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1.-Notes, Critical and Practical, on the Book of Genesis ;
designed as a general help to Biblical Reading and Instruction. By George Bush, Prof. of Heb. and Orient. Lit., N. Y. City University. In two volumes. Third Edition. Andover and New-York: Gould, Newman and
Saxton, 1839. pp. 364, 444. We congratulate our readers on the completion of Prof. Bush's Commentary on Genesis, the first volume of which we have before noticed. We do not mean to say that this commentary is better adapted to popular use than any other, but we think that its author has formed a happy conception of what a commentary ought to be. We think that his work on Genesis exhibits the following excellences. (To say that it has some faults is only to say, it is a human production.)
First. A clear exposition of the original text. The first duty of a commentator is to express clearly the sense of his author. He must therefore have a correct and familiar knowledge of the language in which his author wrote ; not a mere lexicographical knowledge, but an acquaintance with idioms, and a nice discernment of the variations in the usus loquendi. He must be able to trace analogies between words, to adduce parallelisms, and place the reader in the precise situation of those whom the author originally addressed. Prof. Bush has adopted the happy method of often giving at the outset the original Hebrew word or phrase with a literal version, and he confirms his rendering, when the case demands, by a copious citation of parallels. This process often precludes the necessity of an extended exposition, and puts the reader at once in the footsteps of an oriental. It thus in a measure supplies the place of an acquaintance with the original Hebrew.
Secondly. A commendable fearlessness in meeting, and general success in solving, the difficulties of the sacred text. Com. mentators often eschew the real difficulties, and wax mightily erudite and eloquent where there is nothing to trouble them. Not so Prof. Bush. He shuns nothing, shrinks from nothing, but marches up boldly to the loci vexati. Hence the reader when harassed with the obscureness of the text is not vexed with evasions in his commentator, but finds a readiness to give solutions which seldom leave the mind so unsatisfied as they found it. The Professor is happy in his use of the ancient versions, and the Targums, and by means of them often puts his reader upon the right track of interpreting for himself.
Thirdly. True judiciousness and candor. He seems to know when to be diffuse and when to be brief ; makes no display of learning for mere effect; does not mean to bring a “prejudicate sense” to the sacred volume, nor to sustain any pre-conceived system, but chooses to follow where inspiration leads, and to substantiate his assertions, as far as truth requires, by philological induction. Hence the reader is freed from suspicions that the commentary is to be made an instrument for party purposes, and to defend a favorite sect per fas vel nefas. Prof. Bush is not a sectarian expositor.
Fourthly. Fulness and pertinency of illustration. Our author has a good idea of the requisite furniture for a commentary, and hence avails himself of oriental sources of illustration, and makes travellers largely tributary to the explanation of costumes, manners, topography, etc. etc. His ideas are thus expressed with vividness and spirit.
Fifthly. The work is consequently well fitted to arrest and confine attention. Prof. Bush is very far from presenting the truths of Scripture in a dry light. He is evidently in love with his work, and writes con amore ; he therefore diffuses an interest through his pages and allures the reader to further investigation. His quotations from the old English fathers are especially rich and attractive, and his work is so written as to be interesting in the perusal as well as useful for reference.
Sixthly. Practical character. The Notes are written with the recollection that “all truth is in order to goodness," and that the Bible is not a dead letter but is quick with spiritual vitality. There is a union of the exegetical with the ethical, and an ease and felicity in the introduction of practical remarks, which we are always glad to see. The German mode of severing the homiletic from the hermeneutic interpretation may be desirable for certain classes and at certain times, but is not the best adapted for popular benefit among churches like our own.
We think, on the whole, that Prof. Bush has adopted a happy medium for instructing and quickening the mass of mind in our religious community. We anticipate an exten
sive and beneficial influence from his biblical labors, and cordially recommend his Notes on Genesis to ministers, theological students, teachers in Bible classes and Sabbath schools. We shall look with interest for the appearance of his commentary on the other books of the Old Testament, and we expect that his originality of conception, and his industrious research, will be the means of awakening a fresher and more general desire to investigate the meaning of the inspired text.
2.—The Comprehensive Commentary on the Holy Bible. Edited
by the Rev. William Jenks, D. D. of Boston. Published at Brattleborough, Vt., by the Brattleborough Typographic
Company. This great work has been completed for several months, and we take this opportunity to give some account of its vari. ous and very useful contents. The plan of re-editing Henry's Exposition, in an abridged form, originated with John C. Hol. brook, Esq., of Brattleborough, Vt., and was by him communicated to Drs. Jenks and Wisner of Boston. The latter, having engaged in his duties as one of the secretaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, did not engage actually in the enterprise. Dr. Jenks has had the sole general charge and responsibility. He has, however, received able assistance from several gentlemen, particularly from his son, Joseph W. Jenks, M. A., and the Rev. L. Ives Hoadley of Charlestown. Both are to be considered as joint editors with Dr. Jenks in the undertaking. It was soon agreed to combine with Henry's, Dr. Scott's admirable Commentary, as far as it was practicable. Much use has also been made of the labors of Vitringa, Lowth, Doddridge, Campbell, McKnight, Bloomfield, Kuinoel, Rosenmueller father and son, Whitby, Patrick, Adam Clarke, Stuart, and many others. The text, according to the common version, is first printed ; then succeed the exposition of Henry abridged ; Scott's observations condensed, and, finally, original and selected notes and illustrations from a great variety of sources, and of a critical, philological, topographical, geographical and practical character.
The work is completed, (not including the supplement), in five large octavo volumes of between five and six thousand pages in all. The reading matter is nearly equal to that in seventy common octavos of 450 pages each, which would have cost, at the common price, more than 150 dollars. The whole cost of bringing out the work, exclusive of paper, printing and binding, has been about 50,000 dollars. On the whole, it has been one of the most expensive works ever published in this country, ranking in the same class in respect to the pecuniary outlay, with Brewster's Edinburgh Encyclopædia and Lieber's American Encyclopædia. The principal advantages of the publication may be stated as follows.
1. It has the pith and marrow of Henry. It presents the best thoughts of this prince of practical commentators in a compressed form. Most biblical readers have not the time to read Henry in its exuberant and diffuse original shape. It includes too much, as we may say, of a good thing. We are cloyed with the excessive sweetness. Besides, Henry deduces many thoughts from his texts, which do not legitimately flow from them. They are in a sense, additions to the word of God. They were not suggested by logical reasoning or fair inference, but by a prolific fancy. Henry's thoughts have been extracted and condensed, in the Comprehensive Commentary, as we believe, honestly and conscientiously. There could be, indeed, no motive for prevarication and deception. The original exposition is so multiplied among us, that the cheat could have been instantly detected.
2. We have many of the most valuable practical remarks, and not a few of the exegetical notes of Dr. Scott. This venerable Commentator was not accurately skilled in the original languages of the Scriptures. As a mere philological work, his commentary is very deficient. He was, however, a man of strong mind, of sound judgment, deep knowledge of human nature, of large experience in the Christian life, and firm in his attachment to the orthodox doctrines. Hence, his commentary, as a practical work, is unrivalled. It is full of experimental knowledge for the advanced Christian. Dr. Scott is always sober and in earnest. The editors of the Comprehensive Commentary have done well to copy largely from him. He has not the sententiousness or the lively terms of Henry; but neither has he the conceits, the prolixity, and the inconsequential reasonings which considerably mar the pages of Henry.
3. We attach great value to the more direct and original labors of Dr. Jenks and his coadjutors. The results of their investigations are not, indeed so prominent, being found mostly in the smallest type. They have condensed in a limited space much curious and important information, the fruits of learned study, and of extensive reading. Familiar use has been made of the great work on Egypt, prepared by the scientific and literary corps under the orders of Napoleon. The later
researches of the Champollions, of Rosellinî, of Wilkinson, Lane, and others have not been lost sight of. Many of these illustrations were drawn directly from the original fountains, and they are of inestimable value. They sometimes cast light on the obscurest passages in the most difficult books of the Old Testament.
4. There is a great number of engravings on steel and wood. Some of these are very finely done, and greatly increase the interest and value of the work. The numerous maps and engravings will add materially to the worth of the volumes for Sabbath School teachers in the country, who cannot easily have access to large libraries or bookstores. Much use has been made by the editors of the plates, and pictures of Laborde, Porter, Wilkinson, Arundel, and of the excellent illustrations of the Bible by the Messrs. Finden, of London.
5. The editors have supplied a very valuable supplementary volume, which is nearly indispensable to the readers of the commentary. It comprises a new concordance to the Bible, with many illustrations on wood, a guide to the study of the Bible, embracing Evidences of Christianity, History of the Bible, Jewish Antiquities, Arts, Sciences, etc., being Carpenter's Biblical Companion condensed, biographical notices of nearly every author quoted in the Commentary, with copious lives of Henry, Scott and Doddridge, and a select list of biblical helps, an index to the Bible; Wemyss's Symbol Dictionary, Chronological and other Tables, and a complete and full index to the Comprehensive Commentary.
In conclusion, the editors and spirited publishers of this commentary have conferred, in our opinion, an inestimable service on the religious community by the wide diffusion of these six volumes. Thousands of families are thus put in possession, at a low rate, of a great amount of religious reading. The Commentary is, without doubt, imperfect. A carping criticism may delight to detect maculæ. The judicious biblical critic may demur at many of the exegetical observations of Henry and of others. Still, all candid and enlightened Christians will rejoice to know that the treasures of wisdom which flowed from the hearts and lips of such men as Henry, Scott and Doddridge are the possession, reverently examined morning and evening, at ten thousand firesides throughout the land.