Page images
PDF
EPUB

swer.

knowledge would they have denied themselves its advantages ? To the infallibility of Jewish opinion few, I conceive, are disposed to subscribe ; but uninterrupted usage must surely have considerable weight in every decision. Nor do I see reason to conclude, that the inspired writers, when they published their respective compositions, were likely to differ from other writers in the mode of their publication. The autographs of Moses and the prophets, were they still extant, would, I doubt not, resemble the autographs of all who wrote in the same age and country. The only question appears to be ; were books for public perusal then usually edited with vowels or without them? The most probable conjecture certainly favours a negative an

Points, it is true, might have been known at the time, and have been frequently used for the purpose of correct instruction, to regulate the reading, and fix the sense, of an author ; but it does not hence follow, that the autograph of the author himself, much less the apographs of subsequent transcribers, contained them. In this way it is, for instance, that the whole remains of Chaldee literature has been transmitted to us. The Jewish nation was not expelled from Chaldea, until full five centuries after the completion of the Talmud, that is, after the lowest date assigned for the invention of the Masoretical system. And we well know that every Chaldee manuscript extant, including those of the Targums and the Talmud, is posterior even to the period of that expulsion. Yet in no manuscript whatsoever have vowel points been ever added to the Chaldee consonants. Not because it was impossible to have added them ; but because it was not customary, and because the task of transcription was less laborious without them.

On the other hand nevertheless, I admit, that as the different meanings of many words must have always depended upon the different vowels, with which they were pronounced, we might have supposed, that in doubtful cases

והחמר היה " slime or חֵמָר In this passage the word .להם לחמר

at least, had vowels been known, they would certainly have been used. A remarkable instance of this description occurs in Gen. xi. 3, where it is recorded of the builders of Babel, that “they had slime for mortar," 17700777

. , bitumen, is evidently opposed to pi mortar ; words which are broadly distinguished from each other in pronunciation, as well by the intervention of different vowels as by the circumstance of the accent being placed on different syllables. Could Moses, it may be remarked, have possibly written these words without the slightest distinction, so as to have said, “ they had hon for yon," had he possessed the means of making any such distinction? The only answer to be given to this question is one, which has been already noticed ; viz. that he probably did on this what other writers were accustomed to do on a similar occasion. It should however be added, that whether he distinguished the words from each other in writing, as they must have been distinguished in pronunciation, or whether he wrote the consonants alone, leaving the reader himself to supply the respective vowels, no translator has ever mistaken his meaning. Indeed to those, who had been accustomed from their childhood to all the peculiarities of the Hebrew language, the context itself must have readily sug. gested the proper vowels and accents of the two nouns, which are here evidently contrasted with each other.

[To be concluded in the next number,]

w

MORUS

ON THE

Style of the New Testament.

MORUS was formerly Professor of the Greek and Latin languages, and afterwards of Theology, at Leipzig. He died in 1792. He was one of the most distinguished scholars of his day, and his memory appears to be held in the highest veneration by his numerous pupils.--He was a Lutheran ; and seems in substance to have adhered to the standards of his church. For although his writings are divested of much of the technical phraseology of Didactic Theology, he always maintained that he held to the commonly received doctrines. His works are principally distinguished by the skillful interpretation and application of Scripture. The expositions which occur in the following article, will, it is presumed, in the general be esteemed correct, although in some cases it is evident that the author's principles are strained too far, and that there is a disposition to explain away some of the peculiarly significant expressions of the Bible. This article is taken from his “ Hermeneutica Sacra," edited by Eichstaedt, who has added notes of considerable importance. These notes are included in brackets, and marked by the initial of the Editor's name, E.' These notes are in the following translation for the most part retained, and disa tinguished in the same manner as in the original.

« PreviousContinue »