Popular Science Monthly/Volume 38/January 1891/New Chapters in the Warfare of Science: Comparative Philology I
XI. FROM BABEL TO COMPARATIVE PHILOLOGY.
By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL. D., L. H. D.,
EX-PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
AMONG the sciences which have served as entering wedges into the heavy mass of ecclesiastical orthodoxy, to cleave it, disintegrate it, and let the light of Christianity into it, none perhaps has done a more striking work than Comparative Philology. In one very important respect the history of this science differs from that of any other; for it is the only one whose results theologians have at last fully adopted as the result of their own studies. This adoption teaches a great lesson, since, while it has destroyed theological views cherished during many centuries, and obliged the Church to accept conclusions directly contrary to the plain letter of our sacred books, the result is clearly seen to have helped Christianity rather than to have hurt it. It has certainly done much to clear our religious foundations of the dogmatic rust which was eating into their structure.
How this result was reached, and why the Church has so fully accepted it, I shall endeavor to show in the present chapter.
In the very beginnings of recorded history we find explanations of the diversity of tongues, and naturally such explanations resort to supernatural intervention. The "law of wills and causes," formulated by Comte, is exemplified here as in so many other cases. That law is, that when men do not know the natural causes of things, they simply attribute them to wills like their own; thus they obtain a theory which provisionally takes the place of science, and this theory is very generally theological.
Examples of this recur to any thinking reader of history. Before the simpler laws of astronomy were known, the sun was supposed to be trundled out into the heavens every day and the stars hung up in the firmament every night by the right hand of the Almighty. Before the laws of comets were known, they were thought to be missiles hurled by an angry God at a wicked world. Before the real cause of lightning was known, it was supposed to be the work of a good God in his wrath, or of evil spirits in their malice. Before the laws of meteorology were known, it was thought that rains were caused by the Almighty or his angels opening "the windows of heaven" to let down upon the earth "the waters that be above the firmament." Before the laws governing physical health were known, diseases were supposed to result from the direct interposition of the Almighty or of Satan. Before the laws governing mental health were known, insanity was generally thought to be diabolic possession.
So, in this case, to account for the diversity of tongues, the direct intervention of the Divine Will was brought in. As this diversity was felt to be an inconvenience, it was attributed to the will of a Divine Being in anger. To explain this anger, it was held that it must have been provoked by human sin.
Out of this conception explanatory myths and legends grew as thickly and naturally as elms along water-courses; and of these the earliest form known to us is found in the Chaldean accounts. We see it first in the Chaldean legend of the Tower of Babel.
The inscriptions recently found among the ruins of Assyria have thrown a bright light into this and other scriptural myths and legends; the deciphering of the characters in these inscriptions by Grotef end, and the reading of the texts by George Smith, Oppert, Sayce, and others, have given us these traditions more nearly in their original form than they appear in our own Scriptures.
The Hebrew story of Babel, like so many other legends in the sacred books of the world, combined various elements. By a play upon words, such as the history of myths and legends frequently shows us, it wrought into one fabric the earlier explanations of the diversities of human speech and of the great ruined tower at Babylon. The name Babel (bab-il) means "Gate of God" or "Gate of the Gods." All modern scholars of note agree that this was the real significance of the name; but the Hebrew verb which signifies to confound resembles somewhat the word Babel, so that out of this resemblance, by one of the most common processes in the history of myth formations, came to the Hebrew mind an indisputable proof that the tower was connected with the sudden confusion of tongues; and this became part of our theological heritage.
In our sacred books the account runs as follows:
"And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.
"And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
"And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
"And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
"And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men builded.
"And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do.
"Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
"So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
"Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." (Genesis, xi, 1-9.)
Thus far the legend had been but slightly changed from the earlier Chaldean form in which it has since been found in the Assyrian inscriptions. Its character is very simple; to use the words of the most eminent English-speaking authority, Prof. Sayce, of Oxford, a clergyman of the Church of England, "It takes us back to the age when the gods were believed to dwell in the visible sky, and when man, therefore, did his best to rear his altars as near them as possible." And the eminent professor might have added that it takes us back also to a time when it was thought that Jehovah, in order to see the tower fully, was obliged to come down from his seat above the firmament. In its earlier Chaldean form the legend runs, that the gods, assisted by the winds, overthrew the work of the contrivers and introduced a diversity of tongues.
As to the real cause of the building of the tower there seems a substantial agreement among leading scholars that it was erected primarily as part of a temple, but largely for the purpose of astronomical observations, to which the Chaldeans were so devoted, and to which their country, with its level surface and clear atmosphere, was so well adapted. As to the real cause of its destruction, one of the inscribed cylinders discovered in recent times, speaking of a tower which most of the leading archseologists identify with the Tower of Babel, reads as follows:
"The building named the Stages of the Seven Spheres, which was the Tower of Borsippa, had been built by a former king. He had completed forty-two cubits, but he did not finish its head. During the lapse of time, it had become ruined; they had not taken care of the exit of the waters, so that rain and wet had penetrated into the brick-work; the casing of burned brick had swollen out, and the terraces of crude brick are scattered in heaps."
We can well understand how easily "the gods, assisted by the winds," as stated in the Chaldean legend, could overthrow a tower thus built.
It may be instructive to compare with the explanatory myth developed first by the Chaldeans, and in a slightly different form by the Hebrews, various other legends to explain the same diversity of tongues. The Hindoo legend of the confusion of tongues is as follows:
"There grew in the center of the earth the wonderful 'world tree' or 'knowledge tree' It was so tall that it reached almost to heaven. It said in its heart: ' I shall hold my head in heaven and spread my branches over all the earth, and gather all men together under my shadow, and protect them, and prevent them from separating. But Brahma, to punish the pride of the tree cut off its branches and cast them down on the earth, when they sprang up as wata trees, and made differences of belief and speech and customs to prevail on the earth, to disperse men upon its surface."
Still more striking is a Mexican legend: according to this, Xelhua, one of the seven giants rescued from the flood, built the great Pyramid of Cholula, in order to reach heaven, until the gods, angry at his audacity, threw fire upon the building and broke it down, whereupon every separate family received a language of its own.
Such explanatory myths grew or spread widely over the earth. A well-known form of the legend, more like that of the Chaldeans ihan the Hebrew later form, appeared among the Greeks. According to this, the Aloidæ piled Mount Ossa upon Olympus and Pelion upon Ossa, in their efforts to reach heaven and dethrone Jupiter.
Still another form of it entered the thoughts of Plato. He held that in the golden age men and beasts all spoke the same language, but that Zeus confounded their speech because men were proud and demanded eternal youth and immortality.
But naturally the version of the legend which most affected Christendom was that modification of the Chaldean form developed among the Jews and embodied in their sacred books. To a thinking man in these days it is very instructive. The coming down of the Almighty from heaven to see the tower and put an end to it by dispersing its builders, points to the time when his dwelling was supposed to be just above the firmament or solid vault above the earth; the time when he exercised his beneficent activity in such acts as opening "the windows of heaven" to give down rain upon the earth; in bringing out the sun every day and hanging up the stars every night to give light to the earth; in hurling comets, to give warning; in placing his bow in the cloud, to give hope; in coming down in the cool of the evening to walk in the garden of Eden and to talk with the man he had made; in meeting one chosen man upon a mountain to give him laws, and another in the desert to wrestle with him.
But closely connected in its effects with this Babel legend was that of the naming of the animals by Adam. It was written in one of our two accounts of the creation that Jehovah came down and brought all the animals before Adam, who gave them their names. This and other indications of language, together with the Chaldean legend, which, in passing through the Jewish mind, became monotheistic, supplied to Christian theology the germs of a sacred science of philology. These germs developed rapidly in the warm atmosphere of devotion and ignorance of natural law which pervaded the early Christian Church; and so there grew a great
orthodox theory of language, strong and apparently firm, which has lasted throughout Christendom for nearly two thousand years.
There had, indeed, come into human thought at the very earliest period some suggestions of the modern scientific view of philology. Lucretius had proposed a theory, inadequate indeed, but still pointing very directly toward the truth, as follows: "Nature impelled man to try the various sounds of the tongue, and so struck out the names of things, much in the same way as the inability to speak is seen in its turn to drive children to the use of gestures." But, among the early fathers of the Church, the only one who seems to have caught an echo of this truth was St. Gregory of Nyssa; as a rule, all the other great founders of Christian theology, as far as they expressed themselves on the subject, took the view that the original language spoken by the Almighty and given by him to men was Hebrew, and that from this all other languages were derived at the destruction of the Tower of Babel. This doctrine was especially upheld by Origen, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine. Origen taught that "the language given at the first through Adam, the Hebrew, remained among that portion of mankind which was assigned not to any angel, but continued the portion of God himself." St. Augustine declared that, when the other races were divided by their own peculiar languages, Heber's family preserved that language which is not unreasonably believed to have been the common language of the race, and that on this account it was henceforth called Hebrew. St. Jerome wrote, "The whole of antiquity affirms that Hebrew, in which the Old Testament is written, was the beginning of all human speech."
Amid such great authorities as these even Gregory of Nyssa struggled in vain. He seems to have taken the matter very earnestly, and to have used not only argument but ridicule. He insists that God does not speak Hebrew, and that the tongue used by Moses was not even a pure dialect of one of the languages resulting from "the confusion." He makes man the inventor of speech, and resorts to raillery: speaking against his opponent Eunomius, he says that "passing in silence his base and abject garrulity" he will "note a few things which are thrown into the midst of his useless or wordy discourse, where he represents God teaching words and names to our first parents, sitting before them like some pedagogue or grammar master." But, naturally, the great authority of Origen, Jerome, and Augustine prevailed; the view suggested by Lucretius, and again by St. Gregory of Nyssa, died out, and "always, everywhere, and by all" in the Church the doctrine was received that the language spoken by the Almighty was Hebrew; that it was taught by him to Adam, and that all other languages on the face of the earth originated from it at the dispersion attending the destruction of the Tower of Babel.
This idea threw out roots and branches in every direction, and so developed ever into new and strong forms. As all scholars now know, the vowel points in the Hebrew language were not adopted until at some period between the second and tenth centuries; but in the early Church they soon came to be considered as part of the great miracle—as the work of the right hand of the Almighty; and never until the eighteenth century was there any doubt allowed about the divine origin of these rabbinical additions to the text. To hesitate in believing that these points were dotted by the very hand of God himself came to be considered a fearful heresy.
The series of battles between Theology and Science in the field of comparative philology opened just on this little point, apparently so insignificant—the direct divine inspiration of the rabbinical punctuation. The first to impugn the divine origin of these vocal points and accents appears to have been a Spanish monk, Raymundus Martinus, in his Pugio Fidei, or Poniard of the Faith, which he put forth in the thirteenth century. But he and his doctrine disappeared beneath the waves of the orthodox ocean, and apparently left no trace. For nearly three hundred years longer the full sacred theory held its ground; but about the opening of the sixteenth century another glimpse of the truth was given by a Jew, Elias Levita, and this seems to have had some little effect, at least in keeping the germ of scientific truth alive.
The Reformation, with its renewal of the literal study of the Scriptures, and its transfer of all infallibility from the Church and the Papacy to the letter of the sacred books, did not abate but rather intensified for a time the devotion of Christendom to this sacred theory of language. Only on this one question—the origin of the Hebrew points—was there any controversy, and this waxed hot. It began to be especially noted that these vowel points in the Hebrew Bible seemed unknown to St. Jerome and his compeers; and on this ground, supported by a few other authorities, some earnest men ventured to think them no part of the original revelation to Adam. Zwingli, so much before most of the Reformers in other respects, was equally so in this. While not doubting the divine origin and preservation of the Hebrew language as a whole, he denied the antiquity of the vocal points, demonstrated their unessential character, and pointed out the fact that St. Jerome makes no mention of them. His denial was long the refuge of those who shared this heresy.
But the full orthodox theory remained established among the vast majority both of Catholics and Protestants. Illustrative of the attitude of the former is the imposing work of the canon Marini, which appeared at Venice in 1593, under the title of Noah's Ark: A New Treasury of the Sacred Tongue. The huge folios begin with the declaration that the Hebrew tongue was "divinely inspired at the very beginning of the world," and the doctrine is steadily maintained that this divine inspiration extended not only to the letters but to the vocal punctuation.
Not before the seventeenth century was well under way do we find a thorough scholar bold enough to gainsay this preposterous doctrine. This new assailant was Capellus, Professor of Hebrew at Saumur; but even he dared not put forth his argument in France. He was obliged to publish it in Holland, and even there such obstacles were thrown in his way that it was ten years before he published another treatise of importance.
The work of Capellus was received by very many open-minded scholars as settling the question, and among these was Hugo Grotius. But many theologians felt this view to be a blow at the sanctity and integrity of the sacred text; and in 1648 the great scholar, John Buxtorf, rose to defend the orthodox citadel: in his Anticritica he brought all his stores of knowledge to defend the doctrine that the rabbinical points and accents had been jotted down by the right hand of God.
The controversy waxed hot; scholars like Voss and Brian Walton supported Capellus. Wasmuth and many others of note were as fierce against him. The Swiss Protestants were especially violent on the orthodox side. The Calvinists of Geneva, in 1678, by a special canon, forbade that any minister should be received into their jurisdiction until he publicly confessed that the Hebrew text, as it to-day exists in the Masoretic copies, is, both as to the consonants and vowel points, divine and authentic.
While in Holland so great a man as Hugo Grotius supported the view of Capellus, and while in France the eminent Catholic scholar Richard Simon, and many others, Catholic and Protestant, took similar ground against this divine origin of the Hebrew punctuation, there was arrayed against them a body apparently overwhelming. In France, Bossuet, the greatest theologian that France has ever produced, did his best to crush Simon. In Germany, Wasmuth, professor first at Rostock and afterward at Kiel, hurled his "Vindiciæ" at the innovators. Yet at this very moment the battle was clearly won; the arguments of Capellus were irrefragable, and, despite the commands of bishops, the outcries of theologians and the sneering of critics, his application of strictly scientific observation and reasoning carried the day.
Yet a casual observer, long after the fate of the battle was really settled, might have supposed that it was still in doubt. As is not unusual in theologic controversies, attempts were made to galvanize the dead doctrine into the appearance of life. Famous among these attempts was that made as late as the beginning of the eighteenth century by two Bremen theologians, Hase and Iken. They put forth a compilation in two huge folios simultaneously at Leyden and Amsterdam, prominent in which work is the treatise on The Integrity of Scripture, by Johann Andreas Danzius, Professor of Oriental Languages and Senior Member of the Philosophical Faculty of Jena. To preface it, there was a formal and fulsome approval by three eminent professors of theology at Leyden. With great fervor the author pointed out that "religion itself depends absolutely on the infallible inspiration, both verbal and literal, of the Scripture text"; and with impassioned eloquence he assailed the blasphemers who dared question the divine origin of the Hebrew points. But this was really the last great effort. That the case was lost is seen by the fact that Danzius felt obliged to use other missiles than arguments, and especially to call his opponents hard names. From this period the old sacred theory as to the origin of the Hebrew points may be considered as dead and buried.
But the war was soon to be waged on a wider and far more important field. The inspiration of the Hebrew punctuation having been given up, the great orthodox body fell back upon the remainder of the theory, and intrenched this more strongly than ever—the theory that the Hebrew language was the first of all languages, spoken by the Almighty, given by him to Adam, transmitted through Noah to the world after the Deluge, and that the confusion of tongues was the origin of all the other languages of the earth. In giving account of this new phase of the struggle, it is well to go back a little. From the revival of learning and the Reformation had come the renewed study of Hebrew in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and thus the sacred doctrine regarding the divine origin of the Hebrew language received additional authority. All the early Hebrew grammars, from that of Reuchlin down, assert the divine origin and miraculous claims of Hebrew. It is constantly mentioned as "the sacred tongue"—sancta lingua. In 1506 Reuchlin, though himself persecuted by a large faction in the Church for advanced views, refers to Hebrew as "spoken by the month of God."
This idea was popularized by the 1508 edition of the Margarita Philosophica, published at Strasburg. That work—in its successive editions a mirror of human knowledge at the close of the middle ages and the opening of modern times—contains a curious introduction to the study of Hebrew. In this it is declared that Hebrew was the original speech, "used between God and man and between men and angels." Its full-page frontispiece represents Moses receiving from God the tables of stone written in Hebrew; and, as a conclusive argument, it reminds us that Christ himself, by choosing a Hebrew maid for his mother, made that his mother-tongue.
It must be noted here, however, that Luther, in one of those outbursts of strong sense which so often appear in his career, enforced the explanation that the words "God said" had nothing to do with the voice or articulation of human language. Still, he evidently yielded to the general view. In the Roman Church at the same period we have a typical example of the theologic method in the statement by Luther's great opponent, Cajetan, that the three languages of the inscription on the cross of Calvary "were the representatives of all languages," and he gives as the reason for this the fact that "the number three denotes perfection."
In 1538 Postillus made a very important endeavor at a comparative study of languages, but with the orthodox assumption that all were derived from one source, namely, the Hebrew. Naturally, Comparative Philology blundered and stumbled on in this path with endless absurdities. The most amazing efforts were made to trace back everything to the sacred language. English and Latin dictionaries appeared, in which every word was traced back to a supposed Hebrew root. No supposition was too absurd in this attempt to square Science with Scripture. It was declared that, as Hebrew is written from right to left, it might be read either way, in order to produce a satisfactory etymology. The whole effort in all this sacred scholarship was, not to find what the truth is; not to see how the various languages are to be classified, or from what source they are really derived, but to demonstrate what was supposed necessary to maintain the truth of Scripture, namely, that all languages are derived from the Hebrew.
This stumbling and blundering, under the sway of this orthodox necessity, is seen among the foremost scholars throughout Europe. About the middle of the sixteenth century the great Swiss scholar, Conrad Gesner, beginning his Mithridates, says, "While of all languages Hebrew is the first and oldest, of all is alone pure and unmixed, all the rest are much mixed, for there is none which has not some words derived and corrupted from Hebrew."
Typical, as we approach the end of the sixteenth century, are the utterances of two of the most noted English divines: First of these may be mentioned Dr. William Fulke, Master of Pembroke Hall, in the University of Cambridge. In his Discovery of the Dangerous Rock of the Romish Church, published in 1580, he speaks of "the Hebrew tongue, . . . the first tongue of the world, and for the excellency thereof called 'the holy tongue.'"
Yet more strong, eight years later, was another eminent divine, Dr. William Whitaker, Regius Professor of Divinity and Master of St. John's College at Cambridge. In his Disputation on Holy Scripture, first printed in 1588, he says: "The Hebrew is the most ancient of all languages, and was that which alone prevailed in the world before the Deluge and the erection of the Tower of Babel. For it was this which Adam used and all men before the Flood, as is manifest from the Scriptures, as the Fathers testify." He then proceeds to quote passages on this subject from St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and others. He cites St. Chrysostom in support of the statement that "God himself showed the model and method of writing when he delivered the Law written by his own finger to Moses."
This sacred theory entered the seventeenth century in full force, and seems to have swept everything before it. The great commentators, Catholic and Protestant, accepted and developed it. Great prelates, Catholic and Protestant, stood guard over it, favoring those who supported it, doing their best to destroy those who would modify it.
In 1606 Stephen Guichard built new buttresses for it in Catholic France. He explains in his preface that his intention is "to make the reader see in the Hebrew word not only the Greek and Latin, but also the Italian, the Spanish, the French, the German, the Fleming, the English, and many others from all languages." As the merest tyro in philology can now see, the great difficulty that Guichard encounters is in getting from the Hebrew to the Aryan group of languages. How he meets this difficulty may be imagined from his statement, as follows: "As for the derivation of words by addition, subtraction, and inversion of the letters, it is certain that this can and ought thus to be done, if we would find etymologies—a thing which becomes very credible when we consider that the Hebrews wrote from right to left and the Greeks and others from left to right. All the learned recognize such derivations as necessary; . . . and . . . certainly otherwise one could scarcely trace any etymology back to Hebrew."
Of course, by this method of philological juggling, anything could be proved which the author thought necessary to maintain his pious theory.
Two years later, Andrew Willett published at London his Hexapla, or Six-fold Commentary upon Genesis. In this he insists that the one language of all mankind in the beginning "was the Hebrew tongue preserved still in Heber's family." He also takes pains to say that the Tower of Babel "was not so called of Belus, as some have imagined, but of confusion, for so the Hebrew word ballal signifieth"; and he quotes from St. Chrysostom to strengthen his position.
In 1627 Dr. Constantine l'Empereur was inducted into the chair of Philosophy of the Sacred Language in the University of
Leyden. In his inaugural oration on The Dignity and Utility of the Hebrew Tongue, he puts himself emphatically on record in favor of the divine origin and miraculous purity of that language. "Who," he says, "can call in question the fact that the Hebrew idiom is coeval with the world itself, save such as seek to win vainglory for their own sophistry by obscuring the truth?"
Two years after Willett, in England, comes the famous Dr. Lightfoot, one of the renowned scholars of his time in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; but all his scholarship was bent to suit theological requirements. In his "Erubhin," or Miscellanies, published in 1629, he goes to the full length of the sacred theory, though we begin to see a curious endeavor to get over some linguistic difficulties. One passage will serve to show both the robustness of his faith and the acuteness of his reasoning, in view of the difficulties which scholars now began to find in the sacred theory: "Other commendations this tongue (Hebrew) needeth none than what it hath of itself; namely, for sanctity it was the tongue of God; and for antiquity it was the tongue of Adam. God the first founder, and Adam the first speaker of it... It began with the world and the Church, and continued and increased in glory till the captivity in Babylon... As the man in Seneca, that through sickness lost his memory and forgot his own name, so the Jews, for their sins, lost their language and forgot their own tongue... Before the confusion of tongues all the world spoke their tongue and no other; but, since the confusion of the Jews, they speak the language of all the world and not their own."
But just at the middle of the century (1657) came in England a champion of the sacred theory more important than any of these—Brian Walton, Bishop of Chester. His Polyglot Bible, with its prolegomena, dominated English scriptural criticism throughout the remainder of the century. He begins his great work by proving at length the divine origin of Hebrew, and the derivation from it of all other forms of speech. He declares it "probable that the first parent of mankind was the inventor of letters." His chapters on this subject are full of interesting details. He says that the Welshman, Davis, had already tried to prove the Welsh the primitive speech; Wormius, the Danish; Mitilerius, the German; but the bishop stands firmly by the sacred theory, declaring that "even in the New World are found traces of the Hebrew tongue, namely, in New England and in New Belgium, where the word Aguarda signifies earth, and the name Joseph is found among the Hurons." As we have seen, Bishop Walton had been forced to give up the inspiration of the rabbinical punctuation, but he seems to have fallen back with all the more tenacity on what remained of the great sacred theory of language, and to have become its leading champion among English-speaking peoples.
At this same period we have the same doctrine pnt forth by a great authority in Germany. In 1657 Andreas Sennert published his inaugural address as Professor of Sacred Letters and Dean of the Theological Faculty at Wittenberg. All his efforts are given to making Luther's old university a fortress of the orthodox theory. His address, like many others in various parts of Europe, shows that in his time an inaugural with any save an orthodox statement of the theological platform would hardly have been tolerated. There are few things in the past to the sentimental mind more pathetic, to the philosophical mind more natural, and to the progressive mind more ludicrous, than most addresses on such occasions before assemblages of learned theologians at high festivals of great theological schools. The audience has generally consisted mainly of estimable elderly gentlemen, who received their theology in their youth, and who in their old age have watched over it with jealous care to see that it is well coddled and protected from any fresh breeze of thought. Naturally, then, a theological professor inaugurated under these circumstances has endeavored to propitiate his audience. Sennert goes to great lengths both in this and in his grammar, published nine years later, for, declaring the divine origin of Hebrew to be quite beyond controversy, he says: "Noah received it from our first parents, and guarded it in the midst of the waters; Heber and Peleg saved it from the confusion of tongues."
The same doctrine was no less loudly insisted upon by the greatest authority in Switzerland, Buxtorf, professor at Basle, who proclaimed Hebrew to be "the tongue of God, the tongue of angels, the tongue of the prophets"; and the effect of this proclamation may be imagined when we note in 1663 that his book had reached its sixth edition.
It was re-echoed through England, Holland, Germany, France, and America, and, if possible, yet more highly developed. In England Theophilus Gale sets himself to prove that not only all the languages, but all the learning of the world, have been drawn from the Hebrew records.
The orthodox doctrine was also fully vindicated in Holland. Six years before the close of the seventeenth century, Morinus, Doctor of Theology, Professor of Oriental Languages, and pastor at Amsterdam, published his great work on Primaeval Language. Its frontispiece depicts the confusion of tongues at Babel, and, as a pendant to this, the pentecostal gift of tongues to the apostles. In the successive chapters of the first book he proves that language could not have come into existence save as a direct gift from heaven; that there is a primitive language, the mother of all the rest; that this primitive language still exists in its pristine purity; that this language is the Hebrew. The second book is devoted to proving that the Hebrew letters were divinely received, have been preserved intact, and are the source of all other alphabets. But in the third book he feels obliged to declare, in the face of the contrary dogma held, as he says, by "not a few most eminent men piously solicitous for the authority of the sacred text" that the Hebrew punctuation was, after all, not of divine inspiration, but a late invention of the rabbis.
France, also, was held to all appearance in complete subjection to the orthodox idea up to the end of the century. In 1697 appeared at Paris perhaps the most learned of all the books written to prove Hebrew the original tongue and source of all others. The Gallican Church was then at the height of its power. Bossuet as bishop, as thinker, and as an adviser of Louis XIV, had crushed all opposition to orthodoxy. The Edict of Nantes had been revoked; and the Huguenots, so far as they could escape, were scattered throughout the world, destined to repay France with interest a thousand-fold during the next two centuries. The bones of the Jansenists were dug up and scattered at Port Royal. Louis XIV stood guard over the piety of his people. It was in the midst of this series of triumphs that Father Louis Thomassin, Priest.of the Oratory, issued his Universal Hebrew Glossary. In this, to use his own language, "the divinity, antiquity, and perpetuity of the Hebrew tongue, with its letters, accents, and ether characters," are established forever and beyond all cavil, by proofs drawn from all peoples, kindred, and nations under the sun. This superb, thousand-columned folio was issued from the royal press, and is one of the most imposing monuments of human piety and folly; taking rank with the great treatises of Fromundus against Galileo, of Quaresmius on Lot's Wife, and of Gladstone on Genesis and Geology.
The great theologic-philologic chorus was steadily maintained, and, as in an antiphonal chant, its doctrines were echoed from land to land. From America there came the earnest words of noble John Eliot, praising Hebrew as the most fit to be made a universal language, and declaring it the tongue "which it pleased our Lord Jesus to make use of when he spake from heaven unto Paul." At the close of the seventeenth century comes, as it were, a strong antiphonal answer in this chorus from England. Meric Casaubon, the learned Prebendary of Canterbury, thus declares: "One language, the Hebrew, I hold to be simply and absolutely the source of all." And, to make the chorus perfect, there came into it, in complete unison, the voice of Bentley—the greatest scholar of the old sort whom England has ever produced. He was indeed one of the most learned and acute critics of any age, but he was also Master of Trinity, Archdeacon of Bristol, held two livings besides, and enjoyed the honor of refusing the bishopric of Bristol, as not rich enough to tempt him. Noblesse oblige: that Bentley should hold a brief for the theological side was inevitable, and we need not be surprised when we hear him declaring, "We are sure, from the names of persons and places mentioned in Scripture before the Deluge, not to insist upon other arguments, that the Hebrew was the primitive language of mankind, and that it continued pure above three thousand years until the captivity into Babylon." The power of the theologic bias, when properly stimulated with ecclesiastical preferment, could hardly be more perfectly exemplified than in this captivity of such a man as Bentley.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century this sacred doctrine, based, as was supposed, upon explicit statements of Scripture, seemed forever settled. As we have seen, strong fortresses had been built for it in every Christian land; nothing seemed more unlikely than that the little groups of scholars scattered through these various countries could ever prevail against them. These strongholds were built so firmly, and had behind them so vast an army of religionists of every creed, that to conquer them seemed impossible. And yet at that very moment their doom was decreed. Within a few years from this period of their greatest triumph, the garrisons of all these sacred fortresses were in hopeless confusion, and the armies behind them in full retreat; a little later, both the orthodox fortresses and forces were in the hands of the scientific philologists.
How this came about will be shown in the second part of this chapter.