Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

discussed so completely, and yet so compendiously and conveniently as in these Introductions. The various arguments are given, and authorities cited. The author's views usually carry the weights of candor and sound critical judgment. And when the reader dissents from his conclusion, the materials are in his hands-usually the latest materials. In connexion with these Introductions is found a very full account of the critical apparatus, and an important statement of the principles of textual criticism.

V. A pains-taking collection of marginal references. These references form a very important part of the critical apparatus. They refer not to subject matter of the text, but to verbal and idiomatic usages. Questions of construction, and of the usage of words, both in the New Testament, the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, Josephus and Philo, and sometimes Xenophon. They are thus an important aid in translation and interpretation; very frequently also in the line of evidences. Thus in the Apocalypse, one of the best confirmations of the clear historical testimony to Jolin's authorship, is found in the constant and delicate resemblance in his use of language thus brought to view. As it is much more subtile, so it is much deeper and more mighty than the superficial counter-aspect of the solecisms and broken-constructions which abound.

VI. A scholarly, thoughtful and reverent exposition. The editor, himself a scholar, bas faithfully used all accessible modern scholarship, with a sound discernment and a reverent spirit. His range of study has been a broad one, and especially, has centered upon the best sources. He manifests no ambitiou to originate or to advocate, but rather to adjudicate. And we are not so much impressed with his own independent scholarship or acumen, as his power of weighing wisely the suggestions of other acute and scholarly men. He draws very quietly upon those two princes of scholarship, Meyer and De Wette, though often dissenting, largely employs Stier, Trench, Tholuck, Lücke, Olshausen, shows much consideration for the views of Ellicott, often more real than apparent, and cites Bleck, Hofmann, Winer, and others, with many of the best quotations from the fathers. The result is condensed into brief compass, with only the necessary display of authori. ties, where it is needed. On the more important disputed passages, his statement of different views and authorities is often very complete as compact and therefore helpful. Thus, his condensed account of the “Logos,” in the first chapter of John, is an excellent Epitome; so his account of the “preaching to the spirits in prison,” and his whole exposition of the Apocalypse from the Introduction onward. Perhaps the gospels are naturally the strongest portion of his exposition. Yet other books are very ably handled; e. g., the book of Romans, and of Galatians. His whole treatment of the Apocalypse, both in its positive and its negative aspects, is worthy of the highest commendation. No student can use Alford without being incited to sober views and scholarly methods, and no one author, in our judgment, has done so much to diffuse sound principles of interpretation among English and American students as Dean Alford. He inculcates judicious views of Scripture symbolism and typology, of prophecy and its interpretation, of the employment of Old Testament quotations, and of the mis-named “double use.” He rejects forced constructions, “hendiadys," alleged substitutions of one word for another, and loose definitions. He recognizes nice distinctions, grammatical and lexicographal, makes a strong point of scope and connexion, and aims fairly to follow the written word. He scorns all wrenchings of texts for controversial purposes; emphatically declaring,-Episcopalian though he is,—that in Acts xx, 28, “the English version has hardly dealt fairly in rendering overseers;' whereas the word ought then and in all other places to have been BISHOPs, that the fact of elders and bishops having been originally and apostolically synonymous, might be apparent to the ordinary English reader, which now it is not.” (The italics are his).

While a writer who covers so wide a field will naturally be surpassed on individual portions of it by monographs of other authors, e. g., Hackett on Acts, Alexander on Mark, etc., still such a work has the advantages of relative completeness, and of consistency, as well as compactness. And on individual books it is more satisfactory to study a unified and well-considered, if condensed, view than to wade through the fragmentary presentation of conflicting commentators, sometimes bound-up between the same covers, but not reduced to any higher and central unity. A wise course is to own such a work as this, and to strengthen it on such parts as we have means and occasion, by the addition of other single treatises.

We can not close this brief notice without indicating some defects. In one or two instances, (e. g., on John ii, 5,) the author indulges in unfounded and unwise and narrow flings at total abstinence from intoxicating drinks. We think some of his statements on the Sabbath question are flippant. Such things, however, are exceptional. But a more serious objection is his confused view of inspiration, and his excessive readiness to concede discrepancies where none exist. Apparently he fails also to recognize the difference between the revelation of truth directly from God, and the inspiration which infallibly qualifies the messenger to communicate God's message, whether it consists of newly revealed truth, or of historic facts, otherwise known to the writer, or of whatever other contents. He does not see that inspiration may be “dynamical" and not "mechanical ;" that it may be even "plenary,” if you please, that is complete, and not consist in “ verbal ” dictation from without. It is the same confusion in which many young ministers and licentiates seem to be entangled.

At the same time, with all Alford's sound orthodoxy in general, and freedom from German impugnings of Scripture veracity, he is far too ready to carp at the “harmonists,” and, in his excess of fairness, to admit contradictions where no court of justice under the same circumstances would find them. The idea that an incomplete narrative is thereby in conflict with one which gives all the facts (e. g. the mention of one blind man, contradictory to the mention of two), he continually rules out both in theory and practice. And yet he is continually falling into this open pit. He will tell us that here is an irreconcilable discrepancy, and add in the same connexion that if all the circumstances were known, no doubt the several narratives would all be found correct. Thus in his Prolegomena (p. 23) and elsewhere, repeatedly in substance ; he speaks of " variations and consequently inaccuracies," and he magnifies this matter in regard to the narrative of the crucifixion and resurrection (Matt. xxviii, and John xix, 14); but is constrained to admit after all, that the several narratives are “fragmentary," and that “much that is now dark might be explained, were the facts themselves in their order of occurrence, before us” (on John xix, 1); and “could we be put in complete possession of all the details as they happened, each account would find its justification,” (on Matt. xxvi, 70). In one instance the account of Peter's denial, he has manfully retracted from the statement of his first edition, and pointed out its “fallacy.” This case is perhaps one of those most in point. Other persons have alleged the fuller account given by Mark, as a contradiction of that by Matthew; “before the cock shall crow," and “before the cock shall crow twice;" whereas the second is only the minute and complete statement of the same fact of the denial. Alexander's simple solution will stand good against all objections. “Before the cock shall crow twice,” i. e., at the usual time, first about the middle of the night, and then a few hours later, these being the familiar limits of the third watch, called cockcrowing. As the second cock-crow was the one most commonly observed and reckoned as a note of time, the sanie division of the night may be defined by saying before the cockcrono (i. e., in the morning), which is the form of expression actually here employed in all the other gospels. The difference is the same as saying before the bell rings, and before the second bell rings (for church or dinner), the reference being in both expressions to the last and most important signal to which the first is only a preliminary. The existence of the latter, though expressly mentioned only in the last phrase, is not excluded by the first, and, if previously known, may be considered as included in it.” In other words, as Alford himself admits, one gives the statement in its substance, and meaning, and admits three times before the chief ) cock-crowing; the other in its complete and exact form ; three times before the second cock-crowing. Mark also gives the details of the narrative to conform to the exactness of his quotation. That is all. And this defence runs through the gospel. But though Alford, in his general admission, sets aside all his particular objections, the total impression is unfortunate and unfounded. It needs especial watchfulness in these days of loose theology and free cavil. We regret that a work so excellent should be marred by a defect so grave.

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »