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Vowel you made Ufe of in the Pronunciation, is a plain Teftimony that no Vowel Points were ufed in his Time, that is, until the Beginning of the fifth Century after Chrift. Thofe therefore who place the Invention of the Points to about the Year 500, place it early enough.
The Inventors of thefe Points are called Maforites, and their Work Mafora, or the Mafore, which is derived from the Hebrew Word 700 Mafar, tradidit, becaufe, after the Hebrew became a dead Language, thele Maforites, from Age to Age, delivered down the Manner how the Hebrew Words were to be written, read and pronounced. And that these might be preferved to all future Ages, they invented a great Number of Points for Vowels, Paufes, and Accents, which the Reader. fhould obferve. I fhall not trouble myself nor you concerning the nice Curiofity and needlefs Labour of thefe Maforites, not only to number the Verfes contained in every Book of the Law and the Prophets, and in all of them together, but likewife the Words, and even the Letters. The Points' are all I fhall take Notice of; because the Learned, until of late, have thought them to be of great Ufe, and that the Hebrew Language cannot be learned without the Knowledge, at leaft of the Vowel Points. Even thofe who have thought the Vowel Points, as well as thofe of Paufe or Accent, deferve no Regard to afcertain or fix the Senfe of a Word, yet think a Beginner muft learn them, the Language not being otherwife to be learned. But Mafclef, a Prieft and Canon of Amiens in France, has, not many Years fince, publifhed a Hebrew Grammar, whereby he tells us, that Language may be learned without any Knowledge of the Vowel Points; and that he himself, being puzzled with the many Rules given with Relation to the Points, threw them all afide, and found it much easier and better to learn the Language without them.
It is pretended by thofe who lay a great Strefs on the Points, that the fame Word, as moft of the Hebrew Words are, being written with Confonants only, has various Significations, according to the Vowels with which you read or pronounce it. For Confonants alone cannot be read or pronounced without the Affiftance of Vowels: And the Signification of Words in all Languages depends upon the Pronunciation of the Vowels, as well as of the Confonants; and that in the Hebrew, though most of the Words are written without any Vowels, as must be confeffed by thofe who will not allow all the Letters to be Confonants; therefore, where Words are written with Confonants only, and yet have different Significations according to their different Pronunciation, they must have different Vowels affixed to them, and for this Reafon the Maforites have done well to affix different Vowels to the fame Word, to afcertain the Senfe of it. Thus, for Inftance, the three Letters dbr have at least five different Significations. 1. He Spake. 2. Speaking. 3. A Word. 4. A Pestilence. 5. A Fold for Sheep or Cattle. No Doubt, but while the Hebrew was a living Language, the Word compofed of thefe three Letters was understood in its different Significations by the different Vowels they used when they fpake it. And fuch Vowel Points the Maforites have now affixed to it, by which we may know when and where thofe three Letters fignify one Thing and when another. When it fignifies he fpake, they affix the
Points which denote a fhort and a long, and fay dabar. When it is a Participle, and fignifies Speaking, by their Points they read dober. When it is a Noun, and fignifies a Word, they put it under two a's fhort, and read dabar. When it fignifies a Peftilence, they put two e's under, and read deber. When it fignifies a Fold, they put the Points which denote a and e, and read it daber. And the like have they done with Regard to all other Words.
What has been done, in this Cafe, by the Maforites, would certainly be of great Ufe and Service to the Church for understanding the Hebrew Text, if they had lived while the Hebrew was a living Language, and thefe Vowel Points had been then ufed, and we could have been affured of their Knowledge of the true Pronunciation of all Words, according to their different Significations: But as the Hebrew was become a dead Language many hundred Years before their Time, the true ancient Pronunciation was as much unknown then as now. We have St. Jerom's Teftimony before cited, that different Vowels were used in the Pronunciation of the fame Word in different Countries. And this was at least a hundred Years before the Maforites began the Invention of their Points, either for Vowel, Paufe or Accent. I fay, began, because they were not all invented at once, but Improvements continued to be making for fome Centuries. It is also manifeft, from the LXX, that the ancient Jews read with different Vowels from those which the Maforites have affixed.
This is very well proved by Mafclef in his Arguments for his New Grammar, p. xxxviii, &c. which I will give you in his own Words. He fays therefore
"Rem ipfam accuratius & per partes evolvamus. In duobus fita "eft pronunciatio Mafforethica. 1°. In valore feu fono quem fingulis "Alphabethi literis tribuit. 2°. In Vocalibus, quas punctis exprimit.
Atqui quoad utramque partem à veteri norma non parum recedit "punctatio feu pronunciatio Mafforethica.
"Quod ad literas, hæc pauca è multis annotamus. Docent Veteres literam non ut p fed ut ph pronunciari. Nulla apud eos Mentio duplicis, nullibi aiunt literas no duplici modo efferri. Tria "Argumenta quibus evincitur Maforethicam pronunciationem à veteri " & genuina non parum deflexiffe.
"Quoad alteram Pronunciationis partem, fcilicet vocales quas fup"plent, æque aberrant Mafforethæ. Difcrepant enim a Veteribus tam "circa vocales fupplendas, quam circa loca in quibus fupplendæ funt. "Primò in eorum fyftemate nulla, ut aiunt, vocalis frequentior oc"currit quam Scheva. Atqui in Pronunciatione iftius Motionis longe a Veteribus difcedunt Mafforethe. Punctorum Mafforethicorum Myfteriis haud initiatus eum hic Myftagogum adhibebo, quem <6 nemo mihi favere voluiffe caufabitur. D. Guarinum dico novæ "Methodi acerrimum hoftem, qui Grammaticæ fuæ Tom. I. p. 37. "fic loquitur.
Antiqui Interpretes Graci lectione r Scheva regulas longè diverfas ab iis quas tradunt hadierni Grammatici fequebantur. 1°. Enim illud fæpè "non legebant initio Dictionis, ut Gen. i. I. DEN Berefchit in principio: Graci Benoit. Levit. xiii, 19. N Seeth, tumor; Græci,
" and, &c. e contra quando duo Scheva initio Dictionis concurrunt, prius fe cundum Grammatices hodierna canones vulgò mutatur in hhiriq qaton, id eft ini: pofterius vero quiefcit, id eft, mutum eft, illi vero interdum utrumque legebant.-Ex his aliifque plurimis exemplis quæ paffim occr currunt in Origenis Hexaplis a nofiro D. Bernardo de Montfaucon editis, "videtur conflare variam admodum et incertam fuiffe apud Veteres Scheva "legendi rationem. Huc ufque Guarinus.
"Secundò idem colligitur è nominum propriorum diversâ prolatione, "Legunt Recentiores Nebuchadnetfar, Rechabgam, Pinchas, Chifkia, "Firmeia, Fechezchel, Achaschueros, Dariavefch, Kiflef, &c. LXX. Jo"fephus & alii Nabuchodonofor, Roboam, Phinees, Ezechias, Jeremias, "Ezechiel, Affuerus, Darius, Cafleu, &c. Eo argumento utitur Bo"chartus Epiftola ad Jacobum Capellum de linguæ tum Chaldaicæ tum "Syriacæ pronunciatione: Extat Tom. 3. Col. 853. Recentiores He"brai, inquit, a Veteribus in Hebraici fermonis pronunciatione multum difeferunt ut ex nominibus huic linguæ propriis, fi cum antiquis verfionibus conferantur, difcimus.
"Atqui fi a veteri pronunciatione ita difcordant in nominibus pro"priis, quorum pronunciatio facilius potuit confervari (omnium enim "ore femper trita fuerunt ifta nomina) quid exiftimandum contigiffe "in vocibus, quæ (utpote rarius in quotidiano fermone occurrentes) "promptius potuerunt ad aliam pronunciationem detorqueri? Dicent "Adverfarii emollita effe a LXX Interpretibus nomina propria, quo « Græcis auribus minus barbara apparerent.
"Efto. At quantumvis emollita dicantur, fieri non poteft ut a pro"nunciatione Mafforethica tam difcrepent, fi eodem modo & LXX & "Mafforethæ ea in Fontibus Hebraicis legerunt. Potuerunt quidem "inflecti pofteriores Syllabæ, ut iftis nominibus daretur Græca termi"natio; at quid caufæ fuit, cur non ubique fervaretur idem Syllaba"rum numerus, priorefque & intermediæ Syllabæ tam turpiter defor❝ marentur ?
"Non in folis nominibus propriis, fed & in aliis diverfitas illa confpicitur. Habemus aliquot fragmenta Hexaplorum, in quibus Textum Hebraicum literis Græcis defcripferat Origines ad eam normam, qua tunc a Judæis pronunciabatur. Scimus fimiliter quomodo plurima loca ejufdem Textus legerit & pronunciarit Hieronymus. Si "conferantur ea loca cum Mafforethica pronunciatione, nec rarò nec " parum a veteri videbitur Mafforethica difcrepare. Nullus eft Scripturæ Interpres Mafforethis vetuftior, quem non deprehendas haud rarò fecutum effe diverfam a Mafforethica pronunciationem; itą tamen ut quo quifque proprior fuit Mafforetharum tempori, co pro"pius illius lectio ad eorum punctationem accedat. LXX omnium antiquiffimi longiffimè recedunt."
But if nothing more than the bare Pronunciation of Hebrew Words was concerned in the Cafe, the Matter would not be worth the leaft Difpute. We know not how the ancient Greeks and Romans pronounced the Latin and Greek Tongues. Every Nation now gives the fame Sound to the Latin and Greek Letters, which they give to those of their own Language, which occafions thofe Languages to be differently pronounced by different People. However, all write and inter
pret them in the fame Manner; which Difference in Pronouncing or Speaking is of little or no Confequence. But the Cafe is different with regard to the Hebrew, moft of the Words in that Language (as has been obferved) are written without Vowels, and the Queftion is, what Vowels the Words require to make the Senfe understood; not how the Words are to be pronounced in Speaking, when Vowels are affixed to them. Therefore we fay, that as it appears from the LXX, that the Jews, before our Saviour's Time, and from Origen and St. Jerom, that for 400 Years at leaft after our Saviour's Time, ufed other Vowels, by which they fpake their Words, than thofe which the Maforites have used; the Confequence is, that the Points which the Maforites have now affixed to every Hebrew Letter, whether for Vowel, Paufe, or Accent, are of little or no Authority, and deserve not to be regarded by us: And that the true Senfe of an Hebrew Word, written only with Confonants, is not to be fetched from the Points of the Mafore, and the Rules given concerning them, but from the Context and Conftruction, and the Affiftance of the LXX, and other ancient Tranflations.
Now though (as before obferved) we cannot charge the Jews with wilful Falfification of the Hebrew Text, that is, they have not of fet Purpose changed the Letter of their Bibles, yet we cannot fay that they have not in fome Places wilfully falfified the Sense by their Points, of which Mafclef gives us a notable Inftance in his Arguments for his New. Grammar, p. Ixvi.
"Anno 1712 circa Augufti initium aliquot dies Ambiani commo"rati funt Judæi duo Metenfes. Seniori & doctiori nomen erat Daniel "Zei, alteri Elias Prag. Collocuti fimul pluries de Religione; veni"mus tandem ad celebre Jacobi Vaticinium, Gen. xlix. non auferetur "fceptrum de Fudâ. Afferebam inde manifeftò fequi, jam præteriiffe tempus adventui Meffiæ præfignatum: Nihil tenes, inquit Daniel "Zei; male enim paufas & diftinguis hunc verfum. Et unde hoc, inquam? Non auferetur fceptrum de Juda, Virgula, & Dux de femore "ejus, Virgula, donec veniet qui mittendus eft, Punctum. Nunquid non "finitur fenfus in voce, & incifi novi initium eft? Id cer
te & loci contextus & Veterum confenfus expofcit. Quin & id probat accentus Athnach fub voce etiam in veftris Bibliis collocatus "hoc modo 17. Erant præ manibus Biblia Rabini Manasseh Ben "Ifrael. Tum fubridens Daniel, nondum Myfteriis noftris plenè initiatus es, inquit. Vide accentum fequentein fub voce. Munus "illius eft efficere ut vox cui fubjacet præcedenti connectatur. Et "quanquam id per fe non indubie præftaret, præftaret tonus Muficus
hujus vocis. Cum enim a nobis decantatur verficulus ille, vocem "attollimus ad vocabulum, & aliquantulum paufamus: Deinde "cum particula hemiftichium aliud inchoamus. Unde fit ut hujus "loci fenfus ifte fit. Non auferetur Sceptrum de Judâ & Dux de femore ejus in æternum, Virgula, quando venerit Meffias, &c. Argumentare "nunc quantum volueris, quid inde aut pro te, aut contra nos inferes Inftabam ut facile erat; fed fruftra novitatem lectionis, vete* rumque
"rumque Rabbinorum in ifto verfu noftro more legendo confenfum "regerebam homini vim argumenti ne quidem fentienti.-Cum hæc "primum fcribebam nondum noveram interpretationem modo allatam "fcripto fuiffe traditam a Rabbino Abraham Ifrael Pilzaro Judæo "Batavo."
The late learned Mr. Johnson of Cranbrook, in his pofthumous Difcourfe on Daniel's feventy Weeks, has also observed how the Maforites have endeavoured to marr that Prophecy alfo, by their Points, by putting a Stop, which they call an Athnach, which answers to our Semicolon, in the Place where there ought to have been no more than a Comma. And in this Place our English Tranflators have followed them, though in the former, concerning Shiloh, they have not. "For
(as Mr. Johnson alfo obferves) thofe great Men, who tranflated our "Bible, took the prefent Hebrew Text, as it is pointed by the Mafo
rites, to be the only Senfe and Meaning of the Old Teftament." Now by this Maforitic Pointing they have endeavoured to make the Text unintelligible. For thus it ftands, Dan. ix. 25. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the Commandment to restore and build Jerufalem, unto the Meffiah the Prince, fhall be feven Weeks; and threescore and two Weeks the Street fhall be built again, and the Wall, even in troublefome Times. Now by placing their Athnach or Semicolon after the feven Weeks, and thereby cutting off the feven Weeks from the threefcore and two Weeks, they make the Prophecy wholly unferviceable to the Chriftians. For it is moft certain that Jefus, whom the Christians have received for the Meffias, did not come at the End of leven Weeks, or 49 Years, after the Commandment went forth to reftore and build Jerufalem, whether we understand it of the Edict of Cyrus or Artaxerxes for that Purpofe. And the Maforites have left themfelves at Liberty to apply the Prophecy to any Meffiah or anointed Prince or High Prieft of their own. But had they joined the fixty-two Weeks to the feven Weeks, as the Context plainly fhews they ought to have done, and read the Text, as no Doubt it ought to be read, From the going forth of the Commandment to restore and build Jerufalemn, unto the Meffiah the Prince, fhall be fiven Weeks, and threescore and two Weeks, that is, 69 Weeks, or 483 Years, and there placed their Athnach or Semicolon, the Number of Years would exactly point out the Time when the Chriftian Meffiah came. Therefore they fixed their Pint of Pause so, as to make what they pleafed of the Words.
Thefe two Prophecies of Jacob concerning Shiloh, and of Daniel's Wecks, do fo clearly prove that the true Meffiah, fo long and often foretold by the holy Jewish Prophets, must have been long fince come, and done and fuffered what was prophefied concerning him, and so ex.Elly point to the Time when our bleffed Lord Jejus did actually come, that it is not to be wondered at that the Jews, who are so obffinately bent not to believe in Jejus as the Chrift, fhould ufe all their Endeavours to render these two Prophecies wholly unferviceable to our proving Jefus to be the Chrift, the Son of the living God, and Saviour of the World. But no Christian, I believe, has been fo weak as to understand thofe Texts in the Manner the Jews fhew by these Points u would have thein understood. For although our, and it may be