Page images
PDF
EPUB

BOOK by degrees it would be so much altered for want of
III.

-certain records to preserve it in, that it would be a
hard matter to discover its original, without an exact
comparing it with the true history itself from whence
it was first taken. For it fared with this tradition of
the first ages of the world, as with a person who hath
a long time travelled in foreign parts, who, by the
variety of climes and countries, may be so far altered
from what he was, that his own relations may not
know him upon his return, but only by some certain
marks which he hath in his body; by which they are
assured, that, however his complexion and visage may
be altered, yet the person is the same still. Thus it
was in this original tradition of the world, through its
continual passing from one age to another, and the
various humours, tempers, and designs of men, it re-
ceived strange disguises and alterations as to its out-
ward favour and complexion; but yet there are some
such certain marks remaining on it, by which we find
out its true original. Two things then will be the
main subject of our inquiry here. 1. By what means
the original tradition came to be altered and cor-
rupted. 2. By what marks we may discern its true
original, or what evidences we have of the remainders

of Scripture-history in the heathen mythology. II. 1. Concerning the means whereby the tradition by

degrees came to be corrupted; there may be some more general, and others more particular. The general causes of it were,

1. The gradual decay of knowledge, and increase of barbarism in the world, occasioned by the want of cer

tain records to preserve the ancient history of the world Booki.c. 1. in; which we at large discoursed of in our entrance sect. 16.

on this subject. Now in the decay of knowledge, there must needs follow a sudden and strange altera

V.

tion of the memory of former times, which hath then CHAP. nothing to preserve it but the most uncertain report of fame, which alters and disguiseth things according to the humours, and inclinations, and judgments of those whose hands it passeth through.

2. The gradual increase of idolatry in the world; which began soon after the dispersion of nations, and in whose age we cannot at so great a distance, and in so great obscurity, precisely determine; but as soon as idolatry came in, all the ancient tradition was made subservient in order to that end; and those persons, whose memories were preserved in several nations, by degrees came to be worshipped under diversities of names; and such things were annexed to the former traditions, as would tend most to advance the greatest superstition in the world.

3. The confusion of languages at Babel was one great reason of corrupting the ancient tradition of the world. For in so great variety (as suddenly happened) of languages in the world, it cannot be conceived but such things which might be preserved in some uniform manner, had all nations used the same language, would, through the diversity of idioms, and properties of several tongues, be strangely altered and disguised, as will appear afterwards. This alteration of languages in the world, upon the confusion of tongues at Babel, brought as great a confusion into the original tradition, as it did among those who were the designers of that work.

And because this subject of the original and cause III. of this diversity of languages among men, doth both tend to explain the present subject, and to clear the truth of Scripture-history, I shall a little further inquire into it; chiefly on this account, because it is pretended that such a confusion is needless, which is

sect. I.

BOOK delivered in Scripture, for the producing such diversiIll. - ties of languages, which would arise through mere

length of time, and the varieties of climes and customs

in the world. But if we only speak concerning the V!Mer. Ca-sense of Moses about it, the inquiry is of greater diffisaub. de quatuor culty than at first view it seems to be. For it is preLinguis, tonded that Mocos p. 3, &c.

tended that Moses no where speaks of a diversity of languages, as we understand it, but only of a confusion of their speech who were at Babel, which might well be, although they all used the same language; that is, there might be a confusion raised in their minds, that they could not understand one another; their notions of things being disturbed, so that, though they heard one word, they had different apprehensions of it; some

thinking it signified one thing, and some another : as Scal. Exer. Julius Scaliger tells us, that the Jews he had concit. in Cordan. 259. versed with did not understand by it a multiplication

of tongues, but only by that confusion their former notions of things, by the same words, were altered. As if one called for yax, a stone, one by that word understands lime, another water, another sand, &c. this must needs produce a strange confusion among them, and enough to make them desist from their work. But supposing no such division of languages there, yet after their dispersion, which might be caused by the former confusion, by the different laws, rites and customs, commerce and trading, and tract of time, there would have risen a division of their several tongues. But if there were such a division of tongues miraculously caused there, (that, as it is commonly said, all those who were of the same language went together in their several companies,) whence comes it to pass, that in their dispersion we read of several families dispersed which used the same language after their dispersion; as all the sons of Canaan, mentioned Gen. x. 15, 16,

CO

re

V.

17, 18, used the Canaanitish tongue; in Greece, Javan CHAP. and Elisa had the same language; in Egypt, Misraim and Pathrusim ; in Arabia, the sons of Joktan and Chus; in Chaldæa, Aram, and Uz, the inhabitants of Syria, Mash of Mesopotamia, Nimrod of Babylon, Assur of Assyria: whence comes it to pass, if their several tongues were the cause of their dispersion, that these several heads of families should use the same tongue ? Another reason against the common opinion is this, which seems to have a great deal of force in it. If tongues were divided at Babel, as it is imagined, whence was it, that the nearer any nation lay to those who had the primitive language, the Hebrew, they did participate more of that tongue than those who were more remote, as is plain in the Chaldæans, Canaanites, Greeks, and others? Whereas if their languages were divided at Babel, they would have retained their own languages as well as others. This very argument prevailed so far with the learned Is. Casaubon, as appears Casaub.

Diatrib. de by his Adversaria on this subject, (published by the L. H-b. learned doctor's son,) as to make him leave the com-P. mon opinion, and to conclude the several tongues to be only some variations from the Hebrew ; but yet so as many new words were invented too. Hence he observes, that the Asiatic Greeks came nearer to the He- P. 47. brew than the European. And if this opinion hold true, it is the best foundation for deriving other languages from the Hebrew; a thing attempted by the same learned person, as you may see in the book forecited, and endeavoured by Guichardus, Avenarius, and others. Thus we see there is no agreement in men's minds concerning the division of tongues at Babel.

But having set down this opinion, with its reasons, Iv. I shall not so leave the received opinion, but shall first see what may be said for that, and leave the judgment

STILLINGFLEET, VOL. II.

III.

BOOK concerning the probability of either to the understand

-ing reader. And it seems to be grounded on these

reasons. 1. That had it been left to men's own choice, there cannot be a sufficient reason assigned of the diversity of languages in the world. For there being one language originally in the world, whereby men did. represent their conceptions to one another, we cannot imagine that men should of themselves introduce so great an alteration, as whereby to take off that neces

sary society and converse with each other, which even Calvin. An- nature itself did put men upon. Hence Calvin and not.in Gen. xi. 1, 2. others conclude that prodigii loco habenda est lingua

rum diversitas ; because there having been that freedom of converse among men, it is not to be supposed they should of themselves cut it off to their mutual disadvantage. But to this it is said, That the long tract of time, and diversity of customs, might alter the language. I grant it much, but not wholly; and they would only therein differ in their languages, wherein their customs differed: so that there would remain still such an agreement as whereby they might understand each other; which it will be hard to find in many of the eldest languages. As for the length of time, though that doth alter much in reference to words and phrases, in which that of Horace holds true, Multa renascentur quæ jam cecidere, &c. yet it will be more difficult to find where mere length of time hath brought a whole language out of use, and another in the room of it. But that which I think deserves well to be considered, is this, that the greatest alteration of languages in the world hath risen from colonies of nations that used another language; and so by the mixture of both together, the language might be much altered : as the Hebrew by the Chaldees in Babylon; the Spanish, Italian, and others, by the Latin,

« PreviousContinue »