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REGARDING the universal consent with which the competency of Origen, as a Hebrew critic, has ever been admitted in the Christian church; it would be in the highest degree indecorous and presumptuous, in any modern scholar, to attempt to spoil the veteran defender of our faith of the honor, which he has so long obtained in the world, without the adduction of arguments sufficiently potent to ground and uphold the contrary opinion. If, however, it can be demonstrated, that when he composed his most celebrated performances, he was totally ignorant of Hebrew letters; the sanction of a credulous posterity ought not to prevent us from refusing to assign to the father a theological talent, which he neither possessed, nor, as far as I can affirm of his writings, pretended to possess. This seems particularly necessary at the present day, when many divines, ceasing to preser the authorised text of the Masoretes to the Greek and other Versions, would teach us to lay an almost implicit stress on the authorities of Josephus and Origen ; though neither of them, I am fully persuaded in my own mind, knew any thing at all of that sacred dialect, in which the books of the Old Testament, stand originally composed. That Josephus did not, is apparent, from his being always led by the Greek ; from his making the noun, Moses
, a compound of tro Egyp- . tian words ; so repugnant to its form in the original ; as well as from his incompetency to show the signification of Jerusclem, which had been so strangely perverted and aspersed by his opponent Appion. That Origen knew nothing of it, will be abundantly proved from the subsequent remarks, should you deem them worthy of an insertion in the Classical Journal.
The first thing, in which the Greek father may be observed to betray a total want of Hebrew learning, is the manner in which he has vindicated thai celebrated prediction of Isaiah: That the Messias should be born of a tirgin. 'Edred 'lovduios superihayar, tó Ιδού η παρθένος, μιή γεγράφθαι λίγοι, αλλ' αντ' αυτού, Ιδου και νεόνας: φήσομεν προς αυτόν, ότι η μεν λέξις και Αλιά, ήν οι μεν εβδομήκοντα ειιτειλήφκσι προς την παρθένον, άλλοι δε εις την νεάνιν κείται, ώς φασι, και εν τω Δευτερονόμιο
lemi παρθένου, ούτως έχουσα: 'Εαν δε γένηται παίς παρθένος μεμνηστευμενη ανδρί κ. τ. λ. Contra Cels. Lib. 1, p. 27. Cam. ed. In this the author is pleased to inform us, not that he pretends to know any thing of the matter himself, but from the report of others, that the terni, Alma, in the prophecy, translated Negdivos by the Septuagint, occurs in the cited text from Deuteronomy in the signification of a virgin; whereas it does not occur at all in that part of the Scriptures, much less in the acceptation affixed to it by this writer. Nor will it avail to plead, that such might be the reading of the text in the copies then extant; for what sort of a copy must that be, which could run counter to the united authorities, not only of the Hebrew and Samaritan texts, as we now find them, but of the Targum of Onkelos! Besides, had he possessed half of that Hebraic erudition, which has been erroneously
ascribed to him, he would have shown for the conviction of the Jew, what the learned and indefatigable Munster has since actually done ; that, though the term in Hebrew be not appropriated to the denotation of a virgin ; in most of the passages in which it is found, it will scarcely bear any other signification.
From this specimen of his Hebrew learning I beg to direct the reader to another, equally calculated to establish our position. In reply to the ethnic opinion of Celsus, that every individual nation ought always to be tenacious of their peculiar objects and forms of worship, the several countries being, as he supposed, distributed by the Supreme Governor of the universe amongst the inferior gods; the learned father, though without any good will on his own part, and certainly without laying the church under any special obligations to him for the manliness of his conduct, makes the following concession: φαμέν δ' ότι ο καθ' ημάς προφήτης του Θεού και γνήσιος Θεράπων αυτού Μωϋσής, εν τη τού Δευτερονομείου ωδή, εκτίθεται περί του μερισμού των επί γης τοιαύτα λίγων, ότε διεμέριζεν ο ύψιστος έθνη, ως διέσπειρεν υιούς 'Αδάμ, έστησεν όρια έθνών κατά αριθμόν αγγέλων Θεού. Contra Cels. Lib. 5. p. 250. Cam. ed. Surely, if ever the author had a proper occasion for displaying his Hebrew, it was now; when, to prevent an adversary from profiting by a solitary text, he needed only to refer him to the sacred original; which, together with the Targum, and the Samaritan text, instead of, Angels of God; reads, The children of Israel-5x70 3. Ignorant, however, of the Hebrew scriptures, and guided solely by his Greek version, he not only makes no efficient reply ; but surrenders the text into the power of his antagonist : thus testifying to the world, how miserably the church would defend herself, on many occasions, against the Celsi of our own times, with no other scriptures in her hand than the Septuagint Translation.
But again. The father, concurring with the Pagan in the belief of good and bad angels, and that the deity permits them frequently to infest mankind with divers calamities and plagues, endeavours to establish the notion on the testimony of the Psalmist. Magtugsi de και υμνωδός τω, οτι θείοι κρίσει αυτουργείται τα σκυθρωπότιρα υπό τινων πονηρών αγγέλων, εν τω Ασίστειλεν εις αυτούς οργήν θυμού αυτού, θυμόν, και οργήν mai daiter erostorno di equinwe goyngær. Contra Cels. Lib. 8. p. 398. Cam. ed.
Difficult indeed would be the task of demonstrating from the Old Testament the existence of any such thing as wicked or malignant angels, and least of all from this text of the Psalmist, which in the original bears a very different construction.
. Psalm 78. v. 49. R. Abraham ben Ezra has thus commented on the text with his accustomed ability.
.ישלח בם חרון אפו עברה וזעם וצרה משלחת מלאכי רעים
רמז לרוב פחדם ממכת הברד כאשר הזכיר כל מגפותי אל לבך והלא תראה לא הודה פרעה לעולם לאמר אני ועמי הרשעים רק במכה הזאת והנה דימה אלה המגפות לעברת השם ומשלחת מלאכי רעים בעבור האש כמו עושה מלאכיו רוחות משרתיו אש לוהט ומלת מלאכי אינה ממוכה כאילו כתוב מלאכי השם כמו ביד נביאי כל חוזה :
The Psalmist in this, alludes to the greatness of their conster. nation at the destruction of the Hail; of which it is recorded ; All my plagues will I now fetch to thy heart. Observest thou not, reader, that Pharoah would never submit so far as to say ; I and
nation act wickedly; except on this percussion only. Thus the writer, by way of metaphor, assimilates the plagues to the fury of the Lord, and to the sending of the unge's of afflictions, on account of the lightning which accompanied the hail; as it is written : Who maketh his angels winds and his ministers taky lightning. The term, angels, it ought to be observed, on the present occasion, is not constructed so as to retain the meaning which it has in, The angels of the Lord; but is of a similar complexion with, By the hand of the prophets of any vision, that is, of any visional prophet. Com. on Ps. 78. v. 49. To the preceding may be added the brief explication of the text, by R. Isaac Abarbinel
כאמרו ישלח בם חרון אפו עברה וזעם וצרה משלחת מלאכי רעים הנה קרא החרון אף העברה והזעם והצרה מלאכי רעי.
So saith the Psalmist : He sent amongst them the fierceness of his anger, fury, and indignation, and distress; the immission of angels of afflictions. Thus the inspired penman calls the fierceness of anger, the fury, and the indignation, and the distress, commemorated on this occasion, the angels of afflictions. Com. on And Sam. ch. 24. It cannot but be apparent, then, to the least discerning, that what this Greek father mistook for wicked and malignant spirits, signifies only the messengers of afflictions; or rather the afflictions themselves ; 'from which malignity was as far removed, as from the Deity himself, who inflicted the evils.
Though enough has been said to convict Origen of being egregiously ignorant of Hebrew letters, I will yet add another testimony taken from his erroneous notions respecting the term Sabaoth. This word, as is well known to every biblical scholar, is of the plural number, signifying, hosts, or armies ; possesses all the inflexions of a noun common, and is never used in relation to the Deity, but when preceded in construction by Jehovah, or Elohim, or both; and so rendered conjointly: The Lord, the God, or the Lord God of hosts. But Origen having never read, as it should seem, the Hebrew scriptures, and misled ly the superstition of the Hellenists, who had no other copy of them than the Septurgint version ; makes it always a proper noun, and affixes to it singly a meaning, which can be obtained only from its joint connexion with Jehovah or Elohim. To so luolor έρούμεν και περί της Σαβαώθ φωνής, πολλαχού των επωδών παραλαμβανομένης, ότι εί μεταλαμβάνομεν το όνομα εις το, Κύριος των δυνάμεων, και κύριος στρατιων, ή Παντοκράτωρ (διαφόρως γας αυτό εξεδέξαντο οι ερμηνεύοντες αυτό) ουδέν ποιήσομεν. .
Contra Cels. Lib. 5. p. 262. Cam. ed. No stronger proof than this need be alleged of his having been wholly unacquainted with the sacred dialect; for though R. Jacob ben Ascher, in his annotations on the Pentateuch, has actually reckoned it by itself amongst the seventy names or epithets of the Deity; and, though a few of the Jewish commentators, merely to prevent the term, Jehovah, from ever being regarded as in regimen with it, would assert it a proper appellation, yet is that wholly repugnant to the principles of
: והנה מצאנו יי צבאות והוצרכו רבים לומר כי צבאות שם העצם הוא או הוא אות בצבא שלו וזה לא יתכן כי הנה אלהי הצבאות וְלבדו לא תמצאנו כי אם עם אלהים או עם השם הנכבד יי אלהים :
grammar, as R. Abraham ben Ezra has
very clearly demonstrated.
It is worthy of remark, however, that we find, Jehovah of hosts ; rohich has led many to assert, that the term, Sabaotl, is itself a proper appellation of the Deity; or that it is a banner in his army so inscribed ; but this is void of all probability ; for we meet with, God of The armies, in which it is evidently constructed as a noun common; nor is it ever to be found standing by itself for, God, but only with the term, Elohim, or the compound term, Jehovah Elohim. Com. on E.c. ch. 3. So far, indeed, from its being a peculiar epithet of the true God, as the learned father contends; or wholly differing from the Jupiter of the Greeks and Romans, it denotes the very objects, to which the Jewish nation was strictly prohibited from paying adoration.
I shall not dwell on the minor instances of stupidity and oscitancy; such as his giving, Ebin, instead of Elion, for pauper, in Hebrew; (Philoc. ch. I. p. 17.) his using Elohai, and Adonai, constantly, for Elohim and Adonim ; (vid. Contra Cels. Lib. 6. p. 217. Cam. ed.) errors too gross for any Hebraist to commit.
But it may be reasonably demanded, if Origen knew nothing of Hebrew, how could he treat so many passages of the Old Testament in so critical a manner, or add to his Polyglott the Hebrew text in Hebrew characters ? To this I reply, that the trifling display of biblical learning to be found in any of his works now extant, he in all probability obtained by means of his many conferences with the Jewish divines; but especially from the literal Translation of Aquila, on which much of the seeming erudition of this Christian father ought doubtless to be charged. But with respect to the Hebrew text in the Polyglott, that, we may rest certain, if it ever existed at all, was the work of a Jew, who being needy as well as learned, did not disdain to profit from the design without sharing in its honors. Be this as it may, I cannot but maintain, what I think has been most amply demonstrated, that when he composed his work against Celsus, as well as the Philocalia, he was completely ignorant of the Hebrero scriptures; and, consequently is at this day a very incompetent authority to be alleged against the veracity of the Masoretic text. Hovingham, Aug. 27, 1812.
Miscellaneous Observations on some passages in several ancient
and modern Authors, By JOHN SEAGER, B. A. Rector of Welsh Bicknor, in Monmouthshire.
Some of the following observations may, perhaps, not prove wholly unacceptable to the readers of those works, which are the subjects of them. ` I believe them all to be new; if that be any atonement for
their want of merit in other respects. But should any of them have been anticipated in writings with which I am not acquainted, and should any reflection be therefore cast on me, I would gladly, if I might without presumption, employ in my defence the following words of Locke, written upon a similar, though much more important, occasion to Dr. Stilling feet, who had tared him with publishing thoughts already extant in the books of others :
“ To alleviate my fault herein I agree with your Lordship, that many things may seem new to one that converses only with his own thoughts, which really are not sa; but I must crave leave to suggest to your Lordship, that if in spinning of them out of his own thoughts they seem new to him, he is certainly the inventor of them, and they may as justly be thought his own invention, as any one's; and he is as certainly the inventor of them as any one who thought on them before him; the distinction of invention or not invention lying not in thinking first or not first, but in borrowing or not borrowing our thoughts from another."
In the preface to a small volume published in 1808, and intitled, Emendationes in scriptores quosdam Græcos, I cited an opinion of Dr. Johnson upon Conjectural Criticism, as an answer to the many contemptuous remarks often made on verbal criticism, and not with an intention of arrogating to myself any of the high qualities there ascribed to the legitimate Critic ; and now, as my first observation regards Mr. Gibbon's translation of a passage in Julian, I cannot help taking notice that Mr. Gibbon also did not resemble some other men
great genius and abilities in affecting to despise corrective criticism. He well knew, that words are signs of ideas, and that a trifling change of words may create an important alteration in signification. It frequently happens, says he, that the sounds and characters, which approach the nearest to each other, accidentally represent the most opposite ideas. Mr. Gibbon not only mentions conjectural emendations of others with applause,' but frequently attempts them success, fully? himself. His translation, however, of a passage in Julian, shows far less knowledge of the Greek language than some of his emendations. The Emperor is severely reprimanding Ecdicius, Præfect of Egypt, for not executing his sentence of exile on Athana. sius, whose conduct he stigmatises in the following words, as quoted by Mr. Gibbon:
Τον μιαρόν, δς ετόλμησεν Ελληνίδας επ' εμού γυναίκας των επισήμων βαπτίσαι drázerbaer. Mr. Gibbon's translation is, The abominable wretch! Under my reign the baptism of several Grecian ladies of the highest rank has been the effect of his persecutions: and he adds, I have preserved the
* See his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Note on ch. iv. p. 153. (octavo, 1797.); Note on ch. ix, p. 363.; Note on ch. ix. p. 369. ; Note on ch. ix. p. 379.: Note on ch. xxxviii. p. 322.
2 Note on ch. x. p. 398. ; on ch. x. p. 415. ; on ch, xii. p. 74.; on ch. xir. p. 217. ; on ch. xvii. p. 28. ; on ch. svii. p. 32. ; on ch. xviii. p. 102.'; on ch, xix. p. 177. ; on cii. xxxviji. p. 364.,
3 See ch. xxiii. of the Decline and Fall, &c. p. 134. edit. 1797. 8ve.