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For DECEMBER, 1832.
Art. I. 1. 'H KAINH AIAOHKH. The Greek Testament, with English
Notes, Critical, Philological, and Exegetical. By the Rev. Š. T. Bloomfield, D.D. F.S.A. Vicar of Bisbrooke, Rutland, Author of the · Recensio Synoptica Annotationis Sacræ, &c. In two Vo
lumes. 8vo. pp. xx. 1196. Price 1l. 16s. Cambridge, 1832. 2. 'H KAINH AIAOHKH. The Greek Testament with English Notes.
By the Rev. Edward Burton, D.D. Canon of Christ Church, and Regius Professor of Divinity. In two Volumes. 8vo. pp. viii.
1030. Price 11. 10s. Oxford, 1831. 3. ‘H KAINH AIROHKH. The New Testament ; with English Notes,
Critical, Philological, and Explanatory. Third Edition, corrected and enlarged. In three Volumes. Price 21. 58. London, 1831.
THE nearly contemporaneous publication of three different
critical editions of the Greek Testament with English Notes,' is in itself a circumstance to be viewed with high satisfaction, as at once a favourable symptom and a happy omen. It indicates that a demand for such works has been by some means created ; and it seems to promise an increased attention, on the part of divinity students, to the instrument and basis of all theo logical knowledge,– the sacred text.
The public are indebted to Mr. Valpy for having set the example which the Oxford Regius Professor and the learned Author of the Recensio Synoptica have somewhat tardily followed. The first edition of the Greek Testament ex ædibus Typographicis Valpeianis, appeared in 1816, with the notes in Latin * The plan seemed to be, to give the Greek text with a series of brief scholia, after the manner of Hardy's Greek Testament (Lond. 1768), selected chiefly from Grotius, Elsner, Raphelius, Bos,
Palairet, Kypke, and Rosenmuller. Of the execution of the attempt, we felt unable to speak with as warm approbation as of the design. The theological notes, in particular, were extremely unsatisfactory and meagre; and the text itself, though generally that of Griesbach, was in some passages made to bend to received, but unauthorized readings. The second edition, published in 1826, was a great improvement upon the first. A corrected text was made the basis of the work, the various readings being given in foot-notes ; and after mature consideration, though evidently not without misgivings as to the consequences of so daring an innovation, the Editor determined to give the Annotations in English. For this violation of established usage, the following remarkable apology was offered. In this, he has fol‘lowed the example of our most learned divines and critics, who, ' in offering the result of their pious labours to the English student in divinity, did not think it necessary to adopt the Latin
language, though consecrated by the usage of ancient and of ' German critics. Nor is there any fear that the language, how
ever plain and simple, should, on such a sacred ground, be ' found to shock the most refined taste, or offend the judgement of the most fastidious scholar.'
The experiment has succeeded. Not merely has a third edition of Mr. Valpy's work been called for, but its success has emboldened two other learned persons to prepare rival'works upon the same plan. Yet still, the Oxford Professor deems it needful to propitiate the venerable prejudices which linger about antique towers and Gothic halls, by thus apologizing for giving the notes in the vulgar tongue, instead of employing the sacred Romish language.
· The notes are calculated for those persons who are not reading the Greek Testament for the first time, but who as yet have little acquaintance with the labours of critical commentators. If they should be found useful in the upper classes of schools, to the younger members of our universities, and to the candidates for holy orders, the anxious wishes of the editor will be amply gratified. It is not merely the fashion of the day which has induced me to compose the notes in English rather than in Latin. This custom seems indeed to be gaining ground in editions of profane authors as well as of the Greek Testament: and unless the work is intended for circulation on the Continent, or unless Latin notes are supposed to improve the reader's proficiency in that language, there seems no reason why the difficulties of one dead language should be explained by a commentary written in another. In compiling notes from writers of different countries, and particularly from English commentators, it is obviously much more easy to convey their sentiments in our own language: and if such a system should be found more useful and agreeable to the majority of my readers, I shall consider it a recommendation, rather than an
objection, that the commentary has no pretensions to be considered learned.'
This manly declaration does honour to the learned Writer; and seeing that prejudices such as he alludes to still exist, we must applaud the good sense which has enabled him to break their thraldom. It may hereafter appear, however, a. curious fact, that, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it should be a fashion' just beginning to obtain the sanction of learned Englishmen, to make use of their own language in works of Biblical criticism and philology; and that a practice now admitted to be without reason, should so long have been tenaciously adhered to by our scholars. Once, indeed, there might be good reasons for employing the Latin language in works exclusively designed for the learned; who, few in number, and scattered over Europe, required an international medium in which they could mutually exchange the results of their labours, elude the ignorance, not only of the vulgar, but of the great and powerful, express their thoughts with greater freedom than they could prudently do in their respective vernacular dialects, and contribute to the common fund of the world of letters. Latin was then the only literary currency. Nay, the State required its Latin secretary. For to all Europe, the language of Shakespeare was the barbarous dialect of a few millions of islanders: and the Englishman who aspired to be read beyond the narrow precincts of his native university, was compelled to use the Roman tongue.
The state of things is now altogether different. Truth no longer seeks or needs the disguise of a learned language. The press is free. Theology has ceased to be a craft, and knowledge to be a monopoly. The English language, no more confined to an island of the German ocean, is diffusing itself over both hemispheres, as the medium of commerce and the fountain-head of intellectual wealth. For the thousands who composed the Latin republic of letters in the times of the Reformation, there are millions now, to whom an English writer may address himself; and the loftiest literary ambition might well be content with the sphere of the English public and the immortality of the English tongue. Bacon would not, if he were now living, philosophize in Latin, which henceforth will serve better for the concealment, than for the communication of opinions.
The study and mastery of the Roman language will always form an indispensable part of a liberal education ; both for the sake of the rich literature which it unlocks, and of the benefit to be derived from an acquaintance with the language itself, which so long gave laws to the world of thought, surviving in its influence the political ascendancy of Rome, and forming the basis of the composite dialects of modern Europe. We may almost trace the extent and progress of civilization during the middle ages, by the degree in which the Latin prevailed over and in the barbarous idioms of the northern tribes; just as the mixture of Arabic determines the extent of the Mohammedan civilization in Africa. It was the language of the Church, the Law, and the Schools. But, as Rome itself rose upon the ruins of Greece, so, the Latin language has triumphed at the expense of Greek literature. The different spirit of the two nations, and of their institutions, has reflected itself, as it were, in the character of their respective tongues. The Greek, with its many dialects, free, copious, rich, and flexible, modelled by the feelings and tuned by the ear of the natives, seems to have received its laws from the plastic power of mind. The Latin has exercised a despotism over the mind itself. It has been at the same time an instrument of civilization and an impediment to the progress of intellect,—a yoke upon the free exercise of thought. Its effect upon theology has been, perhaps, the most strikingly prejudicial. It would be difficult to estimate the degree to which the truths of religion have been mystified by the technicalities of the ecclesiastical language, at once precise and ambiguous, defining without explaining, obscurely rigid in expression and indeterminate in meaning. The Latin language has never been thoroughly Christianized; and the Vulgate was almost inevitably a corruption, as well as a translation of the New Testament. For how could the cardinal doctrines of the Christian Revelation be adequately exhibited in a language incapable of expressing the infinite distinction between a god and The Deity,-a son of a divinity, and The Son of God, spirit, and The Spirit, a word and The Word? We do not mean to say that any such difficulty could be created by the want of the definite article in Latin, as would impede the oral communication of the Scripture doctrine in the first ages ; but it was not without reason that it pleased the Holy Spirit to direct the Apostles to employ the Greek language, already consecrated and accommodated to sacred truth by the Septuagint Version of the Hebrew Scriptures. Nor can we doubt that, if they had written in Latin, they would, by grafting some Hebraistic and Hellenistic forms upon the classic dialect,-by some phrases that learned scholars might now have exercised their learning in shewing to be impure Latin, by converting ille or ipse into an article, or by some other means,-have expressed, as unequivocally as they have done in the inspired text, the witness of the Spirit respecting Christ.
But, unhappily, with the original Scriptures in her hands, the Church presumed authoritatively to substitute her own imperfect and obscure interpretation for the sacred codex, discouraging the study of the genuine authority. The neglect of the Greek Testament occasioned by this fatal policy, could not but exert a most prejudicial influence on theological studies. It was excluding the daylight for the purpose of burning tapers. Even after the study of the Greek text had been revived, the habit of deference to the Vulgate still gave a bias to the judgement of the Biblical student; and the practice of arriving at the acquisition of the Greek language through the medium of the Latin, has tended to hinder scholars from perceiving the true genius, and fully deciphering the forms of the nobler language. They have been led to read the Greek by Latin rules, to interpret it by Latin ideas, to look at the inspired text through Latin spectacles. In proof of this, it may be remarked, that, in professedly translating from the Greek text, our Translators have not followed the order of the words in the original, even when the English idiom allowed of it, but have modelled the construction on the Latin versions. Still more striking is the influence of the Latin, in leading the most erudite grammarians to blunder so astonishingly respecting the nature and uses of the Greek Article ; for we can hardly err in attributing to the complete prepossession of their minds by the language in which they had learned to write and to think, the obscure and erroneous notions which Bishop Middleton has immortalized his name by exposing. That the true doctrine of • the Greek Article should be a re-discovery of the nineteenth century, must be regarded as one of the most singular facts in the history of literature. But, had the Greek language maintained its ancient predominance as the instrument of thought and the common tongue of the learned,—had the first studies of European scholars been directed to that language, -had they written and thought in Greek, instead of in Latin, there could have been no room for any such discovery. The use and power of the Article, at least, must have been preserved, although the grammatical principle so ably developed by Dr. Middleton might have eluded observation. By how few masters of English composition have the intimate and fundamental principles of the construction of our own language been thoroughly understood! All grammar is theory; for what is it but an attempt to ascertain the laws which regulate the phenomena of speech? And the facts must needs be older than the hypothesis.*
Whatever exception may be taken against any of Dr. Middleton's rules, which are but his interpretation of the philological facts that he has brought to light, the general principles upon which his doctrine of the Article is founded, are too well esta
* Bishop Middleton makes a fine remark in his Preface, in combating the unphilosophical notion that idiom is to be attributed solely to custom. Custom in language bears a close analogy to chance in physics : each of them is a name for the operation of unerring causes which we want either the ability or the inclination to apprehend.'