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things, they cannot be moved or pronounced without vowels, which are, as Plato says', the bond of letters, by which they are joined, and without which they cannot be coupled together: can it be thought, therefore, that the Hebrew language, the first, and most perfect of all languages, should be without them, which, if this was the case, would be the most imperfect of all the oriental languages ? for notwithstanding what has been said to the contrary, the Samarilan had its points, though differing from the Hebrew, as Jerom observes“, and lo a later writer " has observed it has. The Syrians, Chaldeans, Arabs, and Persians, had vowel-points likewise, as Hottinger affirms, and so Dean Prideaux P. The invention of the Syriac vowel-points is indeed by some 9 ascribed to Ephrem Syrus, who lived in the fourth century; and as for the Ethiopic language, the vowels are incorporated into the consonants, and are a part of them, and so must be ab origine, and coeval with them; and even those who are for casting away the vowel-points, seem to be sensible of a necessicy of fubftituting something in their rooin, the matres le&tionis, as they call them, 98 to which some add n); but these are not sufficient, being wancing in a great number of words ; witness also the various methods of reading Hebrew, contrived by men ; but why should they be at pains to find out a method of reading and pronouncing the Hebrew language, when there is such a plain one at hand, ready prepared for them, and of which Walton himself says', that it is a most profitable and useful invention no man can deny ?
2. The nature and genius of the Hebrew language require points; without these the difference cannot be discerned between nouns and verbs, in some instances
many others : between verbs active, and verbs passive, between some conjugations, moods, tenses, and persons, Kal, Piel, Pual; imperatives and infinitives, are proofs hereof; nor can the Vau conversive of tenses be observed', which yet is used frequently throughout the Bible, and without which the formation of some of the renses by letters would be useless. Morinus him. self fays', “ That without the points a grammar cannot be written, as Elias “ rightly observes ; for example, describe the conjugation Kal without points, “ and immediately you will be at a stand, and much more in Piel;" and Walton" also owns the use of them in the investigation of the roots.
The pronunciation of some letters depends upon the points, as has been observed.
Sophista, p. 177
m Præfat ad Reg. T. 8. fol. 5. L. * Petrus a Valla in Antiq. Eccl. Orient. p. 184.
• Thesaur. Philolog. p. 403. p Connection, par. 1. b. 5. p. 55.
9 Vide Fabritii Bibliothec. Gr. tom. 5. p. 320. Prolegom. 8. f. 10. · Vide Cofrí, par. 2. c. 80. · Epift, Buxtorfio in Antiq. Eccl. Oriental. p. 392.
u Introduct Orient. Ling: p 5.
3. The vowel-points are necessary and useful to the more easy learning, reading, and pronouncing the Hebrew language. What men well skilled in the language may be able to do is one thing, and what learners of it, and beginners in it can do, is another thing; men well versed in it may choose to read without them; and so a man that is master of Brachygraphy may choose to read what he has written in short hand, and to which he is used, rather than in long hand; but this is no proof of the perfection and propriety of his Brachygrapby. “A tongue, as Dr Lightfoot says ", cannot first be learnt “ without vowels, though at last skill and practice may make it to be read “ without ; grammar, and not nature, makes men to do this :" and a late learned writer has observed “, “ That to talk of reading Hebrew without points, si is a collusive way of speaking; we may do it when we have learnt the lan
guage, but not before, as it is a dead language we want instructions either “ by word of mouth or by grammar.
Points in Hebrew are like scaffolds in “ building, when the work is finished we may take them down and throw them " aside, but not sooner with fafety.” Dr John Prideaux °, an opposer of the antiquity of the points, owns that “the tongue being tossed about by various “ calamities, the points were added; that it might be the more accurately pre“ served, and that by the Jews, to whom it ceased to be vernacular ; as also " that by others it might the more easily be understood, and be more exactly “ pronounced :" and elsewhere he says !, “ Let them be whose additions to the
text they may, they are so far from corrupting it, that they rather protect “ from corruption, and lead to a more easy reading and understanding of it ;"* and fo Walton”, another opposer of the points, says, “ The Christian church “ received their (the Masoretes) punctuation, not upon their authority, but “ because it expressed the true sense received in the church of God; and “ withal because they saw it conduced much to the more easy reading of the “ text, and even to the true reading of it, as he owns':” and their great master and chief leader Capellus', having created of the points and accents devised and added to the sacred Hebrew text by the Maforetes, as he supposed, frankly owns, “ That upon that account we now certainly owe much unto “ them ; or rather, should give thanks to God, who stirred up these men to “ it, and put them upon the study of it; for in that work they have certainly “ laboured most successfully, so that now, by the help of these little marks,
m Works, vol. 1. p. 1014. * Chappelow's Preface to his Comment on Job, p. 18, 19. • Viginti & duæ Lc&tiones, le&t. 12. p. 189. Fasciculus Controverf. de Script. qu. 3. p. 23. 9 The Considerator considered, p. 209.
Prolegom, 8. 1. 17. · Arcan, Punct. l. 3. c. 17. f 11.
“ we can far more easily, and even more happily, be conversant in reading and “ understanding the sacred Hebrew text, than otherwise could have been done " by us without this help.” Why then should it not be attended to? And indeed I cannot see how common people, men, women, and children, could be able to read it without puints, when it was their mother tongue ; it was their duty and interest to read their Bible in it, for whose fake it was written, and who had as great an interest and concern in it as men the most learned have, it being the grand charter of their salvation ; the Bible was not written for learned men only, but for these also, and therefore it was written, as it was proper it should be, in the most plain and easy manner.
4. The vowel-points and accents are useful and necessary, to remove ambiguity and confusion in words and sentences, and that the true sense of them may be come at with ease, by persons of the lowest capacity and meanest ability, for whose fake, as observed, the Bible was written ; and that they are of this use has been owned by the opposers of them : so Capellus ', speaking of the accents, says, “ Certainly chefe little marks, when ficly and opportunely put, " are indeed of this use, that sometimes we less hesitate about, and more “ expeditiously take in the mind and sense of the writer;" and so Walton says of the Maforetes ", that “ They pointed the text, not at their own will " and pleasure, but according to the true sense and received reading from the “ sacred writers to their times; hence the reading is made more easy, and the “ text less obnoxious to ambiguity and corruption.” Should it be said, as ic often is, that by attending to the connection of words, and to the context, the sense of a word in question may be foon and easily understood. Let it be observed; that all have not the same natural parts and abilities, and the like acumen of wit, clearness of understanding, and critical judgment, as particularly the above persons mentioned ; and besides, the words in connection and in the context being unpointed, some of them may be equally difficult to be understood, and the sense of them must be examined and fixed, ere the sense of the word in question can be determined ; all which will require time, and perhaps after all, entire satisfaction is not obtained : and if men who may be thought to be well versed in the language, and men of parts and abilities, have been led into mistakes, through a neglect or want of the points, much more may persons of mean and ordinary capacities. The authors of the several Greek versions of the Bible, the Septuagint interpreters, Aquila, Tbeodction, and Symmachus, were all Jews, excepting the last, and he was a Samaritan, and may be allowed to have a considerable share of knowledge of the
Hebrero · Arcan. Fun&t. 1. 2. C. 25. 6. 7.
• Prolegom, 8. 1. 10.
Hebrew language ; yet these, especially the seventy interpreters, neglecting the points, and translating without them, what gross senses have they put upon the text ? sometimes directly contrary to what is intended, sometimes what is very absurd, and even wicked and blafphemous, or nearly so; take an instance of each, God is angry every day, Psal. vii. 11. the Greek version is, does not bring on anger, or is not angry every day, the word be differently pointed, is used for God, and for the negative not. The passage in Ija. xxiv, 23. then the moon Mall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hofts hall reign, &c. which, with others, Dr Lowth represents ", as so grand and magnificent, and so coloured, that no tranNation can express, nor any altogether obscure; and yet this is most miserably obscured in the Greek version of it, and a sense given extremely low, mean, and absurd; the brick Mall waste, and the wall shall fall when the Lord reigns. &c. mas differently pointed signifies the moon, and a brick, and 700 the sun and a wall, the authors of this version have abfurdly taken the latter sense. Lam. iii. 33. it is be, that is, God, doth not willingly affliet; the Greek version is, he doth not answer from his beart, cordially and sincerely, thereby charging God with insincerity and diffimulation; yet the three letters ay unpointed, signify, to answer, as well as to afflict; in Kal it signifies the former, in Piel the latter ; which is the true sense here, and to be distinguished by the points, and how have the same interpreters, by changing points and letters, spoiled the famous prophecy of the Messiah in lfa. ix. 6. where, instead of everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, they translate, I will bring upon the princes peace; though the passage is otherwise produced by Clemens of Alexandria*, more agreeable to the Hebrew text; which shews that the Septuagint version is not in the same state now it formerly was. T'he learned Vitringa has observed ”, that “ The Greek interpreter of Alexandria, who came forth “ under the name and number of the Seventy, not being expert in the Jeru
Salem reading, has often in his unhappy and unlearned version, so deformed “ the prophet (Isaiab's) discourse, in the more obscure places, that Isaiah cannot “ be known again in Isaiab:” and through negligence or disuse of, or want of the points, the Greek interpreters have made mistakes, where one would think it was almost impossible they should ; thus "2 differently pointed, or without any points, may signify sons, or builders. They have taken the word in the first sense in i Kings v. 18. and contrary to the context and plain sense of the words, Vol. III.
w De Sacr. Poes. Heb. Prælect. 6. p. 69, 73.
read, Solomon's sons and Hiram's fons bewed them, the stones. The same word consisting of the same letters, as differently pointed, has two or three senses, and sometimes half a dozen, and even eight or ten, as the word 727. How difficult therefore must it be to attain unto, and settle the true sense, as in such and such a place, at least to common persons; and for these the Bible was originally written, as well as for learned men.
5. It will be difficult to assert and maintain the perspecuity of the scripture, laying aside the vowel-points accents ; and make it to comport with the wildom of God to deliver out his laws, the rule ef man's conduct both towards himself and one another, and doctrines designed to make men wise unto falvation, and to instruct them in matteus of the greatest moment for time and eternity : to deliver these, I say, in ambiguous words, that admit of various senses, and at best give a sense difficult to attain unto by men of the deepest learning, and of the greatest capacity. It is the part of a wise law-giver to express his laws, and of a king to publish his edicts, and of a teacher to give forth his doctrines and instructions in the clearest manner, in the plainest terms, in words the most easy to be understood ; and not in ambiguous language capable of admitting divers senses, and such as is contrary to what is intended ; and can it be thought that God, our law-giver and king, and who by his word proposes to teach men to profit, and to lead them by the way they should go, would act otherwise ?
6. Nor shall we be able, I fear, to support the infallibility of the scripture, that part of it the Old Testament, as a sure rule of faith and practice, when by taking away or laying aside the points, it becomes flexible, and may be turned as a nose of wax to any thing to serve a purpose, to countenance any doctrine or practice agreeable to the different tastes and inclinations of men; since hereby it will admit of different senses, and so in consequence must be uncertain, and not to be depended on : and, I fear it is this wantonness of spirit that has led many to throw away the points and accents, that they might be under no restraint, but at full liberty to interpret fcriptures as their fancy inclines, and their interest leads; but if the points give the true sense and mind of the Holy Spirit in the sacred writings, which has been owned by such who have opposed the divine original of them, why should they be laid aside, to make way for any sense the fancy of men may impose upon them? Walton in so many words affirms', that “they (the Maforetes) “ express in their punctuation the true sense of the Holy Ghost, which was
“ dictated Prolegom Polyglott, 3. 1 51.