Page images
PDF
EPUB

tures, and frequently, if not generally, the art and science of interpretation is a distinct branch of study. In England, (we now speak with reference to the established church, for we have no means of knowing the usual course of theological education among the dissenters, there is, according to Professor Pusey, no direct theological education for candidates for holy orders. It is true, the universities have, in theory, a professional character; the statutes of Oxford, and we presume those of Cambridge also, requiring candidates for orders to spend several years in attendance upon the lectures of the divinity professor. But this condition is dispensed with in fact, and the candidate permitted to prepare himself for his examination, before the bishop, in any way he may choose.

choose. Private study at home forms the general preparation. It should be recollected here, that in the English universities much more attention is given to the learned languages than is done in our colleges, and that those who choose may receive instruction in Hebrew, and other branches connected with the critical study of the bible, before they receive their first degree.

A history of what has been done in our country within a few years, for the advancement of sacred literature, would suffice to show that American talent has by no means neglected this important department of knowledge. Twenty or thirty years since, the theological student looked in vain in our bookstores for the apparatus necessary to a successful prosecution of the study of the original scriptures. His eye might occasionally light upon a Hebrew grammar, or lexicon, or a commentary on the original text, but they were all from a far country, and most of them in a foreign tongue. The libraries of our colleges and other institutions were also comparatively destitute of suitable helps for a critical understanding of the bible. In the department of commentary, the student was generally obliged to content himself with such writers as Henry, Scott, Poole, Doddridge, Whitby and Gill.

Such was the state of things, essentially, when Professor Stuart of the theological seminary at Audover was called to the chair of sacred literature in that institution. There was not a Hebrew grammar, nor lexicon, nor any treatise on interpretation in the English language, which was adapted to the wants of a theological class, in his department of instruction. Nor was there much taste in the community for the study of the original scriptures. In 1821, Professor Stuart published a Hebrew grammar with a copious syntax and praxis, which has since passed through five editions in this country, and we think nearly as many in England. The basis of this work was the Hebrew grammar of Gesenius, published in 1817, the appearance of which, says Professor Stuart, in ar, early edition of his

own, must form an era in Hebrew literature. Accompanying this grammar was a little work entitled, a “ Dissertation on the importance and best method of studying the original languages of the Bible, by Jahn and others." The next year, the excellent little manual of Ernesti, entitled “Elements of Interpretation," was translated from the Latin by Professor Stuart, who added notes and an appendix, containing extracts from Morus, Beck, and Keil. In 1824, the manual Hebrew lexicon of Gesenius, abridged by the author himself from his large work in two volumes, appeared in an English dress from the hands of Mr. J. W. Gibbs, now professor of sacred literature in Yale College. The next year, Professor Robinson, then of Andover, gave to the American public a translation and revision of Wahl's invaluable lexicon of the New Testament. The appearance of these and some other works of a kindred character, su nearly at the same time, gave an impulse to biblical learning in New England, and through the country, which, we doubt not, will be felt by distant generations. No sooner had our theological students begun to read the scriptures with ease in the original, than they sought for commentaries on the Greek and Hebrew text. Unable to find these either at home or in the land of their fathers, they went over to the continent, and drew upon the philological treasures which had been accumulating under the diligent hands of the Germans. Since that time much use has been made, in the interpretation of scripture, of such writers as Kuinoel, Rosenmüller, Titmann, De Wette, Bretschneider, Jahn, and Gesenius. We need not say, that the theology of many of the ablest German philologists finds few friends among those who, on this side the water, seek their acquaintance merely as guides in the study of language and biblical antiquities. Among the works in the department of biblical criticism which have recently been translated and published in our country, in addition to the one at the head of this article, we may mention Herder's Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, a charming work, Planck's Introduction to Sacred Philology and Interpretation, and Hug's Introduction to the New Testament. This last work, which is the most able of its kind of any thing we have seen, was translated and published in England a few years since; but the translation was so imperfect, that the American publishers procured a new version of the whole work. We understand that a translation of Hengstenberg's Christology is in press, and also that Olshausen's Commentary on the Gospels is in the hands of a translator. Professor Robinson has nearly completed a translation of Gesenius's Hebrew Lexicon, which will be given to the public in a few months. A new Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, by Professor Robinson, is also in press and will soon appear. The

basis of this work is probably the Lexicon of Wahl, to which allusion has been made, but the whole is undergoing such a revision and receiving such additions, as to entitle it to the reputation of a new work. From our knowledge of Professor Robinson, and the labour he is bestowing on this lexicon, we do not hesitate to say, that it will be superior to any New Testament lexicon that has ever appeared in any language. Besides being a book of verbal explanations, it will be a compendious commentary on all the books of the New Testament.

We have said nothing of the commentaries which have been produced on this side of the water, within the last few years. The principal of these are the two works of Professor Stuart, the one on the Epistle to the Romans, the other on the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the recent work of Professor Hodge, of Princeton, on the Epistle to the Romans. The commentaries of Professor Stuart have acquired a deserved celebrity with a large class of divines, and we believe they are acknowledged by all to be equal, if not superior, in philological merit, to any others which have appeared in the English language. The principal exceptions which have been made to them, have been made on theological grounds. They are upon the German plan, their chief object being to develope the precise meaning of the text; but the author is too fond of theological disquisition to conceal, at all times, his peculiar doctrinal and metaphysical views. These works have been republished in England, where they have received no sinall praise. The work of Professor Hodge we have not had time carefully to examine, but believe it will be found worthy of the age and of the institution from which it emanates. It appears to be sufficiently critical, and is certainly candid and judicious. In addition to these principal commentaries, we might mention the notes on several of the books of the Pentateuch, by Professor Bush of the New York university, and also notes on the Gospels, Acts, and Epistle to the Romans, by Albert Barnes of Philadelphia. A version of the books of Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Joel, and Micah, has been made by Mr. George R. Noyes, which in many respects possesses very considerable merit.

Perhaps some foreign reviewer may pertly say, that America has produced no elaborate, original work in the department of sacred literature. We are ready to confess that we have no Vitringa, who can show his two folios of commentary upon a single book of the canon; nor Lowth nor Herder, who has unlocked the rich stores of Hebrew poetry; nor Lightfoot, who has entered the arcana of Jewish lore, brought out its riches, and cast them into an available form for the use of subsequent interpreters; nor Griesbach, who has nicely balanced the conflicting claims of the thousand different readings of the Greek

text of the New Testament; nor Gesenius, who has fathomed the depths of oriental philology. We have no such names as these, nor is it at all to our disparagement that we have not. They are not the growth of new soil; they are to be looked for only in countries where the sons find the foundations of biblical learning deeply laid in the labours of the fathers, and where men may give their days and their nights to uninterrupted study. It is enough for us at present that we have biblical scholars whose talents and industry are procuring them a name among the candid of other countries, and whose efforts are diffusing a sound and healthful knowledge of the scriptures among the rising millions of this western world. We have no special desire to be considered original; we have no particular respect for what the world in these days calls originality. In biblical matters, we esteem the man who selects, arranges, and condenses judiciously, what able critics have said before him, as great a benefactor to those who could not have access to or read the originals, as one who should spend his life in search after something new, with which he might astonish the learned world. We care not whence the commentator obtains his ore, provided the metal he extracts from it be good, and he coin it skilfully, so that there shall be no fraud nor deception to those who receive it.

The translation of the commentary on the gospel of St. John, upon which we shall now add a few words, is a welcome addition to the exegetical works already in the hands of the American divine. The writings of the beloved disciple, and particularly his gospel, are, in our opinion, more difficult of a full and adequate exposition, than any other part of the New Testament. An examination of the different commentaries which have appeared on this gospel, will justify this opinion. Not that his words are far-fetched, or their collocation strained or artificial, -for no writer could possibly exhibit greater simplicity and naturalness of expression; but there is a reach of thought and depth of spiritual meaning in his sentences, which few minds are prepared to appreciate or to see. He addresses himself not simply to the intellect, but to the more refined and spiritual sensibilities of the inner man. Even in his narrations it is apparent that his eye is on the heart, and that it is the conscience which he is aiming to excite. He is desirous of awaking in the bosom of the reader a deep response to the sweet voice of Divine love, which shall result in a living union between the spirit of the reader and the spirit of the Divine Redeemer. This peculiarity in the writings of this apostle, which is the one that renders them so precious and refreshing to the unlearned and unsophisticated Christian, has been a great stumbling-block to many modern interpreters, and presents a real difficulty to the man

who looks at every thing in the inspired volume as addressed, simply or principally, to the intellect or ratiocinative faculty. Hahn lays it down as a fundamental principle, that the interpreter of holy writings should be himself a holy man, and come to the reading of the holy scriptures with a heart open and longing for all that is good, true, and divine. His meaning, when generalized, we suppose to be, that the spirit of the interpreter must harmonize with the spirit of the original writer, consciousness meeting consciousness, and heart responding unto heart. Without this, there are many writers that we can not interpret. even philologically. The man who would understand the words of a poet, and make them the medium of the poet's thoughts to his own mind, must have the spirit and sensibilities of a poet. Paradise Lost was a sealed book ; its

very lines, were unintelligible, to the mathematician who looked for a quod erat demonstrandum at the close. The spirit of our evangelist, which so delicately pervades every part of his gospel, is so diverse from the spirit of man, in its native untrained state, that most interpreters have failed to penetrate and disclose the rich, full meaning of his language.

Professor Tholuck, who has had the diligence and intrepidity to present the world with a commentary on this difficult book of scripture, is the man whom; above all others within our knowledge, we should have selected for so important a work. He possesses, in an eminent degree, all the requisites of a commentator, which we noticed above. Though less than forty years of age, he has acquired by his talents, industry, and Christian spirit, a greater personal influence and reputation among his countrymen, than is possessed by any other theologian of Germany. At the early age of twenty-three, he wrote a treatise on the nature and moral influence of heathenism, especially among the Greeks and Romans, viewed in the light of Christianity, which Gesenius, though differing widely from its author in religious opinions, pronounced the ablest performance that had appeared on the subject. He has also written a work on Sin, and a Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, each of which, it is said, (we have not read the former of these at all, nor the latter carefully,) would confer upon their author an enviable reputation. The principal languages of modern Europe, as the translator informs us in his preface, he speaks with ease and fluency; the Latin and Greek, if we may judge from his writings, are almost like his vernacular tongue; and his acquaintance with poetry and philosophy, both ancient and modern, as extensive and thorough as perhaps that of any other man living. In addition to his labours as a professor of theology, and liberal contributions to the theological and philosophical literature of his country, he has edited some valuable

« PreviousContinue »