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clearly apprehended. Along with the scope of a book the form of its structure is also to be studied, and the logical relation of its several parts discerned. A wide comparison of all related books, or of similar passages of writing, is invaluable, and hence the comparison of one Scripture with another may often serve to set the whole in clearest light. Especially important is it for the exegete to transfer himself in spirit to the times of an ancient writer, learn the circumstances under which he wrote, and look out upon the world from his point of view. These general principles are applicable alike to the interpretation
of the Bible and of all other books, and are appropri. Importance of general princi- ately designated General Hermeneutics. Such principles ples.
are of the nature of comprehensive and fundamental doctrines. They become to the practical interpreter so many maxims, postulates, and settled rules. He holds them in mind as axioms, and applies them in all his expositions with uniform consistency. For it is evident that a false principle admitted into the method of an interpreter will vitiate his entire exegetical process. And when, for example, we find that in the explanation of certain parts of the Scriptures no two interpreters out of a whole class agree, we have good reason to presume at once that some fatal error lurks in their principles of interpretation. It was surely no purpose or desire of the sacred writers to be misunderstood. Nor is it reasonable to suppose that the Holy Scripture, given by inspiration of God, is of the nature of a puzzle designed to exercise the irgenuity of the reader. It is to be expected, therefore, that sound hermeneutical principles will serve as elements of safety and satisfaction in the study of God's written word.
The process of observing the laws of thought and language, as Ennobling ten- exhibited in the Holy Scriptures, is an ennobling study. dency of her. It affords an edifying intercourse with eminent and study. choice spirits of the past, and compels us for the time to lose sight of temporary interests, and to become absorbed with the thoughts and feelings of other ages. He who forms the habit of studying, not only the divine thoughts of revelation, but also the principles and methods according to which those thoughts have been expressed, will acquire a moral and intellectual culture worthy of the noblest ambition.
THE PRIMARY MEANING OF WORDS.
It is interesting and profitable to observe how new languages orig. inate; how they become modified and changed; how new dialects arise, and how, at length, a national form of speech may go out of use and become known as a dead language. Attention to these facts makes it apparent that any given language is an
Words practicalaccumulation and aggregate of words which a nation ly the elements or community of people use for the interchange and of language. expression of their thoughts. “Language,” says Whitney, "has, in fact, no existence save in the minds and mouths of those who use it; it is made up of separate articulated signs of thought, each of which is attached by a mental association to the idea it represents, is uttered by voluntary effort, and has its value and currency only by the agreement of speakers and hearers. It is in their power, subject to their will."
To understand, therefore, the language of a speaker or writer, it is necessary, first of all, to know the meaning of his words. The interpreter, especially, needs to keep in mind the difference, so frequently apparent, between the primitive signification of a word and that which it subsequently obtains. We first naturally inquire
. after the original meaning of a word, or what is com
Etymology, usus monly called its etymology. Next we examine the Inquendi, Usus loquendi, or actual meaning which it bears in synonymes. common usage; and then we are prepared to understand the occasion and import of synonymes, and how a language becomes enriched by them.
Whatever may be the common meaning of a word, as used by a particular people or age, it often represents a history. Manifold value Language has been significantly characterized as fossil of etymology. poetry, fossil history, fossil ethics, fossil philosophy. “This means,” says Trench, “that just as in some fossil, curious and beautiful shapes of vegetable or animal life, the graceful fern, or the finely vertebrated lizard, extinct, it may be, for thousands of years, are permanently bound up with the stone, and rescued from that perishing which would have otherwise been theirs, so in words are
'Language and the Study of Language, p. 35.
beautiful thoughts and images, the imagination and feeling of past ages, of men whose very names have perished, preserved and made safe forever."Benjamin W. Dwight declares etymology to be
1 “fossil poetry, philosophy, and history combined. In the treasured words of the past, the very spirits of elder days look out upon us, as from so many crystalline spheres, with friendly recognition. We see in them the light of their eyes; we feel in them the warmth of their hearts. They are relies, they are tokens, and almost break into life again at our touch. The etymologist unites in himself the characteristics of the traveller, roaming through strange and faroff climes; the philosopher, prying into the causes and sequences of things; the antiquary, filling his cabinet with ancient curiosities and wonders; the historiographer, gathering up the records of bygone men and ages; and the artist, studying the beautiful designs in word architecture furnished him by various nations.”. Take, for example, that frequently occurring New Testameni
word ékkinoia, commonly rendered church. Compounded 'Εκκλησία.
of ék, out of, and kaheīv, to call, or summon, it was first used of an assembly of the citizens of a Greek community, summoned together by a crier, for the transaction of business pertaining to the public welfare. The preposition éx indicates that it was no motley crowd, no mass-meeting of nondescripts, but a select company gathered out from the common mass; it was an assembly of free citizens, possessed of well-understood legal rights and powers. The verb kaheīv denotes that the assembly was legally called (compare the èv TÕ évvóuw ekka noia of Acts xix, 39), summoned for the purpose of deliberating in lawful conclave. Whether the etymological connexion between the Hebrew spp and the Greek kareiv be vital or merely accidental, the Septuagint translators generally render Sap by ékkanoia, and thus by an obvious process, ékKanoia came to represent among the Hellenists the Old Testament conception of “the congregation of the people of Israel," as usually denoted by the Hebrew word Sqr. Hence it was natural for Stephen to speak of the congregation of Israel, which Moses led out of Egypt, as “the erranoia in the wilderness” (Acts vii, 38), and equally natural for the word to become the common designation of the Christian community of converts from Judaism and the world. Into this New Testament sense of the word, it was also important that the full force of εκ and καλείν (κλήσις, κλητός) should continue.
The Study of Words. Introductory Lecture, p. 12. New York, 1861. ? Article on The Science of Etymology, in Bibliotheca Sacra, April, 1858, p. 438.
Compare the confused assembly, ń tkkanoia ovvKeXvuévn, composed of the multitude, o óxos, in Acts xix, 32, 33, 40.
As the old Greek assembly was called by a public herald (Kýpuš), so “the Church of God (or of the Lord), which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts xx, 28), is the congregation of those who are “ called to be saints” (kantoi dyioi, Rom. i, 7), “called out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. ii, 9), called “unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. ii, 12), and called by the voice of an authorized herald or preacher (Rom. x, 14, 15; 1 Tim. ii, 7). With this fundamental idea the church may denote either the small assembly in a private house (Rom. xvi, 5; Philemon 2), the Christian congregations of particular towns and cities (1 Cor. i, 2; 1 Thess. i, 1), or the Church universal (Eph. i, 22; iii, 21). But a new idea is added when our Lord says, “I will build my Church” (Matt. xvi, 18).
” Here the company of the saints (kantoi syiol) is conceived of as a house, a stately edifice; and it was peculiarly fitting that Peter, the disciple to whom these words were addressed, should afterward write to the general Church, and designate it not only as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” but also as "a spiritual house," builded of living stones (1 Pet. ii, 5, 9). Paul also uses the same grand image, and speaks of the household of God as “having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building, fitly framed together, grows unto a living temple in the Lord” (Eph. ii, 20, 21). And then again, to this image of a building (comp. 1 Cor. iii, 9) he also adds that of a living human body of which Christ is the head, defining the whole as “his body, the fulness (Tañowua) of him who fills all things in all” (Eph. i, 23). Comp. also Rom. xii, 5; 1 Cor. xii, 12-28; and Col. i, 18. Observe also the forms and derivatives of the Hebrew 727, to The primary meaning is to cover over, so as to op, the cov
727 hide from view. The ark was thus covered or over- ering of atonelaid with a covering of some material like pitch (Gen. ment. vi, 14). Then it came to be used of a flower or shrub, with the resin or powder of which oriental females are said to have covered and stained their finger nails (Cant. i, 14). Again we find it applied to villages or hamlets (1 Sam. vi, 18; 1 Chron. xxvii, 25), apparently, as Gesenius suggests, because such places were regarded as a covering or shelter to the inhabitants. The verb is also used of the abolishing or setting aside of a covenant (Isa. xxviii, 18). But the deeper meaning of the word is that of covering, or hiding sin, and thus making an atonement. Thus Jacob thought to cover his brother Esau with a present (Gen. xxxii, 20). His words are, literally, “I will cover his face with the present which goes before
1 A similar interesting history attaches to the words κήρυξ and κηρύσσω.
Help of com
me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will lift up my face." Feeling that he had sorely wronged his brother, he would now fain cover his face with such a princely gift that Esau would no more behold those wrongs of the past. His old offences being thus hidden, he hopes to be permitted to see his brother's face in peace; and perhaps even Esau will condescend to lift up his faceraise from the dust the face of the prostrate and penitent Jacob. The transition was easy from this use of the verb to that of making an atonement, a meaning which it constantly conveys in the books of the law (Lev. xvii, 11). And hence the use of the noun no in the sense of ransom, satisfaction (Exod. xxx, 12), and the plural D'a, atonements (Exod. xxx, 10; Lev. xxiii, 27, 28). Hence, also, that word of profound significance, mea, capporeth, the mercy-seat, the lid or cover of the ark which contained the tables of the law (Exod. xxv, 17-22)—the symbol of mercy covering wrath. Additional interest is given to the study of words by the science
of comparative philology. In tracing a word through parative philol- a whole family of languages, we note not only the va
riety of forms it may have taken, but the different usage and shades of meaning it acquired among different peoples. The Hebrew words 3x, father, and f?, son, are traceable through all the Semitic tongues, and maintain their common signification in all. The Greek word for heart, kapdía, appears also in the Sanskrit hrid, Latin cor, Italian cuore, Spanish corazon, Portuguese, coraçam, French cæur, and English core. Some words, especially verbs, acquire new meanings as they pass from one language to another. Hence the meaning which a word bears in Arabic or Syriac may not be the meaning it was designed to convey in Hebrew. Thus the Hebrew word thy is frequently used in the Old Testament in the sense to stand, to be firm, to stand up; and this general idea can be traced in the corresponding word and its derivatives in the Arabic, Ethiopic (to erect a column, to establish), Chaldee (to rise up), Samaritan and Talmudic; but in the Syriac it is the word commonly used for baptism. Some say this was because the candidate stood while he was baptized; others, that the idea associated with baptism was that of confirming or establishing in the faith; while others believe that the Syriac word is to be traced to a different root. Whatever be the true explanation, it is easy to see that the same word may have different meanings in cognate languages, and, therefore, a signification which appears in Arabic or Syriac may be very remote from that which the word holds in the Hebrew. Hence great caution is necessary in tracing etymologies.