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All the protocanonical books of the Old Testament, except some Chaldaic fragments of Ezra and Daniel, were written in Hebrew.

Numerous appellations have, at different times, been given to the Hebrew language. In the Scriptures it is nowhere called Hebrew. This term, as it is used in John 5:2, and in several other passages in the New Testament, does not refer to the Biblical Hebrew, but to the Syro-Chaldaic dialect prevalent in Palestine in the time of Jesus Christ. In 2 Kings 18:26 it is called the language of the Jews. In the Targums or Chaldee Paraphrases of the Old Testament, the appellation—holy tongue—is first applied to it: but the name, by which it is usually distinguished, is Hebrew, as being the language of the Hebrew nation.

The period from the age of Moses to that of David has been considered the golden age of the Hebrew language, which declined in purity from that time to the reign of Hezekiah or Manasseh, having received several foreign words from the commercial and political intercourse of the Jews and Israelites with the Assyrians and Babylonians. This period has been termed the silver age of the Hebrew language. In the interval between the reign of Hezekiah and the Babylonian captivity, the purity of the language was neglected, and so many foreign words were introduced into it, that this period has, not inaptly, been designated its iron age. During the seventy years captivity, though it does not appear that the Hebrews entirely lost their native tongue, yet it underwent so considerable a change from their adoption of the vernacular languages of the countries where they had resided, that afterwards, on their return from exile, they spoke a dialect of Chaldee mixed with Hebrew words. On this account it was, that, when the Hebrew Scriptures were read, it was found necessary to interpret them to the people in the Chaldæan language. When Ezra, the scribe, brought the book of the law of Moses before the congregation, the Levites are said to have caused the people to understand the law, because they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly, AND GAVE THE SENSE, AND CAUSED THEM TO UNDERSTAND THE READING. (Neh. 8:9.) Some time after the return from the great captivity, Hebrew ceased to be spoken altogether: though it continued to be cultivated and studied, by the priests and Levites, as a learned language that they might be enabled to expound the law and the prophets to the people, who, it it appears from the New Testament, were well acquainted with their general contents and tenor; this last-mentioned period has been called the leaden age of the language. How long the Hebrew was retained, both in writing and conversation; or in writing, after it ceased to be the language of conversation, it is impossible to determine. At the time of Maccabees, Hebrew was probably understood, at least, as the language of books: perhaps, in some measure, also, among the better informed, as the language of conversation. But soon after this, the dominion of the Seleucidæ, in Syria, over the Jewish nation, uniting with the former influence of the Babylonian captivity in promoting the Aramæan dialect, appears to have destroyed the remains of proper Hebrew, as a living language, and to have universally substituted, in its stead, the Hebræo-Aramæan, as it was spoken, in the time of our Saviour. From the time when Hebrew ceased to be vernacular, down to the present day, a portion of this dialect has been preserved in the Old Testament. It has always been the subject of study among learned Jews. Before and at the time of Christ, there were flourishing Jewish academies at Jerusalem; especially under Hillel and Shammai. After Jerusalem was destroyed, schools were set up in various places, but particularly they flourished at Tiberias, until the death of R. Judah, surnamed Hakkodesh or the Holy, the author of the Mishna, about A. D. 230. Some of his pupils set up other schools in Babylonia, which became the rivals of these. The Babylonian academies flourished until near the tenth century. From the academies at Tiberias and in Babylonia, we have received the Targums, the Talmud, the Masora and the written vowels and accents of the Hebrew language. The Hebrew of the Talmud and of the Rabbis has a close affinity with the later Hebrew; especially the first and earliest part of it, the Mishna.

Previously to the building of Solomons Temple, the Pentateuch was deposited by the side of the Ark of the Covenant (Deut. 31:24–26.), to be consulted by the Israelites; and after the erection of that sacred edifice, it was deposited in the treasury, together with all the succeeding productions of the inspired writers. On the subsequent destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the autographs of the sacred books are supposed to have perished: but some learned men have conjectured that they were preserved, because it does not appear that Nebuchadnezzar evinced any particular enmity against the Jewish religion; and in the account of the sacred things carried to Babylon (2 Kings 25, 2 Chron. 36, Jer. 52.), no mention is made of the sacred books. However this may be, it is a fact that copies of these autographs were carried to Babylon, for we find the prophet Daniel quoting the Law, (Dan. 9:11, 13.) and also expressly mentioning the prophecies of Jeremiah (9:2.), which he could not have done if he had never seen them. We are further informed that, on the finishing of the temple in the sixth year of Darius, the Jewish worship was fully re-established according as it is written in the book of Moses (Ezra 6:18.); which would have been impracticable if the Jews had not had copies of the Law then among them. But what still more clearly proves that they must have had transcripts of their sacred writings during, as well as subsequent to, the Babylonian captivity, is the fact, that when the people requested Ezra to produce the law of Moses (Nehem. 8:1.), they did not entreat him to get it dictated anew to them; but that he would bring forth the book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. Further, long before the time of Jesus Christ, another edition of the Pentateuch was in the hands of the Samaritans, which has been preserved to our time; and though it differs in some instances from the text of the Hebrew Pentateuch, yet upon the whole it accurately agrees with the Jewish copies. And in the year 286 or 285 before the Christian era, the Pentateuch was translated into the Greek language; and this version, whatever errors may now be detected in it, was so executed as to show that the text, from which it was made, agreed with the text which we now have.

As the Jews were dispersed through various countries, to whose inhabitants Greek was vernacular, they gradually acquired the knowledge of this language, and even cultivated Greek literature: it cannot therefore excite surprise that the Septuagint version should be so generally used as to cause the Hebrew original to be almost entirely neglected. Hence the Septuagint was read in the synagogues: it appears to have been exclusively followed by the Alexandrian Jew, Philo, and it was most frequently, though not solely, consulted by Josephus, who was well acquainted with Hebrew.

In the second century, both Jews and Christians applied themselves sedulously to the study of the Hebrew Scriptures. Besides the Peshitto or Old Syriac version (if indeed this was not executed at the close of the first century), which was made from the Hebrew for the Syrian Christians, three Greek versions were undertaken and completed; one for the Jews by Aquila, an apostate from Christianity to Judaism, and two by Theodotion and Symmachus. The Hebrew text, as it existed in the East from the year 200 to the end of the fifth century, is presented to us by Origen in his Hexapla, by Jonathan in his Targum or Paraphrase on the Prophets, and by the Rabbis in the Gemaras or Commentaries on the Mishna or Traditionary Expositions of the Hebrew Scriptures. The variants are scarcely more numerous or more important than in the versions of the second century. But the discrepancies, which were observed in the Hebrew manuscripts in the second or at least in the third century, excited the attention of the Jews, who began to collate copies and to collect various readings; which, being distributed into several classes, appear in the Jerusalem Talmud about the year 280.

The state of the Hebrew text, in the west of Europe, during the fifth century, is exhibited to us in the Latin version made by Jerome from the original Hebrew, and in his commentaries on the Scriptures. From a careful examination of these two sources, several important facts have been collected, particularly that

(1.) The Old Testament contained the same books which are at present found in our copies.

(2.) The form of the Hebrew letters was the same which we now have, as is evident from Jeromes frequently taking notice of the similar letters, beth and caph, resh and daleth, mem and samech, etc.

(3.) The modern vowel-points, accents and other diacritic signs were utterly unknown to Jerome. Some words were of doubtful meaning to him because they were destitute of vowels.

(4.) The divisions of chapters and verses did not exist in any Hebrew MSS; but it seems that both the Hebrew original and the Septuagint Greek version were divided into larger sections, which differ from those in our copies, because Jerome, in his commentary on Amos 6:9, says that what is the beginning of another chapter in the Hebrew is in the Septuagint the end of the preceding.

(5.) The Hebrew MS used by Jerome for the most part agrees with the Masoretic text, though there are a few unimportant various readings.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, and the consequent dispersion of the Jews into various countries of the Roman empire, some of those who were settled in the East applied themselves to the cultivation of literature, and opened various schools, in which they taught the Scriptures. One of the most distinguished of these academies was that established at Tiberias, in Palestine, which Jerome mentions as existing in the fifth century. The doctors of this school, early in the sixth century, agreed to revise the sacred text, and issue an accurate edition of it; for which purpose they collected all the scattered critical and grammatical observations they could obtain, which appeared likely to contribute towards fixing both the reading and interpretation of Scripture, into one book, which they called םםורה (MaSORaH), that is tradition, because it consisted of remarks which they had received from others. Some rabbinical authors pretend that, when God gave the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, he taught him first its true meaning, and secondly its true interpretation; and that both these were handed down by oral tradition, from generation to generation, until at length they were committed to writing. The former of these, viz., the true reading, is the subject of the Masorah; the latter or true interpretation is that of the Mishna and Gemara, of which an account is given in a subsequent chapter of the present volume.

The Masoretic notes and criticisms relate to the books, verses, words, letters, vowel points and accents. The Masorites, or Masorets, as the inventors of this system were called, were the first who distinguished the books and sections of books into verses. They marked the number of all the verses of each book and section, and placed the amount at the end of each in numeral letters, or in some symbolical word formed out of them; and they also marked the middle verse of each book. Further, they noted the verses where something was supposed to be forgotten; the words they believed to be changed; the letters which they deemed to be superfluous; the repetitions of the same verses; the different reading of the words which are redundant or defective; the number of times that the same word is found at the begining, middle, or end of a verse; the different significations of the same word; the agreement or conjunction of one word with another; what letters are pronounced, and what are inverted, together with such as hang perpendicular, and they took the number of each, for the Jews cherish the sacred books with such reverence that they make a scruple of changing the situation of a letter which is evidently misplaced; supposing that some mystery has occasioned the alteration. They have likewise reckoned which is the middle of the Pentateuch, which is the middle clause of each book, and how many times each letter of the alphabet occurs in all the Hebrew Scriptures.

Such is the celebrated Masorah of the Jews. At first, it did not accompany the text; afterwards the greatest part of it was written in the margin. In order to bring it within the margin, it became necessary to abridge the work itself. This abridgement was called the little Masora, Masora parva; but being found too short, a more copious abridgment was inserted, which was distinguished by the appellation of the great Masora, Masora magna. The omitted parts were added at the end of the text, and called the final Masora, Masora finalis.

The age when the Masorites lived has been much controverted. Some ascribe the Masoretic notes to Moses; others attribute them to Ezra, and the members of the great synagogue, and their successors after the restoration of the temple worship on the death of Antiochus Epiphanes. Ussher places the Masorites before the time of Jerome; Cappel, at the end of the fifth century; Marsh is of opinion that they cannot be dated higher than the fourth or fifth century; Walton, Basnage, Jahn, and others, refer them to the Rabbis of Tiberias in the sixth century, and suppose that they commenced the Masora, which was augmented and continued at different times, by various authors; so that it was not the work of one man, or of one age. In proof of this opinion, which we think the most probable, we may remark that the notes which relate to the variations in the pointing of particular words, must have been made after the introduction of the points, and consequently after the Talmud; other notes must have been made before the Talmud was finished, because it is from these notes that it speaks of the points over the letters, and of the variations in their size and position. Hence it is evident, that the whole was not the work of the Masorites of Tiberias; further, no good reason can be assigned to prove the Masora the work of Ezra, or his contemporaries.

On the whole, then, it appears that what is called the Masora is entitled to no greater reverence or attention than may be claimed by any other human compilation.

Concerning the value of the Masoretic system of notation the learned are greatly divided in opinion. Some have highly commended the undertaking, and have considered the work of the Masorites as a monument of stupendous labor, and unwearied assiduity, and as an admirable invention for delivering the sacred text from a multitude of equivocations and perplexities to which it was liable, and for putting a stop to the unbounded licentiousness and rashness of transcribers and critics, who often made alterations in the text on their own private authority. Others, however, have altogether censured the design, suspecting that the Masorites corrupted the purity of the text by substituting, for the ancient and true reading of their forefathers, another reading, more favorable to their prejudices, and more opposite to Christianity, whose testimonies and proofs they were desirous of weakening as much as possible.

Without adopting either of these extremes, Marsh observes, that the text itself, as regulated by the learned Jews of Tiberias, was probably the result of a collation of manuscripts. But as those Hebrew critics were cautious of too many corrections into the text, they noted in the margins of their manuscripts, or in their critical collections, such various readings, derived from other manuscripts, either by themselves or by their predecessors, as appeared to be worthy of attention. This is the real origin of those marginal or Masoretic readings which we find in many editions of the Hebrew Bible. But the propensity of the later Jews to seek mystical meanings in the plainest facts, gradually induced the belief that both textual and marginal readings proceeded from the sacred writers themselves; and that the latter were transmitted to posterity by oral tradition, as conveying some mysterious application of the written words. They were regarded therefore as materials, not of criticism, but of interpretation. The same critic elsewhere remarks, that notwithstanding all the care of the Masorites to preserve the sacred text without variations, if their success has not been complete, either in establishing or preserving the Hebrew text, they have been guilty only of the fault which is common to every human effort.

In the period between the sixth and the tenth centuries, the Jews had two celebrated academies, one at Babylon in the East, and another at Tiberias in the West, where their literature was cultivated, and the Scriptures were very frequently transcribed. Hence arose two recensions or editions of the Hebrew Scriptures, which were collated in the eight or ninth century. The differences or various readings observed in them were noted, and have been transmitted to our time under the appellation of the Oriental and Occidental, or Eastern and Western readings. They are variously computed at 210, 216 and 220, and are printed by Walton in the Appendix to his splendid edition of the Polyglot Bible. It is worthy of remark that not one of these various readings is found in the Septuagint: they do not relate to vowel points or accents, nor do any of them affect the sense. Our printed editions vary from the Eastern readings in fifty-five places.

Shortly after the invention of the art of printing, the Hebrew Scriptures were committed to the press; at first in detached portions, and afterwards the entire Bible. The principal editions are:

Psalterium Hebraicum, cum commentario KIMCHII. Anno 237 (1477). 4to.

The first printed Hebrew book. It is of extreme rarity.

Biblia Hebraica, cum punctis. Soncino, 1488, folio.

The first edition of the entire Hebrew Bible ever printed. It is at present of such extreme rarity that only nine or ten copies of it are known to be in existence. One of these is in the library of Exeter College, Oxford.

Biblia Hebraica, 8vo. Brixiæ, 1494.

This edition was conducted by GERSON, the son of Rabbi Moses. It is also of extreme rarity.

Another primary edition is the Biblia Hebraica Bombergiana II. folio, Venice, 1525, 1526, folio.

This was edited by Rabbi Jacob Ben CHAJIM.

Biblia Hebraica cum utraque Masora, Targum, necnon commentariis Rabbinorum, studio et cum præfatione R. Jacob F. Chajim, Venetiis, 1547–1549, 4 tomes in 2 vols. folio.

This is the second of Rabbi Jacob Ben Chajims editions.

Biblia Hebræa, cum utraque Masora et Targum, item cum commentariis Rabbinorum, studio Johannis Buxtorfii, patris; adjecta est ejusdem Tiberias, sive commentarius Masoreticus. Basileæ, 1618, 1619, 1620, 4 tomes in 2 vols. folio.

This great work was executed at the expense of Louis Kœnig, an opulent bookseller at Basle. On account of the additional matter which it contains, it is held in great esteem by Hebrew scholars, many of whom prefer it to the Hebrew Bibles printed by Bomberg.

Biblia Hebraica Magna Rabbinica. Amstelodami 1724–27, 4 vols. folio.

This is unquestionably the most copious and most valuable of all the Rabbinical Bibles, and was edited by Moses Ben Simeon, of Frankfort. It is founded upon the Bomberg editions, and contains not only their contents, but also those of Buxtorf, with additional remarks by the editor.

Biblia Hebraica, cum Latina Versione Sebastiana MUNSTERI. Basileæ, 1534, 1535, 2 vols. folio.

Hebraicorum Bibliorum Veteris Testamenti Latina Interpretatio, operâ olim Xantis Pagnini, Lucensis: nunc verò Benedicti Ariæ Montani, Hispalensis, Francisci Raphelengii, Alnetani, Guidonis et Nicolai Fabriciorum Boderianorum fratrum collato studio, ad Hebraicam dictionem diligentissimè expensa. Christ. Plantinus Antwerpiæ excudebat, 1571. Folio.

This is the first edition executed by Plantin, and is reputed to be the most correct.

Biblia Sacra Hebræa correcta, et collata cum antiquissimis exemplaribus manuscriptis et hactenus impressis. Amstelodami. Typis et sumtibus Josephi Athiæ. 1661, 1667, 8vo.

An extremely rare edition of a most beautifully executed Hebrew Bible. The impression of 1667 is said to be the most correct.

Biblia Hebraica, cum notis Hebraicis et Lemmatibus Latinis, ex recensione Dan. Ern. JABLONSKI, cum ejus Præfatione Latina. Berolini, 1699, large 8vo.

De Rossi considers this to be one of the most correct and important editions of the Hebrew Bible ever printed. It is extremely scarce.

Biblia Hebraica, edente Everardo VAN DER HOOGHT. Amstelodami et Ultrajecti, 8vo. 2 vols. 1705.

A work of singular beauty and rarity. The Hebrew text is printed after Athias second edition, with marginal notes pointing out the contents of each section. The characters, especially the vowel points, are uncommonly clear and distinct. At the end, Van der Hooght has given the various lections occuring in the editions of Bomberg, Plantin, Athias and others.

Biblia Hebraica cum notis criticis, et Versione Latina ad notas criticas facta. Accedunt Libri Græci, qui Deuterocanonici vocantur, in tres Classes distributi. Autore Carolo Francisco HOUBIGANT. Lutetiæ Parisiorum, 1753, 4 vols. folio.

This text of this edition is that of Van der Hooght, without points; and in the margin of the Pentateuch, Houbigant has added various readings from the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum, cum variis Lectionibus. Edidit Benjaminus KENNICOTT, S. T. P. Oxonii, 1776, 1780, 2 vols. folio.

This splendid work was preceded by two dissertations on the state of the Hebrew text, published in 1753 and 1759, the object of which was to show the necessity of the same extensive collation of Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament as had already been undertaken for the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. The utility of the proposed collation being generally admitted, a very liberal subscription was made to defray the expense of the collation, amounting on the whole to nearly ten thousand pounds, and the name of his Majesty King George III. headed the list of subscribers. Various persons were employed both at home and abroad; but of the foreign literati, the principal was Professor Bruns, of the University of Helmstadt, who not only collated Hebrew manuscripts in Germany, but went for that purpose into Italy and Switzerland. The business of collation continued from 1760 to 1769, inclusive, during which period Kennicott published annually an account of the progress which was made. More than six hundred Hebrew manuscripts, and sixteen manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch, were discovered in different libraries in England and on the Continent, many of which were wholly collated, and others consulted in important passages. Several years necessarily elapsed, after the collations were finished, before the materials could be arranged and digested for publication. The variations, contained in nearly seven hundred bundles of papers, being at length digested (including the collations made by Professor Bruns), and the whole, when put together, being corrected by the original collations, and then fairly transcribed into thirty folio volumes, the work was put to press in 1773. In 1776 the first volume of Kennicotts Hebrew Bible was delivered to the public, and in 1780 the second volume.

The text of Kennicotts edition was printed from that of Van der Hooght, with which the Hebrew manuscripts, by Kennicotts direction, were all collated. But, as variations in the points were disregarded in the collation, the points were not added in the text. The various readings, as in the critical editions of the Greek Testament, were printed at the bottom of the page, with references to the corresponding readings of the text. In the Pentateuch, the deviations of the Samaritan text were printed in a column parallel to the Hebrew; and the variations observable in the Samaritan manuscripts, which differ from each other as well as the Hebrew, are likewise noted, with references to the Samaritan printed text.

To Kennicotts Hebrew Bible, M. de Rossi published an important supplement at Parma (1784–1787), in four volumes 4to of Variœ Lectiones Veteris Testamenti. This work and Kennicotts edition form one complete set of collations. Of the immense mass of various readings which the collations of Kennicott and M. de Rossi exhibit, multitudes are insignificant, consisting frequently of the omission or addition of a single letter in a word, as a vau, etc.

Closely allied in history with the Hebrew text is the Samaritan Codex.

When the ten tribes seceded from the central government under Rehoboam, and set up an independent government under Jeroboam at Samaria, they were always regarded by those who had remained faithful to Solomons issue in the kingdom of Juda, as prevaricators. Many fierce and bloody wars were waged between the two kingdoms, till the Assyrians overthrew the kingdom of Israel, and took her sons captive (721 B. C.). To inhabit the land of Israel thus made desolate, the Assyrian monarchs sent thither colonists from the provinces of Babylon, from Cutha, Ava, Hamath, Sepharvaim. The remnants of Jews that had been left in the land intermarried with these foreign colonists, and thus a mongrel race was formed that was termed Samaritans, from the name of the chief city of their land. Samaria, Heb. Shomeron, was thus called because it was built on a hill purchased from one Shomer. At first they brought with them their heterodox idolatry, which ignored Yahveh. It would be dangerous to allow such a people to entrench themselves so close to Judah, and carry on a false worship of the Assyrian gods, so Yahveh sent upon them lions to ravage their land, to show that they must recognize him. Moved by this scourge, Assarhaddon, [Assur-ah-iddin] the Assyrian monarch, sent to them one of Israels priests, that had been taken captive, to teach them the religion of Yahveh. The polytheism of the Assyrians admitted of any number of gods, and it was thought by them that the punishment had come upon the colonists simply because they ignored the god of the land. That is, they believed that the land had a particular deity, who was to be united in worship to the other particular deities which they worshiped. The knowledge that the captive priest gave them of Yahveh did not, in effect, exclude the worship of their own deities. They recognized Yahveh only as a particular god of the land, and though they built temples to him, his worship was held in an inferior rank, for they chose as Yahvehs priests the lowest of the people. They neglected the supreme and exclusive character of Yahvehs worship, and must have considered such demands by Yahveh as a jealous exclusiveness, which they could not sanction. So that at the same time that they maintained a sort of worship of Yahveh every nation worshiped its own particular deity. For the men of Babylon made Succoth Benoth, and the Cuthites made Nerghal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima, and the men of Ava made Nibhaz and Thartack, and they that were of Sepharvaim burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim (2 Kings 17:30, 31). Such was the origin and religion of the Samaritans. They have a copy of the Pentateuch, in which the Hebrew words are inscribed in Samaritan characters. The date of this is uncertain, but it certainly must go back to the time of the captive priest, sent thither to instruct them. He could not well do this without a copy of the Law. It is not improbable that its date would go back even further, to the founding of the kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam.

Although the Samaritan Pentateuch was known to and cited by Eusebius, Cyril of Alexandria, Procopius of Gaza, Diodorus of Tarsus, Jerome, Syncellus, and other ancient writers, yet it afterwards fell into oblivion for upwards of a thousand years, so that its very existence began to be questioned. Joseph Scaliger was the first who excited the attention of learned men to this valuable relic of antiquity; and M. Peiresc procured a copy from Egypt, which, together with the ship that brought it, was unfortunately captured by pirates. More successful was Ussher, who procured six copies from the East; and from another copy, purchased by Pietro della Valle for M. de Sancy (then ambassador from France to Constantinople, and afterwards Archbishop of St. Maloes), Father Morinus printed the Samaritan Pentateuch, for the first time, in the Paris Polyglot. This was afterwards reprinted in the London Polyglot by Walton, who corrected it from three manuscripts which had formerly belonged to Ussher.

The Samaritans refuse to marry into any other tribe of men, and they are now reduced to less than two hundred souls.

There are three scrolls preserved at Nabulus of the Samaritan Codex. One of these is regarded with great reverence and rarely shown to travellers. We were able to see it in 1905. It is kept behind a veil in a case of solid silver and has marks of great antiquity.

Of the Samaritan Pentateuch two versions are extant; one in the proper Samaritan dialect, which is usually termed the Samaritan Version, and another in Arabic.

We here reproduce on the following page a specimen of the Samaritan Codex, and its Samaritan translation from Waltons Polyglot. The passage is from Genesis, 1:1–14.

Justin (martyr), Origen, Chrysostom, the pseudo Athanasius, Tertullian, Jerome and others accused the Jews of corrupting the Scriptures.

Martianay, Nicolas of Lyra, Paul of Burgos, Salmeron, Melchior Canus, Morini, and others also have laid this accusation upon them.

Jerome, in another place, stoutly defends the integrity of the Hebrew text. Augustine, Sixtus of Sienna, Bellarmine, Genebrard, Mariana, Richard Simon and others have also defended its integrity.

In studying the question, we are led to the following conclusions: 1.—They err greatly who believe that any extensive corruption was wrought into the Hebrew text in hatred of the Messiah. That such corruption could not have been wrought before the time of the Christ is self-evident. There was lacking the motive for such movement, and, moreover, had it been done in hatred of the Messiah, he would have charged them with this great crime. That such corruption were wrought after the advent of Christ is disproven first from the impossibility of the work. There were many codices scattered abroad through the world, several of which were in possession of those who would not conspire in such undertaking. No system would suffice to reach them all. And, moreover, some of the sublimest of the Messianic prophecies never arrive, in their translations, at the grandeur that they have in the original. We believe, also, that the Providence of God would not permit that code to be essentially corrupted in which he had first covenanted with the chosen people. But it is not our mind to deny that an occasional corruption has been wilfully fastened upon the Hebrew text. Hatred of the Messiah is bound up in the heart of the Jew. Now, as they were the chief custodians of the Hebrew text, it is quite probable that, wherever the reading or the sense was doubtful, they would incline to that reading or interpretation which was less favorable to the Messiah. Again, some certain texts may have been deliberately corrupted in some codices, whence the corruption spread, and gradually invaded them all. This we admit, but it is in so small a part that it does not rob the great text of its value.

The corruption of one passage, or the attempt to obscure the sense of a passage, would have sufficed to bring upon the Jews the accusations spoken of in the Fathers. Moreover, it is not clear that the Fathers charged them with changing the the Hebrew text, but rather with obscuring the sense, or that they rejected the Septuagint. Justin, it is true (l. c.), accuses them of deliberate mutilations, but an examination of the passages does not substantiate his charge. The rejection by the Jews of the deuterocanonical books might also have been taken by the Fathers as a corruption of Scripture.

We believe, therefore, that the way of truth lies in a middle course. We admit that some passages of the Hebrew text are corrupted, but we believe that in the main it is authentic, and of the greatest value for him who would arrive at the deeper sense of the message of the Old Law.








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