Obrazy na stronie

mitting an unnatural mixture of heathenish absur. dities. That this is his meaning, is rendered not improbable, by its being connected with other cor. ruptions of the Christian doctrine, also introduced some ages after the times of the Apostles, and implied in the words, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, &c. But with respect to this question, I do not pretend to decide.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

$ 21. The other passage is in the Epistle of James 32. The whole verse in the common version runs thus: Thou believest that there is one God; thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble: Ta daquovia, the demons. That the Apostle here means the spirits of wicked men deceased, which (in Jewish use, as we learn from Josephus) were commonly styled demons, there is no reason to question. The only points of which their belief is asserted, are the being and the unity of the Godhead. The epithet δαιμονιωδης is accordingly used in a bad sense in this Epistle 35, where that wisdom which produceth envy and contention, is styled earthly, sensual, devilish, daqovwdns, demonian.

$ 22. The only other words in the New Testament, connected with dayuwv, are deloidaywv and deloidaqovia. Each occurs only once. The former is rendered, by our translators, superstitious, the latter superstition. Neither of them is found in the

32 James, ii. 19.

33 jji. 15.

Septuagint, or the Apocrypha, or in any part of the New Testament, except the Acts of the Apostles. We may readily believe, that the Jews, in speaking of their own religion, would avoid the use of terms bearing so manifest an allusion to a species of wor. ship which it condemns. The only place where the term decoidaywv occurs, is Paul's speech in the Areopagus at Athens. It is applied by him to the Athenians, who where pagans. Avdpes Aonvalot, says he, κατα παντα ως δεισιδαιμονες ερες υμας θεωρω *; in the common version, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. The English expression is, in my opinion, much harsher than the Greek. As the word no where else occurs in the sacred writings, our only rule for ascertaining its import is the classical application. Besides, the Apostle, being a native of a Grecian city, well knew in what sense his hearers would understand the term. If, then, he spoke to be understood, we must suppose that he employed his words according to their current value in the place. Now, it is plain that, in the classical use, devoidayuw has not a bad meaning, unless there be something in the context that leads us to an unfavourable interpretation. Αιει δε δεισιδαιuw ww; He was always a religious man, says Xenophon of Agesilaus, when he is plainly commending him. Favorinus explains the word by o EvoE375, prous; and gives evhabela as the common import of


34 Acts, xvii. 22.

[ocr errors]

δεισιδαιμονια, which he resolves into φοβος Θεού η daquovov, the fear of God, or of demons. Now, it has been shewn that, among pagans,

in the common acceptation of daywv, the meaning was favourable. · It is acknowledged that devoidaquor was also susceptible of a bad meaning, answering to our word superstitious. Further, I readily admit that the Apostle would not probably have used that term in speaking of either Jews or Christians, because he did not consider the daquoves as objects of their veneration. At the same time, he knew that, in addressing the Athenians, he employed a term which could not be offensive to them. Indeed, his manner of introducing his subject, shews a desire of softening the disapprobation which his words im. ply, and from which he took occasion to expound the principles of a more sublime theology. The Athenians gloried in the character of being more religious, δεισιδαιμονες εροι, than any other Grecian state. Paul's concession of this point in their favour, would rather gratify than offend them, and would serve to alleviate the censure of carrying their religion to excess. Every thing, in the turn of his expression, shews that it was his intention to tell them, in the mildest terms, what he found censurable in their devotion, and thence to take occasion of preaching to them the only true God. Accordingly, he employed a word, which he knew no pagan

could take amiss; and to denote the excess with which he thought them chargeable, he chose to use

the comparative degree, which was the gentlest manner of doing it. Nay, he even abates the import of the comparative, by the particle ús. Beza has properly rendered the expression, quasi religiosiores. The version, too superstitious, not only deviates from the intention of the speaker, but includes a gross

impropriety, as it implies that it is right to be superstitious to a certain degree, and that the error lies in exceeding that degree : whereas, in the universal acceptation of the English term, all superstition is excess, and therefore faulty.

As to the noun δεισιδαιμονια, in the only place of Scripture where it occurs, it is mentioned as used by a heathen, in relation to the Jewish religion. Festus, the president, when he acquainted king Agrippa concerning Paul, at that time his prisoner, says that he found the accusation brought against him, by his countrymen, not to be such as he had expected, but to consist in ζητηματα τινα περι της ιδιας δειoidajuovias, in the English translation, certain questions of their own superstitions. It was not unlike a Roman magistrate to call the Jewish religion superstition. That the Gentiles were accustomed to speak of it contemptuously, is notorious. But it should be considered, that Festus was then addressing his discourse to king Agrippa, who had come to Cesarea to congratulate him, whom he knew to be a Jew, and to whom it appears, from the whole of the story, that Festus meant to show the utmost civility. It can.

[blocks in formation]

not then be imagined, that he would intentionally affront a visitant of his rank, the very purpose of whose visit had been to do him honour on his promotion. That the ordinary import of the term was favourable, cannot be questioned. Diodorus Siculus, speaking of the religious service performed by the high-priest, at which the kings of Egypt were oblig. ed to be present, adds, Ταυτα δ' επραττεν, άμα μεν εις δεισιδαιμονιαν και θεοφιλη βιον τον βασιλεα προτρεπομενος 6. “ These things he did to excite the

king to a devout and pious life.” The word, therefore, ought to have been rendered religion, according to its primitive and most usual acceptation among the Greeks.

Bishop Pearce is, for aught I know, singular in thinking that της ιδιας δεισιδαιμονιας ought to be translated of a private superstition, meaning the Christian doctrine taught by Paul. But of this version the words are evidently not susceptible; the only authority alleged is Peter, who says 37, naoa ntpoontela γραφης ιδιας επιλυσεως ου γινεται, in the common translation, No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. Admitting that this is a just expression of the sense of that


the cases are not parallel. Idios has there no article. If the import of idios in the other place were private, the meaning of the phrase must not be a but the private superstition, or the private religion. Had we any evidence that this designation had been given to

[ocr errors]

36 Lib. i.

37 2 Peter, i. 20.

« PoprzedniaDalej »