Imagini ale paginilor



THE religious institution of which the Lord Jesus is the author, is distinguished in the New Testament by particular names and phrases, with the true import of which it is of great consequence that we be acquainted, in order to form a distinct apprehension of the nature and end of the whole. A very small deviation here may lead some into gross mistakes, and conceal from others, in a considerable degree, the spirit which this institution breathes, and the discoveries which it brings. I think it necessary, therefore, to examine this subject a little, in order to lay before the critical, the judicious, and the candid, my reasons for leaving, in some particulars which at first may appear of little moment, the beaten track of interpreters, and giving, it may be said, new names to known things, where there cannot be any material difference of meaning. The affectation of rejecting a word because old, (if neither obscure nor obsolete,) and of preferring another because new, (if it be not more apposite or expressive,) is justly held contemptible; but without doubt it would be an extreme on the other side, not less hurtful, to pay a greater veneration to names, that is, to mere sounds, than to the things signified by them. And surely a translator is justly chargeable with this fault, who, in any degree, sacrifices propriety, and that perspicuity which in a great measure flows from it, to a scrupulous (not to say superstitious) attachment to terms, which, as the phrase is, have been consecrated by long use. But of this I shall have occasion to speak more afterward.

The most common appellation given to this institution or religious dispensation in the New Testament, is, ἡ Βασιλεια του θεου, οι των ουρανων; and the title given to the manifestation of this new state is most frequently το Ευαγγελιον της Βασιλειας, &c. and sometimes, when considered under an aspect somewhat different, Kain Aιankη. The great Personage himself, to whose administration the whole is entrusted, is, in contradistinction to all others, denominated ó Xploтoç. I shall in this discourse make a few observations on each of the terms above mentioned.


OF THE PHRASE ἡ Βασιλεια του Θεου, OR των ουρανων. IN the phrase ἡ Βασιλεια του Θεου, or των ουρανων, there is a manifest allusion to the predictions in which this economy was re

[ocr errors]

vealed by the prophets in the Old Testament, particularly by the prophet Daniel, who mentions it, in one place, (ii. 44,) as a kingdom, Baoilla, "which the God of heaven would set up, and which should never be destroyed:" in another, (vii. 13, 14,) as a kingdom to be given, with glory, and dominion over all people, nations, and languages, to one like a son of man. And the prophet Micah, (iv. 6, 7,) speaking of the same era, represents it as a time when Jehovah, having removed all the afflictions of his people, would reign over them in Mount Zion thenceforth even for ever. To the same purpose, though not so explicit, are the declarations of other prophets. To these predictions there is a manifest reference in the title, ἡ Βασιλεια του Θεού, οι των ουρανων, or simply Baoiλea, given in the New Testament to the religious constitution which would obtain under the Messiah. It occurs very often, and is, if I mistake not, uniformly, in the common translation, rendered kingdom.

2. That the import of the term is always either kin something nearly related to kingdom, is beyond all question; but it is no less so, that, if regard be had to the propriety of our own idiom, and consequently to the perspicuity of the version, the English word will not answer on every occasion. In most cases βασιλεια answers to the Latin regnum. But this word is of more extensive meaning than the English, being equally adapted to express both our terms reign and kingdom. The first relates to the time or duration of the sovereignty; the second, to the place or country over which it extends. Now, though it is manifest in the Gospels, that it is much oftener the time than the place that is alluded to, it is never, in the common version, translated reign, but always kingdom. Yet the expression is often thereby rendered exceedingly awkward, not to say absurd. Use indeed softens every thing. Hence it is, that, in reading our Bible, we are insensible of those improprieties which, in any other book, would strike us at first hearing. Such are those expressions which apply motion to a kingdom, as when mention is made of its coming, approaching, and the like; but I should not think it worth while to contend for the observance of a scrupulous propriety, if the violation of it did not affect the sense, and lead the reader into mistakes. Now this is, in several instances, the certain consequence of improperly rendering Baσidɛia, kingdom.

3. When βασίλεια means reign, and is followed by των ουραvov, the translation kingdom of heaven evidently tends to mislead the reader. Heaven, thus construed with kingdom, ought in our language, by the rules of grammatical propriety, to denote the region under the kingly government spoken of. But finding, as we advance, that this called the kingdom of heaven is actually upon the earth, or as it were travelling to the earth, and almost arrived, there necessarily arises such a confusion of ideas as clouds the text, and by consequence weakens the impression it would

otherwise make upon our minds. It may be said, indeed, that the import of such expressions in Scripture is now so well known that they can hardly be mistaken. But I am far from thinking that this is the case. Were it said only that they are become so familiar to us, that, without ever reflecting on the matter, we take it for granted that we understand them; there is no sentiment to the justness of which I can more readily subscribe. But then the familiarity, instead of answering a good, answers a bad purpose, as it serves to conceal our ignorance even from ourselves. It is not, therefore, the being accustomed to hear such phrases, that will make them be universally, or even generally apprehended by the people. And to those who may have heard of the exposition commonly given of them, the conception of the kingdom of heaven, as denoting a sort of dominion upon the earth, a conception which the mind attains indirectly by the help of a comment, is always feebler than that which is conveyed directly by the native energy of the expression. Not but that the words ẞaoideia Twv ovρavwv are sometimes rightly translated kingdom of heaven, being manifestly applied to the state of perfect felicity to be enjoyed in the world to come. But it is equally evident that this is not always the meaning of the phrase.

4. There are two senses wherein the word heaven in this ex

pression may be understood. Either Either it signifies the place so called, or it is a metonymy for God, who is in Scripture, sometimes by periphrasis, denominated "he that dwelleth in heaven." When the former is the sense of the term ovpavot, the phrase is properly rendered the kingdom of heaven; when the latter, the reign of heaven. Let it be remarked in passing, in regard to the sense last given of the word oupavo, as signifying God, that we are fully authorized to affirm it to be scriptural. I should have hardly thought it necessary to make this remark, if I had not occasionally observed such phrases as the assistance of heaven, and addresses to heaven, criticised and censured in some late performances, as savouring more of the Pagan or the Chinese phraseology than of the Christian. That they are perfectly conformable to the latter, must be clear to every one who reads his Bible with attention. Daniel, in the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's days, says, (iv. 26,) "Thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the Heavens do rule." The prophet had said in the preceding verse, "Seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men." Thus he who is denominated the Most High in one verse, is termed the Heavens in the following. The Psalmist Asaph says of profligates, "They set their mouth against the Heavens," Psalm Ixxiii. 9; that is, they vent blasphemies against God. The phrase in the New Testament, ẞaσiλela Twv ουρανων, is almost as common as ἡ βασιλεια του Θεου. And though it may be affirmed that the regimen in the one expresses the

proprietor of the kingdom, in the other the place, it is evident that this does not hold always. In parallel passages in the different Gospels, where the same facts are recorded, the former of these expressions is commonly used by Matthew, and the other as equivalent by the other evangelists. Nay, the phrase " Baoiλɛa Twv ovρavwv is adopted, when it is manifest that the place of dominion suggested is earth, not heaven; and that, therefore, the term can be understood only as a synonyma for Sɛoç. The prodigal says to his father, "Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee," Luke xv. 18, 21; that is, against God and thee: otherwise to speak of sinning against an inanimate object. would be exceedingly unsuitable both to the Christian theology and to the Jewish. "The baptism of John," says our Lord, "whence was it; from Heaven or of men?" Matt. xxi. 25. From Heaven, that is, from God. Divine authority is here opposed to human. This difference, however, in the sense of oupavos, makes no difference to a translator, inasmuch as the vernacular term with us admits the same latitude with the Hebrew and the Greek.

5. That Baoda ought sometimes to be rendered reign, and not kingdom, I shall further evince when I illustrate the import of the words knpvoow, evayyedisw, and some others. Isaiah, Daniel, Micah, and others of the prophets, had encouraged the people to expect a time when the Lord of Hosts should reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, when the people of God should be redeemed from their enemies, and made joyful in the Messiah their King. It was this happy epoch that was generally understood to be denominated by the phrases βασιλεια του Θεού, and βασιλɛla Twv ovρavov, the reign of God, and the reign of Heaven : the approach of which was first announced by the Baptist, afterward by our Lord himself and his apostles. Bagiλea is applicable in both acceptations, and it needs only to be observed, that when it refers to the time, it ought to be rendered reign, when to the place, kingdom. For this reason, when it is construed with the verb κηρύσσω, ευαγγελιζω, καταγγελλω, or the noun ευαγγελιον, it ought invariably to be reign, as also when it is spoken as come, coming, or approaching.

6. The French have two words corresponding to ours, règne, reign, and royaume, kingdom. Their interpreters have often fallen into the same fault with ours, substituting the latter word for the former; yet, in no French translation that I have seen, is this done so uniformly as in ours. In the Lord's Prayer, for example, they all say, ton règne vienne not ton royaume, thy reign come, not thy kingdom. On the other hand, when mention is made of entrance or admission into the Baoiλeia, or exclusion from it, or where there is a manifest reference to the state of the blessed hereafter; in all these cases, and perhaps a few others, wherein the sense may easily be collected from the context, it ought to be rendered kingdom, and not reign.

7. There are a few passages, it must be acknowledged, in which neither of the English words can be considered as a translation of Baotta strictly proper. In some of the parables (Matt. xviii. 23.) it evidently means administration, or method of governing; and in one of them, (Luke xix. 12, 15,) the word denotes royalty, or royal authority, there being a manifest allusion to what had been done by Herod the Great, and his immediate successor, in recurring to the Roman senate in order to be invested with the title and dignity of King of Judea, then dependent upon Rome. But where there is a proper attention to the scope of the place, one will be at no loss to discover the import of the word.


OF THE NAME το Ευαγγελιον.

I PROCEED to inquire into the meaning of the word το Ευαγγελιον. This term, agreeably to its etymology, from eu, bene, and ayyɛλia, nuncium, always in classical use, where it occurs but rarely, denotes either good news, or the reward given to the bearer of good news. Let us see what ought to be accounted the Scriptural use of the term. Ευαγγελιον and ευαγγελια occur six times in the Septuagint in the books of Samuel and Kings. I reckon them as one word, because they are of the same origin, are used indiscriminately, and always supply the place of the same Hebrew word besharah. In five of these the meaning is good news; in the sixth, the word denotes the reward given for bringing good news. In like manner, the verb ευαγγελίζειν, or ευαγγελιζεσθαι, which occurs much oftener in the Septuagint than the noun, is always the version of the Hebrew verb w bashar, læta annunciare, to tell good news. It ought to be remarked also, that Evayyed is the only word by which the Hebrew verb is rendered into Greek: nor do I know any word in the Greek language that is more strictly of one signification than this verb. In one instance, (1 Sam. iv. 17,) the verbal an mebasher, is indeed used for one who brings tidings, though not good; but in that place the Seventy have not employed the verb Evayyediw, or any of its derivatives. One passage, (2 Sam. i. 20,) wherein the Septuagint uses the verb ευαγγελιζομαι, has also been alleged as an exception from the common acceptation. But that this is improperly called an exception, must be manifest to every one who reflects that the total defeat of the Israelitish army, with the slaughter of the king of Israel and his sons, must have been the most joyful tidings that could have been related in Gath and Askelon, two Philistine cities. The word occurs several times in the Prophets, particularly in Isaiah, and is always rendered in the common version, either by the phrase "to bring good

« ÎnapoiContinuați »