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INTRODUCTIONS TO THE SCRIPTURES,
Translated from the “ Biblische Einleitung, oder Einleitung
in die Bibel" of Gesenius, published in the Allgemeine Enclyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste von J. S. Ensch und J. G. GRUBER.
Under the name of Introduction to the Bible is to be understood a species of learning, which has been fundamentally cultivated within a century, and in its present form principally by the Protestant divines of Germany; and which is devoted to a critical examination and discussion of the historical relations of the individual books, as well as of the whole collection; and therefore the epithets of historical and critical are
; often applied to it. Consequently it gives on the particular books discussions respecting their authors and times of composition, genuineness and integrity, contents, spirit and plan; and also, as the subject requires it, respecting the original language, its earliest history, and so forth; and further, in general respecting the origin of the Bible-collection or Canon, its original language and versions, the history of the original text, and other matters of this kind.
It divides itself therefore into two parts, general and parti·cular. It has been correctly observed, that this branch of learning still requires to be more accurately defined and limit
ed; that in particular it often encroaches on the province of criticism and hermeneutics: and certainly the latest authors are still too discursive, especially in taking up their materials for the general introduction ; and in fact, the older writers, (and the modern among the English.) have even brought together those branches of learning which are subsidiary to interpretation, as sacred history, antiquities, geography, and so forth. It will not therefore be inconsistent with my present purpose, to attempt at least to mark out this limitation; and, in doing so, I shall principally keep in view the general in. troduction, because the boundaries of the particular are more accurately settled.
The leading features are the same, both with respect to the Old and New Testaments, and it may even in many particular points be of use to treat the general part of both in connexion. Of this I would suggest the following fourfold division :
1. History of the cultivation and literature of the Hebrew eople in general, under which section might be digested the accounts of their language, (comprehending the various fundamental tongues, Hebrew, Chaldee, Hellenistic, with the history and character of each,) and also of their writing, (comprising the earliest formations of the Hebrew and Greek writing.)
2. History of the canon, or of the collection, arrangement, and ecclesiastical authority of the books.
3. History of the original text, the various fates and changes to which it has been subjected, and of the means of improving it, (Criticism.) Here the authors of introductory works appear to have been principally in doubt respecting the extent of the points which they ought to discuss. The following principle will probably be found to mark a correct and proper division. The criticism of the Old and New Testaments divides itself into two parts, historical and didactic. The first of these pursues the history of the text, discovers its changes, shows the critical labours which have been expended on it, and the documents in which the text has been handed down ; namely, immediate, (as manuscripts,) and mediate, (as ancient
versions.) The second communicates the rules according to which the critic must avail himself of these helps, in order to recover the original text with as much probability as possible. The historical part of this must now necessarily be comprehended under the learning which is comprised in an introduction; but the didactic, which contains merely an application of the general rules of criticism to the materials here sketched out, must, by a strict limitation, be properly excluded, (as in Eichhorn,) and preserved for criticism, as it is a science of a particular kind, or at least be handled with great brevity, (as in De Wette.) This is also the case,
4. In the hermeneutical partof thegeneralintroduction, which is required to exhibit the aids for understanding the Bible, and directions for the use of them; and which many authors of introductory works, as Eichhorn and Bertholdt, either entirely or in part omit. Jahn, however, has given them with considerable extent, including also the didactic part, at least as far as regards the investigation of language. To preserve consistency, the last must be reserved for hermeneutics, in such a way that the author should limit himself to the historical part, which belongs to it no less than the historical part does to criticism. The helps for understanding it relate to language and to things; and of course hermeneutics divides itself into an investigation of these two. For investigating the language, which is here the principal point, we have as sources of information ; (a) the interpretations of the books of Scripture which have been handed down from antiquity; that is, ancient versions, and expositions of the Old Testament by Rabbins, and of the New by the fathers, which it is necessary to adduce and to judge of ; (B) our knowledge, arising from other sources, of the Eastern languages and of the Greek, as existing in profane authors, which must be applied to the thorough examination, correction, and establishment of those transmitted interpretations. The investigation of things is exhibited in that branch of knowledge which is called exegetical helps. This divides itself into historical, (which includes biblical geography, together with natural philosophy, biblical history with chronology, mythology,
and so forth,) ånd dogmatic, (that is, biblical doctrine and morals.)
It is impossible in an introduction to treat these subjects "fully; nothing more can be given than a general idea of them.
In this arrangement, however, doubts may arise with respect to the ancient versions, since they must be introduced as subsidiary to criticism as well as to hermeneutics. Hence it is probably the most advisable course, to give the general information respecting them in the critical part, and their character, as far as regards interpretation, in that which is appropriated to hermeneutics. Moreover, it must be remarked, that the very last consideration is the identical point which is much neglected in recent works of this kind ; and this is the more to be regretted, as the hermeneutical value of the versions is on the whole much greater than the critical, since their greater or less variations from the text do but very rarely indeed contain improvements of it, but on the contrary are for the most part founded on errors in the translations. In the particular introduction to the individual books, only this difference is to be observed in the plan, that some writers in this department, as Jahn, give an explanatory view of the contents of the books, which is omitted by most of the others. But, at least in academical lectures, and especially on the Old Testament, they are most undoubtedly necessary.
Besides introductions of a historical and critical character, and which are properly speaking literary, the idea of a practical introduction has been suggested and carried into effect ; that is to say, an introduction, which, setting aside discussions of a critical kind, or taking for granted the results of them, confines its attention to the books of Scripture in a practical point of view, and gives directions for the use of them in reference to the religious instruction of youth, and of people in general.* Such works are useful, when the authors, resting on the firm basis of solid learning, make the religious and moral force in
* See BERGER's prakt. Einleitung in das A. T., vom 3 Theile an fortgesetzt von AUGUSTI, 4 Theile, Leipzig, 1799–1804.
the particular books, sections, and characters of the Bible stand out prominent ;* they will then often agree in contents with the view of religion and morals given in the Bible, and only vary from it in the free arrangement in which it is presented.
The kind of learning which I have been describing is, as has been remarked, the growth of the last century, and is indebted principally for its origin to the discussions of German Protestants on the various subjects connected with the Bible ; and the name, as now usually applied, was first employed by J. G. Carpzov. A work in some respects similar to an introduction to the Bible was first given to the world by Augustin in his Doctrina Christiana, t which, however, is rather hermeneutical advice in reading the Scriptures. This was followed in the sixth century by a production of CassioDORUS, # who begins his directions for the study of theological literature with an account of the books of Scripture and their interpreters. In modern times Sixtus Sinensis first collect
. ed together the materials belonging to this subject in his Bibliotheca Sancta, ß which remained an universally esteemed manual, until it was supplanted, at least among Protestants,
, by WALTHER's Officina Biblica, a pretty meagre production. Yet even this work found its imitators and plagiarists, and
* See NIEMEYER's Characteristik der Bibel, 3 Theile, Halle, 1775 1782.
Augustinus de Doctrina Christiana, libri iv, ed. J. G. CHR. TEL. GUIS, Lipz. 1769, 8vo.
Marci AURELI CASSIODORI, Senatoris, de institutione divinarum scripturarum liber, ed. DAMELIUS, Antwerp, 1566, and in CassioDORI Opp. ed. Garet. 1679, 2 vol. fol.
Bibliotheca Sancta a F. (fratre) Sixto Senensi et præcipuis catholicæ ecclesiæ auctoribus collecta et in octo libros digesta, Venetiis, 1566, fol. The best edition is that of John Hay, 1591, 410.
1 D. MICHAELIS WALTeri Officina Biblica, noviter adaperta, in qua perspicue videre licet, quæ scitu cognituque maxime sunt necessaria de S. Scriptura in genere et in specie, de libris ejus canonicis, apocryphis, deperditis et spuriis, cet. Lips. 1630, 4to. 2nd ed. after the author's death, 1668, last 1703, fol., but full of errors.