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ment, by calling in the aid of the imagination.*
SECTION VI Where these qualities are not found, the writing
or THE SIGNIFICATION OF WORDS. is not only bad in a literary sense, but in a moral sense also. If it is not the production of igno- DIREOT TESTIMONY to the Signification of Words—Examples rance, it is intentionally deceptive and misleading.
Rules for interpreting Words — Literal and Metaphorical
Sense -- Historical Circumstances; their Value in the InterIn the Bible both requisites must be found, be- pretation of Scripture it is written for our learning"—the learning of the body of mankind, and because it is the result This section will be devoted to a consideration of perfect wisdom and perfect sincerity. It may of those means that are necessary for attaining the be said, that the great diversity of meaning attach-object desiderated in the preceding section ; viz., ing to most individual words, in all languages, a knowledge of the sense in which words are emrenders it very difficult, if not wholly impossible, ployed by the sacred writers. to determine the particular sense in which any 1. As the signification which usage attaches to one word is employed. But this would be an words is a plain matter of fact, it is evident that exaggeration. That there are difficulties arising our inquiries should be first addressed to the testiout of this circumstance, we have already said; mony, direct and indirect, of those persons by but we are not disposed to concede that they are whom the language was spoken ; and especially to ether so numerous, or of such magnitude, as they that of the writer whose works may be under exhave been represented to be. Let it be admitted, amination. This testimony may be ascertained in that many meanings have been assigned to the three several ways :same word, or that its signification is commonly 1. BY THE DEFINITIONS OF WORDS formally or diverse or multifarious, will it follow, as of ne- incidentally given. Where the author himself has cessity, that it must possess this diversity of signi- furnished the definition of a word, no difficulty fication, at the same time, and in the same passage will exist, provided only that we understand the of expression ? Certainly not: its significations, terms in which the definition is given. As an however diverse, may be distinctly marked by its example, we may refer to Heb. xi. 1, where faith relation to other words in the sentence; that is, is defined to be the “evidence of things not the proximate words or context may strictly define seen,” &c. The value of secondary testimony, the sense in which any particular word, having such as is furnished by scholiasts, lexicographers, more than one signification, is to be understood, and translators, is to be estimated by the era, wherever it is employed ; # and we may be sure knowledge, and known judgment of the writer. that if a writer is desirous to be understood—as 2. THE EXAMPLES WHICH THE AUTHOR GIVES OF the sacred writers undoubtedly were—he will THE SIGNIFICATION ATTACHED TO THE WORDS HE observe those rules of composition that will pre- EMPLOYs, furnish another means of fixing that sigFent the obscurity or ambiguity here supposed. || nification. This source of information may, possibly, *“ Every writer wishes to be understood naturally; conse
be as satisfactory as the former one; but in availing quratly, he will not only always employ his expressions in THE ourselves of it, we are thrown much more upon the SENSE which his readers will connect with them, but in the resources of our own skill and judgment. As an udeas which he commouicates to them, he will always be illustration of this kind of testimony, and of the prerned by their ability to comprehend, and will pay regard to teir particular manner of forming conceptions of subjects; and
manner in which it may be employed, we may this either intentionally, or because, as it is common to bis whole refer to Gal. iv. 3, where we find the apostle eger, it is also to bis own.” Planck's Sacred Philology, partii. ch. 2. speaking of the elements of the world (ororystã Toù † Dr. Pye Smith; bat we do not recollect where.
zoolov), an expression of which we can discover "There could be no certainty of interpretation, did there not no definition in any part of his writings. In the erst some necessity for attaching a peculiar meaning to each Ford; and were not the literal meaning of the same word in ninth verse of the same chapter, however, he the same passage one and the same.” – Ernesti, part i., sect. i. furnishes us with an example of the sense in 6. 9, $ vi. To the same purpose Seiler remarks, “ The object which he had used the phrase, and which is dan anthor in his discourse or writing is to communicate his tasats to others by the aid of words. These could not, how equally satisfactory with a formal definition : “But eizt, espress his thougbts, if he used the same words, when in now, after that ye have known God, or rather are he same connexion, sometimes in one sense and sometimes in known of God, how turn ye again to the weak as ther. Reason, therefore, enjoins the rule, always to use the and beggarly elements ?” (oroixeia), that is, the sie words when they stand in the same connexion, in one and external rites and ceremonies of religion. In the same sense."— Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 32.
| Words which are of many meanings may generally be in- Rom. iv. 1—8, the meaning of the word dizanoouun, terpreted f.om the context. Thus doyos has the different justification, is illustrated by the example of Abrameanings, reason, reckming, speech, Christ
. The proper sense ham; and in John xiv. 6, the word sugar...ntos is of this word must be determined by the construction; as in the Cases λόγον υπέχειν, λόγον ποιείσθαι, ο λογος σαρξ
similarly illustrated. * viveto. Ammon, in Einesti, part i. sect. i. ch. 1., 9 v., note.
3. THE DRIFT OF THE WRITER'S DISCOURSE AND
* of a
THE NATURE OF HIS SUBJECT, is the last resource of tropical or figurative, because, in many cases, this this description that remains to us. It has been is the grammatical signification ; but by the gramalready said, that one and the same word occasion-matical signification, is meant one not allegorical ally admits of several significations; and this or mystical. For instance, in Luke xxi. 24, it is being the case, it becomes necessary, in attempting said, that Jerusalem should be “ trodden down of to fix the signification of a word in any particular the Gentiles," where it is evident that the phrase passage, to pay special attention to the drift of the TRODDEN DOWN is figurative or tropical ; that is, author's reasoning, and the nature of the subject the words are diverted from their natural meanto which it relates. The following words may ing, and signify desolated, destroyed, not absolutely be taken as an example of our meaning - The trodden down by the foot, but something analogous verb ou sıv, to preserve or save, and oubouan, to to it. But then the tropical sense is evidently, escape, to be preserved or saved, occurs, perhaps, in this case, the grammatical or proper sense, more than a hundred times in the New Testament, because the words cannot be understood in any and very frequently in different senses. Bishop other manner, without doing violence to the lanMaltby, whose eminence as a Greek scholar few guage. Again, in John v. 35, our Lord says of will dispute, classes the significations in which the his forerunner, John the Baptist, that he was verb is used under four general heads. 1. To burning and a shining light,” which language is preserve generally from any evil or danger what- highly figurative or metaphorical, implying, that soever. 2. To preserce from sickness or any bodily John was a zealous and exemplary teacher of disorder; to heal. This sense, he remarks, is righteousness; but this, it is evident, is also the perhaps the most easy to distinguish; yet our grammatical meaning of the words. We repeat, translators have not uniformly given it due atten- then, that the grammatical, or what interpreters tion. In Matt. ix. 21, 22; Mark v. 23, 28, 34; call the grammatico-historical sense passage, vi. 56; x. 52; Luke viii. 36, 48, 50; xvii. 19; is the true sense; and, consequently, that which John xi. 12; Acts xiv. 9, it is rightly translated ought always to be adopted. to heal, or make nchole.-In Luke vii. 50; xviii. (2) By this it will be seen, that the natural 42; James v. 15, although the same word is figures of thought and of diction, are not excluded applied to the same circumstances, yet it is ren from the sacred writings. But then it is important dered by the indefinite word save. The 3rd sense to remark, that whatever figures do occur, are in which the verb is used, is to preserve from the employed for the purpose of making truth more temporal anger of the Almighty; such as was plain to the understanding, and of impressing it manifested in the destruction of Jerusalem. The more deeply on the heart; and that, therefore, the 4th sense has a strict reference to future salvation process of the association which connects the in hearen. Mr. Locke seems to have distinguished figurative object with the writer's meaning, may the third and fourth senses, by considering salva- be easily disentangled, and rapidly seized. Our tion as two-fold; first, admission into the kingdom rule holds good, therefore, under every circumof God in this world ; secondly, actual possession stance which can be conceived ; and attention to of eternal life in the kingdom of God in the world it will guard us against that system of interpreto come. The first and second state of salvation tation which assumes the Scriptures to be written would thus coincide with what the best divines in such a style of hyperbole, metaphor, and allehave agreed to call the first and final justification. gory, that when the critical operator has brought The other word is magis, grace, which denotes out what he deems the sober sense, the reader dirine benevolence in general, temporal blessings, of plain understanding and simple piety is astonspiritual aid, pardon of sin, &c.; but which of ished at a result so diminutive, and so disprothese senses either yagis or owler has in any portionate to the general use and purpose of particular passage, is only to be determined by the words.+ nature of the subject and the scope of the writer. 2. The LITERAL meaning of words (using the
II. What has been now said, will aid the student term in its usual acceptation, as opposed to in forming a judgment as to the higher sources figurative or metaphorical) is always to be preferred, whence he is to derive the necessary testimony and not to be departed from without reighty and to the signification of words. What follows will sufficient reasons. assist him in the operation of interpreting their (1) The necessity of this rule will be found in meaning.
1. The GRAMMATICAL signification of the words is the only true signification.
* That is, the grammatical sense, modified by historical cir(1) By the grammatical signification of a word,
+ See Dr. J. P. Smith's Scripture Testimony to the Messjab, is not meant a signification in opposition to the vol.i., p. 19.
the fact, that the adoption of figurative language Stretching out the heavens as with a curtain ; is to be considered as an exception to the ordinary
Laying the beams of thy chambers in the waters; rules of composition. This may, at first sight,
Making the clouds thy chariot ; seem to contradict experience, but a moment's
Walking upon the wings of the wind:
Making the winds thy messengers, consideration will render its truth apparent.
And thy ministers a flaming fire. Does any person, either in speaking or in writing,
Who founded the earth upon its bases ; al rays employ tropical or figurative language ? That it should not be displaced for more than ages! Certainly not; words are usually employed by all persons in their obvious or proper sense; and no (3) In such cases as these, it is impossible to good writer will adopt them in an improper or mistake, for the grossest mind could not construe ngurative sense, without giving a sufficient inti- the passages literally; their metaphorical sense is mation of his having so done.
immediately perceived, and the understanding (2) On this topic, the maxim commonly laid spontaneously acquiesces in such an interpredown by biblical writers, is, not readily to depart tation. The same may be said of other passages, from the literal sense of words ; but this maxim. where a single figure of thought occurs ; as in as Ernesti suggests, is neither strictly true, nor John vi. 51, where our Lord declares himself to perspicuous, nor adapted to use; and he accord be the “living bread," and affirms that his flesh ingly prefers that which avers, that the literal shall be “eaten." In chap. xv. 1, he says, he is meaning is not to be deserted without evident reason the “ vine,” and his Father the “husbandman;" er necessity ; which is substantially the same as in ver. 5, that his disciples are the “ branches ;" that above laid down.* Where there is a plain in chap. x. 7, that he is the “ door ;” and further Decessity for departing from the literal sense, then, on, that he is the “shepherd," and his disciples we must evidently admit the tropical ; but in no the “ sheep;" each of which passages is to be other case whatever. Thus, in Psalm xix. 4, 5, understood figuratively, for which there is an obthe writer expresses himself in the following lan- vious reason, and because, as before remarked, guage, in reference to the great luminary of our such a sense is the proper, the real, or the gramSystem :
For it is to be observed, that in so
construing the language, we are no more at liberty In them he hath set a tabernacle for the sun ;
to attach to it an arbitrary sense, than if there Who, as a bridegroom, cometh out of his chamber; He rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
were nothing tropical in it; and there is, there
fore, no uncertainty attending its meaning. It is And in Isai. xli. 15, 16, we have a still bolder the peculiar design of the figurative style, to image, where Israel is promised the victory over exhibit objects in a clearer or more striking, in a its enemies, in the following language :
sublimer or more forcible, manner; and it is plain,
that this object could not be attained, unless there Behold, I have made thee a threshing wain ; A new corn-drag armed with pointed teeth:
were an obvious resemblance or analogy subsisting Thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them between the object itself, and that whence the small,
figure which is employed for its representation is And reduce the hills to chaff.
derived ; and it is by tracing these analogies that Thou shalt winnow them, and the wind shall bear the meaning of the words is to be fixed.
(4) It must be admitted, however, that there are And the tempest shall scatter them abroad.
some passages in the sacred writings, relating to And how sublimely has the Psalmist delineated the Divine Being, to the future state of the the Divine majesty and power, as exemplified in righteous and the wicked, and to one or two subthe constitution of nature, in Ps. civ.
jects of a like description, the signification of which
it is extremely difficult to ascertain with certainty. Thou art invested with majesty and glory,
The reason of this may be easily perceived; the Covering thyself with light as with a garment;
subjects treated of are such as cannot be subjected
to the examination of our senses; and we have, * Ammon, in his note upon this section of Ernesti
, says, the therefore, no criteria by which to judge of their Decessity for departing from the literal sense can hardly be real qualities or attributes. But in such cases, fud by rules. “The following, however, would come nearer be truth: not to depart from the literal sense, unless in cases
what is to be done? How are we to determine where the literal sense is tume, ridiculous, or contradictory." between the claims of conflicting opinions ? Lather anticipated this canon, when be asserted that “no trope Here, analogy will be found to be the only guide; is to be admitted into Scripture, unless the context manifestly and none but those who are intimately acquainted rquires it, or the literal sense be manifestly absurd, and repagbazit to some article of faith,” Opp. T. III., Latin, Jena, f. 195. with the contents of Scripture, and have imbibed
much of the spirit by which it is pervaded, are we easily perceive that the literal meaning of the competent to determine these nice and delicate words employed to predicate their several actions, points. The subjects are far removed from that is incongruous with them, and therefore, that they grossness of perception which characterizes the must be figurative or tropical expressions.* carnal mind; and no language that could have III. For the interpretation of the figurative lanbeen employed would bring them within the grasp guage of Scripture, a great number of precepts of the natural man.
have been framed; and the most popular work in (5) But then we must be careful not to reject our language (Horne's Introduction) which treats the literal sense of a passage, and adopt a figu- on the interpretation of the Bible, presents us rative sense, upon a partial or imperfect view of with thirteen rules, on this subject, independent its meaning; because, in such a case, we may of six-and-trenty additional rules, which are conceive that there is a repugnance of things, applied to the interpretation of the different kinds where no such repugnance exists. This mode of of figures ; thus making, in the whole, no fewer proceeding has been the fruitful source of much than thirty-nine distinct and independent maxims, and pernicious error among certain classes of which are said to demand our attention, when religionists. Instead of gathering the sense of interpreting the figurative language of the Bible! Scripture from the sacred writers themselves. This is most injudicious. If
persons will but according to the ordinary modes pursued in read exercise their understandings when they read the ing other literary works, these persons usually Bible, in the same manner as they do when any imbibe certain notions from other and independent other book engages their thoughts, these numesources, and then, wherever a literal interpretation rous rules will be annecessary; and if they will of the words of Scripture would contradict such not do so, all rules will be useless.t notions, resort is had to a figurative exposition. We shall, in a subsequent section, give such This is “ wresting the Scriptures.”
directions for the detection and interpretation of (6) To determine at once, whether a word is to tropes, as we deem to be necessary. We could be taken tropically or not, Ernesti suggests that not avoid the incidental discussion of them here. we should examine the object spoken of, either by the external or the internal senses, or by re
SECTION VII. newing the perception of the object; and it cannot be doubted, that, where the object spoken of
SCRIPTURE PARALLELISMS. is such as may be examined by the senses, the decision may be easily made. Thus, when in Value of Parallel Passages as a Source of Direct Testimony to
the Meaning of Words--- Verbal Parallelisms--Real Parallelthe passage already cited, Israel is said to be a
isms-Rules for Comparing Parallel Passages, The Rythmithreshing wain," and in others, when
cal Parallelism; Various Descriptions of this ; Assistance Saviour is said to be a door,” and a “vine," derivable from it in the Art of Interpretation - Common we easily perceive, by comparing the objects
References another aid to Interpretation-Examples. spoken of with our senses, that to construe the
I. That a careful and diligent comparison of words literally involves an impossibility. So also in the following passages
parallel passages is a most efficient aid to the right
understanding of Scripture, all who have made Let the Heavens rejoice, and the Earth be glad ; And let them proclaim through the nations, Jehovah reigneth.
* The rule usually laid down in such cases, is, that those 1 Chron. xvi. 31. words or phrases are tropical where the subject and predicate
disagree; as wbere corporeal and incorporeal, animate and Let the Floods clap their hands;
inanimate, rational and irrational, are conjoined ; and also Let the Mountains break forth into harmony. species of a different genus. Things that cannot possibly exist
Ps. xcviii. 8. in any particular subject (as above), cannot be logically prediThe Waters saw thee, O God !
cated of it; for the fundamental rules of logic, in respect to this,
are inherent in the human mind. If, then, such things appear The Waters saw thee, they were grievously troubled.
to be predicated, the phrase must be tropically understood.--Ps. lxxvii. 16.
See Stuart's Elements, p. 111. See, also, Jahn, Enchiridion, The Deep uttered his voice ; And lifted up his hands on high.
+ Writers on sacred hermeneutics have invented various Hab. ii. 10.
distinctions, which we do not deny to be of some advantage ;
but we at the same time think that we ought to be much on our In each of these cases, by renewing the per- guard, lest, by making too many distinctions, and by multiplying ception of the objects, as the heavens, the earth, terms, we should injure perspicuity, and fall back into the
scholastic mode.--Pareau's Principles of Interpretation, p. ii., the floods, the waters, the mountains, the deep, sect. 1, $ 6.
the experiment well know. The doctrinal parts | hensions. He may safely remain ignorant of all of the Bible, especially, will be the most satis- history, except so much of the first ages of tho factorily explained and illustrated, “not in words Jewish and of the Christian church as is to be which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the gathered from the canonical books of the Old and Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things New Testaments. Let him study those in the with spiritual.” To the utility of this practice we manner I recommend, and let him never cease to hare the testimony of persons of acknowledged pray for the illumination of that Spirit by whom emitence as biblical writers. “ He is the best these books were dictated, and the whole compass resder," says Hilary, “who interprets sayings by of abstruse philosophy and recondite history shall wrings, who brings not an interpretation to Scrip- furnish no argument with which the perverse will ture, nor imposeth a sense upon Scripture, but of man shall be able to shake this learned ChrisEndeth a sense in Scripture, and draws it from tian's faith. The Bible, thus studied, will indeed Sripture."* “ If the economy of nature,” said prove to be, what we Protestants esteem it-a an ingenious writer, “is not to be learned from a certain and sufficient rule of faith and practice; a transient inspection of the heavens and the earth, helmet of salvation, which alone may quench the and if the ground will not yield its strength but fiery darts of the wicked.”+ to those who diligently turn it up and cultivate it, II. Parallelisms have been divided into real who can imagine that the wisdom of God's word and verbal. The former embrace the matter of can be discovered at first sight by every common doctrine and history; the latter regard words and reader? Nature must be compared with itself, phrases, modes of arguing, figures, and style. and the Scripture must be compared with itself, They are further divided into adequate and inadebp those who would understand either the one or quate : adequate, when they affect the whole the other.”+ “ It should be a rule with every subject proposed in the text; inadequate, when one," says Bishop Horsley, “ who would read the they affect it only in part: the former of these Holy Scriptures with advantage and improvement, are of course the more important, but the latter to compare every text, which may seem either should not be undervalued.|| important for the doctrine it may contain, or re- 1. THE VERBAL PARALLELISM. It not unfremarkable for the turn of the expression, with the quently happens, as will be seen from the remarks parallel passages in other parts of holy writ; already offered, that the meaning of words is that is, with the passages in which the subject- sometimes ambiguous or doubtful; neither the matter is the same, the sense equivalent, or the subject nor the context affords the means of deturn of the expression similar.”—“ It is incredible termining the sense. Now it is evident, that to any one who has not in some degree made the in such a case, another passage in which the same experiment, what a proficiency may be made in word or its synonyme is introduced, accompanied that knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation, by those attributes by which it may be defined, by studying the Scriptures in this manner, without will furnish a verbal parallelism of the utmost any other commentary or exposition than what the value for fixing the sense of the doubtful word or different parts of the sacred volume mutually phrase. Thus, in Rom. xvi. 25, the apostle speaks fumish for each other. I will not scruple to of “ the mystery which was kept secret since the assert, that the most illiterate Christian, if he can world began,” without enabling us, by any subbut read his English Bible, and will take the joined remark, to understand the precise sense to pains to read it in this manner, will not only be attached to the phraseology. But if we refer attain all that practical knowledge which is neces- to Eph. i. 9, 10, iii. 4, 5, and Col. i. 27, it will sary to his salvation ; but, by God's blessing, he be rendered manifest, that it means the admission will become learned in every thing relating to his of the Gentiles to the privileges of the church and religion in such a degree, that he will not be people of God, without subjecting them to the liable to be misled, either by the refined arguLents or the false assertions of those who endeavour to ingraft their own opinions upon the
Nine Sermons, pp. 121-128. cades of God.
He may safely be ignorant of || Gerard, in his Institutes of Biblical Criticism, divides i philosophy, except what is to be learned from Parallels into the following classes : (1) Passages in which, the sacred books ; which, indeed, contain the either with or without a quotation, the same thing is said in the Lighest philosophy, adapted to the lowest appre- to Deut. v.6–18. The comparison of such texts often serves
same or nearly the same words; as, Exod. xx. 2-17 is parallel to correct a false reading. (2) Passages which relate the same
subject in different terms. (3) Passages in which the same * De Trin. lib. 1.
terms or expressions are used, in speaking of different things. Jones Lectures on the Figurative Language of Scripture, (4) Passages which treat of the same subject in different ex