Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/623

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

seem upon examination to resolve themselves into a commentary upon the defective Latin version of the treatise De Fide orthodoxa, made a century before by Burgundio of Pisa.

Such is the list of Grosseteste's gifts to the Latin Church. If not very large in extent, it is assuredly very remarkable in quality. With the exception of the work of John Damascene, it consists entirely of writings for which a pre-Christian or an apostolic date was claimed. In other words, we see in Grosseteste the beginnings of that interest in the origins of Christianity which is usually regarded as characteristic of a later age. He is a collector of what claims to be ancient and primitive. Others will follow to whom Chrysostom and Basil will seem better worth translating: and their day will be a long one.

We have ample evidence of Grosseteste's knowledge of Greek. Less is known of his attainments in Hebrew: and yet evidence can be produced to show that they were not contemptible. A Franciscan writer of the next century-Henry of Costessey (circa 1336), to whom reference will be made hereafter-had before him, when writing an exposition of the Psalter, a copy of the text of that book in Hebrew with an interlinear translation into Latin. This had been the property, if not the work, of Grosseteste. Little positive proof beyond the common rumour of his contemporaries can be added to this fact; but even if it stands by itself, it is well worthy of note. It is clear that the Bishop's chief interest centred in his Greek studies: more than a respectable working knowledge of the other sacred tongue is not claimed for him here.

Thus much it has seemed right to say of the work of the earlier of the two men who have been commemorated at the outset of this chapter. Of the other, Roger Bacon to wit, we may speak in shorter compass.

Page after page in his works attests his clear perception of the needs of scientific theology, of the crucial importance of a knowledge of the "original tongues "-Greek, Hebrew, and "Chaldean,"—of the need for a revision of the Latin Bible by the help of the oldest manuscripts, and, as we have seen, of the necessity of re-introducing to the West the works of the great Greek Fathers. And perhaps his greatest service to the Church of his age may have lain in the statement of these needs. Something, it is true, he himself achieved towards supplying them. He wrote grammars of the Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic languages. The first two of these it appears that we possess, and a single copy of a Greek dictionary also survives, which there seems good reason to attribute to him. The third is not known to exist. We have, moreover, part of a series of letters which may with some confidence be regarded as Bacon's. In these he deals at length with points of Hebrew grammar for the benefit of a friend, himself evidently an accomplished Hebraist, who had sought his advice. It must be confessed that the fruit of these labours was not great: yet we shall see that it continued