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BIBLICAL CRITICISM. We commence in this, and shall continue in the future numbers of the Repository, a plan for some time in contemplation, of presenting various matters of Biblical criticism, both original, and extracted from authors of celebrity. Much of the information thus inserted may be well known to scholars; but as our Repository is intended for the benefit of readers of every class, and many of them in remote parts of the country might not have opportunities of otherwise acquiring the knowledge thus communi. cated, its usefulness for the edification of the Church at large, will, it is hoped, plead its apology with the few who are more fully instructed. We begin with the “ Horæ Biblicæ [Bible hours] of Butler,” a member of the Church of Rome, but whose book is worthy the attention of every Christian. He was a lawyer of great learning in his profession, and appears to have applied his powers of acute research and clear illustration with great success to theological subjects. Leusden and others will also furnish various useful extracts, which will be given from time to time.
In this department, communications from Biblical scholars, of all religious denominations, are respectfully invited, and will be cheerfully received and duly attended to. As Christians of every society agree in the importance of an accurate understanding of the letter of the Word, the labours of all may be considered in this respect as running in the same course. Literary discussions, therefore, upon this subject, cannot but ultimately eventuate in the general benefit.
Extracts from the “ Horæ Biblicæ (Bible hours) by Charles
Butler, Esq. of Lincoln's Inn.” “ With a view to impress on the memory the result of some miscellaneous reading on different subjects of Biblical literature, the following notes were committed to paper. It may be found that they give :
I. Some history of the rise and decline of the Hebrew language, including an account of the Mishna, the two Gemaras, and the Targums: II.'Some account of the Hellenistic language, principally with a view to the Septuagint version of the Bible: under
this head, mention will be made of the early versions of the Old Testament, and the Biblical labours of Origen: III. Some observations on the effect produced on the style of the New Testament, 1st, by the Hellenistic idiom of the writers ; 2dly, by the Rabbicinal doctrines current in Judea at the time of Christ's appearance, and by the controversies among the sects, into which · the learned were then divided ; 3dly, by the literary pursuits of the Jews being confined to their religious tenets and observances ; 4thly, by the political subserviency of the Jews to the Romans; 5thly, by their connexions and intercourse with the neighbouring nations; and 6thly, by the difference of the dialects, which prevailed among the Jews themselves : IV. Some account, 1st, of the Biblical literature of the middle ages; 2dly, of the industry of the monks ; and 3dly, of the industry of the Jews, in copying Hebrew manuscripts : V. Some notion of the Masorahs, and the Keri and Chetib: VI. Some notion of the controversy respecting the nature, antiquity, and utility of the vowel points : VII. Some general remarks, 1st, on the history of the Jews, after their return from the Babylonish captivity to the birth of Christ; 2dly, on the persecutions suffered by the Jews; 3dly, on their present state ; 4thly, on their religious tenets; 5thly, on the appellations of their doctors and teachers; 6thly, on the Cabala ; 7thly, on their writers against the Christian religion ; and 8thly, on their principles respecting religious toleration: VIII. Some observations on the nature of Hebrew manuscripts, and the principal printed editions of the Hebrew Bible : IX. Some account of the principal Greek manuscripts of the New Testament: X. Of the polyglot editions of the New Testament: XI. Of the principal Greek editions of the New Testament: XII. Of the versions of the New Testament into the Romeika, or modern Greek : XIII. Of the oriental versions of the New Testament: XIV. Of the Latin Vulgate : XV. Of the English translations of the Bible : XVI. And of the division of the Bible into chapters and verses : XVII. Some general observations will be offered on the nature of the various readiugs of the sacred text, so far as they may be supposed to influence the questions respecting its purity, authenticity, or divine inspiration : XVIII. Mention will then be made of the principal works made use of by the writer, in the course of his inquiries.
1. The claim of the Hebrew language to high antiquity cannot be denied. Its pretensions to be the original language of mankind, and to have been the only language in existence before the confusion at Babel, have by many respectable writers been thought not inconsiderable. In a general sense, it denotes the language used by the descendants of Abraham, in all the variations of their fortune, before and after they became possessed of the promised land, during their captivity in Babylon, to the time of their final dispersion ; and from their final dispersion, so far as they retained a peculiar language of their own, to the present time. But it may be more accurately considered, under the three distinct idioms of South Chanaanitic, Aramean, and Talmudical.
I. 1. It evidently received the appellation of South Chanaanitic from its being the idiom of the inhabitants of the land of Chanaan : and, as no material alteration took place in it, during the long period which elapsed from Abraham's arrival in Chanaan till the captivity, it is known, through the whole of this period, by that appellation. Nice observers have professed to find, that it arrived at its perfection in the reign of Solomon, and to remark in it some degree of falling off, from that time, and have therefore pronounced his reign to be the golden, and the prophesyings of Isaiah to be the silver age of the Hebrew language: but, unless this observation be understood with some qualification, it appears to have more of fancy than of truth. During the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, their language was far from being wholly forgotten by them. On their return, it was greatly their wish to restore it; but their commixture with the natives of the country where they had been captives, the residence of many of them in the neighbouring nations, their intercourse and habits with the subjects of other kingdoms, and their frequent political connexions with the Seleucidan monarchs, introduced into it a multitude of foreign words and foreign idioms. In the progress of time, they debased it altogether, and in a manner converted it into another language.
I. 2. In this state, it is known by the appellation of Aramæan, from Aram, one of the sons of Sem. His descendants inhabited the Mediterranean region, between the Tigris and Euphrates, and extended north to Armenia, and south to Shinaar, Babylon, and
Chaldæa. To the west were the descendants of Ashur, another of the sons of Sem, called the Assyrians; their chief city stood upon the Tigris, and was called Ninive ; beyond them were the people of Media. There is reason to suppose that the descendants of Aram never extended themselves beyond the Tigris : but they passed the Euphrates, west, and occupied the territory known to us by the name of Syria. Aram, Zobah, and some other places, were denominated from them. In consequence of the circumstance above adverted to, the Aramean language became, after the captivity, the general language of Palestine. It branched into two dialects, the Chaldaic, or East Aramæan, and the Syriac, or West Aramæan. The East Aramean was spoken at Jerusalem and Judæa ; the West, in the Galliæa Gentium. The learned; however, still cultivated the study of the Old Hebrew, or South Chanaanitic, and it was used in the service of the synagogue. Thus it continued the language of literature and religion, but the language of common discourse was the Aramæan. That, therefore, was the larguage of the Jews, at the time of the birth of Christ : it was spoken by him, in his familiar instructions and conversations; and, with some variations, it continued the language of Judæa till the final dispersion of the Jews, after the destruction of Jerusalem.
I. 3. Notwithstanding the destruction of that city, a large portion of the Jews remained, or established themselves in Judæa. By degrees, they formed themselves into a regular system of government, or rather subordination, connected with the various bodies of Jews, dispersed throughout the world.
They were divided into the Western and Eastern Jews. The Western were those who inhabited Egypt, Judæa, Italy, and other parts of the Roman empire; the Eastern were those who were settled in Babylon, Chaldæa, and Persia. The head of the Western Jews was known by the name of patriarch; the head of the Eastern Jews was called, prince of the captivity. The office of patriarch was abolished by the imperial laws, about the year 429; from which time, the Western Jews were solely under the rule of the chiefs of their synagogues, whom they called primates.
The princes of the captivity had a longer and more splendid sway. They resided at Babylon or Bagdad, and exercised their authority over all the Jews who were established there, or in the adjacent country, or in Assyria, Chaldæa, or Parthia. They
subsisted as late as the twelfth century. In the midst of their depression and calamities, the Jews were attentive, in some measure, to their religion and language. With the permission of the Romans they established academies. The most famous were those of Jabuc and Tiberias.
About the reign of Antoninus Pius, [his reign began A. D. 138 or 139] Rabbi Jehuda Hakkódesh published a collection of Jewish traditions, called the Mishna, the style of which seems to show, that their attempts to restore their language had not been successful. Surenhusius published the original, with a Latin version, and the commentaries of Maimonides and Bartenora, in six volumes folio, at Amsterdam, 1698-1703. It has been translated into German by Rabe : his translation was published at Onolzbach, in 1760-1763, in six volumes quarto.
As a supplement to this, the first Gemara was written, for the use of the Jews of Judæa, whence it is called the Gemara of Jerusalem. The style of it is so abrupt and barbarous, that the most profound Hebraists almost confess their inability to understand it. After the death of Antoninus Pius, a fresh persecution broke out against them, and they were expelled from their academies within the Roman empire. The chief part of them fled to Babylon, and the neighbouring countries; and there, about the fifth century, they published what is called the second or Babylonish Gemara, in which there is less of barbarism and obscurity than in the former. A translation of it was begun in Germany by Rabe. The Mishna and Gemara form what is called the Talmud ; and the idiom of the collection is called the Talmudical. From there being two Gemaras, there are two Talmuds, the Jerusalem and Babylonish: the former consists of the Mishna and Jerusalem Gemara ; the latter of the Mishna and Babylonish Gemara. The former is preferred by the Christians, as containing fewer fables and trifles; the latter is preferred by the Jews, as descending most into particulars. When they mention the Talmud, generally, they understand by it the Babylonish Talmud.
The Talmudical language was used by many of their writers. About the year 1038, the Jews were expelled from Babylon. Some of the most learned of them passed into Africa, and thence into Spain. Great bodies of them settled in that kingdom. They assisted the Saracens in their conquest of it. Upon that event, an intimate connexion took place between the disciples of Moses