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DESIGNED AS A HELP TO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE SACRED WRITINGS.
BY ADAM CLARKE, LL.D., F.S.A., &c.
A NEW EDITION, WITH THE AUTHOR'S FINAL CORRECTIONS.
FOR WHATSOEVER THINGS WERE WRITTEN AFORETIME, WERE WRITTEN FOR OUR LEARNING; THAT WE, THROUGH
The Old Testament.
GENESIS TO DEUTERONOMY.
PRINTED FOR THOMAS TEGG AND SON, 73, CHEAPSIDE;
AND SOLD BY
JOHN MASON, 14, CITY ROAD; GRIFFIN & Co., GLASGOW; TEGG, WISE, & Co., DUBLIN; J. EVERETT STOREY,
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THE different nations of the earth, which have received the Old and New Testaments as a divine revelation, have not only had them carefully translated into their respective languages, but have also agreed in the propriety and necessity of illustrating them by comments. At first, the insertion of a word or sentence in the margin, explaining some particular word in the text, appears to have constituted the whole of the comment. Afterwards, these were mingled with the text, but with such marks as served to distinguish them from the words they were intended to illustrate; sometimes the comment was interlined with the text, and at other times it occupied a space at the bottom of the page.
Ancient comments written in all these various ways I have often seen; and a Bible now lies before me, written, probably, before the time of Wiclif, where the glosses are all incorporated with the text, and only distinguished from it by a line underneath; the line evidently added by a later hand. As a matter of curiosity I shall introduce a few specimens.
And seide, LWath, or wele, E am chaufid. I sawe the fir. Isai, xliv. 16.
He eete hape as an ore, and with dewe of heven his body was informid or defoulid, till his heris wexiden into licnesse of eglis, and his naylis as naylis or clees of briddis. Dan, iv. 33.
be that is best in hem is as a palyure, that is a scharp busche, or a thistel or firse. Micah vii. 4.
He schal baptise or christend gou, with the hooly goost and fiir, whos whynwinge clothe or fan in his hond. Matt. iii. 11, 12.
Who eber schal leebe his wiif, gebe he to her a lybel, that is, a lytil book of forsakinge. Matt. v. 31. Blynde men seen, crokid men wandren, mesels ben maad clene, deef men heeren, deed men rysen agein, pore men ben taken to prechynge of the gospel, or been maad kepers of the gospel. Matt. xi .5.
I schal bolke out, or telle out thingis hid fro making of the world. Matt. xiii. 35.
Zee serpentis fruptis of burrownyngis of eddris that sleen her modris, how schuln zee flee fro the dome of helle. Matt. xxiii, 33.
Heroude tetraarcha, that is, prince of the fourth parte. Luke iii. 1.
Kabynge your conversacioun or liif good amonge heithen men. 1 Pet. ii. 12.
Gee schuln resceyve the unwelewable crown of glorie, or that schal never faade. 1 Pet. v. 4.
Anopnt thin eegen with coluryo, that is, medicinal for eegen maad of diverse erbis, that thou see. Rev. iii. 18.
Comments written in this way have given birth to multitudes of the various readings afforded by ancient manuscripts; for the notes of distinction being omitted or neglected, the gloss was often considered as an integral part of the text, and entered accordingly by succeeding copyists.
This is particularly remarkable in the Vulgate, which abounds with explanatory words and phrases, similar to those in the preceding quotations. In the Septuagint, also, traces of this custom are easily discernible, and to this circumstance many of its various readings may be attributed.
In proportion to the distance of time from the period in which the sacred oracles were delivered, the necessity of comments became more apparent; for the political state of the people to whom the scriptures were originally given, as well as that of the surrounding nations, being in the lapse of time essentially changed, hence was found the necessity of historical and chronological notes, to illustrate the facts related in the sacred books.
Did the nature of this preface permit, it might be useful to enter into a detailed history of commentators and their works, and show by what gradations they proceeded from simple verbal glosses to those colossal accumulations in which the words of God lie buried in the sayings of men. But this at present is impracticable; a short sketch must therefore suffice. Perhaps the most ancient comments containing merely verbal glosses were the Chaldee Paraphrases, or Targums, particularly those of ONKELOS on the Law, and JONATHAN on the Prophets; the former written a short time before the Christian era, the latter about fifty years after the incarnation. These comments are rather glosses on words, than an exposition of things; and the former is little more than a verbal translation of the Hebrew text into pure Chaldee.
The TARGUM YERUSHLEMEY is written in the manner of the two former, and contains a paraphrase, in very corrupt Chaldee, on select parts of the five books of Moses.
The Targum ascribed to JONATHAN ben UZZIEL embraces the whole of the Pentateuch, but is disgraced with the most ridiculous and incredible fables.
Among the Jews, several eminent commentators appeared at different times, besides the Targumists already mentioned, who endeavoured to illustrate different parts of the Law and the Prophets. PHILO JUDEUS may be reckoned among these; his works contain several curious treatises in explication of different parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. He flourished about A. D. 40.
JOSEPHUS may be fairly ranked among commentators; the twelve first books of his Jewish Antiquities are a regular paraphrase and comment on the political and ecclesiastical history of the Jews as given in the Bible, from the foundation of the world to the time of the Asmoneans or Maccabees. He flourished about A. D. 80.
It is well known that the MISHNAH, or Oral Law of the Jews, is a pretended comment on the five books of Moses. This was compiled from innumerable traditions by Rabbi Judah Hakkadosh, probably about the year of our Lord 150.
The TALMUDS, both of Jerusalem and Babylon, are a comment on the Mishnah. The former was compiled about A. D. 300, the latter about 200 years after.
Chaldee Targums, or Paraphrases, have been written on all the books of the Old Testament; some parts of the book of Ezra, and the book of Daniel, excepted; which, being originally written in Chaldee, did not require for the purpose of being read during the captivity any farther explanation. When the London Polyglot was put to press, no Targum was found on the two books of Chronicles; but after that work was printed, a Targum on these two books was discovered in the university of Cambridge, and printed at Amsterdam, with a Latin translation, 4to, 1715, by Mr. D. Wilkins. It is attributed to Rabbi Joseph the Blind, who flourished about A. D. 400.
The MASORETS were the most extensive Jewish commentators which that nation could ever boast. The system of punctuation, probably invented by them, is a continual gloss on the Law and Prophets; their vowel points, and prosaic and metrical accents, &c., give every word to which they are affixed a peculiar kind of meaning, which in their simple state multitudes of them can by no means bear. The vowel points alone add whole conjugations to the language. This system is one of the most artificial, particular, and extensive comments ever written on the word of God; for there is not one word in the Bible that is not the subject of a particular gloss through its influence. This school is supposed to have commenced about 450 years before our Lord, and to have extended down to A. D. 1030. Some think it did not commence before the fifth century.
Rabbi SAADIAS GAON, about A. D. 930, wrote a commentary upon Daniel, and some other parts of scripture; and translated in a literal and very faithful manner the whole of the Old Testament into the Arabic language. The Pentateuch of this translation has been printed by Erpenius, Lugd. Bat. 1622, 4to. A MS. copy of Saadias's translation of the Pentateuch, probably as old as the author, is now in my own library.
Rabbi SOLOMON JARCHI or Isaaki, who flourished in A. D. 1140, wrote a commentary on the whole Bible so completely obscure in many places, as to require a very large comment to make it intelligible.
In 1160 ABEN EZRA, a justly celebrated Spanish Rabbin, flourished; his commentaries on the Bible are deservedly esteemed both by Jews and Gentiles.
Rabbi MOSES ben MAIMON, commonly called Maimonides, also ranks high among the Jewish commentators; his work entitled Moreh Nebochim, or Teacher of the Perplexed, is a very excellent illustration of some of the most difficult words and things in the sacred writings. He flourished about A. D. 1160.