Page images

librarian to collect books for that purpose, who in a letter to the king preserved by Eusebius', tells him that he had diligently executed his orders; but that with some few other books, there remained the books of the law of the Jews to be got, which he says were contained in Hebrew letters and vowels; for what else can be meant by purn, as distinguished from letters ? not the pronunciation and sound, which those volumes could not be said to lie in, but the vowel-points, by which the letters were read and pronounced, and are annexed to them for that purpose; so that it seems at this time the books of the Jews were written not only in Hebrew letters, but with Hebrew points, and in their own characters, as Demetrius says', which were different both from the Egyptian and Syrian, as he affirms ; and which deserves to be remarked, as what may be of some service to Thew what were the Hebrew characters then in use: and though it is commonly supposed that the seventy interpreters used an unpointed copy from which they translated, whence came fo many mis. takes to be made in their version ; yet Hottinger " has observed near fifty places in which for Kametz they read Tzere or Segol; fo Leusden " observes, that they read words with wrong vowels, as Tzere for Kametz, Psal. xl. 5. Patacb for Tzere, Psal. vii. 12. Chirek for Patach, Psal. vii. 7. Patach for Segol, Pfal. xci. 3. and which might be owing either to a vitiated pointed copy before them, which led them wrong; or to an unpointed copy, and trusting to their me. mory, put one point for another ; though Dr Lightfoot* suggests they purposely “ used an unpricked Bible, in which the words written without vow“ els might be bended divers ways, and into divers senses, and different from “ the meaning of the original; and yet if the translation was questioned they “ might prick or vowel the word so as to agree to their translation : how they « have dealt in this kind there is none that ever laid the Hebrew Bible and the “ Septuagint together, but hath observed ;” though he adds, “ their diffe“ rences from the original, which were innumerable, were partly of igno“ rance, they themselves not being able to read the text always true, in a

copy unvowelled; but this ignorance was also voluntary in them; they not “ caring to mistake, so that they might do it with their own security ;” and so Mr Broughton says, “ that the seventy had not the vowelled Bible, both “ for the rareness, and because they never meant to give the truth ;” but be it that they used an unpointed Bible purposely, or a pointed one vitiated, it Thews that points were in use in their time, and very necessary: and it may VOL. III.

be • Præpar.Evangel.1.8 c.3 P-351. 'ApudEuseb.p.350. VideAristeæ Hift.70.p.4,5.Ed. Oxon. 1692. Thesaur. Philolog. 1. 1. c. 3. p. 354, &c. w Philolog. Heb. Mixt. Dissert. 4. P 31. Works, vol. 1. p.490. y Works, p. 670, 684.

4 A

be observed, that the Pentatuech, which some, as Josephus and others, think was the only part of Scripture translated by them, is almost every where translated in agreement with the modern punctuation ; and Jerom a long ago observed this, that the five books of Mofes translated by them more agreed with the Hebrew than any other. It is an observation of - Capellus himself, that the seventy interpreters, who lived about 300 years before Christ, instead of the tetragrammaton, or the word Jehovah, always read Adonai, and always render it by xupios, a word nor expressive of essence, as Jehovah is, but of lordship, as Adonai is ; and that they are followed in this by the Apostles of Christ, and the rest of the writers of the New Testament, and the ancient fathers of the church ; and that from them the Greek interpreters of the Old Testament never depart, as Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. Now what could lead them to read Adonai, and sometimes Elobim instead of Jebovab, and tranNate the word accordingly? not the consonant letters of Jehovab, but the points of Adonai and Elobim put unto it as they now are ; and Capellus plainly confesses that this word had the points of Adonai, and sometimes of Elobim in their time ; for he says, the seventy when 1717 has the points of Onbe oftener render it Rupoe xupír, as Pfal. Ixviii. 21. & pallim, and sometimes rupoos, and boos, as in Amos iii. 7, &c. from whence it is conjectured that for Adonai Jebovah they read Adonai Elobim.

A. 454. Ante Christum. In this year, according to bishop Usher, Ezra was returned from Babylon, and was at Jerusalem, and read, and expounded the law to the people of the Jews there. It is the generally received notion of the Jews, that the vowel-points were annexed to the letters of the sacred Books by Ezra; not but that they suppose they were originally from Moses and the prophets, and that they are equally of divine authority as the letters; only they imagine they were delivered down from them by oral tradition to the times of Ezra, and by him affixed to the letters; and Elias, who invented the story of the men of Tiberias, is of the same mind, only with this difference, that the oral tradition of the points was carried down to those men, and they put thein to the letters : as much like a fiction as this oral tradition looks, as it undoubtedly does, yet it is little less, if any, what Capellus and Walton allow, especially the latter ; that the pointing of the Majoretes is not arbitrary,

and ? Quæft

. seu Trad. Heb, in Gen, fol. 65. D. Tom. 3. Orat. de Nom, Tetragram. p.183,191,992. Ibid. p. 146.

• Annal. Vet. Teft. p. 197..

[ocr errors]

and at their pleasure, but according to the found, pronunciation, true and accustomed reading, always in use, handed down successively to their times, and which contains the true sense and meaning of the holy Ghost. Dr John Prideaux ",an opposer of the antiquity of the points, yet thinks it probable that some of the points and accents for the distinction of the text, and, for the direction of the reading, were devised by Ezra, and by the succeeding Masoretes before the Talmudists, and were preserved in separate parchments and Theets, and that they were used and increased to the times of the Tiberian Maforetes, who were after the Talmudifts ; which is giving up the invention of them by the men of Tiberias, and ascribing the original of them to Ezra. Many who are clear for the divine authority of the points and accents are content they should be ascribed to Ezra, since he was divinely inspired, as Buxtorff and others; and it may safely be concluded that the points and accents were in being in his time, since the Masorab which was begun by him, or about his time, at least by the men of his synagogue, is concerned about the points and accents, as well as other things, as has been observed; and besides, the Scribes, which were asistant to Ezra in reading the law, cannot well be thought to read, at least so well, to read it diftin&tly, and cause the people to understand the reading of it, even then, women and children, with out the points. Not to take any farther notice of the sense the Talmudifts, both Jerusalem and Babylonián,"give of the text in Neb. viii. 8.' I now refer to, which has been quoted already. - Dr Humphrey Prideaux, though he took that side of the question, which denies that thë vowel.points were affixed by Ezra, and of the same divine authority with the rest of the text, yet allows, that they came into use a little after the time of Ezra being thén nedelfary for the reading and teaching of the Hebrew text?; which is not only an acknowledgment of the great usefulness of the points, but carties, the antiquity of them very high ;' and I fee not if they'were needful for the reading and teaching of the Hebrew text a little after the time of Ezra; why they were not as necessary in the time of Ekra; for was the necessity of them owing to the Hebrew language, then ceasing to be vulgarly spoken, To, cčariling, to hini, it did cease to be in the times of Ezra ; though I apprehend that is a mistake, for it was some hundreds of years after, ere it ceased ro'be villgårly spoken."

There is 'nothing to be observed between the times of Ezra and Moses relative to the points; for I lay no stress upon the different prófunciation of

Shibbole:b, • Viginti& duæ Lediones, Lcētó 1 2. p. 196, 1972 - Casaubor. Epift. ép? 350 Porthalic, p.468. Connection, par, 1. b. 5. P. 352, 353

wise bosto da to i tad inducit

4 A 2


Sbibboleth, in Judges xii. 6. though Schindler 5 is of opinion that from hence it appears, that the point on the right and left hand of u was then in use, and so by consequence the other points also.

Elias Levita“, roundly asserts, that the copy of the law which was given by Moses to the children of Israel was without points and accents ; but this is said without proof, and is what no man is able to prove. He quotes Aben Ezra', who says, the points were delivered at Sinai, but the tables of the law were not pointed, which seems to be a flat contradiction, at least it is · what is very improbable. Much better does another writer


whom he mentions, who in answer to the question, How do we know that the points and accents are of God ? says, “ It may be replied, what is written " in Deut. xxvii. 8. and thou felt write upon the stones all the words of ibis law

very plainly; but without the points and accents, which explain the words,

no man, he says, can understand them clearly and plainly:" and whatever may be said for the king's writing out a copy of the law, and reading in it all the days of his life, Deut. xvii. 18, 19. and for the priests reading it once a year in the hearing of all Israel, which yet is not very easy to account for, without the points, so as to be understood, Deut. xxxi. 11. yet how the common people should be able to read it to their children, and teach them the knowledge of it without the points, is still more difficult of belief.

The common opinion of the Jews is, either that the points and accents were delivered to Mofes on mount Sinai, yet only as to the power of pronouncing and reading, but not as to their marks and figures in writing ; but that the true manner of reading the scriptures was propagated and preserved by oral tradition to the times of Ezra ; or that they were given to Mofes at Sinai, but were omitted in writing for the most part afterward, and so were forgotten, till Ezra came and restored them. But it rather seems that they were as early as the Hebrew letters; and since it is not improbable that these were before the flood, and before the confusion of tongues, the points were also; and could the sense of Gen. xi. 1. given by a late writer', be established, it would be out of all doubt ; which is this, and the whole earth was of ane language, that is, the Hebrew language, as afterwards called, and of one speech, or words, that is, according to this writer, words distinguished by acute or sharp points ; deriving the word used from 771 to sharpen, whereby he thinks, the Caucology in the text is avoided; and to which may be added, that the latter

clause 1 Lex. Pentaglott. col. 1792. vid Balmefii Gram. Heb. p. 14. lin. 9. 14. 16. Præfat. 3. ad Masoret. Zach Shephataim in ibid. * R. Levi bar Joseph Semadar, in ibid. ! Kall, de Ling. Heb. Natal. p. 33, 37, 38, 39. 1. The perfection of language requires vowels. No language can be perfect without them; they are the life and soul of language ; letters without them are indeed dead letters ; the consonants are stubborn and immoveable

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

clause of the text is plural : yet I fear the word will not bear this sense, since the singular and plural words used, the one in one clause, and the other in the other, must have a different derivation, which is not usual of a word in the same text.

If the book of Jetzirab was compiled by Abraham, to whom the Jews.commonly ascribe it, though sometimes to Adam, the points might be traced to his time; for in that book frequent mention is made of the double letters Begad Cepbat, or Begad Cepbrat, as there so called, because they have a double pronunciation, which pronunciation depends upon the points, their having or not having in them the Dage lene. But though there is no reason to believe that the book was written either by Abrabam or Adam, yet it is an ancient one, and by this instance it carries the antiquity of the points higher than is now commonly allowed unto them; for the book is spoken of in the Talmud ; and if it was written by R. Akiba, who is the only one mentioned by the Jews as the author of it, besides Adam and Abrabam, he died in the beginning of the second century; though if Jonatban ben Uzziel wrote a supplement to it, which was as a commentary on it, as is said", it must be before his time, since Jonathan was cotemporary with Christ, or a little after him; and it may be observed, that the double pronunciation of the above letters was in use in the times of Christ, as appears from the words Armageddon, Capernaum, Euphrates, Foppa, Pafcha, Sarepta, and others.

It is not only the opinion of some Jewish writers, that the vowel.points, as well as letters, were given by God himself to Adam, as the author of Cofri', and his commentator Muscatus , and of R. Azariab“, and of others; but some Christian writers also', ascribe them to Adam; and indeed, if the Hebrero letters were of his invention, as many have thought, and Walton himself thinks", there can be no reasonable doubt but the vowels were also; but be this as it may, I am inclined to believe that the vowels were coeval with the letters, and that the penmen of the sacred Scriptures, severally annexed the vowel-points to letters in their writings. My reasons are these :

things, • Corri, par. 4. C. 27. Juchasın, fol. 52. 2. · C. 1. 1. 2, 9, 10. &c. 2 1. 1. &c.4. f. 1-3

T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 65. 2. c Vide Wolfii Bibliothec. Heb. p. 28, f Par. 4. C. 250 8 In ibid. fol. 229. 1.

5 Meor Enayim, c. 59. Alsted. Chronolog. p. 267. vide Buxtorff. de Pun&t. Antiq. par. 2. p. 309, 310. * Prolegom. 2. 1.7.

« PreviousContinue »