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would make choice of those celestial objects for their adoration which they found most beneficial to them in their sojourning through the wilderness, “ numina enim (as Spencer says) illa cæteris præferebant (ut ego conjectura rationem capio) quod eorum in Desertis errantium conditioni maxime consona et accommodata videbantur,” which were undoubtedly the sun and moon, and were, probably, not only the first objects of idolatrous worship, but the principal deities amongst the Egyptians; * as there seems to be a word wanting to answer to n10d, the tabernacle of Moloch; and as there must be a transposition of the text, as has been before observed, in note *, p. 288, to accommodate it to the Sept. and St Luke, I would propose a still farther transposition of the words, which will afford a more easy and apposite sense, in this manner :
" But ye have borne the tabernacle of your king, or Milchom, or Molech, and the shrine f of the star, or your star, the images of your gods, which ye made to yourselves.” And the tabernacle of witness and the cloudy pillar seem designed by God to divert the children of Israel from the worship of Osiris and Isis, or the sun and moon, to which they were so prone, and into which notwithstanding every precaution, they soon fell, as the words of the prophet plainly intimate ; for, the verb news, probably alludes to their carrying the tabernacle and shrine of their false gods, in opposition to the ark of the testimony. Which idolatrous practice, begun in the wilderness, was continued to after ages, and was the very specific sin which was the occasion of their being carried away into captivity, beyond Damascus ;| as may be inferred, not only from the passage
* The whole East, as Whitby observes on Acts, vii. 43, worshipped the sun and moon, as the king and queen of heaven.
+ Calmet, in his dictionary, renders the word Chiun according to Junius, the pedestal, in which he is followed by Bowyer, in his Remarks on the Acts ; but, I should rather suppose, it signifies a shrine or little temple, in which some resemblance of the moon was placed ; and, what may perhaps strengthen this supposition is, that 7138, machon, derived from the same root, signifies a habitation, and is applied to the temple of Solomon, 2 Chron. c. vi. 2; and 2012, chocab, the star, may be spoken of the moon, kat etoxnu, as Horace; “micat inter omnes Julium Sidus, sicut inter ignes luna minores :" and Virgil, speaking of the Moon, calls her astrorum decus ; and Bowyer, in his remarks, observes, that ascor, the star, is applied to the moon by Plutarch.
St Luke, reciting the words of St Stephen, has beyond Babylon; and Dr Lightfoot supposes that they changed the word of the prophet so as to suit their own purpose, according to the then practice of the Jewish church; but this seems to be too arbitrary a supposition. “Sunt qui malunt fateri Scripturam (scillicet Heb. Textus) esse depravatam.” Erasmus Crit. Sac, tom. vii. But why may not the Greek text be corrupted, when all the antient versions agree with the Hebrew ? Besides, •Texelva, the Sept, translation of the preposition is bas, is more proper when joined with Damascus ander consideration, but a very remarkable one in the prophet Isaiah, c. xxiv. 23 ; where, speaking of the recovery of the Jewish people from their idolatrous practices, after their return from the Babylonish captivity, to which the former part of the chapter seems wholly to relate, he delivers himself in this sublime strain ; “Then the nioon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts - shall reign 'in Mount Sion, and in Jerusalem, and before his antients, gloriously." Upon which words Grotius has this pertinent remark; “ per solem et lunam intelligendæ imagines solis et lunæ, quæ per translationem (sive metaphoram) dicuntur erubituræ, quod suos cultores servare nequiverint.” (See Poole’s Synopsis.) And, to convince the Jews that the Babylonians did not conquer them by the superior force of these imaginary deities, the prophet, in a following chapter, xlvi. 1, foretells the downfall of these false Gods, and therein the destruction of the Babylonish empire; “ Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth.” For, that hy Bel is to be understood the sun can scarcely be doubted; it may, therefore, be most probably concluded, that by Nebo is signified the moon; “ Videmus (says Vossius) duo suprema Babyloniorum numina conjungi. At ea fuisse solem et lunam historia omnis testatur. Jam vero Belum esse solem, luculente antea ostensum. Superest igitur ut per Nebo intelligatur luna.”+ Lyranus, also, on this passage, calls Nebo, “ aliud idolum minus principale ;” and Estius says, “Nebo et ipsum erat idolum Chaldæorum, sed secundi nominis et authoritatis, quod interpretatur prophetia seu divinatio : 1 which may be well applied to the moon : for, as Nebo may probably be derived from the verb nad, nabeh, prophetarit, this may be better understood of the moon than of any other planet; and many singular effects and events seeming to be caused by, and coinciding with, its phases and revolutions, (witness the regular course of the tides, that disorder of the brain expressly called lunacy, the births of rational and animal creatures, at which she was supposed to preside, and was usually invoked by the name of nucina,) it might thence be inferred, that she was possessed of the highest spirit of divination; and perhaps an oracle might be erected at Babylon in honour to her, as one was afterwards, at Delphi, to Apollo, which might be borrowed from the former; as Calmet tells us, " that the orientals in general, and the Hebrews in particular, paid more respect to the moon than the sun; and she was worshipped by the name of a god, and not of a goddess, among the people of Syria, Mesopotamia, and Armenia. And Alex. ab. Alexand. observes thus : “ Fuit proditum in Assyria, lunæ templum apud Carras fuisse, in quo qui lunæ supplicaret, uxoris imperio subigi ; qui vero luno deo sacrum faceret, uxori dominari ferebatur.” Lib. iv. c. 8. Which may account for the verb orp, stoopeth, being in the masculine gender. That there was an oracle at Babylon, was supposed, by Stephanus Byzantinus, in consequence of the name Nebo;* and it is observable that the Alexandrian MS. of the Sept. renders it by Dagon, which has been understood, by Vossius, to signify the moon. Now this prediction of the prophet was fulfilled about 160 years after the delivery of it, and near 50 years after the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity; from which time it has been observed, by historians, that they never relapsed into idolatry.
than with Babylon, as they were not carried beyond but to Babylon. See 2 Chron. c. xxxvi. 18, 20, Sept. version, and Matt. c. i. 11, 17. And Dr Holmes informed me, some years ago, that there is MS. authority for reading Damascus. See, also, my Dissert. on Mark, xi. 13. Some authors, in Poole, also suppose that, . Matth. xxvü. 9, Jeremiah is written, by mistake, for Zechariah. And such a mistake might be easily made, by substituting the contraction lô for 28. The very learned primate of Ireland, Archbishop Newcome, upon several authorities, omits legende, And, since this dissertation was written, the author finds that Dr Blayney, in his notes on Zechariah, observes, that “it is much more probable that the word legezeie may have been written, by mistake, by some transcriber of St Matthew's Gospel, than that those of the Jewish church, who settled the canon of Scripture, (of whom Zechariah himself is supposed to have been one,) should have been so grossly ignorant of the right author of these chapters as to place them under a wrong name.".
WHEREIN A NEW READING OF THE TEXT,
MARK, C. xi, 13,
IS PROPOSED, THEREBY TO OBVIATE THE OBJECTIONS OF INFIDELITY.
The most commendable and useful employment of the human mind is to vindicate the ways of God to man; and, as the transaction, to which these words of St Mark refer, has given frequent occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, and subjected the blessed Jesus to the scoffs and raillery of the infidel and profane, it is becoming every well-wisher to Christianity to endeavour to free it from those imputations which are laid to its charge. As the deist, therefore, accuses the author of our holy religion with the grossest absurdity, and the most flagrant injustice, for denouncing a curse on this barren fig-tree, if such a construction of the words cannot be obtained, which may effcctually remove these formidable objections, he will still triumph in this supposed autW Zrotw, this inexplicable absurdity, as some call it. Now the whole force of this objection rests upon this supposition, that the negative sense of these words must be retained in conformity to all the versions (one only excepted*) which are extant, and that no explanation of them can be obtained, which will acquit the blessed Jesus of an unjustifiable severity. First of all, then, we must inquire whether such a negative sense of the words may not be found as will clear off these aspersions? if not, whether they will not admit of a positive interpretation? And, should
* The Gothic or Saxon version, see Heinsius on the place, and Calmet's dictionary under the word fig.
not this be satisfactory, whether we may not, after all, fairly infer that the original text has under. gone some corruption, and endeavour to rectify it? For, we have certainly a right to suppose that the writings of the new Testament are liable to errors and mistakes from copyists and transcribers, in common with every other antient author, to a certain degree; i. e. so far as not to affect any essential point of faith and manners.*
That one principal end of the malediction denounced on this barren fig-tree was emblematically to describe the unfruitfulness of the Jewish nation, under the gracious dispensation of Christ and his apostles, and in consequence thereof to foretel its final destruction, cannot admit of a doubt. The undue attention to which very material circumstance has misled some commentators, of the first rank, in their remarks on this passage; which, as Episcopius himself acknowledges, has perplexed all the interpreters of every age.t For, if, according to Lucas Brugensis, Grotius, and others, this action is not to be considered in itself but in its signification, which is certainly true, should we retain the general acceptation of these words in the negative sense, the energy and propriety of this symbolical prediction is wholly lost and gone. For, though, in parabolical representations, it is not necessary that the sign and the thing signified should correspond in every the minutest circumstance, it is at least requisite that there should be a striking resemblance in the most material point. But the case had been directly contrary to this, if this was not the time for natural figs, it certainly being the time for the figurative ones, i. e. the repentance and conversion of the Jewish nation, as is incontestably evident from two other parables, intended to convey the same
* “ Mihi quidem sufficit, quod, non dico in minutis, neque ad fundamentum fidei nihil perti. nentibus, sed in capitibus religionis, sive illis, quorum ignorantiâ salus periclataretur, non siverit Divina Providentia, ut ullus librariorum error constanter omnes, vel multos etiam codices obsideret.” Vossius, Isagog. Chronol, c, v.
+ Locus hic ab omni ævo vexavit interpretes, hodieque pene omnes vexat. Quæst. 9.
See Poole's Synopsis; Matt. xxi. 19; Mark, xi. 13; and Vossius, who assigns this as one reason for cursing the barren fig-tree; “ quia ficus hæc symbolum foret synagogæ, sive infidelium Judæorum, qui fructus ferre nollent.” Harm. Evang. lib. i. c., 6.
§ Episcopius paraphrases the words thus, “non erat tempus ficuum, scilicet, pro ea arbore, quippe quæ non præcoces, sed seras ficus ferret.” Macknight, Bishop Pearce, &c. suppose this to be the sense, “ for it ruas not the time of gathering figs.” Tounson, " it was not the full time of ripe figs.” Jortin renders them thus, " it was not the time of common figs,” according to the learned Lightfoot, whose words are as follows; “ The time of figs meaneth the common time that figs were generally ripe, which was ordinary, and commonly known, and which was not till near fire months after passover-time.” And this sense is adopted by Whitby.