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Remarks

UPON A

NEW TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE.

&c. &c.

(Concluded from page 391.)

CHAP. VI.

Uniformity sense in Scripture preserved by tradition. Vow

els and accents applied to the text in conformity with the traditional readings. Cappellus supposes these readings to have been preserved by the use of the matres lectionis before the invention of vowels. Version of Aquila conformable with the Masoretical text, as well with respect to vowels as to consonants. Various vowel readings of the Septuagint, contrasted with those of Aquila. Singular reading of the Septuagint Isaiah ix. 6. Theodotio's Version less conformable with the Masoretical text, than Aquila's. Masoretical readings genuine. No other edition of the Hebrew text extant. Griesbach's mode of detecting different editions. Masoretical text long anterior to the date of our most ancient MSS. incontrovertibly more than thirteen centuries old. Marks the distinction of words and supplies correct pauses. A similar copy of the New Testament, if of high antiquity, would be greatly valued.

ADMITTING then, that the Bible was originally written, and published, without vowels and accents of every description, how, we may be asked, has the genuine sense of the text been preserved ? Elias the Levite, the great Jewish advocate for the more modern invention of the points, answers; by tradition.

It is universally allowed, that the canon of Scripture was finally settled by Ezra after the return from the Babylonian captivity ; and we are told, that Levites appointed to the office caused the people to understand the law," and that “they read in the book of the law of God dis. tinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. "* I quote this passage merely to point out, if not the commencement, at least the revival, of the practice of reading the Scriptures publicly to the people. Nor will it perhaps be disputed, that this practice, which the New Testament proves not to have been disused in our Saviour's time, has been continued down to the present day. If therefore the books of Scripture have been constantly read in the synagogue from the period of their republication by Ezra, must not that reading have been always marked by some established, as well as appropriate, distinction of vowels ? And would not one generation scrupulously teach another the same discrimination of sense in the

way alluded to, which it had itself learnt from the generation preceding it? This is precisely still the case. For the daily readers in the synagogue, using an unpointed copy, are under the necessity of themselves supplying the vowels memoriter by established rules, which they have been taught by others. Now indeed the task of previous instruction is indisputably facilitated by the adoption of the Masoretical system; but simple as the characteristical notation of vowels by the mere application of points to the consonants appears to be, can we reasonably conceive, that so many ages could have elapsed from the days of Ezra to those of the persons usually termed the Maso

* Nehemiah viii. 8.

rets of Tiberias, without any attempt at a similar notation, for so important a purpose, of some kind or other ?

An uniformity of reading, I do not mean in pronunciation, (for the pronunciation of one race of Jews differs from that of another,) but in sense, effected by the use of appropriate vowels, must have always prevailed in every synagogue; and among a people, so vain of their national religion, and so superstitiously attached to their sacred books, any innovation of meaning in the public reading of those books, for the purpose of religious instruction, could never surely have been tolerated. In the same manner as the Fathers of the existing synagogue had themselves been taught, would their sons be taught, to read them; and so on through successive generations. It is indeed possible that this uniformity might sometimes have been disturbed in particular instances by conceit, or ignorance ;

but innovations of the kind alluded to could not have been very considerable either in number or in importance. For had a diversity of reading obtained in different synagogues and in different countries, history surely would have recorded something like opposition to the Masoretical attempt of fixing the sense of Scripture by an undeviating standard of characteristical vowels. But nothing of this description remains on record; a convincing argument, I apprehend, that the application of the Masoretical vowels was in perfect conformity with that sense of the text, which had always been taught, and was universally approved, whether preserved, in the preparatory instruction for the public service of the synagogue, by mere oral tradition, or by the use of a vowel system less refined and more imperfect.

It seems therefore, that the Masoretical, or received Hebrew, text, comprising as well vowels as consonants, affords a traditional sense of Scripture more accurate, than is to be elsewhere found. Its vowel system, whether only a refinement upon one previously in use, or altogether a new invention, appears to have been originally admitted into it in perfect conformity with readings founded upon established usage. That the readings indeed expressed by the vowels had been always precisely the same, without having ever experienced the minutest variation, it would be absurd to affirm ; for that would not have been the case, had even such vowels been added to the text by the inspired writers themselves; but that a general uniformity of reading, traditionally delivered down, prevailed at the time of their being added to it, whensoever that time really was, will not perhaps be controverted.

Indeed the latter point alluded to is not denied by those who contend, that the existing vowel system was altogether unknown, until after the completion of the Babylonian Talmud about the year 500. Nor do they argue that before that period no substitute whatsoever for the distinct notation of vowels was in use. On the other hand they maintain, that the place of points in the art of instruction was supplied by what are known under the name of matres lectionis. But let us hear the great authority upon the question, Cappellus himself. In answer to an opponent he says; Pugnat Bootius adversus umbram suam, sive somnium et commentum. Quis enim illi negat aliquam fuisse apud Hebræos, ante Masorethas, rationem legendi et intelligendi Hebraica non punctata ? Annon legit Arcanum meum ? Videat lib. i. cap. 18, 19, ubi totam illam rationem fuse satis totis illis capitibus explico. Literæ nempe '1X multis in locis supplebant locum vocalium, ac lectorem linguæ Hebraicæ peritum juvabant, adhibita attenta vocum singularum in serie orationis consideratione, per quam vocum extra seriem orationis positarum homonymia tollitur. * And in the chapters of his

* Critica Sacra, Vol. iii. p. 574.

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