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THE JEWISH CAPTIVITY AND THE BIBLE.
Alexandria, the seat of eastern learning ; Antioch, of eastern commerce ; and Rome, the mistress of both. :. The effect of these changes on the history of the Bible is very important. The captivity ultimately produced the Targums, and the dispersion circulated the Septuagint. By the Targums a knowledge of Jewish literature and antiquities has been handed down to our times. By the Septuagint much of the same knowledge was extended throughout the ancient civilized world.
When the Jews returned after the captivity to Palestine, the old Hebrew had become obsolete. It sounded to the ears of the people as middleSaxon might sound to a modern Englishman Its roots they recognised, but its forms and appearance were peculiar. It became necessary, therefore, to make provision for explaining the law in the common tongue. With this view, synagogues were built in the cities of Judæa. The living voice became a necessary addition to the written word, and in process of time, as copies of the law were multiplied, the version in the vernacular dialect was naturally added to each, and even the notes and explanations given by ancient teachers. The reduction of such exposition to writing, however, must have been a very gradual work. Few of the people could read, and still fewer could afford to buy what must have been expensive volumes.
For three centuries before Christ this kind of teaching continued. When it was first reduced to writing is uncertain, but within two or
THE TARGUMS. three hundred years after Christ we find several Targums, (as the text and notes together were called,) each being a translation of part of the sacred text in the vernacular Aramæan or Chaldee, with comments, grammatical, historical, and religious. These translations originated in the necessities of the people. Their utility to ourselves it is impossible to overrate. First of all, they afford a large body of materials for fixing the meaning of old Hebrew. As it is, many of its words are foạnd only in one passage of Scripture, and without the Targums some of them at least would be unintelligible. They enable us, inoreover, to ascertain the precise readings of the original text, and show with what vast care the whole was preserved. They illustrate in a remarkable manner the accuracy of the descriptions given in the New Testament of the character and sophistry of the Jewish rabbis. From the Targums alone a model teacher, according to Jewish notions, might be drawn to the life, and he would be found the very counterpart of those scribes and Pharisees whom our Lord rebuked. Above all, they prove that the views of the ancient prophetical Scriptures given in the New Testament, and now adopted by most Christian expositors, were the views taken by the earliest commentators among the Jews themselves. Men may now ask whether it is certain that the twenty-second Psalm and the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah really apply to the Messiah. To the old Jewish expositor such a question admitted of but one reply. He
believed that the prophet spoke in both cases, not of himself, but of another, and that other–Him “ who was to come.”
Any one at all acquainted with a Hebrew Bible may have noticed that there are various divisions in it, not found in the English translation. Looking more closely, he may find peculiar letters: there is one, for example, in Lev. xi. 42 ; another in Lev. x. 13; another in Psalm 1xxx. 14 ; and another in Psalm lxxviii. 36. Sometimes the letter is of an unusual size; sometimes it is in ån unusual position. In Lev. xi. 42, the peculiar letter is the middle letter in the book of the law. In Lev. X. 13, it indicates the middle word of the law. And so of the letters in the Psalms. These facts and many others are all noted with the most scrupulous care in the comments to which we have referred. " In the letter" most emphatically did the Bible come to the ancient Jew rather than “in the spirit;” and with such reverence are those comments still regarded, that no modern Jew deems a Bible properly printed, in which these distinctions are not observed. Some imaginative interpreters among them give most curious explanations of these distinctions themselves.
The fact is without a parallel in the history of literature. Our Hebrew Bible contains a language which has not been spoken, except as a sacred tongue, for nearly two thousand years The language itself was spoken four thousand years ago; and the very points, and accents, and divisions we now employ in writing it, were pui 82 DECAY OP WELSH SCHOLARSHIP. into writing soon after the commencement of the era of the Christian faith.
Happily, the ancient world was not left to gather its knowledge of the Old Testament from these Jewish writings. The fables and stories which they contain must have brought religion into contempt, had these books been circulated among the Greeks. But the Jews guarded them from profane eyes with most religious care. Nor were they published that is, they were neither largely inultiplied nor publicly sold-till after the days of our Lord. They were put into a permanent form early enough to preserve to our own day a knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, but not so early as to interfere with the circulation of another version, (“ without note or comment") which has in its turn done a great work for the cause of truth-the version of the Seventy.
Any one acquainted with Wales and Welsh literature must have marked the lamentations which Welsh scholars pour forth on the progress in the principality of our English tongue. The language of Cymri—that is, of Gomer and his descendants—is far more ancient, rich, and melodious than the hybrid Saxon. The decay of Welsh scholarship, they tell us, is one of the saddest signs of the times. And yet the English continues to trench on the districts occupied by its rival ; and it is not difficult to determine what time will elapse before the Welsh ceases to be a spoken tongue.
Such is, in brief, the history of all speech.
A dialect of the Welsh was once spoken throughout Britain. Within the last five or six hundred years it was found in Cumberland an. in Cornwall ; it yielded, however, to the Saxon as elsewhere the Saxon had yielded in part to the Norman. The writings of Wycliffe and Chaucer, however, (both of whom were thorough Englishmen,) stemmed the tide of NormanFrench, and enabled the old Saxon to enter into alliance with the conqueror. Our modern English is the fruit of this union. As the power of Britain has extended through other countries, the English tongue has prevailed. In the western world it has driven out from Trinidad the Spanish, from Canada (to a large extent) the Indian dialects and the French. At the Cape it is subduing the Dutch and Caffir, while in the East Indies it is dividing our empire with the different forms of the native languages.
A struggle very similar began in Palestine with the conquest of Alexander. Aristotle had by that time proved the fitness of Greek to express the nicest distinctions of human thought ; Plato had illustrated its richness and beauty. Then appeared the “he-goat” of Greece, who pushed his victories to “ utmost Ind," and carried with them the literature and language of his country. Before the days of our Lord, Greek had become the tongue of commerce, of literature, and even of social life, from Babylon to Rome. It was for the world, therefore, that the version of the Seventy was