Page images
PDF
EPUB

will not be found to abound more than the other Evangelists, Mark, Luke, and John, who, by the acknowledgment of all parties, wrote in Greek. Some other arguments of this kind, as, that the quotations from the Old Testament are generally in the words of the Septuagint, that the words used on certain occasions, by our Lord, are retained and explained, are fully answered by Simon 57, to whom, that I may not prove tedious, I must refer the reader.

§ 25. There is, however, one argument from the language, and but one, that has occurred to my observation, which forms, at least, a presumption that the Greek is a version. Though the sacred writers, in that language, sometimes retain in their narratives, without adding an explanation, a memorable Oriental word, in frequent use among the people, are known to all connected with them, such as Hosanna, Hallelujah; we never find, in the moral or didactic part, any thing introduced, from a different tongue, which renders the import of a precept unintelligible to those unacquainted with the tongue. Indeed, in the history, the very words spoken (to impress those more strongly who happen to understand them) are, though seldom, sometimes mentioned, but they are always accompanied with an interpretation, that no reader may be at a loss for the meaning. Such are Ephphatha, Tali. tha cumi, and the exclamation on the cross. But the prohibition of what is criminal, and that under a severe sanction, where the crime itself is expressed in an unknown tongue, and left unexplained, is totally without a parallel in holy writ. Of this we have an example in the words thus rendered in the common version 58 : Whosoever shall say to his bro. ther, Raca, shall be in danger of the council :: but whosoever shall

57 Hist. Crit. du Texte du N. T. ch. v, &c.

say,

Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. I think, with Dr. Sykes, that paxa, in this place, ought to be understood as an Oriental, and not a Greek word, as well as paxa ; for 770 moreh, is actually such a word, and could not be represented otherwise in the Greek character. The English translators, therefore, had the same reason for rendering the latter clause, Whosoever shall say Moreh, that they had for rendering the former clause, Whosoever shall say Raca. It is, at least, presumable, that the same caution which led the writer to preserve the original term in one member of this sen. tence, would lead him also to preserve it in the other, more especially as this is the clause which contains the severest threatening.

Besides, our finding that this word is a term of reproach in the dialect of Palestine, as well as the other, adds greatly to the probability, that it was so understood by the writer. Moreover, if this be in. terpreted as a Greek word, and rendered thou fool, it will coincide with raca, stultus, fatuus, which

53 Matth. v. 22.

can hardly be rendered otherwise; whereas, there is evidently intended here, a gradation in the crimes, as there is a gradation in the punishments. Now, let it be observed, that this manner, in such a case as the present, suits more the excessive scrupulosity of a translator, than the simplicity and plainness of an inspired writer, who means to instruct his readers in every duty, and to warn them against every danger. Did the sacred penmen find it necessary to employ Oriental terms, because those reproachful names had nothing equivalent to them in the Greek language, and consequentiy, because those who spoke Greek, not being susceptible of the guilt, implied in using those words, were in no danger of incurring the punishment ? This is too absurd to be believed by any body. There is no language, ancient or modern, in which abuse may not be uttered; and indignation, contempt, and abhorrence, signified, in the highest degree. In such a case, therefore, it would be unaccountable and unparalleled in an inspired author to adopt terms unintelligible to the people whose language he writes, and leave them unexplained; but this manner is not at all to be wondered at in a translator, especially when we consider how apt the early translators among the Jews were to carry their scruples this way to excess. I had occasion to observe before 59, that one of the greatest difficulties in translating, is to find words in one language, that perfectly correspond to those of

59 Diss. II. Part I. § 4.

naan.

another, which relate to manners and sentiments. In most other matters there is, comparatively, but little difficulty. The word moreh, here used by the Evangelist, differs only in number from morim, the compellation with which Moses and Aaron addressed the people of Israel, when they said 6, with mani. fest and indecent passion, as rendered in the English Bible, Hear, now, YE REBELS, and were, for their punishment, not permitted to enter the land of Ca

The word, however, as it is oftner used to imply rebellion against God than against any earthly sovereign ; and as it includes disbelief of his word, as well as disobedience to his command, I think better rendered in this place miscreant, which is also, like the original term; expressive of the greatest abhorrence and detestation. In this

In this way translated, the gradation of crimes, as well as of punishments, is preserved, and the impropriety avoided, of delivering a moral precept, of consequence to men of all denominations, in words intelligible only to the learned.

Dr. Owen remarks that the Syriac interpreter did not take the word in this sense ; for, though he retains raca untranslated, he renders moreh by a word that signifies fool. But this difficulty vanishes on reflecting that the language of Palestine, as has been shown, was not then Syriac; though it contained a considerable mixture of Syrian words. Now, as that interpreter translated from the Greek, he must have been sensible that para was not Greek but Syriac, and that its meaning suited the scope of the passage. It, therefore, needed no translation in a Syriac book. On the contrary, he must have perceived that uwpe is a Greek word, a term of reproach, and consequently, in some measure, suiting the scope of the passage. But, if faith is due to our best lexi. cons, (the Heptaglotton of Castellus, in particular) it is not, in this acceptation, Syriac, though it is both Hebrew and Chaldean. That the Syriac interpreter should, in translating a Greek book, consider uops as Greek, which he knew not to be Syriac, and should translate it accordingly, is not more surprising than that the Latin, or any other interpreter, should do so. But this is no reason why those who know that the connection which the dialect of Judea had with the ancient Hebrew and Chaldaic, was, at least, not inferior to that which it had with Syriac, should not recur to those tongues, as well as to the latter, for light in doubtful cases.

60 Numb. xx. 10.

So much for Matthew's language.

26. As the sacred writers, especially the Evangelists, have many qualities in common, so there is something in every one of them, which, if attended to, will be found to distinguish him from the rest. That which principally distinguishes Matthew, is the distinctness and particularity with which he has related many of our Lord's discourses and moral instructions. Of these his sermon on the mount, his charge to the Apostles, his illustrations of the

« PreviousContinue »