« VorigeDoorgaan »
it will, we may be assured, fully harmonize with his general
The theory here offered to us is but little removed from that
With the Millennium he connects the first Resurrection, and
His historical testimonies are equally defective: he admits
rather על-עפר יקום
* The doctrine of Cerinthus was very similar with respect to the
+ In the Septuagint példwy rarely occurs: in Job it corresponds to
1 Regeneration is always connected with baptism in the Epistles and
service. He invests oral tradition, however absurd, with historical credibility, because he assumes, that it details the private sayings of our Lord and of his Apostles. To such a system it only remains to proceed with the Church of Rome one step further, and to coin the tradition itself.
A new light bursts upon him on the subject of Antichrist, and we are favoured with a critical disquisition on the force of avri, which, after all the expenditure of learning, does not affect the character itself. When he conceives Antichrist to be “the counterpart or double" of our Saviour--an incarnation of the Spirit of Evil-we suspect that the Armillus of the Jews and the peculiar tenets of the Manichæans were strongly before him. But we cannot satisfy ourselves, that an impersonation of the Spirit of Evil, or false Messiahs, would answer to the intimations which the sacred page has given ; and we cannot see any better solution of the prophecy than that commonly received one, which perceives the verification of the apostolic words in the Antichristian power of Rome. * With this every particular coincides: with the others, points of identity are wanting. But the most extraordinary and objectionable of his fancies is that, which proclaims the archangel Michael to be our Saviour; since the manner in which it is proposed takes from him every portion of his Divinity, and degrades him to the mere rank of chief of the angels.
Hence, our readers will be contented with a notice of those parts of his work which contain sound and useful information ; for one of our principal objects being to convey religious instruction, we do not feel ourselves bound either to waste our time in grappling with the visionary, or in producing extravagant hypotheses, for the mere purpose of refuting them. On the other hand, we conceive that we shall be doing justice both to the author and to ourselves, by fairly analyzing the volumes before us, in those parts from which instruction may be gained, by awarding to him the meed due to his patience and research, and by enriching our own pages with matter intrinsically valuable.
The first parable considered is that of the sower. In this neither the explanation nor the the application are difficult : the first is given in the nature of the Jewish soil, the second is supplied by our Lord. As in Judæa fields were anciently
* To the idea of Pro-Christ, which he states the word to mean, there is not any thing which will correspond so aptly as the Roman see. But there are many instances in the Greek language in which ávrà has the sense of katà, such as drtıléyw, drtidicos, &c.; consequently, the argument founded on such words as ανθύπατος, αντιστράτηγος, &c. is countervailed by others, in which it has the sense disputed by this writer.
divided by boundaries, which occasionally were hedges of thorns, these might, prima facie, appear to have been the allusion of a part of the parable : but, as by thorns (axavda) various prickly plants were understood, and as in the Gospels the article is emphatically prefixed, the reference naturally seems to have been to those which might spring up with the seed, and at length outstrip and choke it. This circumstance is so common in eastern countries, as we may perceive from Ibn El Awam's work on Nabathæan agriculture, that we are necessarily certified that to it our Saviour distinctively pointed. The variety of soil mentioned in the parable is equally consistent with the natural peculiarities of Judæa, which, being mostly a land of hills and valleys, had many strata of rocks approaching more or less to the surface, so as to afford the diversity of depth which is here assigned to the mould. Therefore, each local cause which affected the seed sown on the wayside, on the rocky ground, amidst the thorns or briers, and in the good ground, would occur. Thus the briers and brambles would outgrow the corn, and although burned with the stubble after the ingathering of the crop, would spring up again from their roots in another year.
But the seed sown on the good ground, which was free from these impediments, because it was well cultivated and tended, would, according to the varying excellence of the soil, produce some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred fold. Nor is this estimate overstrained; for Warnekros, in his Essay on the Fertility of Palestine, has proved it to be equal to the statements of the Old Testament and Josephus, and modern travellers have instanced, in the durra alone, prolific qualities fully commensurate to those of the seed in this parable.
As we have observed, our Saviour's interpretation sufficiently explains the scope of the parable, which applied equally to the gospel-ministry among the Jews and among the Gentiles; but we do not conceive it to be confined to the first preaching of it without reference "to the final constitution of the existing Christian church” (as this author conjectures), but rather to have had relation to every period of Christianity, in which, experience teaches us, the same description of hearers may be expected to be found. Nearly analogous to this is the parable of the zizania, or tares, which is explained with the same distinctness. In a long note he institutes an inquiry into the particular species to which the zizania must be referred, but does not arrive at any clear conclusion. There can, however, exist little doubt that the plant is that which the Arabs call ubil, and the eastern Jews 7211, of which the writer of this article once specimen from Palestine, in a hot-house. Its character was precisely that of the ordinary wheat, whilst it was simply in the stalk; but when the grain began to appear, the distinction
became evident. Of this plant Ibn Siwan makes mention, and after having noticed the similarity recorded in the parable, proceeds to state, that it is possible to make bread of the grain, but that this bread has invariably most inebriating effects.
In the parable, also, of the mustard-seed, we do not observe novelty of material, although there is much which is useful and confirmatory of the words. Various writers of known credibility have proved the immense stature which plants raised from small seeds will often acquire under favourable circumstances, in particular climates and in particular soils. Pliny has given an instance of the malva attaining, in Mauritania, the height of twenty feet, and a thickness beyond the power of man to span: Strabo has afforded corresponding accounts of the vine in different places: Josephus has remarked, that at Machærus, in Peræa, the rue has been known to equal the dimensions of the fig-tree; and Lightfoot has shown, from Jewish authorities, the same of the sinapi, or mustard. Therefore, in the present parable, our Lord appeals to the circumstance, as to a thing well known, and appropriately compares the vast growth of this insignificant seed to the powerful energy of faith. When, likewise, he avers, “ If ye had faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye would have said to this sycamore-tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea," he as evidently alluded to the belief of the ancients, that certain species of trees and plants actually grew in the sea, more particularly in the Red Sea. Whether the ancients mistook these for coral, or whether they referred to such as merely grew in shallow water, is a matter of uncertainty, and unimportant: it is sufficient that our Saviour availed himself of the notion to introduce something out of the ordinary course of nature for the sake of thus exemplifying the active principle of vital Christianity, which he had just inculcated. And it is not a little singular, that the Jews have appropriated to themselves this parable, and attributed, totidem verbis, the miracle to Rabbi Eliezer.
In the parable of the pearl, the author has adduced nothing worthy of notice, except a long note, in which he shows the estimation in which pearls were held, and the immense size of which they occasionally had been procured: nor in that of the sagene, or draw-net, beyond a passage from Oppian, which bears a close analogy to the account of the evangelist. But in that of the king with his debtors he has been more lucid in his explanation; and, although he has wandered through many weary pages into extraneous and very commonplace matter, some particulars may be extracted which partly compensate the reader for his toil. He supposes, not inaptly, one of the Assyrian, Median or Persian monarchs, who, at different times, reigned over the East, to be the subject of the discourse ; and the subordinate characters, who, in conformity to Eastern language, would be styled servants or slaves, to have possessed some official anthority under him. The amount of the debt, calculated in our money, he computes to be upwards of 1,900,0001.—an enormous sum, which shows the greatness of the forgiveness. A debt of this magnitude cannot be accounted an improbability, for had the debtor been a governor of a province, a farmer of the revenue, or the steward of the royal household, Asiatic history proves that it might easily have accrued. The sum which Haman offered to pay to Ahasuerus, as the tribute at that time levied from the Jews, which possibly may have been the offer of a yearly sum, is an evidence that the debt stated in the parable was not beyond the limits of what might have occurred; for, on the one hand, Josephus estimates the proposal of Haman at forty thousand talents of silver, which are upwards of seven or eight millions of our money; and on the other, the Book of Esther at ten thousand talents of silver: the identical amount in the parable. Nor was the sale of himself, his wife and children, an innovation on established customs; for Eastern monarchs considered the families, households, and fortunes of their subjects as their own, and frequently involved the whole in the punishment of one. Such was the case with the family of Haman. The moral of this parable, which Rabbi Tanchum has pirated and embellished with many additions, enforces the necessity of forgiveness, evincing the preeminence of the Christian religion in this respect over the customs of an ungodly world, and the lessons of other theological systems.
In that of the good shepherd, the exegetical remarks are interesting and valuable. To understand it, we must bear in mind, that the Jewish sheepfolds were “strong, substantial build“ings, guarded and secured, both within and without, surrounded " by a wall to prevent admission, except by the regular entrance, " and provided with a door, kept by a porter, and fortified by « bars and bolts.” These precautions were necessary, on account of the wild beasts which infested Palestine ; and the climate also required that there should be buildings for the flocks to inhabit at stated times, when the inclemency of the weather prevented their remaining in the open air. Instances of this occur in Gen. xxxii. 17; Exod. ix. 20; Numb. xxxii. 16—xxiv. 36; Deut. iii. 19; Judges v. 16, &c. The fact, also, of sheep knowing the shepherd's voice, is one well corroborated by Eastern travellers and writers; and Polybius informs us, that in the island of Cyrnus, off the African coast, the surface of the country being overgrown with woods, and very rocky, the flocks were taught to obey and attend their keepers, by the sound of a horn. Many portions of this parable have found their way into Rabbinical works: thus, in various books we meet with XD170 smyn, the faithful shepherd (o touhy o kalòc), and supy Xully, the holy flock. We also detect the podwròc in