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instructive history of his adorable ways in governing the world. † Josephus asserts that, from the death of Moses to the reign of Artaxerxes, the prophets who succeeded that legislator wrote the transactions of their own times; and that the Jewish historians from Artaxerxes downwards were not esteemed worthy of like credit, because there had not been a regular succession of prophets. This assertion is confirmed by the sacred writers; who mention the names of many prophets as having recorded the affairs of the Jewish nation. A further and most important reason for instituting the prophetic order was, that, by a long series of predictions, the attention of the Jews might be turned to the coming of their Messiah; and that the faith of succeeding ages in that great event might be thus confirmed.
The writings of these prophets bear plain signatures of their divine authority. Examine the books of the Greek and Roman sages; and observe what discordant opinions they contain on almost every point of theology and philosophy. But in the Hebrew prophets there is a wonderful harmony of doctrine for above a I thousand years; unparalleled in the writings of any country. History teaches us that a great number of their prophecies has been accomplished; and we know that some of them are accomplishing at this day. It also peculiarly deserves our notice, that these holy men entertained the most worthy conceptions of the Deity in the midst of an idolatrous nation; and inculcated the supreme excellence of moral duties, when all around them, even the few worshippers of Jehovah himself, were solely intent on ritual observances.
of Contr. Ap. i. 8. * From Moses before Christ about 1500, to Malachi before Christ about 436.
The writings which these men of God have transmitted down to us will be eminently useful in every age of the Christian church; not only as they contain illustrious prophecies of many events and especially of our Blessed Lord's appearance, but for their magnificent descriptions of the Deity, for their animating lessons of piety and virtue, and for the indignation which they express and the punishments which they denounce against idolatry and vice: which particular topics, among many other instructive and important ones, are treated by them with uncommon variety, beauty and sublimity, and with an authority becoming ambassadors of The Most High.
The Twelve Minor Prophets, as they are commonly distinguished, have been justly deemed as obscure a part of the Hebrew scriptures as any extant. This obscurity partly arises from the nature of the Hebrew language, which is singularly concise, deals much in asyndeta, has few moods and tenses, often omits the preposition, gives various and nice significations to its particles, and as its remains are comprehended in one book, must of course contain words and phrases, about the meaning of which, as they occur perhaps but once, we can only form conjectures from the context or from analogous terms in the sister-dialects. Other causes of the difficulties with which these prophetical writings abound are, the want of historical records for the illustration of many facts to which they refer; the nature of those unaccomplished prophecies which occur in them, and which the event alone can distinctly explain; the peculiar boldness of their figures and abruptness of their transitions; and, above all, the many corruptions which deform the present text. These errors of transcribers arise either from sources common to all books of remote antiquity, or from some which are proper to the Hebrew language; such as, the
similitude of many letters, and the consequence of a mistake in the radical ones, which generally corrects itself in the western languages, and as generally forms a new Hebrew word, because the roots are mostly triliteral and often consists of the same letters differently arranged.
But though patient investigation and critical skill are necessary to combat these difficulties, they are by no means invincible; as the ignorance of some, and the prejudices of others, have studiously represented them. They are happily counterbalanced by peculiar advantages. As Hebrew derivatives frequently branch off from the leading idea of the root, this property of the language leads to a just and elegant manner of ascertaining their sense. Examples of this perpetually occur in Taylor's Hebrew concordance: but there is still ample room for the sagacity and industry of every competent enquirer. The characteristic style of the Hebrew poets, who delight in subjoining to one proposition a corresponding clause which has an equivalent or opposite sense, affords frequent explanations of obscure passages by the parallelism. The similar structure of many connected hemistichs occasionally serves to rectify the Masoretic punctuation, and to give the sentence a beautiful turn. The sister languages determine the precise meaning of many words and phrases; and teach us to estimate the force of many daring figures. The ancient translators and paraphrasts open fruitful sources of criticism. Excellent lexicons and concordances facilitate the prosecution of philological enquiries. Many commentators have considered the sacred writings in different views, according to their taste and genius: and though the name has been disgraced by a number of hireling compilers, yet no competent critic has carefully studied the scriptures for himself without smoothing the ruggedness of the way to those
who follow him. It must also be observed that the sacred books constantly receive new light by the encreasing number of authentic travels to the east; where ancient customs are invariably retained. The collation of Hebrew MSS. by the late learned and indefatigable Doctor Kennicott, a fit instrument in the hands of Providence for planning and executing this great work, forms an invaluable accession to our external helps. It will appear in the following notes that the variations furnished by MSS. are corroborated by the ancient versions; and therefore that these principal aids in our critical researches bear mutual testimony to their respective authority. The MSS. make it probable that the versions faithfully represent the text from which they were formed; and the versions tend to prove that the present readings of MSS. are not mistakes of transcribers, but actually existed in certain ancient copies. The various lections, noted in the course of this work as worthy of nice attention, amount to more than one hundred; and of these about forty may be ranked in the class of very material ones: and yet the books explained do not form a fourteenth part of the Hebrew scriptures; and the collations were not minutely examined throughout, but inspected when difficulties arose.
However, there is still abundant reason for extending our helps in so important and difficult a study as that of the Hebrew scriptures. We want a collation of all the Hebrew MSS. in every part: a great § number having been examined by Doctor Kennicott, or his coadjutors, only in select places. It is also desirable that the ancient versions and paraphrases should be collated with all the MSS. extant; that each should be printed apart, with an arrangement of the various readings at the foot of the
$349. See Diss. gen. p. 94-108.
page ; and that a scrupulously faithful interlineary version should be given of those in the eastern languages. · In the following pages, the reader will have occasion to observe how materially the Aldine edition and the Pachomian MS. of the lxx differ from the Alexandrian and Vatican copies: and it will appear, by extracts from Sixtus Quintus's edition, that there are rich treasures in the Vatican library, relating to this venerable translation, which still remain unexplored.
The learned world has been lately informed that the most useful part of Origen's hexapla and tetrapla, in a Syriac version, is now extant in the Ambrosian library at Milan. This MS. contains, of the canonical scriptures, the Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, Isajah, Jeremiah and the Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets. It is written in the Estrangular character; and has all the apparatus of Origen's marks, together with Scholia of Greek and Syriac Fathers and annotations of various interpreters. There is a preface to almost all the books; which, among other particulars, explains the arguments of the chapters: and to each book is subjoined a well written appendix, the subjects of which are, an account of the author, the fate of the book, and the age of the version. The history of the authors, the ancient music and its instruments, the arguments of the Psalms by Eusebius and Pamphilus, the Hebrew proper names alphabetically arranged, and the life of Origen, are enlarged on in a copious preface to the Psalms. This particular copy of the Syriac version was written in the eighth or ninth century; and was purchased in Egypt,
ll So called from its ancient proprietor Pachomius, a patriarch of Constantinople. It is in the British museum ; and is suppused to have been written some time between the tenth and twelfth centuries. See more in Bishop Lowth's preface to Isaiah: p. lxvii.