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of POCOCKE and Hyde, of Great-Britain; of ERPENIUS and Golius, of Holland; and of D'HERBELOT, Bochart, Bouchet, and others, of France, toward the close of the preceding century, had all communicated to the public much curious and váluable information, respecting various eastern countries, particularly Arabia, Persia, and some parts of India. But these works had so limited a circulation, and the intercourse between Europe and the East was so small, that few were excited to pay much attention to this branch of literature. In Great-Britain, especially, during the first half of the century, oriental learning was at a low ebb, insomuch that, during the reign of George I. a great orientalist was a rare phenomenon in that country.
But in the latter half of the century under consideration, more encouraging prospects began to open. Indeed, within the last forty years, some departments of oriental literature have been cultivated with a fervour of zeal, and with a brilliancy of success, highly interesting and honourable to the age. And even in those departments which have been less diligently and successfully cultivated, some events and characters have adorned this period, which are worthy of notice in the present sketch.
The first place in this chapter is due to that language in which it pleased infinite Wisdom to record and convey the divine will to man. A language which, if it be not the most ancient in the world, will doubtless be considered among those which have the best claims to this honour. With regard to this language, though it has been less studied through the learned world in general, during the last age, than in some preceding periods; yet several events took place, and a number of important publications were made respecting it, which it would be improper to omit in the most rapid survey of oriental learning.w
The controversy respecting the Vowel-Points," which was begun in the sixteenth century, by ELIAS LEVITA, a learned Jew, and which was pursued with so much zeal and learning, in the seventeenth, by the BUXTORFS, CAPELLUS, WALTON, and others, was continued in the eighteenth, and gave rise to much interesting discussion. Early in the century M. MASCLEF, a Canon of Amiens, published his grammar, in which he undertook to teach the Hebrew language without points. He was opposed by GUARINUS, a Benedictine of France, with great learning and warmth; but defended by his countrymen, the famous Father CHARLES FRANCIS HOUBIGANT, M. DE LA BLETTERIE, and others. The system of MASCLEF obtained general credit in France; but the greater number of German and Dutch critics opposed it. In England it was, with some alterations, espoused and introduced by HUTCHINSON, who was followed by BATE, and PARKHURST, and more recently by Professor Wilson, of the University of St. Andrews, in North-Britain.
w For a number of the facts and names mentioned in these paragraphs on Hebrew literature, the author is indebted to his venerable friend, the Rev. Dr. Kunze, senior of the Lutheran Clergy in the State of New York, and late Professor of Oriental Languages in Columbia College. The various acquirements of this gentleman, and particularly his oriental learning, have long rendered him an ornament of the American republic of letters. He has probably done more than any individual now living to promote a taste for Hebrew literature among those intended for the clerical profession in the United States. And though his exertions have not been attended with all the success that could have been wished, owing to the want of that countenance from the public and from individuals which is necessary; yet he is doubtless entitled to the character of a benefactor of the American churches.
* The great questions concerning the Hebrew Points respect their anti-. quity and importance. The first question is, whether they were invented by the Masorites, a set of learned Jews, who are supposed to have lived about the fifth century after Christ, and who are said, by the addition of vowels and accents to have fixed the true reading of the sacred text; or whether these vowels were employed by those who first wrote the Hebrew language, and of course made a part of the original writing of the scriptures? The second question has a respect to the utility and importance of the points ; or how far they are necessary and useful?
y Grammatica Hebræa, a punctis aliisque Masoretbicis inventis libera. 1716.
The antiquity and importance of the Points have also been maintained, during the period in question, by the great ALBERT SCHULTENS, of Leyden; by the learned Professor J MES ROBERTSON, of Edinburgh; and by the celebrated orientalist, Professor TYCHSEN, of Germany. On the other hand, the points have found zealous opponents in the same period, in SHARPE, of Great-Britain; in Dupuy, a learned Frenchman; and in the celebrated John David MICHAELIS, of Germany." The result of this controversy seems to be a general impression, among those most competent to judge, that the points cannot boast of that antiquity which SCHULTENs and ROBERTSON would assign to them;" but that they were invented by men deeply skilled in the language; that they serve as a good commentary, and are therefore of great utility, and deserve to be respectfully regarded.
In 1736 Bishop HARE published a plan for ascertaining and restoring the Hebrew Metre. He supposed that he had revived the knowledge of the true versification of this language, and that
* Professor MICHAELIS, in the former part of his life, was favourable to the points; but afterwards changed his opinion. He was one of the most stupendous oriental scholars of the age, and probably one of the greatest that ever existed.
a Glavis Pentateuchi: sive Analysis Omnium Vocum Hebraicarum, &c. Auctore Jacobo ROBERTSON, S. T. D. Ling : Orient. in Acad. Edin. Prof.
b Psalmorum Liber, in Versiculos Metrice divisus, et cum aliis Critices Subsidiis, tum præcipue Metrices ope, multis in locis integritati sve restituturo Edidit Franciscus Hare, S. T. P. Episcopus Gisestrensis Tom2. 8vo. 1736. VOL. II.
he was in possession of principles by which it might be scanned, like any other poetry, and its rythm discovered with the utmost precision. He sup, posed that in Hebrew poetry all the feet consist of two syllables; that no regard is to be paid to the quantity of the syllables; that when the number of syllables is even, the verse is Trochaic, and the accent to be placed on the first; but that when the number is odd, the verse is to be accounted Iambic, and the accent to be placed on the second syllable; that the periods generally consist of two Verses, often of three or four, and sometimes of a greater number; that verses of the same period, with few exceptions, are of the same kind; that the Trochaic verses, for the most part, agree
in the number of feet, but that to this rule there are a few exceptions; that in the lambic verses the feet are in general unequal, though in some instances it is found to be otherwise. To accommodate the sacred text to these doctrines, he indulged in many conjectures and fancied emendations, which were altogether capricious and unwarrantable. This hypothesis was generally considered, by the most judicious critics, as a fanciful and unfounded speculation. The Bishop's doctrine was, however, adopted by Dr. THOMAS EDWARDS, of Great-Britain, a contemporary Hebrew scholar of considerable reputation. It was also adopted and carried to a still greater length, by Mr. William GREEN, an English clergyman, in his metrical version of the Psalms. But at the close of the century, it is believed, this doctrine had few if any advocates, and had entirely ceased to command public attention.
• GOMARUS, a learned Hebraist of Holland, in the seventeenth century, invented and taught an hypothesis conce
ncerning Hebrew Metre, somewhat resembling that of Bishop Hare, but not attended with so many arbitrary and conjectural emendations of the sacred text.
A New Translation of the Psalms from the Original Hebrew. By WIL* WIAM GREEN, M. A. Recter of Hardingham, Norfolk. 8vo. 17626
A much more valuable improvement in Hebrew literature, in the period under consideration, was that effected by the labour and talents of Dr. Lowth, Bishop of London. This profound and elegant scholar, in the year 1753, published a learned and highly interesting work on Hebrew Poetry, in which he displayed its structure, genius, beauties, and various kinds, more successfully than any preceding writer. This great work, which is regarded by every orientalist as a most important acquisition to the Hebrew critical art, formed a memorable era in the investigation of the subject of which it treats. The Bishop has been followed in this laudable and instructive inquiry, by HERDER, a learned, ingenious, and eloquent writer of Germany, who is said to have pursued the subject still further, and to have thrown additional light on the spirit of Hebrew poetry.
The publication of the works of the celebrated John HUTCHINSON, in Great-Britain, at an early period of the century, doubtless contributed something to promote the study of Hebrew in that country. It was before remarked that this philosopher and his followers laid great stress on the integrity of the common Hebrew text, and drew from a fana ciful interpretation of Hebrew words many theological and philosophical principles, in their view of the utmost importance. This circumstance, of course, prompted all who applied themselves to the study of HUTCHINSON's writings, and especially those who studied them carefully and deeply, to acquire as much Hebrew learning as they were
e De Sacra Poesi Hebræorum Prælectiones habite e ROBERTO Lowth, &c. &c. 4to. 1753. This work has been translated by the Rev. G. GREGORY, F. A. S. and published in 1787, in 2 vols. 8vo.