Puslapio vaizdai

Sadducee hated Greek culture as tempting Israel to idolatry; that it could pass by every form of worship into a region of thought simply absorbed in thinking, not even Plato (nay, Plato least of all) could have driven into that brain, stored with images and similitudes, alive to emotion, keen upon action, but innocent of metaphysics.

In this, and po other mould the Bible is cast. It utters the language of childhood, juventus mundi, but not of a child who will grow into a European man. Our dramatic poetry, our reasoned narrative, of which Sophocles and Thucydides are respectively models, find no likeness among Oriental writings. Hebrew story proceeds by simple addition, the particle "and" serving to connect its incidents even when highly contrasted. How strange this loosely built structure appears in Greek anyone may learn by reading the Gospel of St. Mark, which follows the native idiom; and to Latin it is equally repugnant. The Hebrew poets, again, are essentially of a lyric type, carried on not by a theme of which they unfold the several parts, but by feeling drawn out in the presence of an object loved or hated. They command, entreat, compassionate, curse or bless, in short flights of song, the effect height ened by repetition, the manner violent and picturesque. As they never appeal to abstract reason, or the nature of things apart from its Maker, so they move onward by association of moods, which themselves evoke the corresponding images. Hence the abrupt transitions, disjointed, as we think, and perplexing to us, who look for cause and effect where the Semite will not stop to bind them explicitly together. He sways himself according to a rhythm of passion, allows nothing to the opposite side, and as children live in the present so does the prophet, his one tense being the "Now" of ex

cited interest. That species of return upon the words, which Lowth called "parallelism," belongs to extempore eloquence; it enables the orator to fling the object under varied lights, to watch it in movement, and to sustain his quivering voice, dominated by a feeling that shakes him out of himself. In the beginning, as many scholars hold, such lyrical outbursts had more than a touch of ecstasy; they are still observed in the Bedawin of the Desert wrangling over disputed claims." But everywhere the key-note is subjective, the horizon close, the source of feeling an interest not a pure idea.

Again, as the audience is the tribe, and literature, when it comes on the scene, takes this form of rhetoric, authorship, too, is collective long before it assumes the privileges of the lonely genius. It is the work of the community.

We read about the "schools of the prophets," who anticipated not merely the common life but in some sense the scriptorium of Christian monasticism. Their leader may be imagined as controlling like a choirmaster those vivid explosions of enthusiasm during which his disciples uttered their sentiments. We do not attempt now to improvise in company except for sport; but the Easterns, and perhaps the half-Arab Sicilians, find in the crowd an inspiration which suddenly reacts upon all within hearing. and between them a story or poem is made out. Job argues with his friends in a moving dialogue, whereas Hamlet soliloquizes. Meditation in the Psalms is vocal and popular. The Talmud shows what is meant by a master and a school of law, where lectures are not treatises but aphorisms pointed by examples. And in like manner the Dervishes, who have preserved a much earlier form of religion than the Koran, seek for illumination in excitement, not in consecutive reaSee Dr. Peter's "Nippur," i, 238, ed. 1897.

soning. These instances we quote by way of analogy; they will at any rate serve to bring out that characteristic of the Bible which makes it different from all Western literature not founded upon it."

In every language words and thought are constantly reacting upon each other. Out of what strong feelings the Semitic verb, with its peculiar attributes, was elicited we shall never, perhaps, learn; but one thing is clear, the mental states of which it furnishes an expression do not resemble, even generically, those that our Aryan system represents. This all translators know by the embarrassment and confusion of tenses they cannot but fall into, so long as they give to the Hebrew conjugations a definite time-value. Examples abound even in St. Jerome, and are notable in the Psalms, which he was not suffered to write over again. Jewish grammarians themselves failed in their apprehension of the principles, latent but real, whereby the true character might be explained of these puzzling differences. Our grammars, unti! Ewald showed a more excellent way, taught us to speak of past and future tenses, with no present, and plunged us into the darkness of the Vau conversivum, a magic formula that by changing the vowel-points tossed the reader to and fro as it pleased but gave no reason why. At length understanding came. The Oriental verb-system is rude and inadequate, compared with our magnificently organized Greek, our Latin subjunctive, and our precise way in Western speech of marking time. But there is another logic which will reduce the Hebrew forms, so arbitrary in appearance, to reason and good They must be treated rather as moods than tenses; what they regard is the quality of an action, whether perfect or imperfect, finished or still in movement, from the point of view 6 Cf. "The Tradition of Scripture," 203-7.


chosen by the speaker. So, in French, the historical present, natural to their lively historians, describes the past, or even the future, but leaves it to the reader's sagacity to find that out. In Hebrew the actual succession of time must be gathered from the context; it possesses no forms that fix the date, but it evades this difficulty by "a subtle and unique application" of the two forms expressing "kinds" of time. Their use determines relation in a series of events, and that series is contemplated by the narrator with reference to his own attitude.

We have thus arrived once more at the rhetoric of feeling, the sudden, passionate seizure of every detail as it flashes into light by a vision glancing from point to point with Dantean swiftness. "The Hebrew's mind," it has been well said, "moved on with his thought, and was present with the whole range of ideas included in his thought." Might we not term this manner of speech a lyrical progress? It combines the two elements which are admirably fused in Shelley's Adonais and Spenser's Epithalamium, for it is all motion and emotion; nor can it endure the indirect narrative which, in other languages, substitutes hearing for seeing. That is how we should define the picturesque-a painted present, so to say-and where is the writing that excels Holy Writ in the depth and brilliancy of its descriptions?

Attempts have not been wanting in modern Hebrew (especially, we are told, by Russian men of letters) to manipulate the language so that it shall express philosophic systems like the Hegelian. But they

Do it wrong, being so majestical, To offer it the show of violence.

Neither for science nor speculation does it afford an adequate medium. It

See Driver's "Hebrew Tenses," Introd p.7.

mandates, where Fiat is the first word and the last. Other creators, indeed, are eliminated; Bel and Anu vanish before the face of the Lord; but never a syllable is expended on the process by which things have been drawn from their elements or the stages of their growth.


Yet again, "wisdom" is not the answer to problems of being, as it is with The wise man drives at practice; understanding teaches a shrewd morality, as in Proverbs, so whenever any son of Israel instructs the world. His energy (to use the Aristotelean formula) is action, its motive love or hate or acquisition-personal at all times, though it need not be selfish. When the Kabbala tries to reason after the style of Greeks, it produces a fanciful doctrine of numbers, a guide to mysticism, and a method of attaining union with the Supreme; it is a divine Ars Amandi. Even Spinoza, who dreamt he was following Descartes, looks on philosophy as a way of life; he terms it Ethics, and his One Substance forms the prelude to a code of behavior by which happiness may be found. These are not accidents. In Hellas, the seer yielded place to the "disputer of this world"; but no Socrates has ever appeared among Israelites; none certainly is discoverable in the Old Testament. And if he had risen up to argue and define, the language itself would have cast him out.

Familiar as these distinctions are now, and deeply fixed in German thought since Goethe, while Matthew Arnold, borrowing from Heine, drew out by their means almost a grammar of religious criticism, we still need to apply them, directly and at every turn, to the Bible itself. Granting that, as a literature, it has no European features, we must forbear in the details to construe its prose and poetry by Western rules. The effort of reading a Hebrew volume with Hebrew eyes can

triumphs in a loftier sphere; the heights of religious intuition are its own. Infinite expansive power lies hid within those brief sentences that cannot be Woven into periods, or wrought up by articulation to Demosthenic harmonies. The Bible uses facts as a great orator uses them, for persuasion and rebuke, not by way of building a theory. On this ground also we affirm that there is no science in Scripture, and that the religion of Israel was something else than philosophy. The Talmudic Jew, untainted by Western ideas, never strays into problems of How and Whence and Why; he does not exclaim, "Happy the man that has learned the causes of things!" but "O the blessings of him that keepeth the law!" He is utterly unconcerned about causes, and regards only himself and his Creator; these are his "luminous realities," as they were to the greatest religious genius of the nineteenth century. To him the universe, with all its wealth of life and beauty, remains what it was in the Book of Job-a theme for wonder, not for investigation. "Canst thou by searching find out God?" he asks, not without scorn; "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?" The law which he reveres is not cosmic law, it is God's will, "Thus saith the Mighty One of Jacob." God is the Revealer, but His commandment runs, "Thou shalt do," not "Thou shalt know." Hebrew natural history, set forth in the last chapters of Job, from which we have been quoting, overleaps all second causes; and so throughout the Bible. "He giveth them neat in due season," or "He maketh the grass to spring up," or "He calleth the stars by their names" such is the science (most true and needful) which contents the Israelite. There is no hint of a search after earthly origins. The six days of creation represent a series of divine LIVING AGE. VOL. XLIV. 2326

not succeed unless we transport our-
selves to the time and place which
truly furnish the context, or the scene,
of its publication. De Quincey glances
at "those conceits which every Chris-
tian nation is apt to ground upon the
verbal text of the Scriptures" in its
own vernacular. They would melt
away, he observes, were the original
looked into. Much Bibliolatry, as he
says with justice, depends on ignor-
ance of Hebrew and Greek, or on pecu-
liarity of idiom and structure in mod-
ern tongues. The argument might be
turned against all translations whatso-
ever, including the Vulgate, which, of-
ten as it sacrifices classical forms to an
interlinear fidelity, is yet Latin by
its general make no less than by dic-
tion. Translations, however, there
must always be; the corrective is to
spread among readers a knowledge of
the conditions under which they were
executed. Even a sight of the Hebrew
characters would help to check the mis-
chief of taking a version for the auto-
graph. Marginal notes, or a few pages
of introduction, would save a world of
misunderstanding which, among Prot-
estants, has aggravated the evil of
sects, while it has made of the Old
Testament to Catholics in general a
sealed volume. They have opened it
once and felt bewildered at a style so
abrupt, so full of strange alternations
in subject, tense, person, so vehement
yet so obscure; and they have shut it
with a conviction that it had no mes-

sage for them. But, granting the
requisite age and discretion, that is by
no means the case, even where lay-
And how great
folks are concerned.
is the loss to preaching in proportion
as the clergy do not take the Law and
the Prophets in their range, only those
can estimate who will compare modern
sermons with St. Augustine's.
Reformers made much of the Hebrew
saints and heroes, but is that a reason
8" Works," vol. viii, "Protestantism," p. 263.

why we should neglect them? If there is one thing more than another which deprives the pulpit of influence at this day, it is probably the ever-narrowing circle of texts from which subjects are chosen, the popular and, I had almost said, journalistic, handling of contemporary topics. Now the whole Bible is not only inspired, but inspiring; and a very little attention to the structure of its language, the form and movement of its ideas, would greatly enlarge our acquaintance with it, as well as kindle our admiration for the marvels it contains.

An excellent rule, laid down by Jacob Grimm on another subject, viz., the folk-tale, warns us that rightly to take hold of it we should be "initiated into all the innocence of popular poetry." So, too, the Bible is in a grand sense naïve, like Homer and the oldest legends. Just by not burdening itself with the reference to some paramount philosophy which runs through our common literature it keeps this air of youth-is not the poet an eternal child? Do we expect of him to prove his dates, or to be pedantically accurate in apicibus juris? He stands above these things, not below them. To his purpose and ours they are of no consequence. We want the poem which he alone can give, and on his own terms. And, in reading the ancient Scriptures, "Nisi efficiamini sicut parCritvuli," is a true literary axiom. ical training is intended to give us that simplicity of aim and sympathy of disposition without which the works of genius are not to be understood. He is the best critic who throws himself into the heart of the book, and is subHe may dued to its deepest color. judge after he has felt, but not before.

It is remarkable that Voltaire, who was one of the acutest men of letters that ever lived, should not have known

"Teutonic Mythology," III, xiii, Eng. tr.

this much as belonging to his profession; and that, in consequence, all his gibes and sarcasms at the expense of the Old Testament recoil on his own head. Of M. Renan, whose feeling for the greatness of the Bible was genuine, and his scholarship on the literary side undeniable, we need not fear to say that he has done some rare things in its honor, especially by insisting on the unique position it holds above the "Sacred Books of the East." The Old Testament yields the quintessence of Oriental literature under a classic form. It has all the modes of Eastern poetry, the tale, the apologue, the proverb, the hymn, the laws and the chronicles, the heroic adventures, the ecstasies and the visions, the pilgrim's chant, the warrior's battle-cry, the meditative exchange of pregnant thought, the romance of love, the elegy on dead friends and desolate citieswhat is there not of all this in its pages? It is the key that opens for us a gallery of nations and is their record. Without the Bible we should never have known Asia. It gave us Egypt before Champollion and Assyria before Layard. It kept alive the name of Elam, which seemed a myth until De Morgan laid bare the dynasties of Susa, and Scheil deciphered the language of Anzan. It has educated Europe to an intimate sense of reality, when Persia, Canaan, Tyre and Sidon are mentioned. And it remembered extinct peoples like the Hittites during the vast ages since their empire fell into oblivion. To sum up all, Hebrew Scripture unfolds the central history of the world.

of some better covenant, and in the Psalms a Book of Common Prayer for mankind. There are those to whom the inclusion of books such as Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Esther, among revealed documents is a rock of offence; and one must grant their difficulties, while transcending them by Bishop Butler's appeal to analogy, to the principle of growth in which the lower stages, because inchoate and imperfect, point to an upward way. "The Hebrew," says De Quincey again, "meagre and sterile as regards the numerical wealth of its ideas, is infinite as regards their power." And why? Because they manifest an infinite personality, whose name unites all times and moments as parts of a scheme of Righteousness. Dominus regnavit, "The Lord is King." And here is the need of an Elder Testament in our Bible, to remind us that once the shadows only were discerned of those good things which we possess sub specle sacramentorum. We, too, are pilgrims under the cloud and journey with the tabernacle. If the New Testament, according to St. Augustine, was latent in the Old, then it is our duty not to cast either from us.

Moreover, if we put the Old Testament aside, the New is a fragment. Every sentence, at least in spirit, which the latter contains may be derived from the former. Christians brought to the West a Hebraism purged of its imperfections, a Bible that recorded them while prophesying

Allegory, as employed by commentators, was a rude instrument of culture, It insisted on the quality of Holy Writ by which relations were opened with future times and distant peoples, and on its universal or Christian meaning, and so far well. But allegory neither attracts nor persuades a generation brought up on scientific methods. Such is the state of the case with which we have to reckon. What we will call prophecy was, indeed, a power and a fact, so full of godlike energy that to it Hebraism owes the sceptre of the world-religion. There never can be another. It is inconceivable that a concrete form, larger than Christianity and absorbing it, will rule over Western civilization, among other grounds,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »