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THE PROGRESS OF BIBLICAL CRITICISM,
And as she sees the body sink in earth,
But not for this I grieve. From guilt I pine, Feel once again the tortures of his birth.
And dreaded vengeance of the wrath divine. We see the patriot mourn his city's fall,
Oh, how shall I from conscious guilt withdraw? When foes triumphant mount the battered wall;
How 'scape the terrors of the outraged Law? When through the streets the savage soldiers roam,
Shall I to mountain rocks and caves repair, And rising flames consume his darling home.
Or ocean's depths, and seek a refuge there? But O my soul ! what sorrows can prevail
Oh, could I find a spot from guilt secure, Thy lone and lost condition to bewail ;
A spot where all is holy, just, and pure, For deep in thee the serpent makes abode,
(As poets say, in fabled isles of joy, And soils the image of the living God?
No serpents hiss, no ravenous beasts destroy,) Weep, sinner, weep,-let floods of anguish roll,
Thither, O thither, would I wish to fly, The tears of penitence alone console.
And hide myself from every human eye. Ye social haunts, endeared by every charm,
Safe in the port no more we danger fear ; Ye friends whose hearts with love sincere were warm; The shield averts the terrors of the spear; Thou, Eloquence, the source of spreading fame,
The heat or cold we 'scape our house within, Ye empty honours of a noble name;
But oh! what guard can save the soul from sin ? Ye palaces so splendid to behold,
On every side, above, beneath, around, Ye hoarded treasures of uncounted gold;
Evil, a constant, watchful guest is found. Thou, lovely Sun, so dear to mortal eyes,
To Heaven Elijah went on wheels of fire; Ye bright wide-spreading mansions of the skies,
Moses by flight escaped a tyrant's ire; Ye glorious stars that in these mansions dwell,
The whale saved Jonah from a wretched fate; To you, to all, I soon must bid farewell!
Daniel, exposed to beasts by envious hate, Your influence still on other hearts shall shine,
Found that his God the lion's strength could tame; Whilst blind and senseless I in death recline.
Three pious youths uninjured passed through flame; Awhile surviving friends my loss shall grieve,
But from my guilt what hope of rescue's shown ? But soon from time oblivion's balm receive :
Save me, O Christ! the power is thine alone.
The Distichs of Gregory Nazianzen are still highly valued by the Greek Christians, amongst whom they have passed into proverbs. They were designed to imitate the golden verses or poetic maxims of the ancients; the two lines of which they are composed conveying some moral precept in a pointed and epigrammatic form. We shall quote a very few specimens. Light be thy bark to sail life's stormy sea,
To words as to thy life attention pay, Too large a cargo sinks itself and thee.
The former gone, the latter wastes away.
Devote thy soul a temple to thy God,
Man, know thyself and whence thy life is given,
Trust not to wealth, it comes and goes for ever,
The most interesting cultivator of sacred literature amongst the Greeks was the Empress Eudocia, the wife of Theodosius the Younger, who flourished in the fifth century. She was the daughter of an Athenian philosopher, and for her wit and beauty was elevated to a throne, which she adorned by piety and learning. Being falsely accused by envious courtiers, and unjustly suspected by her husband, she retired to Jerusalem, where she sought and found consolation in the pursuits of literature and religion. Here she commenced her greatest work, the Homeric Centos, which we shall describe hereafter. Her innocence being recognised, she was recalled to court, and reinstated in her former rank and dignity; but the pomp of the palace did not seduce her from her favourite studies; after her restoration, she translated several Books of the Old Testament into hexameter verse; she also wrote an epic poem on the martyrdom of St. Cyprian and Justina, and another on her husband's victories over the Persians. After the emperor's death, she returned to Jerusalem, where she spent the rest of her life. The completion of the Homeric Centos formed her chief occupation. These consist of lines taken from various parts of Homer's poems, so ingeniously strung together as to form a pretty accurate outline of the Gospel history. They are highly esteemed by continental scholars, but are almost wholly unknown in England; we shall therefore translate one of two specimens of so curious and ingenious a performance,
The Flight INTO EGYPT.
THE BAPTISM OF Christ.
AND SUCCESSION OF SACRED LITERATURE.
But when they reached the lovely river's ford, . . N. 14
• Od. 11
THE BETRAYAL OF Christ.
We find that several Greek prelates followed the example of Eudocia in translating Books of the Bible into hexameter verse, and writing sacred epics on various parts of the Jewish history. Some. of these were creditable performances, as the following passage from the Sacred Epic of Theodotus will show:
God, in thy rage the Sichemites destroy,
But it must be confessed, that far the greater part of these sacred poems were worthless effusions of perverted taste, such as could scarcely be quoted without giving offence. We may however notice. the poem of George Pesides, in the seventh century, on the Vanity of Life, as a fair specimen of the. wretched puerilites into which some of the Christian poets fell; it commences with this ominous stanza:
Open, O Lord, to me the gates of speech,
Through which the words of pure instruction pass ;
Thou mad'st a preacher out of Balaam's ass. John of Damascus, an honourable name in the scanty catalogue of the Greek cultivators of Christian literature, flourished in the midst of the eighth century. During the greater part of his life he devoted himself to public affairs, and held an honourable post in the court of the Saracenic Khaliphs. In his old age he retired into a monastery, and devoted himself to sacred literature. His principal work on Biblical criticism is the Sacred Parallels, in which the precepts of Scripture are compared with the doctrines taught by the Fathers of the Church. The work abounds with mystic and strained interpretations; he allows tradition the same authority as the written word, and he inserts several Rabbinical fables which were probably communicated to the Greeks through the medium of the Syrian church. But the fame of John of Damascus rests chiefly on his penitential hymns, which display an extraordinary depth of devotional feeling, sullied, however, with some of the corruptions which, in this age, had seriously impaired the purity of Christianity. An extract from one of his hymns is translated as a specimen of Greek devotional poetry; its length may be pardoned, not only on account of its merits, but also because the very name of the author is scarcely known to the bulk of modern readers.
From lips polluted, Lord, by sin,
Hear me, Christ, in mercy hear;
Though my words be faint and dull,
THE PROGRESS OF BIBLICAL CRITICISM,
Grant me, grant me power to speak
Deeper, darker are the stains
In my tears that ceaseless fall,
Thou perceivest every stain
All my deeds to thee are shown,
Hear, O Lord, my secret cry,
The Greeks produced few interpreters of prophecy; the chief were Theodoret, the first Christian writer who assigned a spiritual significance to the Song of Solomon; and Cassiodorus, who wrote a learned Commentary on the Apocalypse, in which he identified the mystic Babylon with pagan Rome. They were unfortunately more than rivals of the Rabbins in filling up what Scripture has not revealed, with creatures of their own invention and imagination. The example was set by Dionysius at the close of the fifth century, who wrote the Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels, and the long catalogue of his followers may be terminated with Michael Psellus, whose writings in the eleventh century collected all the strange superstitions respecting spiritual beings and their agencies, which the perverted fancy of dreaming monks had devised during preceding ages. It was probably from a hint given by Psellus that Simeon, abbot of Xerocerce, derived his strange theory of the immateriality and eternity of the light exhibited on Mount Tabor at the time of the transfiguration. Few controversies have ever raged more fiercely and extensively than that respecting the nature of the light on Mount Tabor in the Greek church; the rival disputants had not brought the question to a final issue when the Turks interfered, and put an end to all further discussion by establishing Mohammedanism on the throne of Constantinople.
Notwithstanding the great merits of St. Ambrose, the honour of introducing Biblical criticism into the Latin church must fairly be assigned to St. Jerome and St. Augustine. The translation of the Bible into Latin by St. Jerome, commonly called the Vulgate, (q. v.,) was the first and almost the only version made by one who had visited Palestine, and made himself acquainted with the peculiarities of its climate, soil, and natural productions. In his multitudinous controversial writings, Jerome displays a more critical acquaintance with the text of Scripture than any other writer previous to the Reformation ; his elaborate commentaries and prefaces to the different books of both Testaments, have not been superseded by any later publications, and still deserve to be studied by every Biblical scholar. St. Augustine's most valuable work is his Harmony of the Four Gospels; his Commentaries are not of much value, for he was utterly ignorant of Hebrew, and very imperfectly acquainted with Greek; he is perpetually searching for mysteries in the plainest passages, exhibiting all the imaginative daring of Origen, with a very small share of his learning and acumen. His works, however, exercised considerable influence over the Western churches, and his expositions continued to be repeated by most Latin commentators from his own age to that of the Reformation. The Venerable Bede was one of the few exceptions; he consulted the original Greek both of the New Testament and the Fathers, from whose writings he collected a very valuable mass of information. Alcuin, his countryman and cotemporary, undertook a similar task, but executed it with far less skill and judgment.
With the exception of Remigius, who wrote a commentary on the Prophecies, and applied all the unfulfilled predictions to the events of his own time, we find no comment on the Bible worthy of note produced in the Latin church from the days of Bede to those of Thomas Aquinas. The Scholastic Theology was, in fact, to a great extent independent of Scripture, and the study of ecclesiastical casuistry after the age of Aquinas tended still further to throw the Bible into the shade. Reuchlin and Erasmus restored Biblical criticism in the sixteenth century, by reviving the study of the Hebrew and Greek languages, and thus prepared the way for the Reformation.
AND SUCCESSION OF SACRED LITERATURE.
The translation of the Bible into most of the languages of modern Europe at the time of the Reformation, attracted an immense share of public attention to Scriptural studies. At first, indeed, the Bible was investigated more for the purpose of controversy than criticism, and disputants on all sides wrested and perverted texts, in order to sustain their favourite dogmas. As learning, however, steadily advanced, a sounder system of interpretation began to prevail, and Oriental studies were eagerly pursued for the purpose of illustrating the language of Scripture, and explaining its intricacies of expression by the analogy of the cognate languages of the East. The seventeenth century was honourably distinguished by the earnestness with which the learned of Europe sought out the literary treasures of the East, and applied them to the illustration of the Bible. A mere catalogue of those who thus laboured to create a new school of interpretation would fill a large volume, and we are therefore forced to content ourselves with general statements, instead of specifying the names of individuals. Those who desire a more particular knowledge of the progress of Biblical criticism in the three last centuries, are referred to the Reverend Hartwell Horne's Introduction to the Study of the Scriptures, a work which is an honour to our country and our age.
One of the earliest subjects investigated by Biblical scholars after the revival of literature was Scriptural Chronology; but in order to appreciate the labours of those who dedicated themselves to this task, it will be necessary for us to return again to the Greek writers, by whom Synchronistic Tables of Sacred and Profane History were first framed. The Byzantine chronographers, indeed, demand our attention not so much for their intrinsic merits, as for the value of the materials inserted in their compilations. Fragments of Sanchoniathon, Manetho, Berosus, Hecatæus, and other authors, the loss of whose works leaves ancient history like the maps of ancient Africa—either a total blank in the middle, or filled up by vague traditions and fanciful conjectures—are found in these chronologies, and amply repay the toil of wading through the trash with which they are encompassed. There are few literary tasks requiring such vast ard varied learning as the synchronozing of the different eras used by the various nations of antiquity; but if we are to judge from the majority of the specimens handed down to us from the Byzantine chronographers and some of the Fathers, it would seem that the execution of the task was entrusted to the most incompetent. Before the Christian era, many writers, of whom Diodorus Siculus was the most conspicuous, laboured to reconcile the chronology of the Asiatic and European dynasties; their success was but moderate; Diodorus himself tells us, that in the more ancient system of Egyptian hieroglyphics the same symbol served for a year and for a month, and he intimates, that in some Oriental languages there was a similar confusion of name; he thus plausibly accounts for the extravagant antiquity claimed by the Egyptians and other nations. But it is obvious, that tables in which years and months were so jumbled together that the two could not be distinguished, afforded no foundation for any certain system, and scarcely even for plausible conjecture..
New difficulties arose after the introduction of Christianity, for it was deemed necessary to reconcile the double chronology of Diodorus, which seems to have been almost universally adopted with the canon of time which the Byzantine historians and the Fathers imagined that they had discovered in the Old Testament. We say “ imagined,” because a little consideration will suffice to show that no definite and fixed system of chronology can be based on the history of the Bible; nor indeed should it be expected; that holy book is an account of the manifestations of the divine will to a chosen people, and beyond that its revelations do not extend. It no more contains a perfect ancient history or chronology than it does a perfect system of geology or astronomy, which, by the way, the Hutchinsonians in the last century, and some incomprehensible theorists of our own day, have sought to extract from its pages.
Like most other Eastern nations, the Israelites reckoned loosely by generations, and not exactly by years; they were regardless of fixed eras, they took little or no notice of celestial phenomena; and they have therefore left us no sufficient data. or determining whether any of the successive generations may have been omitted by careless or ignorant transcribers. The Hebrew system of numeration by the letters of the alphabet was as clumsy and imperfect as can well be imagined. They used the letters of the alphabet for numerical symbols, and however useful such a system may be in artificial memories, it could not but lead to constant errors of transcription when the numerical symbols were liable to be mistaken for words. This liability to error was greatly increased by the close similarity between several letters of the Hebrew alphabet; a similarity which often perplexes the ripest scholars in the reading of the Hebrew Bible; there was also a complete change of alphabetic
TIIE PROGRESS OF BIBLICAL CRITICISM,
character amongst the Jews after their return from Babylon, and it is almost impossible that this could be effected without producing some confusion in the alphabetic symbols of numbers. In point of fact, the chronologies of the Hebrew and Samaritan text are inconsistent with that of the Septuagint, and with each other, nor has any intelligible principle been found for deciding to which of the three we should assign the preference. Finally, the sacred writers, as was natural with men more anxious to record the revealed truths of God than to chronicle with exactness the deeds of men, frequently use round numbers instead of entering into the minuteness of precise calculations; the number “forty,” for instance, is used repeatedly in the same loose way that we ordinarily speak of a dozen or a score; and in fact, the Hebrew word for forty, ya 78 arba, from its similarity to 27 rab, seems to have signified primarily an indefinite multitude. It would be easy to mention several other reasons which render it all but impossible to construct a perfect canon of Scriptural chronology, but those already assigned are fully sufficient to convince any person of ordinary understanding. The first Christian writer that composed a synchronostic canon of the biblical and gentile chronologies was Jubus Africanus, who flourished in the early part of the third century; he seems, judging from the fragments of his work that have survived the ravages of time, to have brought to his work great industry, a habit of diligent research, and no ordinary talent, but to have wanted critical sagacity in estimating the value of doubtful authorities, and assigning a preference to the best supported of contradictory statements. Hence his work was full of inconsistencies, and the dates assigned to events in his tables, utterly irreconcilable with the authorities which he quoted. Africanus was followed by Eusebius, and as plagiarism seems to have been deemed no crime by the Greek writers of chronology, Eusebius very coolly appropriated to himself the entire canon of his predecessor, transcribing it into his own chronicle without emendation or alteration. Of the Eusebian chronicle, known to us only through the medium of imperfect translations, little need be said; it scarcely differed in style or substance from the chronicles of Syncellus and Malalas, to which our attention must now be more particularly directed.
The chronicle of Syncellus, which has been generally taken as the chief source from which modern systems of scriptural and comparative chronology are deduced, is a very valuable compilation, but destitute of all other merit. The Greek chronologists and compilers perceived that the Sacred Scriptures were not designed to gratify human curiosity with respect to remote antiquity; and they filled up the bold and general outline of the pentateuchal archives with the apocryphal narratives devised by the Alexandrian Jews and their Christian imitators; just as geographers in the last century concealed the blank which the unknown regions of Africa left in their maps by inserting imaginary mountains, rivers, cities, and nations. These romances, if indeed they even deserve that name, are quoted by Syncellus with almost as much respect as the works of the inspired writers themselves. The life of Adam, the Little Genesis, the Prophecy of Enoch, and other forgeries of the same class, afford him “confirmation strong as proof of Holy Writ;" it would of course be an idle waste of time to demonstrate their utter absurdity in the present day, but from the influence they exercised over the Fathers of the Christian Church, and to a considerable extent over Biblical critics of all ages, it would be equally absurd to pass by these apocryphal fragments as unworthy of attention.
We have already shown that the Alexandrian Jews and the Greek Fathers anticipated the folly of the Hutchinsonians and other modern theorists, who have assumed to themselves the unmeaning title of Scriptural Cosmologists, in attempting to obtain a system of physical philosophy from the Pentateuch. Syncellus was a devoted follower of Ephrem Syrus, whose theory has already been noticed, and from the dreams of that worthy Father he constructed the systems of orthodox cosmology and geography, which for several centuries were deemed essential articles of faith. In refuting the extravagant claims of the Egyptians and Chaldæans to a remote antiquity, Syncellus astounds us with the declaration that “previous to the Deluge the world was uninhabited;" and he labours to prove this position by the following appeal to what was then established as the “ Sacred or Biblical System of the Universe.”
“The Sacred Scripture says, “He expelled Adam, and placed him opposite the Paradise of delight;' hut Babylonia and all our earth is at a great distance from Eden, which lies in that eastern clime where we place Paradise. And that we should quote an inspired evidence for this assertion, let us summon as a witness the divine Ephrem, that tongue rolling an ocean of eloquence, who in his dogmatic orations speaks thus about Paradise :- Paradise is higher than all the lofty pleasant places of the earth, the waters of the Deluge only reached to its foundations. But the men older than the