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ARCHÆOLOGY AND BIBLICAL RESEARCH.
THE HEBREW ECCLESIASTICUS.
THERE is no portion of the Old Testament Apocrypha that, for various reasons, has presented more difficulties or has been more productive of discussion than the book called, from its name in the Vulgate, “Ecclesiasticus.” The title of this apocryphon in the Septuagint, through which it has come to us, is “ The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach."
The origin of the book is far from clear. Nothing except the name is positively known of the author. But that the book was originally written in Hebrew seems to be founded on a reliable tradition, accepted by the best Jewish and Christian authorities. Several rabbis in various ages quote from Sira (now written Sirach); but though they write in the Aramæan, that is, rabbinical Hebrew, the citations are invariably in pure classical Hebrew—a clear proof of the language of the original. Jerome also distinctly states that he himself had seen the Hebrew original of this book.
The short prologue to Ecclesiasticus, like that of Job, is in prose, though the book itself is cast in a poetical mold. It is written in Greek, and is evidently from the pen of the translator Ecclesiasticus. The following words from this Greek introduction are self-explanatory: “Ye are intreated to read with favor and attention, and to pardon us if in any parts of what we have labored to interpret [that is, translated) we may seem to fail in some of the phrases. For things originally spoken in Hebrew have not the same force in them when they are translated into another tongue." This citation shows plainly that the translator had some misapprehension regarding the merits of his efforts, and hence this semiapologetic tone. That Ecclesiasticus in its Greek dress is a poor piece of work is universally admitted. This being true of the Greek, how much more so must it be of the later versions based upon so imperfect a translation! The violent transpositions, the many disconnected passages, the omission of one or more parallels, the many clumsy circumlocutions and evident interpolations all betray poor work. It was no easier two thousand years ago than now for a novice to make a translation having the combined merits of elegance and accuracy. Το render the idiomatic expressions of one language into those of another was never easy, especially when these phrases are popular proverbs and such short, idiomatic expressions as abound in the writings of Jesus ben Sirach. The translator of Ecclesiasticus may have been proficient in Greek or Hebrew, but certainly not in both. This accounts for the many deficiencies in his version. It has been common for less conscientious translators in all ages to omit what defied translation, and to mistranslate or paraphrase what was imperfectly understood by them.
In view of these facts the discovery of a single leaf of Sirach's work in the original Hebrew was hailed with delight by biblical students everywhere. This stray leaf was brought from Egypt to England by Mrs. * Lewis and Mrs. Gibson, and along with a large number of other ancient documents was submitted to Dr. Schechter, the eminent reader in Talmudic at the University of Cambridge, who identified it as a part of Sira's apocryphon, namely, cap. 39, 15; 40, 7. The discovery and identification of this single leaf led to the identifitcaion of some other similar leaves at the Bodleian library. At any rate the discovery at Oxford was made public just about the same time as that at Cambridge. The Bodleian manuscript is without doubt a part of the same book to which the leaf brought from Egypt belonged. They connect directly. Only one verse is missing. The Oxford leaves contain cap. 40, 9; 49, 11. Thus we have now about one fifth of the entire book. As there are yet a very large number of manuscripts and papyri to be examined, may we not hope that the remaining leaves may yet be found ?
In order that the reader may form some idea of the inaccuracies of the Greek version, let us now place the tradition of cap. 40, 8-11, in parallel columns with the original Hebrew: Revised English Version from the Greek. The original Hebrew by Dr. Schechter. 8. It is thus with all flesh, from
man to beast, and upon sin
ners sevenfold more. 9. Death, and bloodshed, and 9. [Pestile]nce and bloodshed,
strife, and sword, calamities, fever and drought, devastafamine, tribulation, and the tion and destruction, evil scourge:
and death. 10. All these things were created 10. Against the wicked evil is cre
for the wicked, and because ated, and because of him ruin of them came the flood.
departeth (not?] 11. All things that are from the 11. All things that are from the
earth turn to the earth again: earth return to the earth: and and all things that are of the that which is from
the waters return into the sea.
height returneth to the height.
The exact time when Sirach wrote his book is not known; even the one reference for fixing the date is confusing. Sirach's grandson, who translated the book into Greek, informs us that he went into Egypt during the reign of Euergetes. There were two kings of that name, Euergetes I, who reigned from 246–222 B. C., and Euergetes II, called also Ptolemy VII who reigned from 145–116 B. C. Unfortunately, we have no means of deciding which of these two ruled over Egypt at the time in question. Thus it is impossible to determine with absolute precision the date of either the original work or the Greek translation. But whether Sirach wrote in the fourth or third century B. C., the discovery is an important one. For, as Dr. Schechter well says, “ Apart from their semisacred character the Sirach discourses restore to us the only genuine documents of the Grecian-Greek period (from about 450 until about 160 B. C.), the most obscure in the whole of Jewish history.”
The discovery of the fragment shows also that classic Hebrew was written long after the captivity. It is, moreover, a source of great encouragement to the archæologist who is patiently toiling among the buried treasures of the ancient world; for who can doubt that more than one Hebrew Genizah has yet surprises in store for the biblical student who patiently prosecutes his investigations ?
RESEARCH IN PALESTINE.
PALESTINE very naturally continues to attract the eyes and hearts of biblical scholars the world over. The study of antiquities in this ancient land is at present receiving unusual attention. The various religious orders in Jerusalem are waking up as from a long lethargy, intent on becoming better acquainted with the archæology of the Holy City and the land made sacred by the saints of old. Among these the Dominican Brothers, especially the French, deserve special mention. They show great zeal in identifying ancient sacred places in and around the city. Then there is “Der Deutsche Verein zur Erforschung Palæstina's.” This society is under the control of a large number of eminent German scholars, among them Professors Kautzsch, Socin, Bickell, Buhl, Kiepert, and many others in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. There are also several distinguished Germans in Palestine who belong to the society and take active part in its work, such as Dr. Conrad Schick, of Jerusalem, and Dr. Schumacher, of Haifa. Of late years this society has been paying especial attention to the country “beyond Jordan.” It has already made important discoveries in the Hauran and southern Bashan, The maps and charts prepared under its direction are very accurate. Dr. Schick is an enthusiastic archæologist, and watches every excavation of whatever nature in and around Jerusalem. Prince Rupprecht, of Bavaria, during his recent trans-Jordanic travels was greatly impressed with many extensive ruins, and more especially with those of Jerash, which he very fitly denominated as a second Pompeii.” He will undoubtedly see to it that a scientific and thorough ex• ploration will be made by some competent persons among these ruins. The still more recent visit of Emperor William, who is naturally of a religious turn of mind, and who is on excellent terms with the authorities at Constantinople, will aid materially in stirring German scholars to a more thorough work in Palestine.
One of the chief agencies, however, in this field is the Palestine Exploration Fund, having its headquarters at London. This society has been more or less actively at work for more than a generation. It has enlisted the sympathy of many distinguished men of letters and influence in all English-speaking countries. One of its principal workers is
Dr. Bliss, who, though born in Syria, is yet in push and sympathy an American and an alumnus of Amherst College. His work in Palestine may be compared to that of Professor Flinders Petrie in Egypt. His efforts during the past few years have been rewarded with considerable success. The results of his excavations at Lachish were all that could be expected. Not so, however, the three years' work at Jerusalem. This is not difficult to explain. It is no easy matter to carry on excava. tions in or near a city so densely populated as Jerusalem. The Mobammedans always regard work of this kind, if conducted by Christians, with more or less suspicion. Very few ignorant peasants care to see their gardens dug up, or even a miserable old stable torn down, in the interests of archæology. Dr. Bliss's work at Jerusalem, however, was not entirely without profit, as may be seen from his recently published volume, entitled Excavations at Jerusalem, 1894–1897. Two entire chapters are devoted to the discussion of the objects found. One is entitled "Minor Discoveries,” and another, “Various Discoveries on the Western Hill." Perhaps the most interesting chapter of the book is that which contains a very full sketch of the walls of the Holy City, battered down and rebuilt, as they have been, no less than a score of times. Dr. Bliss thinks that his three years' work has brought some facts to light that will facilitate the study of Jerusalem in the following periods of history: the Jebusite, the Solomonic, the late Jewish kingdom, the Herodian, and the Latin.
But, judging from the actual number of the articles found during the recent excavations, the results are indeed meager when compared with the achievements at Nippur, Nineveh, or some of the Egyptian sites. Nevertheless, these tireless workers are not discouraged; for, no sooner had the time granted by the Ottoman government for excavating expired than another appeal was made to the sultan for a new firman, so that operations might be commenced in other localities. After the usual delays in obtaining such permits the Palestine Exploration Fund is once more at work, this time in ancient Philistia. Dr. Bliss is full of hope, as may be seen from the following words written by him in the last “Quarterly Statement.” We quote at some length, so as to give our readers the exact location of the new field of operations: “Now a word in regard to what we may hope for in the next two years. Our work at Tell el Hesy showed that Palestine is a very important center, and that a site where the ruins are of mud brick is exceedingly important, because mud brick is a wonderful conservator of antiquities. We have applied for an area including ten square kilometres, in which area may be found four important sites, Tell es Sâfi, Tell ej Judeideh, Zakariya, and Khurbet Ddikerin. All of these sites, with the possible exception of the last, show signs of being Israelitish, or certainly pre-Roman. Tell es Safi was the Blanche Garde of the Crusaders, and therefore we may have to work our way through modern remains before we come to the more ancient site."
WORLD'S MISSIONARY CONFERENCE. The weekly religious press will sufficiently advertise the fact that there is to be held in New York City, the last eleven days of April, next year, a General Missionary Conference similar to that held in London in 1888. It is not to give a notification of the Conference that this paragraph is written, but that all emphasis possible in these pages shall be laid upon the great dignity and importance of the proposed convention. The plans for the Conference have been maturing for three years. A committee appointed at the Annual Conference in 1896 has been in communi. cation with the different Protestant missionary societies of the world, and has met with most gratifying responses from all of those bodies. There seems to be a very general appreciation of the plan for rounding out the century with a survey of the work which has been accomplished in the past and with a discussion of the outlook for future success.
Some conception of the Conference may be obtained from the fact that while in 1888, at the Conference in London, there were 1,759 delegates in attendance, it is hoped to double that number next year. There are about two hundred societies whose work is to be represented, and it is hoped to have missionaries present from every part of the world. The plan of the Conference is to have a few general sessions and a number of sectional meetings where specific topics can be discussed. Papers will be presented by experts on the different topics, and these will be fol. lowed by short addresses. It is also planned to secure the attendance of the delegates in different cities of the country; and it is hoped that miniature conferences may thus be held, and that the presence in those centers of so large a body of men who are directly interested in missionary work and closely connected with it may arouse a still greater interest in the great cause.
The gravity of the occasion must be realized. A great movement of the century is to be passed in review. The Churches have contributed millions of money for the spread of the Christian religion among nonChristian peoples, and the operations have covered wide-extended and remote districts. There is no region so difficult of access, whether in mountain fastness or tropical morass, that the evangelist has not planted his foot there. There is no tribe, however debased and brutal, however bruised with the slave yoke or broken in spirit by other forms of cruelty, but some one has made effort to reach it. Does it all pay? The wealth, intellect, and culture expended by noble men and women must all be accounted for. If there is to be girding for the future there is need of intelligent concert. And doubtless all this will be realized, for this Confer. ence is not confined to any one Church or country, every foreign missionary