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content, that a single expression, however small, could not be omitted, without an interruption of the series: but the third proposition, that the Word hath been preserved, especially the Word of the Old Testament, as to every iota and apex, from the time in which it was written; and this by the labours of the Masorites; is not a declaration by Swedenborg himself, but is adduced by him, as the common opinion of the learned of his time, from whom he had received it, in proof of the truth of his second proposition. The existence of a spiritual sense in every part of the Word, even to the minutest apex, is a spiritual truth which he had become apprised of in consequence of the divine commission which he had received, and of the elevation of his internal man into the light of heaven, so as to see the spiritual sense of the Word and the nature of its inspiration: he saw, however, that this would appear incredible to many: wherefore he confirms it by appealing to a fact generally believed, that, by the care of the Masoritos, the Word of the Old Testament had been preserved entire, even as to every iota and apex. He thus conveys this implied argument: “ You believe that the Word, by the superintendence of Providence, has been preserved entire as to every particular: but what necessity for such care over every iota and apex, were not every iota and apex a basis to some divine principle, and necessary to the coherence of the spiritual sense? If then you believe that such care has been exercised, you must admit the Word to contain a spiritual sense in every particular; since, otherwise, such minute care would be superfluous.” We have no doubt that he regarded the argument to be a valid one, and that he believed the statement which is the basis of it to be true: And so do we: But it must be in the manner that we have stated before : " The Word, by the special care of Providence, has been preserved entire on account of its containing a spiritual sense in every expression : in what copy it has been preserved entire, E. S. does not state; but the assertion is true, if, among all the copies, the true readings are somewhere preserved." [p. 143.] Assuredly, no one can prove that E. S. meant more than this : but supposing he did, from what source did he derive the information? From the spiritual world ? His communication with that world did not give him a knowledge of natural facts, but of spiritual : he thus learned from it that the Word contains a spiritual sense in every expression, and that the spiritual sense would be injured if the
letter were not preserved entire : but that the letter had been preserved entire, by the labours of the Masorites, is a fact belonging to the natural world, of which, therefore, he would not receive information in the spiritual. From the natural world, then, he received it: the books which he consulted when he applied himself to learn the Hebrew language, would tell it him: it is indeed affirmed in very strong terms in the preface to one of the Bibles which he was in the daily habit of using : and as he took it from this source, we are as much at liberty to exercise a rational judgment on it, as if it still lay only in the writings of the critics, and had never been noticed by him at all. He does not propose it to us as a truth communicated to him by revelation, but only reminds us of it as a fact commonly affirmed at that time by the learned.
As many persons have heard of the name of the Masorites, but comparatively few know who they were; it may be agreeable to our readers, as well as useful in this inquiry, if we here give some account of them and their labours.
They who are called Masorites were certain learned Jews, who wrote a large body of critical remarks relating to the text of the Old Testament, which is called the Masorah. Masorah is a Hebrew word which signifies tradition--a thing handed down from one to another. By giving this name then to their collection of critical comments on the sacred text, the Jews meant to intimate, that they had received it by successive oral communication from Moses and the other writers of the sacred books, who ceived it from God himself : and the persons, whoever they were, who committed these traditions, this Masorah, to writing, are thence called the Masorites. This pretended origin of the Masorah, is perhaps not much adapted to give it authority with Christians; and the character of a considerable portion of these traditionary comments is certainly not much calculated to recommend their origin.
The Masoretic criticisms treat specifically of eight things; 1. The Consonants of the Old Testament: 2. The Vowels : 3. The Hebrew, Accents; 4. The entire Words : 5. The Verses : 6. The eighteen words commonly called Tikkoun Sopherim,-the Ordering or Correction of the Scribes : 7. The five words commonly called Hittoun Sopherim,--the Expunging of the Scribes : 8. The Marginal Notes, or ancient Various Readings, commonly called Keri and Ketib,--the Reading and Writing.
Respecting the Consonants, they treat, 1, of about thirty letters, occurring in as many words, which, they affirm, ought to be written much larger than elsewhere, for some mysterious reasons respecting which the Jews entertain various opinions. It is to be observed, that, in Hebrew, the letters are always made uniform in size, there being no capitals, as with us; and the letters directed by the Masorites to be written larger than the rest, occur in the beginning, middle, and end of a word, indifferently. 2. They treat, in like manner of about thirty three letters which are to be made smaller than the rest. 3. Likewise, of four suspended letters, that is, which are not to be placed in the same line with the others, but suspended over it. 4. Also, of nine inverted letters, that is, which are to be written the wrong way upwards. 5. They treat of three irregular letters, or of three instances in which either a common letter is to be written at the end of a word instead of the final letter, or a final letter in the middle of a word instead of the common letter. To understand this it is necessary for the reader, to be apprised, that five of the Hebrew letters have a different form when written at the end of a word, from that which they have in the beginning or middle. 6. They note that which is the middle letter of each book. 7 & 8. They have counted how many times each of the final letters occurs in the whole Hebrew Bible, and how many times the corresponding common letters. 9. They have also counted the number of the letters in each book, and also in each of the sections (or chapters) of the Law.
Respecting the Vowels, they have noted a great number of instances in which the Vowel Points affixed to certain words do not follow the usual rules, and might therefore be supposed to be erroneous: but they affirm the irregularity to be intentional. To understand this, it is to be observed, that the Jews consider all the letters of the Hebrew language to be consonants; wherefore they express the vowel sounds, not by letters, but by little marks called Points.
Respecting the Accents, they have made similar notes. The Accents are numerous marks made about the letters, to direct the mode of reading or chanting in the Synagogue.
Respecting entire Words, 1 & 2, they notice such as are irregularly written either full or defective. There are certain letters which are regarded as quiescent, and which are sometimes inserted and sometimes omitted : where this is done contrary to
the usual practice, it is noted by the Masorites. 3. Respecting many words, they mention how often they occur at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a verse. 4. Where a word occurs in a very unusual signification, they note it. 5. & 6. Also, where a word appears irregular in its spelling or construction. 7. Respecting a great number of words, they state how often they occur. 8. They mention fifteen words, in as many places, which, they say, must be written with one or more dots over them.
Respecting the Verses, 1, They have given the number in each book, in each of the greater sections of the Pentateuch, and in the whole Pentateuch together; and have noted which is the middle verse of each book. 2. They notice a variety of particulars respecting a number of single verses. 3. They mention twentyeight void spaces to be left in the same number of verses, where the sense is considered to be elliptical or defective, and to require something to be supplied in the thoughts to complete it.
The eighteen words called the Ordering or Correction of the Scribes, are some in which an error might be suspected to exist, but which some ancient Scribes have decided to be correct. And the five words called the Expunging of the Scribes, are some to which the sense seems to require the addition of the particle and, but which the Scribes have determined to be rightly omitted.
The Keri and Ketib consist, according to Rabbi Elias the Levite, of 848 instances in which one word is written in the text of the Hebrew Bible, and a different one, or a variation of the same, in the margin: sometimes also the margin inserts a word which the text omits, or directs the omission of a word which the text inserts. The reading of the text is called Ketib,--that which is written; and that of the margin is called Keri,--that which is read for the Jews, in reading, always follow the margin. Great disputes have arisen, among Christians, on the question, whether the Ketib is to be followed in translating, or the Keri; or whether it is allowable to follow either, as the sense may seem to require. Protestants have generally been of opinion, till recently, that the Ketib is always to be adhered to: and the English Version has sometimes done so where the true sense is evidently contained in the Keri. It is indeed a fact too plain to be denied, that the Keri and Ketib are no other than a collection of Various Readings of great antiquity, made by the Jews themselves: This, as to a part of them, at least, is allowed by the No. III.- VOL. I.
advocates for the integrity of the present copies. One of the most strenuous of these is Leusden"; and he, when endeavouring to assign causes for the existence of the Keri and Ketib, at length assigns this: “ A cause of some of the marginal notes was the disagreement of the copies. For," he adds, “there can be no doubt that the Masorites of Tiberias, and others, collected some of the notes from the disagreement of various copies. In one copy they found it written thus; in another, thus: and because they hesitated which reading was preferable, they retained them both, inserting one in the text, and noting the other in the margin." If it be true, however, as commonly asserted, that the sacred books were revised, and the copies corrected, by Ezra, at the return from the Babylonian captivity, it is highly probable that some of these various readings were then noted: but this Leusden will not allow; “ because Ezra,” he says,
being endued with an infallible prophetic spirit, could have determined between them at once;"—an assertion which we must regard as unfounded..
Now whoever candidly examines this view of the labours of the Masorites, must be satisfied, that though they may have done much good, they were by no means infallible. It is evident that they must have formed their decisions from certain copies which they assumed to be authentic, and which probably were the best upon the whole: these they took as standards, and directed their very blunders to be followed in future: for who can doubt that their distinctions of great, and small, suspended, inverted, and irregular letters, originated in the mere hallucinations of the copyists? and some of their other decisions seem to have had no better a foundation.
The Jews, however, have always loudly proclaimed; that their Masoretic copies of the Scriptures are in all respects perfect, yea, that all the copies agree without variation and Christians, when they began to study the Hebrew Bible, took this assertion from them upon trust, and repeated it with equal confidence. It was long implicitly believed: and they who first suggested a doubt of its truth, had, for a long time, few followers. We will give an example from Van der Hooght's Preface to his Hebrew Bible, which we translate from the edition of 1740 with
* We have abridged the whole of this account of the Masorah and Masorites from Leusden's Philologus Hebræus, Diss. xxii, xxiji. xxiv.