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greater." The earliest modern Commentaries of the New Testament being modelled after the Scholia on the classical writers, were little more than unconnected criticisms on difficult passages. This was a convenient method to the earlier commentators, who did not intend to form what is called a perpetual Commentary. They chose mostly those passages where they might exhibit their own learning or reading, rather than explain the sense of their author. This system continued to a late period, and may be traced in most of the Commentators of the seventeenth century, even in Grotius. Those whose works were exceptions, as in the case of Calvin, Luther, and Crellius, extended their discussions to an immoderate length, so that instead of being read, they are used exclusively for reference. The English Commentaries of the seventeenth and a part of the eighteenth centuries partake of the same fault, as that of Grotius, being too prolix and desultory in some parts, and unsatisfactorily brief in others; no approach being made to any thing like a connected Commentary.
Koppe was the first who attempted to remedy this defect, by commencing in 1778 an "Edition of the New Testament, with a corrected Text, short critical Notes, and rather copious philological and exegetical Annotations, serving to establish the literal and grammatical sense; all doctrinal discussions being excluded." The editor lived to publish only two volumes of the work, containing Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Thessalonians. It was continued by Heinrichs and Pott, who, by altering the plan, defeated the purpose of the work, and besides were of so heterodox principles,
“That whatever may be the learning and ability occasionally displayed, their interpretations ought to be received with the greatest distrust and caution. Koppe himself, indeed, was not wholly free from that leaven of heterodoxy, which has worked so extensively and perniciously in the greater part of the German Commentators, for the last half century, from Semler downwards. To omit such decidedly heterodox works as are better passed over in silence, the Commentaries of Rosenmueller and Kuinoel have (especially the latter) much valuable matter. The work of the former, however, (besides that its principles are very objectionable,) is almost wholly a compilation. Far more valuable is that of the latter; its principles, too, are better; though what are called Neologian views not unfrequently discover themselves; and the work, being too often interlarded with some of the most pestilent dogmas of Semler, Paulus, and others, though accompa
nied with refutations by the editor, is very unfit to come into the hands of students."
Dr. Bloomfield adduces the other principal Commentators, whose failings, either in judgment or learning, in principle or doctrine, in superficiality or redundancy, show that an edition of the New Testament, adapted as a manual for Academical and general use, is still a desideratum. This want it was his intention to supply. He then proceeds "to unfold the plan of the present work, to state the principles of Criticism and Interpretation, by which he has been guided, and the purposes which it is especially intended to answer."
The last edition of Robert Stephens, adopted by Mill, dif-` fering slightly from our common Text, which is founded upon the Elzevir of 1624, and is supposed to be preferable to it, is selected by Dr. Bloomfield as the basis of his Text. He professes to exclude critical conjecture entirely, and to make only such alterations as are supported by decidedly preponderating evidence. He avows his total dissent from the system of Recensions, first promulgated by Griesbach, and founded, as he apprehends, upon a misapplication of the Canons of Criticism, which the German editors professedly acted upon. He charges Griesbach with temerity and irreverence for his "perpetual, and, for the most part, needless cancellings and alterations of all kinds."
The reader has before him both the Stephanic and the corrected Text. Nothing of the former has been omitted. Interpolations, alterations, insertions, and omissions are designated by stenographic marks in the Text, or specified in the notes. In the Critical Notes, which, Dr. Bloomfield says, are almost entirely original, he gives his reasons for the course which he adopts in the Text. The Text, having the verses marked in the margin, is, in accordance with the most apparent reasons, divided into paragraphs. These are shorter than those of Griesbach. The punctuation is revised, and the parallel references, quotations, and interlocutions are appropriately designated. The Exegetical Notes are modelled after those in the critical editions of the Greek classical writers, being intended to comprise all that relates to the interpretation and to the grammatical sense, regard being had to the connexion and the scope of the passage. Illustrations are sought for in parallel passages in sense or diction of Scripture itself, from the Septuagint and the Apocrypha, and from the works of Josephus and
Philo, from the Apostolical Fathers, from early Apocryphal and Rabbinical writings, from the Latin and Greek Fathers, and from the Greek Commentators and classical writers. From the last source the editor's private studies have enabled him to offer much that is original.
In opposition to the notion of Doddridge and of some other theologians, founded on the canon of Cocceius," that the words of Scripture mean all that they may mean," Dr. Bloomfield very sensibly contends that there is only one true sense, that in the mind of the sacred writer. In his interpretation he has endeavored to unite a zealous respect for antiquity with a cautious admission of novelty.
As respects the style of the New Testament, Dr. Bloomfield is alike opposed to the opinions of its being in pure and elegant Greek, and on the other hand to its being barbarous and ungrammatical. He accounts for the use of unusual words and phrases, consistently with purity, by alleging that the classical authors which we possess do not contain a tenth part of the Greek language, and also from the lawful introduction of the popular or provincial colloquial and domestic phraseology. The instances which have been specified, where the writers of the New Testament have not observed the common rules of grammar, he answers by quoting the distinction of Tittmann, "that the sacred writers have observed the rules of grammar, though not the rules of the grammarians."
The first edition of the work was flatteringly received by the English public, and in three years the author betook himself with much satisfaction to preparing a second. In this he introduced some improvements, especially in his Introductions to all the books of the New Testament, and in the Punctuation, with added wisdom, drawn from consulting the Reformers and the great masters in English Theology. He again enters his dissent from the principles of Griesbach.
Perhaps we can best aid our readers to form an idea of the character of Dr. Bloomfield's work, by indicating his course in regard to some of the questions which have been most contested.
It appears to be one of Dr. Bloomfield's most striking characteristics as a critic, that he endeavors to hold the two opinions, on many of those points on which his predecessors have differed. Thus on the great question of the origin of the first three Gospels, he professes to set aside the three theories, that
the three Gospels were derived from some original document, or from detached narratives of parts of the history of Christ, or from oral tradition; and he endeavors to support a modification of the other theory, that one or two of the three Gospels were taken from the third. He thus states his view of the case.
"1. That the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were original and independent narratives (except that Luke probably made some use of the Hebrew original of St. Matthew). 2. That Mark's Gospel appeared after those two; and that the Evangelist freely used the matter contained in one or the other, according as it suited his purpose, and was agreeable to his plan. 3. That such parts as are not found in Matthew or Luke, were either derived from St. Peter, (under whose sanction and direction he wrote,) or at least from the testimony of "eye witnesses and ministers of the word."
With what propriety Dr. Bloomfield can disclaim the three former theories, while he takes the essential part of each and all, we are at a loss to see. His own theory wants the very qualifications, the absence of which furnishes him with the best arguments against the others, namely, simplicity and historical support; while, in our opinion, it gives a death-blow to the most important end which it is the chief object of all the theories to establish, namely, the fact that the Evangelists are independent historians.
Again; Dr. Bloomfield seeks to hold both opinions on the question whether Matthew wrote his Gospel in Greek or Hebrew, by agreeing with Whitby, Benson, and Hales, in the most unsupported supposition, that Matthew wrote a copy of the same Gospel in both languages. He supposes that the Hebrew was published A. D. 37 or 38, and the Greek A. D. 41. We must differ from him in the whole matter. The best ancient authority favors the belief that Matthew wrote his Gospel only in Hebrew, and circumstantial evidence fixes its date about A. D. 63.
Dr. Bloomfield supports the authenticity of the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke on good grounds. As regards the very difficult subject of Matthew's genealogy, he reconciles it with the Old Testament by alleging errors in the transcription, and with Luke by supposing that he gives the genealogy of Mary, and Matthew that of Joseph.
Dr. Bloomfield favors the literal interpretation of "the Temptation," which he calls "a most awful and mysterious
transaction," by supposing that it was a real event, and not a visionary scene. To say nothing of the entire absence of all Scripture testimony that such a being as the Devil really exists, there is nothing in the account of the Evangelists to call for so many fearful and unnatural assumptions as a literal interpretation involves. An overwhelming objection to it is offered in the fact, that the frightful appearance of such a being would defeat the very object of his visit.
In his Note on Matthew iv. 24, Dr. Bloomfield gives us his opinion on demoniacal possession. The hypothesis of Dr. Mede, that the demoniacs were merely persons affected with lunacy, he conceives to be utterly untenable. He adopts the belief of the existence of evil spirits, and endeavors to answer the objections raised against it. To the question which is asked by those who adopt Dr. Mede's opinion, why there should have been demoniacal possession at the time of our Savior, and not at the present day, he answers ;
"That these possessions might then be permitted to be far more frequent than at any other period, in order that the power of Christ over the world of spirits might be more evidently shown, and that he, who came to destroy the works of the devil, might obtain a manifest triumph over him."
We had hoped that this notion was consigned to oblivion by all, as it certainly is by most critics. As we read the Scriptures and study the history of our race, we think we discover evil enough for the Savior to root out, without the creation of any new sources or agents of it, for the express, but most unprofitable purpose of being destroyed. If our examination is correct, the New Testament mentions seven cases of the cure of those called demoniacs; John does not mention one. Evangelists have enumerated various disorders which Jesus cured by his miraculous power, and as we know that the several forms of mental disease were prevalent in Judea, it is highly probable that Jesus cured some of them. We believe that he did, and that they are the ones intended by "the demoni
From our examination of several passages, where Dr. Bloomfield would necessarily give his opinion in relation to the Quotations from the Old Testament in the New, we find that he allows the principle of accommodation, though he is very fond
VOL. XXII.—3D s. VOL. IV. NO. II.