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Vol. XV, No.1.
JANUARY, 1833. New Series—Vol. IV, No. 1.
REVIEW OF WATSON'S BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL
DICTIONARY. A Biblical and Theological Dictionary: Erplanatory of the History,
Manners, and Customs of the Jews, and neighboring Nations. With an Account of the remarkable Places and Persons mentioned in sacred Scripture ; an Exposition of the principal Doctrines of Christianity; and Notices of Jewish and Christian Sects and Heresies. By Richard Watson. Ilustrated by Maps engrared expressly for the Work.
As the work placed at the head of this article has just issued from our press, we present to our readers the following review of it from the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine. In this first American edition, there are a few notes added, and the quotations from the original languages left untranslated by the author, are rendered into English, and included in brackets.
Mr. Watson has evidently supplied what had long been a desideratum in the department of Biblical and theological literature, in furnishing to the Christian community this valuable Dictionary; and we hope its circulation among us will be as extensive as its high character deserves.
• The books which constitute the sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are well known to have been written by persons existing in ages very remote from each other, and placed under different and peculiar circumstances. They were composed in languages which have long ceased to be vernacular ; they contain allusions to manners and customs greatly differing from those with which the western nations of Europe are familiar; and relate to cities and nations, some of which have ceased to exist, and to facts which occurred in times of the remotest antiquity. The doctrines which they disclose are of the utmost importance, and of universal interest and concern. These books were all written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; and supply the only satisfactory answer ever given to that most momentous of all inquiries, “ What must I do to be saved ?” That they contain things which are “hard to be understood,” every reflecting person must admit ; and effectually to elucidate their peculiar phraseology, the customs to which they refer, their chronology, geography, the facts which they record, and the truths which they reveal, requires Vol. IV.-- January, 1833.
the application of universal learning, and is sufficient to occupy the deepest attention of the most accomplished scholars from age to age. To have a thorough knowledge of the Bible is one of the most valuable of all acquirements; and the assistance to be derived from the pious labors of learned men, in order to this end, will be highly appreciated by every intelligent Christian. In the latter ages of the Jewish comm
monwealth, not only were the writings of Moses and the prophets ill understood ; but their meaning was so far perverted as to “make the word of God of none effect.” Divine truth was deprived of all its efficacy by the corrupt glosses of the men who “sat in Moses' seat;" and these incompetent guides, who caused the people to err, were censured with terrible severity by the Son of God, who not unfrequently exposed and confounded them in the presence of their disciples and admirers. One of the principal objects to which his attention was directed after his resurrection from the dead, was that of inculcating upon his apostles right views as to the import of the Old Testament; and the light which he cast upon those sacred books, and the holy influence which attended his instructions, were such, that the “hearts” of the men who were thus favored, according to their own acknowledgment, actually “burned" within them while he spoke. The substance of the expositions which he then delivered are doubtless embodied in the discourses which were addressed to Jewish congregations by the apostolic band, and which are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.
With the principles of Biblical criticism the Christian fathers, the immediate successors of the apostles, were very imperfectly acquainted. As interpreters of the word of God, though excelling in spirituality of mind, in active piety, and patient zeal, they were vastly inferior to many divines of modern times. Their works will ever be highly prized for the views which they give of primitive piety, of the doctrine and discipline of the ancient Church, and of the opposition with which the cause of Christ had in those times to contend, from outward persecution, and the perverse speculations of its friends ; nor will they be less prized for the specimens of sacred eloquence which several of them contain ;—but the student resorts in vain to the writings of those venerable men, even the most eminent of them, for full and correct interpretations of Holy Writ. That Jerom, Origen, Augustine, and Chrysostom devoted much time to the study of the Scriptures, is well known ; and that, in many respects, they rendered valuable service to the cause of Biblical literature, is freely conceded; but their general ignorance of the original languages of the Old Testament, and their allegorical method of applying Scripture, render their comments upon particular passages far less satisfactory than many persons, unacquainted with the peculiar circumstances in which those holy men were placed, would have anticipated.
During what are emphatically denominated the dark ages,” the Holy Scriptures were in a great measure neglected. The common people were generally ignorant of their contents; and a large proportion of the priesthood were as little read in the Bible as the besotted populace by whom they were surrounded. The attention of the few intelligent and well instructed men of those times was diverted from
the tracks of really useful knowledge, to metaphysical subtilties on the one hand, and to “old wives' fables" on the other. Yet the materials of useful information were still extant in the manuscripts, both of sacred and profane antiquity, which were carefully preserved in ecclesiastical libraries; and of these hidden treasures, some few choice spirits, happily brought into contact with them from age to age, would be found to avail themselves, for their own benefit, and that of the immediate circle in which they moved. Beyond the few illuminated circles thus formed, a cloud of darkness, thick and palpable as that of Egypt, rested both upon priest and people. The important truth which obtained currency in those times of superstition and ignorance, rather came out by accident, during the eager discussion of the trifling questions of the schoolmen, than was proposed distinctly and independently as valuable on its own account.
The Protestant Reformation, which speedily followed the providential discovery of the art of printing, formed a new era in the Church, scarcely less striking than that which took place when Judaism was superseded by Christianity. A mighty mass of intellect which had slumbered for ages was awakened into activity and vigor. Almost every system and opinion was subjected to the strictest scrutiny. The liberty of private judgment was claimed ; and abundant outpourings of thought, through the medium of the press, were, as might be expected, among the first manifestations of the newly recovered mental freedom. The principal subject of attention was the inspired word. Protestants appealed to that word as the only unerring standard of truth ; and the learned among them were anxious to give the common people an opportunity of judging concerning the points at issue between them and their Romish antagonists. Translations of the Scriptures, therefore, were published in the principal European languages; every man was invited to study the records of his own salvation ; and most laudable exertions were made to enable Christians in general to ascertain the meaning of the sacred books. Luther, Melancthon, Tindal, Calvin, Bucer, Castellio, Martyr, Cranmer, Hooper, Bale, Latimer, and many others, labored diligently in this holy vocation. Summaries of evangelical doctrine and duty, under the name of Loci Communes, were multiplied ; commentators, critics, theologues followed in the train of translators ; and every attempt was made to enlight the public mind on the all-important subject of revealed religion. A desire to illustrate the peculiar phraseology of Scripture led to the study of various oriental languages and dialects; and the Buxtorfs, and our own Lightfoot and Pococke, have, by their profound rabbinical learning, placed in a just and striking light many important texts which had never before been adequately understood.
It is remarkable, that during the civil troubles which agitated this country, such princely efforts were made to promote the cause of Biblical literature, as have scarcely been equalled in any other age of our history ; and made by men who were publicly discountenanced, and many of whom had suffered the loss of all their earthly property. It was during the commonwealth that a few of the Episcopal clergy, with Dr. Brian Walton at their head, produced the London Polyglott Bible, in six folio volumes. This truly national work was followed by the Critici Sacri, in nine volumes of the same size ; by Castell's Heptaglott Lexicon, in two volumes ; and the Synopsis Criticorum of the learned nonconformist Pool, in five volumes more. These immense works display a zeal and a diligence for the promotion of sacred learning which cannot be too greatly admired and commended.
Protestant Germany has produced a large number of Biblical critics and commentators, of extraordinary erudition and research; but many of these, especially within the last half century, have treated the Holy Scriptures with a levity and profaneness, in comparison of which the unhallowed lucubrations of Priestley and Belsham might almost be denominated orthodox Christianity. Infidelity never appeared in more revolting forms than in some of the works which have been published by German divines.
With much that is exceptionable, the Biblical and theological literature of England, for sound learning and sentiment, is unequalled by that of any other nation whatever. No excuse, therefore, can be offered for those ministers among us whose knowledge of theology is superficial, surrounded as they are by volumes “the very dust of which is gold.” Independent of professed commentaries upon the whole or part of the sacred books, many works exist among us which greatly facilitate the study of these holy records. About two hundred years ago, Godwin published his excellent tract on Jewish antiquities, under the quaint title of “ Moses and Aaron;" which has been adopted as a text book both by Carpzov and Dr. Jennings. Lewis' treatise on the same subject is still more comprehensive than any of the works of the three eminent men just specified; and Bundy's translation of Père Lamy's Apparatus Biblicus treats not only of Jewish antiquities, but also of the natural history of Scripture, and of various versions and editions. Dr. Wells wrote, with great ability, on the geography of Scripture ; and Mr. Mansford and Dr. Paxton have embodied what is valuable in him, and in other writers on that subject, in their respective publications : the former in his “ Scripture Gazetteer;" and the latter, in his - Illustrations of the Holy Scriptures.” On the chronology of the Bible, Archbishop Usher, Messrs. Bedford, Jackson, Blair, and Dr. Hales, have written with great judgment and learning. The work of Dr. Hales displays immense research, throws great light upon many obscure passages of the Bible, and may justly be considered a standard work on sacred chronology. Maundrell's “ Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem,” published considerably more than a hundred years ago, suggests the identity of many modern customs in the east with those of ancient times referred to by the inspired writers ; and the beautiful and interesting light in which he placed many texts of Scripture seems to have led Doctors Shaw and Pococke to pursue the subject in their erudite and valuable Travels; which are among the most elaborate and excellent books of the kind ever written. More recent travellers have followed the example of these eminent men, and have afforded important assistance to the Biblical student. Among these, Doctors Chandler and E. D. Clarke have been the most distinguished. Somewhat more than half a century ago, the ingenious Mr. Harmer began to collect all the passages contained in the narratives of oriental travellers, whether relating to manners and customs,
or to natural objects, that could be applied to the successful elucidation of the Bible ; and the result was, the publication of his incomparable,“ Observations on divers Passages of Scripture,” in four volumes. Mr. Burder and the editor of Calmet have successfully followed his example. Works of this kind supply an unanswerable argument in favor of the general truth of Scripture, in addition to the light which they reflect'upon difficult and obscure texts. Mr. Horne's “ Introduction to the critical Study of the Holy Scriptures” is an elaborate and incomparable digest of various publications, foreign and domestic, bearing upon this subject.
On the natural history of the Bible many books have been written. The most learned and elaborate are those of Bochart and Scheuchzer, neither of which has ever appeared in an English dress. Those of Dr. Harris and Mr. Carpenter are well known and justly esteemed, especially the former, which is a work of great research.
To what extent Biblical literature is cultivated in Scotland, we know not; but it is a remarkable fact, that the Scottish Church has never produced an entire commentary on the sacred books : for the work of Brown cannot lay claim to that title. It is pious and edifying ; but is destitute of all pretensions to learning and criticism ; and was never designed to give satisfaction to the student on points of difficulty. Doctors Campbell and Macknight are the only divines belonging to the Church of Scotland that have been distinguished as Biblical critics and commentators. The merit of each was of a high order; although Macknight is not entitled to unqualified commendation. As a critic he has seldom been equalled ; but on some doctrinal subjects he is an unsafe guide.
It is pleasing to witness the assiduity with which sacred literature is cultivated by a few excellent men in America. Within the last few years they have published several elementary works adapted to the use of the Biblical and theological student. Few of these, indeed, are original compositions ; but they are translated and abridged with great judgment from European writers, especially those of Germany. The principal of these works which have come under our notice are, “ The Elements of Biblical Theology," from Flatt and Storr; Winer's 66 Greek Grammar of the New Testament ;” Stuart's “ Hebrew Grammar;" Robinson's translation of Wahl's “Greek Lexicon ;" Upham's translation of Jahn's “ Biblical Archæology;" Stuart's translation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, with valuable prolegomena and notes ; and Harris' “ Natural History of the Bible.” Some of these works have been reprinted in England ; and all of them are justly entitled to that distinction.
No elementary works are of greater utility to the student than dictionaries. They are applied equally to the elucidation of words and things ; and have been extensively in requisition ever since the revival of learning in Europe. One of the earliest works of this kind that have fallen in our way is, “ Etymologicum Latinum, opus ex probatissimis Philologis, Philosophis, Historiographis, Poetis, et aliis Scriptoribus diversis in unum corpus collectum, antiqui datibus et animadversionibus passim respersum, vocabulis insuper eis quæ transierunt ex linguis sacris in jus Latinitatis locupletatum. Francforti, 1605 :"