Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library Shopping Mall of Zion AHAVA Hero Products 250x250

בס"ד

Literary Notices.

 

Twelve Hundred Questions and Answers on the Bible, intended principally for the use of schools and young persons, by M. H. & J. H. Myers; London, Longman & Co., 1845; pp. 98 and 132. The book of the Messrs. Myers is divided into two parts, the one containing the questions, the other the answers, and is not arranged in the usual form of placing the latter beneath the former, as it was the intention of the learned authors to furnish a work where the student will have to employ diligence and care in order to make a proper and profitable use thereof. Those who have superintended the education of young people, must have been often struck with the mortifying conviction that the recitations, though, to all appearance, satisfactory, were so only through a species of fraud, which the scholars practised upon the teachers; in other words, the lessons had not been well studied, and the apparent readiness in the answers was only owing to the adroit management of the text-books, which completely deceived the instructor, who could not always watch this method of appearing better informed than the scholars actually were. Every method, therefore, which tends to compel the learner to make himself familiar with his subject, deserves the serious consideration of the schoolman; and especially is this the case in reference to Jewish works of a practical kind, of which sadly few are yet in circulation. That the book in question has been well executed, will appear from the following testimonials in its favour, and it will therefore not be necessary for us to go at length into its merits.

“A great deal of information is conveyed in this work.”—Rev. Dr. Adler.

“Employed in schools, it will supply a severe test of the pupils’ acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures; for many of the questions propounded are of a nature to necessitate that close search of the text, which alone can qualify a biblical scholar. Nor is it only in schools that such questions and answers will prove useful and interesting. A great deal of the information so conveyed is of a recondite character, not accessible to the ordinary scripture reader.”—The Voice of Jacob.

“This is an excellent work. The questions are well selected, and the answers to them are of a much higher character than is commonly aimed at in similar publications. Hence, as is truly observed in the preface, they will be found useful, not only to young persons engaged in the study of the Scriptures, but acceptable to those of more advanced years.”—John Bull.

“This work will be found useful to many engaged in biblical researches, in consequence of embodied information derived from Hebrew and Christian chronologists and commentators.”—Times.

“This volume is one of great value, displaying a combination of research, ingenuity, learning, and thought, not often manifested in such compilations. The Biblical student who cannot derive any addition to his knowledge from its perusal, must be better informed than Biblical students frequently are.”—­Watchman.

“A work written for the use of schools and young persons, and for those ultimately intended for the church. It cannot but lead to a knowledge of the sacred volume.”—Atlas.

“Compiled with more than ordinary erudition.”—Athenæum.

“A GREAT deal of bibliographical information is conveyed in this volume.”—Literary Gazette.

“We cannot devote so large a space to these publications as their merits deserve. The extension of Biblical knowledge is at all times desirable; and when that object can be attained by inspiring an interest whilst infusing valuable instruction and truths into the mind, such a means is worthy of more than common attention. In the work before us this task is accomplished. The questions are put in the most attractive form for the pupil, and the information contained in the answers—whether we speak of it in regard to the accuracy of chronological lore, the deep research into the meaning and application of terms, or of Biblical history generally—will render it a popular school-book, and a valuable addition to the library of the student. Whilst theological discussion is studiously avoided, the authors have evidently spared no pains to deduce a correct conclusion upon points on which commentators have differed.”—Kentish Gazette.

“In no single instance,—and we have read the work with extreme care,—does a passage occur bearing on theological discussion, or any point in dispute between Jews and Christians; but a most valuable mass of solid information is brought before the parent or teacher, who may acquire a very pleasing method of miscellaneous questioning on sacred history from the labours of these two brothers.”—Christian Lady’s Magazine.

We will give our readers some idea of its composition and manner of arrangement, from which it will be perceived that the questions are not systematically arranged in any particular order, but more in the manner in which questions are asked at an examination, where the examiner puts his queries upon a given subject at random, so as to try the proficiency of the class before him.

I. What are the three principal divisions of the Old* Testament?

* By the way, we object to the use of this term in Jewish elementary works. There is, according to our views, but one book of the covenant, as we have but one revelation; hence the term should be, properly, “the Bible,” called in early writings כתבי קדש, and technically styled by the Jews “the Tenach,” תנך, which word is composed of the initials ת for תורה the Law. נ for נביאים the Prophets; and ך for כתובים the Writings, (also called in the prayers דברי קדשך but chiefly or exclusively elusively referring to the Psalms,) meaning the portions of Scripture which were written by inspirations, but not orally communicated, as were the prophetic portions, including the Law, though all these contain parts not orally communicated, since they are records of events, and not messages properly so called. We call the attention of the authors to this subject, that they may correct it in a future edition.

1. The תורה (torah) Law, the נביאים (nebiim) Prophets, and the כתובים (ketubim) Hagiographa, or Holy Writings.

II. How is this division comprehended in one word?

2. By the three initial letters תנך (tenach).

III. What does the Law contain?

3. I. בראשית  (Beresheet) Genesis. II. שמות (Shemot) Exodus. III. ויקרא  (Vayikra) Leviticus. IV. במדבר (Bemidbar) Numbers. V. דברים  (Debarim) Deuteronomy.

IV. What are the writings of the Prophets?

4. First, the former prophets, including Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings; second, the latter prophets, viz., Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets.

V. Of what does the Hagiographa consist?

5. The Psalms, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, Job, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

VI. What is the oldest translation of any part of the Bible?

6. The Septuagint, a translation made in Greek by the Egyptian Jews, in the reign of the Ptolemies. The Targums,* written in Chaldea, after the captivity, are older;† but they are paraphrases, and not literal translations.

* Would be better Targumim, the Hebrew plural, after the manner of Seraphim and Cherubim, which form has been adopted in similar words by the best English authorities.

† If the Septuagint now existing is the true work, executed by the seventy elders (whence the name) for Ptolemy Lagos, it is older than the oldest of the Targumim, that of Onkelos, the proselyte, which, moreover, can hardly be called a paraphrase, except in very few instances; since, generally, it is a close rendering of the text, and may be safely followed as the best expositor yet attainable of the Pentateuch. Ben Uziel and the Jerusalem Targum are certainly paraphrases; but then they are not older, as far as our information extends, than the Greek version referred to.

VII. What element produced the fowl?

7. The waters: “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” (Gen. 1:20.)

VIII. What analogy is there between the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea?

8. They are alike oviparous,* and are both organized for making their way through a fluid.

* A word rather too difficult for children; it ought to have been explained.

IX. Which of the prophets alludes to the great wisdom of Daniel?

9. Ezekiel, chap. 29. verse 8.

X. Of how many years does the book of Genesis give an account?

10. Two thousand three hundred and nine years.

XI. What is the first city mentioned in the Bible?

11. Enoch, built by Cain, and called after the name of his son. (Gen. 4:17.) 

XII. Where is the first classification of animals to be found?

12. In Gen. 1:25. “And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth, after his kind.”

XVI. Give some instances of God's readiness to hear prayer; as the Psalmist says, “The Lord is nigh unto all who call upon him.”

16. Abraham’s prayer for Abimelech (Gen. 20:17); Eliezer’s prayer (Gen. 24:12, 13, 14); the prayer of Moses for the people (Ex. 32:31, 32); and for Miriam (Numb. 12:13); Lot’s prayer (Gen. 19:18, 19, 20); and many others.

XVII. Mention some instances where events appeared to happen by chance, but were, in reality, the result of God’s providence?

17. Rebecca’s coming to the well (Gen. 24:15); Rachel’s meeting Jacob (Gen. 29:9); the lshmaelite merchants arriving so opportune to buy Joseph (Gen. 27:25) ; Pharaoh’s daughter going down to bathe in the river (Ex. 2:5); prove that, God preserves and governs all things.

XVIII. What was Jephtha’s vow?

18. The common opinion is, he vowed that whatsoever should come forth out of the doors of his house, to meet him on his return from the children of Ammon, should be the Lord’s; and he would offer it up for a burnt-offering. The letter ו having a disjunctive, as well as a conjunctive signification, may, with equal propriety, be rendered by or as well as by and; his vow might then be, that whatsoever came forth to meet him should be the Lord’s; or, if fit, should be sanctified for a burnt-offering .†

† Taking this idea for a basis, the chief’s daughter, not being fit to be sacrificed, was dedicated to the service of God, and, perhaps, secluded as a recluse, which fact so broke down the spirit of the father, as he had no other child to perpetuate his name and lineage.

XXI. What did Jeremiah foretell respecting Zedekiah?

21. That he should go to Babylon, and that he should behold the King of Babylon also. (Jer. 34:3.)

XXII. What did Ezekiel foretell respecting Zedekiah?

22. That he should not see Babylon. (Ezekiel, 12:13.)

XXIII. How were both these prophecies fulfilled?

23. After Zedekiah had seen Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, at Riblah, his eyes were put out, and he was taken a prisoner to Babylon. (2 Kings, 25:6, 7.) Thus he saw the King of Babylon, and went to Babylon, but did not see it.

From the above questions and answers in the beginning of the book, our readers will easily discern for themselves that it contains much curious and instructive matter, and that it displays a great and thorough acquaintance with the Bible and kindred literature; and that, in consequence, it cannot be otherwise than instructive to those for whose improvement it was written. We would gladly devote more space to a wider examination, and to note down where we dissented here and there from the views advanced by the authors, and where we thought a question and answer might be profitably omitted; but the limits of our periodical are too confined to permit us the gratification of doing ample justice to the work before us. It would be very pleasing to us, could it be brought into general use for schools in this country, as well as in Engtand; but we fear that the price, which is stated at five shillings sterling, will be a great bar to its general diffusion. It is very handsomely printed, and on good paper, with a broad margin, as are all the works from the press of that well-known Jewish mechanic, John Wertheimer, of London; nevertheless, though this is a great recommendation to literary books, those intended for school purposes, require cheapness as well as correctness; and we hope, therefore, that the authors will soon be enabled to print a new edition at half the price of the present; and we would, at the same time, suggest to them, whether or not the usefulness of their labour would not be enhanced by placing the answer beneath the question, despite of the cause which we have assigned for the present arrangement; and, at the same time, to expunge all difficult words, or explain them at once; as nothing is so great a drawback to the pleasure of teaching as to have to stop to explain, frequently, the meaning of the words used in the text-books.

It would be a source of pleasure to us to be enabled to send many orders to the learned authors from American schools, and individuals; and we thank them, for our part, for the labour bestowed in the cause of education.

In conclusion, we must state publicly, that neither of the two copies, forwarded by the authors, has reached us; and we are indebted for the one we have used to our friend, A. Hart, Esq.—In this connexion we wish farther to remark, that our friend in England would do well never to send any books and MSS., intended for us, by private opportunity; but leave them at Messrs. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, under cover of Messrs. Carey and Hart, of Philadelphia; by which means they will reach us, accidents excepted, in about six or seven weeks; whereas, by private hands, they are often lost. Will our correspondents bear this in mind? It will save them some disappointments, and us a great deal of vexation.

Gesenius’s Hebrew Grammar, fourteenth edition, as revised by Dr. E. Rödiger, translated by T. J. Conant, Professor of Hebrew in Washington University, Hamilton, N. Y., With the modifications of the editions, subsequent to the eleventh, by Dr. Davies, of Stepney College, London; to which are added, a Course of Exercises in Hebrew Grammar, and Hebrew Chrestomathy, prepared by the translator. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 1846. 8vo. pp. 320; 60 and 25. The above is the complete title of the new edition of the celebrated grammar of Dr. Wilhelm Gesenius, which has so long kept possession of all the schools and universities where the Hebrew language forms a branch of education, and we hesitate little in saying, that Mr. Conant has performed a service to biblical literature in furnishing a correct transcript in English of this work of the great master. We would gladly go into an extensive examination of the work before us; but the short time which has elapsed since we received it, has precluded our going into a thorough comparison of it with other similar works. But having had occasion to make use of the preceding edition of Mr. Conant’s Gesenius, and finding it clear and perspicuous, we hesitate not in recommending the present one to those who may wish to acquire a familiarity with the Hebrew tongue, than which there exists none of more necessity to the searcher after truth. To those who read the Scriptures from a translation merely, many of the beauties of the style, and many an idea expressible only in the words of the original, must utterly escape, and necessarily will erroneous views be imbibed, as though they were taught by the word of God, when in fact, an appeal to the words of the text would dissipate the errors wrongly ascribed to the records of Revelation. No one of Christian writers was freer from sectarian prejudices than the late Dr. Gesenius; he loved the theme on which his life was spent, and which the leisure of his academic pursuits permitted him to develop much better than was permitted to any Jews of our day, who, though loving also with proper ardour their language and literature, are compelled from the necessity of obtaining a livelihood, to devote the greater portion of their time to other matters than mere literary inquiry. But as professor at Göttingen, Heiligenstadt, and Halle, he had access to libraries and associations, which, coupled with the freedom from care produced by his position, enabled his powerful mind to devote itself exclusively to a study in which prejudice had done a great deal of injury to a proper appreciation of the same. Although, therefore, he was a non-Israelite, he could well discard all attempts of fastening Christian doctrines to various biblical texts for which they have been, and are yet employed, notwithstanding their obvious meaning and connexion have no such bearing. It is no wonder, therefore, that this advocate of free inquiry should draw upon himself the suspicion of the so-called orthodox Christian party; in despite of which, his books, especially his grammar, have been printed again and again, and have found their way in the shape of translations, all over the civilized world. There are in his books, (we speak of the few which have fallen under our observation,) certain views to which we cannot subscribe; but it would be a work of presumption in us, at this late day, after the judgment of the most learned critics, both Jews and Christians, has been given in their favour, now to detail the little objections we have had to make against some of the positions which we discovered from time to time in the grammar, besides which, it would require more leisure than we at present have at our command, to go over it, page by page, to make our objections. This much we can freely say, that we never read a book, in our occasional teaching, so little liable to faults as the former editions of this; and the present having received the latest corrections of the author in his lifetime, and of his trusty scholar Rödriger, since his decease, must necessarily have been made yet more useful to the student.

The work is well got up, and correctly printed, owing, as Mr. Conant observes, to its having been superintended by Mr. Wm. W. Turner, who acquired so enviable a share of oriental knowledge under the late Mr. Isaac Nordheimer, of the University of New York. The Chrestomathy and Exercises, belonging to Mr. Conant himself, appear to have been printed from the stereotype plates which were cast for the farmer edition, and as the Hebrew type employed therein was of the square, whilst that in the other parts of the book is of the round form, the work has something of a checkered appearance, which ought to have been avoided, as either the printers should have procured a good fount of the square type to match the stereotype plates, or have cast the latter over again. Economy is no excuse for this procedure, as eighty pages could not cost a very heavy sum: besides this, there are some mechanical defects in the letters used in the Chrestomathy, rather offensive to a critical eye, which could have been easily avoided by obtaining a few new sorts, easily accessible.

Still, the book is a creditable specimen of typography, and the publishers have done well to make it accessible to the general public, by fixing the price as low as they have done. They deserve for this, the thanks and the encouragement of those interested.

The Voice of Jacob.—Mr. Jacob A. Franklin, the originator of the Voice of Jacob, and for nearly the whole of the five years since its establishment its editor, retired from all connexion with it at the conclusion of the fifth volume. Mr. F.’s mercantile pursuits, as he alleges, made it far from desirable for him to be at the head of a religious paper, and he only undertook the task of establishing a Jewish press, because he thought the times required the concentration of efforts for the general good. The origin of the attempt was owing to a circular Mr. F. issued soon after the return of Sir Moses Montefiore from his mission to Egypt, respecting the establishment of a college for the education of Jewish ministers, and this paper drawing to it public attention, he was urged to undertake a regular publication of a work calculated to subserve the general good. Mr. F. in commencing, thought that he would soon be able to place it in the hands of competent persons, and allow himself merely a general supervision. But he soon found that whilst he was connected with it, the editorial labours would all fall upon him; and as this took up all his time, which he cannot afford to lose, he resolved, at length, to withdraw altogether from the proprietorship, with the beginning of the new year.

Mr. Franklin has certainly done a great service to Jewish periodical literature in England, by his attempt to establish a press, and his partial success therein; and his not doing more is owing more to the force of circumstances against which he could not contend, than to any fault of his own. In his editorial labours, he aimed at nothing beyond his reach; hence he has always issued a respectable paper, though naturally it had but little the character of a learned review. Certain it is he has done no injury to the progress of religion, and equally certain it is that he has rendered a great good, by first publishing many good articles, eminently calculated to advance true principles of faith, and then by bringing, so to say, the scattered remnants of Asia, Africa, and Australia, within speaking distance of Europe. The road being once open, the success to others will be more attainable; and we trust that in all future periods of the Anglo-Jewish press, the name of its first founder will be remembered with a blessing. We wish Mr. F. all the success he covets in his renewed merchantile life, and hope that, though retired, he will give the public very frequently the benefits of his thoughts and reflections upon passing events. We should be pleased to hear from him for the Occident.

The Voice of Jacob is now continued by a number of gentlemen, whose names do not appear. It is their intention to give it a more literary character than hitherto. We have received the first three numbers issued under the new administration, which bid fair to redeem the promise held out; and we hoped that success may attend the editors, though we should be more pleased were they to append their names to their work.