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Hebrew tongue, but the language of the country where they were born. Afterwards when they grow up, they are taught the letters, and learn to read the holy Scripture in the Hebrew tongue.” And one of their Rabbins in Pirke Avoth, tells us,* “ that they taught their children the Scriptures at five years old ;” that is, to read the Scripture in the Hebrew language ; and to this day the Jews are very careful to teach their children Hebrew, that so they may be capable to read and understand the Scriptures; and if now they teach them Hebrew, when it is so difficult for them, the languages where they are born and bred having no affinity with it, how much more would they do it then, when it was so very easy, the Chaldee, which was the language of Babylon, being of all tongues in the world the nearest akin to the Hebrew, its letters being all the same with the Hebrew, and abundance of its words being derived from Hebrew originals, and only differing from them either in their declension or formation; what their different declensions are, the common rules of the Chaldee language declare ; and as for their different formations, it consists either in changing or transposing the letters of the radical words, or in detracting from, or adding to them, or in the transmutation of the vowels; the main of all which differences are reducible to a few short and easy rules. So that supposing the Chaldee to have been the vulgar language of the Hebrews; yet by reason of the near alliance of those two languages, they might, with as much ease, have taught their children the pure Hebrew, as the Scots can theirs to understand pure English. And is it likely that they, who are now so very careful to teach it to their children when it is so difficult, should then neglect it when it was so easy? But as for that assertion of our author, viz. that “in this captivity they lost the knowledge of their old Hebrew :” though I cannot but look upon it as a most absurd falsehood ; yet I confess, in hini it is very pitiable, it being his misfortune to be imposed upon by much abler heads than his own; and particularly by Bellarmine, I from whom he commonly borrows all his Scripture-proofs and arguments. But how far this assertion is from any probable show of truth, will, I doubt not, sufficiently appear upon a close inquiry into the matter : for considering the duration of this captivity, it is hardly conceivable how in such a short
* Perek. 1. + Vid. Buxtorf. observat. Commun. Lexic. Chaldaic. prefixæ.
De Verb. Dei. lib. 2. cap. 4. (ut supra, p. 44. col. 1.]
of time they should lose the knowledge of their native Hebrew (though they had industriously endeavoured it), for a native language is not soon worn out, but must pass into disuse by slow and insensible degrees : for some considerable time to be sure the generality of the people must continue to speak it, because as yet they can speak no other; and after they have been a little initiated into a new language, they will, for a long time, be apt, where they know they are understood, to be speaking their old, that being as yet much more natural and easy to them, and so it must be a considerable time before they can be supposed to forget it. Thus when the Jews were led captive into Babylon, they carried thither no other language with them, but only their own native Hebrew; and therefore some time after they must necessarily speak it, or live in a state of perpetual silence; and after they had got some smattering of the Chaldee, to be sure they expressed themselves in it with a great deal of difficulty ; and therefore there is no doubt, but among themselves and in their families, they rather chose to converse in their native Hebrew, this being as yet far more familiar to them than the Chaldee ; and by commonly speaking Hebrew in their families, they could not but propagate the knowledge of it to their children. Now this captivity continuing but seventy years at most, it is probable that a great many of the first generation survived it; and how is it imaginable that they should forget the Hebrew, which was their native language, and in which, having yet no other language, they were forced to converse for several of those seventy years ? By reason of which, the next generation, which made up a great part of those who returned from this captivity, must also be supposed to have imbibed the Hebrew from their parents ; many of whom, to be sure, especially of the ruder sort, had for several years no other language to converse in : so that supposing them to have been indifferently affected to their new Chaldee and their old Hebrew language; yet must their seventy years captivity be elapsed, before they could be so wholly accustomed to the one, as quite to forget the other. And this will yet more evidently appear, if we consider that this very same people continued captive in Egypt for the space of 200 years ; and yet in all this long tract of time they lost not their native Hebrew, but, as all agree, brought it back along with them into the land of Canaan. And is it not very strange, that they who preserved it in one captivity of 200
years duration, should quite lose it in another of seventy, when they had all the advantages of preserving it in the latter, that they had in the former? There is no doubt but in both they intermingled their Hebrew with some words and phrases of the respective languages of those countries ; and that they did so is notorious of this later captivity in Babylon, from whence they brought several Chaldee words, of which there are sundry instances in the New Testament, such as Bethesda, Golgotha, Akeldama, &c. which yet are said 'EBpaïoti Néyeo Jai, " to be so called in the Hebrew tongue,” because by common use they were adopted into the Hebrew, even as “debauch," “intrigue, "embarrassment,” &c. are now adopted into the English : but yet the deriving these foreign words into them, render neither the one nor the other a new language ; still the former continued Hebrew, as the latter continues English. And though perhaps every ordinary Jew understood not those Chaldee words, any more than every ordinary Englishman these French words ; yet still the one understood Hebrew, as well as the other understands English. But that the Jews retained their knowledge of the ancient Hebrew under and a long while after this captivity, is evident not only from the reason of the thing, but from much better authority than can be pretended for the contrary : for the main authority which the contrary opinion depends on is that of the Jewish doctors, many of whom understood very little of their own antiquities ; and though in those collections of their writings from whence these authorities are cited, it cannot be denied but that there are some things truly ancient, yet even these are so notoriously sophisticated with the inventions of their modern Rabbins, that there is hardly any relying upon them for the truth of matters of fact : and yet Barradius* quotes one Rabbi Simon, who affirms that “nullo tempore nec scribendi nec loquendi modus mutatus est ; that there never was any time wherein the manner of either writing or speaking Hebrew was altered.” Which, if true, was a plain argument, that in all those times the Jews had never disused themselves from speaking it; and if what Durandust saith were true, viz. that “ the Jews that were christened had their service in the Hebrew tongue,” it is certain that in that time the Hebrew was the vulgar language of the Jews; and that it was so even in St. Jerome's time, at least of a great many of the Palestine Jews, is evident from that
* Barradius, lib. 5. cap. 24. (vol. 1. p. 263. col. 2. 1742.] + Lib. 4. c. 1.
passage of his about Paula's funeral,* “ Tota ad funus ejus Palæstinarum urbium turba convenit Hebræo, Græco, Latino, Syroque sermone, psalmi in ordine personabant,” i. e. 6. The whole multitudes of the cities of Palestine met at Paula's funeral, and sang Psalms in order, in the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Syrian tongues.” So that it seems in those days the Hebrew was as much the common language of some cities in Palestine, as the Greek, and Latin, and Syriac, was of others. And St. Ambrose speaking of the Jewish converts, hath this passage:“Hi ex Hebræis erant, qui aliquando Syria lingua, plerumque Hebræa, in tractatibus et oblationibus utebantur ;" i. e. “ These were Jews, who in their sermons and oblations used sometimes the Syrian, but most commonly the Hebrew language.” From whence it is evident, that Hebrew was then more common among them than the Syriac. Against all this, it is objected by Bellarmine and our author, that when the Jews returned from this captivity into their own country, Esdras “ was forced by himself and others, to make the law be interpreted to them,” Nehem. viii. 13. From whence they infer, that the Jews did not tben understand the Hebrew tongue, in which the law was read to them. But what if by interpreting, we understand not construing the words, but explaining the sense of the law? Why truly then this doughty argument vanishes in fumo. But that so it is, is evident from ver. 8, where it is said, that “they read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading," or meaning of what they read. But still our author, from Bellarmine his oracle, objects, " that when our Saviour upon the cross, did in the old Hebrew of the Psalm say, as it was first written, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani, St. Matthew, who did write his Gospel in that new kind of Hebrew the Syriac, which was vulgarly spoken by the Jews in those days, is forced to interpret these words, saying, which is being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? For which reason also he interpreted several other Hebrew words, which is a manifest sign that they could not be understood by the Jews, in whose language he did write, without interpretation.” But now suppose, in the first place, that these words of our Saviour upon the cross were Syriac, and not the old Hebrew, as our author from Bellarmine will needs have them ; why then it will very unluckily follow, that the Jews understood not Syriac, which yet both he and Bellarmine will needs have to be their vulgar language in our Saviour's time. For what need had Št. Matthew to interpret Syriac words to the Jews, if at that time their vulgar language was Syriac? But if instead of “Eli, Eli,” as it is in St. Matthew, the words of our Saviour were “ Eloi, Eloi,” as St. Mark reports them, the whole sentence is Syriac ; and seeing the latter part is so, I should think it more reasonable to conclude the former so too, than to make our Saviour speak two different languages in so short a sentence. But suppose that for once we should be so civil as to allow the whole to be Hebrew; yet St. Matthew's interpreting it doth by no means infer that the Jews of that
* Hieron. in Epitaph. Paul. (vol. 1. p. 717. Veron. 1734.) + In 1 Cor. 14. (vol. 2. Append. p. 157. Par. 1690.]
did not understand Hebrew: for what if St. Matthew wrote his Gospel in Greek, and not in Syriac, as our author affirms ? Why truly then he is utterly undone again ; for then all that can be inferred from St. Matthew's interpreting those Hebrew words, is, that all that understood Greek did not understand Hebrew; or at most, that there were some of the Helenistical Jews that lived abroad in Gentile countries, who since the translation of their Scriptures into Greek (which was then the most universal language in the world) had quite forgot the Hebrew, and that for their sakes it was that St. Matthew interpreted those Hebrew words of our Saviour; either of which we may safely grant, without the least damage to our cause, or advantage to our adversaries. Now that St. Matthew did write his Gospel in Greek is the current opinion of a great many
men, both in his Church and ours; which opinion of theirs is founded
such arguments as, I am apt to think, will puzzle much wiser heads than his to answer : for upon the rise of the Grecian Empire, the Greek language was so far diffused through all the Eastern countries, that it became almost their universal mother-language, and particularly in Judea, where by their own Rabbins it is styled the motherlanguage, * it being, in all probability, the language which they ordinarily spoke when they conversed either with their brethren the Helenists, or with foreigners, even as Lingua Franca is now ordinarily spoken by the natives all along the Straits, in the converse with foreigners, though it be not their
* Vid. Lightfoot, vol. 2. p. 103.