Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

foreign idioms as Hebraisms in Greek, Grecisms in Hebrew, or Latinisms in either, come all within the definition of barbarism, and sometimes even of solecism-words which have always something relative in their signification; that turn of expression being a barbarism or a solecism in one language, which is strictly proper in another—and I may add, to one set of hearers, which is not so to another. It is, then, in vain for any one to debate about the application of the names barbarism and solecism.

To do so, is at best but to wrangle about words, after admitting all that is meant by them. The apostle Paul, less scrupulous, does not hesitate by implication to call every tongue barbarous to those who do not understand it: "If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be a barbarian to him that speaketh; and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian to me," 1 Cor. xiv. 11. Nor does it make any difference, as appears from the whole of the apostle's argument, even if what is spoken be spoken by the Spirit. Surely, with equal reason, we may say of those foreign idioms in any tongue, which render what is said unintelligible or even obscure to the natives, that, in respect of them, they are barbarisms. Nor is it, I think, denied by any judicious person, that there are some idiomatical expressions in the New Testament which must have puzzled those who were absolute strangers to the language of holy writ. My intention, in observing this, is chiefly to show, that if we would enter thoroughly into the idiom of the New Testament, we must familiarize ourselves to that of the Septuagint; and if we would enter thoroughly into the idiom of the Septuagint, we must accustom ourselves to the study, not only of the original of the Old Testament, but of the dialect spoken in Palestine between the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; for this last, as well as the Hebrew, has affected the language both of the old Greek translation and of the New Testament. But of this more afterward.

15. Such is the origin and the character of the idiom which prevails in the writings of the apostles and evangelists, and the remarkable conformity of the new revelation which we have by

Take the two following for examples: Ουκ αδυνατησει παρα τῷ Θεῷ παν ῥῆμα, Luke i. 37, and oun av sowin masa oag, Matt. xxiv. 22; phrases which, in my apprehension, would not have been more intelligible to a Greek author than Arabic or Persian would have been. ‘Ρημα for thing, παν ουκ and πασα oun for no or none, σαρξ for person, &c. would to him, I suspect, have proved insurmountable obstacles. Indeed, the vulgar translation of the last phrase is no more Latin than the original is classical Greek: "Non fieret salva omnis caro;" which we may venture to affirm would have been no better than a riddle to Cicero or Cæsar. Castalio has expressed the sense in proper Latin, "Nemo prorsus evaderet." Our translators have not unfitly kept in their version the one Hebraism flesh for person, to which our ears are by scriptural use familiarized, and not less fitly rejected the other saying, "No flesh should be saved;" for every body must be sensible that if they had preserved also the other idiom in English, and said, "All flesh should not be saved," the sense would have been totally altered. This is but a small specimen, not the hundredth part of what might be produced on this subject.

them, though written in a different language, to the idiom of the old. It has been distinguished in the former by the name Hellenistic, not with critical accuracy, if regard be had to the derivation of the word, but with sufficient exactness, if attention be given to the application which the Hebrews made of the term Hellenist, whereby they distinguished their Jewish brethren who lived in Grecian cities, and spoke Greek. It has been by some of late, after Father Simon of the Oratory, more properly termed the Greek of the synagogue. It is acknowledged that it cannot strictly be denominated a separate language, or even dialect, when the term dialect is conceived to imply peculiarities in declension and conjugation. But, with the greatest justice, it is denominated a peculiar idiom, being not only Hebrew and Chaldaic phrases put in Greek words, but even single Greek words used in senses in which they never occur in the writings of profane authors, and which can be learnt only from the extent of signification given to some Hebrew or Chaldaic word, corresponding to the Greek, in its primitive and most ordinary sense. This difference in idiom constitutes a difficulty of another kind from that which is created by a difference in dialect; a difficulty much harder to be surmounted, as it does not affect the form of the words, but the meaning.

16. It is pertinent, however, to observe, that the above remarks on the Greek of the New Testament, do not imply that there was any thing which could be called idiomatical or vulgar in the language of our Lord himself, who taught always in his mother-tongue. His apostles and evangelists, on the contrary, who wrote in Greek, were, in writing, obliged to translate the instructions received from him into a foreign language of a very different structure, and for the use of people accustomed to a peculiar idiom. The apparently respectful manner in which our Saviour was accosted by all ranks of his countrymen, and in which they spoke of his teaching, shows that he was universally considered as a person of eminent knowledge and abilities. It was the amazing success of his discourses to the people, in commanding the attention and reverence of all who heard him, which first awakened the jealousy of the Scribes and Pharisees.

PART II.

THE STYLE AND INSPIRATION.

WE are not however to imagine, that because all the writers of the New Testament wrote in the idiom of the synagogue, there is no discernible diversity in their styles. As the same language admits a variety of dialects, and even of provincial and foreign idioms, so the same dialect and the same idiom is sus

ceptible of a variety of styles. The style of Paul has something peculiar, by which, in my opinion, there would be no difficulty in distinguishing him from any other writer. A discerning reader would not readily confound the style of Luke with that of either of the evangelists who preceded him, Matthew or Mark; and still less, I imagine, would he mistake the apostle John's diction for that of any other penman of the New Testament. The same differences of style will be discovered by one who is but moderately conversant in Hebrew, in the writers of the Old Testament. In it we have still greater variety than in the New. Some of the books are written in prose, and some in verse; and in each, the differences between one book and another are considerable. In the book of Job, for instance, the character of the style is remarkably peculiar. What can be more dissimilar in this respect, though both are excellent in their kind, than the towering flights of the sublime Isaiah, and the plaintive strains of the pathetic Jeremiah? In the books of Scripture we can specify the concise style and the copious, the elevated and the simple, the aphoristic and the diffuse.

The difference, I own, is not so remarkable in translations as in the original. The reason will be evident on a little reflection. Every man, and consequently every translator, has his peculiar diction and manner, which will rarely fail to effect, not only his own compositions, but also the versions he makes from other authors. In every version of the Bible, therefore, wherein the different books have the same translator, there will be more or less of an assimilating quality, by which the works translated are brought, in point of expression, to bear some resemblance to the ordinary style of the translator. Now, by being all brought nearer the same thing they are brought nearer one another. Translation, therefore, is a sort of leveller. By its means, generally, not always, (for some can adapt themselves to different styles more easily than others), the lofty is depressed, the humble elevated, the looser strains are confined, and the laconic rendered more explicit. The learned reader will be sensible of the justness of this remark, when he reflects how much more distinguishable the styles of the sacred penmen above-mentioned are in their own language, than even in the best translations extant. Add to this, that if, of any two sacred authors who differ greatly in their style, we compare together some passages, as they are rendered in the same translation, we shall commonly find the sameness of the translator's styles more remarkable in them all, than the differences there may be of the styles of the authors. We shall be oftener at a loss to discover in the quotations (if the recollection of the sentiments do not assist us), Isaiah and Amos, Matthew and John, than to recognize Castalio and Beza, the Vulgate and Junius. Every translator, however, is not

VOL. I.

E

equally chargeable with this fault; I think none indeed so much as Castalio.

2. But it may be asked, How is this diversity in the diction of the sacred penmen reconcileable with the idea of inspiration? Is not the style of all inspired writers the same, as being the style of the same Spirit by which they were alike directed? That in some sense the style of all those writers is the style of the Holy Spirit, who spoke by them, and was the same in them all, is not to be denied; but that the Holy Spirit should always employ the same style in conveying celestial truths to men, is no more necessary than that he should always use the same language. People do not sufficiently advert, when they speak on this subject, to the difference between the expression and the sentiment, but strangely confound these, as though they were the same; yet no two things can be more widely different. The truths implied in the sentiments are essential, immutable, and have an intrinsic value the words which compose the expression, are in their nature circumstantial, changeable, and have no other value than what they derive from the arbitrary conventions of men. That the Holy Spirit would guide the minds of the sacred penmen in such a manner as to prevent their adopting terms unsuitable to his design, or which might obstruct his purpose; and that, in other respects, he would accommodate himself to their manner and diction, is both reasonable in itself, and rendered unquestionable by the works themselves, which have the like characteristic differences of style that we find in other literary productions.

Can it be accounted more strange, that the Holy Spirit should, by the prophet Amos, address us in the style of a shepherd, and by Daniel in that of a courtier, than that by the one he should speak to us in Hebrew, and by the other in Chaldee? It is as reasonable to think that the Spirit of God would accommodate himself to the phraseology and diction, as to the tone of voice and pronunciation, of those whom he was pleased to enlighten; for it cannot be denied, that the pronunciation of one person, in uttering a prophecy, might be more articulate, more audible, and more affecting than that of another-in like manner as one style has more harmony, elegance, and perspicuity, than another. Castalio says justly, "Res dictat Spiritus, verba quidem et linguam loquenti aut scribenti liberam permittit;'* which is to the same purpose with what Jerom had said more than a thousand years before, "Nec putemus in verbis scripturarum evangelium esse, sed in sensu." Allow me to add the testimony of a late writer of our own, than whom' none has done more to make men apprehend the meaning, and relish the beauties of the sacred

"The Spirit dictates the things, leaving the words and language free to the speaker or writer."-Defensio contra Bezam.

+"Let us not imagine that the gospel consists in the words of Scripture, but in the sense."-Comment. in Epist. ad Gal. cap. i.

poesy: "Hoc ita sacris vatibus tribuimus, ut nihil derogemus Divini Spiritus afflatui: etsi suam interea vim propriæ cujusque scriptoris naturæ atque ingenio concedamus. Neque enim instinctu divino ita concitatur vatis animus, ut protinus obruatur hominis indoles; attolluntur et eriguntur, non extinguuntur aut occultantur naturalis ingenii facultates: et quanquam Mosis, Davidis, et Isaiæ, scripta semper spirent quiddam tam excelsum tamque cœleste, ut plane videantur divinitus edita, nihilo tamen minus in iis Mosem, Davidem, et Isaiam, semper agnoscimus."

19

3. In this there was an eminent disparity between the prophets of God, and those among the Pagans said to be possessed of the spirit of Python, or spirit of divination. These are reported to have uttered their predictions in what is called ecstacy or trance, that is, whilst they underwent a temporary suspension both of their reason and of their senses. Accordingly, they are represented as mere machines, not acting, but acted upon and passive, like the flute into which the musician blows. This is what has been called organic inspiration. In imitation of one remarkable class of these, the sorcerers and soothsayers among the Jews (who, like those of the same craft among Pagans, reaped considerable profit from abusing the credulity of the rabble) had acquired a wonderful mode of speaking, in which they did not appear to employ the common organs of speech, and were thence termed eyyaorovo, ventriloqui, belly-speakers. It is in allusion to this practice that Isaiah (viii. 19. xxix. 4.) denominates them the wizzards, that peep and that mutter, whose speech seemed to rise out of the ground, and to whisper out of the dust.

Totally different was the method of the prophets of the true God. The matter, or all that concerned the thoughts, was given them; what concerned the manner, or enunciation, was left to themselves. The only exception the rabbis mention is Balaam, whose prophecy appeared to them to have been emitted in spite of himself. But this case, if it was as they imagine, which may be justly doubted, was extraordinary. In all other cases, the prophets had, when prophesying, the same command over their own actions, over their members and organs, as at other times. They might speak, or forbear; they might begin, and desist, when they pleased; they might decline the task assigned them, and disobey the divine command. No doubt, when they acted thus, they sinned very heinously, and were exposed to the wrath of Heaven. Of the danger of such disobedience we have two signal examples, in the prophet who was sent to prophecy against the altar erected by Jeroboam at Bethel, and in the prophet Jonah.

But that men continued still free agents, and had it in their power to make a very injudicious use of the spiritual gifts and

De Sacra Poesi Heb. Præl. xvi.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »