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THE perusal of your Remarks on the Uses of the
Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament, has led me into an investigation, the result of which I am tempted to lay before you. The subject of my Letters, and the motives from which I write, will, I trust, excuse me from any further apology for the liberty which I am taking.
You will not, I think Sir, be surprized to learn, that one of the first feelings which I experienced upon the reading of your Remarks, was a feeling of uncertainty and scepticism. I soon perceived, however, that my doubts originated in the very weight and clearness of the evidence on which your theory was founded. I felt as if it were incredible, but that evidence so remarkable must have occurred, in all its strength, to learned men of former days. How then is it, that this rule should have remained so long unknown, or unacknowledged ; and the important texts of the New Testament depending upon it, how is it that the vulgar translation of them B
is so far from being allowed universally to be erroneous, that public opinion has hardly yet learned of the matter being ever doubted of; that the generality of commentators should uphold the established interpretation, and that no notice should be taken of any thing wrong in it, in works written professedly to point out the errors of our English version; and yet we are told, that the rule, and the interpretation of those dependent examples, were expressly asserted by a writer so long ago as Beza? Surely, said I, Mr. Sharp has only not gone so far in the investigation as earlier critics. There must be some secret fallacy: and he is producing to us as a valuable discovery, that which his predecessors, after having for a time followed it, must have found out to be an empty phantom, and so they returned from their pursuit, and sat down again, not venturing to tell the world how idly they had been occupied.
However, I did not acquiesce in these extemporaneous notions.
The first step was, to determine to make an actual comparison of your theory with the volume of the New Testament.
But, at the same time, it occurred to me, that I should probably find some at least of those texts, the translation of which
had called in question, cited and explained by the Greek Fathers; not indeed as instances of any particular rule, but expounded by them naturally as men
would understand any other form of expression in their native language. If Mr. Sharp's rule be true, then will their interpretations of those texts be invariably in the same sense in which he understands them; unless indeed it should appear, that some change in later times took place in the use of the article.
At this instant the note of your learned Editor, in p. 19, presented itself to my observation, and I received no small encouragement from what I had before passed over with indifference. I therefore began my researches with eagerness.
In a short time what I had gathered considerably exceeded my expectations. I thought therefore, Sir, of venturing to communicate to you, in private, the produce of my search, and to mention at the same time, the feelings from which I had been induced to set about it. With this intention in view, and desirous of making my collections more worthy of such a communication, I went on still further, and finding that in some parts my materials continued to accumulate to a degree which I conceived in general there could be little idea of, the thought occurred of a yet bolder undertaking.
I considered, that your rule had once at least before been laid down (though less explicitly), and nevertheless the memory of such a circumstance is almost entirely forgotten. It would be inexcusable, that it should pass by a second time into oblivion, without having un
dergone the trial of a thorough investigation. May not these collections have their value in that investigation? At any rate, they may serve to attract the notice of a few towards the subject, or they may call forth an abler hand to the work; and I should be satisfied if in any way they might contribute to the putting an end to so long a train of uncertainty.
For, besides the importance of the subject as a general philological question, and the infinitely greater importance of those particular texts in the sacred writings thus involved with it, I found it painful in the highest degree, in a moral view, to observe what has obtained with regard to the interpretation of those verses now for nearly three centuries. Hundreds of writers might be reckoned up within that period, whom we should find citing and commenting upon the passages, alternately, according to their several pre-established notions with respect to the divine nature of our Saviour. thodox have occasionally applied them to their use; yet, I fear, often from no better reason, than that others had done so before them: while those of opposite sentiments have studiously contented themselves with the alleged ambiguity of expression, or else pass by the texts in mysterious and utter silence; sometimes with an air of disdain; at other times, I verily believe, with breasts full of honest apprehensions.
The thought of uniting in endeavouring to put some stop to circumstances so unfortunate as these, and so
hurtful in their consequences to all plain feelings of unadulterated reason, and singleness of heart: the thought also, that perhaps, could the interpretation of these texts come to be settled either way, some portion of those heart-burnings and controversies with which the world so often frets and is on fire, might be done away, was enough to have inflamed the ardour of one who might have much more reason to expect an opportunity of taking part in matters of importance than I could pretend to. I was in a situation not unfavourable for such an investigation. Many who might wish to satisfy their doubts in the same way in which I had sought to get rid of my own, might have no opportunity of so doing: at any rate an extensive search (and I knew that when the search is once begun, it is difficult to know how to stop) must be a work of no small time and labour. From these reasons I was emboldened to determine upon laying my collections before the public.
I may now mention distinctly, once for all, the proper object of these letters, and where alone I look that they should be thought of service. For though I have taken the liberty of inscribing them with your name, I cannot flatter myself, that to you, Sir, they can be in any way necessary:
But if a person, after being made acquainted with your rule, and having for some time borne it in mind during his readings in different Greek writers, should still feel some lingering doubts, in consequence of long es