Images de page
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

But left to himself in this way, will he not be liable often to commit mistakes? 'Tis probable to the Hebrews. The mvestigation is exbibited so clearly and fully, that it will shew by the teacher's own example and success, the benefit which the student may reasonably expect from an observance of his rules. Juvat usque morari et conferre gradum. The passage is, Heb. iii. 5, “ Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant.

When I consider the scope of the apostle in this chapter, I perceive clearly an intention to compare the two great legislators whom God had sent into the world, first, Moses, then Jesus Christ, not in respect of the personal virtues which they exhibited, but in respect of the dignity of station or rank to which they were raised. In respect of virtue, there is no contrast at all in the passage; as indeed in what regards a trust, nothing greater can be said of any one than is said of Moses, that he was faithful. And so far is that which follows, to wit, that Moses was only a servant, Jesus Christ the son and heir, from giving the superiority in point of merit to the latter; that, as is universally allowed, the less a man has of personal interest, in the subject entrusted him, the greater is the virtue of his fidelity. But the whole scope of the apostle sufficiently shows, that in nothing are the two great lawgivers above mentioned meant to be compared, but in title, office, and rank. As no doubt can be made of the entire faithfulness of both, it appears like a deviation from the scope of the argument, to mention this virtue at all. But can any thing be clearer or more unexceptionable than the common version, “ Moses was faithful,” Mwons fueV 771505? Notwithstanding its elearness, notwithstanding its commonness, I may almost say, its universality, I cannot help entertaining some doubts concerning it. The apostle has, in treating this topic, a manifest allusion to a passage in the Pentateuch, in which, on occasion of the sedition of Aaron and Miriam, God says, Numb. xii. 6, &c. “ If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house."; This passage plainly gives room for the same suspicion. The scope of the place is manifestly to show the superior privileges of Moses, through the favour of God, to those of any other prophet, and not his superior virtues. The words that follow make this, if possible, still more glaring. v. 8. “With him will I speak, mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold. Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant

he will, and what then? Can

you

insure him against them, by the assistance of

any
author

you can asMoses?” Nothing can plainer, than that the intention is here to shew not the virtue, but the prerogative of Moses, above all other prophets under that dispensation, as it is the intention of the writer to the Hebrews to shew the prerogative of Jesus Christ above Moses. And for this reason, I suspect that the word is not rightly rendered, “ faithful,' in the passage quoted from Numbers.

That I may discover, if possible, whether my suspicion is well founded, I shall first recur to the place in the version of the Seventy, where the expression, about which the doubt arises, is the same as in the Epistle to the Hebrews; ó Depan wy list Μωυσης εν όλω τω οίκω με πιςος έσιν Yet, there is here no comparative view of virtues, but only of honours and privileges ; nothing is said tending to derogate from the faithfulness of any other prophet. Nor does y ów tw oinw to make the small. est addition in this respect; for, as our Lord hath said, “ He who is faithful in little will be faithful also in much ; and he who is unfaithful in little, will be unfaithful also in much.” Yet, if in our interpretations, we are to be determined solely by the classical use, it is hardly possible to conceive, how m1505 can be rendered otherwise into English than by the term 6 faithful.”

I therefore find it necessary, in the last place, to recur to the Hebrew. There I find the word rendered, 71505,

is "

neeman," which has not only the signification of " faithful,” but being the passive participle of the verb, “ aman,” to believe, signifies also“ trusted, charged with,” and thence also, “firm, stable,” &c. Now as the sense of Greek words in Hellenistic use is of ten affected by the Hebrew, the word, 751505, has this meaning in several passages of the Septuagint. See for an example of this 1 Sam. iii. 20, where the words, ÓTI 71505 Equina els προφητην τω κυριω, are rendered in the English translation, " that Samuel was established, to be a prophet of the Lord.” The translators have made a reference to the margin on the word “ established,” adding there, or, “ faithful.” The same term both in Hebrew and Greek is rendered Psal. lxxxix. 28, by the English word “ fast.” “ My covenant shall stand fast with him.

The expression in Numbers, to which the Apostle to the Hebrews refers, is thus rightly rendered by Caetalia.

sign him?

1

Besides, the mistakes he commits through the exercise of his own judgment when At cum Moyse meo, non item, cui totius meæ domus fides habetur.” And by Houbigant, "Non ita servus meus Moyees. Ille universæ domus meæ minister est perpetuus. In his notes he adds, “neeman, stabilis,” non autem fidelis.” 6. Enimvero hic describitur Moyses ex perpetuitate prophetiæ, non ex morum fidelitate. Ita rem intelligebat Paulus Apost. ubi postquam testimonio hujus loci usus est, addit continenter, "amplioris enim gloriæ iste præ Moyse dignus habitus est;' gloriam gloriæ comparans ; Christi Domini cum Moysis. Et claudicaret similitudo, si gloriam Christi eum Moysis fidelitate compararet."

In order to give a more distinct view of the light, which the above mentioned alteration throws upon the passage, I shall offer an exact version of the whole paragraph, being the first six verses of the third chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. To take such a view of the whole in connexion, is often necessary, as much for the better explaining of the import of a criticism, as for evincing its solidity. * Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our religion, Jesus Christ, who, as well as Moses, was by him who raised him to that dignity, intrusted with all his house. But who hath attained honour as far superior to that of Moses, as the glory of the builder is greater than that of the house. For every house hath been built by some person; but he who built all things is God. And Moses was indeed trusted as a servant, for publishing to all God's family whatever he had in charge: but Christ is trusted as a son over his own family; whose family we are, provided we maintain our profession and boasted hope, unshaken to the end." Nothing can be more evi. dent than that it is the sole intention of this writer to compare the dignities of station, not the virtues, of Moses and Christ, the two founders of the only divine dispensations of religion, the Jewish and the Christian. He admits that Moses as well as

be justly said to have been entrusted, not with a part only, but with all God's house; and that, in this respect, Moses had a very great pre-eminence above all the other prophets of that dispensation; but in regard to Christ, though it might be said his charge was the same in point of extent, the whole house of God, the trust committed to him was in its nature greatly superior. Moses was trusted with the whole, but it was only ús tepat wv, like a steward, who is no more than an

Christ, may

imperfect, he will correct as his judgment improves; whereas the errors he falls into through an upper servant in the family, but Jesus Christ as a son, who is the heir of all.

It may not be amiss here to take notice of the circumstances which first suggested to me the criticism now made, or rather, as I may justly say, which first occasioned iny lighting upon the sense of this passage. By carefully retracing the steps in consequence whereof we have arrived at any discovery, we take the most probable means of suggesting to others a method by which future discoveries may be made. The faithfulness of Moses, as mentioned both here and in the Pentateuch, had often appeared to me foreign from the scope of the context, which related in both places solely to the excellency of the office, not to the worthiness of the officer. At the same time I did not see how 1150s could be translated otherwise than “ faithful.” I found it so rendered in all the versions of the New Testament I had consulted, Castalio's not excepted. But then I had recourse to Castalio's version of the Old Testament, for the interpretation of the passage alluded to. I found the rendering totally different, and such as perfectly suited the scope of the argument.

It implied solely, that to Moses had been committed the charge of all God's house; a charge so weighty, as had never been committed to any prophet before him, nor indeed to any prophet after him under that dispensation. This led me to look into the Septuagint, where I found the term pisos employed, as it was afterwards by the apostle, who (as usual) copied the words of that version. My next recourse was to the Hebrew, where I found the origin of the error lay in the ambiguity of a Hebrew participle, which even analogically should signify “cui fides habetur,” rather than “ qui fidelis est.” Castalio, though sensible of this in translating the Hebrew word “neeman,” did not think he could render in the same manner the Greek #1505. Yet it is one of the chief peculiarities of the idiom of the synagogue, that the Greek words have in it an extent of signification corresponding to that of the He. brew words which they are employed to represent. I was not at that time acquainted with the translation of the Old Testament by Houbigant, who has signified in a note on the passage in the Pentateuch, that the words of the apostle ought to be understood and interpreted in the same manner. This, together with many other examples which might be brought, serves to confirm an observation I have made in another place, that to understand per. fectly the language of the New Testament, the knowledge of Hebrew is almost as necessary as that of Greek.

implicit faith in the judgment of others, are confirmed by habit, a lazy habit, which effectually prevents that improvement of the judging faculty, which would correct them. Would you never trust a child to his own legs, would you always carry him for fear he should fall? If y

you

shall use him thus, till he arrive at manhood, 'tis a thousand to one he shall never be able to walk in his lifetime. And had it not been better, that he had caught a thousand falls, and been allowed to recover himself again the best way he could, than that he should never acquire the right use of his limbs ? And is not the exercise of the mental faculties, as necessary to their improvement, as of the corporeal?

But to return, another method I would recommend to our young student when difficulties occur about the literal sense of any text, for it is here that his inquiries should begin, let him consult the parallel places in scripture, that is, those passages wherein the same subject is treated, or those at least, wherein there is some allusion or reference to it. Another useful expedient for bringing him acquainted with the idiom of the sacred writers, and for habituating him to read with attention, and to judge with proper circumspection is, as he proceeds in his study, to mark the different senses in which some of the principal words occur in scripture, and the particular circumstances in the context, which serve to determine the sense.

For assisting him in acquiring a more perfect knowledge of the Jewish polity and customs, there are several pieces which will be of use, besides those I have had occasion formerly to mention. Such are Vitringa De Synagoga vetere, Reland de rebus sa

« PrécédentContinuer »