Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

term have been dropped, it has still remained as an honourable compellation of the learned. And when the term rab came to be peculiarly applied to such, the word wherewith it was at first, for distinction's sake, compounded, would be superseded as un

necessary.

It is at least certain, that the Jewish doctors who resided at Babylon about the time of our Saviour were called simply rab. But in the Old Testament there is no trace of such a title as rab, rabbi, or rabban, given to a man of letters; nor is any of the old prophets, or scribes, or indeed any other person, distinguished by this mark of respect prefixed to his name. Though the introduction of titles is always occasioned by the erection of useful and important offices, it is commonly in the decline of merit that pompous titles are most affected. At first, no doubt, vain glory has led many to assume them to whom they did not belong in right of office, and an interested adulation has induced others to give them. Some of them, however, came soon among the Jews to be converted into a kind of academical distinctions, which, to give them more weight, are said to have been conferred solemnly in their schools or colleges, accompanied with certain religious ceremonies. From this practice, I may observe by the way, sprang literary degrees in Christian universities, to which there is nothing similar in all Pagan antiquity, either Greek or Roman, but to which the Jewish custom above mentioned bears an evident and close analogy.

5. Those who belonged to the school were divided into three classes or orders. The lowest was that of the disciples, or learners; the second, that of the fellows, or companions-those who, having made considerable progress in learning, were occasionally employed by the masters in teaching the younger students; the highest was that of the preceptors, or teachers, to whom they appropriated the respectful title of doctor, or rabbi, which differs from rab only by the addition of the affix pronoun of the first person. All belonging to the school were accounted honourable, in a certain degree. Even the lowest, the name disciple, was considered as redounding to the honour of those youths who were selected from the multitude, had the advantage of a learned education, and by their diligence and progress gave hopes that they would one day fill with credit the most important stations. The title companion, fellow, or associate, was considered as very honourable to the young graduate who obtained it, being a public testimony of the proficiency he had made in his studies; and the title rabbi was their highest academical honour. That it was only the youth, in what are called the genteeler stations, who had the advantage of a learned education, is manifest from the contempt which our Lord's parentage drew on him, as a teacher, from his fellow-citizens: "Whence," say they, "hath this man this wisdom? Is not this the carpenter's

son?" Matt. xiii. 54, 55. They conclude that he must be illiterate, from the mean condition of his parents. It was not the children of such, then, we may reasonably infer, who were trained in those seminaries.

In the Gospels didaokaλoç is given as the Greek translation of the Syriac rabbi, John i. 38. Yet this word does not, as the Greek, literally signify teacher; but, having been conferred at first as a mark of respect on actual teachers, and afterwards on other learned men, didaσkaλoç was justly accounted as apposite a version as the Greek language afforded. It is certain, the term rabbi began soon to be used with great latitude. But though it came gradually to be bestowed on those who were not actual teachers, it always retained, ever since it had been appropriated to the learned, a relation to learning; and, being understood as an addition due only to literary merit, it still denoted, that though the person who enjoyed it might not be actually employed in teaching, he was well qualified for the office. Rabban is not the name of a degree superior to rabbi, though it seems intended for heightening the signification. It may be understood to denote eminent or learned rabbi, and appears to have been but very seldom used. The title rabboni, which we find twice given to our Lord, is rabban, with the addition of the affix of the first person, and accommodated to the pronunciation of Judea. One of those who addressed him with this compellation, was blind Bartimeus, when he applied for the recovery of his sight, Mark x. 51: the other was Mary Magdalene, when she first saw Jesus after his resurrection, John xx. 16.

That the use of the term rabban has not extended far beyond Palestine, may be presumed from the following circumstance. Though the word rabbi is very common in the Syriac translation, the Greek didaσkade being generally so rendered; yet in the only place where that translator introduces the word rabboni, which is that quoted from John, he prefixes in Hebrew, that is, in the dialect of Palestine, which was then so called, adding the explanation given by the evangelist, that is, teacher; which plainly shows that the word rabboni was not Syriac. This is the more remarkable, as in the other passage, (John i. 38,) where the historian interprets the word rabbi in the same manner, adding, ὁ λεγεται ἑρμηνευόμενον διδασκαλε, that interpreter omits this explanatory clause as intended only for the Grecian reader, and of no use to those who understood Syriac. In the passage in Mark where rabboni occurs, as the evangelist had added no explanation, his interpreter has not thought it necessary to change their own word rabbi. This is an evidence that he also considered the difference in signification between the two words as inconsiderable. Another strong presumption of the same point is, that the apostle John explains both by the same Greek word; John i. 39; xx. 16.

It may be observed here by the way, that they likewise used to raise the import of a title by doubling it. Thus our Lord, speaking of the Pharisees, says, They love to be called of men rabbi, rabbi, Matt. xxiii. 7. In this manner he was himself addressed by Judas, at the time when that disciple chose to assume the appearance of more than ordinary regard, Mark xiv. 45. The title Kupiɛ seems to have been used in the same manner: Not every one who saith unto me Lord, Lord, kupiɛ, kupɩɛ, Matt. vii. 21. This is very agreeable to the genius of the oriental tongues, which often, by the repetition of an adjective, express the superlative degree.

6. I took notice once before, that, in the common version of the Gospels, didaokaλoç is generally rendered master. I cannot say that the word is mistranslated when so rendered, since it is the most common title with us wherewith scholars address their teacher. But it is rather too indefinite, as this term does not distinguish the relation meant, from almost any other relation wherein superior and inferior are brought together. The word master serves equally for rendering κύριος, δεσποτης, επιστάτης, καθηγητης, as for διδασκαλος; and therefore, in many cases, especially where the context requires a contradistinction to any of those terms, the word master is not proper. It is indeed evident to me, that in the ordinary Hellenistic use it corresponds nearly to the English word doctor. Both are honorary titles, expressive of the qualifications of the persons to whom they are given: both are literary titles, that relate to no other sort of merit but learning; and both are solemnly conferred with certain ceremonies, which we call graduation, by those who are accounted the proper judges. Our translators have, in one place, very properly rendered it doctor. Joseph and Mary, we are told, Luke ii. 46, found Jesus in the temple sitting "in the midst of the doctors,' ev μeow Twv didaσkaλwv. To have said, in the midst of the masters, would have been a very vague expression of the sense. Nor have we reason to believe that it would have been proper here to translate the word teachers, as it did not imply that they were such by profession. In composition, our interpreters have commonly rendered it doctors. There were Pharisees and" vouodtSaokaλo, "doctors of the law sitting by," Luke v. 17: again, "There stood up one of the council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel," voμodidaσkaλoç, "a doctor of law," Acts v. 34. Besides, we νομοδιδασκαλος, are accustomed to hear the words Jewish rabbis and Jewish doctors used synonymously. In Justin Martyr's dialogue with Trypho the Jew, the rabbis are always called Sidαokador.

7. But it may be objected, that this does not account for the application of the title to our Lord: as he did not derive his doctrine from any of those learned seminaries frequented by such of the youth as were reckoned the flower of the nation, the name doctor could not with propriety be applied to him. In

answer to this let it be observed, first, that as in Judea at that time they spoke not Greek, but a dialect of Chaldee not differing considerably from what is called Syriac, it is evident that the actual compellation whereby our Saviour was addressed was rabbi. For this we have the express testimony of the apostle John, in a passage lately quoted, who, though writing in a different tongue, thought proper to mention the title usually given him in the language of the country, adding, merely for the sake of those readers who knew nothing of the oriental languages, that it is equivalent to the Greek didaσkaλoç. Now, as the Chaldaic word does not literally signify teacher, which the Greek word does, their equivalence must arise solely from the ordinary application of them as titles of respect to men of learning; and in this view the English word doctor is adapted equally to the translation of both.

Secondly, Though the title rabbi could regularly be conferred only by those who had the superintendency of their schools, we have ground to believe, that with them, as with us, the people would be ready to 'give the compellation through courtesy, and on the presumption that it had been conferred, wherever they saw or supposed distinguished abilities in learning and this is most probably the reason why we find it given also to John the Baptist; John iii. 26.

Thirdly, In the Jewish state a divine commission was conceived to confer all sorts of dignities and honours in an eminent manner, and so superseded ordinary rules and human destinations. On this account they considered a prophet, though not of the sacerdotal family, as an extraordinary priest, and entitled to offer sacrifice, in consideration of the evidences he gave of his mission. Thus the prophets Samuel and Elijah, (neither of whom was a priest,) offered sacrifice with acceptance, and upon altars too not warranted by the law; 1 Sam. vii. 9, 1 Kings xviii. 31, &c. It is evident, that some of those who gave the title of rabbi to our Saviour, were willing, either sincerely or pretendedly, thus to faccount for their doing so. "Rabbi," said Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrim, "we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do those miracles that thou dost, except God be with him," John iii. 1, &c. Here he, as it were, assigns the reason why he saluted him rabbi, although he knew that he had not been educated in human literature, and had not received from men any literary honours. The same title was given him also by others of that sect insidiously, when, though they pretended friendship, their aim was to entangle him in his talk, that they might have a pretext for delivering him up to the Roman governor. In any other cases, they show sufficiently how little they were disposed to admit his right to any degree of respect arising from knowledge. They said, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?"

a charge the truth of which our Lord very readily admitted, by replying, "My doctrine is not mine, but his who sent me," John vii. 15.

8. Now, from the foregoing observations it appears, that the name didaσkaλoç, as being nearly equivalent in import to the appellation rabbi, for which it has been substituted by the evangelist, may be fitly expressed either by the English term doctor, or by the Syriac rabbi, which is now so much naturalized amongst us, that its meaning, as a Jewish title of literary honour, can hardly be mistaken. In the addresses made to our Lord in his lifetime, the Syriac term is surely preferable; the English word, though very apposite in respect of its origin and ordinary acceptation, has considerably sunk in its value, in consequence of the slight manner wherein we are accustomed to hear it applied. But we all know that rabbi, among the Jews of that age, was a title in the highest degree respectful, and on that account interdicted by their Master even to the apostles themselves. It is also the word by which didaokaλos is commonly rendered in the Syriac version of the New Testament, justly held the most respectable of all the translations extant, as being both the oldest, and written in a language not materially different from that spoken by our Lord and his apostles. The difference appears not to be greater (if so great) than that which we observe between the Attic and the Ionic dialects in Greek. But when didaσkaλos is construed with other words, which either limit or appropriate it, we commonly judge it better to render it teacher, according to the simple and primitive signification of the word. In such cases, it is probable that the writer alludes merely to what is usually implied in the Greek term. So much for the import of rabbi or Sidαokados in the New Testament.

9. Now, when we compare the titles kyrios and didascalos together, in respect of the Jewish use and application of them, we find several remarkable differences between them. From our modes of thinking we should be apt to conclude, that the former of these appellations would be much the more honourable of the two. Yet this is far from holding generally, though in particular cases it no doubt does. In regard to the term kyrios, I observed formerly, that as it originally signified master, as opposed to servant, it retained in that nation, in our Saviour's time, so much of its primitive meaning as to be always understood to imply, in the person who gave the title, an acknowledged inferiority to him to whom it was given. Civility might lead a man to give it to his equal; but to give it to one who, either in the order of nature or by human conventions, was considered as inferior and subordinate, would have looked more like an insult than like a compliment. Hence it must be regarded as a term purely relative, which derived its value solely from the dignity of the person who seriously bestowed it. To be entitled

« ÎnapoiContinuați »