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CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN PROF. M. Stuart AND Dr. I. NORD
HEIMER, ON THE USE AND OMISSION OF THE HEBREW ARTICLE IN SOME IMPORTANT PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE.
To Dr. I. Nordheimer. My Dear Sir:
The copy of your Hebrew Syntax, which you forwarded to me, has been received, and I have perused it with much interest and satisfaction. I am specially gratified with the simplicity of method, which for the most part is exhibited in its developments. Everywhere it bears the marks of eigene Forschung as well as of eiserne Fleiss, i. e. of original and personal efforts in investigation, as well as of the untiring diligence with which this has been pursued. I have been particularly struck with the appositeness and lucid order of your examples, which are cited to illustrate and confirm your positions. They are plainly, for the most part, the result of your own reading and research; and they carry along with them a weight of evidence, which will very generally compel the belief and secure the confidence of the intelligent student. If you have not done every thing which is to be done in this department of labor, this is no reproach, and nothing derogatory to your work. It is not for any one man to do all, in this department, which is to be done. That individual deserves hearty thanks from those that study the Old Testament Scriptures, who makes any improvement upon the old arrangement of the syntax, gives a more satisfactory elucidation of any part of it, or contributes something new to the treasures already collected. In my judgment you are entitled to credit in each of these respects; and this is saying as much as you could wish me to say."
But it is no part of my present object to review your book; for inasmuch as I am myself before the public in the capacity of a Hebrew grammarian, it would hardly be delicate for me to undertake such a task. I have a different object in view, on the present occasion, and one which I will proceed to unfold without further introduction or delay.
One of the first chapters, which I read in your Syntax, was that which respects the Article. The reason of this was, that I had been engaged in some investigations, where the question respecting the absence and the presence of the article seemed to become fundamental, as to the true meaning of the sacred text. My mind had been not a little perplexed with the subject; and after all, I had not been able wholly to free myself from this perplexity. Gesenius, Ewald, Vater, and (of course) the older grammarians had not solved my doubts, nor proffered me any clue to which I could confidently intrust myself. You may imagine, then, with what interest I took up your work, knowing that you had been making new investigations, and hoping that by some of these my darkness would be dissipated.
I am not certain, however, whether any of the principles which you have developed respecting the article will reach to the satisfactory solution of my doubts. If it be a fact, that the application of any of the principles exhibited in your book will solve them, you will of course have an opportunity, in answering my questions, to show how this may be done. Believing you to be sincerely desirous of exhibiting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in regard to any matter of grammar, or any principle of philology, which you have occasion to discuss, I proceed, without further apology or preface, to state my difficulties, and to ask your attention to the subject, and that you will lay the results of your investigation before the public, that they, as well as myself may be profited by your labors.
After all that has been said and written on Is. 7: 14,“ A virgin shall conceive and bear a son,” there remains some difficulty in the mind of every sober, unbiassed and independent investigator. This difficulty has respect, so far as my own mind is concerned, to the article in nabyn, which seems to demand that we should translate the virgin, not a virgin (which would be abs). Certainly the common principles of Hebrew syntax, in respect to the article, would demand such a version. What is there that will lead, or even permit us to dispense with this demand ?
In answer to this, I am well aware that it is easy to produce a great number of cases, where the Hebrew article is employed, while the corresponding sentiment in our idiom will not admit the insertion of our definite article. For example; in a multitude of cases where the , of similitude is prefixed to nouns, and these nouns mostly take the article in Hebrew ; e. g. Ps. 49: 15, They are laid in the grave ax2, lit. like the sheep, which in English would be an offence against the common laws of idiom, for we invariably say, in such general comparisons, like sheep. So Deut. 1: 44, They chased you can..., as the bees do ; Is. 40: 31, They shall mount up onuna, as the eagles; and so in a countless number of examples. So also with the singulur number, as well as with the plural; e. g. Hos. 14: 6, I will be to Israel 333, as the dew; Hos. 14: 7, His savor shall be gizaba, as the Lebanon ; Hos. 14: 8, And they shall blossom 22, as the vine. In such cases, our English idiom sometimes would admit, and sometimes reject, the article; for we might say as the dew, as the vine, but not as the Lebanon. Yet it would be equally well to say in the former cases, as dew, as a vine.
I do not adduce cases like these, in order to show that the use of the article in nesso can be accounted for by them, but merely to show that the Hebrew language, in the use of the article, not unfrequently differs very palpably from the English. This fact being established, it remains only to be ascertained, how far this discrepancy goes, and whether the cases which have occasioned my present inquiries belong to those which can be illustrated by such means or in this manner.
But before I proceed to further remarks, permit me to inquire whether the metes and bounds of the article after the J of similitude can be fixed with certainty ? Gesenius (Lex.) says that the use of the article in such a case is longe frequentissimus ; but when the noun joined with such a o is followed by another word which makes it definite, then the article is omitted. This last circumstance you have failed to notice in g 720, II. 2, a. It however not only requires notice, but the numerous cases which do not come under either of these rubrics, viz., cases where the 3 of similitude is followed by a noun not made definite and which is also anarthrous, (cases that are not unfrequent, and which I have often noticed, require a particular and thorough investigation. I would respectfully suggest this as one of the topics which demands further investigation, and one concerning which Hebrew grammar yet leaves us in the dark. But to my immediate purpose.
As more like h yn are we to regard such cases as 1 Sam. 17: 34, And there came 519-ng 8, the lion and the bear; where we must say in English, a lion and a bear. An example of the same tenor, and with the same words, is also found in Amos 5: 19. Here some one of a class of animals is clearly denoted; but not the whole class, for then the designation might naturally take the article. But of this individual one, no notice is given in the context; no adjunct has rendered it definite to the mind of a reader; and what was there to make it so to the mind of even the writer ? Of the first example one might say: “ The lion and the bear, which so commonly invade the flocks, is meant;" of the second (in Amos), it is difficult to get even so much as this to support it. Is there any thing but emphasis, as applied to the designation of some particular individual, which is left to account for the article-an individual, moreover, not distinguished (as is usual when the article is exhibited) from other individvals of the same species, but as distinguished from any individual of another species? If such a use of the article is allowed in Hebrew, it is a peculiar principle, and needs further investigation and illustration. May I invite your attention to the further development of this principle ?
After all, how can these cases bear upon obsn in Is. 7: 14 ? If virgin here be supposed to mean a class, the nature of the context utterly refutes the supposition. It is an individual who is to bear an individual child. In what way, then, does the individuality become thus specific? How is this one virgin, (or young woman, if we should even adopt such a translation, with Aquila, Gesenius and others,) distinguished so as to become specific in the view of the prophet, or of those who read him ?
Nothing is said in the preceding context respecting her. No account is given of the when or where of her existence in the sequel. How then are we to account for the use of the article? What has been recently said in respect to it, you are well aware of. Gesenius represents the article here as equivalent to the pronoun adjective my, and the prophet as meaning my young wife. Others have applied it to a young wife of Ahaz; others to some young woman then in the presence of Ahaz and the prophet, to whom the latter might refer deixtixős, as much as to say: This young woman. So far as the mere article is concerned, this might be an easy solution; but what the extraordinary and miraculous mix (sign), which the prophet promises could then be, is beyond my comprehension; and this difficulty is enough of itself to render this solution altogether improbable. Even Paulus, Ewald, and Hitzig reject this; and Ewald has proposed a principle (Kleine Gramm. s. 239) which at least deserves serious examination. He says that “the article is used with nouns that signify a species, in order to designate an individual, and all possible like individuals, of the same species definitely separated or distinguished from other different species.” Translated into common parlance, I suppose this to mean : Irgend einer = aliquis (but not quidam), i. e. some individual of a particular species as distinct from other species. So Hitzig (Comm. on Is. 7: 14) allows the article in such cases to be equivalent to aliquis. He appeals to Judg. 14: 6,7an; 1 Kings 20: 36, 777787, and 2 Kings 4: 18, bion. If this idea is well founded, is it not an adequate solution of the difficulty before us? The words of the prophet then would run thus : Behold! some virgin shall conceive, etc. In this case the article would merely mark an individual which belongs to a class distinct from all other classes. Is this tenable? And if so, will the several examples, such as 7797, wx7, 37727, wapm, 75327, etc., suffice to illustrate and establish such a principle? See in Ewald ut supra.
The solution of Hengstenberg (Comm. on Is. 7: 14, in his Christol.), viz., that the article refers to some individual virgin whom the prophet sees in his ecstasy, will hardly satisfy most critical readers of Hebrew. How in such a case could Ahaz attach any intelligible meaning to the article, who could not be conscious of what was passing in the prophet's mind ?
The supposition, moreover, that the prophet refers to some virgin of David's race, whom the popular belief had already fixed upon as the mother of a future Deliverer, is destitute of any evidence. Is. 7: 14 contains the first notice we have of the birth of the Deliverer in this peculiar manner. .
It is not necessary in answering my questions, to determine whether the Messiah has come, or is yet to come. I do not ask your opinion on this point. It is a mere dark spot in Hebrew Grammar, on which I wish to have more light poured, if more can be poured. That a great Personage is predicted in Is. 7: 14–16, I suppose will not be denied. Be he now who he may-what is the use and intent of the article in 7723377; how is it to be translated; and what must the prophet have designed by affixing it to the noun hoss? You see I repose much confidence in your candor, as well as ability, in respect to an answer; and on your part, you will be glad that I have ex