Page images

“ dictated to the holy penmen, and by them committed to writing, and pre« served both by Jews and Christians ;” and that “they pointed the text ac“ cording to the true and received reading, which expressed the true sense of the “ Holy Ghost, and not as they pleased ; nor is it lawful for any one to reject " their reading at pleasure, but all are tied to it, unless some error or better “ reading can be clearly proved 8 ;” and Capellus himself says “, “none are “ to be obliged to admit the punctuation of the Masoretes, because, and as it “ is from them; but all may be bound by this punctuation, as and because “ it can be demonstrated, that it almost every where both agrees with the es consonants to which it is added, with the series and structure of the words “ in the passage, and that it produces a sense commodious, true, coherent, “ &c. nor can any other punctuation be produced more apt and more com66 modious i."

7. The inspiration of scripture is affected thereby. If all scripture, or the wbole writing of the Bible, is by inspiration of God, then not the matter only, but the words in which it is written, are of divine inspiration ; and indeed what else are meant by the words the Holy Ghost teacherb? Cor. ii. 13. and if the words of scripture are of divine inspiration, and given by God himself, then, surely, not half words, as consonants without vowels are ; and if whole words, which is most agreeable to the wisdom and honour of the Divine Being, then both consonants and yowels were given by inspiration ; and if the latter were not, but of human invention, then so far as they have been and are in use, and the sense of scripture has been and still is taken from them, and made to depend on them, such sense stands not upon divine authority, but upon human authority; and on that of a tett of men, blinded, besotted, and destitute of the Spirit of God, bitter enemies to christianity, and perhaps a sett of men, as bad as ever was on earth ; and if the points are of their invention and addition, they ought never to stand in our Bibles, and be used by us, but should be rejected with great indignacion: a pointed Bible, if possible, should not be in the world, having in it such an addition to the word of God, which ought not to be made, and which is so directly contrary to his order, Deut iv. 2. and xii. 32. Prov. xxxi. 6. And to which may be farther observed,

4 B 2

8. If & The Considerator considered, p. 200. h Arcan. Punct. I. 2. c. 26. 1. 2.

i Qui puncta vel negligunt, vel prorsum rejiciunt, certe carent omni judicio & rationes Calvin. in Zech, xi. 7.

8. If the vowel-points were not annexed to the letters by the

the penmen of the sacred writings, when penned by them, but have had a later and a new beginning, that would have been known ; some would have divulged it; it would have been on record somewhere or another, and we should have been informed by some means or another, by whom they were placed, and where and at what time, but nothing of this has ever transpired. The story of Elias about the men of Tiberias merits no regard ; and even that the points were annexed by Ezra, or by the men of his congregation, is mere conjecture, without any foundation; and therefore upon the whole it may be concluded that they were originally put by the sacred penmen, Moses and the prophets.

It is often said, in favour of reading the Bible without points, that Rabbinical books are written without them, and are easily read. But then it should be observed, that they are read by such who have first read the Hebrew Bible with points, and who are well versed in Bible-Hebrew; and by such the commentaries of Kimchi, Abarbinel, and others, may be read with some ease, whose style is plain and clear, and by degrees other writings more rough, crabbed and difficult may be read also; but as Buxtorff i and others observe, there is a great difference between the Bible and Rabbinical books, in writing, in style, in manner and means of learning and reading them. In Rabbinical books, the matres lektionis, as "7 are called, are used to supply the want of vowels; whereas in the Bible they are most frequently omitted, and even in places where they might be expected, and leaft of all should be omitted : the style of Rabbinical books is for the most part plain, and where it is not, as in the Talmud and other writings, it is hard and difficult to read them ; but the style of the Bible is generally short, concise, full of ellipfes and other figures, especially in the prophetic writings; add to which, what is contained in Rabbinical writings are things usually before known, or easily understood, and to be read without much stop or hindrance ; but the sacred scriptures contain mysteries, things sublime, and more remote from the capacities of men, and require more attention, help and assistance in reading them; and besides, if a mistake is made in Rabbinical writings, it is not of that importance, as in reading -the Bible; and therefore we may venture to read with less pain and with more safety, the one without points than the other. Buxtorff, the son, upon his own observation afferts “, that it is more easy to read Rabbinical books unpointed, than any of the books of the Bible pointed ; and that he could venture to say, that he could more readily and certainly read any Rabbinical books never seen by him before, than any book of the Bible even pointed, and though well known by him, and often read over and over again. Yet, notwithstanding all the advantages on the side of Rabbinical writings, how many mistakes have been made by learned men, as by Scaliger, Schickard, Kircher, Vorstius, and others ? what blunders in translation has Buxtorff exposed in Morinus and Capellus ? and even those great masters in Rabbinical literature, as the Buxtorffs themselves, Selden, Lightfoot, &c. are not without their errors ; nor need it be wondered at, since, in the Talmuds especially, there are many places which seem quite unintelligible, and besides are written in the Chaldee dialect, and that very impure, and abounding with exotic words.


De Punct. Antiq. par. 3. p. 370.


Ibid. par. 2. par, 376.

It is frequently objected against the Bible being written and read with points, that the copy of the law every where kept in the Jewish synagogues is without points, as answering to the Mosaic Archetype. That it is an unpointed copy of the law which is usually kept in the Jewish synagogues now, will be allowed', but that the Archetype or Autograph of Moses was without points may be asserted, but not easily proved; nor can it be said, with any precision, how long it has been the custom of the Jews to have an unpointed copy of the law in their synagogues; nor can what they have, be thought to be an ectype of, or to answer to the copy of Moses, nor be kept with that view. For had the Autograph of Moses the Keri, or marginal readings it will not be said by the opposers of the points that it had ; but the present copies of the law in the fynagogues of the Jews have, if I mistake not, and even the pricks and points which they call crowns"; are the present copies in the synagogues written in Samaritan characters ? they are not: and yet, according to the hypothesis of Morinus, Capellus, and those that follow them, they ought to be so written, to be an ećtype of, or to answer to that of Moses; since that, according to them, was in that character : but to have a copy in that character now would be contrary to their own rules, one of which runs thus ", " they do not write (the sacred books) neither in the lan

guage beyond the river (or the Samaritan) nor in the Syriac, nor in the

Median, nor in Greek; and in whatsoever language or writing they are writ“ ten, they may not be read (that is, publicly) until they are written in the

Asyrian,” or square character. There are other reasons to be given, why unpointed copies are kept and used in the synagogues of the Jews, and

which Lyra in Hof. ix, 12. Menaffeh ben Israel. Conciliator, in Exod. qu. 60. p. 170. * Schulchan Aruch, par. 1. c. 141. f. 8. & par. 2.c. 275. 1.6. Vid. Hackspan, Cabala, p. 309. n Massechet Sopherim, c. 1. 1. 6.

which may serve to lead to the original of this custom, and the reason of its continuance.

1, One reason was, that the Cabalists, and those who had got into the allegorizing way of interpreting the scriptures, might have the opportunity of framing and establishing their own and even various senses of them, which an unpointed Bible will admit of, when a pointed one will not. Hence that saying of R. Menachem °, “ a book of the law in which there are many faces “ (or on which many senses may be put is one not pointed ; for, as he says, “ when letters are not pointed, they have many faces (or may be differently “ read ;) but when they are pointed, they have only one sense, according to “ the punctuation :" and this R. Becbai plainly suggests, is the original cause and reason of using unpointed copies ; “ letters not pointed, he says, admit “ of various senses, and are divided into divers parts; and because of this we are commanded not to point the book of the law; for the literal sense of every “ word is according to the punctuation, and there is but one literal sense in “ a pointed word; but an unpointed word a man may understand many ways, " and find out many wonderful and excellent things ;” and it is for much the same reason, that men may not be tied down to one sense of a word, that points are now so much opposed. Some have drawn an argument for the novelty and against the antiquity of the points, from the Cabalists making no use nor mention of them in their writings, but drew their various fenfes, it is said, from the letters only, and the combination of them, and not from the vowels and accents; but this has been abundantly confuted by Buxtorff !, The commentator on the book of Cofri' makes mention of R. Aaron, a great Mekubbal or Cabbalif, the head of the university at Babylon, as the author of a book of pointing, and which is quoted by Rittangelius'; and in the Cabaliftic Lexicon', under the word ditipa, mention is made of nine points, and their names are given, Kametz, Patach, Zere, &c. and the use that is made of them is observed; and Menaseb ben Israel" describes the Cabalists, as employing themselves in searching out the deep mysteries of the law, which are contained in the letters, points and musical accents; and a little after, he observes,


• Apud Munster. Præfat. ad Vet. Teft. P Apud Buxtorff, ut fupra, p. 45, 46. . Ut fupra, par. 1. C. 5. p. 54, &c.

R. Judah Muscatus in Cofri, fol. 230. 4. Vid. Wolf, Bibliothec. Heb. p. 128. • De Verit. Relig. Chrift. p. 27. 40.

+ Kabela. Denudata. par. 1. p. 592 * Conciliat. in Exod. qu. 50. p. 169, 172, 174. Vid. Leisden. Philolog. Heb. Mixt. Differt. 13. p. 106. & Philolog. Heb. Disiert. 26.

that “ the law was given without points, like the books the Jews now have “ in their synagogues ; so that when any word occurs, whose letters now are “ not tied to certain vowels, men may put what points they please to them, " and so the words may be read one way and another.”

2. Another reason of the Jews having an unpointed copy of the law in their fynagogues is, that it might be a memorial of the oral tradition of points and accents, from the times of Moses to Ezra. They suppose the points were of Moses, but not annexed by him to the Pentateuch ; but that they were delivered and handed down by oral tradition from one to another until Ezra, who added them to it; and therefore to keep in memory this wonderful affair, they always have an unpointed copy in their fynagogues.

3. Another reason why only unpointed copies of the law are kept in the synagogues, may be their superstitious accuracy and exactness in writing the law; so as to letters, if any are wanting, or not rightly placed, or similar ones put for each other, the copy is profane or rejected; and as it is still more difficult to have the points and accents exactly put, they choose to have none at all: hence they say “, “ A pointed copy is profane, or to be re

jected, even though the punctuation is razed out;" partly because it will not admit of various senses, as before observed, and partly because of the difficulty and almost imposibility of a perfect pointed copy; and the rather they are indifferent to one, and like as well to have an unpointed one in their fynagogues, since there, none but their learned men, as priests, &c. read in them.

4. But the chief reason of unpointed copies in the synagogues seems to be, that none but learned men, or such who are well versed in the Hebrew language, hould be admitted readers there; for if the copy was pointed, as then, any common man might read it, so any such man might be chosen to the office of a reader, though otherwise very illiterate; and to prevent any such being introduced into it, is the principal reason now, why it is unpointed. And though those who are expert in the language, and are able to read without points, and are chosen into the office of reader in the synagogue, and have exercised that office many years ; yet it is their custom, as one of those readers told Cocceius long ago, to prepare themselves at home by reading out of a pointed copy, for their better, easier, and more accurate reading in the synagogue. And it is their usual method to this day, for the precentor of the synagogue, though ever so well versed in the scripture, and ever so exact in the knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, the day before the fabbath, to read the

passages, w Schulchan Aruch, par. 2. C. 274. Lo 7.

* Coccci Defens, Cod. Heb. f. 19. p. 22. tom 7.

« PreviousContinue »