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Our author, in this enquiry, endeavours to make it appear, at least probable, that the Jews and the Samaritans always had letters distinct from one another, and always retained them : that the Jews had the square letters ab origine; and the Samaritans their chara&ters from the Phænicians and 'Affyrians, whose language and letters, he thinks, were all the same, or not very different.
He then proceeds to consider the antiquity of the vowel-points and accents.
There have been, as he observes, many different opinions concerning them. Some think they are of a divine original; and others, that they are of human invention. Some suppose that they were first invented by Ben Asher and Ben Naphtali, about the year 1037 ; others, that they were devised by the Jews of Tiberias, at least five hundred years after Christ, or however were invented after the Talmud was finished ; others afcribe them to Ezra, and the men of the great fynagogue ; who, they fuppose, at least revived and restored them, and fixed them to the consonants, which before were only delivered, and used in a traditionary way; and others are of opinion, they were given to Mofes on Mount Sinai, as to the power of them in pronouncing and reading, though not as to the make and figures of them in writing, but were propagated by tradition to the times of Ezra; whilst others believe they were ab origine, and were invented by Adam together with the letters, or however, that they were coeval with the letters, and in use as soon as they were. In order to discover which of these accounts is most probable, this learned writer traces the points step by step, from one period to another, from the time of Ben Asher, A. D. 1037, to the return of Ezra from Babylon ; which was, according to bishop Usher, before Christ, 454 years. In the course of this enquiry he cites the writers which either mention the points, or afford an argument of their existence, at the time when they respectively wrote.
It appears, he thinks, very evidently, from several disputes among Jewish grammarians, that the points were in use in the eleventh century; and in the tenth, Saadiah Gaon, if we may believe Jarchi, wrote a book concerning pointing. In the church of St. Dominic, in Bononia, a copy of the Hebrew Scriptures is kept with great care, which has the vowel-points, as dean Prideaux and others affirm : Dr. Gill supposes it was written about the year 900. The author of the book of Cofri fpeaks with great encomiums of the points and accents; and this work, according to our author, must have been compofed before the middle of the eighth century. About the year 500 or 508 the Babylonian Talmud was finished, and though the
Talmudists do not mention the names, nor express the figures of the vowel-points, yet he thinks they manifestly suppose them; as when they fay, 6 read not so, but so," it is plain, he says, they have no reference to the consonants, which are the same one way as another ; consequently they must have respect to the difference of the vowel-points, the doctrine of which is the foundation of their remarks. And among other circumstances he observes, that there is a dispute about giving a reward to those who taught the accents; which could never have been thought of, if the accents had not then existed.
The Mafurah was the work of various persons in several ages. He supposes that it was in being, at least, an hundred years before the Babylonian Talmud ; and he observes, that the remarks of the Masorets not only relate to entire words, letters, or consonants, but also to points and accents.
Jerom flourished about the year 385, and our author affirms, that he often speaks of the Hebrew points and accents. It appears also, he says, in several instances in the works of this father, that the punctuation in his time was the same with the modern punctuation ; and it is observed, that his version of the Pfalins agrees
with the pointed text. In our Review of Purver's Translation of the Bible we pro. duced the following passage in Jerom, to disprove the use of the vowel-points in his time : “ It matters not, whether it be called Salem or Salim, since the Hebrews very feldoin make use of vowel letters in the middle; and according to the pleasure of readers, and the variety of countries, the fame words are pronounced with different sounds and accents.”
Jerom, says Dr. Gill, is here to be understood either of the matres lectionis ?7X; and it is very true that these are seldom used in the sacred books of the Hebrews, which makes the use of the vowel-points the more necessary; and if the matres lectionis were expunged upon the introduction of the points, as is suggested by some, then the points must have been before Jerom's time, and consequently not the invention of the men of Tiberias ; since it seems the above letters were rarely used in his time as placed between consonants ;-or else he is to be understood of vowel-points going along with letters ; and these he might truly fay, were very rarely used, because pointed Bibles in his time were very rare : but then he supposes such were used, though but feldom.'
In this explication of Jerom, our author fupposes, firft, that it is probable, the matres lectionis were expunged upon the introduction of the points; and, secondly, he observes, that in the time of Jerom- pointed Bibles were very rare;' In this case he muit either give up the divine authority of the points, or he
must acknowledge, that those Jews, who ventured to mutilato the Bible, and expunge not only some of the principal letters, but all the vowels, were most impudent and sacrilegious corrupters of the sacred text. Nay, we inay venture to affirm, that if the vowel-joints had been ab origine annexed to the letters, no Jew nor Christian in the universe would have had the temerity to strike them out, or use an edition of the Bible castrated in such an enormous manner, and therefore, upon our author's principles, the general reception of unpointed Bibles, in Jewish fynagogues, among people tenacious of every tittle of the law, is a circumstance which entirely overthrows the divine authority of the punctuation.
Jerom, however, in the place above cited, very evidently alludes to the alphabetic vowels, which, as he observes, in medio perrarò utuntur Hebræi. His expresfion is Literis vocalibus ; and if yw had been pointed by sacred authority, he would not have said, it was no matter whether it was called Salem or Salim. Besides, if the points had been coeval with the letters, he would not have asserted that the pronunciation of Hebrew words was various ; nor would he have said that the accents (if by accents we are to understand certain visible marks of divine original) were different in different nations. In fhort, this parfage in St. Jerom seems inconsistent with our author's hypothesis.
He proceeds, and obferves, that in a book of Epiphanius against various heresies, written about the year 370, there are several quotations exactly agreeing with the present punduation,
About the year 360, R. Ale is said to have written a large book concerning the cabalistic secrets in the pointing. A. D. 340, lived R, Hillell, the prince, and he is said to have written a copy of the Bible, with points.
In the beginning of the fourth century, according to Buxtorff, R. Bar Nachmoni wrote the Rabbot, or commenraries on the five books of Moses; and in these commentaries mention is made of the points and accents.
In the Jerusalem Talinud, which is thought to have been finished in the year 2:0, the accents are mentioned, the distinction of verses are observed, and some remarks are made, from which he infers the existence of the points at that time.
About the same time Origen composed his Hexapla ; and our author obferves, that the first chapter of Genefis, and other passages, as given by that writer, perfectly agree with the modern punctuation; and for this agreement, he thinks, we cannot account, without supposing that the author' had the of a pointed Bible. In the book of Zohar, the points and ac
cents are expressly named ; and our author is of opinion, that it was written about the year 120.
In the first century the Targums of Jonathan and Onkelos were written. By soine Jewish commentators Jonathan is observed, in some places, to translate and paraphrase according to the points ; and Onkelos, says Dr. Gill, scarce ever departs from the modern punctuation.
The silence of Philo and Josephus about the points, is only a proof, he thinks, that they were not a inatter of controversy, but no proof of their not being in use.
Our Saviour says, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot, or one titule, shall in no wife pass from the law. Here, Dr. Gill ob. serves, that, as the least letter in the alphabet, yod, is referred to, so the least of the points in use, chirek, is also; between which and the Greek word nepaid, is a great nearness of found, and it seems to be no other than that point made Greek. This argument he calls unans verable. But, first, we can never suppose that replia is only the word chirek mnade Greek; for it is a common word derived froin xepzs; and we do not see how it was possible for this writer to form such a notion, unless he has mistaken the word 7777, ftrider, for 7777, cornu ; the first being the name of the Hebrew point, and the other signifying a bor». Secondly, if an allusion to the points had been intended in the place above cited, it is more probable that the word slyn would have been used Thirdly, birey, or chirek, which is a single point at a distance below the line, can with no kind of propriety be called xeptid, quæ figuificat corniculum, eminentiam, vel apicem majoris corporis aut figni. We therefore cannot agree with Piscator, Pafor, Dr. Gill, and others, that our Saviour's: words are a proof that the Bible in his tine was pointed.
Our author farther observes, that the biblical na.nes of persons and places mentioned in the New Testainent, seem to confirm the inodern punctuation.
Thirty years before Christ lived two famous Jewish doctors, Hillell and Shammai, heads of two sects, the Rabbanites and the Karaites. The latter unanimously declare that their copy of the law had the points and accents; and many of the Rabbanites assert, that the points and accents were equally ancient as the letters, The Karaites arose about the year before Christ 120. And their sense about the points, is, says our author, with me an invincible proof of the great antiquity of the points. For from the time that this fećt sprang up, it was not posible for the Pharisees, Rabbanites, Maforetic, or traditionary Jews, to have introduced such an invention as that of the vowel-points, but these men would have objected against it.
The book of Bahir expressly mentions the points, and it is supposed, that it was written forty years before Chrift.
The date of the Cetibs and Keries, or marginal notes, our author fixes about the year Ant. Chr. 164, and some of these relate to anomalous punctuations.
The Bible was translated by the Seventy, two hundred and seventy-seven years before the Christian æra ; and Dr. Gill reinarks, that the Pentateuch in particular is almost every where translated in agreement with the modern punctuation, and that the word Jehovah is rendered xupsos, or @cos, agreeably to the points.
He comes now to Ezra ; and he thinks it may be fafely concluded, that the points and accents were in being in his time, since they are treated of in the Maforah, which he supposes was begun by Ezra, at least by the men of his fynagogue. Besides, says he, the Scribes, which were assistant to Ezra in reading the law, cannot well be thought to have read it diftin&tly, and caused the people to understand the reading of it, even men, women, and children, without the points.
Having traced the points to this period; and having urged several arguments in their defence; as, that the language can. not be perfect without the yowels; that the nature and genius of the Hebrew tongue require points; that the points are useful to learners, and necessary to remove ambiguity and con. fusion in words and sentences; that we must suppose God would deliver his laws in the plainest and clearest manner, which cannot be the case if the points are rejected ; that wishout the points the infallibility of the Scriptures cannot be supported ; that if all Scripture was given by inspiration, then are the vowels as well as the consonants of divine original ; and lastly, that the introduction of the points must have been known if they had been a modern inyențion ; hé thetefore concludes, that the points and accents are coeval with the letters.
This reasoning, we apprehend, may be answered in a satisfactory manner. The use of the points is evidently superseded by the alphabetic vowels xa, 171, 1u, 'i, yo; and the force of the argument derived from this learned investigation of all antiquity seems to be greatly diminished, when we consider, that if the points had been originally annexed to the letters, their vestigia in future ages would not have been so obscure and ambiguous as they are at present.