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year. But, in addition to these larger sections, Stephens, who is said to have done it during the Parashim were distributed into Siderim, or journey from Paris to Lyons, about the middle of orders; and the whole divided into Pesukim, or the sixteenth century. verses, by means of two great points (:) called IV. We have now noticed all the divisions and soph-pasuk.
notes of distinction occurring in the sacred writings. 5. The custom of reading the New Testament They form, as the reader has seen, no part of the publicly in the Christian assemblies, would, of original text, but are mere human contrivances, course, soon suggest the propriety of some such adopted for the purpose of facilitating references divisions being made in this as had already been to the text, and of aiding our conceptions of its introduced into the Jewish Scriptures. This, in sense. That they are of great utility is undoubted; fact, took place. At a very early period, a divi- but it cannot be denied, that they are sometimes sion was made of the text into church lessons. attended with serious inconvenience and evil. The books thus divided, were called lectionaries, 1. The punctuation is often very faulty. In and the sections themselves, titles and chapters. In some of the carly printed editions the points seem the lectionaries there were other distinctions, of to have been put in almost at random, and even in great use, for the purposes of comparison and the present Greek text, as well as in the English quotation. The author of these sections, in the Version, the sense and beauty of many passages gospels, is supposed to have been Ammonius, of are marred by injudicious and inaccurate punctuAlexandria, whence they derived the name of Am- ation. The misplacing of a comma will not monian sections; those in the Acts of the Apostles, unfrequently alter the sense of a passage; and and in the Epistles, were introduced by Euthalius, the improper insertion of a full stop or a note of of whom we have already spoken.*
interrogation, must, it is evident, be still more sub6. The inventor of our present chapters was Cardi- versive of its real sense or meaning. Hence it is nal Hugo, who flourished about 1240. Ilaving pro- plain, that we should not blindly follow and adopt jected an alphabetical index of all the words and the decisions of those to whom we are indebted phrases in the Latin Vulgate, Hugo found it ne for the punctuation of the text: our own judgcessary, in order to facilitate references to the text, ment and understanding should be employed; and to divide it into distinct sections, which were sub- where a passage appears to be obscure or difficult, stantially the same as the chapters now commonly we may with propriety substitute such a mode of adopted. Instead of subdividing the chapters punctuation as will render it perspicuous and ininto verses, however, he effected a secondary di-telligible. To do this with propriety, will, of vision, by placing in the margin, at an equal dis- course, demand attention to the laws of criticism tance from each other, according to the length of and interpretation. the chapters, the first seven letters of the alpha
2. The inconvenience attendant upon our dibet, or as many of them as the length of the visions into chapters and verses is, that the sense chapters would admit of. Towards the middle of is often interrupted, and sometimes destroyed, by the fifteenth century, Rabbi Nathan, a learned the disjoining of what ought to be connected, Jew, undertook to provide for the Hebrew Scrip- and the connecting of what ought to be disjoined. tures a Concordance, similar to that which Cardinal | The division of the chapters is frequently improHugo had completed for the Latin Vulgate. But per, but that of the verses is often much more so. although he followed Hugo in his division of the There is in many places a full periodical distinctext into chapters, he improved upon the Cardi- tion where there should not be so much as the nal's sub-division, by numbering in the margin smallest pause. Nominatives are separated from every pasuk or verse.
their verbs, adjectives from their substantives, and 7. The first editor of the Old Testament who even letters and syllables are cruelly divorced from enumerated the verses by subjoining to each verse a
the words to which they naturally belong. By figure, according to our present method, was Athias, these means the chain of reasoning is broken, a Jew of Amsterdam, who, in the years 1661 and the sentences mangled, the eye misguided, the 1667, published two very correct editions of the attention bewildered, and the meaning lost. IIebrew Bible, having the verses distinguished in
3. But independently of these evils, the dithis manner.
His plan was followed by Vatablus, visions both of chapter and verse often exert an in an edition of the Latin Bible printed for him by unfavourable influence on the attention, and inStephens, and has since been adopted in most duce, almost unconsciously to the reader, an idea editions of the Scriptures. The division of the of completion, or the contrary, very unfavourable New Testament into verses is attributed to Robert to an accurate perception of the meaning of the
sacred writings. Most persons are in the constant * See Hug's Introduction to the New Test., vol. i., chap. v.
habit of reading the Bible in separate chapters,
one or more at a time, without any regard to the high object. For the purposes of study, a Bible continuity of the subject, or the completion of the with an unbroken text, or divided only into secsense. It sometimes happens, that, in reading the tions, according to the real divisions of the subepistles, the opening of an argument is read on jects, having an enumeration of the verses in the one day, its proofs and illustrations on the next, margin, is greatly to be desiderated.* If this is and its inferences and application on the third or not to be had, the student should be constantly a more distant day still. The consequence of this upon his guard against the evils to which we have Ey be easily conceived. No person thus reading adverted." the Scriptures can ever enter thoroughly into the sense and spirit of the sacred penmen, or duly ap- the student. The verses are to be found in the margin, and the
* Wesley's Testament may be most advantageously used by preciate the powers of argument and illustration subjects are generally divided into paragraphs. they frequently exhibit in the prosecution of their + See Carpenter's Guide to the Scriptures, pt. J., ch. v.
TION OF THE BIBLE.
Tue preceding chapter has been devoted to a methods which they obviously prescribe for an inreview of the several topics connected with the vestigation into their principles, that order will be art of criticism; the present one will comprise a introduced into study, and the mind be preserved description of the principles of interpretation, and from confusion. In the following pages we shall point out the application of those principles to the not lose sight of this necessity, for the purpose of Sacred text.
securing the lucidits ordo. If the reader has carefully attended to what has been said in the preceding sections, the distinction
SECTION I. between criticism and interpretation will have been DIFFICULTIES CONNECTED WITH THE INTERPRETAdearly perceived. The object of the former is the genuineness and purity of the text ; the object of Sources of Biblical Difficulties – Advantages derivable from an the latter is the sense of the text :—the one is con- Acquaintance with the Principles of Interpretation-Comversant with the mere letter of Scripture; the
mentaries on the Bible- Evils arising from the too early Use otter, with its import.* It is the province of cri
of them-Suggestions for studying the Scriptures. ticism to ascertain what an author wrote; of inter- I. It would be unwise, as well as unjust, to pretation, to determine what he meant. This dis- attempt to conceal from the novice the numerous tinction has not always been observed by writers difficulties which he will have to encounter in the upon biblical science; albeit, it is of great import- interpretation of the Scriptures, and the large ance, and almost indispensable to ensure a lu- amount of labour he will be called upon to expend minous view of the subject in its several details. in his efforts to remove them. For a person to Like every other science, this has its natural remain ignorant of these facts, is to be exposed to boundaries and divisions, and it is only by a clear the constant danger of resting satisfied with the perception of these, and a rigid adherence to the mere dicta of others, instead of applying at once
to the source of scriptural knowledge, for the dis* The science explaining the rules of interpretation is called Sacred Hermeneutics, which, wlien marked as a part of theology,
covery of those truths, upon the immediate peris called Exegetical Theology. From this is distinguished what ception and personal appropriation of which deis called exegesis, or the art itself of interpreting the sacred peud his personal safety and happiness. valame. Seiler says
, “ Hermeneutics, which is employed in the at once premise, therefore, that in the interpretadiscovery and explanation of the sense of a speech or writing, is, tion of the Bible we have to encounter difficulties sbjectively considered, a collection of rules, through the application of wbich the sense of the speech or writirg is found and of no ordinary magnitude, and such as will call ketarately expressed. Subjectively considered, it is the know-forth all the energies of the mind in a successful leke of these rules, and the ability to apply them judiciously to the discovery and expression of that sense. This ability, ob- of this remark, we must advert somewhat more
attempt to surmount them. To justify the truth teed by exercise in explaining according to rules, constitutes a interpreter. The individual who, without the aid of fixed particularly than we have hitherto done, to the rades, but by the practice of reading and reflection only, has character of those documents, of the interpretation barted to explain the Bible, is an empirical iuterpreter. Her- of which we are here speaking. retentics is then the theory of interpretation-exegesis is the facetree. Both are included under the name of Exegetical
1. In discussing the object and principles of Thevisyy." —Biblicul Hermeneutics, pp. 26, 27.
biblical interpretation, we must view the Scripture
in its most simple and obvious character; that is, and salvation depend, are conveyed in language as a literary document, possessing properties in too intelligible to be mistaken by any humble common with every other work of a like descrip- and teachable mind, however destitute of adventition; but having some properties peculiar to itself. tious knowledge. What we wish to impress upon
2. In the first place, it must be recollected, that the reader's mind is this, that there is in the sacred the Bible is composed of a number of separate and writings much beyond what is indispensable to salindependent writings or books indited by different vation, which it is desirable to know and to underpersons, unknown to each other, living in different stand; that there are heights and depths of knowplaces, and at different periods of time, and treat- ledge, the discovery and comprehension of which ing on the subjects of which they wrote in a great will greatly conduce to our moral, intellectual, and variety of style; the last-mentioned fact arising religious perfection. The more we discover of out of the mutability of human language and other the beauties of Scripture composition, and of the facts, to which we shall presently more particularly harmony and symmetry of divine truth, the more advert. Now, as all human languages are com- the heart will be expanded in love to God, and the posed of arbitrary signs, between which and the more will the energies of the mind be directed to ideas they are intended to represent there is no the attainment of his.great purposes in the revelareal analogy or connexion, the difficulties arising tion of his will
. But around these subjects are out of the circumstances just enumerated may be thrown the difficulties to which we have adverted; easily conceived." These difficulties, issuing in and nothing but great fixedness of purpose, and different ways from their common source, become close application to study, can succeed in surmountapparent in the simple radical meaning of terms, or ing them, and introduce us into that sacred temple in the changes induced upon that meaning by the where the Divine Majesty sits in all the effulgence metaphorical application of them; by idiomatic of his glory, and dispenses the rich favours of His expressions, by peculiarities of style
, by difference beneficence. of subject, and by the different species of com
5. It may be that the view we have now taken position in which the same subject is treated.”*
of the magnitude and difficulties of the subject 3. But, in addition to the difficulties emanating upon which we are about to enter, has startled the from these sources, there are others equally em
minds of some of our readers, and tended to disbarrassing. We are not only far removed from courage them from the prosecution of that purpose the authors of the Bible by distance of time, in they had previously formed. Should this be the consequence of which we have to contend with case, we shall have defeated the object for which the difficulties inseparable from written language,
our observations were made. Our purpose has in a greater degree than otherwise we should been, to place the nature of those studies comprehave to do, but we are separated from them, also, hended within the science of Scripture interpretaby distance of place and circumstance. Their laws, tion in such a light, as to fortify the mind of the manners, customs, and modes of thinking, were very student against those feelings of despondency to dissimilar to every thing with which we are now
which it could not fail to be subjected, upon enconversant; and their references and allusions to countering difficulties of which it had previously then existing circumstances are sometimes so slight, no conception. Let these be in some degree forebut so intimately connected with an argument or
seen and understood, and a moderate amount of an illustration, as to call for a large measure of diligence and perseverance be brought to the subprevious information and knowledge, on the part ject, and we may safely promise the student a rich of their readers.
harvest of reward. If he do not speedily become 4. Let us not be misunderstood, however, in a profound critic himself, he will become so far thus speaking of the difficulties inseparable from the acquainted with the principles of interpretation as interpretation of the Bible. It is not intended to to be capable of forming a sound judgment upon affirm that the Scriptures are so obscure, and their the criticisms and interpretations of others, and of meaning so difficult to be ascertained, that multi- reading the Scriptures with pleasure and advantage tudes of persons in whose hands they are placed to himself. must be deprived of the advantages they tender,
II. This seems to be the proper place for offerand remain destitute of all interest in those bless-ing a few observations upon the use of commentaings which it was the great design of their divine ries and expositions of the Bible ; because those Author to communicate. By no means. Those persons who are contented to remain ignorant of great truths of revelation upon which man's faith the elementary principles of biblical interpretation,
on the ground of the difficulty with which such
knowledge is to be attained, are necessitated to be* Cook's Inquiry into the Books of the New Testament, p. 49. I take themselves, in their Scripture reading, to the
constant use of expositors—if they do not, as we | matter what violence it requires; and by the same fear is often the case, substitute these for the standard all other authors and interpreters must be text itself.
pronounced good or bad, orthodox or heretical. 1. Let us suppose a person about to commence An opinion is first formed of the sense of Scripture, a course of Scripture reading, with a view to his and a system of doctrine is adopted, and the Bible personal edification, and who is, therefore, desirous is then resorted to for arguments to support and to comprehend the meaning of the Bible, to at defend them ; with what success we need not say. least the same extent as he would be desirous to Is it surprising that infidelity should exist and comprehend the meaning of any human composi- triumph, when it is found that sects the most oppotion. He is, however, supposed to be almost site, and principles the most discordant, are suptotally ignorant of those historical matters to which ported by an appeal to the same Scriptures? The the sacred writers so frequently allude, and which, writer to whom we have just referred, has transin fact, give a character to the whole of their com-lated a passage from the Persian letters, to which munications; of those common principles of lite- we request the reader's attention. rary composition by which every judicious and 2. Rica, having been to visit the library of a correct writer is governed in the construction of French convent, writes thus to his friend in Persia his work; of those general laws of our nature concerning what had passed. Father," said I to which, under the various circumstances of life, the librarian, “what are these huge volumes, which govern the human mind; and of those peculiarities fill the whole side of the library?” “These," said of time and circumstance, which, of necessity, he, “are the interpreters of the Scriptures.” “There characterize every work of antiquity. But, if he is a prodigious number of them,” replied I; "the is ignorant on these matters, can he be capable of Scriptures must have been very dark formerly, and forming a right judgment on the contents of the very clear at present. Do there remain still any suted volume ? Assuredly not; and it is because doubts? Are there now any points contested ?" he has a consciousness of this inability to judge
“ Are there !” answered he, with surprise,
are for himself, that he adopts a commentator as his there! There are almost as many as there are infallible guide. Can any thing be more prepos
lines." “ You astonish me," said I; “what then terous, however, than such a mode of proceeding ? have all these authors been doing ?"
66 These Can any thing tend more effectually to shut out authors," returned he,“ never searched the Scripthe light of Heaven, and perpetuate those lament- tures for what ought to be believed, but for what able differences which exist among men who pro- they did themselves believe. They did not confess to take the same word as the ground of their sider them as a book, wherein were contained the faith, while each stands at antipodes with the rest? | doctrines which they ought to receive, but as a Let us ask, How is it possible that persons thus work which might be made to authorize their own implicitly adopting the judgment of others should ideas. For this reason, they have corrupted all have any judgment of their own? We have as the meanings, and have put every passage to the many descriptions of commentaries as we have torture, to make it speak their own sense. It is a shades of religious belief; and every exposition of country whereon people of all sects make invaScripture is written in accordance with some system sions, and go for pillage; it is a field of battle, of religious opinion, which it is designed to sup- where, when hostile nations meet, they engage, port and recommend. Now, if a commentary be attack, and skirmish in a thousand different ways.” adopted as a guide, by a person who has not studied 3. It may be thought that this representation is the Scriptures for himself, and who is therefore in too highly coloured ; we hope that it may be so; competent to decide on the justness of the interpre- but who can deny that it is substantially true ? tations proposed, it is clear that he is wholly at Who will assert that such a method of treating the the mercy of his expounder, and will, in every Bible has not been very generally adopted, and thing, be disposed to adopt his explications and that our own times do not witness the lamentable solutions.
Thus it is, that instead of a Bible- evils that have thence resulted ? But make as christian, he is made a sectarian ; and his faith, many deductions from the extent of the evil, thus instead of being founded on the word of God, is affirmed, as we may; let it be circumscribed by built on the speculations of men. His vacant bounds as narrow as can be desired; it will even mind, like what the lawyers call a derelictum, is then fully justify the purpose for which it has been claimed in property by the first occupant; and, as cited, namely, to caution the student against the Dt. Campbell has justly remarked, that author, and habitual use of commentaries and expositions, until others of the same party, commonly keep possession after he has rendered himself competent to decide ETET after. To the standard set up by them, every upon the justness of their pretensions. The passage in Scripture must be made conformable, no sacred writings are given to mankind for the discovery of truths which human reason could never | authoritative compositions. Should they be faulthave discovered, and can now only apprehend in less,-a thing inconceivable,—he will then only be so far as they are herein revealed. But is this guilty of having preferred the report of a manobject likely to be answered, if persons go to one who, it is admitted, would not willingly deceive the reading of the Scriptures under the circum- him, but who is himself open to deception of stances to which we have now adverted ? By having preferred the report of an erring creature, adopting these human expositions, they go to the to the direct and actual communications of God Bible with the most inveterate prejudices and pre- himself! This will be the extent of the evil,possessions; they take it for granted, before even no trifling one, surely,—even if there should be looking into its pages, that such and such is the nothing defective or erroneous in the character of religion it propounds, and their only object in read those compositions which are in this way subing it—whether conscious of the fact or otherwise — stituted for the Bible. In so far as they are absois to accommodate it to their notions, and adapt it lutely false and erroneous, the evil will, of course, to the support of their previously formed system.* be proportionately greater. Being predetermined in favour of certain notions, 4. In every point of view, therefore, the early before they read the pages of inspiration, passages use of these works is prejudicial to the mind. Inof Scripture are strained, and tortured, and dark- dependent of the influence which they exert in ened, by unnatural comments, because they are forming the theological sentiments of the student, read, not to find out the sense, but to make them says Dr. Campbell, they have a necessary tendency speak that sense which had been previously im- to prevent the exercise of the judginent and the posed upon them.+ The result may be readily discursive faculty ; the person who takes them as conceived. The Scriptures are to such a person a his guides is ever learning, and never comes to a sealed book; he understands them not, but as they knowledge of the truth ; he is confined within the are meted out to him by his spiritual guides: limits which his teacher prescribes, and, in most where these fail, he also must fail; where these cases, is unacquainted with the grounds on which misinterpret the language of the Bible, he, of his opinions are formed. To the advanced stunecessity, must adopt, if not that which is really dent, such works have their use, and by him they false, yet that which has no foundation in the words may be consulted with advantage. Having made upon the supposed testimony of which he receives some progress in scriptural science, he is proand adopts it. But what is worse than this, such vided with the principles by which their prea person is displacing the word of God, by the tensions are to be tried ; having acquired some substitution of human compositions ; good in them- insight into the spirit and sentiments of holy writ, selves, perhaps, but still human, and therefore un- he is capable of forming a judgment of the con
formity or contrariety of these authors to that in
fallible standard; and therefore their authority or *Selder has quaintly said, “In interpreting the Scripture, many do as if a man should see one have ten ponds, which he value is not likely to be over-estimated, while all reckoned by one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, the advantages they furnish will be effectually ten ; meaning four was but four units, and five, five units; the secured. We repeat, therefore, that with such other that sees him, takes not the figures together as he doth, human compositions the studies of the theologian but picks here and there, and thereupon reports, that he hath five pounds in one bag, and six pounds in another bag, and vine ought not to be commenced; his object, on the pounds in another bag, &c., when, as in truth, he hath but ten contrary, should be an acquaintance with the prinpounds in all. So we pick out a text here and there, to make it ciples of interpretation, so that he may apply them serve our turn; whereas, if we take it altogether, and consider what went before, and what followed after, we should find it for himself, that the decisions of inspiration alone meant no such thing." (TABLE TALK, article BIBLE.) The may control his judgment, and that with regard to practice here condemned, two hundred years since, is still too merely human teachers, he may apply to them the prevalent in the Christian world.
words of the poet : + Stillingfleet quotes it as the declaration of Socinus (de Servat. I. iji. 6.) That if our doctrine" were not only once, but
Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri. frequently mentioned in Scripture, yet he would not therefore believe the thing to be so as we suppose.” “For,” saith he, “ seeing the thing itself cannot be, I take the least inconvenient Ernesti judiciously recommends the student to fix upon interpretation of the words; and draw forth such a sense from some one or at most two, of the most celebrated interpreters of them as is most consistent with itself and the tenor of the Scrip. Scripture, and those which are designated granımatical, becanse ture.” Can we be at all conversant with the theological writings the true sense of the subject must be derived from the true sigof our own time, and yet deny that many who would start with nification of words. Having fixed upon the commentators be horror at the idea of being charged with the least approach intends to use, the student ought, by the repeated and careful towards the sentiments of Socinus, do, in truth, imitate too perusal of them, to form himself by degrees to their nianner of closely the method which he adopted, to sapport and give cur- reasoning. While thas occupied, he ought only occasional y, or rency to those sentiments ?
of necessity, to consult other commentators.