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The Targum ascribed to JONATHAN ben UZZIEL embraces the whole of the Pentateuch, but is disgraced with the most ridiculous and incredible fables.
Among the Jews, several eminent commentators appeared at different times, besides the Targumists already mentioned, who endeavoured to illustrate different parts of the Law and the Prophets.-PHILO JUDEUS may be reckoned among these; his works contain several curious treatises in explication of different parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. He flourished about A. D. 40.
JOSEPHUS may be fairly ranked among commentators; the first twelve books of his Jewish Anti quities are a regular paraphrase and comment on the political and ecclesiastical history of the Jews as given in the Bible, from the foundation of the world to the time of the Asmoneans or Maccabees. He flourished about A. D. 80.
It is well known that the MISHNAH, or oral law of the Jews, is a pretended comment on the five books of Moses. This was compiled from innumerable traditions by Rabbi Judah Hakkadosh, probably about the year of our Lord 150.
The TALMUDS, both of Jerusalem and Babylon, are a comment on the Mishnah. The former was compiled about A. D. 300, the latter about 200 years after.
Chaldee Targums, or Paraphrases, have been written on all the books of the Old Testament; some parts of the book of Ezra, and the book of Daniel, excepted; which, being originally written in Chaldee, did not require for the purpose of being read during the captivity any farther explanation. When the London Polyglot was put to press no Targum was found on the two books of Chronicles; but after that work was printed, a Targum on these two books was discovered in the university of Cambridge, and printed at Amsterdam, with a Latin translation, 4to, 1715, by Mr. D. Wilkins. It is attributed to Rabbi Joseph the Blind, who flourished about A. D. 400.
The MASORETS were the most extensive Jewish commentators which that nation could ever boast. The system of punctuation, probably invented by them, is a continual gloss on the Law and Prophets; their vowel points, and prosaic and metrical accents, &c., give every word to which they are affixed a peculiar kind of meaning, which in their simple state multitudes of them can by no means bear. The vowel points alone add whole conjugations to the language. This system is one of the most artificial, particular, and extensive comments ever written on the word of God; for there is not one word in the Bible that is not the subject of a particular gloss through its influence. This school is supposed to have commenced about 450 years before our Lord, and to have extended down to A. D. 1030. Some think it did not commence before the fifth century. Rabbi SAADIAS GAON, about A. D. 930, wrote a commentary upon Daniel, and some other parts of Scripture; and translated in a literal and very faithful manner the whole of the Old Testament into the Arabic language. The Pentateuch of this translation has been printed by Erpenius, Lugd. Bat. 1622, 4to. A MS. copy of Saadias's translation of the Pentateuch, probably as old as the author, is now in my own library.
Rabbi SOLOMON JARCHI or Isaaki, who flourished in A. D. 1140, wrote a commentary on the whole Bible, so completely obscure in many places, as to require a very large comment to make it intelligible.
In 1160 ABEN EZRA, a justly celebrated Spanish rabbin, flourished; his commentaries on the Bible are deservedly esteemed both by Jews and Gentiles.
Rabbi Moses ben MAIMON, commonly called Maimonides, also ranks high among the Jewish commentators; his work entitled Moreh Nebochim, or Teacher of the Perplexed, is a very excellent illustration of some of the most difficult words and things in the sacred writings. He flourished about A. D. 1160.
Rabbi DAVID KIMCHI, a Spanish Jew, wrote a very useful comment on most books of the Old Testament: his comment on the Prophet Isaiah is peculiarly excellent. He flourished about A. D. 1220.
Rabbi Jacob BAAL HATTURIM flourished A. D. 1300, and wrote short notes or observations on the Pentateuch, principally cabalistical.
Rabbi Levi ben GERSHOм, a Spanish Jew and physician, died A. D. 1370. He was a very voluminous author, and wrote some esteemed comments on different parts of Scripture, especially the five books of Moses.
Rabbi ISAAC ABARBANEL or ABRAVANEL, a Portuguese Jew, who was born A. D. 1437, and died A. D. 1508, also wrote extensive commentaries on the Scriptures, which are highly esteemed by the Jews.
RABBINOO ISAIAH wrote select notes or observations on the books of Samuel.
Rabbi Moses Mendelssohn, a German Jew, born at Dissau, in 1729, was one of the most learned Jews that has flourished since the days of the prophets; a man to whose vast mental powers was added a very amiable disposition, and truly philanthropic heart. He wrote Nesibut Hashshalom, i. e., the Path of Peace; the five books of Moses, with a commentary, and German translation; Ritual laws of the Jews; the Psalms of David in verse; also, on the being of a God; the Immortality of the Soul, and several philosophical works. He died at Berlin in 1786. See a well-written life of this great man by M. Samuels: 8vo. Lond. 1825.
For farther information on the subject of Jewish and rabbinical writers, I must refer my readers to the BIBLIOTHECA MAGNA RABBINICA of Bartolocci, begun in 1675, and finished in 1693, four vols. folio. In this work the reader will find an ample and satisfactory account of all Jewish writers and their works from the giving of the law, A. M. 2513, B. C. 1491, continued down to A. D. 1681. This work is digested in alphabetical order, and contains an account of upwards of 1,300 Jewish authors and their works, with a confutation of their principal objections and blasphemies against the Christian religion; together with frequent demonstrations that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, drawn, not only from the sacred writings, but from those also of the earlier and most respectable rabbins themselves: each of the volumes is enriched with a great variety of dissertations on many important subjects in Biblical literature. This work, left unfinished by its author, was completed by Imbonati, his disciple, who added a fifth volume, entitled Bibliotheca Latino-Hebraica, containing an ample alphabetical account of all the Latin authors who have written either against the Jews or on Jewish affairs. Romæ, 1694. These two works are very useful, and the authors may be deservedly ranked among Biblical critics and commentators. Bartolocci was born at Naples in 1613, and died at Rome, where he was Hebrew professor, in 1687.
Most of the Jewish comments being written in the corrupt Chaldee dialect, and in general printed in the rabbinical character, which few, even among scholars, care to read, hence they are comparatively but little known. It must be however allowed that they are of great service in illustrating the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law; and of great use to the Christians in their controversies with the Jews.
As some of my readers may wish to know where the chief of these comments may be most easily found, it will give them pleasure to be informed that the Targums or Chaldee paraphrases of ONKELOS and JONATHAN; the Targum YERUSHLEMEY; the MASORAH; the comments of RADAK, i. e. Rabbi David Kimchi; RASHI, i. e. Rabbi Solomon Jarchi; RALBAG, i. e. Rabbi Levi ben Gershom; RAMBAM, i. e. Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, or Maimonides; RASHAG, i. e. Rabbi Saadias Gaon; ABEN EZRA, with the scanty observations of Rabbi Jacob BAAL HATTURIM, on the five books of Moses; and those of Rabbi ISAIAH on the two books of Samuel, are all printed in the second edition of Bomberg's Great Bible: Venice, 1547, &c., 2 vols. folio; the most useful, the most correct, and the most valuable Hebrew Bible ever published. It may be just necessary to say, that Radak, Rashi, Ralbag, &c., are technical names given to these rabbins from the initials of their proper names, with some interposed vowels, as RaDaK, stands for Rabbi David Kimchi; RashI, for Rabbi Solomon Jarchi; RaLBaG, for Rabbi Levi Ben Gershom; and so of the rest. The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan are printed also in the three first volumes of the London Polyglot, with a generally correct literal Latin version. The Targum ascribed to Jonathan ben Uzziel, and the Targum Yerushlemey on the Pentateuch, are printed with a literal Latin version, in the fourth volume of the above work. The Mishnah has been printed in a most elegant manner by Surenhusius: Amsterdam, 1698, 6 vols. folio, with a Latin translation, and an abundance of notes. Christian commentators, both ancient and modern, are vastly more numerous, more excellent, and better known, than those among the Jews. On this latter account I may be well excused for passing by many which have all their respective excellences, and mentioning only a few out of the vast multitude, which are either more eminent, more easy of access, or better known to myself. These comments may be divided into four distinct classes: 1. Those of the Primitive Fathers and Doctors of the Church; 2. Those written by Roman Catholics; 3. Those written by Protestants, and, 4. Compilations from both, and collections of Biblical critics.
CLASS I.-PRIMITIVE FATHERS AND DOCTORS.
TATIAN, who flourished about A. D. 150, wrote a Harmony of the four Gospels, perhaps the first thing of the kind ever composed: the genuine work is probably lost, as that extant under his name is justly suspected by the learned.
In this class ORIGEN occupies a distinguished place: he was born A. D. 185, and wrote much on the Scriptures: his principal works are unfortunately lost: many of his Homilies still remain, but they are so replete with metaphorical and fanciful interpretations of the sacred text, that there is much reason to believe they have been corrupted since his time. Specimens of his mode of interpreting the Scriptures may be seen in the ensuing comment. See on Exod. ii.
HYPPOLITUS Wrote many things on the Scriptures, most of which are lost: he flourished about A. D. 230.
CHRYSOSTOM is well known and justly celebrated for his learning, skill, and eloquence, in his Homilies on the sacred writings, particularly the Psalms. He flourished A. D. 344.
JEROME is also well known: he is author of what is called the Vulgate, a Latin version from the Hebrew and Greek of the whole Old and New Testaments, as also of a very valuable comment on all the Bible. He flourished A. D. 360.
EPHRAIM SYRUS, who might be rather said to have mourned than to have flourished about A. D. 360, has written some very valuable expositions of particular parts of Scripture. They may be ound in his works, Syr. and Gr., published by Asseman, Roma, 1737, &c., 6 vols. folio.
TO AUGUSTINE, a laborious and voluminous writer, we are indebted for much valuable information on the sacred writings. His expositions of Scripture, however, have been the subjects of many acrimonious controversies in the Christian Church. He has written upon a number of abstruse and difficult points, and in several cases not in a very lucid manner; and hence it is not to be wondered at if many of his commentators have mistaken his meaning. Some strange things drawn from his writings, and several things in his creed, may be attributed to the tincture his mind received from his Manichean sentiments; for it is well known that he had embraced, previously to his conversion to Christianity, the doctrine of the two principles, one wholly evil, and the other wholly good; to whose energy and operation all the good and evil in the world were attributed. These two opposite and conflicting beings he seems, in some cases, unwarily to unite in one God; and hence he and many of his followers appear to have made the ever-blessed God, the fountain of all justice and holiness, the author, not only of all the good that is in the world, (for in this there can be but one opinion,) but of all the evil likewise; having reduced it to a necessity of existence by a predetermining, unchangeable, and eternal decree, by which all the actions of angels and men are appointed and irrevocably established. St. Augustine died A. D. 430.
GREGORY the Great, who flourished about A. D. 600, has written commentaries which are greatly esteemed, especially among the Catholics.
THEOPHYLACT has written a valuable comment on the Gospels, Acts, and St. Paul's Epistles. He flourished A. D. 700.
VENERABLE BEDE flourished A. A. 780, and wrote comments (or rather collected those of others) on the principal books of the Old and New Testaments, which are still extant.
RABANUS MAURUS, who flourished A. D. 800, was one of the most voluminous commentators since the days of Origen. Besides his numerous comments published in his works, there is a glossary of his on the whole Bible in MS., in the imperial library at Vienna.
WALAFRIDUS STRABUS composed a work on the Old and New Testaments, entitled Biblia Sacra cum Glossa Ordinaria, which is properly a Catena or collection of all comments of the Greek and Latin Fathers prior to his time. Strabus constantly endeavours to show the literal, historical, and moral sense of the inspired writers. The best edition of this valuable work was printed at Antwerp in 1684, 6 vols. folio. The author died in his forty-third year, A. D. 846.
It would be very easy to augment this list of Fathers and Doctors by the addition of many respectable names, but my limits prevent me from entering into any detail. A few scanty additional notices of authors and their works must suffice.
SALONIUS, bishop of Vienna, who flourished in 440, wrote a very curious piece, entitled a Mystical Explanation of the Proverbs of Solomon, in a dialogue between himself and his brother Veranius: the latter asks questions on every important subject contained in the book, and the former answers and professes to solve all difficulties. He wrote also an Exposition of Ecclesiastes. PHILO, bishop of the Carpathians, wrote on Solomon's Song.
JUSTUS, bishop of Orgelitanum, or Urgel, wrote a mystical explanation of the same book. He died A. D. 540.
And to APONIUS, a writer of the seventh century, a pretty extensive and mystical exposition of this book is attributed. It is a continued allegory of the marriage between Christ and his Church. To Aponius and the preceding writers most modern expositors of Solomon's Song stand considerably indebted, for those who have never seen these ancient authors have generally borrowed from others who have closely copied their mode of interpretation.
Among the opuscula of THEOPHILUS, bishop of Antioch, is found an allegorical exposition of the four Gospels. Theophilus flourished about the middle of the second century.
VICTOR, presbyter of Antioch, wrote a very extensive comment on St. Mark's Gospel, in which many very judicious observations may be found.
THEODULUS, a presbyter of Calesyria, about A. D. 450 wrote a comment on the Epistle to the Romans.
REMIGIUS, bishop of Auxerre, who flourished about the end of the ninth century, wrote a comment on the twelve Minor Prophets.
SEDULIUS HYBERNICUS wrote a Collectanea on all the Epistles of St. Paul, in which there are many useful things. When he flourished is uncertain.
PRIMASIUS, bishop of Utica, in Africa, and disciple of St. Augustine, wrote also a comment on all St. Paul's Epistles, and one on the book of Revelation. He flourished A. D. 550.
And to ANDREAS, archbishop of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia, we are indebted for a very extensive comment on the Apocalypse, which is highly extolled by Catholic writers, and which contains a sufficient quantum of mystical interpretations.
All these writers, with others of minor note, may be found in the Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum, &c., by De la BIGNE, folio, par. 1624, vol. i. Any person who is fond of ecclesiastical antiquity will find himself gratified even by a superficial reading of the preceding authors; for they not only give their own sentiments on the subjects they handle, but also those of accredited writers who have flourished long before their times.
CLASS II.-CATHOLIC COMMENTATORS.
Among the Catholic writers many valuable commentators are to be found; the chief of whom are the following:-Hugo de Sancto CLARA, or Hugh de St. CLER, flourished in 1200. He was a Dominican monk and cardinal, and wrote a commentary on the whole Bible, and composed a Concordance, probably the first regular work of the kind, in which he is said to have employed not less than 500 of his brethren to write for him.
Nicholaus de LYRA or Lyranus, Anglice, Nicholas Harper, wrote short comments on the whole Bible, which are allowed to be very judicious, and in which he reprehends many reigning abuses. It is supposed that from these Martin Luther borrowed much of that light which brought about the Reformation. Hence it has been said,
Si Lyra non lyrasset,
Lutherus non saltasset.
"If Lyra had not harped on profanation,
Luther had never planned the reformation."
Lyra flourished in 1300, and was the first of the Christian commentators, since St. Jerome, who brought rabbinical learning to illustrate the sacred writings. His postils may be found in the Glossa Ordinaria of Walafrid Strabus, already mentioned.
John MENOCHIUS, who flourished in the sixteenth century, has published short notes on all the Scriptures; they are generally esteemed very judicious and satisfactory.
ISIDORE CLARIUS, bishop of Fuligni in Umbria, in 1550, wrote some learned notes on the Old and New Testaments: he is celebrated for an eloquent speech delivered before the council of Trent in favour of the Vulgate. His learned defence of it contributed no doubt to the canonization of that Version.
JOHN MALDONAT wrote notes on particular parts of the Old and New Testaments, at present little read.
CORNELIUS & LAPIDE is one of the most laborious and voluminous commentators since the invention of printing. Though he has written nothing either on the Psalms or Job, yet his comment forms no less than 16 vols. folio; it was printed at Venice, 1710. He was a very learned man, but cites as authentic several spurious writings. He died in 1637.
In 1693-4, Father QUESNEL, Priest of the Oratory, published in French, at Brussels, Moral Reflections on the New Testament, in 8 vols. 12mo. The author was a man of deep piety; and were it not for the rigid Jansenian predestinarianism which it contains, it would, as a spiritual comment, be invaluable. The work was translated into English by the Rev. Richard Russel, and published in 4 vols. 8vo., London, 1719, &c. In this work the reader must not expect any elucidation of the difficulties, or indeed of the text, of the New Testament; the design of Father Quesnel is to draw spiritual uses from his text, and apply them to moral purposes. His reflections contain many strong reprehensions of reigning abuses in the Church, and especially among the clergy. It was against this book that Pope Clement XI. issued his famous constitution Unigenitus, in which he condemned one hundred and one propositions taken out of the Moral Reflections, as dangerous and damnable heresies. In my notes on the New Testament I have borrowed several excellent reflections from Father Quesnel's work. The author died at Amsterdam, December 2, 1719, aged 86 years.
DOM AUGUSTIN CALMET, a Benedictine, published what he terms Commentaire Litteral, on the whole of the Old and New Testaments. It was first printed at Paris, in 26 vols. 4to., 1707-1717; and afterwards in 9 vols. folio, Paris, Emery, Saugrain, and Martin, 1719-1726. It contains the Latin text of the Vulgate and a French translation, in collateral columns, with the notes at the bottom of each page. It has a vast apparatus of prefaces and dissertations, in which immense learning, good sense, sound judgment, and deep piety, are invariably displayed. Though the Vulgate is his text, yet he notices all its variations from the Hebrew and Greek originals, and generally builds his criticisms on these. He quotes all the ancient commentators, and most of the modern, whether Catholic or Protestant, and gives them due credit and praise. His illustrations of many difficult texts, referring to idolatrous customs, rites, ceremonies, &c., from the Greek and Roman classics, are abundant, appropriate, and successful. His tables, maps, plans, &c., are very judiciously constructed, and consequently very useful. This is without exception the best comment ever published on the sacred writings, either by Catholics or Protestants, and has left little to be desired for the completion of such a work. It is true its scarcity, voluminousness, high price, and the language in which it is written, must prevent its ever coming into common use in our country; but it will ever form one of the most valuable parts of the private library of every Biblical student and divine. From this judicious and pious commentator I have often borrowed; and his contributions form some of the best parts of my work. It is to be lamented that he trusted so much to his printers, in consequence of which his work abounds with typographical errors, and especially in his learned quotations. In almost every case I have been obliged to refer to the originals themselves. When once written he never revised his sheets, but
put them at once into the hands of his printer. This was a source of many mistakes; but for the following I cannot account. In his notes on Numb. xii. 2, he adds the following clause: Dominus iratus est, Le Seigneur se suit en colere, on which he makes the following strange observation: Cela n'est dans l'Hebreu, ni dans les Septante, ni dans le Chaldeen. On which Houbigant remarks: Potuit addere nec in Samaritano codice, nec in ejus interprete, nec in ipso Vulgato, nec in utroque Arabe. Ut difficile sit divinare unde hæc verba Aug. Calmet deprompserit: nec miror talia multa excidisse in scriptore qui chartas suas, prima manu scriptas, non prius retractabat, quam eas jam mississet ad typographos. The fact is, the words are not in the Bible nor in any of its versions.
In 1753, Father HOUBIGANT, a Priest of the Oratory, published a Hebrew Bible, in 4 vols. folio, with a Latin Version, and several critical notes at the end of each chapter. He was a consummate Hebraician and accurate critic; even his conjectural emendations of the text cast much light on many obscure passages, and not a few of them have been confirmed by the MS. collections of Kennicott and De Rossi. The work is as invaluable in its matter as it is high in price and difficult to be obtained. To this edition the following notes are often under considerable obligation.
CLASS III.-PROTESTANT COMMENTATORS.
Sebastian MUNSTER, first a Cordelier, but afterwards a Protestant, published a Hebrew Bible, with a Latin translation, and short critical notes at the end of each chapter. His Bible has been long neglected, but his notes have been often republished in large collections. He died in 1552. The Bible in Latin, printed at Zurich, in 1543, and often afterwards in folio, has a vast many scholia or marginal notes, which have been much esteemed (as also the Latin version) by many divines and critics. The compilers of the notes were Leo de Juda, Theodore Bibliander, Peter Cholin, Ralph Guatier, and Conrad Pelicanus.
TREMELLIUS, a converted Jew, with Junius or du Jon, published a very literal Latin version of the Hebrew Bible with short critical notes, folio, 1575. It has often been reprinted, and was formerly in high esteem. Father Simon accuses him unjustly of putting in pronouns where none exist in the Hebrew: had he examined more carefully he would have found that Tremellius translates the emphatic article by the pronoun in Latin, and it is well known that it has this power in the Hebrew language. Father Simon's censure is therefore not well founded.
John PISCATOR published a laborious and learned comment on the Old and New Testaments, in 24 vols. 8vo., Herborn, 1601–1616. Not highly esteemed.
John DRUSIUS was an able commentator; he penetrated the literal sense of Scripture, and in his Animadversions, Hebrew Questions, Explanations of Proverbs, Observations on the Rites and Customs of the Jews, he has cast much light on many parts of the sacred writings. He died at Franeker, in 1616, in the 66th year of his age.
Hugo GROTIUS, or Hugh le Groot, has written notes on the whole of the Old and New Testaments. His learning was very extensive, his erudition profound, and his moderation on subjects of controversy highly praiseworthy. No man possessed a more extensive and accurate knowledge of the Greek and Latin writers, and no man has more successfully applied them to the illustration of the sacred writings. To give the literal and genuine sense of the sacred writings is always the laudable study of this great man; and he has not only illustrated them amply, but he has defended them strenuously, especially in his treatise On the Truth of the Christian Religion, a truly classical performance that has never been answered, and never can be refuted. He has also written a piece, which has been highly esteemed by many, On the Satisfaction of Christ. He died in 1645, aged 62 years.
LOUIS DE DIEU wrote animadversions on the Old and New Testaments, in which are many valuable things. He was a profound scholar in Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Persian, and Syriac, as his works sufficiently testify. He died at Leyden, in 1642.
Desiderius ERASMUS is well known, not only as an able editor of the Greek Testament, but also as an excellent commentator upon it. The first edition of this sacred Book was published by him in Greek and Latin, folio, 1516; for though the Complutensian edition was printed in 1514, it was not published till 1522. For many years the notes of Erasmus served for the foundation of all the comments that were written on the New Testament, and his Latin version itself was deemed an excellent comment on the text, because of its faithfulness and simplicity. Erasmus was one of the most correct Latin scholars since the Augustan age. He died in 1536. I need not state that in some cases he appeared so indecisive in his religious creed, that he has been both claimed and disavowed by Protestants and Catholics.
JOHN CALVIN Wrote a commentary on all the Prophets and the Evangelists, which has been in high esteem among Protestants, and is allowed to be a very learned and judicious work. The decided and active part which he took in the Reformation is well known. To the doctrine of human merit, indulgences, &c, he, with Luther, opposed the doctrine of justification by grace