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The part of this table, which shows the judgment of the Masorites upon the Hebrew letters, presents a strange phenomenon, a language
The learner is advised to acquire some facility in reading the Hebrew words in the first instance; in the second place, to read the grammar, which is printed at the end of this book, once carefully; then to begin at the first chapter of Genesis, and learn to parse and
without vowels, unless their points be such. That their mode of reading is according to the original pronunciation, is not only incapable of proof, but wholly incredible. Yet if it even were, the additional labour in which it involves the learner, without any possible advantage, would be a sufficient reason for rejecting it, the correct understanding of a dead language by no means depending upon its original pronunciation.
But whether, by rejecting those points, we reject a part of the word of God; or which is ultimately the same question, whether others have, by an unhallowed hand, added to the sacred text, is an inquiry vastly important.
For any to give their views of the divine revelation is allowable; but to remove the vowels which belong to the language in which it is written, and to introduce others in a double proportion, disposing them arbitrarily throughout the sacred text, in such manner as to add whole conjugations of novel and distinct meanings to the verbs, and to bind every word on those holy pages, in chains of their own forming, and all this has been done if the points are a modern invention, admits of no apology.
However severe the imputation, if it be not true, why does the Septuagint show names in abundance wholly different from the Masoretic reading? Why do the Jews, who advocate the points, exclude them from the rolls which are read in their synagogues? Why did not, Origen, when turning Hebrew into Greek characters, either omit the Greek vowels, or adopt such as should correspond to the points? (a) But, if they be a late invention, which seems to be the fact, we might with equal propriety consider the traditions and Talmudical writings of the Jews to be of divine authority, and receive for doctrines the commandments of men.
(a) Genesis I.
1. Βρησιθ βάρα Ελωειμ εθ αγαμαει μ' ουεθ ααρες. 2. Ουααρες αιέθα πωου ου σεχ αλ φνε θεώμ οργή Ελώσιμα Μαραεφεθ αλ φνε αμαιμ. 3. Ουιωμερ Ελωειμ τε ωρ 900 ωρα 4. Ουταρ Ελωσιμ
πως όχι τωβ διαβδηλ Ελωσιμ βην αως την αωσεχ. 5. Ουικρα Ελωσιμ λαωρ ιωμ υλαωσεχ
xapa anλa vie Egel vier Baneg iwμ and. This extract from Origen's Hexapla is taken from Professor Wilson's Grammar,
construe the verses at the same time, taking care to consult every rule and number referred to; and frequently to return upon that which he has learned, that the Hebrew words and roots may be fixed in his mind.
In acquiring a knowledge of the letters, the first four columns of the preceding table only are to be attended to, unless the manner of sounding the letters in some other column should be preferred to that which is given in the fourth. In reading the Hebrew words, the learner is to advance from the right hand side of the page towards the left.
Aleph, He, Vau, Jod, and Oin are to be considered the long vowels of the language. Short ones, not written, were probably in constant use in pronouncing the words in which none of the above five vowels occur; and possibly after most of the consonants not followed by a vowel.
That the language, therefore, may not only be more easily and uniformly read, and sound more agreeably to the ear, but be much more intelligible to the hearer, by distinguishing the numerous prefixes from the roots, the beginnér is advised to supply, as he is reading, a short vowel of any kind, suppose ě, after every consonant which is neither followed by a long vowel, nor is placed at the end of a word.*
1. Bresiit bara alohijm eet hassamajim veet haarez. 2. Uharoz hajta tohu vabohu vhhosek al fne thoom vruah œlohijm mrahhafet al fne hammajim. 3. Vajjomer alohijm jhi oor vajhi oor. 4. Vajjar œlohijm eet haoor ki thoob vajjabdeel alohijm bien haoor vubeen hahhosek. 5. Vajjiqra alohijm laoor joom vlahhoseh qara laila vajhi œreb vajhi boqer joom chhaad.
This Masoretic reading is taken from the Annotations of Berlinas on Martinius's grammar.
Whilst the reader makes the comparison, let him remember, that the question is not, whether any modern reading without the points more nearly approximates Origen's reading, but whether the latter, in the third century, followed the points.
* The learned Dr. Pocock asserts such frequent use of vowels to have obtained in reading the Arabic language, in which, though all the Hebrew letters are found and six others, it is said by some there are no vowels, and therefore three vowel points are sometimes, we suppose officiously also, inserted above and below the lines, but the language is in other instances like the Hebrew written without them. His words are, "Quod nuspiam in verbo aliquo, genuinæ apud Arabes originis, concurrant, non intercedente vocalis alicujus motione, consonantes, cum vel tres, vel plures, aliis in linguis, frequenter collidantur."