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such a one a better course could not be advised, than to read this second volume, without the omission of a single reference; examining also, when necessary, the contexts in the Bible as far as is required for their more full explication. He will thus familiarize himself in the most pleasant manner with all the important principles of Hebrew Syntax, and at the same time, peruse to great advantage, in a critical point of view, no small portion of the sacred writings. Should he mark in the margin of his Bible, opposite to all the examples quoted, the number of the paragraph in which they are cited, and in his subsequent reading endeavor to associate these marked passages with the sections of the grammar to which they refer, he would adopt one of the most rapid and effectual means of rendering himself a critical Hebraist.
We proceed to the chapter on the Hebrew tenses. This may be regarded as, in some respects, the most finished and satisfactory portion of the whole work. The subject has long been viewed as presenting almost insurmountable difficulties. Many excellent scholars have been led to regard them as having in themselves no distinctive character, but to be determined in every case by the context and the exigentia loci. The student, on his first introduction to the language, is struck with that peculiarity by which the Hebrew is distinguished, in the use of only two tenses, the past and future, without any distinct form for the present. His surprise is increased on learning that the office of each of the tenses is reversed by simply prefixing the conjunction Vau. Indulging the hope that these rules, so unlike all his former experience, will nevertheless be found definite
and fixed in their applications, he enters upon the reading of the Hebrew Bible with little apprehension of any practical difficulty. In the narrative parts they are observed with a tolerable degree of uniformity, with now and then some rather startling exceptions; but on entering upon the study of the didactic and devotional books, he finds himself perplexed at every step, and almost utterly without a guide. All the special exceptions and explanations, laid down in his grammar, fail to meet the difficulties which are constantly presenting themselves. No rule holds good for a single consecutive chapter ; till at length, he ceases to pay any regard to them, and governs himself, in every case, by the apparent demands of the sense. To escape these difficulties, some have substituted for the usual appellations, those of the first and second mode; the sole result of which, as our au,
thor says, is to represent the Hebrew as destitute of tenses altogether. These terms suggest nothing as to the nature of the forms to which they are applied. It is most evident that they do contain a distinction of time of some kind, and that the predominant office of the one, when standing alone, is to designate the past, and of the other the future. This most plainly appears in those cases in which the time is an essential part of the proposition, and, especially, when the two forms are antithetically employed.
We are satisfied from careful examination, that our author has adopted the only theory by which these apparent anomalies may be explained. Its novelty does not consist merely in the use of the terms absolute and relative, for these had been employed by others before him; but in the peculiar manner in which he applies them to particular examples. We would, however, venture the opinion that the author has not tested, to their fullest extent, his own views. The principles he has laid down, if carried out in all their details, might perhaps have interfered with the assigned limits of the work. But we are satisfied, that a faithful application of their spirit would introduce a most beautiful order into what has heretofore been regarded as a chaos, and deliver his own system from some apparently arbitrary exceptions which are yet allowed to remain.
We fully concur with him in the opinion, that the source of all our perplexity is found in our occidental mode of viewing time. Time with us is ever on the wing. The present is our fixed point, and we are stationary in it. The future is regarded as an unreal and imaginary region, ever coming forwards and sweeping by us into the certainty of the past, whilst the latter is continually receding farther and farther from our view.
Ut unda impellitur unda
Tempora sic fugiunt is the standing simile in all the occidental tongues. Hence, according to our mode of conception, the present becomes the
ments. According to the Hebrew conception, the future world does not come to us and acquire reality by being made present, but we are going into it. It has as real an existence as that through which we have passed. In the prophetic vision, events are there, even now, preceding and succeeding each other. It has its relations of antecedent and consequent, of cause and effect. The Hebrew present, on the other hand, is ever the shifting station from which past or future scenes are viewed. It has only a subjective existence in the soul by which its position is determined. We may transport ourselves far back, in the annals of time, and view historical facts as still past or future to each other; or into the ages to come, and find there the existence of the same relations. The position assumed is ever the dividing point. In a simple narration of the successive order of events, the first of the series constitutes this subjective standpoint of observation, and all that follow bear to it the relation of future. In the prophetic ecstasy, the order is reversed. Events, which require the journey of ages before we can reach them, are to the Seer long since past and gone. This then is the peculiarity of the Hebrew. It ever represents facts, not in reference to a fixed present, but as they exist subjectively in the mind of the narrator; who views them in the relations which they bear, not to himself, or to us, but to each other. When there is a necessity for fixing the actual present, other modes, as we shall see, are resorted to.
We cannot stop to show that this conception of time is as natural as our own, and more philosophically correct.. It is sufficient for us to be satisfied that it is the Hebrew mode, and the true cause of those apparent anomalies, which have so much perplexed the lovers of this ancient language. When the soul of the reader is thoroughly imbued with this view, so that the order of his conceptions begins to be influenced by it, we can easily imagine how much more life and strength will be imparted to Hebrew narration and description. The occidental style may be compared to an historical painting, in which actors and events are fixed immovably upon the canvass; the oriental to a picture, in which, by some mysterious art, they are endowed
their relations to the present of the actor or subject. 1. The absolute past or bep form. 2. Absolute future or bep form. 3. The relative past or biops: form. 4. The relative future or beer form. No particular objection need be made to this phraseology. We think, however, that the symmetry of the system would have been better maintained by giving different appellations to the third and fourth. The prefixing of the Vau does not wholly divest the one of the idea of futurity, nor the other of that of the past; and these ideas should have been preserved in the names. Might they not have been better distinguished as future past, and past future, or by some such Hebrew technics, as our
author has used to so great advantage in his first volume? This is a matter of little consequence, yet we think that some of the illustrations would have been better understood, by the adoption of some different mode of naming.
“The present,” says our author, " is merely a moment separating two immeasurable durations of past and future; and as the province of one tense ends where the other begins, and as the point of their mutual coincidence is the time of narration, either may be properly used to predicate an event at the time of its occurrence, the choice, in every instance, depending on whether the writer's attention is more particularly directed to the commencement of the action in the past, or its continuance in the future.”
This last remark clears up at once hundreds of passages in which the change of tenses, without such explanation, presents an inexplicable enigma. In the narrative parts of the Bible, we find long series of the relative past succeeding each other like the Greek aorists in Homer. These, even in the ordinary explanations, present but little difficulty. In the expression, however, of thought or feeling, we often find a change from the preterite to the future, or vice versa, without the prefixing of the Vau. The author refuses to regard these as arbitrary changes, but as arising from a difference of view or conception in the writer, although they are both properly rendered into English by a present. Thus, Why do the Heathen rage (+47) and the people imagine (+372) vanity ? Ps 2: 1. In the use of the first verb, the writer's mind was occupied with a past experience of popular commotion, in the second, with a foreboding view of the continuance of popular delusions. The Lord hears (52) my supplication (past experience), the Lord receives (P.) my prayer (hope of an answer). Ps. 6: 10. Sometimes the future
precedes. The work of the Lord they regard not (****) nor consider (187) the productions of his hands. Is. 5: 12. The latter fact stated may be regarded as the cause of the first, and therefore preceding it in time, although not in the order of logical construction; the first as a consequence of the second, and therefore future in reference to it. I trust ("mus) in thy mercy, my heart rejoices (5) in thy salvation, oh let me sing (70) unto the Lord, for he hath, 8c. Ps. 13: 6. First, present trust founded on past experience or promises ;~the second, present joy, with the expectation of its continuance ;-the third (the paragogic future), present praise, with an ardent desire that it may be eternal.'
All these, taken together, constitute one present subjective state of the soul.
The language however expresses not only this, but also all their modified relations. It may be said that the second verb here might be rendered directly in the future: My heart shall rejoice. But this would not give the full sense, as it would contemplate a future time detached from the present. The full emotion can only be received by discarding all occidental forms, by entering into the Hebrew mode of conception, and thus taking the sense directly from the original. We fully believe that nothing will more contribute to such a habit of reading, than a careful study of the principles laid down by our author, and that, in this respect, their constant application will serve the purpose of a living commentary, evolving not only the facts and truths, but all the thought and feeling of a passage, in a manner at once the most satisfactory and delightful.
When thus viewed, the want of a precise form for the present, and the supplying of its place by the varied use of the preterite and future, might seem an excellence, rather than a defect. We would not wholly adopt a position so paradoxical. There is undoubtedly a want of precision, in those cases in which the actual present time of an event is an essential part of the proposition. Still the opinion may be hazarded, that in description, and the expression of the states, and emotions of the soul, there is a positive advantage, in not being confined to a form which in its natural acceptation relates only to one point of time. In the examples we have cited, and others of a similar kind, the nature of the subject sufficiently indicates the present