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On the English Version of the Old Testament.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL.
Exodus. Chap. I.
V. 1. The English version gives the sense with sufficient exactness; but there is a want of conciseness in the translation, which is apparent when the original is consulted. This is an objection which frequently recurs ;—the fault may lie in the structure of our language.
V. 5. And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls. This version gives the meaning without offence to delicacy, which is precisely the case in the criginal,
Jerome has most .ויהי כל נפש יצאי ירך יעקב שבעים נפש
absurdly translated these words, Erunt igitur omnes animce eorum, qui egressi sunt de femore Jacob. septuaginta. Thus the readers of the vulgate must suppose, that Jacob's powers of procreation resided in his thigh.
The LXX, in 10 very classical Greek, avoid the literal interpretation, while they yet express the general meaning ;-"Ησαν δε πάσαι ψυχαί εξ Ιακώβ πέντε και εβδομήκοντα. The Greek numbers are inaccurate. V. 6.
And all that generation. I do not mean to object to this translation ; but I must observe, that 797 does not properly signify a generation. The Lexicographers, indeed, give it this interpretation, as if it were a primitive sense of the word: but this seems erroneous. The original meaning of 777 implies circuit, or revolution; and, therefore, when applied to a family, or race of men, is properly understood to signify a generation.
V. 11. Pithom and Raamses. The LXX either found a remarkable addition in the codices from which they translated, or they introduced of their own accord an extraordinary interpolation. They add, Kei *Nv, ñ éoTW 'Havoútones---and On, which is IIeliopolis, or, “ city of the Sun.” But in the 41st chapter of Genesis, the LXX expressly say, that Joseph was married to the daughter of the Priest of Heliopolis. This city then was already built at the period, to which the present chapter refers ; and there is consequently an apparent contradiction. Now I can scarcely believe, that the Alexandrian Jews, who were employed in translating the Pentateuch, would have been guilty of such a useless deviation from the original ; and that the whole interpolation amounted to this, that they added, by way of explanation after the word On, " which is Heliopolis.” In Genesis they do not give the word On at all, but substitute for it Heliopolis, because On appears to have been the Egyptian name of the city of the Sun. But the LXX evidently fell into a mistake, when they wrote Heliopolis for On in Genesis. The Egyptians called their cities by the names of their Gods, without any addition, such as we find in Hebrew, Phoenician, and Greek-(Kirjath-Baal, Bith-Shemosh, Heliopolis, &c. for example,) and named them simply Buto, Bubastis, Canobus, Busiris, &c. In the same manner the city was called On, after the God On, who, as Cyrillus attests, was no other than the Sun; and Joseph's wife was the daughter of the Priest, not of On “ the city,” but of On “ the God.” This reconciles the scriptures with themselves, if in the ancient codices the word On really did occur in this place, which I am much inclined to believe it did.
It appears evident to me, that the persecution of the Israelites by Pharaoh was not less a religious than a political persecution. Pharaoh knew not Joseph, and he acknowledged not Jehovah. It was, then, extremely likely, in order fully to subjugate and humiliate the Hebrews, that he should make them build treasure cities, which were called by the names, and erected in honor of the idols of Egypt. I am inclined to think, that Pithom and Raamses were the names of two Egyptian deities. The first name is clearly Egyptian ; but we may suspect, that it has been Hebraised in its form. I imagine that it must have
been pronounced in Egyptian, III-XOU-Pi-dsom; for we have here the article pi, and dsom, which was a solar title in Egypt, (see Jablonski, 1. ii. c. 3.) Dsom, likewise called Chon, was the same with Hercules ; and was, like him, 'a type of the Sun in his annual course through the signs of the zodiac.
Raamses (DDDY) is interpreted in the Onomasticon fregit tributo. The Egyptians then gave a Hebrew name to one of their cities. This does not appear very probable : according to the Syrians, the daughter of Pharaoh was called Logos; Raamusa; and I suspect, that Raamses, and Raamusa, are very nearly allied in signification. The word raam, or ram, signifying concussion, but more particularly the concussion of the air occasioned by thunder, appears to have been in very general use throughout the East : but as the Sun was considered as the God of Thunder, the title was transferred to that luminary. The Rama of the Indians, according to Sir W. Jones, was no other than that type of the Sun, called Dionysus by the Greeks. Some etymologists have gone so far as to denominate Abraham, Ab-Ram, Sol-pater. Even in the West this name of Ram became a title which was given to the God of Thunder; and Bochart derives the Celtic Taramis from raam. He seems, however, manifestly to err, when he says, that the word is bynn, then being servile, and prefixed to Dym raum, thunder. The Sun was worshipped over great part of the East, and in all the Northern regions of Europe, under the Chaldean name of 1 or 7, tor, or thor, (the Bull,) and the symbol of the Sun. Now I have no great doubt, that the word Taramis is composed of tor (variously pronounced taur, tur, &c.) and raam, or ram, thunder. But to return to Raamses, it is evident, that this was an Egyptian name, and clearly the same with Rhameses, which Mr. Bryant, in his 4th volume shows to have been a solar title in Egypt. The word DYT raam, appears, as I have already said, to have been of very general and ancient usage ; and, therefore, I do not presume too much, especially after finding the Egyptian names Raamusi, and Rhameses, in concluding, that it was known to the Egyptians, as well as to the Hebrews, the Syrians, the Chaldeans, and the Indians, in the East, and to the Celts in the
West. But what is the meaning of the last syllable DD ? In Hebrew, this word signifies a kind of caterpillar, or grub; and could not easily come into the composition of a proper
But in Egyptian Pomoc ses, or sis, signifies dominus; and Raam-ses, in Egyptian, ought accordingly to signify the Lord of Thunder - The Zeus ó Bpórtuins of the Greeks, and the Jupiter tonans of the Latins.
V. 14. In mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. Such, without doubt, is the obvious interpretation. But the Old Testament is, throughout, full of symbolical language. Those who judge of it from the productions of modern times, or who form their notions concerning its style, even from Greek and Roman standards of taste, will wholely misconceive its spirit. "The genius of the Orientalists has led them in all times, but particularly in remoter ages, to seek for allegorical and ænigmatical expressions; and nowhere more than in the scriptures, do we find this. typical language employed.
He who reads even the historical parts of the Pentateuch, as he would do an old English Chronicle, will never comprehend the meaning of the author. There were two objects, which seem to have been principally in the view of Moses. The first was to reclaim the Hebrews from idolatry, and the second was to typify to them the glorious advent of the Messiah. If I were to say, that the whole of the Exodus is itself a type, I should not perhaps express myself too strongly; but I confine myself to the consideration of the two objects, which I have stated as having been principally in the view of Moses. It is impossible, in these short notes, to explain myself further ; but I am convinced, that every person, who will weigh the meanings of words, few of which are confined to one sense, will quickly perceive how many curious and important subjects, relative to the above-mentioned objects, are ænigmatically conveyed in the language of the sacred historian.
I find myself obliged, however, before I proceed, to take notice of two objections, which have been suggested to me.
1st. It has been observed, that if it had been the intention of Moses to make such frequent references to the two objects mentioned above, it would have been more natural for him to
have spoken in direct terms, which could not have been misunderstood. If he wished to reclaim the Jews from idolatry, why, it is asked, should he have employed the language of ænigma; or if he desired to typify the coming of a Christ, should he have employed obscure symbols, and ambiguous language ? But chiefly it is urged, that Moses, as a faithful historian, could never have confounded fact with fable, nor have mingled allegorical fictions with records which announced nothing but the relation of real events. These
arguments are more plausible than just. It is not for me to decide upon the plans of Providence; but I see, that the advent of Christ is foretold in figurative and ænigmatical language throughout the whole of the Old Testament. Upon the same principle, therefore, with the objectors, I might ask, why did not Isaiah, for example, tell in direct language the whole circumstances relating to Jesus Christ-the day when he should be born, and the hour when he should die? There could then have been no mistake. I can only say, that this was not apparently the scheme of Providence. Upon the subject of allegory being introduced into history it is easy to declaim. But I must remark, that the ancient orientalists do not appear to have written what we choose to call Teal histories, with any of the notions which we are pleased to entertain, in an age, when manners, customs, language, religion, laws, and time, have put so vast a distance between them and us. The ancient records of Egypt appear at last, thanks to Bryant, Gebelin, and a few other writers, to be mere astronomical and mythological fictions. He who would read the Persian Zendavesta, and the Indian Vedam, as true histories, had better satiate his credulity in believing in the Arabian Nights, or Gulliver's Travels. The most ancient author after Moses, of whom we have any fragments is, perhaps, Sanchoniatho, and who doubts that his pretended history of individuals was any thing else than an account of the cosmogony, which was accredited among the Phænicians ? The orientalists then, and especially in the early ages of the world, had different notions from us concerning history; and where any important lessons in morals, science, or religion, could be taught, the real historical personage was quickly shrouded under the veil of allegory. If truth were not always expected, truth needed not