« הקודםהמשך »
practical inferences, we should have written non sequitur on every page of the Old Testament and on many of the new.
Among the miscellaneous notes, which make up the residue of the “Comprehensive Commentary,” those of Scott have the precedence, and are inserted almost entire. Scott was a man, though of less learning, of more sense than Henry. He therefore does not allegorize so unsparingly, and makes more frequent allowances for the genius of the time and place, the peculiarities of style, and the various idioms of prose and verse, of the historical and didactic writings. But his education and his situation alike unfitted him for the office of a critic. His course of early study was very superficial; nor had he at any period (if we rightly remember) a large library at his command. A great part of his Commentary, his biographer informs us, was written while he held one child in his left arm, and with his foot rocked the cradle of another; and often with the printer's boy waiting at the door for copy. That a man so circumstanced should
have written a popular work is strange; that he should have written a learned work impossible. Nor will critical examination belie the inferences which we should naturally draw from these facts.
Almost every criticism is borrowed from preceding English commentators, particularly from Patrick, Lowth, Henry, Whitby, and Doddridge. Nor is there a single controverted or difficult point, on which Scott can be said to have expressed an opinion peculiarly his own. He is often grossly inaccurate, and often appears as the advocate of views and theories, in his days obsolete, but currently received when the authors from whom he drew most largely wrote.
In the volume on the New Testament before us, large and valuable extracts are made from Doddridge's “ Family Expositor," a work of much learning, beautiful in style, full of devout sentiment, and (we cannot but think) still maintaining the first place among the popular commentaries in our language.
Great use is also made in the volumes before us of Gill's “ Exposition," a work abounding in Rabbinical lore, but characterized by diffuseness, obscurity, inconsistency, and the entire lack of uniform principles of interpretation.
We have also copious extracts from Adam Clarke, who, in learning surpassing all, in judgment falls short of all English commentators, who, on every involved point, allows you
your choice between a host of conflicting theories, but is very sure to elect as his own the most unnatural and absurd.
But time would fail us to characterize the individual critics, to whom a predominant place is given in the “Comprehensive Commentary.” We must hasten to communicate our impressions of it as a whole. And the first thing that occurs to us, in turning over its pages, is, that it is designed to bring back Orthodoxy to her old moorings, and to anchor her there. It seeks out “the old paths,” and bids its readers to “walk therein” without looking to the right hand or to the left. It carefully excludes every ray (except with regard to unessential minutiæ of geography and history) from heterodox luminaries, while it concentrates all the light of Orthodox genius, research, and acumen. It shields the one true faith by entire silence with regard to the existence of any other modes of belief. While it discusses with tedious minuteness all the points that were mooted among the divines of the last century, but have been regarded as definitively settled by critics of the present, it does not so much as indicate the existence of the numerous questions now at issue between the Liberal and the Orthodox school of interpreters. It thus stirs up the waters of strife in long stagnant pools, while over the broad sea of modern controversy it pours the oil of a deceptive calm. We cannot but think that this course, in a work professedly adapted to the time, indicates a lack of fairness and honesty. But, in making so grave a charge as this, we may be justly called upon for proof. We will therefore give our readers a few prominent instances, in which the “ Comprehensive Commentary " omits all mention of important points in controversy.
Nor need we go beyond the first verse in the Bible for a case in point. We are there told, with regard to the plural form of the divine name, that “the Hebrew Elohim bespeaks the plurality of persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ;” and again, that “this grammatical anomaly, at the very opening of the Scriptures, seems intended to give us some intimation concerning that mystery, which is afterwards more fully revealed, namely the Plurality in the Unity of the Godhead.” Nor is there a word said of
possible mode of accounting for this plural form. We confess that we were not prepared for this from so learned an editor as Dr. Jenks. Even if he had retained the above-quoted
notes from Henry and Scott, we should have expected, for honesty's sake, at least an expression of doubt as to their soundness. It is now generally admitted by the most Orthodox critics, that Elohim is simply a plural of majesty or excellence, in entire accordance with a common Hebrew idiorn. Professor Stuart in his Grammar denominates this plural the “pluralis excellentia,” and says that it is applied to "most of the words which signify Lord, God, etc.,'
"" for the sake of emphasis." But since the “Comprehensive Commentary” disdains all mention of this, the only reasonable solution of the “grammatical anomaly,” we shall look forward with interest to the volume containing the Book of Job, hoping to find the doctrine of a “ Plurality in Unity” lucidly expounded with regard to the great beast Behemoth,* whose name is, like Elohim, a plural noun joined with singular verbs and represented by singular pronouns.
The six days of creation are disposed of with singular ingenuity. It was deemed unsafe so much as to hint at the theory that the days were ages or indefinitely long periods of time. But yet it seemed expedient to insert the ready testimony borne by eminent geologists to the authenticity of the Mosaic account of the creation. The words which they used with reference to their own views of that account are therefore quoted, and applied to the common notion of a creation in six days of twenty-four hours each. Thus Cuvier is cited, as asserting, " that the human race cannot be more ancient than it is represented to be in the writings of Moses ;” but it is not stated that Cuvier located the creation of man at the close of the last of six ages of indefinite length, corresponding to the Mosaic days. Thus also Jameson is quoted as saying: “The structure of the earth, and the mode of distribution of extraneous fossils or petrefactions, are so many direct evidences of the truth of the Scripture account of the formation of the earth; and they might be used as proofs of its author's having been inspired, because the mineralogical facts discovered by modern naturalists were unknown to the sacred historian.” But Jameson said this in the belief that the Mosaic account indicated the gradual reduction of the earth from its chaotic state, and
the creation at successive and far distant epochs of the different classes of vegetables and animals, the fossil remains of which are found in the upper strata of the crust of our planet.
For another instance of this careful exclusion of controverted points, we will refer to the celebrated passage in Jacob's last words: * “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Many sound critics, even of the Orthodox school, admit that this is an erroneous rendering, and would translate the verse as follows: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the staff from between his feet, till he come to Shiloh, and to him shall the obedience of the people be rendered." This, considered as Jacob's dying command, was literally obeyed, Judah having had the precedence in all the marches and encampments of the children of Israel, until they set up the tabernacle of God in Shiloh. But there is not a word of this in the “Comprehensive Commentary.” On the other hand, the city of Shiloh is not so much as mentioned ; but we are told, in the language of Scott, that by the word Shiloh, "all allow that the Messiah was intended, who was sent into the world, as the promised Seed, to be the Prince of Peace.”
The prophecy of Balaam, “ I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh,” &c.I is applied to Jesus of Nazareth, without so much as the slightest expression of doubt, (though few are the critics of the present day, who would risk their reputation by citing it as prophetical of the Messiah ;) but we are still left in uncertainty as to the manner in which the clause, “shall smite the corners of Moab,” was fulfilled in the weaponless and suffering career of a Redeemer, who lived many centuries after the Moabites had ceased to be a nation.
With regard to the quotations from the prophetical books in the New Testament, the same policy of concealment is observed. The theory of a double sense is assumed throughout. All that is said on the subject of these quotations in the volume containing the Gospels, is comprehended in the sage remark of Scott, that “Many prophecies seem to have had a
* Genesis xlix. 10. | Numbers xxiv. 17.
+ See Numbers ii. 9, x. 14. Joshua xviii. 1.
double meaning, both respecting the church, and Christ the Head of the church ;” and the devout exclamation of Henry, “The Scripture has many accomplishments, so copious is it, and so well ordered in all things !” The theory of rhetorical accommodation is not so much as hinted at, though the many very eminent names which might be cited in its favor certainly demanded for it at least a passing notice.
In like manner, in the proem of John's Gospel, much ink is needlessly shed to prove, what no one at the present day thinks of denying, that John asserts the supreme divinity of the Logos ; but on the very point at issue among theologians, viz. whether the Logos denote Jesus of Nazareth, the affirmative is taken for granted, without a word of discussion. So also, the exclamation of Thomas, “ My Lord and my God,” is treated as a deliberate profession of faith, and consequently as decisively proving the Supreme Deity of Christ, without so much as an attempt to rebut the idea, that it was a mere ejaculation of surprise.
These instances of the peculiar policy manifested in the work before us may suffice. We must yet further object to the moral tone of the “ Comprehensive Commentary. The misdeeds of the patriarchs and their families are passed over too lightly. The most flimsy excuses are suggested for them, and, if not admitted in full, are at least allowed in palliation of the highest offences. Thus, among the modes of accounting for the flagitious conduct of Lot's daughters and of Tamar, is mentioned the hope, which every woman probably entertained, of becoming the mother of the Messiah. Now we wish to have the faults of the ancient saints and the misdeeds of their families set forth in full relief; and deem the record of them a record of priceless value, inasmuch as it illustrates the necessity and worth of the Christian revelation, by the aid of which. the humblest disciple of Jesus can overcome temptations, to which even the greatest and best, unenlightened by the Gospel, have yielded. Nor should we be surprised if the cloaks, so ingeniously woven for the sins of former times, should be adopted and worn by sinful readers of the present day. We must also object to the sanguinary spirit, in which the destruction of the Canaanites is commented upon in this work. Whether the barbarities practised by the Hebrews under Joshua could, in any sense or degree, have been commanded