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THROUGH many delays occasioned by a variety of hinderances, the detail of which would be useT
less to the reader, I have at length brought this part of my work to its conclusion; and now send it to the public, not without a measure of anxiety; for though perfectly satisfied with the purity of my motives, and the simplicity of my intention, I am far from being pleased with the work itself. The wise and the learned will no doubt find many things defective, and perhaps some incorrect. Defects necessarily attach themselves to my plan: the perpetual endeavour to be as concise as possible, has, no doubt, in several cases produced obscurity. Whatever errors may be observed, must be attributed to my scantiness of knowledge, when compared with the learning and information necessary for the tolerable perfection of such a work.
To an undertaking of this kind, a man's whole time should be dedicated-to me this is impossible, having a variety of other avocations, most of which have an equal claim on my time and attention. Although I had been making collections for many years past, I have begun the work anew, not availing myself of a single page of what I had before written: I have re-transcribed the whole, and made innumerable retrenchments and additions. I do not pretend to write for the learned; I loo) up to them myself for instruction; all the pretensions of my work are included in the sentence that stands in the title: it is designed as a help to a better understanding of the Sacred Writings. Here its claims end. If there be but a few spots, such as may be fairly attributed to human frailty, and comparatively inefficient means, the candid will pass them by, in favour of the general principle.
I had at first designed to introduce a considerable portion of criticism on the sacred text, accompanied with illustrations from ancient authors; but after having made many collections of this kind, on some particular parts, I was induced to throw almost the whole of them aside, for two reasons, 1. Because a continuation of my original plan, through the whole work, would have necessarily taken up more time than I could have well spared: and, 2. Because having designed my notes not for the learned, but for comparatively simple people, or those whose avocations prevent them from entering deeply into subjects of this kind, I thought it best to bring every thing as much as possible within their reach, and thus study rather to be useful, than appear to be learned. The criticism which appears in the work, is of a very humble description; its chief merit consisting in pointing out the force and meaning of certain expressions which no simple translation can reach; and the doing this, in such a way, as to cause the subject to be the more easily understood. By the standard therefore of sincere endeavour to be useful, I wish alone my work to be tried: and hope that none will look for more in it than the title will authorize him to expect. What is now before the reader is a fair specimen of the whole; if he be pleased, and in any measure profited by it, should God spare him and the author, he may expect farther improvement. In the mean time let him remember, that though even Paul should plant, and Apollos water, it is God alone that gives the increase.
A. C. London, 8th September, 1810.
THE different nations of the earth which have received the Old and New Testaments as a divine revelation, have
not only had them carefully translated into their respective languages, but have also agreed in the proprieiy and necessity of illustrating them by comments. At first, the insertion of a word or sentence in the margin, explaining some particular word in the text, constituted the whole of the comment. Afterward, these were mingled with the text, but with such marks as served to distinguish them from the words they were intended to illustrate : sometimes the comment was interlined with the text; and at other times it occupied a space at the bottom of the page.
Ancient comments, written in all these various ways, I have often seen; and a Bible now lies before me, written, probably, before the time of Wicliffe, where the glosses are all incorporated with the text, and only distinguished from it by a line underneath, evidently added by a later hand. As a matter of curiosity, I shall introduce a few specimens.
De eete hape as an ore, and with dewe of heven his body was informið or befoulid, til his heris weriden into
Me schal baptise or christend you, with the pooly goost and flir, whos whynwinge clothe or fan in his pond.
T'ho ever schal leebe bis wlif, geve he to her a lpbel, that is, a lụtíl book of forsakinge. Matt. v. 31. .
Blynde men seen, crotid men wandren, mesels ben maad clene, deef men heeren, deed men rysen agein, pore
* schal bolke out, or telle out thingis hid fro making of the world. Matt. xiii. 35.
Comments written in this way, have given birth to multitudes of the rarious readings afforded by ancient manuscripts: for, the notes of distinction being omitted or neglected, the gloss was considered as an integral part of the text, and entered accordingly by succeeding copyists.
This is particularly remarkable in the Vulgate, which abounds with explanatory words and phrases similar to those in the preceding quotations. In the Septuagint also, traces of this custom are easily discernible, and to this circumstance many of its various readings may be attributed.
Perhaps the most ancient comments of this kind were the Chaldee Paraphrases, or Targums, particularly those
The TARGUM YERUSHLEMEY is writien in the manner of the two former, and contains a Paraphrase, in very corrupt
The Targum, ascribed 10 JONATHAN ben Uzziel, embraces the whole of the Pentateuch; but is disgraced with the
In proportion to the distance of times from the period in which the sacred oracles were delivered, the necessity of comments became more apparent: for, the political state of the people to whom the scriptures were originally given, as well as that of the surrounding nations, being, in the lapse of time, essentially changed; hence was found the necessity of historical and chronological notes, to illustrate the facts related in the Sacred Books.
Did the nature of this preface permit, it might be useful to enter into a detailed history of commentators and their works, and show by what gradations they proceeded from simple verbal glosses, to those colossal accumulations, in which, the words of God lie buried in the sayings of men. But this, at present, is impracticable; a short sketch must therefore suffice.
Among the Jews, several eminent commentators appeared at different times, besides the Targumists already mentioned, who endeavoured to illustrate different parts of the law and the prophets. Philo JUDÆus may be reckoned among these; whose works contain several curious treatises in explication of different parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. He flourished about A. D. 40.
JOSEPHUS may be fairly ranked among commentators: the first twelve books of his Jewish Antiquities are a regular
It is well known that the Mishnah, or Oral Law of the Jews, is a pretended comment on the five books of Moses.
The Talmuds, both of Jerusalem and Babylon, are a comment on the Mishnah. The former was compiled about
Chaldee Targums, or Paraphrases, have been written on all the books of the Old Testament, the two books of Chron-
The MazoRETES were the most extensive Jewish commentators which that nation could ever boast. The system of punctuation, probably invented by them, is a continual gloss on the law and prophets : their rowel points, and prosaic and metrical accents, give every word, to which they are affixed, a peculiar kind
of meaning, which, in their simple state, multitudes of them can by no meang bear. The vowel points alone, add whole conjugations to the language. This system is one of the most artificial, particular, and extensive comments ever written on the Word of
God; for there is not one word in the Bible that is not the subject of a particular gloss, through its influence. This school is supposed to have commenced about 450 years before our Lord, and to have extended down to A. D. 1030.
Rabbi SAADIAs Gaon, about A. D. 930, wrote a commentary upon Daniel, and some other parts of Scripture; and translated, in a literal and very faithful manner, the whole of the Old Testament into the Arabic language. The Pentatouch of this translation has been printed by Erpenius, Lugd. Bat. 1622, 4to.
Rabbi Solomon Jarchi or Isaaki, who flourished in A. D. 1140, wrote a commentary on the whole Bible so completely obscure, as to require a very large comment to make it intelligible.
In 1160, Aben Ezra, å justly celebrated Spanish rabbin, flourished; his commentaries on the Bible are deservedly esteemed, both by Jews and Gentiles.
Rabbi Moses ben Maymox, commonly called Maimonides, also ranks high among the Jewish commentators; his work entitled Morch Nebochim, or Teacher of the perplered, is a most excellent illustration of some of the most difficult words and things in the Sacred Writings. He flourished about A. D. 1160.
Rabbi David Kimchi, a Spanish Jew, wrote a very useful comment on most books of the Old Testament: his comment on the prophet Isaiah, is peculiarly excellent. He flourished about A. D. 1220.
Rabbi Jacob BAAL HATTURÍM, Aourished A. D. 1300, and wrote short notes or observations on the Pentateuch, principally cabalistical.
Rabbi Levi ben Gershom, a Portuguese Jew and physician, flourished A. D. 1360, and wrote some esteemed comments on different parts of Scripture, especially the five books of Moses.
Rabbi ISAAC ABRABANEL or ABARBANEL, a Portuguese Jew, who flourished A. D. 1460, wrote also some valuable commentaries on the Scriptures, which are highly esteemed by the learned. RABBINOO ISAIAn wrote select notes or observations on the Books of Samuel.
This list might be greatly enlarged with writers of minor importance among the Jews; but probably the reader may think that enough has already been said on the subject. I shall only add, that as most of the Jewish comments are written in the corrupt Chaldee dialect, and are in general printed in ihe rabbinical character, which few, even among scholars, can read; hence they are, comparatively, but little known. It must be however allowed, that they are of great service in illustrating the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law; and of great use to the Christians in their controversies with the Jews.
As several of my readers may wish to know where these comments may be found; it will give them pleasure to be informed, that the Targums or Chaldee Paraphrases of ONKELOS and JONATHAN; the Targum JERUSHLEMEY; the MASORAH; the comments of Radak, i. e. Rabbi David Kimchi; Rashi, i. e. Rabbi Solomon Jarchi; RALBAG, i.e. Rabbi Levi ben Gershon; RAMBAM, i.e. Rabbi Moses ben Maymon, or Maimonides; RashAG, i. e. Rabbi Saadias Gaon; Aben Ezra, with the scanty observations of Rabbi Joseph Baal HATTURIM, on the five books of Moses; and those of Rabbi ISAIAH, on the two books of Samuel, are all printed in the second edition of Bomberg's Great Bible, Venice, 1547, &c. 2 vols. folio: the most useful, the most correct, and the most valuable Hebrew Bible ever published. It may be just necessary to say, that Radak, Rashi, Ralbag, &c. are technical names
given to these rabbins from the initials of their proper names, with some interposed vowels; as RaDaK, stands for Rabbi David Kimchi ; Rashi, for Rabbi Solomon Jarchi; RaLBeg, for Rabbi Levi ben Gershom; and so of the rest. The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, are al
three first volumes of the London Polyglott, with a generally correct literal Latin version. The Targum ascribed to Jonathan ben Uzziel, and the Targum Jerushlemey on the Pentateuch, are printed, with a literal Latin version, in the fourth volume of the above work. The Mishnah has been printed in a most elegant manner by Surenhusius, Amsterdam, 1698, 6 vols. folio, with a Latin translation, and an abundance of notes.
Christian commentators, both ancient and modern, are vastly more numerous, more excellent, and better known, than those among the Jews. On this latter account I may be well excused for passing by many, which have all their respective excellencies, and mentioning only a few out of the vast multitude, which are either more eminent, or more easy of access.
Comments may be divided into four distinct classes :-1. Those of the Primitive Fathers and Doctors of the Church: 2. Those written by Roman Catholics: 3. Those written by Protestants; and 4. Compilations from both, and Collections of Biblical Critics.
1.- PRIMITIVE FATHERS AND DOCTORS. Tatian, who flourished about A. D. 150, wrote a Harmony of the four Gospels; perhaps the first thing of the kind ever composed: the genuine work is probably lost; as that extant, under his name, is justly suspected by the learned.
In this class Onigen occupies a distinguished place: he was born A. D. 185, and wrote much on the Scriptures: his principal works are unfortunately lost; many of his Homilies still remain, but they are so replete with metaphorical and fancyful interpretations of the Sacred iext, that there is much reason to believe they have been corrupted since his time. Specimens of his mode of interpreting the Scriptures may be seen in the ensuing comment.
Hyrolitus wrote many things on the Scriptures, most of which are lost: he flourished about A. D. 230.
Chrysostom is well known and justly celebrated for his learning, skill, and eloquence in his Homilies on the Sacred Writings, particularly the Psalms. He flourished A. D. 344.
Jeron is also well known: he is author of what is called the Vulgate, a Latin version from the Hebrew and Greek of the Old and New Testaments; as also of a very valuable comment on all the Bible. He flourished A. D. 360.
EPHRAIM SYRUS, who might be rather said to have mourned than to have flourished, A. D. 360, has written some valuable expositions of particular parts of Scripture. They inay be found in his works, published by Asseman, Rome, 1737, &c. 6 vols. folio.
To AUGUSTIN, a laborious and often a confused writer, we are indebted for much valuable information on the Sacred Writings. His expositions of Scripture, however, have been the subjects of many acrimonious controversies in the Christian church. He appears often not to understand himself; and it is not to be wondered at, that his commentators mistake his meaning. Many strange things in his writings, and several things in his creed, may be attributed to the tincture his mind received from his Manichean sentiments; for it is well known that he had embraced, previously to his conversion to Christianity, the doctrine of the two principles, one wholly evil, and the other wholly good ; to whose energy and operation all the good and evil in the world were attributed. These two opposite and conflicting beings, he seems in some cases, unwaridy to unite in one God: and hence, he, and many of his followers, have formed the decretum horribile, making God, the fountain of all justice and holiness, the author, not only of all the good that is in the world, for on this there can be but one opinion, but of all the evil likewise; having reduced it to a necessity of existence, by a pre-determining, unchangeable, and eternal decree, by which, all the actions of angels
and men are appointed and irrevocably established. So that, to use the words of a certain catechism, "he has foreordained WHATSOEVER comes to pass.” S. Augustin died A. D. 430.
Gregory the Great, who flourished about A. D. 600, has written commentaries which are greatly esteemed, especially among the Catholics.
THEOPHYLACT has written a valuable comment on the Gospels, Acts, and St. Paul's Epistles. He flourished A. D. 700.
VENERABLE BEDE flourished A. D. 780, and wrote comments, (or rather collected those of others) on the principal books of the Old and New Testaments, which are still extant.
RABANUS MAURUS, who flourished A. D. 800; was one of the most voluminous commentators since the days of Origen. Besides his numerous comments published in his works, there is a glossary of his on the whole Bible, in MS. in the imperial library at Vienna.
WALFRIDUS Strapus or Strabo, composed a work on the Old and New Testaments entitled Glossa Ordinariæ ; which is properly a catena or collection of all comments of the Greek and Latin fathers prior to his time. Strabo constantly endeavours to show the literal, historical and moral sense of the inspired writers. The best edition of this valuable work, was printed at Antwerp in 1634. The author died in his forty-third year, A. D. 846.
II.-CATHOLIC COMMENTATORS. Among the Catholic writers, many valuable commentators are to be found; the chief of whom are the following :Hugo de Sancta CLARA, or Hugh de St. Chen, flourished in 1200. He was a Dominican monk, and cardinal, and wrote a commentary on the whole Bible, and composed a concordance, probably the first regular work of the kind, in which he is said to have employed not less than 500 of his brethren to write for him!
Nicholaus de LYRA, or Lyranus, Anglicè, Nicholas Harper, wrote short comments on the whole Bible, which are allowed to be very judicious, and in which he reprehends many reigning abuses. It is supposed, that from these Martin Luther borrowed much of that light which brought about the reformation. Hence it has been said:
Si Lyra non Lyrazret;
* Luther had never plann'd the reformation." Lyra flourished in 1300, and was the first of the Christian commentators who brought rabbinical learning to illustrate the Sacred Writings.
John MENOCHIUS, who flourished in the sixteenth century, has published short notes on all the Scriptures-they are generally very judicious and satisfactory.
IsidorE CLARIUS, bishop of Fuligni in Umbria, in 1550 wrote some learned notes on the Old and New Testaments; he is celebrated for an eloquent speech delivered before the council of Trent, in favour of the Vulgate-his learned defence of it, contributed, no doubt, to the canonization of that version.
William 'Estius, the antagonist of Luther, wrote short notes on the Scriptures, which are not very highly esteemed, even by the Catholics.
Jous Maldonat wrote notes on particular parts of the Old and New Testaments, at present little read. CORNELIUS à LAPIDE is one of the most laborious and voluminous commentators since the invention of printing. Though he has written nothing either on the Psalms, or Job, yet his comment forms no less than 16 vols. folio; it was printed at Venice 1710. He was a very learned man; bui cites, as authentic, several spurious writings. He died in 1637.
In 1693–4, Father Quesnel, priest of the Oratory, published in French, at Brussels, Moral Reflections on the New Testament, in 8 vols. 12 mo. The author was a man of deep piety; and were it not for the rigid Jansenian predestinarianism which it contains, it would, as a spiritual comment, be invaluable. The work was translated into English by the Rev. Richard Russel, and published in 4 vols. 8vo. London 1719, &c. It was against this book that Pope Clement XI. issued his famous Constitution Unigenitus, in which he condemned one hundred and one propositions taken out of the Moral Reflections, as dangerous and damnable heresies. In my notes on the New Testament, I have made considerable use of this pious work. The author died at Amsterdam, December 2, 1719, aged 86 years.
Dom AUGUSTIN CALMET, a Benedictine, published, what he terms Commentaire Literale, on the whole of the Old and New Testaments. It was first printed at Paris, in 26 vols. 4to. 1707-1717. And afterward, in 9 vols. folio, Paris, Emery, Saugrain, and Martin, 1719-1726. It contains the Latin text of the Vulgate, and a French translation, in collateral columns, with the notes at the bottom of each page. It has a vast apparatus of prefaces and dissertations, in which immense learning, good sense, sound judgment, and deep piety are invariably displayed. Though the Vulgate is his text, yet he notices all its variations from the Hebrew and Greek originals; and generally builds his criticisms upon these. He quotes all the ancient commentators, and all the modern, whether Catholic or Protestant; and gives them due credit and praiser His illustrations of many difficult texts, referring to idolatrous customs, rites, ceremonies, &c. from the Greek and Roman classics, are abundant, appropriate, and successful. His tables, maps, plans, &c. are very judiciously constructed, and consequently, very useful. This is, without exception, the best comment ever published on the Sacred Writings, either by Catholics or Protestants; and has left little to be desired for the completion of such a work. It is true, its scarcity, voluminousness, high price, and the language in which it is written, must prevent its ever coming into common use in our country; but it will ever form one of the most valuable parts of the private library of every biblical student and divine. From this judicious and pious commentator I have often borrowed; and his contributions form some of the best parts of my work.
In 1753, Father HOUBIGANT, a priest of the Oratory, published a Hebrew Bible, in 4 vols. folio, with a Latin version, and several critical notes at the end of each chapter. He was a consummate Hebraician and accurate critic: even his conjectural emendations of the text, cast much light on many obscure passages; and not a few of them have been confirmed by the MS. collections of Kennicott and De Rossi. The work is as invaluable in its matter as it is high in price, and difficult to be obtained. To this edition, the following notes are often under considerable obligation.
III.-PROTESTANT COMMENTATORS. Sebastian MUNSTER, first a Cordelier, but afterward a Protestant, published a Hebrew Bible, with a Latin translation, and short critical notes at the end of each chapter. His Bible has been long neglected, but his notes have been often republished in large collections. He died in 1552.
The Bible in Latin, printed at Zurich, in 1543, and often afterward, in folio, has a vast many scholia or marginal notes, which have been much esteemed, (as also the Latin version) by many divines and critics. The compilers of the notes were Leo de Juda, Theodore Bibliander, Peter Cholin, Ralph Guatier, and Conrad Pelicanus.
TREMELLIUS, a converted Jew, with Junius or du Jon, published a very literal Latin version of the Hebrew Bible, with short, critical notes; folio, 1575. It has been often reprinted, and was formerly in high esteem. Father Simon accuses him unjustly, of putting in pronouns where none exist in the Hebrew: had he examined more carefully, he would have found that Tremellius translates the emphatic article by the prono'ın in Latin; and it is well known, that it has this power in the Hebrew language. Father Simon's censure is therefore not well founded.
John Piscaton published a laborious and learned comment on the Old and New Testaments, in 24 vols. Svo. Herborn, 1601–1616. 'Not highly esteemed.
John Drusius was an able commentator; he penetrated the literal sense of Scripture; and in his animadversions, Hebrew Questions, Explanations of Proverbs, Observations on the Rites and Customs of the Jews, he has cast much light on many parts of the Sacred Writings. He died at Franeker, in 1616, in the 66th year of his age. Hugo GROTIUS, or Hugh le Groot, has written notes on the whole
of the Old and New Testaments. His learning was very extensive, his erudition profound, and his moderation on subjects of controversy highly praise-worthy. No man possessed a more extensive and accurate knowledge of the Greek and Latin writers; and no man has more successfully applied them to the illustration of the Sacred Writings. He is perhaps justly suspected of Socinian sentiments, and is, in general, so intent upon the literal meaning of the Scriptures, as to lose sight of the spiritual. He died in 1645, aged 62 years.
LEWIS DE Dieu wrote animadversions on the Old and New Testaments, in which are many valuable things. He was a profound scholar in Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Persian, and Syriac, as his works sufficiently testify. He died at Leyden in 1642.
Desiderius Erasmus is well known, not only as an able editor of the Greek Testament; but also as an excellent commentator upon it. The first edition of this Sacred Book was published by him: and for many years, his notes served for the foundation of all the comments that were written on it; and his Latin version itself, was deemed an excellent comment on the text, because of its faithfulness and simplicity. Erasmus was one of the most correct Latin