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STYLE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
$ I. Introduction.
It is now necessary to explain separately the forms of speech, peculiar to the New Testament ; or the idioms which occur in it. In the first place therefore we must inquire concerning the general style adopted by the writers of the New Testament ; for in this, as is evident, there is much to aid in a critical investigation.
§ II. What may be called a pure style. This whole subject rests on the question, whether the style of the New Testament, is pure Greek, or conformed to the Hebrew.
That is called a pure style, in which there is nothing foreign, or ungrammatical ; either in the import of words, or the construction of sentences. When therefore it is asserted that there ought to be nothing foreign in a language. it is usually said, there must be no barbarisms. Any thing foreign is barbarous, and a language that admits foreign words when it might use its own, is said to be infected with barbarisms; and when it is asserted that there should be nothing ungrammatical, it is usually said, there must be no solecisms. But to return to barbarisms, these occur not only in the construction, but in the signification of words ; thus the Latin phrase verba facere, has not the same sense as the German worte machen, (to talk non
sense,) and whoever gives this foreign sense to the Latin phrase, uses a Germanism.
If then a pure style admits nothing foreign in the signification of words, or the construction of phrases, in judging of the style of a writer, we must enquire, first, whether single words, in common use among the Greeks, are used in the same sense as they used them. But it is very evident, that the significations of many words in the New Testament are drawn from the Hebrew. When, therefore, the word dixaloouun, in 2 Cor. ix. 9, and (with the true reading) Mat. vi. 1, is used to express liberality, the question is not whether it is a good Greek word, but whether that is the Grecian signification. But since no Greek author ever used the word thus, and this signification may be drawn from the Hebrew, 727}, it follows that in those passages the word is impure.
Thus also in 2 Cor. ix. 2, sůhonia is used to express abundance. This is a good Greek word, and signifies praise, from súhozɛīv, to praise; but the Greeks never used it in the sense of abundance. It is therefore drawn from the Hebrew, in which it corresponds to 1797, and is of course impure.
[Note. --The author has treated of those words only, whose origin is Grecian, and signification Hebrew. And such are more particularly embraced in the question. But those also may be added, which the Sacred writers, when speaking of things partaining to religion, transferred from the Hebrew on account of the deficiency of the Greek. Such are Μεσσίας, αλληλούϊα, ωσαννα, γέεννα, πάσχα, αμήν, &c. E.]
Again-We must enquire, not only whether the phrases have the Grecian Syntax, but also whether they bear the usual Grecian sense. In Luke i. 6, the words Sixalos ÉvÉTIOV Toữ dsoū are pure Greek, but the construction is foreign,
and is therefore לְפְנֵי יְהוָה drawn from the Hebrew
: 5 impure.
The signification also is Hebrew, for Sixasos like piiy signifies any thing good and virtuous in general. Thus also in the New Testament Παρακήναι ενώπιον τινος occurs in the sense, to serve any one, but Ilagasăvaus tuvi is used by the Greeks in a different sense. In the phrase άρσον φαγξιν, , Luke xiv. 1, the construction is Grecian, but the signification is foreign, for it means to take dinner or supper, like
אֶכֹּל לֶחֶם the Hebrew
Lastly-We must inquire whether the entire form and manner of the discourse is Grecian, or Hebraic.
When I say the manner of a discourse, I mean the transitions from one thing to another, the form of the periods, and the connexion of words. Such passage for instance as Luke i, 5, 6, 7, after the short preface of pure Greek, sufficiently indicate the Hebrew manner. Its periods are unlike the Greek. It does not, like it, connect the sentences by particles, but usually by the copulative xal. The transitions are not like the Greek ; nor does it display that collocation of words which is peculiar to the Greek.
[Note.-Concerning these points, consult the preface of I. D. Michaelis, ad R. Lowthii praelectiones de Sacra Poësi Hebræorum, p. 33, seq. E.]
$ III. Proofs that the style of the New Testament is
The question being thus stated and defined, we unhesitatingly assert, that the style of the New Testament is not purely Grecian, but is conformed to the Hebrew idiom, not only in single words, phrases, and forms of speech; but also in the whole form of the language. It remains, therefore, to prove this by clear and substantial arguments.
I. There are many Greek phrases in the New Testament which can be literally trunslated into no language so easily as into Hebrer. For example,
For example, the passage Εγένετο εν ταις ημέραις Ηρώδου may be translated into Hebrew in precisely so many words. And so close an agreement of style cannot happen accidentally, especially when the same mode of writing prevails through almost the whole book. Such things could not escape a writer accidentally. Hence it is thought, that the best exercise for the student of the New Testament, is translating literally from Greek to Hebrew. To a tolerable Hebrew scholar, there is no great difficulty in this, either in single words or phrases.
II. Many things cannot be explained without the Hebrew. Many errors have crept into theology, and many theories have been falsely explained, because the Hebrew language was not consulted. But if the necessary comparison of the two languages had been continually made, it would have been evident that so perfect a conformity of the Greek to the Hebrew, could not have been accidental. In Acts xiii. 48, the words τεταγμένοι εις ζωήν αιώνιον cannot be translated without the Hebrew. For if the import is drawn from the Greek, the sense will be, “ tranferred into life eternal," “ conveyed into that state of felicity.” But this is evidently absurd ; for those who then heard the preaching of Paul, and received his doctrine, are called TETAYMÉvos εις ζωήν αιώνιον. They were yet living and standing before him. What, therefore is the import? A comparison of the Hebrew shows that those to whom any thing was certain, are said to be appointed, or ordained to that thing. The evident import of the passage then is this: to as many as were certain of eternal happiness, to them that happiness was ordained, and they received the instruction of Paul.
In Col. iii. 14, αγάπη is called σύνδεσμος της τελειότητος. Those who recollect the Hebrew usage, will translate this by a substantive and an adjective: a perfect bond. But D'on is by the Hebrew applied to whatever is correct and finished, or excellent and beautiful. With the Hebrew construction and signification, the sense of this passage will be : love is the most beautiful bond. And the discourse here refers to the cultivation of mutual affection, which is the best and the firmest bond of society. But if this passage is explained from the Greek, what will be its import? dúvdequos means a bundle, and a bundle is composed of many things embraced in one. Love, therefore, which is called ouvdsouos, consists of many virtues embraced in itself. Tɛɛórns was used by the Greeks to denote any thing entirely finished, a final consummation. What then is a bundle of perfection? They explain it thus : In love as in a bundle all the other virtues are generally collected and embraced.
Nor do those succeed better who, independently of the Hebrew, attempt to define the words election, predestination, and calling, from the Greek šxhɛyεiv, googilsiv, and xamēr, or to explain them from the Latin usage. In like manner the word avấuja, the phrase Christ in us, and the word covenant, are not clearly explained by those who draw the import of avêuwa from the Greek or Latin usage, who explain covenant by its use among men, and who make Christ in us to mean, that Christ is actually dwelling in the breasts of men. When the Hebrew is consulted, it is evident at once, that 1717 is not always applied to a person, but in many other ways; that he is merely a promise with a condition annexed ; and that Christ in us, denotes that his doctrine is published in the assembly, and present to the hearts of men. From this same fountain have flowed many false, though approved opinions.
On such authority, a debate once somewhere arose, concerning the person of the Spirit; when it ought to have been concerning an entirely different thing. And from 2 Cor. xii. 9, concerning the moral weakness of the saints,