« AnteriorContinuar »
M'William's Essay on the Origin and Operation of the Dry Rot
several Petitions relating to Ribbon Weavers
Report of the Committee of the Society for the Improvement of Prison Dis-
pendix containing Returns from the General Assembly of the Church of
Thornton's Essay on the best Means of promoting the Spread of Divine
Truth in the unenlightened Villages of Great Britain
FOR JULY, 1818.
The Holy Bible, newly translated from the Original Hebrew : with
Notes Critical and Explanatory. By John Bellamy, Author of • The History of all Religions." 4to. pp. xl. 190. Price 16s.
Large Paper, 11. 48. 1818. THIS 'HIS extraordinary production, so long promised, and so
confidently announced as a work essentially necessary for the support of true religion, has at length made its appearance, the first part, containing a translation of the entire book of Genesis, being now before us. Extraordinary, in every sense of the word, Mr. Bellamy's publication certainly is. The higli claims of this Author, to superior intimacy with Hebrew literature, bis lofty contempt of all preceding Biblical critics and translators, bis unparalleled self-confidence, and the complacency with which he regards the offspring of his genias, no less than the novelty of many parts of his version, must surprise every person accustomed to associate humility and sobriety of mind with biblical learning. In the criticisms of this gentleman, the most offensive epithets, applied to scholars of distinguished reputation in the departments of learning which he has selected for the exbibition of bis own talents, are perpetually occur. ring. “ Novices in Hebrew literature," “ Hebrew menders," “ random pretenders to Hebrew," "ignorant of Hebrew," and numerous other terms, equally choice and polite, are the expressions which he has unsparingly used in his vituperations of scholars whose names are an honour to their country. On the Anti-punctists, Mr. Bellamy has no mercy; he never approaches them with respect, whatever inay have been the services which they have performed in aid of sacred literatore. It is true that the names of Lowth, Blaney, Newcome, Kennicott, and others, are to be found in some of the details of Mr. Bellamy, in such a connexion as would seem to imply his reverence for them, and his deference to their judgement and Vol. X. N. S.
learning; but this respect manifests itself only wben he can raise some contribution on the services of his predecessors in favour of his own undertaking. He can quote liberally from these authors in proof that ' a new translation of the Scriptures ' is absolutely necessary, not only on account of the great im
provement in our language, but because the travslators have • erred in things most essential.' Only this purpose, however, can they serve, with his approbation. Their claim to Hebrew learning be treats with supreme disdain. It has not, it seems, occurred to bim, that persons who could discern essential errors in the translators of the Bible, niust have possessed some acquaintance with the original Scriptures, and were qualified to pronounce an opinion on the conformity of particular versions with them. Why has he availed himself of the testimony of scholars, to the defects of translations, whom he has so authoritatively and so rudely denounced as ignorant of Hebrew? They reject the points, or, according to Mr. Bellamy, the vowels and accents, without which he pronounces it to be impossible to read the Hebrew Bible. But were all the Hebraists who have adopted the anti-Masoretic system, unacquainted with the points ? Were they incapable of reading a pointed Bible? If the knowledge of the vowels and accents be necessary to the understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures, has not that knowledge been in the posses sion of some of the anti-Punctists? And if they read Hebrew, without points, was not this practice adopted by them from preference, founded on a knowledge and comparison of both systems?
But the Punctists are treated by Mr. Bellamy, with as little ceremony as the anti-Punctists; both are charged by him with incompetency in Hebrew literature. The Hebrew Bible they have never understood, not because they were unwise, but be-, cause they were unlearned, not knowing the language in which it was originally written. No persons, for several hundreds of years past, have been competently acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures! Such is Mr. Bellamy's sweeping charge. In reply to this it is sufficient to remark, that whatever may be the attainments of tbis Gentleman, there bave been many scholars of distinguished celebrity, within the last three centuries, whose intimacy with every part of Hebrew learning, was as complete as bis own; they, at least, knew as much about the vowels and accents of the Hebrew Bible, as be may know, and their attachment to the system of the Punctists, was as ardent as his own, If Mr. B. bad attributed the differences in rendering from He brew, to errors of judgement in those excellent men who do not accord with him in the sense which he gives, it might have been well; but for him to declare, with positivity and arrogance, that
such persons were incompetent as Hebraists, is intolerable, and cannot fail to excite disgust and aversion in every sober reader.
And how came Mr. Bellamy to rise to this superiority over all former Hebrew Scholars? Has some ancient Israelite risen from the dead to become his teacher ? Has he obtained a monopoly in the knowledge of Hebrew consonants, and vowels, and accents? Is he privileged by patent to deal exclusively in these commodities? Learning of all kinds has long been an open trade, and we are yet to learn by what unknown advantages Mr. B. could become more accomplished than other inen in the knowledge of the original Scriptures. Has he access to any sources of information from which others are excluded? Is he the only man to whom for ages the opportunity of becoming learned in Hebrew has been afforded? And if other men have been in possession of advantages not inferior to Mr. Bellamy's, have they been less assiduous or less honest than he? Assuredly not. With equal or superior learning, they had as much uprightness of intention, and were as indefatigable in their exertions to serve the cause of truth as the Author of Biblical 'Criticisms in the Classical and Biblical Journal. But if Mr. Bellamy be assigned a level with preceding scholars on some accounts, there are others on which it would be presumption to place any of them by his side: for arrogant assumption and the pride of dogmatism he certainly has no equal. Let the reader only recollect the names of the learned men who, since the revival of literature, have cultivated the knowledge of the Hebrew language, and have signalized themselves by their profound philological researches into every department of Hebrew letters, and he must feel utterly indignant at the haughty spirit with which this self-constituted professor of Hebrew depreciates their accomplishments, while he proclaims his own imagined superiority. Mr. Bellamy disdains the aid of the advantages which modesty and self-diffidence might contribute to his undertaking; these are virtues too humble to be his attendants. With the most preposterous folly he demands precedence of all former Hebraists, and to Mr. John Bellamy, “ Author of the Ophion,” even the hats of the Buxtorfs and the Castells must vail !
Mr. Bellamy asserts the absolute integrity of the Hebrew text, and maintains that it is perfect and entire, letter for letter, vowel for vowel, and word for word, as it proceeded from the pen of the original writers ;-a most extraordinary hypothesis, (for it is nothing but hypothesis,) which is to be received it should seem as a true one, simply on the ground of the confidence with which he has chosen to affirm it. He is pleased to declare that the Bible could not be the word of God, were its verbal integrity not thus perfect : just as if the History of Herodotus, or the Georgics of Virgil, could not be the productions of those authors, unless every successive transcript were a perfect fac-simile of the original! The authority of Thucydides is not impaired, because the copies of his celebrated History exhibit various readings; which it is impossible to prevent in a work perpetuated by inpumerable transcripts made during a long succession of years, by men constantly liable to error. Nothing less than a Divine agency, exerted directly in every instance of transcription, could prevent the intrusion of verbal errata into the copy preparing by a scribe.
We have no evidence that such agency was ever employed. It is surely as important that the New Testament should be verbally perfect, as it is that the Old should be preserved entire and pure in its words and letters: the verbal integrity of the former is certainly not of inferior consideration to that of the latter. But, whatever Mr. Bellamy may choose to believe or assert, the verbal integrity of the New Testament cannot be maintained, the verbal discrepancies of the MSS. from which the printed editions are derived, being visible to every eye, and established by the clearest demonstration. Who then can suppose that God would manifest greater attention to the
preservation of the Jewish than to that of the Christian records? They have both been preserved by being conveyed through human hands, and as they have both been exposed to the dangers arising from the infirmities of erring mortals, they have both been marked with effects inseparable from the imperfect means of preservation by which they have been conveyed to us. Hebrew manuscripts exhibit differences of reading; a fact which the comparison of them establishes beyond all contradiction, and which indubitably proves that the persons by whom they were written, were liable
and have, as copyists, committed faults inseparable from human writers. The question of verbal integrity cannot be determined otherwise than by comparison. Manuscript copies of the Bible existed long before printed books were known; it is therefore for the advocates of the verbal integrity of the Hebrew Bible, to select and exhibit the particular manuscript which they would pronounce perfect. But from this they invariably shrink. Mr. Bellamy bas constantly declined naming the individual copy which preserves the Hebrew text, letter for letter, vowel for 6 vowel, and word for word,' as it was originally written ; but till he perform this service, he withholds the only means by which his assumption can be tried, and its truth established. Means and proofs, however, are, it should seem, by far too much connected with rational proceedings, to be at all regarded by Mr. Bellamy, whose oracular dictation is suited only to the capacity of the weak, or the purposes of the designing.
It may be necessary perhaps to lay before our readers, what