Page images
PDF
EPUB

Jean de la Fontaine and the French fabulists who were before and after him furnish matter for, at any rate, a very entertaining volume,* and Mr. Collins has told as much as the ordinary reader is likely o care to know about works which, after all, cannot be said to fill a very distinguished place among the Foreign Classics. The opening chapters contain much curious and amusing information about the earlier forms of some well-known fables, and the sources from which La Fontaine got his subjects. Those who desire a fuller and more accurate knowledge of the whole matter will go to the writers whose literary labours have relieved Mr. Collins from the trouble of making much serious research on his account.

SOME NEw Books FOR SUNDAY Schools.

[ocr errors]

E can cordially recommend to those who are in want of Sunday

lessons for young children three little books recently published by the Sunday School Association.t Mr. Bartram has followed up his Stories from the Book of Genesis (noticed in the Modern Review last year) by a not less successful attempt to apply the same “ rational " method of treatment to the traditions of the life of Moses, without too much dis. turbing the impressions of the naif freshness and picturesqueness of the original stories. The little book will be, like its predecessor, of real ser. vice to those who are unable any longer to “ teach the Bible" to their children or scholars on the old lines, and yet who wish them to feel the charm of its early pages, and to enter afterwards into the varied meaning and interest of the national history to which they are the introduction.

The short and very simple and practical sermons by three experienced Sunday-school teachers are excellent specimens of what such addresses to children, especially the younger ones, should be. They are directly concerned with the experiences and ideas of the average Sunday scholar, and if other young people hear or read them at home, they must not be too critical when they happen not quite to meet their own case.

Mr. Vizard has taken a number of the more frequent and striking similes and metaphors occurring in the Bible, and made a study of each of them, bringing together into one view the different truths suggested by the figure as originally used, and taking it as the text of a religious or moral lesson of present application. The idea is a good one, and is well carried out; and any intelligent teacher ought to be able to use the book as the author intends it to be used, not as a mere series of chapters to be read in class, but as notes of lessons to be given according to the teacher's own method and experience, in his own language and with his own illustrations.

* La Fontaine and other French Fabulists. By the Rev. W. Lucas COLLINS, M.A. Blackwood. 1882.

+ Stories from the Life of Moses. By RICHARD BARTRAM.--Short Sermons to Children. By THREE COUSINS.—Sacred Similes ; being Notes for Teachers of Bible Classes and Others. By P. E. VIZARD. London: Sunday School Association, 37, Norfolk Street, Strand. 1882.

a

[graphic]

THE MODERN REVIEW.

JULY, 1882.

TIE BOOK OF WISDOM.*

THE

.

THE books of the Apocrypha have suffered a curious

neglect in modern times. The Protestant reformers are not really to blame for this. True, they followed the authority of the more critical of the Fathers in excluding them from the same dignity with those monuments of Israelite literature of which the originals exist in Hebrew or Chaldee; but the Church of England, for instance, never entirely banished the Apocrypha from her lectionary, and the now forgotten, though still statutory, Homilies, are actually full of citations from the books, on an equal level with the Hebrew Testament. The Book of Wisdom was to Cranmer, as it is still to the Roman Catholic Church, “ the infallible and undeceivable Word of God.” The Articles of the English Church are, however, more guarded in their language, and simply declare that "the other books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them

Eopía Zadwór: The Book of Wisdom, the Greek Text, the Latin Vulgate, and the Authorised English Version : with an Introduction, Critical Apparatus, and a Commentary. By WILLIAM J. DEASE, M.A. Cxiord, at the Clarendon Press. 1881. Quarto.

to establish any doctrine."* It is impossible not to con. nect the revulsion which changed this qualified acceptance into an unfriendly suspicion, with the decree of the Council of Trent which ordered the Apocryphal books to be received by the faithful under pain of anathema. From that day among decided Protestants the Apocrypha has been ignored ; except in the High Church schools, it has hardly been read, never certainly studied. In the present century the British and Foreign Bible Society resolved to discontinue its publication, since the object of the Society was limited to the dissemination of the inspired word. The decision called forth a weighty and earnest protest from the present Bishop of Lincoln; but the controversy which followed had no effect, unless in arousing public interest in the condemned books. Uncultivated people still look upon them as something dangerous, and the present writer can remember, as a boy, the spurious books of the New Testament-more harmless, if possible, because making less claim upon

one's confidence-being rigidly kept away from him as likely to affect his nascent Protestantism.

It is remarkable that even in so scholarly an edition as that which lies before us there is a continual apologetic tone with reference to, perhaps, the least exceptionable of the Apocryphal books. Mr. Deane holds that “the absence of sufficient proof of canonicity, and not any internal marks of error or inferiority, is the chief ground for assigning to" the Book of Wisdom “a lower place than the other writings of the Old Testament.”+ In this ambiguous middle position he is concerned to show “its perfect accordance with the word of God, and to defend it resolutely from any suspicion of foreign taint, as from Platonism; at the same time, he is much perplexed by the appearance of prophecy in it, and no less so by the circumstance that it is treated, as he thinks, by writers in the * Articles of Religion, vi.

† Prolegomena, p. 39.

a

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

New Testament in this same lofty sense. For instance, in the famous passage describing the persecution of the righteous, † he notices that “the Fathers have generally seen a prophecy of the Passion of Christ; and there are some wonderful coincidences of thought and language between it and the Gospel.

But the similarity may be owing partly to the Old Testament quotations embodied in the text, partly to the recurrence of each typical form of reproach in the Passion of Christ” (p. 120).

It must be confessed that this sort of treatment is a little disappointing after the promise held out in the preface. There Mr. Deane says, “In elucidating the text I have endeavoured to give the plain, grammatical, and historical meaning of each passage, illustrating it by reference to the writings of Philo, Josephus, the Alexandrian writers, and early Fathers; but I have been sparing of quotations from Christian authors, not from want of materials, but because I did not wish my work to assume a homiletical form, or to be burdened by reflections which an educated reader is able to make for himself."

But the fact is that the commentary is entirely Patristic : when the Fathers are not themselves cited Mr. Deane turns Father, and comments after their fashion. Of the Old Testament he hardly professes to have any knowledge ; certainly none going deeper than the Septuagint and Vulgate versions. His interest is rather in what opinions have been held as to the meaning of his text than in the meaning which the writer himself intended. Thus “the restoration of Adam,” after his fall, “was a very general

The most eminent Apocrypha scholar living, Professor Fritzsche, totally denies this. See his article · Apokrypha' in Schenkel's Bibel-Lexikon.

l However, I suppose it would be difficult to find a closer parallel in thought as well as language than between Wisdom xiii, 1–10 (especially verse 6), and Acts xvii. 24-29. + Ch. ii. 12—20.

6

[ocr errors]

opinion, both among the Jews and Christians, and occasioned a plentiful crop of legends. S. Augustine says, ' It is rightly believed that Christ released Adam from Hell

when He preached to the spirits in prison.' This is stated as a past event by the author of Wisdom, as the Psalmist says, "they pierced my hands,' referring to a future event.”* It is difficult to say which is the more uncritical, the assumption that the sage was acquainted with a future event, doubtfully hinted at in one of the most disputable of the books of the New Testament, or the reference to one of the most puzzling passages, both as to sense and reading, in the Old. Or take this piece of illustration. In ch. xi. 23, we read : “ Thou hast tormented them with their own abominations," i.e., “ objects of idolatrous worship.

All the plagues were directed against the idols of Egypt. 'Against all the gods (Deois) of Egypt I will execute judgment' (Ex. xii. 12).”+ The editor has not noticed that the place he quotes refers only to the last plague, and that moreover "the gods

are only mentioned as a further specification, after “all the firstborn of Egypt, both man and beast."

Mr. Deane's slender acquaintance with the Old Testament is, however, a fault which vitiates more his own exegesis and illustration than his grammatical criticism of the text. There is no reason to suppose that the author of the Book of Wisdom used the Scriptures in anything but their Greek dress; and Mr. Deane’s grammatical knowledge of the Septuagint is considerable. Very valuable is also his thorough knowledge of the Greek of the rest of the Apocrypha. Philo he has studied, but not exhaustively; here his old preoccupation with the canonicity of the book is always disturbing his critical sobriety. Wherever Philo is cited (unless for a mere grammatical comparison) Mr. Deane's object is regularly to educe a distinction between the thought of that * Comrientary on x. 1; p. 165.

+ Commentary, p. 178.

« PreviousContinue »