume that the Septuagint version could be improved by an appeal to the Hebrew. That seemed like preferring Barabbas to Jesus. Nevertheless, the Vulgate speedily took rank with the great versions of the Bible, and became the authorized translation used in the Western Church. It is more faithful to the Hebrew than the Septuagint, and was probably made with the help of Origen's Hexapla, which was then accessible in the library of Cæsarea.
“As a commentator," writes Osgood, “Jerome deserves less honour than as a translator, so hasty his comments gen
Osgood on Jeerally are, and so frequently consisting of fragments, rome as a comgathered from previous writers. His merit however is mentator. and this was by no means a common one in his day—that he generally aims to give the literal sense of the passages in question. He read apparently all that had been written by the leading interpreters before him, and then wrote his own commentaries in great haste without stopping to distinguish his own views from those of the authorities consulted. He dashed through a thousand lines of the text in a single day, and went through the Gospel of Matthew in a fortnight. He sometimes yielded to the allegorical methods of interpretation, and showed frequent traces of the influence of his study of Origen. Yet he seems not to have inclined to this method so much from his own taste as from the habit of his time. And if, of the four doctors of the Church particularized by some writers, to Gregory belongs excellence in tropology, to Ambrose in allegory, to Augustine in anagoge, to Jerome is given the palm in the literal and grammatical sense. . . . Rich and elegant as his style frequently is, he does not appear to have had very good taste as a critic. He had not that delicate appreciation of an author's meaning that enables one to seize hold of the main idea or sentiment, and through this interpret the language and illustrations. He could not reproduce the thoughts of the prophets and poets of the Old Testament in his own mind, and throw himself into their position. Their poetic figures he sometimes treats as logical propositions, and finds grave dogmas in casual illustrations." I
1 Jerome and his Times; article in the Bibliotheca Sacra for Feb., 1848, pp. 138, 139. The works of Jerome have been published in many forms; best edition, by Vallarsi and Maffei in 11 vols., Verona, 1734–42; reprinted, with some revision, Venice, 1766-71. See also Migne's Latin Patrologiæ Cursus Completus, vols. xxii-xxx, Paris, 1845, 1846. The best treatise on Jerome is that of Zöckler, Hieronymus, sein Leben und Werken aus seinen Schriften dargestellt, Gotha, 1865.
In learning and general culture Jerome was much superior to
Augustine, but in depth and penetration, in originality
of genius and power of thought, Augustine, bishop of Hippo, in Africa, was by far the greatest man of his age. If it be any evidence of greatness for one mind to shape and direct the theological studies and speculations of more than a thousand years, and after all the enlightenment of modern times to maintain his hold upon men of the deepest piety and the highest intellectual power, then must it be conceded that few if any Christian writers of all the ages have equalled Augustine. But of his doctrines and his rank as a theologian it is not in our way to speak. Only as an interpreter of Scripture do we here consider him, and as such we cannot in justice award him a place correspondent with his theological fame. His conceptions of divine truth were comprehensive and profound, but having no knowledge of Hebrew and a very imperfect acquaintance with Greek, he was incapacitated for thorough and independent study of the sacred books. He was dependent on the current faulty Latin version, and not a few of his theological arguments are built upon an erroneous interpretation of the Scripture text. In his work on Christian Doctrine he lays down a number of very excellent rules for the exposition of the Bible, but in practice he forsakes his own hermeneutical principles, and often runs into excessive allegorizing. He allows four different kinds of interpretation, the historical, the ætiological, the analogical, and the allegorical, but he treats these methods as traditional, and gives them no extended or uniform application. His commentaries on Genesis and Job are of little value. His exposition of the Psalms contains many rich thoughts, together with much that is vague and mystical. The treatise in four books on the Consensus of the Evangelists is one of the best of the ancient attempts to construct a Gospel harmony, but his Evangelical Inquiries (Quaestiones Evangelicae) are full of fanciful interpretation. His best expositions are of those passages on which his own rich experience and profound acquaintance with the operations of the human heart enabled him to comment with surpassing beauty. His exegetical treatises are the least valuable of his multifarious writings, but through all his works are scattered many brilliant and precious gems of thought.
1 Augustine's works have been printed in very many editions, the latest of which is that of Migne, in 15 vols. Paris, 1842. More sumptuous is the Benedictine edition, in 11 folio vols. Venice, 1729–35. An English translation of his exposition of the Psalms and Gospels is given in the Oxford Library of the Fathers, and his commentary on John, the work on Christian Doctrine, the Enchiridion, and numerous other treatises are published in Clark's Foreign Theological Library, Edinburgh.
During the long period known as the Middle Ages, the true exegetical spirit could scarcely be expected. To this period belong the so-called Catenists, or compilers of expositions from the more ancient fathers. It was not an age of original research, but of imitation and appropriation from the treasures of the past. Among the most noted of these compilers are Procopius of Gaza, Andreas, and Arethas. The venerable Bede, one of the most eminent fathers of the English Church, made himself familiar with all the learning of his age, and wrote commentaries on the entire New Testament, and a large portion of the Old. But they are compilations from the works of Augustine, Basil, and Ambrose. Other names of note are Alcuin, Haymo, and Theophylact. The notes of the last named on the New Testament have always been held in high estimation. Although the works of Chrysostom are the chief source of his extracts, he occasionally expresses his dissent from him, and shows more independence than most of the Catenists,
Nicholas de Lyra flourished at the beginning of the fourteenth century. In addition to the usual studies of his
he acquired a thorough knowledge of Hebrew, a rare ac Lyra. complishment for a Christian, and his great learning and useful writings secured him the friendship of the most illustrious men of his times, and the title of the “plain and useful doctor.” His greatest work is entitled Continuous Comments, or Brief Annotations on the whole Bible (Postillæ perpetuæ, seu brevia commentaria in universa Biblia), and exhibits a great advance upon most of the exegesis of the Middle Ages. For although he recognises a fourfold sense, as shown in the well-known lines,
Litera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria,
Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia, he gives decided preference to the literal sense, and in his expositions shows comparatively little regard for any other. He frankly acknowledges his indebtedness to the learned Hebrew exegetes, especially Rabbi Solomon Isaac (Rashi), whose sober methods of interpretation he generally followed. The influence his writings had on Luther and other reformers is celebrated in the familiar couplet:
Si Lyra non lyrasset,
Lutherus non saltasset. His comments on the New Testament are less valuable than those on the Old, and follow closely Augustine and Aquinas. He was ignorant of the Greek language, and based his expositions on the text of the Vulgate.' But his great Postillæ perpetuæ accomplished
Comp. Meyer, Geschichte der Schrifterklärung seit der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften, vol. i, pp. 109–120.
much in preparing the way of a more thorough grammatical inter. pretation of the Bible.' At the beginning of the sixteenth century, but hardly to be
classed with the great reformers, flourished two celeJohn Reuchlin.
brated scholars to whom biblical literature is greatly indebted, Reuchlin and Erasmus. John Reuchlin was recognised as a leader of the German Humanists, and was particularly famous for his devotion to the study of Hebrew. He justly deserves the title of father of Hebrew learning in the Christian Church. He far surpassed the Jews of his time in the knowledge of their own language, and published, besides many other works, a treatise on the Rudiments of Hebrew, another on the Accents and Orthography of the Hebrew Language, and a Grammatical Interpretation of the Seven Penitential Psalms. He was also acknowledged everywhere as an authority in Latin and Greek, as well as in Hebrew, and the most learned men of his age sought his instruction and counsel. His great services in the cause of biblical learning led men to say of him, “ Jerome is born again.” Desiderius Erasmus was by his wit, wisdom, culture, and varied
erudition, the foremost representative, and, one might
say, the embodiment, of Humanism. He and Reuchlin were called the “Eyes of Germany.” Erasmus became early fascinated with the ancient classics, translated several Greek authors into Latin, and edited numerous editions of their works. He also edited a number of the Greek and Latin fathers. Without any buch deep religious experience and profound convictions as Luther, and possessed of no such massive intellect as Melanchthon, he was noted rather for versatility of genius and prodigious literary industry. Nevertheless, he was one of the most distinguished precursors of the Reformation, and it was truly said: “Erasmus laid the egg; Luther hatched it.” He appears to have turned his attention to biblical studies about the beginning of the sixteenth century, and published in 1505 a new edition of Lorenzo Valla’s Remarks on the New Testament. He edited and published in 1516 the first edition of the Greek Testament. It was printed in folio, accompanied with an elegant Latin version, and various readings from several manuscripts, the works of the fathers, and the Vulgate. The first edi. tion was hastily prepared, precipitated rather than edited, as Erasmus himself wrote, in order to bring it out in advance of Cardinal Ximenes’ Conplutensian Polyglot, which did not appear until 1520. Erasmus afterward wrote and published Annotations on the New Testament, and also Paraphrases on the whole New Testament ex
1 The best edition of Lyra's Postillæ is that published at Antwerp, 1634, 6 vols. fol.