of the Bible.

Old Testament, Part 2.


Old Testament, Part 2.

Hebrew Poetry of the Old Testament



Book of Proverbs.



Also known as the Book of Sirach.

Canticle of Canticles.

Book of Wisdom.

Prophecy, Prophet, and Prophetess.





Book of Daniel.






Book of Micheas.


Habacuc (Habakkuk).

Sophonias (Zephaniah).

Aggeus (Haggai).


Malachias (Malachi).


Canon of the Old Testament.



Hebrew Poetry of the Old Testament.

Since the Bible is divinely inspired, and thus becomes the "written word" of God, many devout souls are averse from handling it as literature. But such a view tends to lose sight of the second causes and human constituents with which, in fact, Holy Scripture has been given to us. The Bible, as a concrete whole, is something definite in make, origin, time, and circumstances, all of which must be taken into account if we desire to reach its true meaning. It is history and it is literature; it lies open consequently to investigation under these lights, and if we neglect them, misconceptions will follow.

The fact that spiritual or supernatural influences have molded phenomena does not withdraw from scientific inquiries anything which is properly amenable to them. "God speaks to mankind," said medieval Jewish commentators, "in the language of the children of men." While this observation justifies verbal criticism, it also points out the way to it. Literature demands a special study; and Hebrew literature, because it is sacred, all the more, inasmuch as the outcome of misunderstandings in regard to it has ever been disaster.

No one can read attentively the poorest version of the Old Testament without feeling how strong a vein of poetry runs through its pages. We need not venture on a definition of what poetry means; it is a peculiar form of imagination and expression which bears witness to itself. Ernest Hello called verse "that rare splendor, born of music and the word"; now assuredly in writings such as many of the Psalms, in the Prophets, the Book of Job, and Proverbs we recognize its presence. On the other hand, from the great collection of documents which we term Chronicles (Paralipomena), Ezra, and Nehemias, this quality is almost entirely absent; matter and style announce that we are dealing with prose. We open the Hebrew Bible, and we find our judgment confirmed by the editors of the Massora — the received and vocalized text. Conspicuously, where the title indicates "songs" (shirim, Ex. 15:1; Num. 21:17), the lines are parted into verse; for instance, Deut. 32, Judges 5, II Kings xxii. But more. As Ginsburg tells us, "In the best M.S.S. the lines are poetically divided and arranged in hemistichs" throughout the Psalter, Proverbs, and Job. And the Synagogue enjoined this.

Yet again, the punctuation by the period (soph pasuk), which marks a complete statement, coincides with a rhythmical pause in nearly all such passages, demonstrating that the ancient redactors between 200 and 600 A.D. agreed as to sense and sound with the moderns who take the same citations for poetry. So emphatic indeed is this impression that, however we print either text or rendering, the disjecta membra poetae will be always visible. Hebrew forms of verse have been much disputed over; but the combination of a lively picturesque meaning with a definite measure is beyond denial in the places alleged. Such are the "Songs of Sion" (Ps. 137:3).

Historians knew and felt this from earliest times. Josephus describes the Hebrew poets as writing in "hexameter" (Antiq. ii, xvi); Blessed Jerome speaks of their "hexameters and pentameters"; while in his own translations he has constantly succeeded in a happy rhythm, not, however, giving verse for verse. He is markedly solemn and musical in the Latin of the Book of Job. The English A.V. abounds in magnificent effects of a similar kind. Given, in short, the original structure, it would be almost impossible not in some degree to reproduce it, even in our Western versions.

But on what system was the poetry of the Old Testament composed? Rabbi Kimchi and Eben Ezra had caught sight of an arrangement which they termed kaful, or doubling of enunciation. But to bring this out as a principle was reserved for Bishop R. Lowth, whose lectures "De sacra poesi Hebraeorum" (1741 begun, finally published 1753) became the starting point of all subsequent inquiries. In his Preface to Isaiah (1778, German 1779) he gave fresh illustrations, which led on to Herder's more philosophical handling of the subject (1782-3). Lowth convinced scholars that Hebrew verse moved on the scheme of parallelism, statement revolving upon statement, by antiphon or return, generally in double members, one of which repeated the other with variations of words or some deflection of meaning. Equal measures, more or less identical sense, these were its component parts. Degrees in likeness, and the contrast which attends on likeness, gave rise, said Lowth, to synonymous, antithetic, or synthetic arrangement of members. Modern research inclines to take the mashal or similitude as a primitive norm for Hebrew verse in general; and Prov. 10 is quoted by way of showing the three varieties indicated by Lowth. Evidently, given a double measure, it admits of combinations ever more subtle and involved. We will speak of other developments later. But the prevailing forms were exhibited in Lowth's "Praelections." Other comparisons of this device with similar structures in Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian poetical remains discover its extreme antiquity (see for the first Schrader; for Egypt, W. Max Müller, 1899; and on the whole, C. A. Briggs, "Gen. Introd. to H. Script." 1899).

It might seem fanciful to call the type from which parallelism originates "echo-music," yet nothing is more likely than that the earliest rhythm was a kind of echo, whereby the object of expression became fixed and emphasized. Here we must observe how the logic of feeling, as distinguished from the logic of reasoning, controls the poet's mind. That mind, until a late period, was not individual, but collective; it was the organ of a tribe, a public worship, a national belief; hence, it could shape its ideas only into concrete forms, real yet symbolical; it expressed emotions, not abstractions, and it was altogether concerned with persons, human or superhuman.

Poetry, thus inspired, glances to and fro, is guided by changing moods, darts upon living objects, and describes them from its own center. It is essentially subjective, and a lyrical outcry. It does not argue; it pleads, blames, praises, breaks into cursing or blessing, and is most effective when most excited. To such a temperament repetition becomes a potent weapon, a divine or deadly rhetoric of which the keynote is passion. Its tense is either the present (including the future perceived as though here and now), or a moving past seen while it moves.

Passion and vision — let us take these to be the motive and the method of all such primitive poetry. We may compare II Kings 23:2, David's last words, "The sweet Psalmist of Israel, said 'The spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was on my tongue,'" or Ps. 44:2, "My heart bursts out with a goodly matter, my tongue is the pen of a ready writer"; or Job 32:18, "I am full of words, the spirit within constraineth me"; but especially Num. 24:4, "He hath said, the man who heard the words of God, who saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open." These declarations lead up to impassioned metrical utterances, while they betoken the close relation which unites Hebrew poetry with prophecy. Both alike are a pouring forth of feelings too violent to be held in, aroused by contemplation not of the abstract or the general, but of persons and events, in their living power. To this belongs the idea of recurrence. Curtius observes acutely, "The gradual realization and repetition of an action are regarded by language as nearly akin." (Elucidations, 143, quoted by Driver, "Treatise on the Use of Tenses in Hebrew," 15) The whole being moves as the object impresses it; speech, music, dancing, gesture leap out, as it were, to meet the friend or enemy who draws nigh. The Semites term their religious festivals a "hag," i.e. a dance (Ex. 12:14; 32:5-19; Deut. 16:10-12; and frequently), of which the reminiscence is vividly shown in the whirling motion and repeated acclamations practiced by dervishes among Mohammedans to this day. We may thus connect the lyrical drama out of which in due course the Hebrews developed their temple-liturgy and the Psalms, with Greek dithyrambs, the chorus of the Athenian stage, and the anapaestic strophes danced thereon to a lively musical accompaniment. When past or future is caught up after this manner, made present as though seen, and flung into a series of actions, the singer prophesies. For what else is prophecy than the vision of things absent in space or time, or hidden from common eyes? The state of mind corresponding is "trance" ("deep sleep," Gen. 15:12; Job 4:13; Ezech. 8:1).

The literary form, then, in which primitive religion and law, custom and public life, were embodied, implies a poetic heightening of the ordinary mood, with effects in speech that may fall at length under deliberate rules; but as rules multiply, the spirit either evaporates or is diffused pretty equally over an eloquent prose. That all human language was once poetical appears everywhere probable from researches into folk-lore. That repetition of phrase, epithet, sentiment, came earlier than more elaborate meters cannot well be denied. That religion should cleave to ancient forms while policy, law, and social intercourse move down into the "cool element of prose," we understand without difficulty. Why the mediating style belongs to the historian we can also perceive; and how the "epic of gods" is transformed by slow steps into the chronicle and the reasoned narrative.

It does not seem, indeed, that the Israelites ever possessed a true epic poetry, although their kinfolk, the Babylonians, have left us well-known specimens, e.g. in the Gilgamesh tablets. But this extensive form of Assyrian legend has not been imitated in the Old Testament. G. d'Eichthal, a Catholic, first undertook in his "Texte prim. du premier recit de la Creation" (1875) to show that Genesis, 1 was a poem. The same contention was urged by Bishop Clifford ("Dublin Review," 1882), and C. A. Briggs ventures on resolving this narrative into a five-tone measure. Other critics would perceive in the song of Lamech, in the story of the flood and of Babel, fragments of lost heroic poems. It is common knowledge that the so-called "creation-epic" of Assurbanipal is written in four-line stanzas with a caesura to each line. But of this no feature seems really discernible in the Hebrew Genesis (consult Gunkel, "Genesis," and "Schoepfung und Chaos"). There is no distinct meter except an occasional couplet or quatrain in Gen. 1-10. But Ps. 104, on the wonders of God's works; Ps. 105, 106, on His dealings with Israel; Job 38-42, on the mysteries of nature and Providence; Prov. 8:22-32, on creative wisdom, might have been wrought by genius of a different type into the narrative we define as epical. Why did Israel choose another way? Perhaps because it sought after religion and cared hardly at all for cosmogonies. The imagination of Hebrews looked forward, not into abysses of past time. And mythology was condemned by their belief in monotheism.

Psalms are comprehended under two heads, — "Tehillim," hymns of praise, and "Tephilloth," hymns of prayer, arranged for chanting in the Temple-services. They do not include any very ancient folk-songs; but neither can we look on them as private devotional exercises. Somewhat analogous are the historic blessings and curses, of a very old tradition, attributed to Jacob (Gen. 49) and Moses (Deut. 28:32-33). Popular poetry, not connecting itself with priestly ritual, touches life at moments of crisis and pours out its grief over death. Much of all this Holy Scripture has handed down to us. The Book of Lamentations is founded on the Kinah, the wailing chant improvised by women at funerals in a measure curiously broken, one full verse followed by one deficient, which reminded Blessed Jerome of the pentameter. It seems to be aboriginal among Semites (cf. Amos 5:2; Jer. 48:36; Ezech. 19:1; Ps. 19:8-10). Martial songs, of which Judges 5; Num. 21, Jos. 10; I Kings 18 are specimens, formed the lost "Book of the Wars of the Lord." From another lost roll, the "Book of Jashar," i.e. of the Upright or of Israel, we derive the lament of David over Saul and Jonathan, as well as in substance Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple (II Kings 1:3; III Kings 8:53). However we interpret Canticles, it is certainly a round of wedding-songs and is high poetry; Ps. 45 is an epithalamium of the same character. The song of the vineyard may be added to our list (Is. 5:1). Historically, at all events, the Book of Psalms is late and supposes prophecy to have gone before it.

A second stage, the nearest approach in the Hebrew Testament to philosophy, appears when we reach the gnomic or "wisdom" poetry. Proverbs with its two line antitheses gives us the standard, passing into larger descriptions marked by numerals and ending in the acrostic or alphabetical praise of the "valiant," i.e. the "virtuous" woman. Job takes its place among the great meditative poems of the world like "Hamlet" or "Faust," and is by no means of early date, as was once believed. In form it may be assigned to the same type as Prov. 1-10; but it rises almost to the level of drama with its contrasted speakers and the interposition of Jahweh, which serves to it as a denouement. Notwithstanding its often corrupt text and changes consequent on re-editing at later times, it remains unquestionably the highest achievement of inspired Hebrew verse. Ecclesiastes, with its mingled irony and sadness, falls into a purely didactic style; it has traces of an imperfect lyrical mood, but belongs to the prose of reflection quite as much as Seneca or Marcus Aurelius. The Hebrew text of Ben Sira, thus far recovered, is of a loftier kind, or even a prelude to the New Testament.

As regards the Prophets, we can scarcely doubt that oracles were uttered in verse at Shiloh and other ancient shrines, just as at Delphi; or that inspired men and women threw their announcements commonly into that shape for repetition by their disciples, to whom they came as the "word of the Lord." To prophesy was to sing accompanied by an instrument (IV Kings 3:15). The prophetic records, as we now have them, were made up from comparatively brief poems, declaring the mind of Jahweh in messages, "burdens," to those whom the seer admonished. In Amos, Osee, Micheas, Isaias, the original chants may still be separated and the process of joining them together is comparatively slight.

Prophecy at first was preaching; but as it became literature, its forms passed out of verse (which it always handled somewhat freely) into prose. The Book of Ezechiel, though abounding in symbol and imagery, cannot be deemed a poem. Yet from the nature of their mission, the Prophets appealed to that in man's composition, which transcends the finite, and their works constantly lift us to the regions of poetic idealism, however fluctuating the style between a strict or a looser measure of time. Divine oracles given as such fall into verse; expanded or commented on, they flow over into a less regular movement and become a sort of rhythmical prose. Our Latin and English translations often render this effect admirably; but attentive readers will note in the English A. V. many uncon96scious blank verses, sometimes the five foot iambic, and occasionally classic hexameters, e.g. "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" (Is. 14:12). There is likewise in Hebrew a recognized poetical vocabulary, though some critics deny it, and the grammar keeps a few archaic forms. We can distinguish popular unwritten prophecy as lasting from unknown periods down to Amos. From Amos to Esdras the prophets all write still under poetic influences, but their singing has declined into metaphor. The rhapsodists (moshelim) give place more and more to the rabbim. We hear the last echoes of Hebrew sacred poetry in St. Luke's Gospel; for the "Benedictus," the "Magnificat," the "Nunc Dimittis," though in Greek, are songs of Israel, molded on Old Testament reminiscences.

Now we come into a debatable land, where critics dispute endlessly over the essence and make of Biblical versification, beyond the lines drawn by Lowth. What metrical system does Hebrew follow? Take the single line; does it move by quantity, as Latin and Greek, or by accent, as English? If by accent, how is that managed? Should we reckon to each kind of verse a definite number of syllables, or allow an indefinite? Since no Jewish "Poetics" have been preserved from any age of the Bible, we have only the text itself upon which to set up our theories. But if we consider how many fragments of divers periods enter into this literature, and how all alike have been passed through the mill of a late uncritical recension, — we mean the Massora — can we suppose that in every case, or even in general, we enjoy so much evidence as is required for a solid judgment on this matter?

Infinite conjecture is not science. One result of which we may be certain is that Hebrew verse never proceeded by quantity; in this sense it has no metre. A second is that the poetical phrase, be it long or short, is governed by tone or stress, rising and falling naturally with the speaker's emotion. A third would grant in the more antique forms a freedom which the development of schools and the fixedness of liturgy could not but restrain as years went on. At all times, it has been well said by W. Max Müller, "the lost melody was the main thing"; but how little we do know of Hebrew music? Under these complicated difficulties to fix a scale for the lines of verse, beyond the rhythm of passionate utterance, can scarcely be attempted with success.

G. Bickell, from 1879 onwards, undertook in many volumes to reduce the anarchy of Old Testament scansion by applying to it the rules of Syriac, chiefly as found in St. Ephrem. He made the penultimate tonic for syllables, counted them regularly, and held all lines of even syllables to be trochaic, of uneven iambic. On such a Procrustean bed the text was tortured into uniformity, not without ever so many changes in word and sense, while the traditional readings were swept aside though supported by the versions (see his "Metrices biblicae regulae exemplis illustratae," 1879, "Carmina Vet. Test. metrice," 1882; Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs). This dealing, at once arbitrary and fanciful, leaves us with so uncertain a text that our problem is utterly transformed, and the outcome is skepticism. Yet Bickell has indicated the true poetic measure by his theory of main accents, such as travelers note in the modern songs of Palestine. Julius Ley constructs a system on the tone-syllable which, preceded by unaccented syllables and followed by one that has "a dying fall," constitutes the meter. His unit is the verse formed by parallel lines; he admits the caesura; with regard to text and vocalization he is conservative ("Grundzüge d. Rhythmus, d. Vers. u. Strophenbau in d. hebr. Poesie," 1875; "Leitfaden d. Metrik der heb. Poesie," 1887). A third writer, Grimme, while not discarding the received vowel-signs, gives them a new value, and combines quantity with accent. Probably, our conclusion should be that none of these ingenious theories will explain all the facts; and that we had better let the text alone, marking only where it seems to be corrupt.

Another amusement of Hebrew scholars has been the discovery and delimitation of "strophes" (Koester, 1831), or of larger units embracing several verses. Bickell and many recent critics allow the four-line combination. Anything more is very doubtful. In Ps. 42:and elsewhere, a sort of refrain occurs, which corresponds to the people's answer in Catholic litanies; but this does not enter into the verse-structure itself. C. A. Briggs, who clings resolutely to the idea of complex Hebrew meter, extravagates on the subject, by taking the "whole of sense" for a rhythmical whole. We must obey the plain law of parallelism, and allow a three-line arrangement where the words themselves demand it. But much of what is now written concerning the hidden links of Old Testament poetry is like the Cabbala, perversely and needlessly wrong.

The lamentation verse lends itself to strophe; and beginnings of it may well exist, provided we do not assimilate this hard and severe language to the gracious flexures which were native in Hellenic composition. There is a species of "canon" or fugue in the fifteen chants called "Songs of Ascent" — our "Gradual" Psalms — an ambiguous title referring perhaps to this feature as well as to the pilgrim journey they denoted. Various poems and especially the great Ps. 118 (Hebrew 119) are arranged alphabetically; so the Book of Lamentations; Prov. 31; Ecclus. 51:13-29. In Talmudic and Rabbinical writings the Psalms 113-118 (Hebrew) are taken as one composition and known as the "Hallel of Egypt," intended to be sung on the feast of Hanukkah or of Machabees (I Mach. 4:59). Ps. 136, Hebrew (Vulgate 135) "Confitemini Domino," is the "Great Hallel," and Ps. 146-148 make up another collection of these "Alleluia" hymns.

In Hebrew poetry when rhymes occur they are accidental; alliteration, assonance, word-play belong to it. We find in it everywhere vehemence of feeling, energetic and abrupt expression, sudden changes of tense, person, and figure, sometimes bordering on the grotesque from a Western point of view. It reveals a fine sense of landscape and abhors the personification familiar to Greeks, whereby things lower than man were deified. In sentiment it is by turns sublime, tender, and exceedingly bitter, full of a yearning after righteousness, which often puts on the garb of hatred and vengeance. "From Nature to God and from God to Nature" has been given by Hebrews themselves as the philosophy which underlies its manifestations. It glorifies the Lord of Israel in His counsels and His deeds. In prophecy it judges; in psalmody it prays; in lamentation it meditates on the sufferings which from of old the chosen people have undergone. Though it composes neither an epic nor a tragedy, it is the voice of a nation that has counted its heroes in every age, and that has lived through vicissitudes unequalled in pathos, in terror, in a never defeated hope. By all these elements Hebrew poetry is human; by something more mysterious, but no less real, breathed into its music from on high, it becomes divine.



One of the books of the Old Testament, and the chief personage in it. In this article it is primarily the book which is treated. As opportunity, however, occurs, and so far as is permissible, Job himself will be considered. We will discuss the subject under the following heads:

    1. I. Position of the Book in the Canon;
    2. II. Authority;
    3. III. The Characters of the Poem;
    4. IV. Contents;
    5. V. Arrangement of the Main, Poetic Portion of the Book;
    6. VI. Design of the Book;
    7. VII. Teaching as to the Future Life;
    8. VIII. Integrity of the Book;
    9. IX. Condition of the Text;
    10. X. Technical Skill of the Author and the Meter;
    11. XI. Time of its Composition.

Position of the Book in the Canon.

In the Hebrew Bible Psalms, Proverbs, and Job are always placed together, the Psalms coming first, while Job is put between the other two or, at times, comes last. The three books form a part of the Hagiographa (Kethubim), having sometimes the first place among the Hagiographa, while again they may be preceded by Ruth, or Paralipomenon, or Paralipomen with, Ruth (cf. lists in Ginsburg, "Introduction to Heb. Bible," London, 1897, 7). In the Greek Bible and the Vulgate Job now stands before Psalms and follows directly after the historical books. The old Greek and the Latin MSS. however, assign it the most varied positions; see, for example, the list of Melito of Sardis, and that of Origen as given by Eusebius, "Hist. Eccle." 4:iv, 26, and 6:25 (in P.G. XX. 398, 582). In the Syriac Bible Job is placed directly after the Pentateuch and before Josue (cf. the lists in Hodius, "De Bibliorum textibus," Oxford, 1705, 644 sqq.; Samuel Berger, "Hist. de la Vulgate," Paris, 1893, 331-39).

Historical Accuracy.

Many wrongly look upon the entire contents of the book as a freely invented parable, which is neither historical nor intended to be considered historical; contending that no such man as Job ever lived. Christian commentators, however, almost without exception, hold Job to have actually existed and his personality to have been preserved by popular tradition. Nothing in the text makes it necessary to doubt his historical existence. The Scriptures seem repeatedly to take this for granted (cf. Ezech. 14:14; James, 5:I 1; Tob. 2:12-15, according to the Vulgate — in the Greek text of Tobias there is no mention of Job). All the Fathers considered Job an historical person; some of their testimonies may be found in Knabenbauer, "Zu Job" (Paris, 1886), 12-13. The Martyrology of the Latin Church mentions Job on 10 May, that of the Greek Church on 6 May (cf. Acta SS. 2, May 494). The Book of Job, therefore, has a kernel of fact, with which have been united many imaginative additions that are not strictly historical. What the poet relates in the prose prologue and epilogue is in the main historical: the persons of the hero and his friends; the region where be lived; his good fortune and virtues; the great misfortune that overwhelmed him and the patience with which lie bore it; the restoration of his Prosperity. We also accept that Job and his friends discussed the origin of his sufferings, and that in so doing views were expressed similar to those the poet puts into the mouths of his characters. The details of the execution, the poetic form, and the art shown in the arrangement of the arguments in the dispute are, however, the free creation of the author. The figures expressive of the wealth of Job both before and after his trial are rounded. Also in the narrative of the misfortunes it is impossible not to recognize a poetic conception which need not be considered as strictly historical. The scene in heaven (1:6; 2:1) is plainly an allegory which shows that the Providence of God guides the destiny of man. The manifestation of God (38:1) generally receives a literal interpretation from commentators. St. Thomas, however, remarks that it may also be taken metaphorically as an inner revelation accorded to Job.

Divine Authority of the Book.

The Church teaches that the book was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Thus all that its author gives as historical fact or otherwise guarantees possesses unfailing Divine truth. The question, however, arises, what does the book guarantee? (a) Everything in prologue or epilogue that is the comment of the author is Divine truth; nevertheless, what is perhaps poetic ornament must not be confounded with historical verity or objective dogmatic precepts. The same authority is possessed by the utterances assigned by the poet to God. The like is true of the speeches of Eliu. Some think the speeches of Eliu are to be judged just as are those of Job and his friends. (b) The speeches of Job and his three friends have in themselves no Divine authority, but only such human importance as Job and his three friends are Personally entitled to. They have, however, Divine authority when, and in as far as, they are approved by the author expressly or tacitly. In general, such tacit approbation is to be understood for all points concerning which the disputants agree, unless the author, or God, or Eliu, shows disapproval. Thus the words of Job have in large degree Divine authority, because the view he maintains against the three friends is plainly characterized by the author as the one relatively correct. Yet much that the three friends say is of equal importance, because it is at least tacitly approved. St. Paul argues (I Cor. 3:19) from a speech of Eliphaz (Job 5:13) as from an inspired writing.

The Characters of the Poem.

Apart from the prologue and epilogue, the Book of Job consists of a succession of speeches assigned to distinct persons. There are six speakers: Yahweh, Eliu, Job, and Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Baldad, and Sophar.


The chief personage is Job.

(a) Name

He is called the "persecuted one," that is, the one tempted by (personified) suffering, the one hard beset, the patient sufferer.

(b) Age in which Job lived

According to the well-founded common assumption, Job lived long before Moses. The great age he attained shows this. He was no longer young when overtaken by his great misfortune (12:12; 30:1); after his restoration he lived one hundred and forty years longer (42:16). His wealth, like that of the Patriarchs, consisted largely in flocks and herds (1:3; 42:12). The kesitah or piece of money mentioned in 42:11, belongs to patriarchal times; the only other places in which the expression occurs are Gen. 33:19, and Jos. 24:32. The musical instruments referred to (21:12; 30:31) are only those mentioned in Genesis (Gen. 4:21; 31:27): organ, harp, and timbrel. Job himself offers sacrifice as the father of the family (1:5), as was also the custom of the Patriarchs. An actual offering for sin in the Mosaic sense he was not acquainted with; the holocaust took its place (1:5; 42:8).

(c) Religion of Job

Job evidently did not belong to the chosen people. He lived, indeed, outside of Palestine. He and the other characters betray no knowledge of the specifically Israelitic institutions. Even the name of God peculiar to the chosen people, Yahweh, is carefully avoided by the speakers in the poetic part of the book, and is only found, as if accidentally, in 12:9, and according to some MSS. in 28:28. The sacrifice in 42:8, recalls the sacrifice of Balaam (Num. 23:1), consequently a custom outside of Israel. For the solution of the problem of suffering the revelations made to the Patriarchs or even Moses are never referred to. Nevertheless Job and his friends venerated the one true God. They also knew of the Flood (22:16), and the first man (15:7, and Hebrew, 31:33).

(d) Country in which Job lived

Job belonged to the "people of the East" (1:3). Under this name were included the Arabian (Gen. 25:6) and Aramaean (Num. 33:7) tribes which lived east of the Jordan basin and in the region of the Euphrates (Gen. 29:1). Job seems to have been an Aramaean, for he lived in the land of Hus (1:I; Ausitis). Hus, a man's name in Genesis, is always used there in close connection with Aram and the Aramaean (Gen. 10:23; 22:21; 36:28). His home was certainly not far from Edom where Eliphaz lived, and it must be sought in Eastern Palestine, not too far north, although in the region inhabited by the Aramaeans. It was located on the border of the Syro-Arabian desert, for it was exposed to the attacks of the marauding bands which wandered through this desert: the Chaldeans (1:17) of the lower Euphrates and the Sabeans (1:15), or Arabs. Many. following an old tradition, place the home of Job in the Hauran, in the district of Naiwa (or Neve), which is situated about 36° East of Greenwich and in almost the same latitude as the northern end of Lake Genesareth. The location is possible, but positive proof is lacking. Some seek the home of Job in Idumea, others in the land of the Ausitai, who, according to Ptolemy (Geogr. 5, 19, par. 18, 2), lived in Northern Arabia near the Babylon. The land of Hus is also mentioned in Jer. 25:20, and Lam. 4:21. In the first reference it is used in a general sense for the whole East; in the latter it is said that the Edomites live there.

(e) The Standing of Job

Job was one of the most important men of the land (1:3; 29:25) and had many bondsmen (31:39). The same is true of the friends who visited him; in the Book of Tobias these are called "kings" (Tob. 2:15, in Vulgate). In the Book of Job also Job seems to be described as a king with many vassals under him (29). That he had brothers and relations is seen in 19 and in the epilogue.

(f) Job and Jobab

An appendix to the Book of Job in the Septuagint identifies Job with King Jobab of Edom (Gen. 36:33). Nothing in the book shows that Job was ruler of Edom; in Hebrew the two names have nothing in common.

Eliphaz, Baldad and Sophar.

The most important of Job's three friends was Eliphaz of Theman. The name shows him to be an Edomite (Gen. 36:11, 15). The Themanites of Edom were famous for their wisdom (Jer. 49:7; Abd. S; Bar. 3:22 sq.). Eliphaz was one of these sages (15:9). He was far advanced in years (15:10), and much older than the already elderly Job (30:1). The second of Job's friends was Baidad the Suhite, who seems to have belonged to Northern Arabia, for Sue was a son of Abraham by Cetura (Gen. 25:2, 6). He may have been of the same age as Job. The third friend, Sophar, was probably also an Arabian. The Hebrew text calls him a Naamathite. Naama was a small town in the territory belonging to Juda (Jos. 15:41), but Sophar hardly lived there. Perhaps the preferable reading is that of the Septuagint which calls Sophar always a Minaean; the Minaeans were an Arabian tribe. Sophar was far younger than Job (cf. Job's reply to Sophar, 12:11-12; 13:1-2).


Like Job, Eliu the Buzite was an Aramean; at least this is indicated by his native country, Buz, for Buz is closely connected (Gen. 22:21) with Hus. Eliu was much younger than Sophar (32:6).

Besides the speakers a large number of listeners were present at the discussion (34:2, 34); some maintained a neutral position, as did Eliu at first.


The Book of Job consists of (1) a prologue in prose (1-2), (2) a poetic, main division (3-42, 6), and (3) an epilogue also in prose (42:7-17).

(1) The prologue narrates how, with the permission of God, a holy man Job is tried by Satan with severe afflictions, in order to test his virtue. In succession Job bears six great temptations with heroic patience, and without the slightest murmuring against God or wavering in loyalty to him. Then Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Baldad, and Sophar, come to console him. Their visit is to become the seventh and greatest trial.

(2) The poetical, main division of the book presents in a succession of speeches the course of this temptation. The three friends are fully convinced that trouble is always a result of wrongdoing. They consider Job, therefore, a great sinner and stigmatize his assertions of innocence as hypocrisy. Job is hurt by the suspicion of his friends. He protests that he is no evil-doer, that God punishes him against his deserts.

In the course of his speech he fails in reverence towards God, Who appears to him not unrighteous, but more as a severe, hard, and somewhat inconsiderate ruler than as a kind Father. Taking into consideration that the language is poetic, it is true that his expressions cannot be pushed too far, but the sharp reproofs of Eliu (34:1-9, 36-37; 35:16) and of Yahweh (38:2; 40:3-9) leave no doubt of his sin. In answering his friends Job emphasizes that God indeed is accustomed to reward virtue and to punish wickedness (27:7-23; 31). He even threatens his friends with the judgment of God on account of their unfriendly suspicion (6:14; 13:7-12; 17, 4; 19:29). He rightly proves, however violently, that in this world the rule has many exceptions. Almost universally, he says, the wicked triumph and the innocent suffer (9:22-24, 21, 24).

Yet for all this Job, like his friends, regards all suffering as a punishment for personal sins, although he does not, as his friends, consider it a punishment of gross sin. Job looks upon the sufferings of the righteous as an almost unjust severity of God, which he inflicts for the slightest mistakes, and which the most virtuous man cannot escape (7:21; 9:30-21; 10:6, 13-14). The expressions of depression and irreverence uttered by Job are which human beings can never fully avoid. Job himself says that his words are not to be taken too exactly, they are almost the involuntary expression of his pain (6:2-10, 26-27) Many of his utterances the character of temptations in thought which force themselves out almost against the will, rather than of voluntary irreverence towards God, although Job's error was greater than he was willing to acknowledge.

Thus Job bore all the tests triumphantly, even those caused by his friends. No matter how terrible the persecutions of God might be, Job held fast to Him (6:8-10) and drew ever closer to Him (17:9). In the midst of his sufferings he lauds God's power (26:5-14) and wisdom (28). Satan, who had boasted that he could lead Job into sin against God (1:11; 2:5), is discredited. The epilogue testifies expressly to Job's faithfulness (42:7-9). After much discourse (3-22) Job finally succeeds in silencing the three friends, although he is not able to convince them of his innocence. In a series of monologues (23-31), interrupted only by a short speech by Baldad (25), he once more renews his complaints (23-24), extols the greatness of God (26-28), and closes with a forcible appeal to the Almighty to, examine his case and to recognize his innocence (29-31).

At this juncture Eliu, a youth who was one of the company of listeners, is filled by God with the spirit of prophecy (32:18-22; 36:2-4). In a long discourse he solves the problem of suffering, which Job and his friends had failed to explain. He says that suffering, whether severe or light, is not always a result of sin; it is a means by which God tries and promotes virtue (36:1-21), and is thus a proof of God's love for his friends. The sufferings of Job are also such a testing (36:16-21). At the same time Eliu emphasizes the fact that the dispensations of God remain inexplicable and mysterious (36:22; 37:24). Yahweh speaks at the end (38-42:6). He confirms the statements of Eliu, carrying further Eliu's last thought of the inexplicability of the Divine decrees and works by a reference to the wonder of animate and inanimate nature. Job is severely rebuked on account of his irreverence; he confesses briefly his guilt and promises amendment in the future.

(3) In the epilogue Yahweh bears witness in a striking manner to the innocence of His servant, that is to Job's freedom from gross transgression. The three friends are commanded to obtain Job's intercession, otherwise they will be severely punished for their uncharitable complaints against the pious sufferer. Yahweh forgives the three at the entreaty of Job, who is restored to double his former prosperity.

In his lectures on "Babel und Bibel" Delitzsch says that the Book of Job expresses doubt, in language that borders on blasphemy, of even the existence of a just the God. These attacks arise from an extreme view of expressions of despondency. Further, the assertions often heard of late that the book contains many mythological ideas prove to be mere imagination.

Arrangement of the Main, Poetic Portion of the Book.

(1) The poetic portion of the book may be divided into two sections: chs. 3-22 and 23-42:6. The first section consists of colloquies: the three friends in turn express their views, while to each speech Job makes a rejoinder. In the second section the three friends are silent, for Baldad's interposition (25) is as little a formal discourse as Job's brief comments (39:34-35 and 42:2-6). Job, Eliu, and Yahweh speak successively, and each utters a series of monologues. The length of the two sections is exactly, or almost exactly, the same, namely 510 lines each (cf. Hontheim "Das Buch Job," Freiburg im Br. 1904, 44). The second division begins with the words: "Now also my words are in bitterness" (23:2; A.V.: "Even to-day is my complaint bitter"). This shows not only that with these words a new section opens, but also that the monologues were not uttered on the same day as the colloquies. The first monologue is evidently the opening of a new section, not a rejoinder to the previous speech of Eliphaz (22).

(2) The colloquies are divided into two series: chs. 3-14 and 15-22. In each series Eliphaz, Baldad, and Sophar speak in turn in the order given (4-5, 8, 11, and 15, 18, 20), while Job replies to each of their discourses (6-7, 9-10, 12-14, 16-17, 19, 21). The first series, furthermore, opens with a lament from Job (3), and the second closes with a speech by Eliphaz in which he weakly reproaches Job (22 — it is generally held that this chapter begins a new series), who rightly leaves this address unanswered.

Each series contains seven speeches. In the first the friends try to convince Job of his guilt and of the necessity and good results of amendment. Eliphaz appeals to Revelation (4:12-21), Baldad to the authority of the Fathers 8-10), Sophar to understanding or philosophy (11:5-12). Eliphaz lays weight on the goodness of God (5:9-27), Baldad on His justice (8:2-7), Sophar on His all-seeing power and wisdom, to which Job's most secret sins were plain, even those which Job himself had almost forgotten (11:5-12). In the second series of speeches the friends try to terrify Job: one after the other, and in much the same form of address, they point out the terrible punishment which overtakes hidden sin. During the first series of speeches Job's despondency continually increases, even the thought of the future bringing him no comfort (14:7-22); in the second series the change to improvement has begun, and Job once more feels joy and hope in the thought of God and the future life (16:18-22; 19:23-28).

(3) The monologues may also be divided into two series. The first includes the monologues of Job, seven in number. First Job repeats his complaint to God (23-24), but also asserts in three speeches his unchangeable devotion to God by lauding in brilliant discourse the power (26), justice (27), and wisdom (28) of the Almighty. Finally in three further speeches be lays his case before God, imploring investigation and recognition of his innocence: How happy was I once (29), how unhappy am I now (30), and I am not to blame for this change (31). The second series contains the discourses of Eliu and Yahweh, also seven in number. In three speeches Eliu explains the sufferings which befall men. Trouble is often a Divine instruction, a warning to the godless to reform (32-33:30), thus revealing the goodness of God; it is often simply a punishment of the wicked who are perhaps in no way bettered by it (33:31-35), thus revealing the justice of God.

(4) Finally, troubles can also overtake the just as a trial which purifies and increases their virtue (36-37), thus revealing God's unfathomable wisdom. The following four utterances of Yahweh illustrate the inscrutableness, already touched upon by Eliu, of the Divine wisdom by dwelling upon the wonders of inanimate nature (38:1-38), of the animal world (38:39), and especially by referring to the great monsters of the animal world, the hippopotamus and the crocodile (40:10-41). He then closes with a rebuke to Job for expressing himself too despondently and irreverently concerning his sufferings, upon which Job confesses his guilt and promises amendment (39:31-40, 9 and 42:1-6); it appears that 39:31-40: 9, should be inserted after 41.

Design of the Book.

The Book of Job is intended to give instruction. What it lays special stress on is that God's wisdom and Providence guide all the events of this world (cf. 28, 38). The main subject of investigation is the problem of evil and its relation to the Providence of God; particularly considered is the suffering of the upright in its bearing on the ends intended in the government of the world. The Book of Job is further intended for edification, for Job is to us an example of patience. It is, finally, a book of consolation for all sufferers. They learn from it that misfortune is not a sign of hatred, but often a proof of special Divine love. For the mystical explanation of the book, especially of Job as a type of Christ, cf. Knabenbauer, "In Job" 28-32.

Teaching as to the Future Life.

In his sufferings Job abandoned all hope for the restoration of health and good fortune in this world (17:11-16; xxi). If he were to continue to hold to the hope of reward here Satan would not be defeated. In the complete failure of all his earthly hopes, Job fastens his gaze upon the future. In the argument of the first series of speeches Job in his depression regards the future world only as the end of the present existence. The soul indeed lives on, but all ties with the present world so dear to us are forever broken. Death is not only the end of all earthly suffering (2:13-19), but also of all earthly life (7:6-10), and all earthly joys (10:21-22), with no hope of a return to this world (14:7-22). It is not until the second series that Job's thoughts on the future life grow more hopeful. However, he expects as little as in the first discussion a renewal of the life here, but hopes for a higher life in the next world. As early as chapter xvi (19-22) his hope in the recognition of his virtue in the next world is strengthened. It is, however, in xix (23-28) that Job's inspired hope rises to its greatest height and he utters his famous declaration of the resurrection of the body. Notwithstanding this joyous glimpse into the future, the difficult problem of the present life still remained: "Even for this life how can the wisdom and goodness of God be so hard towards His servants?" Of this the complete solution, so far as such was possible and was included in the plan of the book, does not appear until the discourses of Eliu and Yahweh are given. Great efforts have been made by critics to alter the interpretation of ch. 19:and to remove from it the resurrection of the body; the natural meaning of the words, the argument of the book, and the opinion of all early commentators make this attempt of no avail (cf. commentaries, as those of Knabenbauer, Hontheim, etc.; also the article “Eine neue Uebersetzung von Job 19:25-27” in the “Zeitschrift fьr kath. Theologie," 1907, 376 sqq.).

Integrity of the Book.

Prologue and epilogue (1-2; 42:7 sqq.) are regarded by many as not parts of the original work. The prologue, though, is absolutely essential. Without it the colloquies would be unintelligible, nor would the reader know in the end whether to believe the assertion of Job as to his innocence or not. Upon hearing the rebukes of Eliu and Yahweh, he might be exposed to the danger of siding against Job. Without the epilogue the close of the work would be unsatisfactory, an evident humiliation of the righteous.

(2) Many also regard ch. 27:7-23, as a later addition; in this passage Job maintains that the wicked suffer in this world, while elsewhere he has declared the contrary. The answer is: Job teaches that God is accustomed even in this world to reward the good in some measure and to punish the wicked. In other passages he does not deny this rule, but merely says it has many exceptions. Consequently there is no contradiction. Besides it may be conceded that Job is not always logical. At the beginning, when his depression is extreme, he lays too much emphasis on the prosperity of the godless; gradually he becomes more composed and corrects earlier extreme statements. Not everything that Job says is the doctrine of the book.

(3) Many regard ch. 28 as doubtful, because it has no connection with what goes before or follows and is in no way related to the subject-matter of the book. The answer to this is that the poet has to show how the suffering of Job does not separate him from God, but, against the intent of Satan, drives him into closer dependence on God. Consequently he represents Job, after his complaints (23-25), as glorifying God again at once, as in 26-27, in which Job lauds God's power and righteousness. The praise of God is brought to a climax in 28, where Job extols God's power and righteousness. After Job has thus surrendered himself to God, he can with full confidence, in 29-31, lay his sorrowful condition before God for investigation. Consequently, 28 is in its proper place, connects perfectly with what precedes and follows, and harmonizes with the subject matter of the book.

(4) Many regard the description of hippopotamus and crocodile (40:10-41) as later additions, because they lack connection with 39:31-40:9, belonging rather to the description of animals in 39. In reply it may be said that this objection is not without force. Whoever agrees with the present writer in this opinion need only hold that 39:31-40:9, originally followed 41. The difficulty is then settled, and there is no further reason for considering the splendid description of the two animals as a later insertion.

(5) There is much disagreement as to the speeches of Eliu (32-37). With the exception of Budde, nearly all Protestant commentators regard them as a later insertion, while the great majority of more traditional scholars rightly defend them as belonging to the original work. The details of this discussion cannot be entered upon here, and the reader is referred to the commentaries of Budde and Hontheim. The latter sums up his long investigation in these words: "The section containing the speeches of Eliu has been carefully prepared by the poet and is closely and with artistic correctness connected with the previous and following portions. It is united with the rest of the book by countless allusions and relations. It is dominated by the same ideas as the rest of the poem. It makes use also of the same language and the same method of presentation both in general and in detail. All the peculiarities exhibited by the author of the argumentative speeches are reproduced in the addresses of Eliu. The content of this portion is the saving of the honor of Job and is essential as the solution of the subject of discussion. Consequently there is no reason whatever for assuming that it is an interpolation; everything is clearly against this" (Hontheim, op. cit. 20-39. Cf. also Budde, "Beitruge zur Kritik des Buches Hiob," 1876; Knabenbauer, "In Job"). Anyone who desires to consider the speeches of Eliu as a later addition must hold, by the teaching of the Church, that they are inspired.

(6) There is in general no reason whatever for considering any important part of the book either large or small as not belonging to the original text. Equally baseless is the supposition that important portions of the original composition are lost.

Condition of the Text.

The most important means for judging the Massoretic Text are the old translations made directly from the Hebrew: the Targum, Peshito, Vulgate, Septuagint, and the other Greek translations used by Origen to supplement the Septuagint. with the exception of the Septuagint, the original of all these translations was essentially identical with the Massoretic Text; only unimportant differences can be proved. On the other hand, the Septuagint in the form it had before Origen was about four hundred lines, making it one-fifth shorter than the Massoretic Text is. Origen supplied what was lacking in the Septuagint from the Greek translations and marked the additions by asterisks. Copyists generally omitted these critical signs, and only a remnant of them, mixed with many errors, has been reserved in a few manuscripts. Consequently knowledge of the old form of the Septuagint is very imperfect. The best means now of restoring it is the Copto-Sahidic translation which followed the Septuagint and does not contain Origen's additions. This translation was published by Ciasca, "Sacrorum Bibliorum fragments Copto-Sahidica" (2 vols. Rome, 1889), and by Amelineau in "Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archeology," IX (1893), 409-75. Hatch and Bickell claim that the shorter text of the Septuagint is in general the earlier one, consequently that the present Massoretic Text is an expansion of a shorter original. Nearly all other investigators hold the opposite, that the Septuagint was produced by cutting down an original which varied but little from the Massoretic Text. This was also Bickell's view in earlier years, and is the real state of the case. To avoid repetition and discursive statements, the translators of the Septuagint omitted much, especially where the reading seemed doubtful, translation difficult, the content anthropomorphic, unworthy of Job, or otherwise objectionable. In doing this the translation frequently disregards the fundamental principle of Hebrew poetry, the parallelism of the lines. In brief the critical value of the Septuagint is not great; in almost all instances the Massoretic Text is to be preferred. Taken altogether, the Massoretic has preserved the original form of the consonantal text fairly well, and needs but a moderate amount of critical emendation. The punctuation (vowel signs and accents), it is true, frequently requires correction, for the punctuators did not always lightly understand the often difficult text; at times also words are not properly divided.

Technical Skill of the Author and the Meter.

Chapters 3-42:6, are poetical in form. This part of the book consists of about 1020 lines. The verses, which do not always correspond with the Massoretic verses of our editions, are generally divided into two clauses or lines which are parallel in content. There are also a number of verses, about sixty, of three clauses each, the so-called triplets. It is an unjustifiable violence to the text when a critic by removing one clause changes these triplets into couplets. The verses form the twenty-eight speeches of the book which, as already stated, make four series of seven speeches each. The speeches are divided, not directly into lines, but into strophes. It is most probable that the speeches formed from strophes often, perhaps always follow the law of "choral structure" discovered by Father Zenner. That is, the speeches often or always consist of pairs of strophes, divided by intermediate strophes not in pairs. The two strophes forming a pair are parallel in content and have each the same number of lines. For a further discussion of this subject see Hontheim, op. cit. Investigators are not agreed as to the construction of the line. Some count the syllables, others only the stresses, others again the accented words. It would seem that the last view is the one to be preferred. There are about 2100 lines in the Book of Job, containing generally three, at times two or four, accented words. Besides the commentaries, cf. Gietmann, "Parzival, Faust, Job" (Freiburg im Br. 1887); Baumgartner, "Gesch. d. Weltliteratur," I (Freiburg im Br. 1901), 24 sqq. One peculiarity of the author of Job is his taste for play upon words; for example, ch. xxi contains a continuous double meaning.

Time of Composition.

The author of the book is unknown, neither can the period in which it was written be exactly determined. Many considered the book the work of Job himself or Moses. It is now universally and correctly held that the book is not earlier than the reign of Solomon. On the other hand it is earlier than Ezechiel (Ezech. 14:1 -20). For it is the natural supposition that the latter gained his knowledge of Job from the Book of Job, and not from other, vanished, sources. It is claimed that allusions to Job have also been found in Isaias, Amos, Lamentations, some of the Psalms, and especially Jeremias. Many Catholic investigators even at the present time assign the book to the reign of Solomon; the masterly poetic form points to this brilliant period of Hebrew poetry. The proofs, however, are not very convincing. Others, especially Protestant investigators, assign the work to the period after Solomon. They support this position largely upon religious historical considerations which do not appear to have much force.



The Psalter, or Book of Psalms, is the first book of the "Writings" (Kethubhim or Hagiographa), i.e. of the third section of the printed Hebrew Bible of to-day. In this section of the Hebrew Bible the canonical order of books has varied greatly; whereas in the first and second sections, that is, in the Law and the Prophets, the books have always been in pretty much the same order. The Talmudic list (Baba Bathra 14 b) gives Ruth precedence to Psalms. Blessed Jerome heads the "Writings" with Psalms, in his "Epistola ad Paulinum" (P.L. 22:547); with Job in his "Prologus Galeatus" (P.L. 28:555). Many Masoretic MSS. especially Spanish, begin the "Writings" with Paralipomena or Chronicles. German Massoretic MSS. have led to the order of book in the Kethubhim of the modern Hebrew Bible. The Septuagint puts Psalms first among the Sapiential Books. These latter books, in "Cod. Alexandrinus," belong to the third section and follow the Prophets. The Clementine Vulgate has Psalms and the Sapiential Books in the second section, and after Job. This article will treat the name of the Psalter, its contents, the authors of the Psalms, their canonicity, text, versions, poetic form, poetic beauty, theological value, and liturgical use.


The Book of Psalms has various names in the Hebrew, Septuagint, and Vulgate texts.

A. The Hebrew name is "praises" (from "to praise"); or "book of praises." This latter name was known to Hippolytus, who wrote Hebraioi periegrapsanten biblon Sephra theleim (ed. Lagarde, 188). There is some doubt in regard to the authenticity of this fragment. There can be no doubt, however, in regard to the transliteration Spharthelleim by Origen (P.G. 12:1084); and "sephar tallim, quod interpretatur volumen hymnorum" by Blessed Jerome (P.L. 28:1124). The name "praises" does not indicate the contents of all the Psalms. Only Ps. 144 (145) is entitled "praise." A synonymous name hallel was, in later Jewish ritual, given to four groups of songs of praise, Pss. 104-107, 111-117, 135-136, 146-150 (Vulg. 103-106, 110-116, 136-138, 145-150). Not only these songs of praise, but the entire collection of psalms made up a manual for temple service — a service chiefly of praise; hence the name "Praises" was given to the manual itself.

B. The Septuagint MSS. of the Book of Psalms read either psalmoi, psalms, or psalterion, psalter. The word psalmos is a translation of which occurs in the titles of fifty-seven psalms. Psalmos in classical Greek meant the twang of the strings of a musical instrument; its Hebrew equivalent (from "to trim") means a poem of "trimmed" and measured form. The two words show us that a psalm was a poem of set structure to be sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. The New Testament text uses the names psalmoi (Luke 24:44), biblos psalmon (Luke 20:42; Acts 1:20), and Daveid (Heb. 4:7).

C. The Vulgate follows the Greek text and translates psalmi, liber psalmorum. The Syriac Bible in like manner names the collection Mazmore.


The Book of Psalms contains 150 psalms, divided into five books, together with four doxologies and the titles of most of the psalms.


The printed Hebrew Bible lists 150 psalms. Fewer are given by some Massoretic MSS. The older Septuagint MSS. (Codd. Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus) give 151, but expressly state that the last psalm is not canonical: "This psalm was written by David with his own hand and is outside the number," exothen tou arithmou. The Vulgate follows the numeration of the Septuagint but omits Ps. cli. The differences in the numerations of the Hebrew and Vulgate texts may be seen in the following scheme:

Hebrew Septuagint


















In the course of this article, we shall follow the Hebrew numeration and bracket that of the Septuagint and Vulgate. Each numeration has its defects; neither is preferable to the other. The variance between Massorah and Septuagint texts in this numeration is likely enough due to a gradual neglect of the original poetic form of the Psalms; such neglect was occasioned by liturgical uses and carelessness of copyists.

It is admitted by all that Pss. ix and x were originally a single acrostic poem; they have been wrongly separated by Massorah, rightly united by the Septuagint and Vulgate. On the other hand Ps. 144 (145) is made up of two songs — verses 1-11 and 12-15. Pss. 42 and 43 (41 and 42) are shown by identity of subject (yearning for the house of Jahweh), of metrical structure and of refrain (cf. Heb. Ps. 42:6, 12; 43:5), to be three strophes of one and the same poem.

The Hebrew text is correct in counting as one Ps. 116 (114 + 115) and Ps. 147 (146 + 148). Later liturgical usage would seem to have split up these and not a few other psalms. Zenner ("Die Chorgesange im Buche der Psalmen," II Freiburg im Br. 1896) ingeniously combines into what he deems were the original choral odes: Pss. 1, 2, 3, 4; 6 + 13 (6 + 12); 9 + 10 (9); 19, 20, 21 (20, 21, 22); 46 + 47 (47 + 48); 49 + 50 (50 + 51); 114 + 115 (113); 148, 149, cl.

A choral ode would seem to have been the original form of Pss. 14 + 15 (13 + 14). The two strophes and the epode are Ps. xiv; the two antistrophes are Ps. lxx (cf. Zenner-Wiesmann, "Die Psalmen nach dem Urtext," Munster, 1906, 305). It is noteworthy that, on the breaking up of the original ode, each portion crept twice into the Psalter: Ps. 14 = 53, Ps. 80 = 40:14-18. Other such duplicated psalms are Ps. 108:2-6 (107) = Ps. 57:8-12 (56); Ps. 108:7-14 (57) = Ps. 60:7-14 (59); Ps. 71, 1-3 (70) = Ps. 31:2-4 (30). Some allow that this loss of the original form of some of the psalms is due to liturgical uses, neglect of copyists, or other causes.


The Psalter is divided into five books. Each book, save the last, ends with a doxology. These liturgical forms differ slightly. All agree that the doxologies at the end of the first three books have nothing to do with the original songs to which they have been appended. Some consider that the fourth doxology was always a part of Ps. 106 (105) (cf. Kirkpatrick, "Psalms," 4 and 5, p. 6343). We prefer, with Zenner-Wiesmann (op. cit. 76) to rate it as a doxology pure and simple. The fifth book has no need of an appended doxology. Ps. cl, whether composed as such or not, serves the purpose of a grand doxology which fittingly brings the whole Psalter to its close.

The five books of the Psalter are made up as follows:

In the Massoretic text, the doxology is immediately followed by an ordinal adjective indicating the number of the succeeding book; not so in the Septuagint and Vulgate. This division of the Psalter into five parts belongs to early Jewish tradition. The Midrash on Ps. i tells us that David gave to the Jews five books of psalms to correspond to the five books of the Law given them by Moses. This tradition was accepted by the early Fathers. Hippolytus, in the doubtful fragment already referred to, calls the Psalter and its five books a second Pentateuch (ed. Lagarde, 193). Blessed Jerome defends the division in his important "Prologus Galeatus" (P.L. 28:553) and in Ep. 140 (P.L. 22:11, 68). Writing to Marcella (P.L. 23:431), he says: "In quinque siquidem volumina psalterium apud Hebraeos divisum est." He, however, contradicts this statement in his letter to Sophronius (P.L. 28:1123): "Nos Hebraeorum auctoritatem secute et maxime apostolorum, qui sempter in Novo Testamento psalmorum librum nominant, unum volumen asserimus."


In the Hebrew Psalter, all the psalms, save thirty-four, have either simple or rather complex titles. The Septuagint and Vulgate supply titles to most of the thirty-four psalms that lack Hebrew titles. These latter, called "orphan psalms" by Jewish tradition, are thus distributed in the five books of the Psalter:

(1) Meaning of Titles.

These titles tell us one or more of five things about the psalms: (a) the author, or, perhaps, collection; (b) the historical occasion of the song; (c) its poetic characteristics; (d) its musical setting; (e) its liturgical use.

(a) Titles indicating the author

Bk. I has four anonymous psalms out of the forty-one (Pss. 1, 2, 10, 33). The other thirty-seven are Davidic. Ps. 10 is part of 9; Ps. 33 is Davidic in the Septuagint; and Pss. 1 and 2 are prefatory to the entire collection. — Bk. II has three anonymous psalms out of the thirty-one (Pss. 43, 46, 71). Of these, eight Pss. 42-49 (41-48) are "of the sons of Korah" (libne qorah); Ps. 1 is "of Asaph"; Pss. 51-72 "of the Director" (lamenaççeah) and Ps. 72 "of Solomon." Ps. 43 (42) is part of 42 (41); Pss. 46 and 47 (65 and 66) and Davidic in the Septuagint and Vulgate. — Bk. III has one Davidic psalm, 86 (85); eleven "of Asaph," 73-83 (72-82); four "of the sons of Korah," 84, 85, 87, 88 (83,84, 86, 87); and one "of Ethan," 89 (88). Ps. lxxxviii is likewise assigned to Heman the Ezrahite. — Bk. IV has two Davidic psalms, 101 and 103 (100 and 102), and one "of Moses." Moreover, the Septuagint assigns to David eight others, Pss. 91, 93-97, 94, 104 (90, 92-96, 98, 103). The remainder are anonymous. — Bk. V has twenty-seven anonymous psalms out of forty-four. Pss. 108-110, 122, 124, 131, 133, 138-145 (107-109, 121, 123, 130, 132, 137-145) are Davidic. Ps. 127 is "of Solomon." The Septuagint and Vulgate assign Ps. 137 (136) David, Pss.146-148 (145-148) to Aggeus and Zacharias.

Besides these title-names of authors and collections which are clear, there are several such names which are doubtful. — Lamenaççeah (; Septuagint, eis to telos; Vulg. in finem; Douai, "unto the end"; Aquila, to nikopoio, "for the victor"; Blessed Jerome, victori; Symmachus, epinikios, "a song of victory"; Theodotion, eis to nikos, "for the victory") now generally interpreted "of the Director." The Pi'el of the root means, in I Par. 15:22, "to be leader" over the basses in liturgical service of song (cf. Oxford Hebrew Dictionary, 664). The title "of the Director" is probably analogous to "of David," "of Asaph," etc. and indicates a "Director's Collection" of Psalms. This collection would seem to have contained 55 of our canonical psalms, whereof 39 were Davidic, 9 Korahite, 5 Asaphic, and 2 anonymous.

Al-Yeduthun, in Pss. 62 and 77 (61 and 76), where the preposition al might lead one to interpret Yeduthun as a musical instrument or a tune. In the title to Ps. 39 (38), "of the Director, of Yeduthun, a song of David," Yeduthun is without al and seems to be the Director (Menaççeah) just spoken of. That David had such a director is clear from I Par. 16:41.

(b) Titles indicating the historical occasion of the song

Thirteen Davidic psalms have such titles. Pss. 7, 18, 34, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 143 (7, 17, 33, 51, 53, 55:, 56, 58, 141) are referred to the time of David's persecution by Saul; Ps. 60 (59) to that of the victories in Mesopotamia and Syria; Ps. 51(l) to his sin; Pss. 3 and 63 (62) to his flight from Absalom.

(c) Titles indicating poetic characteristics of the psalm

Mizmor (; Septuagint, psalmos; Vulg. psalmus; a psalm), a technical word not used outside the titles of the Psalter; meaning a song set to stringed accompaniment. There are 57 psalms, most of them Davidic, with the title Mizmor.

Shir (; Septuagint, ode; Vulg. Canticum; a song), a generic term used 30 times in the titles (12 times together with Mizmor), and often in the text of the Psalms and of other books. In the Psalms (42:9; 69:31; 28:7) the song is generally sacred; elsewhere it is a lyric lay (Gen. 31:27; Is. 30:29), a love poem (Cant. 1:1.1), or a bacchanalian ballad (Is. 24:9; Eccles. 7:5).

Maskil (; Septuagint, synedeos, or eis synesin; Vulg. intellectus or ad intellectum), an obscure form found in the titles of 13 psalms (32:, 42, 44, 45, 52, 55, 74, 78, 88, 89, 144). (a) Gesenius and others explain "a didactic poem," from Hiph'il of (cf. Ps. 32:8; I pr. 28:19); but only Pss. 32 and 78 are didactic Maskilim. (b) Ewald, Riehm and others suggest "a skilful artistic song," from other uses of the cognate verb (cf. II Par. 30:22; Ps. 47:7); Kirkpatrick thinks "a cunning psalm" will do. It is difficult to see that the Maskil is either more artistic or more cunning than the Mizmor. (c) Delitzch and others interpret "a contemplative poem"; Briggs, "a meditation." This interpretation is warranted by the usage of the cognate verb (cf. Is. 41:20; Job 34:27), and is the only one that suits all Maskilim.

Tephillah (; Septuagint, proseuche; Vulg. oratio; a prayer), the title to five psalms, 17, 86, 90, 102, 142 (16, 45, 89, 101, 141). The same word occurs in the conclusion to Bk. II (cf. Ps. 72: 20), "The prayers of David son of Yishai have been ended." Here the Septuagint hymnoi (Vulg. laudes) points to a better reading, "praise."

Tehillah (; Septuagint, ainesis; Vulg. laudatio; "a song of praise"), is the title only of Ps. 145 (144).

Mikhtam (; Septuagint, stelographia or eis stelographian; Vulg. tituli inscriptio or in tituli inscriptionem), an obscure term in the title of six psalms, 16, 54-60x (15, 55-59), always to "of David." Briggs ("Psalms," 1:lx; New York, 1906) with the Rabbis derives this title from "gold." The Mikhtamim are golden songs, "artistic in form and choice in contents."

Shiggayon (; Septuagint merely psalmos; Vulg. psalmus; Aquila, agnonma; Symmachus and Theodotion, hyper agnoias; Blessed Jerome, ignoratio or pro ignoratione), occurs only in the title to Ps. 7. The root of the word means "to wander," "to reel," hence, according to Ewald, Delitzch, and others, the title means a wild dithyrambic ode with a reeling, wandering rhythm.

(d) Titles indicating the musical setting of a psalm (an especially obscure set)

Eight titles may indicate the melody of the psalm by citing the opening words of some well-known song:

Nehiloth (; Septuagint and Theodotion, hyper tes kleronomouses; Aquila, apo klerodosion; Symmachus, hyper klerouchion; Blessed Jerome, super haereditatibus; Vulg. pro ea quae haereditatem consequitur), occurs only in Ps. v. The ancient versions rightly derive the title from "to inherit"; Baethgen ("Die Psalmen," 3rd ed. 1904, p. xxxv) thinks Nehiloth was the first word of some ancient song; most critics translate "with wind instruments" wrong assuming that Nehiloth means flutes (, cf. Is. 30:29).

Al-tashheth [; Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus, peri aphtharsias, except Ps. lxxv, Symmachus, peri aphtharsias; Blessed Jerome, ut non disperdas (David humilem et simplicem); Vulg. ne disperdas or ne corrumpas], in Pss. 57-59, 75 (56-58, 74), meaning "destroy not," may be the beginning of a vintage song referred to in Is. 55:8. Symmachus gives, in title to Ps. 57, peri tou me diaphtheires; and in this wise suggests that originally preceded .

Al-Muth-Labben (; Septuagint, hyper ton kyphion tou yiou; Vulg. pro occultis filii, "concerning the secret sins of the son"; Aquila, hyper akmes tou hiou, "of the youth of the son"; Theodotion, hyper akmes tou hyiou, "concerning the maturity of the son") in Ps. 9, probably means "set to the tune 'Death Whitens'."

Al-ayyeleth hasshahar (; Septuagint, hyper tes antilepseos tes heothines; Vulg. pro susceptione matutina, "for the morning offering"; Aquila, hyper tes elaphou tes orthines; Symmachus, hyper tes boetheias tes orthines, "the help of the morning"; Blessed Jerome, pro cervo matutino), in Ps. 22 (21, very likely means "set to the tune 'The Hind of the Morning'."

Al Shoshannim in Pss. 45 and 69 (44 and 68), Shushan-eduth in Ps. 60 (59), Shoshannim-eduth in Ps. 80 (79) seem to refer to the opening of the same song, "Lilies" or "Lilies of testimony." The preposition is al or el. The Septuagint translates the consonants hyper ton Alloiothesomenon; Vulg. pro iis qui commutabuntur, "for those who shall be changed."

Al Yonath elem rehoqim, in Ps. 56 (55) means "set to 'The dove of the distant terebinth'," or, according to the vowels of Massorah, "set to 'The silent dove of them that are afar'." The Septuagint renders it hyper tou laou tou apo ton hagion memakrymmenou; Vulg. pro populo qui a sanctis longe factus est, "for the folk that are afar from the sanctuary." Baethgen (op. cit. p. 41) explains that the Septuagint understands Israel to be the dove; reads elim for elem, and interprets the word to mean gods or sanctuary.

'Al Mahalath (Ps. 53), Mahalath leannoth (Ps. 88) is transliterated by the Septuagint Maeleth; by Vulg. pro Maeleth. Aquila renders epi choreia, "for the dance"; the same idea is conveyed by Symmachus, Theodotion, Quinta, and Blessed Jerome (pro choro). The word 'Al is proof that the following words indicate some well-known song to the melody of which Pss. 53 and 88 (52 and 87) were sung.

'Al-Haggittith, in titles to Pss. 8, 86, 84 (7, 80, 83). The Septuagint and Symmachus, hyper ton lenon; Vulg. and Blessed Jerome, pro torcularibus, "for the wine-presses." They read gittoth, pl. of gath. The title may mean that these psalms were to be sung to some vintage-melody. The Massoretic title may mean a Gittite instrument (Targ. "the harp brought by David from Gath"), or a Gittite melody. Aquila and Theodotion follow the reading of Masorah and, in Ps. 8 translate the title hyper tes getthitidos; yet this same reading is said by Bellarmine ("Explanatio in Psalmos," Paris, 1889), 1:43) to be meaningless.

One title probably means the kind of musical instrument to be used. Neginoth (; Septuagint, en psalmois, in Ps. 4:en hymnois elsewhere; Vulg. in carminibus; Symmachus, dia psalterion; Blessed Jerome, in psalmis) occurs in Pss. 4, 6, 54, 67, 76 (4, 6, 53, 54, 66, 75). The root of the word means "to play on stringed instruments" (I Kings 16:16-18, 23). The title probably means that these psalms were to be accompanied in cantilation exclusively "with stringed instruments." Ps. 61 (60) has Al Neginath in its title, and was perhaps to be sung with one stringed instrument only.

Two titles seem to refer to pitch. Al-Alamoth (Ps. 46), "set to maidens," i.e. to be sung with a soprano or falsetto voice. The Septuagint renders hyper ton kryphion; Vulg. pro occultis, "for the hidden"; Symmachus, hyper ton aionion, "for the everlasting"; Aquila, epi neanioteton; Blessed Jerome, pro juventutibus, "for youth."

Al-Hassheminith (Pss. 6 and 12), "set to the eighth"; Septuagint, hyper tes ogdoes; Vulg. pro octava. It has been conjectured that "the eighth" means an octave lower, the lower or bass register, in contrast with the upper or soprano register. In I Pr. 15:20-21, Levites are assigned some "with psalteries set to 'Alamoth'" (the upper register), others "with harps set to Sheminith" (the lower register).

(e) Titles indicating the liturgical use of a psalm

Hamma'aloth, in title of Pss. 120-134 (119-133); Septuagint, ode ton anabathmon; Blessed Jerome, canticum graduum, "the song of the steps." The word is used in Ex. 20:26 to denote the steps leading up from the women's to the men's court of the Temple plot. There were fifteen such steps. Some Jewish commentators and Fathers of the Church have taken it that, on each of the fifteen steps, one of these fifteen Gradual Psalms was chanted. Such a theory does not fit in with the content of these psalms; they are not temple-psalms. Another theory, proposed by Gesenius, Delitzsch, and others, refers "the steps" to the stair-like parallelism of the Gradual Psalms. This stair-like parallelism is not found in all the Gradual Psalms; nor is it distinctive of any of them. A third theory is the most probable. Aquila and Symmachus read eis tas anabaseis, "for the goings up"; Theodotion has asma to nanabaseon. These are a Pilgrim Psalter, a collection of pilgrim-songs of those "going up to Jerusalem for the festivals" (I Kings 1:3). Issias tells us the pilgrims went up singing (30:29). The psalms in question would be well suited for pilgrim-song. The phrase "to go up" to Jerusalem (anabainein) seems to refer specially to the pilgrim goings-up (Mark 10:33; Luke 2:42, etc.). This theory is now commonly received. A less likely explanation is that the Gradual Psalms were sung by those "going up" from the Babylonian exile (I Esd. 7:9).

Other liturgical titles are: "For the thank-offering," in Ps. 100 (99); "To bring remembrance," in Pss. 38 and 70 (37-69); "To teach," in Ps. 40 (39); "For the last day or the Feast of Tabernacles," in the Septuagint of Ps. 29 (28), exodiou skenes; Vulg. in consummatione tabernaculi. Psalm 30 (29) is entitled "A Song at the Dedication of the House." The psalm may have been used at the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple, the Encaenia (John 10:22). This feast was instituted by Judas Machabeus (I Mach. 4:59) to commemorate the rededication of the temple after its desecration by Antiochus. Its title shows us that Ps. 92 (91) was to be sung on the Sabbath. The Septuagint entitles Ps. 24 (23) tes mias sabbaton, "for the first day of the week"; Ps. 48 (47) deutera sabbatou, "for the second day of the week"; Ps. 94 (93), tetradi sabbaton, "for the fourth day of the week"; Ps. 93 (92) eis ten hemeran, "for the day before the Sabbath." The Old Latin entitles Ps. 81 (80) quinta sabbati, "the fifth day of the week." The Mishna (Tamid, 7:13) assigns the same psalms for the daily Temple service and tells us that Ps. 82 (81) was for the morning sacrifice of the third day.

Value of the Titles.

Many of the critics have branded these titles as spurious and rejected them as not pertaining to Holy Writ; such critics are de Wette, Cheyne, Olshausen, and Vogel. More recent critical Protestant scholars, such as Briggs, Baethgen, Kirkpatrick, and Fullerton, have followed up the lines of Ewald, Delitzsch, Gesenius, and Koster, and have made much of the titles, so as thereby to learn more and more about the authors, collections, occasions, musical settings, and liturgical purposes of the Psalms.

Christian scholars, while not insisting that the author of the Psalms superscribed the titles thereof, have always considered these titles as an integral part of Holy Writ. St. Thomas (in Ps. 6) assigns the titles to Esdras: "Sciendum est quod tituli ab Esdra facti sunt partim secundum ea quae tune agebantur, et partim secundum ea quae contigerunt." So comprehensive a statement of the case is scarcely to the point; most modern scholars give to the titles a more varied history. Almost all, however, are at one in considering as canonical these at times obscured directions. In this unanimity we carry out Jewish tradition. Pre-Massoretic tradition preserved the titles as Scripture, but lost much of the liturgical and musical meaning, very likely because of changes in the liturgical cantilation of the Psalms. Massoretic tradition has kept carefully whatsoever of the titles it received. It makes the titles to be part of Sacred Scripture, preserving their consonants, vowel-points, and accents with the very same care which is given to the rest of the Jewish Canon.

The Fathers give to the titles that respect and authority which they give to the rest of Scripture. True, the obscurity of the titles often leads the Fathers to mystical and highly fanciful interpretations. St. John Chrysostom ("De Compunctione," 2, 4; P.G. 47, 415) interprets hyper tes ogdoes, "for the eighth day," "the day of rest," "the day of eternity." St. Ambrose (In Lucam, 5:6) sees in this title the same mystical number which he notes in the Eight Beatitudes of St. Matthew, in the eighth day as a fulfilment of our hope, and in eight as a sum of all virtues: "pro octava enim multi inscribuntur psalmi." In this matter of mystical interpretations of the titles, Blessed Augustine is in advance of the generally literal and matter-of-fact Sts. Ambrose and John Chrysostom. Yet when treating the worth and the genuiness of the titles, no Father is more decided and pointed than is Blessed Augustine. To him the titles are inspired Scripture. Commenting on the title to Ps. 51:"of David, when Nathan the Prophet came to him, what time he had gone into Bethsabee," Blessed Augustine (P.L. 36:586) says it is an inspired as is the story of David's fall, told in the Second Book of Kings (11:1-6); "Utraque Scriptura canonica est, utrique sine ulla dubitatione a Christianis fides adhibenda est."

From the agreement we have noted between the titles of Massorah and those of the Septuagint, Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, Blessed Jerome, etc. we see that the titles are older than the Septuagint. They have come down to us, if not from the authors of the Psalms, at least from ancient Jewish tradition, and that, on this account, they may not be called into doubt, unless there be some serious reason against their genuineness. Indeed, the very disagreements which we have noted led us to the same conclusion. By the time the Septuagint was written, the titles must have been exceedingly old; for the tradition of their vocalization was already very much obscured.

Authors of the Psalms. Witness of Tradition.

(1) Jewish tradition is uncertain as to the authors of the Psalms. Baba Bathra (14 f) mentions ten; Pesachim (10) attributes all the Psalms to David.

(2) Christian tradition is alike uncertain. St. Ambrose, "In Ps. 43i and 47" (P.L. 14,923), makes David to be the sole author. St. Augustine, in "De Civitate Dei," 17,14 (P.L. 41,547), thinks that all the Psalms are Davidic and that the names of Aggeus and Zacharias were superscribed by the poet in prophetic spirit. St. Philastrius, Haer. 130 (P.L. 12,1259), brands the opposite opinion as heretical. On the other hand, plurality of authorship was defended by Origen, "In Ps." (P.G. 12,1066); St. Hilary, "In Ps. Procem. 2) (P.L. 9,233); Eusebius, "In Ps. Procem. In Pss. 41, 72" (P.G. 23,74, 368); and many others. Blessed Jerome, "Ad Cyprianum, Epist. 140, 4 (P.L. 22,1169), says that "they err who deem all the psalms are David's and not the work of those whose names are superscribed."

This disagreement, in matter of authorship of the Psalms, is carried from the Fathers to the theologians. Davidic authorship is defended by many Fathers of the Church.

In summary:

Witness of Old Testament.

In the above decision the Biblical Commission has followed not only Jewish and Christian tradition, but Jewish and Christian Scripture as well. The Old Testament witness to the authorship of the Psalms is chiefly the titles. These seem to attribute various psalms, especially of Books I-III, to David, Asaph, the sons of Korah, Solomon, Moses, and others.


The titles of seventy-three psalms in the Massoretic Text and of many more in the Septuagint seem to single out David as author: cf. Pss. 3-41 (3-40), i.e. all of Bk. I save only 10 and 33; Pss. 51-70 (50-69), except 66 and 67, in Bk. II; Ps. 86 (85) of Bk. III; Ps. 103 (102) in Bk. IV; Pss. 108-110, 122, 124, 131, 133, 135-145 (107-109, 121, 123, 130, 134-144) of Bk. V. The Hebrew title is [symbols didn’t transfer. Ed]. It is now generally held that, in this Hebrew word, the preposition le has the force of a genitive, and that the Septuagint tou David "of David," is a better translation than the Vulgate ipsi David, "unto David himself."

Does this preposition mean authorship? Not in every title; else both David and the Director are the authors of Ps. 19 (18), and all the sons of Korah, together with the Director, are joint authors of the psalms attributed to them. In the case of such composite titles as "of the Director, a psalm of David" (Ps. 19), or "of the Director, of the sons of Korah, a psalm" (Ps.48), we probably have indications not of authorship but of various collections of psalms — the collections entitled "David," "the Director," "the sons of Korah." The New Testament and many Fathers of the Church speak of "David," "the Psalter of David," "the Psalms of David," not in truth to imply that all the psalms are David's, but because he was the psalmist par excellence. So likewise the titles of many psalms assign them not so much to their authors as to their collectors or to the chief author of the collection to which they pertain.

On the other hand, some of the longer titles go to show that "of David" may means authorship. Take an instance: "Of the Director, to the tune 'Destroy not', of David, a chosen piece (Mikhtam), when he fled from the face of Saul into the cave" (Ps. 57). The historical occasion of the Davidic composition of the song, the lyric quality of the song, its inclusion in the early collection "of David" and later in the Director's hymnbook, the tune to which the psalm was either written by David or set by the Director — all these things seem to be indicated by the very composite title under consideration. Of a sort with the Davidic titles is the ending subscribed to the first two books of the Psalms: "Amen, Amen; ended are the phrases of David, son of Yishai" (Ps. 72:20). This subscription is more ancient than the Septuagint; it would be altogether out of place were not David the chief author of the psalms of the two books whereto it is appended.

Further Old-Testament evidence of Davidic authorship of the Psalms, as suggested by the Biblical Commission's recent Decree, are David's natural poetic talent, shown in his song and dirges of II Kings and I Par. together with the fact that it was he who instituted the solemn levitical cantilation of psalms in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant (I Par. 16, 23-25). The songs and dirges attributed to David are significantly alike to the Davidic psalms in spirit and style and wording. Let us examine the opening line of II Kings 22:

"And David spoke to Jahweh the words of this song in the day that Jahweh saved him from the grasp of his foes and out of the hands of Saul, and he said: 2. Jahweh is my Cliff, my Fortress, my Way of Escape, 3. My God, my Rock to Whom I betake me, My Shield, the Horn of my salvation, my Tower. My Refuge, my Savior, from wrong dost Thou save me. 4. Shouting praise, I cry to Jahweh, And from my foe I get salvation."

The two songs are clearly identical, the slight differences being probably due in the main to different liturgical redactions of the Psalter. In the end the writer of II Kings gives "the last words of David" (23:1) — to wit, a short psalm in the Davidic style wherein David speaks of himself as "Israel's sweet singer of songs," "egregius psaltes Israel" (II Kings 23:2). In like manner the Chronicler (I Par. 16:8-36) quotes as Davidic a song made up of Ps. 105:1-13, Ps. 96, and a small portion of Ps. 106. Finally, the Prophet Amos addresses the Samarians: "Ye that sing to the sound of the psaltery; they have thought themselves to have instruments of music like David" (6:5).

The poetic power of David stands out as a characteristic of the Shepherd King. His elegiac plaints at the death of Saul and Jonathan (II Kings 1:19-27) reveal some power, but not that of the Davidic psalms. The above reasons for Davidic authorship are impugned by many who insist on the late redaction of II Kings 21-24 and upon the discrepancies between the passages we have paralleled. The question of late redaction of the Davidic songs in II Kings is not within our scope; nor does such late redaction destroy the force of our appeal to the Old Testament, since that appeal is to the Word of God. In regard to the discrepancies, we have already said that they are explainable by the admission that our Psalter is the result of various liturgical redactions, and does not present all the psalms in the precise form in which they proceeded from their original writers.


Asaph is accredited, by the titles, with twelve psalms, 50, 73-83 (49, 72-82). These psalms are all national in character and pertain to widely-separated periods of Jewish history. Ps. 83 (82), although assigned by Briggs ("Psalms," New York, 1906, p. 67) to the early Persian period, seems to have been written at the time of the havoc wrought by the Assyrian invasion of Tiglath-pileser III in 737 B.C. Ps. 74 (73) was probably written, as Briggs surmises, during the Babylonian Exile, after 586 B.C.

Asaph was a Levite, the son of Barachias (I Par. 6:39), and one of the three chiefs of the Levitical choir (I Par. 15:17). The "sons of Asaph" were set aside "to prophesy with harps and with psalteries and with cymbals" (I Par. 25:1). It is probable that members of this family composed the psalms which later were collected into an Asaph psalter. The features of these Asaph psalms are uniform: frequent allusions to the history of Israel with a didactic purpose; sublimity and vehemence of style; vivid description; an exalted conception of the deity.

The Sons of Korah.

The Sons of Korah are named in the titles of eleven psalms — 42-49, 84, 85, 87, 88 (41-48, 83, 84, 86, 87). The Korahim were a family of temple singers (II Par. 20:19). It can scarcely be that each psalm of this group was jointly composed by all the sons of Korah; each was rather composed by some member of the guild of Korah; or, perhaps, all were gathered from the various sources into one liturgical hymnal by the guild of the sons of Korah. At all events, there is a oneness of style to these hymns which is indicative of oneness of Levitical spirit. The features of the Korahite psalms are; a great love for the Holy City; a yearning for the public worship of Israel; a supreme trust in Jahweh; and a poetic form which is simple, elegant, artistic, and well-balanced. From their Messianic ideas and historical allusions, these psalms seem to have been composed between the days of Isaias and the return from exile.


Moses is in the title of Ps. 90 (89). Blessed Augustine (P.L. 37:1141) does not admit Mosaic authorship; Blessed Jerome (P.L. 22:1167) does. The author imitates the songs of Moses in Deut. 32 and 33; this imitation may be the reason of the title.


Solomon is in the titles to Pss. 72 and 127 (71 and 126), probably for a similar reason.


Ethan, in the title of Ps. 89 (88), should probably be Idithun. The Psalter of Idithun, of Yeduthun, contained also Pss. 39, 62, 77 (38, 61, 76).

Witness of the New Testament.

To Christians, believing as they do fully in the Divinity of Christ and inerrancy of Holy Writ, New Testament citations render Pss. 2, 16, 32, 35, 69, 109, 110 (2, 15, 31, 34, 68, 108, 109) Davidic without the shadow of a doubt. When the Pharisees said that the Christ was the Son of David, Jesus put them the question: "How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord" (cf. Matt. 22:43-45; Mark 12:36-37; Luke 20:42-44; Ps. cx, 1). There can be here no question of the name of a collection "of David."

Nor is there question of a collection when St. Peter, on the first Pentecost in Jerusalem, says: "For David ascended not into heaven; but he himself said: The Lord said to my Lord etc." (Acts, 2:34). Davidic authorship is meant by Peter, when he cites Pss. 69 (68), 26, 109 (108), 8, and 2:1-2 as "from the mouth of David" (Acts, 1:16; 4:25). And when St. Peter quoted Ps. 16 (15), 8-11, as the words of David, he explains how these words were intended by the dead patriarch as a prophecy of centuries to come (Acts, 2:25-32). St. Paul's testimony is conclusive, when he (Rom. 4:6; 11:9) assigns to David parts of Pss. 32, 35, and 69 ( 31, 34, 68). A non-Christian might object that St. Paul refers to a collection called "David," especially as such a collection seems clearly meant by "in David," en Daveid of Heb. 4:7. We answer, that this is an evasion: had St. Paul meant a collection, he would have dictated en Daveid in the letter to the Romans.

D. The Critics incline to do away with all question of Davidic authorship. Briggs says: "It is evident from the internal character of these psalms, with a few possible exceptions, that David could not have written them" (Psalms, p. 61). Ewald allows that this internal evidence shows David to have written Pss. 3, 4, 7, 11, 15, 18, first part of 19, 24, 29, 32, 101 (3, 4 7, 11, 14, 17, 23, 28, 31, 100).


A. The Christian Canon of the Psalms presents no difficulty; all Christians admit into their canon the 151 Psalms of the Septuagint.

B. The Jewish Canon presents a vexing problem. How has the Psalter been evolved? The traditional Jewish opinion, generally defended by Catholic scholars, is that not only the Jewish Canon of the Psalms but the entire Palestinian Canon of the Old Testament was practically closed during the time of Esdras. This traditional opinion is probable; for the arguments in its favor, cf. Cornely, "Introductio Generalis in N.T. Libros," I (Paris, 1894), 42.

The Critical View.

These arguments are not all admitted by the critics. Says Driver: "For the opinion that the Canon of the Old Testament was closed by Ezra, or his associates, there is no foundation in antiquity whatever" ("Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament," New York, 1892, p. x). In regard to the Psalms Wellhausen says: "Since the Psalter is the hymn-book of the congregation of the Second Temple, the question is not whether it contains any post-exilic psalms, but whether it contains any pre-exilic psalms" (Bleek's "Introduction," ed. 1876, 507). Hitzig ("Begriff der Kritik," 1831) deems that Books III-V are entirely Machabean (168-135 B.C.). Olshausen ("Die Psalmen," 1853) brings some of these psalms down to the Hasmonaean dynasty, and the reign of John Hyrcanus (135-105 B.C.). Duhm ("Die Psalmen," 1899, p. 21) allows very few pre-Machabean psalms, and assigns Pss. 2, 20, 21, 61, 63, 72, 84 (b), 132 [2, 19, 60, 62, 71, 83 (b), 131] to the reigns of Aristobulus I (105-104 B.C.) and his brother Alexander Jannaus (104-79 B.C.. He considers that the Canon of the Psalter was not closed till 70 B.C. (p. 23).

Such extreme views are not due to arguments of worth. So long as one refuses to accept the force of the traditional argument in favor of the Esdras Canon, one must at all events admit that the Jewish Canon of the Psalms was undoubtedly closed before the date of the Septuagint translation. This date is 285 B.C. if we accept the authority of the Letter of Aristeas; or, at the very latest 132 B.C. the period at which Ben Sirach wrote, in the prologue to Ecclesiasticus, that "the law itself and the prophets and the rest of the books [i.e. the Hagiograha, of which were the Psalms] had been translated into Greek." This is the opinion of Briggs (p. 12), who sets the final redaction of the Psalter in the middle of the second century B.C.

The gradual evolution of the Book of Psalms is now quite generally taken by the critics as a matter of course. Their application of the principles of higher criticism does not result in any uniformity of opinion in regard to the various strata of the Psalter. We shall present these strata as they are indicated by Prof. Briggs, probably the least rash of those who have published what are called "critical editions" of the Psalms. His method of criticism is the usual one; by a rather subjective standard of internal evidence, he carves up some psalms, patches up others, throws out portions of others, and "edits" all. He assigns seven psalms to the early Hebrew monarchy; seven to the middle monarchy; thirteen to the late monarchy; thirteen to the time of exile; thirty-three to the early Persian period; sixteen to the middle Persian period (the times of Nehemias); eleven to the late Persian period; "the great royal advent psalm" (Pss. 93, 96-100) together with eight others to the early Greek period (beginning with Alexander's conquest); forty-two to the late Greek period, and to the Machabean period Pss. 33, 102 (b), 109 (b), 118, 139 (c), 129 of the Pilgrim Psalter and 147, 149 of the Hallels.

Of these psalms and portions of psalms, according to Briggs, thirty-one are "psalms apart," that is, never were incorporated into a Psalter before the present canonical redaction was issued. The rest were edited in two or more of the twelve Psalters which mark the evolution of the Book of Psalms. The earliest collection of psalms was made up of seven Mikhtamim, "golden pieces," of the middle Persian period. In the late Persian period thirteen Maskilim were put together as a collection of meditations. At the same time, seventy-two psalms were edited, as a prayer-book for use in the synagogue, under the name of "David"; of these thirteen have in their titles references to David's life, and are thought to have formed a previous collection by themselves. In the early Greek period in Palestine, eleven psalms were gathered into the minor psalter entitled the "Sons of Korah."

About the same time in Babylonia, twelve psalms were made into a Psalter entitled "Asaph." Not long thereafter, in the same period, the exilic Ps. lxxxviii, together with two orphan Pss. lxvi and lxvii, were edited along with selections from "David," "Sons of Korah," and "Asaph," for public worship of song in the synagogue; the name of this psalter was "Mizmorim." A major psalter, the Elohist, Pss. 42-83 (41-82), is supposed to have been made up, in Babylonia, during the middle Greek period, of selections from "David," "Korah," "Asaph" and "Mizmorim"; the name is due to the use of Elohim and avoidance of Jahweh in these psalms. About the same time, in Palestine, a prayer-book was made up of 54 from "Mizmorim, 16 psalms from "David," 4 from "Korah," and 1 from "Asaph"; this major psalter bore the name of the "Director."

The Hallels, or Alleluiatic songs of praise, were made up into a psalter for temple service in the Greek period. These psalms have halleluyah (Praise ye Yah) either at the beginning (Pss. cxi, cxii), or at the close (Pss. 104, 105, 115, 117), or at both the beginning and close (Pss. 106, 113, 135, 146-150). The Septuagint gives Allelouia also the beginning of Pss. 105, 107, 114, 116, 119, 136. Briggs includes as Hallels all these except 118 and 119, "the former being a triumphal Machabean song, the latter the great alphabetic praise of the law." A like minor psalter of the Greek period was the "Pilgrim Psalter" (Pss. 120-134), a collection of "Songs of Pilgrimage," the "Songs of Ascents," or "Gradual Psalms," which the pilgrims chanted while going up to Jerusalem for the three great feasts.


The Psalms were originally written in Hebrew letters, such as we see only on coins and in a few lapidary inscriptions; the text has come down to us in square Aramaic letters. Only the versions give us any idea of the pre-Massoretic text. Thus far no pre-Massoretic MS. of the Psalms has been discovered. The Massoretic text has been preserved in more than 3400 MSS. of which none is earlier than the ninth century and only nine or ten are earlier than the twelfth. These Massoretic MSS. represent two slightly variant families of one tradition — the texts of Ben Asher and of Ben Naftali. Their variations are of little moment in the interpretation of the Psalms. The study of the rhythmic structure of the Psalms, together with the variations between Massorah and the versions, have made it clear that our Hebrew text is far from perfect, and that its points are often wrong. The efforts of critics to perfect the text are at times due to no more than a shrewd surmise. The metrical mould is chosen; then the psalm is forcibly adapted to it. It were better to leave the text in its imperfect condition than to render it worse by guess-work. The decree of the Biblical Commission is aimed at those to whom the imperfections in the Massoretic Text are an occasion, though no excuse, for countless conjectural emendations, at times wild and fanciful, which nowadays pass current as critical exegesis of the Psalms.



The chief version of the Psalms is the Septuagint. It is preserved to us in Cod. U, Brit. Mus. Pap. 37, seventh century, containing Pss. 10-33; Leipzig Pap. fourth century, containing Pss. 28-54; Cod. Sinaiticus, fourth century, complete; B. Cod. Vaticanus, fourth century, complete, except, Pss. 105:27-137:6; A, Cod. Alexandrinus, fifth century, complete except Pss. 49:19-76:10; 1:Cod. Bodleianus, ninth century, complete; and in many other later MSS. The Septuagint Version is of great value in the exegesis of the Psalms. It provides pre-Massoretic readings which are clearly preferable to those of the Massoretes. It brings us back to a text at least of the second century B.C. In spite of a seeming servility to words and to Hebrew constructions, a servility that probably existed in the Alexandrian Greek of the Jews of the period, the Septuagint translator of psalms shows an excellent knowledge of Hebrew, and fears not to depart from the letter and to give the meaning of his original. The second-century A.D. Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion are extant in only a few fragments; these fragments are witnesses to a text pretty much the same as our Massoretic.


About the middle of the second century the Septuagint Psalter was translated into Latin. Of this Old Latin, or Itala, Version we have only a few MSS. and the citations by the early Latin Fathers. At the request of Pope St. Damasus 1:A.D. 383, Blessed Jerome revised the Itala and brought it back closer to the Septuagint. His revision was soon so distorted that he complained, "plus antiquum errorem quam novam emendationem valere" (P.L. 29, 117). This is Blessed Jerome's "Roman Psalter"; it is used in the recitation of the Office in St. Peter's, Rome, and in the Missal.

The corruption of his first translation led Blessed Jerome to undertake an entirely new translation of the Hexapla edition of the Septuagint. He worked with great care, in Bethlehem, some time before A.D. 392. He indicated by asterisks the parts of the Hebrew text which had been omitted by the Septuagint and were borrowed by him from Theodotion; he marked with the obelus the parts of the Septuagint which were not in the Hebrew. These critical marks came in course of time to be utterly neglected. This translation is the "Gallican Psalter"; it is part of the Vulgate. A third Latin translation of the Psalms, made from the Hebrew Text, with Origen's Hexapla and the other ancient versions in view, was completed by Blessed Jerome about the end of the fourth century at Bethlehem. This version is of great worth in the study of the Psalter. Dr. Briggs says: "Where it differs from H. and G. its evidence is especially valuable as giving the opinion of the best Biblical scholar of ancient times as to the original text, based on the use of a wealth of critical material vastly greater than that in the possession of any other critic, earlier or later" (p. 32).


Parallelism (q. v.) is the principle of balance which is admitted by all to be the most characteristic and essential feature of the poetic form of the Psalms. By synonymous, synthetic, antithetic, emblematic, stair-like, or introverted parallelism, thought is balanced with thought, line with line, couplet with couplet, strophe with antistrophe, in the lyric upbuilding of the poetic picture or imprecation or exhortation.


Is there meter in the Psalms? The Jews of the first century A.D. thought so. Flavius Josephus speaks of the hexameters of Moses (Antiq. 2-16, 4; 4, 8, 44) and the trimeters and tetrameters and manifold meters of the odes and hymns of David (Antiq. 7:xii, 3). Philo says that Moses had learned the "theory of rhythm and harmony" (De vita Mosis, 1:5). Early Christian writers voice the same opinion. Origen (d. 254) says the Psalms are in trimeters and tetrameters (In Ps. cxviii; cf. Card. Pitra, "Analecta Sacra," 2:341); and Eusebius (d. 340), in his "De Praeparatione evangelica," 11:5 (P.G. 21:852), speaks of the same meters of David. Blessed Jerome (420), in "Praef. ad Eusebii chronicon" (P.L. 27, 36), finds iambics, Alcaics, and Sapphics in the psalter; and, writing to Paula (P.L. 22,442), he explains that the acrostic Pss. 111 and 112 (110 and 111) are made up of iambic trimeters, whereas the acrostic Pss. 119 and 145 (118 and 144) are iambic tetrameters.

Modern exegetes do not agree in this matter. For a time many would admit no meter at all in the Psalms. Davison (Hast. "Dict. of the Bible," s. v.) writes: "though meter is not discernible in the Psalms, it does not follow that rhythm is excluded." This rhythm, however, "defies analysis and systematization." Driver ("Introd. to Lit. of O.T." New York, 1892, 339) admits in Hebrew poetry "no meter in the strict sense of the term." Exegetes who find meter in the Psalms are of four schools, according as they explain Hebrew meter by quantity, by the number of syllables, by accent, or by both quantity and accent.

(1) Defenders of the Latin and Greek metrical standard of quantity as applied to Hebrew poetry are Francis Gomarus, in "Davidis lyra," II (Lyons, 1637), 313; Mark Meibom, in "Davidis psalmi X" (Amsterdam, 1690) and in two other works, who claim to have learned his system of Hebrew meter by Divine revelation; William Jones, "Poeseos Asiaticae commentariorum" (Leipzig, 1777), who tried to force Hebrew words into Arabic meters.

(2) The number of syllables was taken as the standard of meter by Hare, "Psalmorum liber in versiculos metrice divisus" (London, 1736); he made all feet dissyllabic, the meter trochaic in a line of an even number of syllables, iambic in a line of an odd number of syllables. The Massoretic system was rejected, the Syriac put in its stead. The opinion found chief defence in the writings of the learned Innsbruck Professor Gustav; and in Bickell's "Metrices biblicae" (Innsbruck, 1879), "Suplementum ad Metr. Bibl." (Innsbruck), "Carimina veteris testamenti metrice" (1882), "Dichtungen der Hebraer" (1882-84). Gerard Gietmann, S. J. "De re mentrica Hebraeorum" (Freiburg im Br. 1880); A. Rohling, "Das Solomonische Spruchbuch" (Mainz, 1879); H. Lesetre, "Le livre des psaumes" (Paris, 1883); J. Knabenbauer, S. J. in "Job" (Paris, 1885), p. 18; F. Vigouroux, "Manuel biblique," 2:203, have all followed in Bickell's footsteps more or less closely. Against this system some patent facts. The quantity of a word is made to vary arbitrarily. Hebrew is treated as Syriac, a late dialect of Aramaic — which it is not; in fact, even early Syriac poetry did not measure its lines by the number of syllables. Lastly the Massorah noted metrical structure by accents; at least soph pasuk and athnah indicate complete lines or two hemistiches.

(3) Accent is the determining principle of Hebrew meter according to C. A. Anton, "Conjectura de metro Hebraeorum" (Leipzig, 1770), "Vindiciae disput. de metr. Hebr." (Leipzig, 1771), "Specimen editionis psalmorum" (Vitebsk, 1780); Leutwein, "Versuch einer richtigen Theorie von der biblischen Verkunst" (1775); Ernst Meier, "Die Form der hebraischen Poesie nachgewiesen" (Tubingen, 1853); Julius Ley, "Die Metrischen Formen der hebraischen Poesie" (Leipzig, 1886); "Ueber die Alliteration im Hebraischen" in "Zeitsch. d. Deutsch. Morgenlandisch. Ges." 20:180; J. K. Zenner, S. J. "Die Chorgesange im Buche der Psalmen" (Freiburg im Br. 1896), and in many contributions to "Zeitsch. fur kathol. Theol." 1891, 690; 1895, 373; 1896, 168, 369, 378, 571, 754; Hontheim, S. J. in "Zeitsch. fur kathol. Theol." 1897, 338, 560, 738; 1898, 172, 404, 749; 1899, 167; Dr. C. A. Briggs, in "The Book of Psalms," in "International Critical Commentary" (New York, 1906), p. 39:and in many other publications therein enumerated; Francis Brown, "Measures of Hebrew Poetry: in "Journal of Biblical Literature," 9:91; C. H. Toy, "Proverbs" in "Internat. Crit. Comm." (1899); W. R. Harper, "Amos and Hosea" in "Internat. Crit. Comm." (1905); Cheyne, "Psalms" (New York), 1892; Duhm, "Die Psalmen" (Freiburg im Br. 1899), p. xxx.

This theory is the best working hypothesis together with the all-essential principle of parallelism; it does far less violence to the Massoretic Text than either of the foregoing theories. It does not force the Massoretic syllables into grooves that are Latin, Greek, Arabic, or Aramaic. It is independent of the shifting of accent; and postulates just one thing, a fixed and harmonious number of accents to the line, regardless of the number of syllables therein. This theory of a tonic and not a syllabic meter has this, too, in its favor that accent is the determining principle in ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, and Assyrian poetry.

(4) Later the pendulum of Hebrew metrical theories swung back upon quantity; the syllabic must not be utterly neglected. Hubert Grimme, in "Grundzuge der Hebraischen Akzent und Volkallehre," Freiburg, 1896, and "Psalmenprobleme" (1902), builds up the meter chiefly upon the tonic principle, at the same time taking into account the morae or pauses due to quantity. Schlogl, "De re metrica veterum Hebraeorum" (Vienna, 1899), defends Grimme's theory. Sievers, in "Metrische Studien" (1901), also takes in the unaccented syllables for metrical consideration; so does Baethgen, "Die Psalmen" (Gottingen, 1904), p. xxvii.

Alliteration and assonance are frequent. Acrostic or alphabetic psalms are 9-10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145 (9, 24, 33, 36, 110, 111, 118, 144). The letters of the alphabet begin successive lines, couplets, or strophes. In Ps. 119 (118) the same letter begins eight successive lines in each of the twenty-two alphabetic strophes. In Pss. 13:xxix, 62:cxlviii, and cl (12:28:lxi, cxlvii, and cxlix) the same word or words are repeated many times. Rhymes, by repetition of the same suffix, are in Pss. 2, 13, 27, 30, 54, 55, 142, etc. (2, 12, 26, 29, 53, 54, 141, etc.); these rhymes occur at the ends of lines and in caesural pauses. Lines were grouped into strophes and antistrophes, commonly in pairs and triplets, rarely in greater multiples; at times an independent strophe, like the epode of the Greek chorus, was used between one or more strophes and the corresponding antistrophes.

The word Selah almost invariably marks the end of a strophe. The meaning of this word and its purpose is still a moot question. We think it was originally from "to throw", and meant "a throwing down," "a prostration." During the antiphonal cantilation of the Psalms, the priests blew their trumpets to mark the end of a strophe, and at the signal the two choirs or the people or both choirs and people prostrated themselves (cf. Haupt, "Expository Times," May, 1911). The principle of parallelism determined these stophic arrangements of the lines. Koster, in "die Psalmen nach ihrer strophischen Anordnung" (1837), distinguishes various kinds of parallelism in lines and half-lines, synonymous, antithetical, synthetic, identical, introverted. Zenner, S. J. in his "Chorgesange im Buche der Psalmen" (Freiburg im Br. 1896) has very cleverly arranged many of the psalms as choral odes, chanted by two or three choirs. Hermann Wiesmann, S. J. in "Die Psalmen nach dem Urtext" (Munster, 1906), has applied the metrical principles of Zenner, and revised and published the latter's translations and studies of the Psalms. This work takes too great liberty with the Sacred Text, and has lately (1911) been put on the Index.

Poetic Beauty.

The extravagant words of Lamartine in "Voyage en Orient" are classic: "Lisez de l'Horace ou du Pindare apres un Psaume! Pour moi, je ne le peux plus." One wonders whether Lamartine ever read a psalm in the original. To criticize the Psalms as literature is very difficult. Their text has reached us with many losses in the matter of poetic form. The authors varied much in style. Their literary beauty should not be judged by comparison with the poetry of Horace and Pindar. It is with the hymns of ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria that we should compare the songs of Israel. Those ancient hymns are crude and rude by the side of the Psalms. Even the imprecatory Pss. 18, 35, 52, 59, 69, 109, 137 (17, 34, 51, 58, 68, 108, 136), national anthems so full of love of Israel and almost startling in their hatred of the foes of Jahweh and of Israel, are sublime, vivid, glowing, enthusiastic, though exaggerated, poetic outbursts if read from the viewpoint of the writers. They provide instances of a "higher seriousness and a higher truthfulness," such as Aristotle never would have found in a song of Babylonia or of Sumeria. Whether their tones are those of praise or blame, of sorrow or of joy, of humiliation or of exaltation, of deep meditation or of didactic dogmatism, ever and everywhere the writers of the Psalms are dignified and grand, true to the ideals of Jahweh's chosen folk, spiritual and devotional. The range of thought is immense. It takes in Jahweh, His temple, cult, priests, creation; man, friend and foe; beasts, birds; all nature, animate and inanimate. The range of emotions is complete; every emotion of man that is pure and noble has been set to words in the Psalms. As an instance of poetic beauty, we subjoin the famous Ps. 23 (22), translated from the Hebrew. The poet first speaks in his own person, then in the guise of the sheep. The repetition of the first couplet as an envoi is suggested by Zenner and many commentators, to complete the envelope-form of the poem, or the introverted parallelism of the strophic structure:

The Poet:

1. Jahweh is my Shepherd;

I have no want,

The Sheep:

2. In pastures of tender grass he setteth me;

Unto still waters he leadeth me;

3. He turneth me back again;

He guideth me along right paths for his

Own name's sake.

4. Yea, though I walk through the vale of

The shadow of death,

I fear no harm;

For thou art with me;

Thy bludgeon and they staff, they stay me.

5. Thou settest food before me,

In the presence of my foes;

Thou has anointed my head with oil;

My trough runneth over.

The Poet:

6. Ah, goodness and mercy have followed me

All the days of my life,

I will go back to the house of Jahweh

Even for the length of my days.

Jahweh is my Shepherd;

I have no want!

Theological Value.

The theological ideas of the Psalms are comprehensive; the existence and attributes of God, the soul's yearning for immortality, the economy of grace and the virtues, death, judgement, heaven, hell, hope of resurrection and of glory, fear of punishment — all the main dogmatic truths of Israel's faith appear again and again in her Psalter. These truths are set down not in dogmatic form, but now in the simple and childlike lyric yearning of the ingenuous soul, again in the loftiest and most vehement outbursts of which man's nature is capable. The Psalms are at once most human and most superhuman; they sink to the lowest depths of the human heart and soar to the topmost heights of Divine contemplation. So very human are the imprecatory psalms as to make some to wonder how they can have been inspired of God. Surely Jahweh cannot have inspired the singer who prayed:

"As for them that plan my soul to destroy, Down to the depths of the earth shall they go; To the grasp of the sword shall they be delivered; A prey to the jackals shall they become." — Psalm 83:10-11 (82:10-11)

Such an objection is based upon a misunderstanding. The perfection of the counsels of Christ is one thing, the aim of the good Levite is quite another thing. The ideals of the Sermon on the Mount are of higher spirituality than are the ideals of the imprecatory psalm. Yet the ideals of the imprecatory psalm are not bad — nay, are good, are Divine in their origin and authority.

The imprecatory psalms are national anthems; they express a nation's wrath, not an individual's. Humility and meekness and forgiveness of foe are virtues in an individual; not necessarily so of a nation; by no means so of the Chosen Nation of Jahweh, the people who knew by revelation that Jahweh willed they should be a great nation and should put out their enemies from the land which he gave them. Their great national love for their own people postulated a great national love for Jahweh. The love for Jahweh postulated a hatred of the foes of Jahweh, and, in the theocratic economy of the Jewish folk, the foes of Jahweh were the foes of Israel. If we bear this national purpose in mind, and forget not that all poetry, and especially Semitic poetry, is highly colored and exaggerated, we shall not be shocked at the lack of mercy in the writers of the imprecatory psalms.

The chief theological ideas of the Psalms are those that have regard to the Incarnation. Are there Messianic psalms? Unaided by the authentic interpreting power of the Church and neglectful of the consensus of the Fathers, Protestants have quite generally come to look upon the Psalms as non-Messianic either in literal or in typical meaning; the older Messianic interpretation is discarded as worn-out and threadbare. Delitzsch admits only Ps. 110 (109) to be Messianic in its literal meaning. Cheyne denies both literal and typical Messianic meaning to the Psalms ("Origin of Ps." 339). Davison (Hast. loc. cit.) says, "it may well be that the Psalter contains hardly a single instance of direct Messianic prophecy." But in this they are wrong; Christians have ever held that some of the Psalms are Messianic in meaning, either literal or typical.

The New Testament clearly refers certain psalms to the Messias. The Fathers are unanimous in interpreting many psalms as prophecies of the coming, kingdom, priesthood, passion, death, and resurrection of the Messias. The coming of the Messias is predicted in Pss. 18:l, 68, 96-98 (17:49, 67, 95-97). St. Paul (eph. 4:8) interprets of Christ's ascent into heaven the words of Ps. lxviii, 18, description of Jahweh's ascent after conquering the world. The kingdom of the Messias is predicted in Pss. 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 61, 72, 89, 110, 132 (2, 17, 19, 20, 44, 60, 71, 88, 109, 131); the priesthood in Ps. 110. The passion and death of the Messias are clear in the sufferings of the Servant of Jahweh of Pss. 22, 40, 69 (21, 39, 68). Ps. 22 was used in part, perhaps entirely, by Christ on the Cross; the Psalmist describes as his own the emotions and sufferings of the Messias. Hence one must reject the opinion of those who do away with the Messianic and prophetic character of the Psalms and refer only to the future lot of the Chosen People those words which are prophecies concerning Christ. Cf. Maas, "Christ in Type and Prophecy" (New York, 1893).

Liturgical Use.

A. — The use of the Psalms in Jewish liturgy has been spoken of.

B. — Christian liturgical use of the Psalter dates from the time of Christ and His Apostles. He recited the Hallels at the last Passover, Pss. cxiii-cxiv before the Last Supper, Pss. cxv-cxviii thereafter; Ps. xxii was His dying words; authoritative citations of other psalms appear in His discourses and those of His Apostles (cf. Luke 20:42; 24:44; Acts, 1:20). The Apostles used the Psalms in worship (cf. Acts, 16:25; James, 5:14; I Cor. 14:26). The earliest liturgical service was taken from the Psalter. St. Paul represents the Ephesian Christians, to all seeming, psalmodizing, one choir answering the other; "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and psalmodizing [psallontes] in your hearts to the Lord, giving thanks [eucharistountes] always for all things" (Eph. 5:19). Probably the Eucharistic agape is referred to. A like reference is in Col. 3:16. St. Basil (P.G. 32:764) speaks of this psalmodizing in two choirs — antipsallein allelois. The custom of psalmody, or antiphonal singing, is said to have been introduced into the Church of Antioch by St. Ignatius (Socrates, "Hist. Eccl." 6, 8). From Syria, this custom of the Synagogue would seem to have passed over to Palestine and Egypt, to Asia Minor, Constantinople, and the West. St. Ambrose was the first to inaugurate in the West the chanting of the Psalms by two choirs.


Book of Proverbs.

One of the Sapiential writings of the Old Testament placed in the Hebrew Bible among the Hagiographa, and found in the Vulgate after the books of Psalms and Job.

Names and General Object.

In the Masoretic Text, the Book of Proverbs has for its natural heading the words Míshlê Shelomoh (Proverbs of Solomon), wherewith this sacred writing begins (cf. 10). In the Talmud and in later Jewish works the Book of Proverbs is oftentimes designated by the single word Míshlê, and this abridged title is expressly mentioned in the superscription "Liber Proverbiorum, quem Hebræi Misle appellant," found in the official edition of the Vulgate. In the Septuagint MSS. the two Hebrew titles are rendered by [symbol didn’t transfer] and [symbol didn’t transfer] respectively. From these Greek titles again are immediately derived the Latin renderings, "Parabolæ Salomonis," "Parabolæ," a trace of which appears in the Tridentine "Decretum de Canon. Script." wherein the Book of Proverbs is simply called "Parabolæ." The ordinary title "Proverbia Salomonis" was apparently taken from the Old Latin Version into the Vulgate, whence comes directly the usual English title of "Proverbs."

In the Church's liturgy, the Book of Proverbs is, like the other Sapiential writings, designated by the common term "Wisdom." This is consonant to the practice, common in early Christian times, of designating such books by the word "Wisdom" or by some expression in which this word occurs, as "All-virtuous Wisdom," etc. Indeed, it is probable that the title "Wisdom," was common in Jewish circles at the beginning of Christianity, and that it passed from them to the early Fathers of the Church (cf. Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." 4, 22, 26). Of the various names given to the Book of Proverbs, that of Wisdom best sets forth the ethical object of this inspired writing. However disconnected the pithy sayings or vivid descriptions which make up the book may appear, they, each and all, are bound by one and the same moral purpose: they aim at inculcating wisdom as understood by the Hebrews of old. The desired result is that perfection of knowledge showing itself in action, whether in the case of king or peasant, statesman or artisan, philosopher or unlearned.

Differently from the term "Wisdom," the title Míshlê (Blessed Jerome, Masloth) has a distinct reference to the symbolic character and poetical form of the sayings which are gathered together in the Book of Proverbs. In general, the Hebrew word Mashal (constr. plur. Míshlê) denotes a representative saying, that is, a statement which, however deduced from a single instance, is capable of application to other instances of a similar kind. Taken in this sense, it corresponds pretty well to the words proverb, parable, maxim etc. in our Western literatures. But besides, it has the meaning of sentences constructed in parallelism; and in point of fact, the contents of the Book of Proverbs exhibit, from beginning to end, this leading feature of Hebrew poetry. Hence, it appears that, as prefixed to this inspired writing, the word Míshlê describes the general character of the Book of Proverbs as a manual of practical rules which are set forth in a poetical form.

Divisions and Contents.

As it stands at the present day, the Book of Proverbs begins with the general title, "Míshlê Shelomoh, the son of David, king of Israel," which is immediately followed by a prologue (1:2-6), stating the aim and importance of the entire work. The whole collection aims at imparting wisdom and at enabling men to understand all kinds of Mashals. The first part of the book (1:7-9), itself a hortatory introduction to the collection of proverbs which follows, is a commendation of wisdom. After a deeply religious epigraph (1:7), the writer, speaking like a father, gives a series of exhortations and warnings to an imagined pupil or disciple. He warns him against evil company (1:8-19); describes to him the advantages attending the pursuit of wisdom, and the evils to be avoided by such course (2); exhorts him to obedience, to trust in God, to the payment of legal offerings, to patience under the Divine chastisements, and sets forth the priceless value of wisdom (3:1-26). After some miscellaneous precepts (3:27-35), he renews his pressing exhortation to wisdom and virtue (iv), and gives several warnings against unchaste women (v; 6:20-35; vii), after the first of which are inserted warnings against suretyship, indolence, falsehood, and various vices (6:1-19). At several points (1:20-33; 8; 9) Wisdom herself is introduced as speaking and as displaying her charms, origin, and power to men. The style of this first part is flowing, and the thoughts therein expressed are generally developed in the form of connected discourses.

The second part of the book (10-22:16) has for its distinct heading: "Míshlê Shelomoh," and is made up of disconnected sayings in couplet form, arranged in no particular order, so that it is impossible to give a summary of them. In many instances a saying is repeated within this large collection, usually in identical terms, at times with some slight changes of expression. Appended to this second part of the book are two minor collections (22:17-24:22; ss 4:23-34), chiefly made up of aphoristic quatrains. The opening verses (22:17-21) of the first appendix request attention to the "words of the wise" which follow (22:22-24:22), and which, in a consecutive form recalling that of the first part of the book, set forth warnings against various excesses. The second appendix has for its title: "These also are words of the wise," and the few proverbs it contains conclude with two verses (33, 34), apparently taken over from 6:10, 11.

The third part of the book (25-29) bears the inscription: "These are also Míshlê Shelomoh, which the men of Ezechias, king of Juda, copied out." By their miscellaneous character, their couplet form, etc. the proverbs of this third part resemble those of 10-22:16. Like them also, they are followed by two minor collections (30 and 31:1-9), each supplied with its respective title. The first of these minor collections has for its heading: "Words of Agur, the son of Takeh," and its principal contents are Agur's meditation on the Divine transcendence (30:2-9), and groups of numerical proverbs. The second minor collection is inscribed: "The Words of Lamuel, a king: the oracle which his mother taught him." In it the queen-mother warns her son against sensuality, drunkenness, and injustice. Nothing is known of Agur and Lamuel; their names are possibly symbolical. The book concludes with an alphabetical poem descriptive of the virtuous woman (31:10-39).

Hebrew Text and Ancient Versions.

A close study of the present Hebrew Text of the Book of Proverbs proves that the primitive wording of the pithy sayings which make up this manual of Hebrew wisdom has experienced numerous alterations in the course of its transmission. Some of these imperfections have, with some probability, been assigned to the period during which the maxims of the "wise men" were preserved orally. Most of them belong undoubtedly to the time after these sententious or enigmatic sayings had been written down. The Book of Proverbs was numbered among the "Hagiographa" (writings held by the ancient Hebrews as less sacred and authoritative than either the "Law" or the "Prophets"), and, in consequence, copyists felt naturally less bound to transcribe its text with scrupulous accuracy. Again, the copyists of Proverbs knew, or at least thought they knew, by memory the exact words of the pithy sayings they had to write out; hence arose involuntary changes which, once introduced, were perpetuated or even added to by subsequent transcribers. Finally, the obscure or enigmatic character of a certain number of maxims led to the deliberate insertion of glosses in the text, so that primitive distichs now wrongly appear in the form of tristichs, etc. (cf. Knabenbauer, "Comm. in Proverbia," Paris, 1910).

Of the ancient versions of the Book of Proverbs, the Septuagint is the most valuable. It probably dates from the middle of the second century B.C. and exhibits very important differences from the Massoretic Text in point of omissions, transpositions, and additions. The translator was a Jew conversant indeed with the Greek language, but had at times to use paraphrases owing to the difficulty of rendering Hebrew pithy sayings into intelligible Greek. After full allowance has been made for the translator's freedom in rendering, and for the alterations introduced into the primitive wording of this version by later transcribers and revisers, two things remain quite certain. First, the Septuagint may occasionally be utilized for the discovery and the enmendation of inaccurate readings in our present Hebrew Text. Secondly, the most important variations which this Greek Version presents, especially in the line of additions and transpositions, point to the fact that the translator rendered a Hebrew original which differed considerably from the one embodied in the Massoretic Bibles.

It is well known that the Sahidic Version of Proverbs was made from the Septuagint, before the latter had been subjected to recensions, and hence this Coptic Version is useful for the control of the Greek Text. The present Peshito, or Syriac Version of Proverbs was probably based on the Hebrew Text, with which it generally agrees with regard to material and arrangement. At the same time, it was most likely made with respect to the Septuagint, the peculiar readings of which it repeatedly adopts. The Latin Version of Proverbs, which is embodied in the Vulgate, goes back to Blessed Jerome, and for the most part closely agrees with the Massoretic Text. It is probable that many of its present deviations from the Hebrew in conformity with the Septuagint should be referred to later copyists anxious to complete Blessed Jerome's work by means of the "Vetus Itala," which had been closely made from the Greek.

Authorship and Date.

The vexed questions about the authorship and date of the collections which make up the Book of Proverbs go back only to the sixteenth century of our era, when the Hebrew Text began to be studied more closely than previously. They were not even suspected by the early Fathers who, following implicitly the inscriptions in 1:1; 10:1; 24:1 (which bear direct witness to the Solomonic authorship of large collections of proverbs), and being misled by the Greek rendering of the titles in 30:1; 31:1 (which does away altogether with the references to Agur and Lamuel as authors distinct from Solomon), regarded King Solomon as the author of the whole Book of Proverbs. Nor were they real questions for the subsequent writers of the West, although these medieval authors had in the Vulgate a more faithful rendering of 30:1; 31:1, which might have led them to reject the Solomonic origin of the sections ascribed to Agur and Lamuel respectively, for in their eyes the words Agur and Lamuel were but symbolical names of Solomon. At the present day, most Christian scholars feel free to treat as non-Solomonic not only the short sections which are ascribed in the Hebrew Text to Agur and Lamuel, but also the minor collections which their titles attribute to "the wise" (22:16- 24:22; 24:23-34), and the alphabetical poem concerning the virtuous woman which is appended to the whole book.

With regard to the other parts of the work (1-9; 10-22:16; 25-29), Christian writers are well nigh unanimous in ascribing them to Solomon. Bearing distinctly in mind the statement in III (A. V. I) Kings 4:29-32, that, in his great wisdom, Solomon "spoke 3000 Mashals," they have no difficulty in admitting that this monarch may be the author of the much smaller number of proverbs included in the three collections in question. Guided by ancient Jewish and Christian tradition they feel constrained to abide by the explicit titles to the same collections, all the more so because the titles in the Book of Proverbs are manifestly discriminating with respect to authorship, and because the title, "These also are Mishle Shelomoh, which the men of Ezechias, King of Juda, copied out" (25:1), in particular, bears the impress of definiteness and accuracy. Looking into the contents of these three large collections, they do not think that anything found therein with respect to style, ideas, historic background etc. should compel anyone to give up the traditional authorship. At whatever time --- either under Ezechias, or as late as Esdras ---all the collections embodied in the Book of Proverbs reached their present form and arrangement.

A very different view concerning the authorship and date of the collections ascribed to Solomon by their titles is gaining favor among Protestant scholars. It treats the headings of these collections as no more reliable than the titles of the Psalms. It maintains that none of the collections comes from Solomon's own hand and that the general tenor of their contents bespeaks a late post-exilic date. The following are the principal arguments usually set forth in favor of this opinion. In these collections there is no challenge of idolatry, such as would naturally be expected if they were pre-exilic, and monogamy is everywhere presupposed. It is very remarkable, too, that throughout no mention is made of Israel or of any institution peculiar to Israel. Again, the subject of those collections is not the nation, which apparently no longer enjoys independence, but the individual, to whom wisdom appeals in a merely ethical, and hence very late, manner. The personification of wisdom, in particular (chap. 8), is either the direct result of the influence of Greek upon Jewish thought, or, if independent of Greek philosophy, the product of late Jewish metaphysics. Finally, the close spiritual and intellectual relation of Proverbs to Ecclesiastics shows that, however great and numerous are the differences in detail between them, the two works cannot be separated by an interval of several centuries. Despite the confidence with which some modern scholars urge these arguments against the traditional authorship of 1-9; 10-22:16; 25-29, a close examination of their value leaves one unconvinced of their proving force.

Names and General Object.

The Book of Proverbs is justly numbered among the protocanonical writings of the Old Testament. In the first century of our era its canonical authority was certainly acknowledged in Jewish and Christian circles, for the Sacred Writers of the New Testament make a frequent use of its contents, quoting them at times explicitly as Holy Writ (cf. Rom. 12:19, 20; Heb. 12:5, 6; James, 4:5, 6, etc.). It is true that certain doubts as to the inspiration of the Book of Proverbs, which had been entertained by ancient rabbis who belonged to the School of Shammai, reappeared in the Jewish assembly at Jamnia (about A. D. 100); but these were only theoretical difficulties which could not induce the Jewish leaders of the time to count this book out of the Canon, and which in fact were there and then set at rest for ever. The subsequent assaults of Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 429), of Spinoza (d. 1677), and of Le Clerc (d. 1736) against the inspiration of that sacred book left likewise its canonical authority unshaken.



Our sources for the study of the life, reign, and character of Solomon are III Kings I-ix; and II Par. i-ix. Solomon (Heb. "peaceful"), also called Jedidiah, i. e. "beloved of Yahweh," was the second son of David by his wife Bathsheba, and the acknowledged favorite of his father. This may have been due partly to the fact that he, as a late offspring, considerably younger than David's other sons, was born in his father's old age, and partly to the intense love of David for Bathsheba and the beautiful qualities of Solomon himself. Solomon was not the logical heir to the throne, but David conferred it upon him instead of his older brothers, and in doing so he committed no wrong according to Israelitish ideas. Solomon was eighteen years old when he ascended the throne, or at least no older than this, and his successful reign of forty years speaks well for his intelligence, ability, and statesmanship. His reign offers a striking contrast to that of his father. It was almost entirely devoid of incident, and was marked by none of the vicissitudes of fortune which were so notable a feature in the career of David. Enjoying for the most part peaceful relations with foreign powers, and set free from the troubles that menaced him at home, Solomon was enabled to devote himself fully to the internal organization of his kingdom and the embellishment of his Court. In particular, he gave much attention to the defense of the country (including the construction of fortresses), the administration of justice, the development of trade, and the erection of a national temple to the Almighty.

The territory over which sovereignty is claimed for Solomon by the historian of III Kings extended from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt (el Arish), or, to name the cities at the limits of his realms, from Tiphsah (Thapsacus) to Gaza (III Kings 4:24). The account of his reign shows that he did not retain his father’s dominions unimpaired. But if some of the outlying portions of David's empire, such as Damascus and Edom, were lost by Solomon, the integrity of the actual soil of Israel was secured alike by the erection of fortresses in strong positions (including Hazor, Megiddo, one or both of the Beth-horons, and Baalath) and by the maintenance of a large force of war-chariots.

Of the cities selected for fortification Hazor guarded the northern frontier, Megiddo protected the plain of Esdraelon, whilst the Beth-horons, with Baalath, commanded the Valley of Aijalon, thus defending the capitol against an attack from the maritime plain. By acquiring Gezer, he obtained additional security in this direction. This city had hitherto been left in the hand of the Canaanites, and came into Solomon's power by a marriage alliance with Egypt. Under David, Israel had become a factor to be reckoned with in Eastern politics, and the Pharaoh found it prudent to secure its friendship. The Pharoah was probably Psieukhannit (Psebkhan) 2, the last king of the 21st dynasty, who had his capitol at Zoan (Tanis), and ruled over the Delta. Solomon wedded his daughter; and the Egyptian sovereign, having attacked and burnt Gezer and destroyed the Canaanites inhabitants, bestowed it as a dowry upon the princess. It was now rebuilt and made a fortified city of Solomon. In Jerusalem itself, additional defenses were constructed, and the capitol was further adorned by the erection of the temple and the royal palaces described below.

In view of the trade route to the Red Sea, which the possession of the ports of Edom gave to Israel, Tamara (perhaps Tamar) was likewise fortified. Cities had also to be built for the reception and support of the force of chariots and cavalry which the king maintained, and which he seems to have been the first to introduce into the armies of Israel. This force is stated to have consisted of 1400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen (III Kings 10:26). The numbers of the foot-soldiery are not given, perhaps because, being a militia and not a standing army, it was only mustered when there was occasion for its services; but the levies available were, probably, not inferior to those which the nation could raise at the close of David's reign.

Solomon's foreign policy was one of international friendship and peace. His relation with the Pharaoh of Egypt has already been alluded to, and the same may be said of his relation with his other great neighbor, Hiram, King of Tyre, and lord of the Phoenician Riviera which lies between Lebanon and the sea. To him belonged the famous Cedar forests, and the no less famous artisans of Gabal were his subjects. Solomon formed with him a commercial treaty, surrendering certain towns on the northern frontier (III Kings 9:11) in exchange for floats of timber conveyed to Jappa and skilled workmen lent him for wood-carving, stone-fashioning, and bronze-casting. What Solomon gained by the alliance was knowledge of the Phoenician manner of trading. As ruler of Edom he had possession of the port of Eloth, at the head of the Gulf of Akaba. Here he built ships and sent his own servants, under Phoenician masters, to trade with Arabia. The profits went into the king's coffers. As Arabia was a gold-producing country, we need not suppose that South Africa was reached by these fleets. Whether the commerce of India reached him by this route is not certain. The list of products imported has sometimes been interpreted in this sense. But one or two obscure words in a comparatively late text can hardly establish the conclusion.

Solomon's internal policy was one of justice and concentration of power and authority. In the administration of justice, Solomon's stern administration and equanimity improved upon David's policy and reign of remissness and incoherence. He also took steps to make the royal authority stronger, more efficient, and more far-reaching, chiefly, as far as our records go, with a view to the collection of revenue and the maintenance of an army, which latter, apparently, he did not know how to use. We have a longer list of ministers. David's government included a commander-in-chief, a captain of the mercenary guard, a superintendent of forced labor, a recorder, a scribe and priests, and a "king's friend." In addition to these, Solomon had a superintendent of prefects and a master of the household.

A more striking innovation was the division of the country into twelve districts, each under a royal representative or prefect, charged with the duty of provisioning the Court month by month. This division largely ignored the ancient tribes, and seems to show that the tribal system was passing away. Like most powerful rulers, Solomon signalized his reign by numerous splendid buildings, and for this purpose made extensive use of the corvee, or forced labor. This again led to increased exertion of authority by the central government; and, incidentally, the complete subjugation of the Canaanites was shown by the fact that they had to bear the main portion of this burden. According to our present biblical data, Solomon went beyond any ancient monarch in the luxury of the harem. The enormous number of wives (700) and concubines (300) attributed to him must be made up by counting all the female slaves of the palace among the concubines. Even then the figure must be grossly exaggerated. Klostermann has wisely remarked that the two items are not in the right proportion, and he is inclined, and we think with good reason, to suspect that 70 wives and 300 concubines was the original statement of the sacred narrator.

The building operations of Solomon were on a large scale and of a remarkable magnitude and splendor. Besides the erection of a magnificent temple he succeeded in emulating the great kings of Western Asia and Egypt by building for himself in the city of Jerusalem, palaces, houses, and gardens. In the erection of these, he spent thirteen years as well as a large sum of money, while employing thousands of laborers and craftsmen. The royal residence embraced several distinct structures:

  1. the house of the forest of Lebanon (so named from the quantity of cedar-wood used in it), which measured 100x50x30 cubits, and rested upon three rows (so Sept.) of pillars (each row being composed of fifteen columns) in addition to the external walls;
  2. the porch of pillars, 50x30 cubits;
  3. the porch of the throne (to which the last-mentioned may have served as an ante-chamber), forming a judgment hall where the king's throne of ivory and gold (III Kings 10:18-20) was placed when he dispensed justice;
  4. the palace of Pharaoh's daughter, probably included within the court just named.

All these were built of costly hewn stone, the wood employed being cedar. Of Solomon's closing years nothing further is recorded. His reign is stated to have lasted forty years; but it is probable that this is merely a round number employed to indicate a considerable period (perhaps a full generation) and the actual duration of his rule is unknown. The year of his death may be approximately fixed between 938 and 916 B.C. a date arrived at from a consideration of the number of years assigned by the Bible to his successors.

In the view of the Hebrew historian, Solomon was unsurpassed for sagacity and knowledge. On his accession to the throne, it is related that Jehovah appeared to him at Gibeon in a dream, and bade him choose a boon; and the young king, instead of asking for long life or riches or success in war, prayed to be endowed with an understanding heart that he might judge the people committed to him. God granted his request; and added riches and honor thereto, with a promise of length of days if he kept Jehovah's commandments. In consequence of this endowment, he was reputed to be wiser than all men; people flocked from all quarters to hear his wisdom; and the Queen of Sheba, in particular, came to prove him with hard questions. He was at once a philosopher and a poet. He spake 3000 proverbs; his songs were 1005; and his utterances embraced references alike to the vegetable and the animal kingdoms. So great, indeed, was his reputation for practical insight that in later times the bulk of the Hebrew Gnomic literature was ascribed to him.

In the light of after-events, it is impossible fully to endorse the historian's estimate of his sagacity, or even to clear his memory from imputations of criminal folly. To his oppressive exactions, in furtherance of his schemes of luxury and magnificence, was due the discontent which in the reign of his son broke his kingdom in two, and ultimately led to the destruction in detail of the Hebrew nation by the power of Assyria and Babylon. It is clear likewise that, besides being fond of display, he was voluptuous and sensual, and that he was led by his wives and concubines to worship strange gods.

The fact that Solomon's reign was passed in tranquility, except for the attempts of Edom and Damascus to regain their independence, testifies to the care he displayed for the defense of the realm. To his credit, he showed no ambition to undertake foreign conquest; after the exhausting wars of David the nation needed repose. And if he spent his people's wealth lavishly, his commercial policy may have helped to produce that wealth, and perhaps even given to the Jewish people that impulse towards trade which has been for centuries so marked a trait in their character. Nor can one overlook the indirect effects of the commerce he fostered, inasmuch as it brought the people into closer contact with the outside world and so enlarged their intellectual horizon.

In two other respects he profoundly influenced his nation's after-history, and thereby mankind in general. In the first place, whatever the burdens which the construction of the temple entailed upon the generation that saw it erected, it eventually became the chief glory of the Jewish race. To it, its ritual, and its associations, was largely due the stronger hold which, after the disruption, the religion of Jehovah had upon Judah as contrasted with Northern Israel; and when Judah ceased to be a nation, the reconstructed temple became in a still higher degree the guardian of the Hebrew faith and hope. And secondly, the Book of Proverbs, though parts are expressly ascribed to other authors than Solomon, and even those sections which are attributed to him may be complex of origin, is nevertheless the product of Solomon's spirit and example, and much that it contains may actually have proceeded from him. And as Proverbs served as a model for many works of a similar character in later times, some of which, as has been said, were popularly ascribed to him (Ecclesiastes, Wisdom), the debt which the world of literature indirectly owes to the Hebrew king is considerable. The works named do not exhaust the list of productions with which Solomon's name is connected. The Song of Songs is attributed to him; two of the Canonical psalms are entitled his; and a book of Psalms of quite late date also goes by his name.



Ecclesiastes is the name given to the book of Holy Scripture which usually follows the Proverbs; the Hebrew Qoheleth probably has the same meaning. The word preacher, however, is not meant to suggest a congregation nor a public speech, but only the solemn announcement of sublime truths [hqhyl, passive nqhl, Lat. congregare, I (III) K. 8:1, 2; bqhl, in publico, palam, Prov. 5:14; 26:26; qhlh to be taken either as a feminine participle, and would then be either a simple abstract noun, præconium, or in a poetic sense, tuba clangens, or must be taken as the name of a person, like the proper nouns of similar formation, Esd. 2:55-57; corresponding to its use, the word is always used as masculine, except 7:27]. Solomon, as the herald of wisdom, proclaims the most serious truths. His teaching may be divided as follows.


Everything human is vain (1:1-11); for man, during his life on earth, is more transient than all things in nature (1:1-7), whose unchangeable course he admires, but does not comprehend (1:8-11).

Part I.

Vanity in man's private life (1:12-3:15): vain is human wisdom (1:12-18); vain are pleasures and pomp (2:1-23). Then, rhetorically exaggerating, he draws the conclusion: "Is it not better to enjoy life's blessings which God has given, than to waste your strength uselessly?" (2:24-26). As epilogue to this part is added the proof that all things are immutably predestined and are not subject to the will of man (3:1-15). In this first part, the reference to the excessive luxury described in III Kings 10, is placed in the foreground. Afterwards, the author usually prefaces his meditations with an "I saw," and explains what he has learned either by personal observation or by other means, and on what he has meditated. Thus he saw:

Part II.

Sheer vanity also in civil life (3:16-6:6). Vain and cheerless is life because of the iniquity which reigns in the halls of justice (3:16-22) as well as in the intercourse of men (4:1-3). The strong expressions in 3:18 sqq. and 4:2 sq. must be explained by the writer's tragic vein, and thus does credit to the writer, who, speaking as Solomon, deplores bitterly what has often enough happened in his kingdom also, whether through his fault or without his knowledge. The despotic rule of the kings was described in advance by Samuel and Solomon cannot be cleared of all guilt (see below). But even the best prince will, to his grief, find by experience that countless wrongs cannot be prevented in a large empire.

Qoheleth does not speak of the wrongs, which he himself has suffered, but of those, which others sustained. Another of life's vanities consists in the fact that mad competition leads many to fall into idleness (4:4-6); a third causes many a man through greed to shun society, or even to lose a throne because his unwisdom forbids him to seek the help of other men (4:7-16). Qoheleth then turns once more to the three classes of men named: to those who groan under the weight of injustice, in order to exhort them not to sin against God by murmuring against Providence, for this would be tantamount to dishonoring God in His temple, or to breaking a sacred vow, or to denying Providence (4:17-5:8). In the same way he gives a few salutary counsels to the miser (5:9-19) and describes the misery of the supposed foolish king (6:1-6). A long oratorical amplification closes the second part (6:7-7:30). The immutable predestination of all things by God must teach man contentment and modesty (6:7-vii, 1, Vulg.). A serious life, free from all frivolity, is best (7:2-7, Vulg.). Instead of passionate outbreaks (7:8-15), he recommends a golden mean (7:16-23). Finally, Qoheleth inquires into the deepest and last reason of "vanity" and finds it in the sinfulness of woman; he evidently thinks also of the sin of the first woman, through which, against the will of God (30), misery entered the world (7:24-30). In this part, also, Qoheleth returns to his admonition to enjoy in peace and modesty the blessings granted by God, instead of giving oneself up to anger on account of wrongs endured, or to avarice, or to other vices (3:22; 5:17 sq.; 7:15).

Part III.

Part III begins with the question: "Who is as the wise man?" (In the Vulg. these words have been wrongly placed in chap. vii.) Qoheleth here gives seven or eight important rules for life as the quintessence of true wisdom. Submit to God's ("the king's") will (8:1-8). If you observe that there is no justice on earth, contain yourself, "eat and drink" (8:9-15). Do not attempt to solve all the riddles of life by human wisdom; it is better to enjoy modestly the blessings of life and to work according to one's strength, but always within the narrow limits set by God (8:16-9:12. In the Vulg. ad aliud must be dropped). In this "siege" of your city (by God) seek help in true wisdom (9:13-10:3). It is always most important not to lose your temper because of wrongs done to you (10:4-15). Then follows the repetition of the advice not to give oneself up to idleness; sloth destroys countries and nations, therefore work diligently, but leave the success to God without murmuring (10:16-11:6). Even amid the pleasures of life do not forget the Lord, but think of death and judgment (11:7-12:8).

In the epilogue Qoheleth again lays stress upon his authority as the teacher of wisdom, and declares that the pith of his teaching is: Fear God and keep the Commandments; for that is the whole man.

In the above analysis, as must be expected, the writer of this article has been guided in some particulars by his conception of the difficult text before him, which he has set forth more completely in his commentary on the same. Many critics do not admit a close connection of ideas at all. Zapletal regards the book as a collection of separate aphorisms which form a whole only exteriorly; Bickell thought that the arrangement of the parts had been totally destroyed at an early date; Siegfried supposes that the book had been supplemented and enlarged in strata; Luther assumed several authors. Most commentators do not expect that they can show a regular connection of all the "sayings" and an orderly arrangement of the entire book. In the above analysis an attempt has been made to do this, and we have pointed out what means may lead to success.

Several parts must be taken in the sense of parables, e.g. what is said in 9:14 sqq. of the siege of a city by a king. And in 8:2, and 10:20, "king" means God. It appears to me that 4:17, is not to be taken literally; and the same is true of 10:8 sqq. Few will hesitate to take 11:1 sqq. figuratively. Chap. xii must convince every one that bold allegories are quite in Qoheleth's style. Chap. iii would by very flat if the proposition, "There is a time for everything," carried no deeper meaning than the words disclose at first sight. The strongest guarantee of the unity and sequence of thoughts in the book is the theme, "Vanitas vanitatum," which emphatically opens it and is repeated again and again, and (12:8) with which it ends. Furthermore, the constant repetition of vidi or of similar expressions, which connect the arguments for the same truth; finally, the sameness of verbal and rhetorical turns and of the writer's tragic vein, with its hyperbolical language, from beginning to end.

In order to reconcile the apparently conflicting statements in the same book or what seem contradictions of manifest truths of the religious or moral order, ancient commentators assumed that Qoheleth expresses varying views in the form of a dialogue. Many modern commentators, on the other hand, have sought to remove these discrepancies by omitting parts of the text, in this way to obtain a harmonious collection of maxims, or even affirmed that the author had no clear ideas, and, e.g. was not convinced of the spirituality and immortality of the soul. But, apart from the fact that we cannot admit erroneous or varying views of life and faith in an inspired writer, we regard frequent alterations in the text or the proposed form of a dialogue as poor makeshifts. It suffices, in my opinion, to explain certain hyperbolical and somewhat paradoxical turns as results of the bold style and the tragic vein of the writer.

If our explanation is correct, the chief reproach against Qoheleth–viz. that against his orthodoxy–falls to the ground. For if 3:17; 11:9; 12:7, 14, point to another life as distinctly as can be desired, we cannot take 3:18-21, as a denial of immortality. Besides, it is evident that in his whole book the author deplores only the vanity of the mortal or earthly life; but to this may be truly applied (if the hyperbolical language of the tragical mood is taken into consideration) whatever is said there by Qoheleth. We cannot find fault with his comparing the mortal life of man and his death to the life and death of the beast (in vv. 19 and 21 rwh must always be taken as "breath of life"). Again, 4:2 sq. is only a hyperbolical expression; in like manner Job (3:3) curses in his grief the day of his birth. True, some allege that the doctrine of immortality was altogether unknown to early antiquity; but even the Savior (Luke 20:37) adduced the testimony of Moses for the resurrection of the dead and was not contradicted by his adversaries. And 9:5 sq. and 10, must be taken in a similar sense. Now, in dooming all things earthly to destruction, but attributing another life to the soul, Qoheleth admits the spirituality of the soul; this follows especially from 12:7, where the body is returned to the earth, but the soul to God.

Sometimes Qoheleth also seems to be given to fatalism; for in his peculiar manner he lays great stress on the immutability of the laws of nature and of the universe. But he considers this immutability as dependent on God's will (3:14; 6:2; 7:14 sq.). Nor does he deny the freedom of man within the limits set by God; otherwise his admonitions to fear God, to work, etc. would be meaningless, and man would not have brought evil into the world through his own fault (7:29, Heb.) Just as little does he contest the freedom of God's decrees, for God is spoken of as the source of all wisdom (2:26; 5:5).

His views of life do not lead Qoheleth to stoical indifference or to blind hatred; on the contrary, he shows the deepest sympathy with the misery of the suffering and earnestly deprecates opposition against God. In contentment with one's lot, in the quiet enjoyment of the blessings given by God, he discerns the golden mean, by which man prevents the vagaries of passion. Neither does he thereby recommend a kind of epicurism. For the ever-recurring phrase, "Eat and drink, for that is the best in this life," evidently is only a typical formula by which he recalls man from all kinds of excesses. He recommends not idle, but moderate enjoyment, accompanied by incessant labor.

Many persist in laying one charge at Qoheleth's door, viz. that of pessimism. He seems to call all man's efforts vain and empty, his life aimless and futile, and his lot deplorable. It is true that a somber mood prevails in the book, that the author chose as his theme the description of the sad and serious sides of life but is it pessimism to recognize the evils of life and to be impressed with them? Is it not rather the mark of a great and profound mind to deplore bitterly the imperfection of what is earthly, and, on the other hand, the peculiarity of the frivolous to ignore the truth? The colors with which Qoheleth paints these evils are indeed glaring, but they naturally flow from the poetical-oratorical style of his book and from his inward agitation, which likewise gives rise to the hyperbolical language in the Book of Job and in certain psalms. However, Qoheleth, unlike the pessimists, does not inveigh against God and the order of the universe, but only man. Chap. 7, in which he inquires into the last cause of evil, closes with the words, "Only this I have found, that God made man right, and he hath entangled himself with an infinity of questions [or phantasms]."

His philosophy shows us also the way in which man can find a modest happiness. While severely condemning exceptional pleasures and luxury (chap. ii), it counsels the enjoyment of those pleasures which God prepares for every man (8:15; 9:7 sqq.; 11:9). It does not paralyze, but incites activity (9:10; 10:18 sq.; 11:1 sq.). It stays him in his afflictions (5:7 sqq.; 8:5; 10:4); it consoles him in death (3:17; 12:7); it discovers at every step how necessary is the fear of God. But Qoheleth's greatest trouble seems to be his inability to find a direct, smooth answer to life's riddles. Hence he so frequently deplores the insufficiency of his wisdom; on the other hand, besides wisdom, commonly so called, i.e. the wisdom resulting from man's investigations, he knows another kind of wisdom which soothes, and which he therefore recommends again and again (7:12, 20; Heb. 8:1; 9:17; 12:9-14).

It is true, we feel how the author wrestles with the difficulties, which beset his inquiries into the riddles of life; but he overcomes them and offers us an effective consolation even in extraordinary trials. Extraordinary also must have been the occasion which led him to compose the book. He introduces himself from the beginning and repeatedly as Solomon, and this forcibly recalls Solomon shortly before the downfall of the empire; but we know from the Scriptures that this had been prepared by various rebellions and had been foretold by the infallible word of the prophet (see below). We must picture to ourselves Solomon in these critical times, how he seeks to strengthen himself and his subjects in this sore trial by the true wisdom which is a relief at all times; submission to the immutable will of God, the true fear of the Lord, undoubtedly must now appear to him the essence of human wisdom.

The inspired character of Ecclesiastes was not settled until the Fifth Ecumenical Council. Already in the third century, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, in his metaphrase, then Gregory of Nyssa, in eight homilies, set forth the wisdom of Qoheleth as truly celestial and Divine. Every age may learn from his teaching that man's true happiness must not be looked for on earth, nor in human wisdom, nor in luxury, nor in royal splendor. Every age knows that many afflictions await everybody, in consequence either of the iniquity of others, or of his own passions. Man knows that God has shut him up within narrow limits, lest he become overweening, but that He does not deny him a small measure of happiness if he does not "seek things that are above him" (7:1, Vulg.), if he enjoys what God has bestowed on him in the fear of the Lord and in salutary labor. The hope of a better life to come grows all the stronger the less this life can satisfy man, especially the man of high endeavor. Now Qoheleth does not intend this doctrine for an individual or for one people, but for mankind, and he does not prove it from supernatural revelation, but from pure reason. This is his cosmopolitan standpoint, which Kuenen rightly recognized; unfortunately, this commentator wished to conclude from this that the book originated in Hellenistic times. Nowack refuted him, but the universal application of the meditations contained therein, to every man who is guided by reason, is unmistakable.

The Author of the Book.

Most commentators are of the opinion that Qoheleth's style points not to Solomon, but to a later writer. About this the following may be said:

(1) As a matter of fact, the language of this book differs widely from the language of the Proverbs. Some think that they have discovered many Aramaisms in it. What can we say on this point?–It cannot be gainsaid that Solomon and a great, if not the greatest part of his people understood Aramaic. (We take the word here as the common name of the dialects closely related to the Biblical Hebrew.) Abraham and Sara, as well as the wives of Isaac and Jacob, had come from Chaldea; it is therefore probable that the language of that country was preserved, beside the language of Palestine, in the family of the Patriarchs; at any rate, in Moses' time the people still used Aramaic expressions. They exclaim (Ex. 16:15) mn hwa while Moses himself once substituted the Hebrew mh-hwa; the name of the miraculous food, however, remained mn. A large portion of David's and Solomon's empire was peopled by Arameans, so that Solomon reigned from the Euphrates to Gaza [I (III) K. 5:4, Heb.; II Sam. (K.), 10:19; cf Gen. 15:18]. He was conversant with the science of the "sons of the East" and exchanged with them his wisdom (I K. 5:10-14, Heb.). But, as Palestine lay along the commercial routes between the Euphrates and Phœnecia, the Israelites, at least in the north of the country, must have been well acquainted with Aramaic. At the time of King Ezechias even the officials of Jerusalem understood Aramaic (Is. 36:11; II K. 18:26, Heb.). Solomon could therefore assume, without hesitation, a somewhat Aramaic speech, if reason or mere inclination moved him.

As a skilful writer, he may have intended, especially in his old age, and in a book whose style is partly oratorical, partly philosophical, partly poetical, to enrich the language by new turns. Goethe's language in the second part of "Faust" differs greatly from the first, and introduces many neologisms. Now Solomon seems to have had a more important reason for it. As it lay in his very character to remove the barriers between pagans and Israelites, he may have had the conscious intention to address in this book, one of his last, not only the Israelites but his whole people. The Aramaic coloring of his language, then, served as a means to introduce himself to Aramaic readers, who, in their turn, understood Hebrew sufficiently. It is remarkable that the name of God, Jahweh, never occurs in Ecclesiastes, while Elohim is found thirty-seven times; it is more remarkable still that the name Jahweh has been omitted in a quotation (5:3; cf. Deut. 23:22). Besides, nothing is found in the book that could not be known through natural religion, without the aid of revelation.

(2) The Aramaisms perhaps may be explained in still another way. We probably possess the Old Testament, not in the original wording and orthography, but in a form which is slightly revised. We must unquestionably distinguish, it seems, between Biblical Hebrew as an unchanging literary language and the conversational Hebrew, which underwent constant changes. For there is no instance anywhere that a spoken language has been preserved for some nine hundred years so little changed in its grammar and vocabulary as the language of our extant canonical books. Let us, for an instance, compare the English, French, or German of nine hundred years ago with those languages in their present form. Hence it seems exceedingly daring to infer from the written Hebrew the character of the spoken language, and from the style of the book to infer the date of its composition. In the case of a literary language, on the other hand, which is a dead language and as such essentially unchangeable, it is reasonable to suppose that in the course of time its orthography, as well as single words and phrases, and, perhaps, here and there, some formal elements, have been subjected to change in order to be more intelligible to later readers. It is possible that Ecclesiastes was received into the canon in some such later edition. The Aramaisms, therefore, may also be explained in this manner; at any rate, the supposition that the time of the composition of a Biblical book may be deduced from its language is wholly questionable.

(3) This is a fact admitted by all those critics who ascribe Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, portions of Isaias and of the Pentateuch, etc. to a later period, without troubling themselves about the difference of style in these books.

(4) The eagerness to find Aramaisms in Ecclesiastes is also excessive. Expressions which are commonly regarded as such are found now and then in many other books. Hirzel thinks that he has found ten Aramaisms in Genesis, eight in Exodus, five in Leviticus, four in Numbers, nine in Deuteronomy, two in Josue, nine in Judges, five in Ruth, sixteen in Samuel, sixteen in the Psalms, and several in Proverbs. For this there may be a twofold explanation: Either the descendants of Abraham, a Chaldean, and of Jacob, who dwelt twenty years in the Land of Laban, and whose sons were almost all born there, have retained numerous Aramaisms in the newly acquired Hebrew tongue, or the peculiarities pointed out by Hitzig and others are no Aramaisms.

It is indeed astonishing how accurately certain critics claim to know the linguistic peculiarities of each of the numerous authors and of every period of a language of which but little literature remains. Zöckler affirms that almost every verse of Qoheleth contains some Aramaisms (Komm. p. 115); Grotius found only four in the whole book; Hengstenberg admits ten; the opinions on this point are so much at variance that one cannot help noticing how varying men's conception of an Aramaism is. Peculiar or strange expressions are at once called Aramaisms; but, according to Hävernick, the Book of Proverbs, also, contains forty words and phrases which are often repeated and which are found in no other book; the Canticle of Canticles has still more peculiarities. On the contrary the Prophecies of Aggeus, Zacharias, and Malachias are without any of those peculiarities which are supposed to indicate so late a period. There is much truth in Griesinger's words: "We have no history of the Hebrew language."

(5) Even prominent authorities adduce Aramaisms which are shown to be Hebraic by clear proofs or manifest analogies from other books. There are hardly any unquestionable Aramaisms which can neither be found in other books nor regarded as Hebraisms, which perchance have survived only in Ecclesiastes (for a detailed demonstration cf. the present writer's Commentary, pp. 23-31). We repeat here Welte's words: "Only the language remains as the principal argument that it was written after Solomon; but how fallacious in such cases is the merely linguistic proof, need not be mentioned after what has been said."

Commentators allege that the conditions as described in Ecclesiastes do not agree with the time and person of Solomon. True, the author, who is supposed to be Solomon, speaks of the oppression of the weak by the stronger, or one official by another, of the denial of right in the courts of justice (3:16; 4:1; 5:7 sqq.; 8:9 sq.; 10:4 sqq.). Now many think that such things could not have happened in Solomon's realm. But it surely did not escape the wisdom of Solomon that oppression occurs at all times and with every people; the glaring colors, however, in which he describes them originate in the tragic time of the whole book. Besides, Solomon himself was accused, after his death, of oppressing his people, and his son confirms the charge [I (III) K. 12:4 and 14]. Moreover, long before him, Samuel spoke of the despotism of the future kings [I Sam. (K.), 8:11 sq.].

Many miss in the book an indication of the past sins and the subsequent repentance of the king or, on the other hand, wonder that he discloses the mistakes of his life so openly. But if these readers considered 7:27-29, they could not help sharing Solomon's disgust at women's intrigues and their consequences. If obedience towards God is inculcated in various ways, and if this (12:13) is regarded as man's sole destination, the readers saw that the converted king feared the Lord; in chap. ii sensuality and luxury are condemned so vigorously that we may regard this passage as a sufficient expression of repentance. The openness, however, with which Solomon accuses himself only heightens the impression.

This impression has at all times been so strong, precisely because it is the experienced, rich, and wise Solomon who brands the sinful aspirations of man as "vanity of vanities." Again, what Qoheleth says of himself and his wisdom in 12:9 sqq. cannot sound strange if it comes from Solomon, especially since in this passage he makes the fear of the Lord the essence of wisdom. The passages 4:13; 8:10; 9:13; 10:4, are considered by some as referring to historical persons, which seems to me incorrect; at any rate, indications of so general a nature do not necessarily point to definite events and persons. Other commentators think they have discovered traces of Greek philosophy in the book; Qoheleth appears to be now a skeptic, now a stoic, now an epicurean; but these traces of Hellenism, if existing at all, are nothing more than remote resemblances too weak to serve as arguments. Cheyne (Job and Solomon) sufficiently refuted Tyler and Plumptre. That 3:12, is a linguistic Græcism, has not been proved, because the common meaning of ‘sh twb is retained by many commentators; moreover, in II Sam. (K.), 12:18,. ‘sh r‘h means "to be sorry"; the verb, therefore, has about the same force as if we translated ‘sh twb by eû práttein.

As all the other internal proofs against the authorship of Solomon are less convincing, we must listen to the voice of tradition, which has always attributed Ecclesiastes to him. The Jews doubted not its composition by Solomon, but objected to the reception, or rather retention, of the book in the canon. Hillel's School decided definitely for its canonicity and inspiration. In the Christian Church Theodore of Mopsuestia and some others for a time obscured the tradition; all other witnesses previous to the sixteenth century favor the Solomonic authorship and the inspiration. The book itself bears testimony for Solomon, not only by the title, but by the whole tone of the discussion, as well as in 1:12; moreover, in 12:9, Qoheleth is expressly called the author of many proverbs. The ancients never so much as suspected that here, as in the Book of Wisdom, Solomon only played a fictitious part.

On the other hand, others have attempted to prove that the details do not fit Solomon, and to contest his authorship with this single internal argument. The reasons adduced, however, are based upon textual explanations which are justly repudiated by others. Thus Hengstenberg sees (10:16) in the king, "who is a child," an allusion to the King of Persia; Grätz, to Herod the Idumæan; Reusch rightly maintains that the writer speaks of human experiences in general. From 9:13-15, Hitzig concludes that the author lived about the year 200; Bernstein thinks this ridiculous and opines that some other historical event is alluded to. Hengstenberg regards this passage as nothing more than a parable; on this last view, also, the translation of the Septuagint is based (it has the subjunctive; ’élthe basileús, "there may come a king"). As a matter of fact, Qoheleth describes only what has happened or may happen somewhere "under the sun" or at some time; he does not speak of political situations, but of the experience of the individual; he has in view not his people alone, but mankind in general.

If internal reasons are to decide the question of authorship, we might more justly prove this authorship of Solomon with more right from the remarkable passage about the snares of woman (7:27), a passage the bitterness of which is not surpassed by the warning of any ascetic. Or we could discern Solomon’s authorship from the insatiable thirst of Qoheleth for wisdom; or from his deep knowledge of men and the unusual force of his style. Considering everything, we see no decisive reason to look for another author. On the contrary, the reasons that others advanced against this view are for the greatest part so weak that in this question we clearly discern the influence of fashion.

Critics who deny the authorship of Solomon set variously the time of the composition of our book. They have suggested every period from Solomon to 200; there are even authorities for a later time; Grätz thinks that he has discovered clear proof that the book was written under King Herod (40-4 B.C.). This shows clearly how little likely the linguistic criterion and the other internal arguments are to lead to an agreement of opinion. If Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes towards the end of his life, the somber tone of the book is easily explained. For the judgments of God (III Kings 11) which then came upon him would naturally move him to sorrow and repentance, especially as the breaking up of his kingdom and the accompanying misery were then distinctly before his eyes (see vv. 29 sqq.; 40). Amid the sudden ruin of his power and splendor, he might well exclaim, "Vanity of vanities!" But as God had promised to correct him "in mercy" (II Kings 7:14 sq.), the supposition of many ancient writers that Solomon was converted to God becomes highly probable. Then we also understand why his last book, or one of his last, consists of three thoughts: the vanity of earthly things, self-accusation, and emphatic admonition to obey the immutable decrees of Providence. The last was well suited to save the Israelites from despair, who were soon to behold the downfall of their power.

There is an unmistakable similarity between Ecclesiastes and the Canticle of Canticles, not only in the pithy shortness of the composition, but also in the emphatic repetition of words and phrases, in the boldness of the language, in the obscure construction of the whole, and in certain linguistic peculiarities (e.g. the use of the relative s). The loose succession of sententious thoughts, however, reminds us of the Book of Proverbs, whence the epilogue (12:9 sqq.) expressly refers to Qoheleth's skill in parables. In the old lists of Biblical books, the place of Ecclesiastes is between Proverbs and the Canticle of Canticles: Sept. Talmud (Baba Bathra, 14:2), Orig. Mel. Concil. Laodic. etc. also in the Vulgate. Its position is different only in the Masoretic Bible, but, as is generally admitted, for liturgical reasons.

As to the contents, the critics attack the passages referring to the judgment and immortality: 3:17; 11:9; 12:7; furthermore the epilogue, 12:9 sqq. especially verses 13, 14; also some other passages. Bickell expressed the opinion that the folios of the original, while being stitched, were deranged and completely confused. His hypothesis found few advocates, and Euringer (Masorahtext des Qoheleth, Leipzig, 1890) maintains, in opposition to him, that books had not at that early date taken the place of rolls. There is not sufficient evidence to assume that the text was written in verse, as Zapletal does.

Owing to its literalism, the translation of the Septuagint is frequently unintelligible, and it seems that the translators used a corrupt Hebraic text. The Itala and the Coptic translation follow the Septuagint. The Peshito, though translated from the Hebrew, is evidently also dependent on the text of the Septuagint. This text, with the notes of Origen, partly forms the Greek and Syriac Hexapla. The Vulgate is a skilful translation made by Jerome from the Hebrew and far superior to his translation from the Greek (in his commentary). Sometimes we cannot accept his opinion (in 6:9, he most likely wrote quid cupias, and in 8:12, ex eo quod peccator). (See the remnants of the Hexapla of Origen in Field, Oxford, 1875; a paraphrase of the Greek text in St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Migne, 10:987.) The Chaldean paraphrast is useful for controlling the Masoretic text; the Midrash Qoheleth is without value. The commentary of Olympiodorus is also serviceable (seventh century, M. XCIII, 477) and Œcumenius, "Catena" (Verona, 1532). A careful translation from the Hebrew was made about 1400 in the "Græca Veneta" (ed. Gebhardt, Leipzig, 1875).



Also known as the Book of Sirach.

The longest of the deuterocanonical books of the Bible, and the last of the Sapiential writings in the Vulgate of the Old Testament.


The usual title of the book in Greek manuscripts and Fathers is Sophia Iesou uiou Seirach, "the Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach," or simply Sophia Seirach "the Wisdom of Sirach." It is manifestly connected with and possibly derived from, the following subscription which appears at the end of recently-discovered Hebrew fragments of Ecclesiasticus: "Wisdom [Hó khmâ ] of Simeon, the son of Yeshua, the son of Eleazar, the son of Sira." Indeed, its full form would naturally lead one to regard it as a direct rendering of the Hebrew heading: Hokhmath Yeshua ben Sira, were it not that Blessed Jerome, in his prologue to the Solominic writings, states that the Hebrew title of Ecclesiasticus was "Mishle" (Parabolae) of Jesus of Sirach. Perhaps in the original Hebrew the book bore different titles at different times: in point of fact, the simple name Hokhma, "Wisdom," is applied to it in the Talmud, while Rabbinic writers commonly quote Ecclesiasticus as Ben Sira. Among the other Greek names which are given to Ecclesiastics in patristic literature, may be mentioned the simple title of Sophia, "Wisdom," and the honorary designation he panaretos sophia, "all-virtuous Wisdom."

As might well be expected, Latin writers have applied to Ecclesiastics titles which are derived from its Greek names, such as "Sapientia Sirach" (Rufinus); "Jesu, filii Sirach" (Junilius), "Sapienta Jesu" (Codex Claromontanus); "Liber Sapientiae" (Roman Missal). It can hardly be doubted, however, that the heading "Parabolae Salomonis," which is prefixed at times in the Roman Breviary to sections from Ecclesiasticus, is to be traced back to the Hebrew title spoken of by Blessed Jerome in his prologue to the Solomonic writings. Be this as it may, the book is most commonly designated in the Latin Church as "Ecclesiasticus," itself a Greek word with a Latin ending. This last titlet points out the very special esteem in which this didactic work was formerly held for the purpose for general reading and instruction in church meetings: this book alone, of all the deuterocanonical writings, which are also called Ecclesiastical by Rufinus, has preserved by way of pre-eminence the name of Ecclesiasticus (Liber), that is "a church reading book."


The Book of Ecclesiasticus is preceded by a prologue which professes to be the work of the Greek translator of the origional Hebrew and the genuineness of which is undoubted. In this preface to his translation, the writer describes, among other things his frame of mind in undertaking the hard task of rendering the Hebrew text into Greek. He was deeply impressed by the wisdom of the sayings contained in the book, and therefore wished, by means of a translation, to place those valuable teachings within the reach of anyone desiring to avail himself of them for living in more perfect accord with the law of God. This was a most worthy object, and there is no doubt that in setting it before himself the translator of Ecclesiasticus had well realized the general character of the contents of that sacred writing. The fundamental thought of the author of Ecclesiasticus is that of wisdom as understood and inculcated in inspired Hebrew literature; for the contents of this book, however varied they may appear in other respects, admit of being naturally grouped under the general heading of "Wisdom." Viewed from this standpoint, which is indeed universally regarded as the author's own standpoint, the contents of Ecclesiasticus may be divided into two great parts: chs. 1 - 42:14; and 42:15-1:26.

The sayings which chiefly make up the first part, tend directly to inculcate the fear of God and the fulfillment of His commands, wherein consists true wisdom. This they do by pointing out, in a concrete manner, how the truly wise man shall conduct himself in the manifold relationships of practical life. They afford a most varied fund of thoughtful rules for self-guidance in joy and sorrow, in prosperity and adversity, in sickness and health, in struggle and temptation. They offer instruction in social life, in intercourse with friends and enemies, with high and low, rich and poor, with the good and wicked, the wise and the foolish, in trade, business, and one's ordinary calling. Above all, they instruct one in one's own house and family in connection with the training of children, the treatment of men-servants and maidservants, and the way in which a man ought to behave towards his own wife and women generally (Schürer). Together with these maxims, which resemble closely both in matter and form the Proverbs of Solomon, the first part of Ecclesiasticus includes several more or less long descriptions of the origin and excellence of wisdom (cf. 1; 4:12-22; 6:18-37; 14:22-15:11; 24).

The contents of the second part of the book are of a decidedly more uniform character, but contribute no less effectively to the setting forth of the general topic of Ecclesiasticus. They first describe at length the Divine wisdom so wonderfully displayed in the realm of nature (42:15-43i), and next illustrate the practice of wisdom in the various walks of life, as made known by the history of Israel's worthies, from Enoch down to the high priest Simon, the writer's holy contemporary (44-1, 26). At the close of the book (1, 27-29), there is first, a short conclusion containing the author's subscription and the express declaration of his general purpose; and next, an appendix (51) in which the writer returns thanks to God for His benefits, and especially for the gift of wisdom. To these the Hebrew text recently discovered subjoins a second subscription and the following pious exclamation: "Blessed be the name of Yahweh from this time forth and for evermore."

Original Text.

Until quite recently the original language of the Book of Ecclesiasticus was a matter of considerable doubt among scholars. They, of course, know that the Greek translator's prologue states that the work was originally written in "Hebrew," hebraisti, but they were in doubt as to the precise signification of this term, which might mean either Hebrew proper or Aramaic. They were likewise aware that Blessed Jerome, in his preface to the Solomonic writings, speaks of a Hebrew original as in existence in his day, but it still might be doubted whether it was truly a Hebrew text, or not rather a Syriac or Aramaic translation in Hebrew characters. Again, in their eyes, the citation of the book by rabbinical writers, sometimes in Hebrew, sometimes in Aramaic, did not appear decisive, since it was not certain that they came from a Hebrew original. And this was their view also with regard to the quotations, this time in classical Hebrew, by the Bagdad gaon Saadia of the tenth century of our era, that is of the period after which all documentary traces of a Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus practically disappear from the Christian world. Still, most critics were of the mind that the primitive language of the book was Hebrew, not Aramaic. Their chief argument for this was that the Greek version contains certain errors: for example, 24:37 (in Gr. verse 27), "light" for "Nile" (20); 25:22 (Gr. verse 15), "head" for "poison" (20); 46. 21 (Gr. verse 18), "Tyrians" for "enemies" (30); etc.; these are best accounted for by supposing that the translator misunderstood a Hebrew original before him.

And so the matter stood until the year 1896, which marks the beginning of an entirely new period in the history of the original text of Ecclesiasticus. Since that time, much documentary evidence has come to light, and intends to show that the book was originally written in Hebrew. The first fragments of a Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus (39:15-40:6) were brought from the East to Cambridge, England, by Mrs. A.S. Lewis; they were identified in May 1896, and published in "The Expositor" (July, 1896) by S. Schechter, reader in Talmudic at Cambridge University. About the same time, in a box of fragments acquired from the Cairo genizzah through Professor Sayce for the Bodleian Library, Oxford, nine leaves apparently of the same manuscript (now called B) and containing 40:9-xlix, 11, were found by A.E. Cowley and Ad. Neubauer, who also soon published them (Oxford, 1897) Next followed the identification by Professor Schechter, first, of seven leaves of the same Codex (B), containing 30:11-31, 11; 32:1b-33:3; 35:11-36:21; 37:30-38:28b; 49:14c-51:30; and next, of four leaves of a different manuscript (called A), and presenting 3:6e-7:31a; 11:36d-16:26. Dr.. Schechtler discovered these eleven leaves in the fragments brought by him from the Cairo genizzah; and it is among matter obtained from the same source by the British Museum, that G. Margoliouth found and published. in 1899, four pages of the manuscript B containing 31:12-xxxii, 1a; 36:21-37:29.

Early in 1900, I. Lévi published two pages from a third manuscript (C), 36:29a-38, la, that is, a passage already contained in Codex Bl and two from a fourth manuscript (D), presenting in a defective manner, 6:18-7:27b, that is, a section already found in Codes A. Also in early 1900, E. N. Adler published four pages of manuscript A, vix. 7:29-12:1; and S. Schechter, four pages of manuscript C, consisting of mere excerpts from 4:28b-5, 15c; 25:11b-26:2a. Lastly, two pages of manuscript D were discovered by Dr. M.S. Gaster, and contain a few verses of chaps. 18, 19, 20, 27, some of which already appear in manuscripts B and C. Thus be the middle of the year 1900, more than one-half of a Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus had been identified and published by scholars. (In the foregoing indications of the newly-discovered fragments of the Hebrew, the chapters and verses given are according to the numbering in the Latin Vulgate).

As might naturally be anticipated, and indeed it was desirable that it should so happen, the publication of these various fragments gave rise to a controversy as to the originality of the text therein exhibited. At a very early stage in that publication, scholars easily noticed that although the Hebrew language of the fragments was apparently classical, it nevertheless contained readings which might lead one to suspect its actual dependence on the Greek and Syriac versions of Ecclesiasticus. Whence it manifestly imported to determine whether, and if so, to what extent, the Hebrew fragments reproduced an original text of the book, or on the contrary, simply presented a late retranslation of Ecclesiasticus into Hebrew by means of the versions just named.

Both Dr. G. Bickell and Professor D.S. Margoliouth, that is, the two men who but shortly before the discovery of the Hebrew fragments of Ecclesiasticus had attempted to retranslate small parts of the book into Hebrew, declared themselves openly against the originality of the newly found Hebrew text. It may indeed be admitted that the efforts naturally entailed by their own work of retranslation had especially fitted Margoliouth and Bickell for noticing and appreciating those features which even now appear to many scholars to tell in favor of a certain connection of the Hebrew text with the Greek and Syriac versions.

It remains true, however, that, with the exception of Israel Lévi and perhaps a few others, the most prominent Biblical and Talmudic scholars of the day are of the mind that the Hebrew fragments present an original text. They think that the arguments and inferences most vigorously urged by Professor D.S. Margoliouth in favor of his view have been disposed of through a comparison of the fragments published in 1899 and 1900 with those that had appeared at an earlier date, and through a close study of nearly all the facts now available. They readily admit in the manuscripts thus far recovered, scribal faults, doublets, Arabisms, apparent traces of dependence on extant versions, etc. But to their minds all such defects do not disprove the originality of the Hebrew text, inasmuch as they can, and indeed in a large number of cases must, be accounted for by the very late character of the copies now in our possession.

The Hebrew fragments of Ecclesiasticus belong, at the earliest, to the tenth, or even the eleventh, century of our era, and by that late date one would naturally expect all kinds of errors to have crept into the origional language of the book, because the Jewish copyists of the work did not regard it as canonical. At the same time these defects do not disfigure altogether the manner of Hebrew in which Ecclesiasticus was primitively written. The language of the fragments is manifestly not rabbinic, but classical Hebrew; and this conclusion is decidedly borne out by a comparison of their text with that of the quotations from Ecclesiasticus, both in the Talmud and in the Saadia, which have already been referred to. Again, the Hebrew of the newly found fragments, although classical, is yet one of a distinctly late type and it supplies considerable material for lexicographic research.

Finally, the comparatively large number of the Hebrew manuscripts recently discovered in only one place (Cairo) points to the fact that the work in its primitive form was often transcribed in ancient times, and thus affords hope that other copies, more or less complete, of the original text may be discovered at some future date. To render their study convenient, all the extant fragments have been brought together in a splendid edition. "Facsimiles of the Fragments hitherto recovered of the Book of Ecclesiasticus in Hebrew" (Oxford and Cambridge, 1901). The metrical and strophic structure of parts of the newly discovered text has been particularly investigated by H. Grimme and N. Schlogl, whose success in the matter is, to say the least, indifferent; and by Jos. Knabenbauer, S.J. in a less venturesome way, and hence with more satisfactory results.

Ancient Versions.

It was, of course, from a Hebrew text incomparably better than the one we now possess that the grandson of the author of Ecclesiasticus rendered the book into Greek. This translator was a Palestinian Jew, who came to Egypt at a certain time, and desired to make the work accessible in a Greek dress to the Jews of the Dispersion, and no doubt also to all lovers of wisdom. His name is unknown, although an ancient, but little reliable, tradition ("Synopsis Scripurae Sacrae" in St. Athanasius's works) calls him Jesus, the son of Sirach. His literary qualifications for the task he undertook and carried out cannot be fully ascertained at the present day. He is commonly regarded, however, from the general character of his work, as a man of good general culture, with a fair command of both Hebrew and Greek. He was distinctly aware of the great difference which exists between the respective genius of these two languages, and of the consequent difficulty attending the efforts of one who aimed at giving a satisfactory Greek version of a Hebrew writing, and therefore begs expressly, in his prologue to the work, his readers indulgence for whatever shortcomings they may notice in his translation. He claims to have spent much time and labor on his version of Ecclesiasticus, and it is only fair to suppose that his work was not only a conscientious, but also, on the whole, a successful, rendering of the original Hebrew.

One can but speak in this guarded manner of the exact value of the Greek translation in its primitive form for the simple reason that a comparison of its extant manuscripts — all apparently derived from a single Greek exemplar — shows that the primitive translation has been very often, and in many cases seriously, tampered with. The great uncial codices, the Vatican, the Sinaitic, the Ephraemitic, and partly the Alexandrian, though comparatively free from glosses, contain an inferior text; the better form of the text seems to be preserved in the Venetus Codex and in certain cursive manuscripts, though these have many glosses. Undoubtedly, a fair number of these glosses may be referred safely to the translator himself, who, at times added one word, or even a few words to the original before him, to make the meaning clearer or to guard the text against possible misunderstanding. But the great bulk of the glossed resemble the Greek additions in the Book of Proverbs; they are expansions of the thought, or hellenizing interpretations, or additions from current collections of gnomic sayings.

The following are the best-ascertained results which flow from a comparison of the Greek version with the text of our Hebrew fragments. Oftentimes, the corruptions of the Hebrew may be discovered by means of the Greek; and, conversely, the Greek text is proved to be defective, in the line of additions or omissions, by references to parallel places in the Hebrew. At times, the Hebrew discloses considerable freedom of rendering on the part of the Greek translator; or enables one to perceive how the author of the version mistook one Hebrew letter for another; or again, affords us a means to make sense out of unintelligible expressions in the Greek text.

Lastly, the Hebrew text confirms the order of the contents in 30-36 which the Syriac, Latin, and Armenian versions present, over against the unnatural order found in all existing Greek manuscripts. Like the Greek, the Syriac version of Ecclesiasticus was made directly from the original Hebrew. This is well nigh universally admitted; and a comparison of its text with that of the newly found Hebrew fragments should settle the point forever; as just stated, the Syriac version gives the same order as the Hebrew text for the contents of 30-36; in particular, it presents mistaken renderings, the origin of which, while inexplicable by supposing a Greek original as its basis, is easily accounted for by reference to the text from which it was made must have been very defective, as is proved by the numerous and important lacunae in the Syriac translation. It seems, likewise, that the Hebrew has been rendered by the translator himself in a careless, and at times even arbitrary manner. The Syriac version has all the less critical value at the present day, because it was considerably revised at an unknown date, by means of the Greek translation.

Of the other ancient versions of Ecclesiasticus, the Old Latin is the most important. It was made before Blessed Jerome's time, although the precise date of its origin cannot now be ascertained; and the saint apparently revised its text but little, previously to its adoption into the Latin Vulgate. The unity of the Old Latin version, which was formerly undoubted, has been of late seriously questioned, and Ph. Thielmann, the most recent investigator of its text in this respect, thinks that chs. xliv-1 are due to a translator other than that of the rest of the book, the former part being of European, the latter and chief part of African, origin. Conversely, the view formerly doubted by Cornelius a Lapide, P. Sabatier, E.G. Bengel, etc. namely that the Latin version was made directly from the Greek, is now considered as altogether certain. The version has retained many Greek words in a Latin zed form: eremus (6:3); eucharis (6:5); basis (6:30); acharis (20:21), xenia (20:31); dioryx (24:41); poderes (27:9); etc. etc. together with certain Graecisms of construction; so that the text rendered into Latin was unquestionably Greek, not the original Hebrew.

It is indeed true that other features of the Old Latin — notably its order for xxx-xxxvi, which disagrees with the Hebrew text — seem to point to the conclusion that the Latin version was based immediately on the original Hebrew. But a very recent and critical examination of all such features in i-xliii has let H. Herkenne to a different conclusion; all things taken into consideration, he is of the mind that: "Nititur Vetus Latina textu velgari graeco ad textum hebraicum alterius recensionis graece castigato." (See also Jos. Knabenbauer, S.J. "In Ecclesiaticum," p. 34 sq.) Together with graecized forms, the Old Latin translation of Ecclesiasticus presents many barbarisms and solecisms (such as defunctio, 1:13; religiositas, 1:17, 18, 26; compartior, 1:24; receptibilis, 2:5; peries, periet, 8:18; 33:7; obductio, 2:2; 5:1, 10; etc.), which, to the extent in which they can be actually traced back to the original form of ther version, go to show that the translator had but a poor command of the Latin language. Again, from a fair number of expressions which are certainly due to the translator, it may be inferred that at times, he did not catch the sense of the Greek, and that at other times he was too free in rendering the text before him.

The Old Latin version abounds in additional lines or even verses foreign not only to the Greek, but also to the Hebrew text. Such important additions — which often appear clearly so from the fact that they interfere with the poetical parallelisms of the book — are either repetitions of preceding statements under a slightly different form, or glosses inserted by the translator or the copyists. Owing to the early origin of the Latin version (probably the second century of our era), and to its intimate connection with primitive form, as far as this form can be ascertained is one of the chief things to be desired for the textual criticism of Ecclesiasticus. Among the other ancient versions of the Book of Ecclesiasticus which are derived from the Greek, the Ethiopic, Arabic, and Coptic are worthy of special mention.

Author and Date.

The author of the Book of Ecclesiasticus is not King Solomon, to whom, at St. Augustine bears witness, the work was oftentimes ascribed "on account of some resemblance of style" with that of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Canticle of Canticles, but to whom, as the same holy doctor says, "the more learned" (apparently among the church writers of the time) "know full well that it should not be referred" (On the City of God, Bk. 17:ch xx). At the present day, the authorship of the book is universally and rightly assigned to a certain "Jesus," concerning whose person and character a great deal has indeed been surmised but very little is actually known. In the Greek prologue to the work, the author's proper name is given as Iesous, and this information is corroborated by the subscriptions found in the original Hebrew: 1:27 (Vulg. 1:29); 51:30. His familiar surname was Ben Sira, as the Hebrew text and the ancient versions agree to attest. He is described in the Greek and Latin versions as "a man of Jerusalem" (1, 29), and internal evidence (cf. 24:13 sqq.; 1) tends to confirm the statement, although it is not found in the Hebrew. His close acquaintance with "the Law, the Prophets, and the other books delivered from the fathers," that is, with the three classes of writings which make up the Hebrew Bible, is distinctly borne witness to by the prologue to the work.. The 367 idioms or phrases, which the study of the Hebrew fragments has shown to be derived from the sacred books of the Jews, are an ample proof that Jesus, the son of Sirach, was thoroughly acquainted with the Biblical text.

He was a philisophical observer of life, as can be easily inferred from the nature of his thought, and he himself speaks of the wider knowledge which he acquired by traveling much, and of which he, of course, availed himself in writing his work (34:12). The particular period in the author's life to which the composition of the book should be referred cannot be defined, whatever conjectures may have been put forth in that regard by some recent scholars. The data to which others have appealed (31:22, sqq.; 38:1-15; etc.) to prove that he was a physician are insufficent evidence; while the similarity of the names (Jason-Jesus) is no excuse for those who have identified Jesus, the son of Sirach, a man of manifestly pious and honorable character with the ungodly and hellenizing high priest Jason (175-172 B.C. — concerning Jason's wicked deeds, see II Mach. 4:7-26).

The time at which Jesus, the author of Ecclesiasticus, lived has been the matter of much discussion in the past. But at the present day, it admits of being given with tolerable precision. Two data are particularly helpful for this purpose. The first is supplied by the Greek prologue, where he came into Egypt en to ogdoo kai triakosto etei epi tou Euergetou Basileos, not long after which he rendered into Greek his grandfather's work. The "thirty-eighth year" here spoken of by the translator does not mean that of his own age, for such a specification would be manifestly irrelevant. It naturally denotes the date of his arrival in Egypt with a reference to the years of rule of the then monarch, the Egyptian Ptolemy Euergetes. In point of fact, the Greek grammatical construction of the passage in the prologue is that usually employed into the Septuagint version to give the year of rule of a prince (cf. Aggeus; 1:1; 10; Zach. 1:1, 7; 7:1; 1 Mach. 12:42; 14:27; etc.).

There were indeed two Ptolemys of the surname Euergetes (Benefactor): Ptolemy III and Ptolemy VII (Physcon). But to decide which is the one actually meant by the author of the prologue is an easy matter. As the first, Ptolemy 3:reigned only twenty-five years (247-222 B.C.) it must be the second, Ptolemy 7:who in intended. This latter prince shared the throne along with his brother (from 170 B.C. onwards), and afterwards ruled alone (from 145 B.C. onwards). But he was wont to reckon the years of his reign from the earlier date. Hence "the thirty-eighth year of Ptolemy Euergetes," in which the grandson of Jesus, the son of Sirach, came to Egypt, is the year 132 B.C.

This being the case, we can consider that the translator s grandfather, the author of Ecclesiasticus, lived and wrote his work between forty and sixty years before (between 190 and 170 B.C.), for there can be no doubt that in referring to Jesus by means of the term pappos and of the definite phrase ho pappos mou Iesous, the writer of the prologue designated his grandfather, and not a more remote ancestor. The second datum that is particularly available for determining the book itself supplies the time at which the writer of Ecclesiasticus lived.

It has long been felt that since the son of Sirach celebrated with such a genuine glow of enthusiam the deeds of "the high priest Simon, son of Onias," whom he praises as the last in the long line of Jewish worthies, he must himself have been an eyewitnes of the glory which he depicts (cf. 1:1-16, 22, 23). This was, of course, but an inference and so long as it was based only on a more or less subjective appreciation of the passage, one can easily understand why many scholars questioned, or even rejected, its correctness. But with the recent discovery of the original Hebrew of the passage, there has come in a new, and distinctly objective, element, which places practically beyond doubt the correctness of the inference. In the Hebrew text, immediately after his eulogism of the high priest Simon, the writer subjoins the following fervent prayer:

May His (i.e. Yahweh's) mercy be continually with Simon, and may He establish with him the covenant of Phineas, that will endure with him and with his seed, as the says of heaven (1:24).

Obviously, Simon was yet alive when this prayer was thus formulated. Its actual wording in the Hebrew implies this so manifestly, that when the author's grandson rendered it into Greek, at a date when Simon had been dead for some time, he felt it necessary to modify the text before him, and hence rendered it in the following general manner:

May His mercy be continually with us, and may He redeem us in His days.

Chapter 1 of Ecclesiasticus thus allows us to realize the fact that Jesus, the son of Sirach, was a contemporary of the high priest Simon. But it also affords us certain details which enable us to decide which of the two Simons, both high priests and sons of Onias and known in Jewish history, is the one described by the writer of the book. On the one hand, the only known title of Simon I (who held the pontificate under Ptolemy Soter, about 300 B.C.) which would furnish a reason for the great ecomium passed upon Simon in Ecclus. l is the surname "the Just" (cf. Josephus, Antiq. of the Jews, Bk.XII, chap. 2:5), whence it is inferred that he was a renowned high priest worthy of being celebrated among the Jewish heroes praised by the son of Dirach. On the other hand, such details given in Simon's panegyric, as the facts that he repaired and strengthened the Temple, fortified the city against siege, and protected the city against robbers (cf. Ecclus. 1 1-4), are in close agreement with what is known of the times of Simon II (about 200 B.C.).

While in the days of Simon 1:and immediately after, the people were undisturbed by foreign aggression, in those of Simon II the Jews were sorely harassed by hostile armies, and their territory was invaded by Antiochus, as we are informed by Josephus (Antiq. of the Jews, Bk. 12:chap. 3:3). It was also in the later time of Simon II that Ptolemy Philopator was prevented only by the high priest's prayer to God, from desecrating the Most Holy Place; he then started a fearful persecution of the Jews at home and abroad (cf. III Mach. 2, 3). It appears from these facts — to which others, pointing in the same direction, could easily be added — that the author of Ecclesiasticus lived about the beginning of the second century B.C. As a matter of fact, recent Catholic scholars, in increasing number, prefer this position that which identifies the high priest Simon, spoken of in Ecclus. 50:with Simon 1:and which, in consequence, refers the composition of the book to about a century earlier (about 280 B.C.)

Method of Composition.

At the present day, there are two principal views concerning the manner in which the writer of Ecclesiasticus composed his work, and it is difficult to say which is the more probable. The first, held by many scholars, maintains that an impartial study of the topics treated and of their actual arrangement leads to the conclusion that the whole book is the work of a single mind. Its advocates claim that, throughout the book, one and the same general purpose can be easily made out, to wit: the purpose of teaching the practical value of Hebrew wisdom. They maintain that one and the same method in handling the materials can be readily noticed, the writer always showing wide acquaintance with men and things, and never citing any exterior authority for what he says.

They affirm that a careful examination of the contents disclosed a distinct unity of mental attitude on the author's part towards the same leading topics, towards God, life, the Law, wisdom, etc. They do not deny the existence of differences of tone in the book, but think that they are found in various paragraphs relating to minor topics. They maintain that the diversities thus noticed do not go beyond the range of one man's experience; that the author very likely wrote at different intervals and under a variety of circumstances, so that it is not to be wondered at if pieces thus composed bear the manifest impress of a somewhat different frame of mind.

Some of them actually go so far as to admit that the writer of Ecclesiasticus may at times have collected thoughts and maxims that were already in current and popular use. They feel the writer may even have drawn material from collections of wise sayings no longer extant or from unpublished discourses of sage. But they, each and all, are positive that the author of the book "was not a mere collector or compiler; his characteristic personality stands out too distinctly and prominently for that, and notwithstanding the diversified character of the apophthegms, they are all the outcome of one connected view of life and of the world" (Schürer).

The second view maintains that the Book of Ecclesiasticus was composed by a process of compilation. According to the defenders of this position, the compilatory character of the book does not necessarily conflict with a real unity of general purpose pervading and connecting the elements of the work. Such a purpose proves, indeed, that one mind has bound those elements together for a common end, but it really leaves untouched the question at issue, viz. whether that one mind must be considered as the original author of the contents of the book, or, rather, as the combiner of pre-existing materials.

Granting, then, the existence of one and the same general purpose in the work of the son of Sirach, and admitting likewise the fact that certain portions of Ecclesiasticus belong to him as the original author, they think that, on the whole, the book is a compilation. Briefly stated, the following are their grounds for their position. In the first place, from the very nature of his work, the author was like "a gleaner after the grape-gatherers"; and in thus speaking of himself (33:16) he gives us to understand that he was a collector or compiler. In the second place, the structure of the work still betrays a compilatory process.

The concluding chapter (li) is a real appendix to the book, and was added to it after the completion of the work, as is proved by the colophon in 1, 29 sqq. The opening chapter reads like a general introduction to the book, and indeed as one different in tone from the chapters by which its immediately followed, while it resembles some distinct sections which are embodied in further chapters of the work. In the body of the book, ch. 36:1-19, is a prayer for the Jews of the Dispersion, altogether unconnected with the sayings in verses 20 sqq. of the same chapter; ch. 43:15-1, 26, is a discourse clearly separate from the prudential maxims by which it is immediately preceded; chs. 16:24; 24:1; 39:16, are new starting-points, which, no less than the numerous passages marked by the address my son (2:1; 3:19; 4:1, 23; 6:18, 24, 33; etc.). And the peculiar addition in 1, 27, 28, tell against the literary unity of the work.

They have also appealed to other marks of a compilatory process. Some of these marks are the significant repetition of several sayings in different places of the book (cf. 20:32-33, which is repeated in 41:17b, 18; etc.); in apparent discrepancies of thought and doctrine (cf. the differences of tone in chs. xvi; xxv; 29:21-41; 40:1-11; etc); in certain topical headings at the beginning of special sections (cf.xxxi, 12; 41:16; 44:1, in the Hebrew); and in an additional psalm or canticle found in the newly discovered Hebrew text, between 51:12, and 51:13; all of which are best accounted for by the use of several smaller collections containing each the same saying, or differing considerably in their general tenor, or supplies with their respective titles. Finally, there seems to be an historical trace of the compilatory character of Ecclesiasticus in a second, but unauthentic, prologue to the book, which is found in the "Synopsis Sacrae Scripturae." In this document, which is printed in the works of St. Athanasius and also at the beginning of Ecclesiasticus in the Complutensian Polyglot, the actual redaction of the book is ascribed to the Greek translator as a regular process of compilation detached hymns, sayings, prayers, etc. which had been left him by his grandfather, Jesus, the son of Sirach.

Doctrinal and Ethical Teaching.

Before setting forth in a summary way the principal teachings, doctrinal and ethical, contained in the Book of Ecclesiasticus, it will not be amiss to premise two remarks which, however elementary, should be distinctly borne in mind by anyone who wished to view the doctrines of the son of Sirach in their proper light. First, it would be obviously unfair to require that the contents of this Sapiential book should come full up to the high moral standards of Christian ethics, or should equal in clearness and precision the dogmatic teachings embodied in the sacred writings of the New Testament or in the living tradition of the Church. All that can be reasonably expected of a book composed some time before the Christian Dispensation, is that it shall set forth substantially good, not perfect, doctrinal and ethical teaching. In the second place, both good logic and sound common sense demand that the silence of Ecclesiasticus concerning certain points of doctrine be not regarded as a positive denial of them, unless it can be clearly and conclusively shown that such a silence must be so construed.

The work is mostly made up of unconnected sayings which bear on all kinds of topics, and on that account, hardly ever, if ever at all, will a sober critic be able to pronounce on the actual motive which prompted the author of the book either to mention or to omit a particular point of doctrine. Nay more, in presence of a writer manifestly wedded to the national and religious traditions of the Jewish race as the general tone of his book proves the author of Ecclesiasticus to have been, every scholar worthy of the name will readily see that silence on Jesus' part regarding some important doctrine, such for instance as that of the Messias, is no proof whatever that the son of Sirach did not abide by the belief of the Jews concerning that doctrine, and, in reference to the special point just mentioned, did not share the Messianic expectations of his time. As can readily be seen, the two general remarks just made simply set forth the elementary canons of historical criticism; and they would not have been dwelt on here were it not that they have been very often lost sight of by Protestant scholars, who, biased by their desire to disprove the Catholic doctrine of the inspired character of Ecclesiasticus, have done their utmost to depreciate the doctrinal and ethical teaching of this deuterocanonical book.

The following are the principal dogmatic doctrines of Jesus, the son of Sirach. According to him, as according to all the other inspired writers of the Old Testament, God is one and there is no God beside Him (36:5). He is a living and eternal God (18:1), and although His greatness and mercy exceed all human comprehension, yet He makes Himself known to man through His wonderful works (16:18, 23 18:4). He is the creator of all things (18:1; 24:12), which He produced by His word of command, stamping them all with the marks of greatness and goodness (42:15-43; etc.).

Man is the choice handiwork of God, who made him for His glory, set him as king over all other creatures (17:1-8), bestowed upon him the power of choosing between good and evil (15:14-22), and will hold him accountable for his own personal deeds (17:9-16), for while tolerating, moral evil He reproves it and enables man to avoid it (15:11-21). In dealing with man, God is no less merciful than righteous: "He is mighty to forgive" (16:12), and: "How great is the mercy of the Lord, and His forgiveness to them that turn to Him" (17:28). Yet no one should presume on the Divine mercy and hence delay his conversion, "for His wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the time of vengeance He will destroy thee" (5:6-9).

From among the children of men, God selected for Himself a special nation, Israel, in the midst of which He wills that wisdom should reside (24:13-16). In behalf of Israel the son of Sirach offers up a fervent prayer, replete with touching remembrances of God's mercies to the patriarchs and prophets of old, and with ardent wishes for the reunion and exaltation of the chosen people (36:1-19). It is quite clear that the Jewish patriot who put forth this petition to God for future national quiet and prosperity, and who furthermore confidently expected that Elias's return would contribute to the glorious restoration of all Israel (cf. 48:10), looked forward to the introduction of Messianic times.

It remains true, however, that in whatever way his silence be accounted for, he does not speak anywhere of a special interposition of God in behalf of the Jewish people, or of the future coming of a personal Messias. He manifestly alludes to the narrative of the Fall, when he says: "From the woman came the beginning of sin, and by her we all die" (25:33), and apparently connects with this original deviation from righteousness the miseries and passions that weigh so heavily on the children of Adam (40:1-11). He says very little concerning the next life.

Earthly rewards occupy the most prominent, or perhaps even the sole, place, in the author's mind, as a sanction for present good or evil deeds (14:22-15:6; 16:1-14); but this will not appear strange to anyone who is acquainted with the limitations of Jewish eschatology in the more ancient parts of the Old Testament. He depicts death in the light of a reward or of a punishment, only in so far as it is either a quiet demise for the just or a final deliverance from earthly ills (41:3-4), or, on the contrary, a terrible end that overtakes the sinner when he least expects it (9:16-17). As regards the underworld or Sheol, it appears to the writer nothing but a mournful place where the dead do not praise God (17:26-27)

The central, dogmatic, and moral idea of the book is that of wisdom. Ben Sira describes it under several important aspects. When he speaks of it in relation to God, he almost invariable invests it with personal attributes. It is eternal (1:1), unsearchable (1:6-7), universal (24:6 sqq.). It is the formative, creative power of the world (24:3 sqq.), yet is itself created (1:9; also in Greek: 24:9), and is nowhere treated as a distinct, subsisting Divine Person, in the Hebrew text. In relation to man, wisdom is depicted as a quality which comes form the Almighty and works most excellent effects in those who love Him (1:10-13). It is identified with the "fear of God" (1:16), which should of course prevail in a special manner in Israel, and promote among the Hebrews the perfect fulfillment of the Mosaic Law, which the author of Ecclesasticus regards as the living embodiment of God’s wisdom (24:11-20, 32-33).

It is a priceless treasure, to the acquisition of which one must devote all his efforts, and the imparting of which to others one should never grudge (6:18-20; 20:32-33). It is a disposition of the heart which prompts man to practice the virtues of faith, hope, and love of God (2:8-10), of trust and submission, etc. (2:18-23; 10:23-27; etc.); which also secures for him happiness and glory in this life (34:14-20; 33:37-38; etc.). It is a frame of mind which prevents the discharge of the ritual law, especially the offering of sacrifices, from becoming a heartless compliance with mere outward observances, and it causes man to place inward righteousness far above the offering of rich gifts to God (35).

As can readily be seen, the author of Ecclesiasticus inculcated in all this a teaching far superior to that of the Pharisees of a somewhat later date. This teaching is in no way inferior to that of the prophets and commendable, too, are the numerous pithy sayings which the son of Sirach gives for the avoidance of sin, wherein the negative part of practical wisdom may be said to consist. His maxims against pride (3:30; 6:2-4; 10:14-30; etc.), covetousness (4:36; 5:1; 11:18-21), envy (30:22-27; 36:22), impurity (9:1-13; 19:1-3; etc.), anger (18:1-14; 10:6), intemperance (37:30-34). sloth (7:16; 22:1, 2), the sins of the tongue (4:30; 6:13-14; 11:2, 3; 1:36-40; 5:16, 17; 28:15-27; etc.), evil company, (11:31-36; 22:14-18; etc.), display a close observation of human nature, stigmatize vice in a forcible manner, and at times point out the remedy against the spiritual distemper. Indeed, it is probably no less because of the success which Ben Sira attained to in branding vice than because of that which he obtained in directly inculcating virtue, that his work was so willingly used in the early days of Christianity for public reading at church, and bears, down to the present day, the pre-eminent title of "Ecclesiasticus."

Together with these maxims, which nearly all bear on what may be called individual morality, the Book of Ecclesiasticus contains valuable lessons relative to the various classes which make up human society. The natural basis of society is the family, and the son of Sirach supplies a number of pieces of advice especially appropriate to the domestic circles as it was then constituted. He would have the man who wishes to become the head of a family determined in the choice of a wife by her moral worth (36:23-26; 40:19-23). He repeatedly describes the precious advantages resulting from the possession of a good wife, and contrasts with them the misery entailed by the choice of an unworthy one (26:1-24; 25:17-36).

The man, as the head of the family, he represents indeed as vested with more power than would be granted to him among us. But he does not neglect to point out his numerous responsibilities towards those under him: to his children, especially his daughter, whose welfare he might more particularly be tempted to neglect (7:25 sqq.). He also points out a man’s duties toward his slaves, concerning whom he writes: "Let a wise servant be dear to thee as they own soul" (7:23; 33:31), not meaning thereby, however, to encourage the servant's idleness or other vices (33:25-30). The duties of children towards their parents are often and beautifully insisted upon (7:29-30, etc.). The son of Sirach devoted a variety of sayings to the choice and the worth of a real friend (6:6-17; 9:14, 15; 12:8, 9), to the care with which such a one should be preserved (22:25-32), and also to the worthlessness and dangers of the unfaithful friend (27:1-6, 17-24; 33:6).

The author has no brief against those in power but on the contrary considers it an expression of God's will that some should be in exalted, and others in humble, stations in life (33:7-15). He conceives of the various classes of society, of the poor and the rich, the learned and the ignorant, as able to become endowed with wisdom (37:21-29). He would have a prince bear in mind that he is in God's hand, and owes equal justice to all, rich and poor (5:18; 10:1-13). He bids the rich give alms, and visit the poor and the afflicted (4:1-11; 7:38, 39; 12:1-7; etc.), for almsgiving is a means to obtain forgiveness of sin (3:33, 34; 7:10, 36) whereas hardheartedness is in every way hurtful 34:25-29).

On the other hand, he directs the lower classes, as we might call them, to show themselves submissive to those in higher condition and to bear patiently with those who cannot be safely and directly resisted (8:1-13; 9:18-21; 13:1-8). Nor is the author of Ecclesiasticus anything like a misanthrope that would set himself up resolutely against the legitimate pleasures and the received customs of social life (31:12-42; 32:1 sqq.); while he directs severe but just rebukes against the parasite (29:28-35; 11:29-32). Finally, he has favorable sayings about the physician (28:1-15, and about the dead (7:37; 38:16-24); and strong words of caution against the dangers which one incurs in the pursuit of business (26:28; 27:1-4; 8:15, 16).



Canticle of Canticles.

(Gr. Aisma asmaton, Lat. Canticum canticorum.)

One of three books of Solomon, contained in the Hebrew, the Greek, the Christian Canon of the Scriptures. According to the general interpretation the name signifies "most excellent, best song." (Cf. the similar forms of expression in Ex. 26:33; Ezech. 16:7; Dan. 8:25, used throughout the Bible to denote the highest and best of its kind.) Some commentators, because they have failed to grasp the homogeneousness of the book, regard it as a series or chain of songs.

Contents and Exposition.

The book describes the love for each other of Solomon and the Sulamitess in lyrico-dramatic scenes and reciprocal songs. One part of the composition (3:6 to 5:1) is clearly a description of the wedding-day. Here the two chief personages approach each other in stately procession, and the day is expressly called the wedding-day. Moreover the bridal wreath and the bridal bed are referred to, and six times in this section of the song, although never before or after, the word spouse is used. All that has preceded is now seen to be preparatory to the marriage, while in what follows the Sulamitess is the queen and her garden is the garden of the king (5:1-6:7 sq.), although such expressions as "friend," "beloved," and "dove," are common. Along with the assurances of love for each other, there is a continually progressive action that represents the development of the warm friendship and affection of the pair, then the bridal union and the married life of the royal couple. The bride, however, is exhibited as a simple shepherdess, consequently, when the king takes her, she has to undergo a training for the position of queen; in the course of this training occur various trials and sorrows (3:1; 5:5 sqq.; 6:11 — Heb. 12).

Various meanings have been attributed to the contents of the song. Before the sixteenth century tradition gave an allegorical or symbolical meaning to the love of Solomon for the Sulamitess. The view held by the Jewish Synagogue was expressed by Akiba and Aben Ezra; that held by the Church, by Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, and Jerome. An opinion opposed to these found only isolated expression. Akiba (first century after Christ) speaks severely of those who would strike the book from the Sacred Canon, while St. Philastrius (fourth century) refers to others who regarded it not as the work of the Holy Spirit but as the Composition of a purely sensuous poet. Theodore of Mopsuestia aroused such indignation by declaring the Canticle of Canticles to be a love-song of Solomon's, and his contemptuous treatment of it gave great offense (Mansi, Coll. Conc. 9:244 sqq; Migne, P.G. LXVI, 699 sqq.). At the OEcumenical Council of Constantinople (553), Theodore's view was rejected as heretic and his own pupil Theoret, brought forward against him unanimous testimony of the Fathers (Migne, P.G. LXXXI, 62).

Theodore's opinion was not revived until the sixteenth century, when the Calvinist Sebastien Castalion (Castalio) and Johannes Clericus made use of it. The Anabaptists became partisans of this view; later adherents of the same opinion were Michaelis, Teller, Herder, and Eichhorn. A middle position is taken by the "typical" exposition of the book. For the first and immediate sense the typical interpretation holds firmly to the historical and secular meaning, which has always been regarded by the Church as heretical; this interpretation gives, however, to the "Song of Love," a second and higher sense. As, namely, the figure of Solomon was a type of Christ, so is the actual love of Solomon for a shepherdess or for the daughter of Pharaoh, intended as a symbol of the love of Christ for His Church. Honorius of Autun and Luis of Leon (Aloysius Legionensis) did not actually teach this view, although their method of expression might be misleading (cf . Cornelius a Lapide, Prol. in Canticum, c. i).

In earlier times reference was often made to a first and literal meaning of the words of a text, which meaning, however, was not the real sense of the context as intended by the author, but was held to be only its external covering or "husk." Entirely dissimilar to this method is the typical exposition of modern times, which accepts an actual double meaning of the text, the two senses being connected and intended by the author. Bossuet and Calmet may, perhaps, be regarded as holding this view; it is unmistakably held by the Protestant commentators Delitzsch and Zockler as also by Kingsbury (in The Speaker's Commentary) and Kossowicz. A few others hold to this view, but the number does not include Lowth (cf. De sacra poesi Hebr. prael. 31). Grotius makes it evident, not so much in words as in the method of exposition, that he is opposed to a higher interpretation. At the present day most non-Catholics are strongly opposed to such an exposition; on the other hand most Catholics accept the allegorical interpretation of the book.

Exposition of the Allegory.

The reasons for this interpretation are to be found not only in tradition and the decision of the Church, but also in the song itself. As long as the effort is made to follow the thread of an ordinary love-song, so long will it be impossible to give a coherent exposition, and many despair of ever obtaining a successful interpretation. In the commentary of the present writer, "Comment. in Eccl. et Canticum Canticorum" (Paris, 1890), a number of examples are given of the typical and of the purely secular interpretations. Besides these, in treating of each of the larger divisions, the varying methods of exposition are carefully investigated.

The proper connection of scenes and parts can only be found in the realm of the ideal, in allegory. In no other way can the dignity and sanctity befitting the Scriptures be preserved and the striking title, "Song of Songs," receive a satisfactory explanation. The allegory, however, can be shown as possible and obvious by means of numerous passages in the Old and the New Testament, in which the relation of God to the Synagogue and of Christ to the Church or to the adoring soul is represented under the symbol of marriage or betrothal (Jer. 2:2; Ps 54; Heb. 14; Osee, 19 sqq. Ezech. 16:8 sqq. Matth, 25:1 sqq; II Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23 sqq.; Apoc. 19:7 sq. etc.).

A similar manner of speaking occurs frequently in Christian literature, nor does it appear forced or artificial. The testimony of Theodoret to the teaching of the Early Church is very important. He names Eusebius in Palestine, Origen in Egypt, Cyprian in Carthage, and "the Elders who stood close to the Apostles," consequently, Basil, the two Gregorys, Diodorus, and Chrysostom, "and all in agreement with one another." To these may be added Ambrose (Migne, P.L. 13:1855, 1911), Philastrius (Migne, P.L. 12:1267), Jerome (Migne, P.L. 22:547, 395; 23:263), and Augustine (Migne, P.L. 34:372, 925; 41:556). It follows from this, that the typical interpretation, also, contradicts tradition, even if it does not come within the decree pronounced against Theodore of Mopsuestia. This method of exposition has, moreover, very few adherents, because the typical can only be applied to separate individuals or things, and cannot be used for the interpretation of a connected text which contains only one genuine and proper meaning. The foundation of the typical interpretation is destroyed at once when the historical explanation is held to be indefensible.

In the allegorical interpretation of the song, it makes no essential difference whether the bride is taken as a symbol of the Synagogue, that is, of the congregation of the Old Covenant or of the Church of God of the New Covenant. In truth, the song turns aside from both; by the spouse should be understood human nature as elected (electa elevata, sc. natura humana) and received by God. This is embodied, above all, in the great Church of God upon earth, which God takes to Himself with the love of a bridegroom, makes the crowning point of all His external works, and adorns with the bridal ornament of supernatural grace.

In the song the bride is not reproached with sins and guilt but, on the contrary, her good qualities and beauty receive high praise; consequently, the chosen community of God appears here under that form which is according to the Apostle, without spot or blemish (Eph. 5:27). It is plain that the Canticle of Canticles finds its most evident application to the most holy Humanity of Jesus Christ, which is united in the most intimate bond of love with the Godhead, and is absolutely spotless and essentially sanctified; after this to the most holy Mother of God as the most beautiful flower of the Church of God. (In regard to a twofold sense of this kind of in the Scriptures, cf. "Zeitschrift fur katholische Theologie," 1903, p. 381.) The soul that has been purified by grace is also in a more remote yet real sense a worthy bride of Lord. The actual meaning of Canticles is not, however, to be limited to any one of these applications, but is to be appropriated to the elected "bride of God in her relation of devotion to God."

As a matter of fact, the spiritual interpretation of the song has proved a rich source for mystical theology and asceticism. It is only necessary to call to mind the best of the old commentaries and interpretations of the book. There are still in existence fifteen homilies by St. Gregory of Nyssa on the first six chapters (Migne, P.G. 41:755 sqq.). The commentary of Theodoret (Migne, P.G. LXXXI, 27 sqq.) is rich in suggestion. In the eleventh century Psellus compiled a "Catena" from the writings of Nilus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus (Auctar. bibl. Patr. 2:681 sqq.). Among the Latins, St. Ambrose made such frequent use of the Canticle of Canticles that a whole commentary may be developed from the many applications, rich in piety, that he made of it (Migne, P.L. 15:1851 sqq.). Three commentaries are to be found in the works of Gregory the Great (Migne, P L. LXXIX, 471 sqq. 905; CLXXX, 441 sqq.). Apponius wrote a very comprehensive commentary which, even as late as 1843, was republished at Rome. The Venerable Bede prepared the matter for a number of smaller commentaries. The elaborate exposition by Honorius of Autun of the book in its historical, allegorical, tropological, and anagogical meanings deserves special mention. The eighty-six homilies left by St. Bernard are universally known. Gilbert of Hoyland added to this number forty-eight more. The greatest of the saints enkindled their love for God on the tender expressions of affection of Christ and His bride, the Church, in the Canticle of Canticles. Even in Old Testament times it must have greatly consoled the Hebrews to read of the eternal covenant of love between God and His faithful people.

Within certain limits the application to the relation between God and the individual soul adorned with supernatural grace is self-evident and an aid to virtuous living. The bride is first raised by the bridegroom to a relation of complete affection, afterwards betrothed or married (3:6-5:1), and, finally, after a successful activity (7:12 sq.; 8:11 sq.); is received into the heavenly dwellings. A life of contemplation and activity bound up with painful trials is the way there. In the service books the Church has repeatedly applied the song to the Mother of God (see B. Schafer in Komment. p. 255 sqq.).

In truth the bride adorned with the beauty of spotless purity and deep affection is a figure most appropriate to the Mother of God. This is the reason why St. Ambrose in his book "De virginibus," so repeatedly and especially quotes Canticles. Finally, the application of the song to the history of the life of Christ and of the Church offers pious thought rich material for contemplation. In doing thus we can, in some measure, follow the natural course of the song..

At His entrance into life, and especially at the time of His public activity as a teachers the Savior sought the Church, His bride and she came lovingly towards Him. He united Himself with her at the Cross (3:11), the Church itself makes use of this thought in a number of offices. The affectionate conversations with the bride (to ch. 5:1) take place after the Resurrection. What follows may be referred to the later history of the Church. A distinction should be made in such methods of interpretation, however, between what may be accepted as certain or probable in the context and what pious contemplation has, more or less arbitrarily, added. For this reason, it is important to ascertain more exactly than was done in earlier times the genuine and true sense of the text.

Literary Form of the Song.

Both of the traditional poetic accentuation and language used to express the thoughts show the book to be a genuine poem. The attempt has been made in various ways to prove the existence of a definite meter in the Hebrew text. The opinion of the present writer is that a six-syllable trochaic meter may be applied to the original Hebrew version. The essentially lyrical character of the song is unmistakable. But as various voices and scenes appear, we should recognize the dramatic character of the poem. It is, however, evident that the development of an external action is not so much the intention as is the unfolding of the lyrical expression of feeling under varying circumstances. The cantata form of composition is suggested by the presence of a chorus of the "daughters of Jerusalem," though the text does not indicate clearly how the words are divided among the various characters. This accounts for the theory put forward at times that there are different personages who, as bride and bridegroom, or as lovers, talk with, or of, each other. Stickel in his commentary assigns three different persons to the role of the bridegroom, and two to that of the bride. But such arbitrary treatment is the result of the attempt to make the Canticle of Canticles into a drama suitable for the stage.

Unity of the Canticle.

Stickel and other exegetes start from the natural conviction that the poem, simply called the Song of Songs and handed down to posterity as a book, must be regarded as a homogeneous whole. It is evident that the three clearly distinguished roles of bridegroom, bride, and chorus maintain their plainly defined characters from beginning to end; in the same way certain other designations, as "beloved," "friend," etc. and certain refrains keep recurring. Moreover, several parts apparently repeat one another, and a peculiar phraseology is found throughout the book.

The attempt has, however, been made to resolve the poem into separate songs (some twenty in all); thus has been tried by Herder, Eichhorn, Goethe, Reuss, Stade, Budde, and Siegfried. But It has been found exceedingly difficult to separate these songs from one another, and to give to each lyric a meaning distinctly its own. Goethe believed this impossible, and it is necessary to resort to a working over of the songs by the person who collected them. But in this everything would depend on a vague personal impression.

It is true that a mutual dependence of all the parts cannot be maintained in the secular (historical) interpretation. For, even in the historical hypothesis, the attempt to obtain a flawless drama is successful only when arbitrary additions are made which permit the transition from one scene to another. But these interpolations have no foundation in the text itself. Tradition also knows nothing of genuine dramatic poetry among the Hebrews, nor is the Semitic race more than slightly acquainted with this form of poetry. Driven by necessity, Kämpf and others even invent double roles, so that at times other personages appear along with Solomon and the Sulamitess; yet it cannot be said that any one of these hypotheses has produced a probable interpretation of the entire song.

Difficulties of Interpretation.


All the hypotheses of the above-mentioned kind owe their origin to a dislike of allegory and symbolism. It is well known how extremely distasteful poetic allegory is to our age. Nevertheless allegory has been employed at times by the greatest poets of all ages. Its use was widespread in the Middle Ages, and it was always a preliminary condition in the interpretation of the Scriptures by the Fathers. There are many passages in the Old and New Testaments which it is simply impossible to understand without allegory.

It is true that the allegorical method of Interpretation has been greatly misused. Yet the Canticle of Canticles can be proved to be a flawlessly consecutive poem by the employment of rules for poetical allegory and its interpretation which are fixed and according to the canons of art. The proof of the correctness of the interpretation lies in such a combination of all the parts of the song into a homogeneous whole. The dramatic form, as far as it can be plainly seen in the traditional text, is not destroyed by this method of elucidation; indeed a number (four to seven) of more or less independent scenes must be recognized.

In separating these scenes from one another the Jewish or Syrian bridal customs may be taken into consideration, as has been done, especially by Budde and Siegfried, if the result is the simplifying of the explanation and not the distortion of the scenes, or other acts of caprice. An attempt has been made in the commentary (p. 388 sqq.) of the present writer to give in detail the determinative rules for a sound allegorical interpretation.


According to Wetzstein, whom Budde and others follow, the book should be regarded as a collection of short songs such as are still used by the Bedouins of Syria in the "threshing-board." The features of similarity are the appearance of the bridal pair for seven days as king and queen the immoderate praise of the two, and the dance of the queen, during which she swings a sword to the accompaniment of a song by the chorus. Bruston and Rothstein have, however, expressed doubts as to this theory. In Solomon's song the bride, in reality, does not appear as a queen and does not swing a sword; the other traces of similarity are of so general a character that they probably belong to the wedding festivities of many nations. But the worst is that the essential songs avowedly do not stand in the proper order. Consequently it is presupposed that the order. Consequently it is presupposed that the order of succession is accidental. This opens wide once more the door to caprice. Thus, as what is said does not fit this theory it is claimed that a collector, or later redactor who misunderstood various matters, must have made small additions with which it is impossible now to do anything. Others, as Rothstein in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, presuppose that the collector, or rather the redactor, or even the author, had a dramatic end in view, as life and motion and action are, taken all together, unmistakable.

Among non-Orthodox interpreters it is accepted (at least for the present form of the poem) that the book presents a pastoral poem in dramatis or, at least, melodramatic form. The poem, according to this theory, shows how a beautiful shepherdess keeps her betrothal vow to her lover of the same rank in life notwithstanding the allurements and acts of violence of a king. But this shepherd has to be interpolated into the text and not much can be said for the imaginary faith kept with the distant lover, as the Sulamitess, in the middle section of the Song of Solomon, gives herself willingly to the king, and no reason is apparent in the text why her boundless praise should not be intended for the present king and not for an absent lover. Stickel overcomes the great difficulties which still remain in a very arbitrary manner. He allows a second pair of lovers to come suddenly forward, these know nothing of the chief personages and are employed by the poet merely as an interlude. Stickel gives this pair three short passages, namely: 1:7 sq.; 1:15-2: 4; 4:7-5:1. Moreover in these hypotheses appears the difficulty which is ever connected with the historical interpretation, that is, the lowering of the song which is so highly prized by the Church. The historical interpretation transforms it into ordinary love-scenes, in various moments of which, moreover, a fiery, sensuous love breaks forth. For the same expressions which, when referred allegorically to Christ and the Church, announce the strength of the love of God, are under ordinary conditions the utterances of a repellent passion.

Age and Author of the Canticle.

Tradition, in harmony with the superscription, attributes the song to Solomon. Even in modern times quite a number of exegetes have held this opinion: among Protestants, for example, Hengstenberg, Delitzsch, Zöckler, and Keil. De Wette says: "The entire series of pictures and relationships and the freshness of the life connect these songs with the age of Solomon." The song evidences the love of Solomon for nature (it contains twenty-one names of plants and fifteen of animals), for beauty and art, and for regal splendor; bound up with this latter is an ideal simplicity suitable to the type of character of the royal poet. There is also evident a strain of the most tender feeling and a love of peace which are well in keeping with the reputation of Solomon.

The somewhat unusual language in connection with the skilful and brilliant style point to a well-practiced writer. If some Aramaic or foreign expressions are to be found in the song, in relation to Solomon, such cannot cause surprise. It is remarkable that in Proverbs the fuller form of the relative is always used, while in Canticles the shorter form is employed, the one used earlier in the song of Debbora. But in the same way Jeremias used the ordinary form in his prophecies, while in the Lamentations he repeatedly employed the shorter. The point is raised that Tirzah (6:4 - Heb.) is mentioned along with Jerusalem as the capital of the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes. The comparison, though, is made only as to beauty, and Tirzah had, above all, a reputation for loveliness.

Many other commentators, as Bottcher, Ewald, Hitzig, and Kämpf, put the composition of the book in the time directly after Solomon. They assert that the action of the poem takes place in the northern part of Palestine, that the author is especially well acquainted with this section of the country, and writes in the form of the language used there. It is further said that Tirzah could only be compared with Jerusalem at the time when if was the capital of the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes that is after the age of Solomon but before the time when Samaria was the capital of the Northern Kingdom. All these reasons however, have more subjective than objective value. No more convincing, finally, are the reasons that cause others to place the book in post-Exilic times; among such exegetes may be mentioned: Stade, Kautzsch, Cornill, Grätz, Budde, and Siegfried. They support their theory by reference to many peculiarities of language and believe they even find traces of Greek influence in the song; but for all this there is a lack of clear proof.

Condition of the Hebrew Text.

Gratz, Bickell, Budde, and Cheyne believe that they have been able to prove the existence of various mistakes and changes in the text. The passages referred to are: 6:12; 7:1; 3:6-11; for alterations of the text see chapters 6 and 7.


Book of Wisdom.

One of the deutero-canonical writings of the Old Testament, placed in the Vulgate between the Canticle of Canticles and Ecclesiasticus.


The oldest headings ascribe the book to Solomon, the representative of Hebrew wisdom. In the Syriac translation, the title is: "the Book of the Great Wisdom of Solomon"; and in the Old Latin Version, the heading reads: "Sapientia Salomonis." The earliest Greek manuscripts — the Vaticanus, the Sinaiticus, the Alexandrinus — have a similar inscription, and the Eastern and the Western Fathers of the first three centuries generally speak of "the Wisdom of Solomon" when quoting that inspired writing, although some of them use in this connection such honorific designations as he theia Sophia (the Divine Wisdom), Panaretos Sophia (All Virtuous Wisdom). In the Vulgate, the title is: "Liber Sapientiae," "the Book of Wisdom." In Protestat versions, the ordinary heading is: "the Wisdom of Solomon," in contradistinction to Ecclesiasticus, which is usually entitled: "the Wisdom of Jesus, the Son of Sirach."


The book contains two general parts, the first nine chapters treating of Wisdom under its more speculative aspect, and the last ten chapters dealing with Wisdom from an historical standpoint. The following is the author's train of thought in the speculative part (chaps. 1-9). Addressing himself to Kings the writer teaches that ungodliness is alien to Wisdom and courts punishment and death (i), and he sets forth and refutes the arguments which the wicked advance to the contrary: according to him, the frame of mind of the ungodly is contrary to man's immortal destiny; their present life is only in appearance happier than that of the righteous; and their ultimate fate is an unquestionable proof of the folly of their course (2-5). He thereupon exhorts kings to seek Wisdom, which is more needful to them than to ordinary mortals (6:1-21), and describes his own happy experience in the quest and possession of that Wisdom which is the Splendor of God and is bestowed by Him on earnest suppliants (6:22-8). He subjoins the prayer (9) by which he has himself begged that Wisdom and God's Holy Spirit might be sent down to him from heaven. The prayer concludes with the reflection that men of old were guided by Wisdom — a reflection which forms a natural transition to the review of Israel's ancient history, which constitutes the second part of his work.

The author's line of thought in this historical part (9-19) may also easily be pointed out. He commends God's wisdom (1) for its dealings with the patriarchs from Adam to Moses (10-11:); (2) for its just, and also merciful, conduct towards the idolatrous inhabitants of Egypt and Chanaan (11:5-12); (3) in its contrast with the utter foolishness and consequent immorality of idolatry under its various forms (13-14); finally (4), for its discriminating protection over Israel during the plagues of Egypt, and at the crossing of the Red Sea, a protection which has been extended to all times and places.

Unity and Integrity.

Most contemporary scholars admit the unity of the Book of Wisdom. The whole work is pervaded by one and the same general purpose, viz. that of giving a solemn warning against the folly of ungodliness. Its two principal parts are intimately bound by a natural transition (9:18), which has in no way the appearance of an editorial insertion. Its subdivisions, which might, at first sight, be regarded as foreign to the primitive plan of the author, are, when closely examined, seen to be part and parcel of that plan: this is the case, for instance, with the section relative to the origin and the consequences of idolatry (13-14v), inasmuch as this section is consciously prepared by the writer's treatment of God's wisdom in its dealings with the idolatrous inhabitants of Egypt and Chanaan, in the immediately preceding subdivision (11:5-12). Not only is there no break observable in the carrying-out of the plan, but favorite expressions, turns of speech, and single words are found in all the sections of the work, and furnish a further proof that the Book of Wisdom is no mere compilation, but a literary unit.

The integrity of the book is no less certain than its unity. Every impartial examiner of the work can readily see that nothing in it suggests that the book has come down to us otherwise than in its primitive form. Like Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom has indeed no inscription similar to those which open the Books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; but plainly, in the case of Wisdom, as in the case of Ecclesiasticus, this absence is no necessary sign that the work is fragmentary at the beginning. Nor can the Book of Wisdom be rightly considered as mutilated at the end, for its last present verse forms a proper close to the work as planned by the author. As regards the few passages of Wisdom which certain critics have treated as later Christian interpolations (2:24; 3:13; 4:1; 14:7), it is plain that were these passages such as they are claimed, their presence would not vitiate the substantial integrity of the work, and further, that closely examined, they yield a sense perfectly consistent with the author's Jewish frame of mind.

Language and Authorship.

In view of the ancient heading: "the Wisdom of Solomon"; some scholars have surmised that the Book of Wisdom was composed in Hebrew, like the other works ascribed to Solomon by their title (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles). To substantiate this position they have appealed to the Hebraisms of the work; to its parallelisms, a distinct feature of Hebrew poetry; to its constant use of simple connecting particles (kai, de, gar, oti, etc.), the usual articulations of Hebrew sentences; to Greek expressions traceable, as they thought, to wrong renderings from a Hebrew original, etc. Ingenious as these arguments may appear, they prove no more than that the author of the Book of Wisdom was a Hebrew, writing Greek with a distinctly Jewish cast of mind. As far back as Blessed Jerome (Praef. in libros Salomonis), it has been felt that not Hebrew but Greek was the original language of the Book of Wisdom, and this verdict is so powerfully confirmed by the literary features of the entire Greek text, that one may well wonder that the theory of an ancient Hebrew original, or of any original other than Greek, should have ever been seriously maintained.

Of course the fact that the entire Book of Wisdom was composed in Greek rules out its Solomonic authorship. It is indeed true that ecclesiastical writers of the first centuries commonly assumed this authorship on the basis of the title of the book, apparently confirmed by those passages (9:7-12; cf. 7:1-5; 8:13-14, etc.) where the one speaking is clearly King Solomon. But this view of the matter never was unanimous in the Early Christian Church, and in the course of time a middle position between its total affirmation and its total rejection was suggested.

The Book of Wisdom, it was said, is Solomon's inasmuch as it is based on Solomonic works which are now lost, but which were known to and utilized by a hellenistic Jew centuries after Solomon's death. This middle view is but a weak attempt at saving something of the full Solomonic authorship affirmed in earlier ages. "It is a supposition which has no positive arguments in its favor, and which, in itself, is improbable, since it assumes the existence of Solomonic writings of which there is no trace, and which would have been known only to the writer of the Book of Wisdom" (Cornely-Hagen, "Introd. in Libros Sacros, Compendium," Paris, 1909, p. 361).

At the present day, it is freely admitted that Solomon is not the writer of the Book of Wisdom, "which has been ascribed to him because its author, through a literary fiction, speaks as if he were the Son of David" (Vigouroux, "Manuel Biblique," 2, n. 868. See also the notice prefixed to the Book of Wisdom in the current editions of the Douai Version). Besides Solomon, the writer to whom the authorship of the work has been oftenest ascribed is Philo, chiefly on the ground of a general agreement in respect to doctrines, between the author of Wisdom and Philo, the celebrated Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (d. about A. D. 40).

The truth of the matter is that the doctrinal differences between the Book of Wisdom and Philo's writings are such as to preclude a common authorship. Philo's allegorical treatment of Scriptural narratives is utterly foreign to the frame of mind of the writer of the Book of Wisdom. His view of the origin of idolatry conflicts on several points with that of the author of the Book of Wisdom. Above all, his description of Divine wisdom bespeaks as to conception, style, and manner of presentation, a later stage of Alexandrian thought than that found in Wisdom.

The authorship of the work has been at times ascribed to Zorobabel, as though this Jewish leader could have written in Greek; to the Alexandrian Aristobulus (second cent. B.C.), as though this courtier could have inveighed against kings after the manner of the Book of Wisdom (6:1; etc.); and finally, to Apollo (cf. Acts 18:24), as though this was not a mere supposition contrary to the presence of the book in the Alexandrian Canon.

All these variations as to authorship prove that the author's name is really unknown.

Place and Date of Composition.

Whoever examines attentively the Book of Wisdom can readily see that its unknown author was not a Palestinian Jew, but an Alexandrian Jew. Monotheistic as the writer is throughout his work, he evinces an acquaintance with Greek thought and philosophical terms (he calls God "the Author of beauty": 13:3; styles Providence pronoia: 14:3; 17:2; speaks of oule amorphos, "the formless material" of the universe, after Plato's manner: 11:17; numbers four cardinal virtues in accordance with Aristotle's school: 8:7; etc.), which is superior to anything found in Palestine. His remarkably good Greek, his political allusions, the local coloring of details, his rebuke of distinctly Egyptian idolatry, etc. all point to Alexandria. From that great center of mixed Jewish and heathen population, the author felt called upon to address his eloquent warning against the splendid and debasing Polytheism and Epicurean indifference by which too many of his fellow Jews had been gradually and deeply influenced.

This inference from internal data is confirmed by the fact that the Book of Wisdom is found not in the Palestinian, but in the Alexandrian, Canon of the Old Testament. Had the work originated in Palestine, its powerful arraignment of idolatry and its exalted teaching concerning the future life would have naturally secured for it a placed within the Canon of the Jews of Palestine. But, as it was composed in Alexandria, its worth was fully appreciated and its sacred character recognized only by the fellow-countrymen of the author.

It is more difficult to ascertain the date than the place of composition of the Book of Wisdom. It is universally admitted that when the writer describes a period of moral degradation and persecution under unrighteous rulers who are threatened with heavy judgment, he has in view the time of either Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-204 B.C.), or Ptolemy VII Physicon (145-117 B.C.), for it is only under these depraved princes that the Egyptian Jews had to endure persecution. But it is confessedly difficult to decide which of these two monarchs the author of Wisdom had actually in view. It is even possible that the work "was published after the demise of those princes, for otherwise it would have but increased their tyrannical rage" (Lesêtre, "Manuel d'Introduction," 2:445).

Text and Versions.

The original text of the Book of Wisdom is preserved in five uncial manuscripts (the Vaticanus, the Siniticus, the Alexandrinus, the Ephremiticus, and the Venetus) and in ten cursives (two of which are incomplete). Its most accurate form is found in the Vaticanus (fourth century), the Venetus (eighth or ninth century), and the cursive 68. The principal critical works on the Greek text are those of Reusch (Frieburg, 1861), Fritsche (Leipzig, 1871), Deane (Oxford, 1881), Sweete (Cambridge, 1897), and Cornely-Zorell (Paris, 1910). Foremost among the ancient versions stands the Vulgate, which presents the Old Latin Version somewhat revised by Blessed Jerome. It is in general a close and accurate rendering of the original Greek, with occasional additions, a few of which probably point to primitive readings no longer extant in the Greek. The Syriac Version is less faithful, and the Armenian more literal, than the Vulgate. Among the modern versions, the German translation of Siegfried in Kautzsch's "Apocryphen und Pseudepigraphen des A.T." (Tübingen, 1900), and the French version of the Abbé Crampon (Paris, 1905), deserve a special mention.

Doctrine of the Book.

As might well be expected, the doctrinal teachings of this deutero-canonical writing are, in substance, those of the other inspired books of the Old Testament. The Book of Wisdom knows of only one God, the God of the universe, and the Yahweh of the Hebrews. This one God is "He who is" (13:1), and His holiness is utterly opposed to moral evil (1:1-3). He is the absolute master of the world [11:22 (23)], which He has created out of "formless matter" [11:18 (17)], a Platonic expression which in no way affirms the eternity of matter, but points back to the chaotic condition described in Gen. 1:2. A living God, He made man after His image, creating him for immortality (2:23), so that death entered the world only through the envy of the Devil (2:24). His Providence (x xxxxxx) extends to all things, great and small [6:8 (7); 11:26 (25); etc.], taking a fatherly care of all things (14:3), and in particular, of His chosen people (19:20, sqq.). He makes Himself known to men through His wonderful works (13:1-5), and exercises His mercy towards them all [11:24 (23), 12:16; 15:1], His very enemies included (12:8 sqq.).

The central idea of the book is "Wisdom," which appears in the work under two principal aspects. In its relation to man, Wisdom is here, as in the other Sapiential Books, the perfection of knowledge showing itself in action. It is particularly described as resident only in righteous men (1:4, 5), as a principle soliciting man's will (6:14, sqq.), as within God's gift (7:15; 8:3, 4), and as bestowed by Him on earnest suppliants (8:21-9). Through its power, man triumphs over evil (7:30), and through its possession, one may secure for himself the promises of both the present and the future life (8:16-13).

Wisdom is to be prized above all things (7:8-11; 8:6-9), and whoever despises it is doomed to unhappiness (3:11). In direct relation to God, Wisdom is personified, and her nature, attributes, and operation are no less than Divine. She is with God from eternity, the partner of His throne, and the sharer of His thoughts (8:3; 9:4, 9). She is an emanation from His glory (7:25), the brightness of His everlasting light and the mirror of His power and goodness (7:26). Wisdom is one, and yet can do everything; although immutable, she makes all things new (7:27), with an activity greater than any motion (7:23).

When God formed the world, Wisdom was present (9:9), and she gives to men all the virtues which they need in every station and condition of life (7:27; 8:21; 10:1, 21; 11). Wisdom is also identified with the "Word" of God (9:1; etc.), and is represented as immanent with the "Holy Spirit," to whom a Divine nature and Divine operations are likewise ascribed (1:5-7; 7:22, 23; 9:17).

Exalted doctrines such as these stand in a vital connection with the New Testament revelation of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity; while other passages of the Book of Wisdom (2:13, 16-18; 18:14-16) find their fulfillment in Christ, the Incarnate "Word," and "the Wisdom of God." In other aspects too, notably with regard to its eschatological teaching (iii-v), the Book of Wisdom presents a wonderful preparation to the New Testament Revelation. The New Testament writers appear perfectly familiar with this deutero-canonical writing (cf. Matt. 27:42, 43, with Wis. 2:13, 18; Rom. 11:34, with Wis. 9:13; Eph. 6:13, 17, with Wis. 5:18, 19; Heb. 1:3, with Wis. 7:26; etc. It is true that to justify their rejection of the Book of Wisdom from the Canon, many Protestants have claimed that in 8:19-20, its author admits the error of the pre-existence of the human soul. But this incriminated passage, when viewed in the light of its context, yields a perfectly orthodox sense.


*** *** ***


Prophecy, Prophet, and Prophetess.

In the Old Testament.


Yahweh had forbidden Israel all kinds of oracles in vogue among the pagans. If, for a time, he consented to reply by Urim and Thummim (apparently a species of sacred lots which the high-priest carried in the cincture of his ephod, and consulted at the request of the public authorities in matters of graver moment), yet He always abominated those who had recourse to divination and magic, practiced augury and enchantment, trusted in charms, consulted soothsayers or wizards, or interrogated the spirits of the dead (Deut. 18:9 sqq.). Speaking of orthodox Yahweism, Balaam could truthfully say "There is no soothsaying in Jacob, nor divination in Israel. In their times it shall be told to Jacob and to Israel what God hath wrought" (Num. 23:23). For the absence of other oracles, the Chosen People were indeed more than compensated by a gift unique in the annals of mankind, to wit, the gift of prophecy and the prophetic office.

General Idea and the Hebrew Names.

(1) General Idea — The Hebrew Prophet was not merely, as the word commonly implies, a man enlightened by God to foretell events. He was the interpreter and supernaturally enlightened herald sent by Yahweh to communicate His will and designs to Israel. His mission consisted in preaching as well as in foretelling. He had to maintain and develop the knowledge of the Old Law among the Chosen People, lead them back when they strayed, and gradually prepare the way for the new kingdom of God, which the Messiah was to establish on earth. Prophecy, in general, signifies the supernatural message of the Prophet, and more especially, from custom, the predictive element of the prophetic message.

(2) The Hebrew Names — The ordinary Hebrew word for prophet is nabî'. Its etymology is uncertain. According to many recent critics, the root nabî, not employed in Hebrew, signified to speak enthusiastically, "to utter cries, and make more or less wild gestures," like the pagan mantics. Judging from a comparative examination of the cognate words in Hebrew and the other Semitic tongues, we may determine that it is at least equally probable that the original meaning was merely to speak, to utter words (cf. Laur, "Die Prophetennamen des A.T." Fribourg, 1903, 14-38).

The historic meaning of nabî' established by biblical usage is "interpreter and mouthpiece of God." This is forcibly illustrated by the passage where Moses, excusing himself from speaking to Pharaoh on account of his embarrassment of speech, was answered by Yahweh: "Behold I have appointed thee the God of Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak to him all that I command thee; and he shall speak to Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land" (Ex. 7:1-2). Moses plays towards the King of Egypt the role of God, inspiring what is to be uttered, and Aaron is the prophet, his mouthpiece, transmitting the inspired message he shall receive.

The Greek prophetes (from pro-phanai, to speak for, or in the name of someone) translates the Hebrew word accurately. The Greek prophet was the revealer of the future, and the interpreter of divine things, especially of the obscure oracles of the pythoness. Poets were the prophets of the muses: Inspire me, muse, thy prophet I shall be" (Pindar, Bergk, Fragm. 127).

The word nabî' expresses more especially a function. The two most usual synonyms ro'éeh and hozéh emphasize more clearly the special source of the prophetic knowledge, the vision, that is, the Divine revelation or inspiration. Both have almost the same meaning; hozéh is employed, however, much more frequently in poetical language and almost always in connection with a supernatural vision, whereas râ'ah, of which ro'éh is the participle, is the usual word for to see in any manner.

The compiler of the first book of Kings (9:9) informs us that before his time ro'éh was used where nabî' was then employed. Hozéh is found much more frequently from the days of Amos. There were other less specific or more unusual terms employed, the meaning of which is clear, such as, messenger of God, man of God, servant of God, man of the spirit, or inspired man, etc. It is only rarely, and at a later period, that prophecy is called nebû'ah, a cognate of nabî'; more ordinarily we find hazôn, vision, or word of God, oracle (ne um) of Yahweh, etc.

Brief Sketch of the History of Prophecy.

(1) The first person entitled nabî' in the Old Testament is Abraham, father of the elect, the friend of God, favored with his personal communications (Gen. 20:7). The next is Moses, the founder and lawgiver of the theocratic nation, the mediator of the Old Covenant holding a degree of authority unequalled till the coming of Jesus Christ. "And there arose no more a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders, which he sent by him, to do in the land of Egypt to Pharao, and to all his servants, and to his whole land, and all the mighty hand, and great miracles, which Moses did before all Israel" (Deut. 34:10 sqq.). There were other Prophets with him, but only of the second rank, such as Aaron and Maria, Eldad and Medad, to whom Yahweh manifested himself in dreams and vision, but not in the audible voice with which He favored him, who was most faithful in all His house (Num. 12:7).

Of the four institutions concerning which Moses enacted laws, according to Deuteronomy (14:18-18), one was prophecy (18:9-22; cf. 13:1-5, and Ex. 4:1 sqq.). Israel was to listen to the true Prophets, and not to heed the false but rather to extirpate them, even had they the appearance of miracle-workers. The former would speak in the name of Yahweh, the one God; and foretell things that would be accomplished or be confirmed by miracles. The latter were to come in the name of the false gods, or teach a doctrine evidently erroneous, or vainly endeavor to foretell events. Later prophetic writers added as other signs of the false Prophets, cupidity, flattery of the people or the nobles, or the promise of Divine favor for the nation weighed down with crime. Balaam is both a Prophet and a soothsayer; a professional soothsayer it would seem, of whom Yahweh makes use to proclaim even in Moab the glorious destiny of the Chosen People, when He was about to lead them into the Promised Land (Num. 22-24).

In the time of the Judges, in addition to an unnamed Prophet (Judges 6:8-10), we meet with Debbora (Judges 4-5), "a mother in Israel," judging the people, and communicating the Divine orders concerning the War of Independence to Barac and the tribes. The word of God was rare in those days of anarchy and semi-apostasy, when Yahweh partly abandoned Israel to render it conscious of its feebleness and its sins.

In the days of Samuel, on the contrary, prophecy became a permanent institution. Samuel was a new but lesser Moses, whose Divine mission it was to restore the code of the elder, and to supervise the beginning of the royalty. Under his guidance, or at least closely united to him, we find for the first time the nebî'îm (I Sam. 10; 19) grouped together to sing the praises of God to the accompaniment of musical instruments. They are not Prophets in the strict sense of the word, nor are they disciples of the Prophets destined to become masters in their turn (the so-called "schools of Prophets"). Did they wander about spreading the oracles of Samuel among the people? Possibly; at all events, in order to waken the faith of Israel and increase the dignity of Divine worship, they seem to have received charismata similar to those bestowed upon the early Christians in the Apostolic days. They may aptly be compared with the families of singers gathered around David, under the direction of their three leaders, Asaph, Heman, and Idithum (I Par. 25:1-8). Doubtless the benê-nebî'îm of the days of Elias, and Eliseus the "disciples of the Prophets," or "members of the confraternities of the Prophets," forming at least three communities, domiciled respectively at Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho, must be regarded as their successors. Blessed Jerome seems to have understood their character aright, when he saw in them the germ of the monastic life (P.L. 22:583, 1076).

Are we to consider as their degenerate and faithless successors those false Prophets of Yahweh whom we meet at the court of Achab, numbering four hundred, and later very numerous, also fighting against Isaias and Micheas and especially against Jeremias and Ezekiel? A definite answer cannot as yet be given, but it is wrong to consider them, as certain critics do, as authentic as the true Prophets, differing from them only by a more retrograde spirit, and less brilliant intellectual gifts. After Samuel the first Prophets properly so called who are explicitly mentioned are Nathan and Gad. They assist David by their counsels, and, when necessary, confront him with energetic protests. Nathan's parable of the little sheep of the poor man is one of the most beautiful passages in prophetic history (II Kings 12:1 sqq.).

The Books of Kings and Parapilomen mention a number of other "men of the spirit" exercising their ministry in Israel or in Juda. We may mention at least Ahias of Silo, who announced to Jeroboam his elevation to the throne of the Ten Tribes, and the ephemeral character of his dynasty, and Micheas, the son of Jemla, who predicted to Achab, in presence of the four hundred flattering court Prophets, that he would be defeated and killed in his war against the Syrians (III Kings 22).

But the two greatest figures of prophecy between Samuel and Isaiah are Elias and Eliseus. Yahweism was again endangered, especially by the Tyrian Jezabel, wife of Achab, who had introduced into Samaria the worship of her Phenician gods, and Israel's faith was tottering, as it divided its worship between Baal and Yahweh. In Juda the danger was not less menacing, King Joram had married Athalia, a worthy daughter of Jezabel. At that moment Elias appeared like a mysterious giant, and by his preaching and his miracles led Israel back to the true God and suppressed, or at least moderated, their leaning towards the gods of Chanaan. At Carmel, he won a magnificent and terrible victory over the Prophets of Baal; then he proceeded to Horeb to renew within him the spirit of the Covenant and to be present at a marvelous theophany. Thence he returned to Samaria to proclaim to Achab the voice of justice calling out for vengeance for the murder of Naboth. When he disappeared in the fiery chariot, he left to his disciple Eliseus, with his mantle, a double share of his spirit. Eliseus continued the master's work against the Chanaanite idolatry with great success, and became such a bulwark to the Kingdom of the North, that King Joas wept for his death and took his farewell with these words: "My father! my father! chariot of Israel and its horsemen"!

Not all the Prophets left their oracles in writing. Several of them, however, have written the history of their times: Gad and Nathan, for instance, the history of David; and Nathan that of Solomon; also Semeias and Addo the annals of Roboam; Jehu, son of Hanani those of Josaphat. Is it possible that the historical books of Josue, Judges, Samuel, and Kings were called in the Jewish canon the "earlier Prophets" because of the belief that they were written by the Prophets or at least based on their writing? To this query there can be no solution.

(2) Prophetic Writers — The prophetic books were entitled in the same canon the "later Prophets." Gradually the custom of calling their authors the prophetic writers crept in. There are four Greater Prophets, that is, those whose works are of considerable length: Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Daniel, and twelve Minor Prophets, whose works are briefer: Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, and Malachias. The Book of Baruch, which is not included in the Hebrew canon, is sometimes united to the Book of Jeremias. The ministry of Amos, the most ancient perhaps of the prophetic writers, is placed about the years 760-50 B.C. Osee follows him immediately. Next comes Isaias (about 740-700 B.C.), and his contemporary Micheas. Sophonias, Nahum, and Habacuc prophesied towards the last quarter of the seventh century. Jeremias about 626-586; Ezechiel between 592-70. The prophecy of Aggeus and in part that of Zacharias are dated exactly in 520 and 520-18. Malachias belongs to the middle of the fifth century. As for Daniel, Abdias, Joel, Baruch, as well as portions of Isaias, Jeremias, Zacharias, their dates being disputed, it is necessary to refer the reader to the special articles treating of them.

(3) The Prophetesses — The Old Testament gives the name nebî'ah, to three women gifted with prophetic charismata: Mary, the sister of Moses; Debbora; and Holda, a contemporary of Jeremias (IV Kings 22:14); also to the wife of Isaias meaning the spouse of a nabî'; finally to Noadia, a false Prophetess if the Hebrew text is accurate, for the Septuagint and Vulgate speak of a false Prophet (Neh. 6:14).

(4) Cessation of Israelitic Prophecy — The prophetic institution had ceased to exist in the time of the Machabees. Israel clearly recognized this, and was awaiting its reappearance. Its necessity had ceased. Religious revelation and the moral code expressed in Holy Writ were full and clear. The people were being instructed by the scribes and doctors- a living magistracy, fallible, it is true, and bound overmuch by letter of the law, but withal zealous and learned. There was a feeling that the promises were about to be fulfilled and the consequent apocalypse increased and intensified this feeling. It was fitting, therefore, for God to allow an interval to elapse between the prophets of the Old Covenant and Jesus Christ, who was to be the crown and consummation of their prophecies.

Vocation and Supernatural Knowledge of the Prophets.

(1) The Prophetic Vocation — "For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time: but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost" (II Pet. 1:21). The Prophets were ever conscious of this Divine mission. I am not a professional or a voluntary Prophet, Amos practically said to Amasias, who wished to prevent him from prophesying at Bethel. "I am a herdsman plucking wild figs. And the Lord took me when I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me: Go, prophesy to my people Israel" (7:14 sq.). Again "the lion shall roar, who will not fear? The Lord God hath spoken, who shall not prophesy?" (3:8). Isaias saw Yahweh seated on a throne of glory, and when a seraph had purified his lips he heard the command "Go!" and he received his mission of preaching to the people the terrible judgments of God. God made known to Jeremias that he had consecrated him from his mother's womb and appointed him the Prophet of nations; He touched his lips to show that He made them His instrument for proclaiming His just and merciful judgments (1:10), a duty so painful, that the Prophet endeavoured to be excused and to conceal the oracles entrusted to him. Impossible; his heart was consumed by a flame, which forced from him that touching complaint: "Thou hast deceived me, O Lord, and I am deceived: thou hast been stronger that I: and thou hast prevailed" (20:7). Ezechiel sees the glory of God borne on a fiery chariot drawn by celestial beings. He hears a voice commanding him to go and find the children of Israel, that rebellious nation, with hardened heart and brazen face, and without prevarication deliver to them the warnings he was to receive.

The other Prophets are silent on the subject of their vocation; doubtless they also received it as clearly and irresistibly. To the preaching and predictions of the false Prophets uttering the fancies of their hearts and saying "the word of Yahweh" when Yahweh spoke to them not, they fearlessly oppose their own oracles as coming from heaven and compelling under penalty of revolt against God. And the manifest sanctity of their lives, the miracles wrought, the prophecies accomplished demonstrate to their contemporaries the truth of their claims. We also separated from them by thousands of years should be convinced by two irrefragable proofs among others: the great phenomenon of Messianism culminating in Christ and the Church, and the excellence of the religious and moral teaching of the Prophets.

(2) Supernatural knowledge: inspiration and revelation

(a) The fact of revelation — The Prophet did not receive merely a general mission of preaching or predicting in Yahweh's name: each of his words is Divine, all his teaching is from above, that is, it comes to him by revelation or at least by inspiration. Among the truths he preaches, there are some which he knows naturally by the light of reason or experience. It is not necessary for him to learn them from God, just as if he had been entirely ignorant of them. It suffices if the Divine illumination places them in a new light, strengthens his judgment and preserves it from error concerning these facts, and if a supernatural impulse determines his will to make them the object of his message. This oral inspiration of the Prophets bears an analogy to the Scriptural inspiration, in virtue of which the Prophets and hagiographers composed our canonical books.

The entire contents of the prophetic message are not, therefore, within the compass of the natural faculties of the divine messenger. The object of all strictly so-called prediction requires a new manifestation and illumination; unaided, the Prophet would remain in more or less absolute obscurity. This, then, is revelation in the full sense of the term.

(b) Manner of the revelatory communications; Canons for the interpretation of the prophecies and their fulfillment — God multiplies the means of transmitting these revelations; at one time he makes use of words, at another of signs, figures, images, similitudes; and again, of both words and symbols together. To grasp accurately the meaning of the Prophets and judge of the fulfillment of their predictions, these words must be remembered and completed: The material element perceived in the vision may have a strictly literal meaning and simply signify itself. When Micheas, the son of Jemla, beholds "all Israel scattered upon the hills, like sheep that have no shepherd," and hears Yahweh say "These have no master; let every man of them return to his house in peace" (III Kings 22:17), he sees exactly what will be the outcome of Achab's expedition against the Syrians at Ramoth of Galaad. Again, the meaning may be entirely symbolic. The almond branch shown to Jeremias (1:11 sq.) is not shown for itself; it is intended solely to represent by its name vigilant, the Divine watchfulness, which will not allow the word of God to be unfulfilled. Between these two extremes there exists a whole series of intermediary possibilities, of significations imbued with varying degrees of reality or symbolism. The son promised to David in Nathan's prophecy (II Kings vii) is at once Solomon and the Messianic king. In the last verse of Aggeus Zorobabel signifies himself and also the Messias.

Neither the Prophets nor their clear-sighted, sensible hearers were ever misled. It is wronging Isaias to say he believed that at the end of time the hill of Sion would physically surpass all the mountains and hills on the earth (2:2). Examples might be multiplied indefinitely. Yet we are not forced to believe that the Prophets were always able to distinguish between the literal and the symbolical significations of their visions. It was sufficient for them not to give, and to be unable to give, in the name of God any erroneous interpretation. It has likewise been long known that the vision very frequently disregards distances of time and place, and that the Messias or the Messianic era almost always appears on the immediate horizon of contemporary history. If to this we add the frequently conditional character of the oracles (cf. Jer. 18; 24:17 sqq. etc.), and remember moreover that the Prophets convey their message in words of eloquence, expressed in Oriental poetry, so rich in striking colors and bold figures, the pretended distinction between realized and unrealized prophecies, predictions substantially accurate but erroneous in detail, will disappear.

(c) State of the Prophet during the Vision — Ordinarily the vision occurred when the Prophet was awake. Dreams, of which the false Prophets made ill use, are scarcely ever mentioned in the case of true Prophets. Much has been said about the ecstatic state of the latter. Possibly the soul of the Prophet may have been at times, as happened to the mystics, so absorbed by the activity of the spiritual faculties that the activity of the senses was suspended, though no definite instance can be cited. In any case, we must remember what Blessed Jerome (In Isaiam, Prolog. in P.L. 24:19) and St. John Chrysostom (In I Cor. homil. XXIX in P.G. 61:240 sqq.) remarked that the Prophets always retained their self-consciousness and were never subject to the disordered and degrading psychic conditions of the pagan soothsayers and pythias; and, instead of enigmatical and puerile sybilline oracles, their pronouncements were often sublime and always worthy of God.

The Teaching of the Prophets.

(1) The exterior form — They usually taught orally. To this they often added symbolical acts which accorded with Oriental tastes and caught the attention of their hearers. Jeremias, for instance, wandered through Jerusalem under a wooden yoke, symbolizing the approaching subjugation of the nations by the King of Babylon. The false Prophet Hananias, having taken this yoke and broken it on the ground, receives this answer, in the name of Yahweh "Thou hast broken chains of wood, and thou shalt make for them chains of iron" (28:13). Jeremias and Ezechiel make frequent use of this method of instruction. Amos was probably the first who was inspired to unite the written to the spoken word. His example was followed. The Prophets thus exercised wider and more lasting influence, and left moreover an indisputable proof that God had spoken by them (cf. Isaias 8:16). Some prophecies seem to have been made exclusively in writing, for instance, probably the second part of Isaias and all Daniel. The greater part of the prophetic books is couched in rhythmic language perfectly adapted to the popular and, at the same time, sublime character of the oracles. Hardly any kind of Hebrew poesy is absent; epithalamia and lamentations; little satirical songs; odes of wonderful lyrism etc. The fundamental law of Hebrew poetry, the parallelism of the stichs, is usually observed. The metric seems to be based essentially on the number of accents marking a raised intonation. Most exhaustive researches upon the construction of the strophes have been made, but without many definitely accepted conclusions.

(2) The Teaching

(a) Preaching: religion and morals, in general — Samuel and Elias sketch out the program of the religious and moral preaching of the later Prophets. Samuel teaches that the idols are vanity and nothingness (I Kings 12:21); that Yahweh alone is essentially true, and immutable (15:29); that He prefers obedience to sacrifice (15:22). For Elias also Yahweh alone is God, Baal is nothing. Yahweh chastises all iniquity and punishes the injustices of the powerful for the feeble. These are the fundamental points emphasized more and more by the prophetic writers. Their doctrine is based on the existence of one God alone, possessing all the attributes of the true Divinity- sanctity and justice, mercy and fidelity, supreme dominion over the material and moral world, the control of the cosmic phenomena and of the course of history. The worship desired by God does not consist in the profusion of sacrifices and offerings. They are nauseous to Yahweh unless accompanied by adoration in spirit and in truth. With what greater indignation and disgust will He not turn away from the cruel and unclean practice of human sacrifice and the prostitution of sacred things so common among the neighboring nations? On being asked with what one should approach and kneel before the Most High God, He replies by the mouth of Micheas: "I will show thee, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requireth of thee; Verily to do judgment, and to love mercy, and to walk solicitous with thy God" (6:8). So religion joins morality, and formulates and imposes its dictates. Yahweh will call the nations to account for violating the natural law, and Israel, in addition, for not observing the Mosaic legislation (cf. Amos 1-2, etc.). And He will do this, so as to conciliate in a Divine manner the rights of justice with the realization of the promises made to Israel and mankind.

(b) Prophetic predictions. The Day of Yahweh; the Saved; Messianism; Eschatology — The constant subjects of the great prophetic predictions of Israel, the punishment of the guilty nations, and the realization for all of the ancient promises. Directly or indirectly all the prophecies are concerned with the obstacles to be removed before the coming of the new kingdom or with the preparation of the New and final Covenant. From the days of Amos, and clearly it was not even then a new expectation, Israel was awaiting a great day of Yahweh, a day, which it deemed one of extraordinary triumph for it and its God. The Prophets do not deny, but rather declare with absolute certainty that the day must come. They dispel the illusions concerning its nature. For Israel, faithless and burdened with crimes, the day of Yahweh will be "darkness and not light" (Amos 5:18 sqq.). The time is approaching when the house of Jacob will be sifted among the nations as wheat is shaken in the sieve and not a good seed drops to the ground ( 9:9). Alas! the good seed is rare here. The bulk will perish. A remnant alone will be saved, a holy germ from which the Messianic kingdom will arise. The pagan nations will serve as sievers for Israel. But as they have wandered still further from the right path, the day of Yahweh will come for them in turn; finally the remnant of Israel and the converts of the nations will unite to form a single people under the great king, the Son of David.

The remnant of Ephraem or of Juda remaining in Palestine at the time of the Exile, the remnant returning from the Captivity to form the post-Exilic community, the Messianic kingdom in its militant state and its final consummation- all these stages of the history of salvation are mingled here and there in one prophetic view. The future life looms up but little, the oracles being addressed principally to the body of the nation, for which there is no future life. However, Ezechiel (37) alludes to the resurrection of the dead; the apocalypse of Isaias (26:19 sqq.) mentions it explicitly; Daniel speaks of a resurrection unto life everlasting and a resurrection unto eternal reproach (12:2 sqq.). The broad daylight of the Christian Revelation is coming.

In the New Testament.

When this dawn is about to break, prophecy then long silent finds voices anew to tell the good tidings. Zachary and Elizabeth, Mary the Virgin-Mother, the old man Simeon and Anna the Prophetess are enlightened by the Holy Spirit and unfold the future. Soon the Precursor appears, filled with the spirit and power of Elias. He finds anew the accents of olden prophecy to preach penance and announce the coming of the kingdom. Then it is the Messias in person who, long foretold and awaited as a Prophet (Deut. 18:15, 18; Is. 49:etc.), does not disdain to accept this title and to fulfill its signification. His preaching and His predictions are much closer to the prophetic models than are the teachings of the rabbis. His great predecessors are as far below Him as the servants are below the only Son. Unlike them He does not receive from without the truth which He preaches. Its source is within Him. He promulgates it with an authority thereunto unknown. His revelation is the definite message of the Father.

To understand its meaning more and more clearly the Church which He is about to establish will have throughout all ages the infallible assistance of the Holy Spirit. However, during the Apostolic times, God continues to select certain instruments like unto the Prophets of the Old Law to make known His will in an extraordinary manner and to foretell coming events: such, for instance, are the Prophets of Antioch (Acts 13:1-8), Agabus, the daughters of the Evangelist Philip, etc. And among the charismata (cf. Prat, `La theologie de Saint Paul," 1 pt. note H, p. 180-4) conferred so abundantly to hasten and fortify the incipient progress of the faith, one of the principal, next after the Apostolic, is the gift of prophecy. It is granted "unto edification, and exhortation, and comfort" (I Cor. 14:3). The writer of the "Didache" informs us that in his day it was fairly frequent and widespread, and he indicates the signs by which it may be recognized (11:7-12).

Finally the Canon of the Scriptures closes with a prophetic book, the Apocalypse of St. John, which describes the struggles and the victories of the new kingdom while awaiting the return of its Chief at the consummation of all things.



Among the writers whom the Hebrew Bible styles the "Latter Prophets" foremost stands "Isaias, the holy prophet . . . the great prophet, and faithful in the sight of God" (Ecclus. 48:23-25).


The name Isaias signifies "Yahweh is salvation." It assumes two different forms in the Hebrew Bible. In the text of the Book of Isaias and in the historical writings of the Old Testament, for example in IV Kings 19:2; II Par. 26:22; 32:20, 32, it is read Yeshá`yahu, whereas the collection of the Prophet's utterances is entitled Yeshá`yah. In Greek this is `Esaías, and in Latin usually Isaias, but sometimes Esaias. Four other persons of the same name are mentioned in the Old Testament (I Esd. 8:7; 8:19; II Esd. 11:7; I Par. 26:25); while the names Jesaia (I Par. 25:15), Jeseias (I Par. 3:21; 25:3) may be regarded as mere variants.

From the Prophet himself (1:1; 2:1) we learn that he was the son of Amos. Owing to the similarity between Latin and Greek forms of this name and that of the Shepherd-Prophet of Thecue, some Fathers mistook the Prophet Amos for the father of Isaias. Blessed Jerome in the preface to his "Commentary on Amos" (P.L. 25:989) points out this error.

Of Isaias's ancestry we know nothing; but several passages of his prophecies (3:1-24; 4:1; 8:2; 31:16) lead us to believe that he belonged to one of the best families of Jerusalem. A Jewish tradition recorded in the Talmud (Tr. Megilla, 10b.) held him to be a nephew of King Amasias. As to the exact time of the Prophet's birth we lack definite data; yet he is believed to have been about twenty years of age when he began his public ministry.

He was a citizen, perhaps a native, of Jerusalem. His writings give unmistakable signs of high culture. From his prophecies (vii and viii) we learn that he married a woman whom he styles "the prophetess" and that he had two sons, She`ar­Yashub and Maher­shalal­hash­baz. Nothing whatever indicates that he was twice married as some fancy on the gratuitous and indefensible supposition that the `almah of 7:14, was his wife.

The prophetical ministry of Isaias lasted well nigh half a century, from the closing year of Ozias, King of Juda, possibly up to that of Manasses. This period was one of great prophetical activity. Israel and Juda indeed were in sore need of guidance. After the death of Jeroboam II revolution followed upon revolution and the northern kingdom had sunk rapidly into an abject vassalage to the Assyrians. The petty nations of the West, however, recovering from the severe blows received in the beginning of the eighth century, were again manifesting aspirations of independence. Soon Theglathphalasar III marched his armies towards Syria; heavy tributes were levied and utter ruin threatened on those who would show any hesitation to pay. In 725 Osee, the last King of Samaria, fell miserably under the onslaught of Salmanasar 4, and three years later Samaria succumbed to the hands of the Assyrians.

In the meantime the Kingdom of Juda hardly fared better. A long period of peace had enervated characters, and the young, inexperienced, and unprincipled Achaz was no match for the Syro­Israelite coalition which confronted him. Panic­stricken he, in spite of the remonstrances of Isaias, resolved to appeal to Theglathphalasar. The help of Assyria was secured, but the independence of Juda was thereby practically forfeited.

In order to explain clearly the political situation to which so many allusions are made in Isaias's writings there is here subjoined a brief chronological sketch of the period:

745, Theglathphalasar 3:king of Assyria; Azarias (A. V. Uzziah), of Juda; Manahem (A. V. Menahem) of Samaria; and Sua of Egypt;

740, death of Azarias; Joatham (A. V. Jotham), king of Juda; capture of Arphad (A. V. Arpad) by Theglathphalasar III (Is. 10:9);

738, campaign of Theglathphalasar against Syria; capture of Calano (A. V. Calno) and Emath (A. V. Hamath); heavy tribute imposed upon Manahem (IV Kings 15:19-20); victorious wars of Joatham against the Ammonites (II Par. 27:4-6);

736, Manahem succeeded by Phaceia (A. V. Pekahiah);

735, Joatham succeeded by Achaz (IV Kings 16:1); Phaceia replaced by Phacee (A. V. Pekah), son of Remelia (A. V. Remaliah), one of his captains; Jerusalem besieged by Phacee in alliance with Rasin (A. V. Rezin), king of Syria (IV Kings 16:5; Is. 7:1-2);

734, Theglathphalasar, replying to Achaz' request for aid, marches against Syria and Israel, takes several cities of North and East Israel (IV Kings 15:29), and banishes their inhabitants; the Assyrian allies devastate part of the territory of Juda and Jerusalem; Phacee slain during a revolution in Samaria and succeeded by Osee (A. V. Hoshea);

733, unsuccessful expeditions of Achaz against Edom (II Par. 28:17) and the Philistines (20);

732, campaign of Theglathphalasar against Damascus; Rasin besieged in his capital, captured, and slain; Achaz goes to Damascus to pay homage to the Assyrian ruler (IV Kings 16:10-19);

727, death of Achaz; accession of Ezechias (IV Kings 18:1); in Assyria Salmanasar IV succeeds Theglathphalasar 3:

726, campaign of Salmanasar against Osee (IV Kings 17:3);

725, Osee makes alliance with Sua, king of Egypt (IV Kings 17:4); second campaign of Salmanasar 4, resulting in the capture and deportation of Osee (IV Kings 17:4); beginning of the siege of Samaria;

722, Sargon succeeds Salmanasar IV in Assyria; capture of Samaria by Sargon;

720, defeat of Egyptian army at Raphia by Sargon;

717, Charcamis, the Hittite stronghold on the Euphrates, falls into the hands of Sargon (Is, 10:8);

713, sickness of Ezechias (IV Kings 20:1-11; Is. 38); embassy from Merodach Baladan to Ezechias (IV Kings 20:12-13; Is. 39);

711, invasion of Western Palestine by Sargon; siege and capture of Azotus (A. V. Ashdod; Is. 20);

709, Sargon defeats Merodach Baladan, seizes Babylon, and assumes title of king of Babylon;

705, death of Sargon; accession of Sennacherib;

701, expedition of Sennacherib against Egypt; defeat of latter at Elteqeh; capture of Accaron (A.V. Ekron); siege of Lachis; Ezechias's embassy; the conditions laid down by Sennacherib being found too hard the king of Juda prepares to resist the Assyrians; destruction of part of the Assyrian army; hurried retreat of the rest (IV Kings 18; Is. 36-37);

698, his son Manasses succeeds Ezechias.

The wars of the ninth century and the peaceful security following them produced their effects in the latter part of the next century. Cities sprang up; new pursuits, although affording opportunities of easy wealth, brought about also an increase of poverty. The contrast between class and class became daily more marked, and the rich oppressed the poor with the connivance of the judges.

A social state founded on iniquity is doomed. But as Israel's social corruption was greater than Juda's, Israel was expected to succumb first. Greater likewise was her religious corruption. Not only did idolatrous worship prevail there to the end, but we know from Osee what gross abuses and shameful practices obtained in Samaria and throughout the kingdom, whereas the religion of the people of Juda on the whole seems to have been a little better. We know, however, as regards these, that at the very time of Isaias certain forms of idolatrous worship, like that of Nohestan and of Moloch, probably that also of Tammur and of the "host of heaven," were going on in the open or in secret.

Commentators are at variance as to when Isaias was called to the prophetical office. Some think that previous to the vision related in 6:1, he had received communications from heaven. Blessed Jerome in his commentary on the passage holds that chapters i-v ought to be attributed to the last years of King Ozias, then ch. vi would commence a new series begun in the year of the death of that prince (740 B.C.; P.L. 24:91; cf. St. Gregory Nazianzen, Orat. 9; P.G. 35:820).

It is more commonly held, however, that ch. vi refers to the first calling of the Prophet; Blessed Jerome himself, in a letter to Pope Damasus seems to adopt this view (P.L. 22:371; cf. Hesychius "In Is." P.G. XCIII, 1372), and St. John Chrysostom, commenting upon Is. 6:5, very aptly contrasts the promptness of the Prophet with the tergiversations of Moses and Jeremias. On the other hand, since no prophecies appear to be later than 701 B.C. it is doubtful if Isaias saw the reign of Manasses at all. Still a very old and widespread tradition, echoed by the Mishna (Tr. Yebamoth, 49b; cf. Sanhedr. 103b), has it that the Prophet survived Ezechias and was slain in the persecution of Manasses (IV Kings 21:16).

This prince had him convicted of blasphemy, because he had dared say: "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne" (6:1), a pretension in conflict with God's own assertion in Exod. 33:20: "Man shall not see me and live." He was accused, moreover, of having predicted the ruin of Jerusalem and called the holy city and the people of Juda by the accursed names of Sodom and Gomorrah.

According to the "Ascension of Isaias," the Prophet's martyrdom consisted in being sawed asunder. Tradition shows this to have been unhesitatingly believed. The Targum on IV Kings 21:6, admits it; it is preserved in two treatises of the Talmud (Yebamoth, 49b; Sanhedr. 103b); St. Justin (Dial. c. Tryph. cxx), and many of the Fathers adopted it, taking as unmistakable allusions to Isaias those words of the Heb. 11:37, "they (the ancients) were cut asunder" (cf. Tertullian, "De patient," xiv; P.L. 1:1270; Orig. "In Is. Hom." 1:5, P.G. 13:223; "In Matt." 10:18, P.G. 13:882; "In Matt." Ser. 28, P.G. 13:1637; "Epist. ad Jul. Afr." 9:P.G. 11:65; Blessed Jerome, "In Is." 57:1, P.L. 24:546-548; etc.). However, little trust should be put in the strange details mentioned in the "De Vit. Prophet." of pseudo­Epiphanius (P.G. 43:397, 419). The date of the Prophet's demise is not known. The Church commemorates Isaias on May 9th. His tomb is believed to have been in Paneas in Northern Palestine, whence his relics were taken to Constantinople in A.D. 442.

The literary activity of Isaias is attested by the canonical book which bears his name; moreover allusion is made in II Par. 26:22, to "Acts of Ozias first and last . . . written by Isaias, the son of Amos, the prophet." Another passage of the same book informs us that "the rest of the acts of Ezechias and his mercies, are written in the Vision of Isaias, son of Amos, the prophet," in the Book of the Kings of Juda and Israel. Such at least is the reading of the Massoretic Bible, but its text here, if we may judge from the variants of the Greek and Blessed Jerome, is somewhat corrupt. Most commentators who believe the passage to be authentic think that the writer refers to Is. 36-39. We must finally mention that there exists an "Ascension of Isaias," at one time attributed to the Prophet, but never admitted into the Canon.

The Book of Isaias.

The canonical Book of Isaias is made up of two distinct collections of discourses: the one (chapters 1-35) called sometimes the "First Isaias"; the other (chapters 40-66) styled by many modern critics the "Deutero- (or Second) Isaias". Between these two comes a stretch of historical narrative. Some authors, as Michaelis and Hengstenberg, hold with Blessed Jerome that the prophecies are placed in chronological order; others, like Vitringa and Jahn, in a logical order; others finally, like Gesenius, Delitzsch, Keil, think the actual order is partly logical and partly chronological. No less disagreement prevails on the question of the collector. Those who believe that Isaias is the author of all the prophecies contained in the book generally fix upon the Prophet himself. But for the critics who question the genuineness of some of the parts, the compilation is by a late and unknown collector. It would be well, however, before suggesting a solution to analyse cursorily the contents.

First part of Isaias.

In the first collection (cc. 1-35) there seems to be a grouping of the discourses according to their subject­matter: (1) cc. 1-12, oracles dealing with Juda and Israel; (2) cc. 13-23i, prophecies concerning (chiefly) foreign nations; (3) cc. 24-27, an apocalypse; (4) cc. 28-33, discourses on the relations of Juda to Assyria; (5) cc. 34-35, future of Edom and Israel.

First section

In the first group (i-xii) we may distinguish separate oracles. Ch. i arraigns Jerusalem for her ingratitude and unfaithfulness; severe chastisements have proved unavailing; yet forgiveness can be secured by a true change of life. The ravaging of Juda points to either the time of the Syro­Ephraimite coalition (735) or the Assyrian invasion (701). Ch. ii threatens judgment upon pride and seems to be one of the earliest of the Prophet's utterances. It is followed (3-4) by a severe arraignment of the nation's rulers for their injustice and a lampoon against the women of Sion for their wanton luxury. The beautiful apologue of the vineyard serves as a preface to the announcement of the punishment due to the chief social disorders. These seem to point to the last days of Joatham, or the very beginning of the reign of Achaz (from 736-735 B.C.).

The next chapter (6), dated in the year of the death of Ozias (740), narrates the calling of the Prophet. With 7 opens a series of utterances not inappropriately called "the Book of Emmanuel"; it is made up of prophecies bearing on the Syro­Ephraimite war, and ends in a glowing description (an independent oracle?) of what the country will be under a future sovereign (9:1-6). Ch. 9:7-10:4, in five strophes announces that Israel is foredoomed to utter ruin; the allusion to rivalries between Ephraim and Manasses possibly has to do with the revolutions which followed the death of Jeroboam II; in this case the prophecy might date some time between 743-734. Much later is the prophecy against Assur (10:5-34), later than the capture of Arshad (740), Calano (738), or Charcamis (717). The historical situation therein described suggests the time of Sennacherib's invasion (about 702 or 701 B.C.). Ch. xi depicts the happy reign to be of the ideal king, and a hymn of thanksgiving and praise (12) closes this first division.

Second section

The first "burden" is aimed at Babylon (8:1-xiv, 23). The situation presupposed by the Prophet is that of the Exile; a fact that inclines some to date it shortly before 549, against others who hold it was written on the death of Sargon (705). Ch. 14:24-27, foretelling the overthrow of the Assyrian army on the mountains of Juda, and regarded by some as a misplaced part of the prophecy against Assur (10:5-34), belongs no doubt to the period of Sennacherib's campaign. The next passage (14:28-32) was occasioned by the death of some foe of the Philistines: the names of Achaz (728), Theglathphalasar III (727), and Sargon (705) have been suggested, the last appearing more probable. Chapters 15-16, "the burden of Moab," is regarded by many as referring to the reign of Jeroboam 2:King of Israel (787-746); its date is conjectural.

We should assign the ensuing "burden of Damascus" (17:1-11), directed against the Kingdom of Israel as well, to about 735 B.C. Here follows a short utterance on Ethiopia (prob. 702 or 701). Next comes the remarkable prophecy about Egypt (19), the interest of which cannot but be enhanced by the recent discoveries at Elephantine (vv. 18, 19). The date presents a difficulty, the time ranging, according to diverse opinions, from 720 to 672 B.C.

The oracle following (20), against Egypt and Ethiopia, is ascribed to the year in which Ashdod was besieged by the Assyrians (711). Just what capture of Babylon is alluded to in "the burden of the desert of the sea" (21:1-10) is not easy to determine, for during the lifetime of Isaias Babylon was thrice besieged and taken (710, 703, 696 B.C.). Independent critics seem inclined to see here a description of the taking of Babylon in 528 B.C. the same description being the work of an author living towards the close of the Babylonian Captivity. The two short prophecies, one on Edom (Duma; 21:11-12) and one on Arabia (21:13-17), give no clue as to when they were uttered. Ch. 22:1-14, is a rebuke addressed to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the rest of the chapter Sobna (Shebna) is the object of the Prophet's reproaches and threats (about 701 B.C.). The section closes with the announcement of the ruin and the restoration of Tyre (23).

Third section

The third section of the first collection includes chapters xxiv-xxviii, sometimes called "the Apocalypse of Isaias." In the first part (24-26:29) the Prophet announces for an undetermined future the judgment which shall precede the kingdom of God (24); then in symbolic terms he describes the happiness of the good and the punishment of the wicked (xxv). This is followed by the hymn of the elect (26:1-19).

In the second part (26:20-27:) the Prophet depicts the judgment hanging over Israel and its neighbors. The date is most unsettled among modern critics, certain passages being attributed to 107 B.C. others even to a date lower than 79 B.C. Let it be remarked, however, that both the ideas and the language of these four chapters support the tradition attributing this apocalypse to Isaias.

The fourth division opens with a pronouncement of woe against Ephraim (and perhaps Juda; 28:1-8), written prior to 722 B.C.; the historical situation implied in 28:9-29, is a strong indication that this passage was written about 702 B.C. To the same date belong 29-32, prophecies concerned with the campaign of Sennacherib. This series fittingly concludes with a triumphant hymn (33), the Prophet rejoicing in the deliverance of Jerusalem (701).

Chapters 31-35, the last division, announce the devastation of Edom, and the enjoyment of bountiful blessings by ransomed Israel. These two chapters are thought by several modern critics to have been written during the captivity in the sixth century.

The foregoing analysis does not enable us to assert indubitably that this first collection as such is the work of Isaias; yet as the genuineness of almost all these prophecies cannot be seriously questioned, the collection as a whole might still possibly be attributed to the last years of the Prophet's life or shortly afterwards. If there really be passages reflecting a later epoch, they found their way into the book in the course of time on account of some analogy to the genuine writings of Isaias. Little need be said of 37-39. The first two chapters narrate the demand made by Sennacherib – the surrender of Jerusalem, and the fulfillment of Isaias's predictions of its deliverance; 38 tells of Ezechias's illness, cure, and song of thanksgiving; lastly 34 tells of the embassy sent by Merodach Baladan and the Prophet's reproof of Ezechias.

Second Part of Isaias.

The second collection (40-41) deals throughout with Israel's restoration from the Babylonian exile. The main lines of the division are as follows: a first section is concerned with the mission and work of Cyrus; it is made up of five pieces: (a) 40-41: calling of Cyrus to be Yahweh's instrument in the restoration of Israel; (b) 42:8-xliv, 5: Israel's deliverance from exile; (c) 44:6-46:12: Cyrus shall free Israel and allow Jerusalem to be built; (d) 47: ruin of Babylon; (e) 48: past dealings of God with his people are an earnest for the future.

Next to be taken up is another group of utterances, styled by German scholars "Ebed­Jahweh­Lieder"; it is made up of 49-50 (to which 42:1-7, should be joined) together with 60-62. In this section we hear of the calling of Yahweh's servant (49:1-51:16); then of Israel's glorious home­coming (51:17-52:12); afterwards is described the servant of Yahweh ransoming his people by his sufferings and death (42:1-7; 52:13-15; 53:1-12); then follows a glowing vision of the new Jerusalem (liv, 1-55, 13, and 60:1-62:12).

Ch. 56:1-8, develops this idea, that all the upright of heart, no matter what their former legal status, will be admitted to Yahweh's new people. In 56:9-57:, the Prophet inveighs against the idolatry and immorality so rife among the Jews; the sham piety with which their fasts were observed (57).

In 59 the Prophet represents the people confessing their chief sins; this humble acknowledgment of their guilt prompts Yahweh to stoop to those who have "turned from rebellion." A dramatic description of God's vengeance (53:1-7) is followed by a prayer for mercy (53:7-54:11), and the book closes upon the picture of the punishment of the wicked and the happiness of the good.

The exegesis of the "Second Isaias" raises many perplexing questions. The "Ebed­Jahweh­Lieder," in particular, suggest many difficulties. Who is this "servant of Yahweh"? Does the title apply to the same person throughout the ten chapters? Had the writer in view some historical personage of past ages, or one belonging to his own time, or the Messias to come, or even some ideal person? Most commentators see in the "servant of Yahweh" an individual. But is that individual one of the great historical figures of Israel? No satisfactory answer has been given.

The names of Moses, David, Ozias, Ezechias, Isaias, Jeremias, Josias, Zorobabel, Jechonias, and Eleazar have all been suggested as being the person. Christian exegesis has always pointed out the fact that all the features of the "servant of Yahweh" found their complete realization in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He therefore should be regarded as the one individual described by the Prophet.

The "Second Isaias" gives rise to other more critical and less important problems. With the exception of one or two passages, the point of view throughout this section is that of the Babylonian Captivity; there is an unmistakable difference between the style of these twenty­seven chapters and that of the "First Isaias"; moreover, the theological ideas of 40-46 show a decided advance on those found in the first thirty­nine chapters. If this be true, does it not follow that 40-46 are not by the same author as the prophecies of the first collection, and may there not be good grounds for attributing the authorship of these chapters to a "second Isaias" living towards the close of the Babylonian Captivity? Such is the contention of most of the Protestant scholars.

This is hardly the place for a discussion of so intricate a question. We therefore limit ourselves to stating the position of traditional scholarship on this point. The traditional Christian belief is that prophecy is not limited to the near future of the life of the prophet, but can cover all times. Accordingly, the fact that in the second part of Isaias the Prophet addresses as one living amongst them, not the Jews who were the contemporaries of Isaias, but the Jews mourning in the Exile of Babylon, in no way obliges us to believe that this prophecy could not be from the holy Prophet Isaias. The philological argument from language and style against the identity of the author of the Book of Isaias is not to be considered weighty enough to compel a man of judgment, familiar with Hebrew and criticism, to acknowledge in the same book a plurality of authors. While differences of language and style between the parts surely do exist, they are not enough to compel one to believe in a plurality of authors.

Appreciation of the Work of Isaias.

It may help to set forth the prominent features of the great Prophet, doubtless one of the most striking personalities in Hebrew history. Without holding any official position, it fell to the lot of Isaias to take an active part during well nigh forty troublesome years in controlling the policy of his country. His advice and rebukes were sometimes unheeded, but experience finally taught the rulers of Juda that to part from the Prophet's views meant always a set­back for the political situation of Juda.

In order to understand the trend of his policy it is necessary to remember what principle animated it. This principle he derived from his unshaken faith in God governing the world, and particularly His own people and the nations coming in contact with the latter. The people of Juda, forgetful of their God, given to idolatrous practices and social disorders of many kinds, had paid little heed to former warnings. One thing only alarmed them, namely that hostile nations were threatening Juda on all sides; but were they not the chosen people of God? Certainly He would not allow His own nation to be destroyed, even as others had been.

In the meantime prudence dictated that the best possible means be taken to save themselves from present dangers. Syria and Israel were plotting against Juda and her king; Juda and her king would appeal to the mighty nation of the North, and later to the King of Egypt.

Isaias would not hear aught of this short­sighted policy, grounded only on human prudence, or a false religious confidence, and refusing to look beyond the moment. Juda was in terrible straits; God alone could save her; but the first condition laid down for the manifestation of His power was moral and social reformation. Syrians, Ephraimites, Assyrians, and all the rest were but the instruments of the judgment of God, the purpose of which is the overthrow of sinners. Certainly Yahweh will not allow His people to be utterly destroyed; His covenant He will keep; but it is vain to hope that well deserved chastisement may be escaped.

From this view of the designs of God never did the faith of Isaias waver. He first proclaimed this message at the beginning of the reign of Achaz. The king and his counselors saw no salvation for Juda except in an alliance with, that is an acknowledgment of vassalage to, Assyria. This the Prophet opposed with all his might. With his keen foresight he had clearly perceived that the real danger to Juda was not from Ephraim and Syria, and that the intervention of Assyria in the affairs of Palestine involved a complete overthrow of the balance of power along the Mediterranean coast.

Moreover, the Prophet entertained no doubt but that sooner or later a conflict between the rival empires of the Euphrates and the Nile must arise, and then their hosts would swarm over the land of Juda. To him it was clear that the course proposed by Juda's self conceited politicians was like the mad flight of "silly doves," throwing themselves headlong into the net.

Isaias's advice was not followed and one by one the consequences he had foretold were realized. However, he continued to proclaim his prophetical views of the current events. Every new event of importance is by him turned into a lesson not only to Juda but to all the neighboring nations. Damascus has fallen; so will the drunkards and revelers of Samaria see the ruin of their city. Tyre boasts of her wealth and impregnable position; her doom is no less decreed, and her fall will all the more astound the world. Assyria herself, fattened with the spoils of all nations, Assyria "the rod of God's vengeance," when she will have accomplished her providential destiny, shall meet with her fate. God has thus decreed the doom of all nations for the accomplishment of His purposes and the establishment of a new Israel cleansed from all past defilements.

Judean politicians towards the end of the reign of Ezechias had planned an alliance with the King of Egypt against Assyria and carefully concealed their purpose from the Prophet. When the latter came to know the preparations for rebellion, it was already too late to undo what had been done. But he could at least give vent to his anger (see Is. 30), and we know both from the Bible and Sennacherib's own account of the campaign of 701 how the Assyrian army routed the Egyptians at Altaku (Elteqeh of Jos. 19:44), captured Accaron, and sent a detachment to ravage Juda. Jerusalem, closely invested, was saved only by the payment of an enormous ransom. The vindication of Isaias's policy, however, was not yet complete.

The Assyrian army withdrew; but Sennacherib, apparently thinking it unsafe to leave in his wake a fortified city like Jerusalem, demanded the immediate surrender of Ezechias's capital. At the command of Ezechias, no answer was given to the message; but the king humbly bade Isaias to intercede for the city. The Prophet had for the king a reassuring message. But the respite in the Judean capital was short.

Soon a new Assyrian embassy arrived with a letter from the king containing an ultimatum. In the panic-stricken city there was a man of whom Sennacherib had taken no account; it was by him that the answer was to be given to the ultimatum of the proud Assyrians: "The virgin, the daughter of Sion hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn; . . . He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow into it. . . . By the way that he came, he shall return, and into this city he shall not come, saith the Lord" (37:22, 33). We know in reality how a sudden catastrophe overtook the Assyrian army and God's promise was fulfilled. This crowning vindication of the Divinely inspired policy of Isaias prepared the hearts of the Jews for the religious reformation brought about by Ezechias, no doubt along lines laid down by the Prophet.

In reviewing the political side of Isaias's public life, we have already seen something of his religious and social ideas; all these view-points were indeed most intimately connected in his teaching. It may be well now to dwell a little more fully on this part of the Prophet's message. Isaias's description of the religious condition of Juda in the latter part of the eighth century is anything but flattering. Jerusalem is compared to Sodom and Gomorrah; apparently the bulk of the people were superstitious rather than religious. Sacrifices were offered out of routine; witchcraft and divination were in honor; nay more, foreign deities were openly invoked side by side with the true God, and in secret the immoral worship of some of these idols was widely indulged in, the higher class and the Court itself giving in this regard an abominable example.

Throughout the kingdom, there was corruption of higher officials, ever-increasing luxury among the wealthy, wanton haughtiness of women, ostentation among the middle-class people, shameful partiality of the judges, unscrupulous greed of the owners of large estates, and oppression of the poor and lowly. The Assyrian suzerainty did not change anything in this woeful state of affairs. In the eyes of Isaias this order of things was intolerable; and he never tired repeating it could not last.

The first condition of social reformation was the downfall of the unjust and corrupt rulers; the Assyrians were the means appointed by God to level their pride and tyranny with the dust. With their mistaken ideas about God, the nation imagined He did not concern Himself about the dispositions of His worshippers. But God loathes sacrifices offered by ". . . hands full of blood. Wash yourselves, be clean, . . . relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow. . . . But if you will not, . . . the sword shall devour you" (1:15-20).

God here appears as the avenger of disregarded human justice as much as of His Divine rights. He cannot and will not let injustice, crime, and idolatry go unpunished. The destruction of sinners will inaugurate an era of regeneration, and a little circle of men faithful to God will be the first-fruits of a new Israel free from past defilements and ruled by a scion of David's House.

With the reign of Ezechias began a period of religious revival. Just how far the reform extended we are not able to state; local sanctuaries around which heathenish abuses had gathered were suppressed, and many `asherîm and masseboth were destroyed. It is true the times were not ripe for a radical change, and there was little response to the appeal of the Prophet for moral amendment and redress of social abuses.

The Fathers of the Church, echoing the eulogy of Jesus, son of Sirach (Ecclus. 48:25-28), agree that Isaias was the greatest of the literary Prophets (Euseb. "Præp. Evang." 5:4, P.G. 22:370; "Synops. Script. S." among the works of St. Athan. P.G. 38:363; St. Cyril of Jerusalem, "In Is. Prooem." P.G. LXX, 14; St. Isidore of Pelus. "Epist." 1:42, P.G. LXXVIII, 208; Theodoret. "In Is. Argum." P.G. LXXXI, 216; Blessed Jerome, "Prol. in Is." P.L. 24:18; "Præf. ad Paul. et Eustoch." P.L. 32:769; "De civ. Dei," 18, 19:1, P.L. 41, 585, etc.). Isaias's poetical genius was in every respect worthy of his lofty position as a Prophet. He is unsurpassed in poetry, descriptive, lyric, or elegiac.

There is in his compositions an uncommon elevation and majesty of conception, and an unparalleled wealth of imagery, never departing, however, from the utmost propriety, elegance, and dignity. He possessed an extraordinary power of adapting his language both to occasions and audiences. Sometimes he displays most exquisite tenderness, and at other times austere severity. He successively assumes a mother's pleading and irresistible tone, and the stern manner of an implacable judge, now making use of delicate irony to bring home to his hearers what he would have them understand, and then pitilessly shattering their fondest illusions or wielding threats which strike like mighty thunderbolts.

His rebukes are neither impetuous like those of Osee nor blustering like those of Amos; he never allows the conviction of his mind or the warmth of his heart to overdraw any feature or to overstep the limits assigned by the most exquisite taste. Exquisite taste indeed is one of the leading features of the Prophet's style. This style is rapid, energetic, full of life and color, and withal always chaste and dignified. It moreover manifests a wonderful command of language.

It has been justly said that no Prophet ever had the same command of noble thoughts; it may be as justly added that never perhaps did any man utter lofty thoughts in more beautiful language. Blessed Jerome rejected the idea that Isaias's prophecies were true poetry in the full sense of the word (Præf. in Is. P.L. 28:772). Nevertheless the authority of the illustrious Robert Lowth, in his "Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews" (1753), esteemed "the whole book of Isaiah to be poetical, a few passages excepted, which if brought together, would not at most exceed the bulk of five or six chapters." This opinion of Lowth, at first scarcely noticed, became more and more general in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and is now common among Biblical scholars.



Jeremias lived at the close of the seventh and in the first part of the sixth century before Christ; a contemporary of Draco and Solon of Athens. In the year 627, during the reign of Josias, he was called at a youthful age to be a prophet, and for nearly half a century, at least from 627 to 585, he bore the burden of the prophetic office. He belonged to a priestly (not a high-priestly) family of Anathoth, a small country town northeast of Jerusalem now called Anatâ; but he seems never to have performed priestly duties at the temple.

The scenes of his prophetic activity were, for a short time, his native town, for the greater part of his life, the metropolis Jerusalem, and, for a time after the fall of Jerusalem, Masphath (Jer. 40:6) and the Jewish colonies of the Dispersion in Egypt (Jer. 43:6 sqq.). His name has received varying etymological interpretations ("Lofty is Jahwah" or "Jahweh founds"). It appears also as the name of other persons in the Old Testament. Sources for the history of his life and times are, first, the book of prophecies bearing his name, and, second, the Books of Kings and of Paralipomenon (Chronicles). It is only when taken in connection with the history of his times that the external course of his life, the individuality of his nature, and the ruling theme of his discourses can be understood.

Period of Jeremias.

The last years of the seventh century and the first decades of the sixth brought with them a series of political catastrophes which completely changed national conditions in Western Asia. The overthrow of the Assyrian Empire, which was completed in 606 by the conquest of Nineveh, induced Nechao II of Egypt to attempt, with the aid of a large army, to strike a crushing blow at the ancient enemy on the Euphrates. Palestine was in the direct route between the great powers of the world of that era on the Euphrates and the Nile, and the Jewish nation was roused to action by the march of the Egyptian army through its territory.

Josias, the last descendent of David, had begun in Jerusalem a moral and religious reformation "in the ways of David," the carrying out of which, however, was frustrated by the lethargy of the people and the foreign policy of the king. The attempt of Josias to check the advance of the Egyptians cost him his life at the battle of Mageddo, 608. Four years later, Nechao, the conqueror at Mageddo, was slain by Nabuchodonosor at Carchemish on the Euphrates. From that time Nabuchodonosor's eyes were fixed on Jerusalem.

The last, shadowy kings upon the throne of David, the three sons of Josias -–Joachaz, Joakim, and Sedecias -– hastened the destruction of the kingdom by their unsuccessful foreign policy and their anti-religious or, at least, weak internal policy. Both Joakim and Sedecias, in spite of the warnings of the prophet Jeremias, allowed themselves to be misled by the war party in the nation into refusing to pay the tribute to the King of Babylon. The king's revenge followed quickly upon the rebellion. In the second great expedition Jerusalem was conquered (586) and destroyed after a siege of eighteen months, which was only interrupted by the battle with the Egyptian army of relief. The Lord cast aside his footstool in the day of his wrath and sent Juda into the Babylonian Captivity.

This is the historical background to the lifework of the Prophet Jeremias: in foreign policy an era of lost battles and other events preparatory to the great catastrophe; in the inner life of the people an era of unsuccessful attempts at reformation, and the appearance of fanatical parties such as generally accompany the last days of a declining kingdom. While the kings from the Nile and the Euphrates alternately laid the sword on the neck of the Daughter of Sion, the leaders of the nation, the kings and priests, became more and more involved in party schemes; a Sion party, led by false prophets, deluded itself by the superstitious belief that the temple of Jahweh was the unfailing talisman of the capital; a fanatically foolhardy war party wanted to organize a resistance to the utmost against the great powers of the world; a Nile party looked to the Egyptians for the salvation of the country, and incited opposition to the Babylonian lordship. Carried away by human politics, the people of Sion forgot its religion, the national trust in God, and wished to fix the day and hour of its redemption according to its own will. Over all these factions the cup of the wine of wrath gradually grew full, to be finally poured from seven vessels during the Babylonian Exile laid upon the nation of the Prophets.

Mission of Jeremias.

In the midst of the confusion of a godless policy of despair at the approach of destruction, the prophet of Anathoth stood as "a pillar of iron, and a wall of brass." The prophet of the eleventh hour, he had the hard mission, on the eve of the great catastrophe of Sion, of proclaiming the decree of God that in the near future the city and temple should be overthrown.

From the time of his first calling in vision to the prophetic office, he saw the rod of correction in the hand of God; he heard the word that the Lord would watch over the execution of His decree (1:11 sq.). That Jerusalem would be destroyed was the constant assertion, the ceterum censeo of the Cato of Anathoth. He appeared before the people with chains about his neck (cf. 27:xxviii) in order to give a drastic illustration of the captivity and chains which he foretold. The false prophets preached only of freedom and victory, but the Lord said: "A liberty for you to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine" (34:17).

It was so clear to him that the next generation would be involved in the overthrow of the kingdom that he renounced marriage and the founding of a family for himself (16:104), because he did not wish to have children who would surely be the victims of the sword or become the slaves of the Babylonians. His celibacy was consequently a declaration of his faith in the revelation granted him of the destruction of the city. Jeremias is thus the Biblical and historical counterpart of Cassandra in the Homeric poems, who foresaw the fall of Troy, but found no credence in her own house, yet was so strong in her conviction that she renounced marriage and all the joys of life.

Along with this first task, to prove the certainty of the catastrophe of 586, Jeremias had the second commission to declare that this catastrophe was a moral necessity, to proclaim it in the ears of the people as the inevitable result of the moral guilt since the days of Manasses (IV Kings 21:10-15); in a word, to set forth the Babylonian Captivity as a moral, not merely a historical, fact. It was only because the stubborn nation had thrown off the yoke of the Lord (Jer. 2:20) that it must bow its neck under the yoke of the Babylonians.

In order to arouse the nation from its moral lethargy, and to make moral preparation for the day of the Lord, the sermons of the preacher of repentance of Anathoth emphasized this causal connection between punishment and guilt, until it became monotonous. Although he failed to convert the people, and thus to turn aside entirely the calamity from Jerusalem, nevertheless the word of the Lord in his mouth became, for some, a hammer that broke their stony hearts to repentance (23:29).

Thus, Jeremias had not only "to root up, and to pull down," he had also in the positive work of salvation "to build, and to plant" (1:10). These latter aims of the penitential discourses of Jeremias make plain why the religious and moral conditions of the time are all painted in the same dark tone: the priests do not inquire after Jahweh; the leaders of the people themselves wander in strange paths; the prophets prophesy in the name of Baal; Juda has become the meeting-place of strange gods; the people have forsaken the fountain of living water and have provoked the Lord to anger by idolatry and the worship of high places, by the sacrifice of children, desecration of the Sabbath, and by false weights. This severity in the discourses of Jeremias makes them the most striking type of prophetic declamation against sin. One well-known hypothesis ascribes to Jeremias also the authorship of the Books of Kings. In reality the thought forming the philosophical basis of the Books of Kings and the conception underlying the speeches of Jeremias complement each other, inasmuch as the fall of the kingdom is traced back in the one to the guilt of the kings, and in the other to the people's participation in this guilt.

Life of Jeremias.

A far more exact picture of the life of Jeremias has been preserved than of the life of any other seer of Sion. It was an unbroken chain of steadily growing outward and inward difficulties, a genuine "Jeremiad." On account of the prophecies, his life was no longer safe among his fellow-citizens of Anathoth (11:21 sqq.), and of no teacher did the saying prove truer that "a prophet hath no honor in his own country." When he transferred his residence from Anathoth to Jerusalem his troubles increased, and in the capital of the kingdom he was doomed to learn by corporal suffering that veritas parit odium (truth draws hatred upon itself).

King Joakim could never forgive the prophet for threatening him with punishment on account of his unscrupulous mania for building and for his judicial murders: "He shall be buried with the burial of an ass" (22:13-19). When the prophecies of Jeremias were read before the king, he fell into such a rage that he threw the roll into the fire and commanded the arrest of the prophet (36:21-26). Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremias to let Baruch the scribe write again his words (36:27-32). More than once the prophet was in prison and in chains without the word of the Lord being silenced (36:5 sqq.); more than once he seemed, in human judgment, doomed to death. But, like a wall of brass, the word of the Almighty was the protection of his life: "Be not afraid . . . they shall not prevail: for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee" (1:17-19).

The religious opinion he maintained, that only by a moral change could a catastrophe in outward conditions prepare the way for improvement, brought him into bitter conflict with the political parties of the nation.

The Sion party, with its superstitious confidence in the temple (7:4), incited the people to open revolt against Jeremias, because, at the gate and in the outer court of the temple, he prophesied the fate of the holy place in Silo for the house of the Lord; and the prophet was in great danger of violent death at the hands of the Sionists (26; cf. 7).

The party friendly to Egypt cursed him because he condemned the coalition with Egypt, and presented to the King of Egypt also the cup of the wine of wrath (25:17-19). They also hated him because, during the siege of Jerusalem, he declared, before the event, that the hopes placed on an Egyptian army of relief were delusive (36:5-9).

The party of noisy patriots calumniated Jeremias as a morose pessimist (cf. 27, 28), because they had allowed themselves to be deceived as to the seriousness of the crisis by the flattering words of Hananias of Gabaon and his companions, and dreamed of freedom and peace while exile and war were already approaching the gates of the city. The exhortation of the prophet to accept the inevitable, and to choose voluntary submission as a lesser evil than a hopeless struggle, was interpreted by the war party as a lack of patriotism.

Even at the present day, some commentators wish to regard Jeremias as a traitor to his country — Jeremias, who was the best friend of his brethren and of the people of Israel (II Mach. 15:14), so deeply did he feel the weal and woe of his native land. Thus was Jeremias loaded with the curses of all parties as the scapegoat of the blinded nation. During the siege of Jerusalem he was once more condemned to death and thrown into a miry dungeon; this time a foreigner rescued him from certain death (xxxvii-xxxix).

Still more violent than these outward battles were the conflicts in the soul of the prophet. Being in full sympathy with the national sentiment, he felt that his own fate was bound up with that of the nation; hence the hard mission of announcing to the people the sentence of death affected him deeply; hence his opposition to accepting this commission (1:6). With all the resources of prophetic rhetoric, he sought to bring back the people to "the old paths" (6:16), but in this endeavor, he felt as though he were trying to effect that "the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots" (13:23). He heard the sins of his people crying to heaven for vengeance, and forcibly expresses his approval of the judgment pronounced upon the blood-stained city (cf. 6). The next moment, however, he prays the Lord to let the cup pass from Jerusalem, and wrestles like Jacob with God for a blessing upon Sion.

The grandeur of soul of the great sufferer appears most plainly in the fervid prayers for his people (cf. especially 14:7-9, 19-22), which he offered directly after a fiery declaration of coming punishment. He knows that with the fall of Jerusalem the place that was the scene of revelation and salvation will be destroyed. Nevertheless, at the grave of the religious hopes of Israel, he still has the expectation that the Lord, notwithstanding all that has happened, will bring His promises to pass for the sake of His name. The Lord thinks "thoughts of peace, and not of affliction," and will let Himself be found of those who seek (29:10-14). As He watched to destroy, so will He likewise watch to build up (31:28).

The prophetic gift does not appear with equal clearness in the life of any other prophet as alike a psychological problem and a personal task. His bitter outward and inward experiences give the speeches of Jeremias a strongly personal tone. More than once this man of iron seems in danger of losing his spiritual balance. He calls down punishment from heaven upon his enemies (cf. 12:3; 18:23). Like a Job among the prophets, he curses the day of his birth (15:10; 20:14-18); he would like to arise, go hence, and preach instead to the stones in the wilderness: "Who will give me in the wilderness a lodging place . . . and I will leave my people, and depart from them?" (9:2; Heb. text, 9:1). It is not improbable that the mourning prophet of Anathoth was the author of many of the Psalms that are full of bitter reproach.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremias was not carried away into the Babylonian exile. He remained behind in Chanaan, in the wasted vineyard of Jahweh, that he might continue his prophetic office. It was indeed a life of martyrdom among the dregs of the nation that had been left in the land. At a later date, he was dragged to Egypt by emigrating Jews (11-44). According to a tradition first mentioned by Tertullian (Scorp. 8), Jeremias was stoned to death in Egypt by his own countrymen on account of his discourses threatening the coming punishment of God (cf. Heb. 11:37), thus crowning with martyrdom a life of steadily increasing trials and sorrows. Jeremias would not have died as Jeremias had he not died a martyr. The Church celebrated his martyrdom each May first. Posterity sought to atone for the sins his contemporaries had committed against him. Even during the Babylonian Captivity his prophecies seem to have been the favorite reading of the exiles (II Par. 36:21; I Esd. 1:1; Dan. 9:2). In the later books compare Ecclus. 49:8 sq.; II Mach. 2:1-8; 15:12-16; Matt. 16:14.

Characteristic Qualities of Jeremias.

The delineation in II and III of the life and task of Jeremias has already made plain the peculiarity of his character. Jeremias is the prophet of mourning and of symbolical suffering. This distinguishes his personality from that of Isaias, the prophet of ecstasy and the Messianic future, of Ezekiel, the prophet of mystical (not typical) suffering, and of Daniel, the cosmopolitan revealer of apocalyptic visions of the Old Covenant. No prophet belonged so entirely to his age and his immediate surroundings, and no prophet was so seldom transported by the Spirit of God from a dreary present into a brighter future than the mourning prophet of Anathoth. Consequently, the life of no other prophet reflects the history of his times so vividly as the life of Jeremias reflects the time immediately preceding the Babylonian Captivity.

A somber, depressed spirit overshadows his life, just as a gloomy light overhangs the grotto of Jeremias in the northern part of Jerusalem. In Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceilings of the Sistine chapel there is a masterly delineation of Jeremias as the prophet of myrrh, perhaps the most expressive and eloquent figure among the prophets depicted by the great master. He is represented bent over like a tottering pillar of the temple, the head supported by the right hand, the disordered beard expressive of a time of intense sorrow, and the forehead scored with wrinkles, the entire exterior a contrast to the pure soul within. His eyes seem to see blood and ruins, and his lips appear to murmur a lament. The whole picture strikingly portrays a man who never in his life laughed, and who turned aside from scenes of joy, because the Spirit told him that soon the voice of mirth should be silenced (16:8 sq.).

Equally characteristic and idiosyncratic is the literary style of Jeremias. He does not use the classically elegant language of a Deutero-Isaias or an Amos, nor does he possess the imagination shown in the symbolism and elaborate detail of Ezekiel, neither does he follow the lofty thought of a Daniel in his apocalyptic vision of the history of the world. The style of Jeremias is simple, without ornament and but little polished. Blessed Jerome speaks of him as "in verbis simplex et facilis, in majestate sensuum profundissimus" (simple and easy in words, most profound in majesty of thought). Jeremias often speaks in jerky, disjointed sentences, as if grief and excitement of spirit had stifled his voice. Nor did he follow strictly the laws of poetic rhythm in the use of the Kînah, or elegiac, verse, which had, moreover, an anacoluthic measure of its own. Like these anacoluthæ so are also the many, at times even monotonous, repetitions for which he has been blamed, the only individual expressions of the mournful feeling of his soul that are correct in style. Sorrow inclines to repetition, in the manner of the prayers on the Mount of Olives. Just as grief in the East is expressed in the neglect of the outward appearance, so the great representative of elegiac verse of the Bible had neither time nor desire to adorn his thoughts with a carefully chosen diction.

Jeremias also stands by himself among the prophets by his manner of carrying on and developing the Messianic idea. He was far from attaining the fullness and clearness of the Messianic gospel of the Book of Isaias; he does not contribute as much as the Book of Daniel to the terminology of the gospel. Above all the other great prophets, Jeremias was sent to his age. Only in very isolated instances does he throw a prophetic light in verbal prophecy on the fullness of time, as in his celebrated discourse of the Good Shepherd of the House of David (23:1-5), or when he most beautifully, in chapters 30-33, proclaims the deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity as the type and pledge of the Messianic deliverance.

This lack of actual Messianic prophecies by Jeremias has its compensation; for his entire life became a living personal prophecy of the suffering Messias, a living illustration of the predictions of suffering made by the other prophets. The suffering Lamb of God in the Book of Isaias (53:7) becomes in Jeremias a human being: "I was as a meek lamb, that is carried to be a victim" (Jer. 11:19). The other seers were Messianic prophets; Jeremias was a Messianic prophecy embodied in flesh and blood. It is, therefore, fortunate that the story of his life has been more exactly preserved than that of the other prophets, because his life has a prophetic significance.

The various parallels between the life of Jeremias and of the Messias are known. Both one and the other had at the eleventh hour to proclaim the overthrow of Jerusalem and its temple by the Babylonians or Romans; both wept over the city which stoned the prophets and did not recognize what was for its peace; the love of both was repaid with hatred and ingratitude.

Jeremias deepened the conception of the Messias in another regard. From the time the prophet of Anathoth, a man beloved of God, was obliged to live a life of suffering in spite of his guiltlessness and holiness from birth, Israel was no longer justified in judging its Messias by a mechanical theory of retribution and doubting his sinlessness and acceptableness to God because of his outward sorrows. Thus the life of Jeremias, a life as bitter as myrrh, was gradually to accustom the eye of the people to the suffering figure of Christ, and to make clear in advance the bitterness of the Cross. Therefore it is with a profound right that the Offices of the Passion in the Liturgy of the Church often use the language of Jeremias in an applied sense.

The Book of the Prophecies of Jeremias.

Analysis of Contents.

The book in its present form has two main divisions: chapters i-xiv, discourses threatening punishment which are aimed directly against Juda and are intermingled with narratives of personal and national events, and chapters 46-51, discourses containing threats against nine heathen nations and intended to warn Juda indirectly against the polytheism and policy of these peoples.

Chapter relates the calling of the prophet, in order to prove to his suspicious countrymen that he was the ambassador of God. Not he himself had assumed the office of prophet, but Jahweh had conferred it upon him notwithstanding his reluctance. Chapters ii-vi contain rhetorical and weighty complaints and threats of judgment on account of the nation's idolatry and foreign policy. The very first speech in ii-iii may be said to present the scheme of the Jeremianic discourse. Here also appears at once the conception of Osee which is typical as well of Jeremias: Israel, the bride of the Lord, has degraded herself into becoming the paramour of strange nations. Even the temple and sacrifice (7-10), without inward conversion on the part of the people, cannot bring salvation; while other warnings are united like mosaics with the main ones.

The "words of the covenant" in the Thorah recently found under Josias contain threatenings of judgment; the enmity of the citizens of Anathoth against the herald of this Thorah reveals the infatuation of the nation (11-12). Jeremias is commanded to hide a linen girdle, a symbol of the priestly nation of Sion, by the Euphrates and to let it rot there, to typify the downfall of the nation in exile on the Euphrates (13). The same stern symbolism is expressed later by the earthen bottle which is broken on the rocks before the Earthen Gate (19:1-11). According to the custom of the prophets (III Kings 11:29-31; Is. 8:1-4; Ezech. 5:1-12), forcible pantomimic action accompanies his warnings.

Prayers at the time of a great drought, statements which are of much value for the understanding of the psychological condition of the prophet in his spiritual struggles, follow (14-15). The troubles of the times demand from the prophet an unmarried and joyless life (16-17). The creator can treat those he has created with the same supreme authority that the potter has over clay and earthen vessels. Jeremias is ill-treated (18-20). A condemnation of the political and ecclesiastical leaders of the people and, in connection with this, the promise of a better shepherd are uttered (21-23). The vision of the two baskets of figs is narrated in chapter 24.

The repeated declaration (ceterum censeo) that the land will become a desolation follows (25). Struggles with the false prophets, who take wooden chains off the people and lead them instead with iron ones, are detailed. Both in a letter to the exiles in Babylon, and by word of mouth, Jeremias exhorts the captives to conform to the decrees of Jahweh (26-29). Compare with this letter the "epistle of Jeremias" in Baruch, vi. A prophecy of consolation and salvation in the style of a Deutero-Isaias, concerning the return of God's favor to Israel and of the new, eternal covenant, is then given (30-33). The chapters following are taken up largely with narratives of the last days of the siege of Jerusalem and of the period after the conquest with numerous biographical details concerning Jeremias (34-45).

Literary Criticism of the Book.

The testimony of chapter 36 throws much light on the production and genuineness of the book. Jeremias is directed to write down, either personally or by his scribe Baruch, the discourses he had given up to the fourth year of Joakim (604 B.C.). In order to strengthen the impression made by the prophecies as a whole, the individual predictions are to be united into a book, thereby preserving documentary proof of these discourses until the time in which the disasters threatened in them should actually come to pass. This first authentic recension of the prophecies forms the basis of the present Book of Jeremias. According to a law of literary transmission to which the Biblical books are also subject–habent sua fata libelli (books have their vicissitudes)–the first transcript was enlarged by various insertions and additions from the pen of Baruch or of a later prophet.

The attempts of commentators to separate these secondary and tertiary additions in different cases from the original Jeremianic subject-matter have not always led to as convincing proof as in chapter lii. This chapter should be regarded as an addition of the post-Jeremianic period based on IV Kings 24:18-25:30, on account of the concluding statement of li: "Thus far are the words of Jeremias." Cautious literary criticism is obliged to observe the principle of chronological arrangement which is perceptible in the present composition of the book, notwithstanding the additions: chapters i-vi belong apparently to the reign of King Josias (cf. the date in 3:6); vii-xx belong, at least largely, to the reign of Joakim; xxi-xxxiii partly to the reign of Sedecias (cf. 21:1; 27:1; 28:1; 32:1), although other portions are expressly assigned to the reigns of other kings: xxxiv-xxxix to the period of the siege of Jerusalem; 40-45 to the period after the destruction of that city. Consequently, the chronology must have been considered in the arrangement of the material.

Modern critical analysis of the book distinguishes between the portions narrated in the first person, regarded as directly attributable to Jeremias, and those portions which speak of Jeremias in the third person. According to Scholz, the book is arranged in "decades," and each larger train of thought or series of speeches is closed with a song or prayer. It is true that in the book parts classically perfect and highly poetic in character are often suddenly followed by the most commonplace prose, and matters given in the barest outline are not seldom succeeded by prolix and monotonous details. After what has been said above concerning elegiac verse, this difference in style can only be used with the greatest caution as a criterion for literary criticism.

In the same way, investigation, of late very popular, as to whether a passage exhibits a Jeremianic spirit or not, leads to vague subjective results. Since the discovery (1904) of the Assuan texts, which strikingly confirm Jer. 44:1, has proved that Aramaic, as the koine (common dialect) of the Jewish colony in Egypt, was spoken as early as the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. the Aramaic expressions in the Book of Jeremias can no longer be quoted as proof of a later origin of such passages. Also, the agreement, verbal or conceptual, of texts in Jeremias with earlier books, perhaps with Deuteronomy, is not in itself a conclusive argument against the genuineness of these passages, for the prophet does not claim absolute originality.

Notwithstanding the repetition of earlier passages in Jeremias, chapters l-li are fundamentally genuine, although their genuineness has been strongly doubted, because, in the series of discourses threatening punishment to the heathen nations, it is impossible that there should not be a prophecy against Babylon, then the most powerful representative of paganism. These chapters are, indeed, filled with the Deutero-Isaian spirit of consolation, somewhat after the manner of Is. 47:but they do not therefore, as a matter of course, lack genuineness, as the same spirit of consolation also inspires 30-33.

Textual Conditions of the Book.

The arrangement of the text in the Septuagint varies from that of the Hebrew text and the Vulgate. The discourses against the heathen nations, in the Hebrew text, 46-51, are, in the Septuagint, inserted after 25:13, and partly in different order. Great differences exist also as to the extent of the text of the Book of Jeremias. The text of the Hebrew and Latin Bibles is about one-eighth larger than that of the Septuagint. The question as to which text has preserved the original form cannot be answered according to the theory of Streane and Scholz, who declare at the outset that every addition of the Hebrew version is a later enlargement of the original text in the Septuagint. Just as little can the difficulty be settled by avowing, with Kaulen, an a priori preference for the Masoretic text. In most cases the Alexandrian translation has retained the better and original reading; consequently, in most cases the Hebrew text is glossed. In a book as much read as Jeremias the large number of glosses cannot appear strange. But in other cases the shorter recension of the Septuagint, amounting to about 100 words, which can be opposed to its large lacunæ, as compared with the Masorah, are sufficient proof that considerable liberty was taken in its preparation. Consequently, it was not made by an Aquila, and it received textual changes in the literary transmission. The dogmatic content of the discourses of Jeremias is not affected by these variations in the text.


In the Greek and Latin Bibles there are five songs of lament bearing the name of Jeremias, which follow the Book of the Prophecy of Jeremias. In the Hebrew these are entitled Kinôth. from their elegaic character, or the 'Ekhah songs after the first word of the first, second, and fourth elegies. In Greek they are called Threnoi, and in Latin they are known as Lamentationes.

Position and Genuineness of Lamentations.

The superscription to Lamentations in the Septuagint and other versions throws light on the historical occasion of their production and on the author: "And it came to pass, after Israel was carried into captivity, and Jerusalem was desolate, that Jeremias the prophet sat weeping, and mourned with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and with a sorrowful mind, sighing and moaning, he said."

The inscription was not written by the author of Lamentations, one proof of this being that it does not belong to the alphabetical form of the elegies. However, it expresses, briefly, the tradition of ancient times which is also confirmed both by the Targum and the Talmud. To a man like Jeremias, the day on which Jerusalem became a heap of ruins was not only a day of national misfortune, as was the day of the fall of Troy to the Trojan, or that of the destruction of Carthage to the Carthaginian, it was also a day of religious inanition. For, in a religious sense, Jerusalem had a peculiar importance in the history of salvation, as the footstool of Jahweh and as the scene of the revelation of God and of the Messias. Consequently, the grief of Jeremias was personal, not merely a sympathetic emotion over the sorrow of others, for he had sought to prevent the disaster by his labors as a prophet in the streets of the city.

All the fibers of his heart were bound up with Jerusalem; he was now himself crushed and desolate. Thus Jeremias more than any other man was plainly called -- it may be said, driven by an inner force -- to lament the ruined city as threnodist of the great penitential period of the Old Covenant. He was already prepared by his lament upon the death of King Josias (II Par. 35:25) and by the elegiac songs in the book of his prophecies (cf. 13:20-27, a lament over Jerusalem).

The lack of variety in the word-forms and in the construction of the sentences, which, it is claimed, does not accord with the character of the style of Jeremias, may be explained as a poetic peculiarity of this poetic book. Descriptions such as those in 1:13-15, or 4:10, seem to point to an eye witness of the catastrophe, and the literary impression made by the whole continually recalls Jeremias. Many things conduce to the elegiac tone of the Lamentations, which is only occasionally interrupted by intermediate tones of hope. Among these are the complaints against false prophets and against the striving after the favor of foreign nations. Adding to this are the verbal agreements with the Book of Prophecy of Jeremias. Rounding out this effect are the predilection for closing a series of thoughts with a prayer warm from the heart–cf. 3:19-21, 64-66, and chapter 5 which, like a Miserere Psalm of Jeremias, forms a close to the five lamentations. The fact that in the Hebrew Bible the Kinôth was removed, as a poetic work, from the collection of prophetic books and placed among the Kethúhîm, or Hagiographa, cannot be quoted as a decisive argument against its Jeremiac origin, as the testimony of the Septuagint, the most important witness in the forum of Biblical criticism, must in a hundred other cases correct the decision of the Masorah. Moreover, the superscription of the Septuagint seems to presuppose a Hebrew original.

Technical Form of the Poetry of Lamentations.

(1) In the first four laments the Kînah measure is used in the construction of the lines. In this measure each line is divided into two unequal members having respectively three and two stresses, as for example in the introductory first three lines of the book.

(2) In all five elegies the construction of the verses follows an alphabetical arrangement. The first, second, fourth, and fifth laments are each composed of twenty-two verses, to correspond with the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet; the third lament is made up of three times twenty-two verses. In the first, second, and fourth elegies each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letters following in order, as the first verse begins with Aleph, the second with Beth, etc.; in the third elegy every fourth verse begins with a letter of the alphabet in due order. Thus, with a few exceptions and changes (, the seventeenth, precedes Ayin the sixteenth letter), the Hebrew alphabet is formed from the initial letters of the separate verses. How easily this alphabetical method can curb the spirit and logic of a poem is most clearly shown in the third lament, which, besides, had probably in the beginning the same structure as the others, a different initial letter to each of the original verses; it was not until later that a less careful writer developed each verse into three by means of ideas taken from Job and other writers.

(3) As to the structure of the strophe, it is certain that the principle followed in some cases is the change of the person of the subject as speaker or one addressed.

The first elegy is divided into a lament over Sion in the third person (verses 1-11), and a lament of Sion over itself (verses 12-22). In the first strophe Sion is the object, in the second, a strophe of equal length, the subject of the elegy. According to the Septuagint, the third person should be used.

In the second elegy, also, the intention seems to be, with the change of strophe, to change from the third person to the second, and from the second to the first person. In verses 1-8 there are twenty-four members in the third person; in 13-19 twenty-one in the second person, while in 20-22, a strophe in the first person, the lament closes in a monologue.

In the third lament, as well, the speech of a single subject in the first person alternates with the speech of several persons represented by "we" and with colloquy. Verses 40-47 are clearly distinguished by their subject "we" from the preceding strophe, in which the subject is one individual, and from the following strophe in the first person singular in verses 48-54, while the verses 55-66 represent a colloquy with Jahweh. In Lamentations we find the strongest confirmation of the theory of the writer, that in the structure of Hebrew poetry the alternation of persons and subjects is a fixed principle in forming strophes.

(4) In the structure of the five elegies regarded as a whole, Zenner has shown that they rise in a steady and exactly measured progression to a climax. In the first elegy there are two monologues from two different speakers. In the second elegy the monologue develops into an animated dialogue. In the third and fourth elegies the cry of lamentation is louder still, as more have joined in the lament, and the solitary voice has been replaced by a choir of voices. In the fifth lament a third choir is added. Literary criticism finds in the dramatic construction of the book a strong argument for the literary unity of Lamentations.

Ark of the Covenant.

The Hebrew word aron, by which the Ark of the Covenant is expressed, does not call to the mind a large construction, as that used for Noah's Ark, but rather a chest. This word is generally determined in the sacred text; so we read of the Ark of the Testimony (Ex. 25:16, 22; 26:33, etc.), the Ark of the Testament (Ex. 30:26), the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord (Num. 10:33; Deut. 10:8, etc.), the Ark of the Covenant (Jos. 3:6, etc.), the Ark of God (I Kings 3:3, etc.), the Ark of the Lord (I Kings 4:6, etc.). Of these, the expression "Ark of the Covenant" has become most familiar in English.

Description and Use.

The Ark of the Covenant was a kind of chest, measuring two cubits and a half in length, a cubit and a half in breadth, and a cubit and a half in height. Made of setim wood (an incorruptible acacia), it was overlaid within and without with the purest gold, and a golden crown or rim ran around it. At the four corners, very likely towards the upper part, four golden rings had been cast; through them passed two bars of setim wood overlaid with gold, to carry the Ark. These two bars were to remain always in the rings, even when the Ark had been placed in the temple of Solomon. The cover of the Ark, termed the "propitiatory" (the corresponding Hebrew word means both "cover" and "that which makes propitious"), was likewise of the purest gold.

Upon it had been placed two cherubim of beaten gold, looking towards each other, and spreading their wings so that both sides of the propitiatory were covered. What exactly these cherubim were, is impossible to determine; however, from the analogy with Egyptian religious art, it may well be supposed that they were images, kneeling or standing, of winged persons. It is worth noticing that this is the only exception to the law forbidding the Israelites to make carved images, an exception so much the more harmless to the faith of the Israelites in a spiritual God because the Ark was regularly to be kept behind the veil of the sanctuary.

The form of the Ark of the Covenant was probably inspired by some article of the furniture of the Egyptian temples. But it should not be represented as one of those sacred bari, or barks, in which the gods of Egypt were solemnly carried in procession; it had, very likely, been framed after the pattern of the naos of gold, silver, or precious wood, containing the images of the gods and the sacred emblems.

According to some modern historians of Israel, the Ark, in every way analogous to the bari used upon the banks of the Nile, contained the sacred objects worshipped by the Hebrews, perhaps some sacred stone, meteoric or otherwise. Such a statement proceeds from the incorrect opinion that the Israelites during their early national life were given not only to idolatry, but also to its grossest form, fetishism. It supposes that first they adored Yahweh in inanimate things, then they worshipped him in the bull, as in Dan and Bethel, and that only about the seventh century did they rise to the conception of an invisible and spiritual God. But this description of Israel's religious history does not tally with the most certain conclusions derived from the texts. The idolatry of the Hebrews is not proven any more than their polytheism; hence the Ark, far from being viewed as in the opinion above referred to, should rather be regarded as a token of the choice that Yahweh had made of Israel for his people, and a visible sign of his invisible presence in the midst of his beloved nation.

The Ark was first destined to contain the testimony, that is to say the tables of the Law (Ex. 40:18; Deut. 10:5). Later, Moses was commanded to put into the tabernacle, near the Ark, a golden vessel holding a gomor of manna (Ex. 16:34), and the rod of Aaron which had blossomed (Num. 17:10). According to the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:4), and the Jewish traditions, they had been put into the Ark itself. Some commentators, with Calmet, hold that the book of the Law written by Moses had likewise been enclosed in the Ark; but the text says only that the book in question was placed "in the side of the Ark" (Deut. 31:26); moreover, what should be understood by this book, whether it was the whole Pentateuch, or Deuteronomy, or part of it, is not clear, though the context seems to favor the latter interpretations. However this may be, we learn from III Kings 8:9, that when the Ark was placed in Solomon's temple, it contained only the tables of the Law.

The holiest part of the Ark seems to have been the oracle, that is to say the place whence Yahweh made his prescriptions to Israel. "Thence," the Lord had said to Moses, will I give orders, and will speak to thee over the propitiatory, and from the midst of these two cherubims, which shall be upon the Ark of the testimony, all things which I will command the children of Israel by thee" (Ex. 25:22). And indeed we read in Num. 7:89, that when Moses "entered into the tabernacle of the covenant, to consult the oracle, he heard the voice of one speaking to him from the propitiatory, that was over the ark between the two cherubims."

Yahweh used to speak to his servant in a cloud over the oracle (Lev. 16:2). This was, very likely, also the way in which he communicated with Joshua after the death of the first leader of Israel (cf. Jos. 7:6-1). The oracle was, so to say, the very heart of the sanctuary, the dwelling place of God; hence we read in scores of passages of the Old Testament that Yahweh "sitteth on [or rather, by] the cherubim."

In the last years of Israel's history, the Jewish rabbis, from a motive of reverence to God's holiness, avoided pronouncing any of the names expressing the Divinity in the Hebrew language, such as El, Elohim, etc. and still less Yahweh, the ineffable name, i.e. a name unutterable to any human tongue; instead of these, they used metaphors or expressions having reference to the Divine attributes. Among the latter, the word shekinah became very popular; it meant the Divine Presence (from shakhan, to dwell), hence the Divine Glory, and had been suggested by the belief in God's presence in a cloud over the propitiatory. Not only did the Ark signify God's presence in the midst of his people, but it also betokened the warlike undertakings of Israel. No greater evil, accordingly, could befall the nation than the capture of the Ark by the enemies which, as, we shall see, happened towards the close of the period of the Judges and perhaps also at the taking of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army, in 587 B.C.


According to the sacred narrative recorded in Exodus, 25:10-22, God Himself had given the description of the Ark of the Covenant, as well as that of the tabernacle and all its appurtenances. God's command was fulfilled to the letter by Beseleel, one of the skilful men appointed "to devise and to work in gold, and silver, and brass, and in engraving stones and in carpenters' work (Ex. 37:1-9). On that day God showed His pleasure by filling the tabernacle of the testimony with His Glory, and covering it with the cloud that henceforward would be to His people a guiding sign in their journeys. All the Levites were not entitled to the guardianship of the sanctuary and of the Ark; but this office was entrusted to the kindred of Caath (Num. 3:34).

Whenever, during the desert life, the camp was to set forward, Aaron and his sons went into the tabernacle of the covenant and the Holy of Holies, took down the veil that hung before the door, wrapped up the Ark of the Testimony in it, covered it in dugong skins, then with a violet cloth, and put in the bars (Num. 4:5-6). When the people pitched their tents to sojourn for some time in a place, everything was set again in its customary order. During the journeys the Ark went before the people; and when it was lifted up they said: "Arise, O Lord, and let Thy enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Thee flee from before Thy face!" And when it was set down, they said: "Return, O Lord, to the multitude of the host of Israel!" Num. 10:33-36). Thus did the Ark preside over all the journeys and stations of Israel during all their wandering life in the wilderness.

As has been said above, the sacred chest was the visible sign of God's presence and protection. This appeared in the most striking manner in different circumstances. When the spies who had been sent to view the Promised Land returned and gave their report, murmurs arose in the camp, which neither threatenings nor even the death of the authors of the sedition could quell. Against the will of God, many of the Israelites went up to the mountain to meet the Amalecites and Chanaanites: "but the ark of the testament of the Lord and Moses departed not from the camp." And the enemies came down, smote, and slew the presumptuous Hebrews whom God did not help.

The next two manifestations of Yahweh's power through the Ark occurred under Joshua’s leadership. When the people were about to cross the Jordan, the priests that carried the Ark of the Covenant went on before them. As soon as they came into the Jordan, and their feet were dipped in part of the water, the waters that came down from above stood in one place, and swelling up like a mountain, were seen afar off. But those that were beneath ran down into the sea of the wilderness, until they wholly failed. And the people marched over against Jericho; and the priests that carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, stood girded upon the dry ground, in the midst of the Jordan, and all the people passed over through the channel that was dried up. (Jos. 3:14-17)

A few days later, Israel was besieging Jericho. At God's command, the Ark was carried in procession around the city for seven days, until the walls crumbled at the sound of the trumpets and the shouts of the people, thus giving the assailing army a free opening into the place (Jos. 6:6-21). Later again, after the taking and burning of Hai, we see the Ark occupy a most prominent place in the solemn assize of the nation held between Mount Garizim and Mount Hebal (Jos. 8:33).

The Israelites having settled in the Promised Land, it became necessary to choose a place where to erect the tabernacle and keep the Ark of the Covenant. Silo, in the territory of Ephraim, about the center of the conquered country, was selected (Jos. 18:1). There, indeed, during the obscure period which preceded the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel, do we find the "house of the Lord" (Judges 18:31; 20:18), with its High-Priest, to whose care the Ark had been entrusted. Did the precious palladium of Israel remain permanently at Silo, or was it carried about, whenever the emergency required, as, for instance, during warlike expeditions?

This point can hardly be ascertained. Be it as it may, the narrative which closes the Book of Judges supposes the presence of the Ark at Bethel. True, some commentators, following Blessed Jerome, translate here the word Bethel as though it were a common noun (house of God); but their opinion seems hardly reconcilable with the other passages where the same name is found, for these passages undoubtedly refer to the city of Bethel. This is no place to discuss at length the divers explanations brought forward to meet the difficulty; suffice it to say that it does not entitle the reader to conclude, as many have done, that there probably existed several Arks throughout Israel. The remark above made, that the Ark was possibly carried hither and thither according as the circumstances required, is substantiated by what we read in the narration of the events that brought about the death of Heli. The Philistines had waged war against Israel, whose army, at the first encounter, turned their backs to the enemy, were utterly defeated, and suffered very heavy losses. Thereupon the ancients of the people suggested that the Ark of the Covenant be fetched unto them, to save them from the hands of their enemies.

So the Ark was brought from Silo, and such acclamations welcomed it into the camp of the Israelites, as to fill with fear the hearts of the Philistines. Trusting that Yahweh's presence in the midst of their army betokened a certain victory, the Hebrew army engaged the battle afresh, to meet an overthrow still more disastrous than the former; and, what made the catastrophe more complete, the Ark of God fell into the hands of the Philistines (i Kings iv).

Then, according to the Biblical narrative, began for the sacred chest a series of eventful peregrinations through the cities of southern Palestine, until it was solemnly carried to Jerusalem. And never was it returned to its former place in Silo. In the opinion of the Philistines, the taking of the Ark meant a victory of their gods over the God of Israel. They accordingly brought it to Azotus and set it as a trophy in the temple of Dagon. But the next morning they found Dagon fallen upon his face before the Ark; they raised him up and set him in his place again. The following morning Dagon again was lying on the ground, badly mutilated. At the same time a cruel disease (perhaps the bubonic plague) smote the Azotites, while a terrible invasion of mice afflicted the whole surrounding country. These scourges were soon attributed to the presence of the Ark within the walls of the city, and regarded as a direct judgment from Yahweh. Hence was it decided by the assembly of the rulers of the Philistines that the Ark should be removed from Azotus and brought to some other place. Carried successively to Gath and to Accaron, the Ark brought with it the same scourges which had occasioned its removal from Azotus. Finally, after seven months, on the suggestion of their priests and their diviners, the Philistines resolved to give up their dreadful trophy.

The Biblical narrative acquires here a special interest for us, by the insight we get therefrom into the religious spirit among these ancient peoples. Having made a new cart, they took two kine that had sucking calves, yoked them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. And they laid the Ark of the God upon the cart, together with a little box containing golden mice and the images of their boils. Then the kine, left to themselves, took their course straight in the direction of the territory of Israel. As soon as the Bethsamites recognized the Ark upon the cart that was coming towards them, they went rejoicing to meet it. When the cart arrived in the field of a certain Josue, it stood still there. And as there was a great stone in that place, they split up the wood of the cart and offered the kine a holocaust to Yahweh. With this sacrifice ended the exile of the Ark in the land of the Philistines. The people of Bethsames, however, did not long enjoy its presence among them. Some of them inconsiderately cast a glance upon the Ark, whereupon they were severely punished by God; seventy men (the text usually received says seventy men and fifty thousand of the common people; but this is hardly credible as Bethsames was only a small country place) were thus smitten, as a punishment for their boldness. Frightened by this mark of the Divine wrath, the Bethsamites sent messengers to the inhabitants of Cariathiarim, to tell them how the Philistines had brought back the Ark, and invite them to convey it to their own town. So the men of Cariathiarim came and brought up the Ark and carried it into the house of Abinadab, whose son Eleazar they consecrated to its service (I Kings 7:1).

The actual Hebrew text, as well as the Vulgate and all translations dependent upon it, intimates that the Ark was with the army of Saul in the famous expedition against the Philistines, narrated in I Kings xiv. This is a mistake probably due to some late scribe who, for theological reasons, substituted the "ark of God" for the "ephod." The Greek translation here gives the correct reading; nowhere else, indeed, in the history of Israel, do we hear of the Ark of the Covenant as an instrument of divination.

It may consequently be safely affirmed that the Ark remained in Cariathiarim up to the time of David. It was natural that after this prince had taken Jerusalem and made it the capital of his kingdom, he should desire to make it also a religious center. For this end, he thought of bringing thither the Ark of the Covenant. In point of fact the Ark was undoubtedly in great veneration among the people; it was looked upon as the palladium with which heretofore Israel's life, both religious and political, had been associated. Hence, nothing could have more suitably brought about the realization of David's purpose than such a transfer.

We read in the Bible two accounts of this solemn event; the first is found in the Second Book of Kings (vi); in the other, of a much later date, the chronicler has cast together most of the former account with some elements reflecting ideas and institutions of his own time (I Par. xiii). According to the narrative of II Kings 6:which we shall follow, David went with great pomp to Baal-Juda, or Cariathiarim, to carry from there the Ark of God. It was laid upon a new cart, and taken out of the house of Abinadab. Oza and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, guided the cart, the latter walking before it, the former at its side, while the King and the people that were with him, dancing, singing, and playing instruments, escorted the sacred chest. This day, however, like that of the coming of the Ark to Bethsames, was to be saddened by death.

At a certain point in the procession the oxen slipped; Oza forthwith stretched out his hand to hold the Ark, but was struck dead on the spot. David, frightened by this accident, and now unwilling to remove the Ark to Jerusalem, he had it carried into the house of a Gethite, named Obededom, which was probably in the neighborhood of the city. The presence of the Ark was a source of blessings for the house to which it had been brought. This news encouraged David to complete the work he had begun. Three months after the first transfer, accordingly, he came again with great solemnity and removed the Ark from the house of Obededom to the city, where it was set in its place in the midst of the tabernacle which David had pitched for it.

When David betook himself to flight before Absalom's rebellion, the Ark once more was brought out of Jerusalem. Whilst the King stood in the Cedron valley, the people were passing before him towards the way that leads to the wilderness. Among them came also Sadoe and Abiathar, bearing the Ark. Whom when David saw, he commanded to carry back the Ark into the city: "If I shall find grace in the sight of the Lord," said he, "he will bring me again, and will shew me both it and his tabernacle." In compliance with this order, Sadoe and Abiathar carried back the Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem (II Kings 15:24-29).

The tabernacle which David had pitched to receive the Ark was not, however, to be its last dwelling place. The King indeed had thought of a temple more worthy of the glory of Yahweh. Although the building of this edifice was to be the work of his successor, David himself took to heart to gather and prepare the materials for its erection. From the very beginning of Solomon's reign, this prince showed the greatest reverence to the Ark, especially when, after the mysterious dream in which God answered his request for wisdom by promising him wisdom, riches and honor, he offered up burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh (III Kings 3:15).

When the temple and all its appurtenances were completed, Solomon, before the dedication, assembled the elders of Israel, that they might solemnly convey the Ark from the place where David had set it up to the Holy of Holies. Thence it was, most likely, now and then taken out, either to accompany military expeditions, or to enhance the splendor of religious celebrations, perhaps also to comply with the ungodly commands of wicked kings. However this may be, the chronicler tells us that Josias commanded the Levites to return it to its place in the temple, and forbade them to take it thence in the future (II Par. 35:3).

But the memory of its sacredness was soon to pass away. In one of his prophecies referring to the Messianic times, Jeremias announced that it would be utterly forgotten: "They shall say no more: The ark of the covenant of Yahweh: neither shall it come upon the heart, neither shall they remember it, neither shall it be visited, neither shall that be done any more" (Jer. 3:16).

Where is it Now?

As to what became of the Ark at the fall of Jerusalem, in 587 B.C. there exist several traditions, one of which has found admittance in the sacred books. In a letter of the Jews of Jerusalem to them that were in Egypt, the following details are given as copied from a writing of Jeremias:

The prophet, being warned by God, commanded that the tabernacle and the ark should accompany him, till he came forth to the mountain where Moses went up and saw the inheritance of God. And when Jeremias came thither he found a hollow cave and he carried in thither the tabernacle and the ark and the altar of incense, and so stopped the door. Then some of them that followed him, came up to mark the place; but they could not find it. And when Jeremias perceived it, he blamed them saying: the place shall be unknown, till God gather together the congregation of the people and receive them to mercy. And then the Lord will shew these things, and the majesty of the Lord shall appear, and there shall be a cloud as it was also shewed to Moses, and he shewed it when Solomon prayed that the place might be sanctified to the great God. (II Mach. 2:4-8)

According to many commentators, the letter from which the above-cited lines are supposed to have been copied cannot be regarded as possessing Divine authority. They argue that, as a rule, a citation remains in the Bible what it was outside of the inspired writing; the impossibility of dating the original document makes it very difficult to pass a judgment on its historical reliability. At any rate the tradition which it embodies, going back at least as far as two centuries before the Christian era, cannot be discarded on mere a priori arguments.

The Apocalypse of Esdras.

Side by side with this tradition, we find another mentioned in the Apocalypse of Esdras; according to this latter, the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the victorious army that ransacked Jerusalem after having taken it (IV Esd. 10:22). This is certainly most possible, so much the more that we learn from IV Kings 25:that the Babylonian troops carried away from the temple whatever brass, silver, and gold they could lay their hands upon.

The Talmud.

At any rate, either of these traditions is certainly more reliable than that adopted by the redactors of the Talmud, who tell us that the Ark was hidden by King Josias in a most secret place prepared by Solomon in case the temple might be taken and set on fire. It was a common belief among the rabbis of old that it would be found at the coming of the Messias.

Be this as it may, this much is unquestionable; namely that the Ark is never mentioned among the appurtenances of the second temple. Had it been preserved there, it would most likely have been now and then alluded to, at least on occasion of such ceremonies as the consecration of the new temple, or the re-establishment of the worship, both after the exile and during the Machabean times. True, the chronicler, who lived in the post-exilian epoch, says of the Ark (II Par. 5:9) that "it was been there unto this day." But it is commonly admitted on good grounds that the writer mentioned made use of, and wove together in his work, without as much as changing one single word of them, narratives belonging to former times. If, as serious commentators admit, the above-recorded passage be one of these "implicit citations," it might be inferred thence that the chronicler probably did not intend to assert the existence of the Ark in the second temple.



Ezekiel, whose name, Yehézq'el signifies "strong is God," or "whom God makes strong" (Ezek. 1:3; 3:8), was the son of Buzi, and was one of the priests who, in the year 598 B.C. had been deported together with Joachim as prisoners from Jerusalem (IV Kings 24:12-16; cf. Ezek. 33:21, 40:1). With the other exiles he settled in Tell-Abib near the Chobar (Ezek. 1:1; 3:15) in Babylonia, and seems to have spent the rest of his life there.In the fifth year after the captivity of Joachim, and according to some, the thirtieth year of his life, Ezekiel received his call as a prophet (Ezek. 1:2, 4 etc) in the vision which he describes in the beginning of his prophecy (Ezek. 1:4; 3:15). From Ezek. 29:17 it appears that he prophesied during at least twenty-two years.

Ezekiel was called to foretell God's faithfulness in the midst of trials, as well as in the fulfillment of His promises. During the first period of his career, he foretold the complete destruction of the kingdom of Juda, and the annihilation of the city and temple. After the fulfillment of these predictions, he was commanded to announce the future return from exile, the re-establishment of the people in their own country and, especially, the triumph of the Kingdom of the Messiah, the second David, so that the people would not abandon themselves to despair and perish as a nation, through contact with the Gentiles, whose gods had apparently triumphed over the God of Israel. This is the principal burden of Ezekiel's prophecy, which is divided into three parts.

After the introduction, the vision of the calling of the prophet (Ezek. 1-3:21), the first part contains the prophecies against Juda before the fall of Jerusalem (Ezek. 3:22-xxiv). In this part the prophet declares the hope of saving the city, the kingdom, and the temple to be vain, and announces the approaching judgment of God upon Juda. This part may be subdivided into five groups of prophecies.

In the second part (25-32), are gathered together the prophecies concerning the Gentiles. He takes, first of all, the neighboring peoples who had been exalted through the downfall of Juda, and who had humiliated Israel. The fate of four of these, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Edomites, and the Philistines, is condensed in chapter xxv. He treats more at length of Tyre and its king (26-28:19), after which he casts a glance at Sidon (28:20-26). Six prophecies against Egypt follow, dating from different years (29-32). The third part (33-48), is occupied with the Divine utterances on the subject of Israel's restoration. As introduction, we have a dissertation from the prophet, in his capacity of authorized champion of the mercy and justice of God, after which he addresses himself to those remaining in Juda, and to the perverse exiles (33). The manner in which God will restore His people is only indicated in a general way. The Lord will cause the evil shepherds to perish; He will gather in, guide, and feed the sheep by means of the second David, the Messiah (xxxiv).

Though Mount Seir shall remain a waste, Israel shall return unto its own. There God will purify His people, animate the nation with a new spirit, and re-establish it in its former splendor for the glory of His name (35-37). Israel, though dead, shall rise again, and the dry bones shall be covered with flesh and endowed with life before the eyes of the prophet. Ephraim and Juda shall, under the second David, be united into one kingdom, and the Lord shall dwell in their midst (37). The invincibleness and indestructibility of the restored kingdom are then symbolically presented in the war upon Gog, his inglorious defeat, and the annihilation of his armies (xxxviii-xxxix). In the last prophetic vision, God shows the new temple (40-43), the new worship (43-46), the return to their own land, and the new division thereof among the twelve tribes (47-48), as a figure of His foundation of a kingdom where He shall dwell among His people, and where He shall be served in His tabernacle according to strict rules, by priests of His choice, and by the prince of the house of David.

From this review of the contents of the prophecy, it is evident that the prophetic vision, the symbolic actions and examples, comprise a considerable portion of the book. The completeness of the description of the vision, action and similes, is one of the many causes of the obscurity of the book of Ezekiel. It is often difficult to distinguish between what is essential to the matter represented, and what serves merely to make the image more vivid. On this account it happens that, in the circumstantial descriptions, words are used, the meaning of which, inasmuch as they occur in Ezekiel only, is not determined. Because of this obscurity, a number of copyist mistakes have crept into the text, and that at an early date, since the Septuagint has some of them in common with the earliest Hebrew text we have. The Greek version, however, includes several readings which help to fix the meaning.

The genuineness of the book of Ezekiel is generally conceded. Some few consider chapters 40-48 to be apocryphal, because the plan there described in the building of the temple was not followed, but they overlook the fact that Ezekiel here gives a symbolic representation of the temple, that was to find spiritual realization in God's new kingdom. The Divine character of the prophecies was recognizes as early as the time of Jesus the son of Sirach (Eccles. 49:10, 11). In the New Testament, there are no verbatim references, but allusions to the prophecy and figures taken from it are prominent. Compare St. John x etc. with Ezek. 34:11 etc.; St. Matthew 22:32, with Ezek. 17:23. In particular St. John, in the Apocalypse, has often followed Ezekiel. Compare Apoc. xviii-xxi with Ezek. 27:xxxviii etc. xlvii etc.



The hero and traditional author of the book which bears his name. This name (Heb. dnyal or dnal; Sept. Daniél), which is also that of two other persons in the Old Testament [cf. I Paral. 3:1; I Esd. 8:2, and II Esd. (Nehem.), 10:6], means "God is my judge," and is thus a fitting appellation for the writer of the Book of Daniel, wherein God's judgments are repeatedly pronounced upon the Gentile powers.

Nearly all that is known concerning the Prophet Daniel is derived from the book ascribed to him. He belonged to the tribe of Juda (1:6), and was of noble, or perhaps of royal, descent (1:3; cf. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. 10:ch. 10:§ 1). When still a youth, probably about fourteen years of age, he was carried captive to Babylon by Nabuchodonosor in the fourth year of the reign of Joakim (605 B.C.). There, with three other youths of equal rank named Ananias, Misael and Azarias, he was entrusted to the care of Asphenez, the master of the king's eunuchs, and was educated in the language and learning of the "Chaldeans," whereby are meant the professors of divination, magic, and astrology in Babylon (1:3, 4).

From this passage Jewish tradition has inferred that Daniel and his companions were made eunuchs; but this does not necessarily follow; the master of the eunuchs simply trained these Jewish youths, among others, with a view to their entering the king's service (1:5). Daniel now received the new name of Baltassar (Babyl. Balâtsu-usur, "Bel protect his life"), and, in agreement with Ananias, Misael, and Azarias, who received similarly the new names of Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago, respectively, asked and obtained permission not to use the special food from the royal table provided for those under training, and to be limited to vegetable diet. At the end of three years Daniel and his three companions appeared before the king, who found that they excelled all the others who had been educated with them, and thereupon promoted them to a place in his court. Henceforth, whenever the prince tested them, they proved superior to "all the diviners, and wise men, that were in all his kingdom" (1:7-20).

Soon afterwards – either in the second or in the twelfth year of Nabuchodonosor's reign – Daniel gave a signal proof of his marvelous wisdom. On the failure of all the other wise men, he repeated and interpreted, to the monarch's satisfaction, the king's dream of a colossal statue which was made up of various materials, and which, on being struck by a stone, was broken into pieces, while the stone grew into a mountain and filled the whole earth. On this account, Daniel in Babylon, as Joseph of old in Egypt, rose into high favor with the prince, who not only bestowed on him numerous gifts, but also made him ruler of "the whole province of Babylon" and chief governor of "all the wise men." At Daniel's request, too, his three friends received important promotions (ii).

The next opportunity afforded Daniel to give proof of his wisdom was another dream of Nabuchodonosor which, once more, he alone was able to interpret. The dream was of a mighty tree concerning which the king heard the command given that it should be cut down, and that "seven times" should "pass over" its stump, which had been left standing. This, explained Daniel, portended that in punishment of his pride the monarch would for a while lose his throne, be bereft of his reason, imagining himself an ox, and live in the open fields, but be again restored to his power, finally convinced of the supreme might and goodness of the Most High. With holy freedom, although in vain, the Prophet exhorted the king to forestall such punishment by atoning for his sins by deeds of mercy; and Daniel's prediction was fulfilled to the letter (iv). For a parallel to this, see Abydenus' account (second century B.C.) quoted in Eusebius (Præp. Evang. 9:xl).

Nothing is expressly said as to what became of Daniel upon the death of Nabuchodonosor (561 B.C.); it is simply intimated in Daniel, 5:11 sqq. that he lost his high office at the court and lived long in retirement. The incident which brought him to public notice again was the scene of revelry in Baltasar's palace, on the eve of Cyrus's conquest of Babylon (538 B.C.). While Baltasar (Heb. Belsh’aççar, corresponding to the Babyl. Balâtsu-usur, "Bel protect the king") and his lords feasted, impiously drinking their wine from precious vessels which had been taken from the Temple at Jerusalem, there appeared the fingers of a man writing on the wall: "Mane, Thecel, Phares." These mysterious words, which none of the king's wise men was able to interpret, were explained by Daniel, who at length had been summoned, and who for his reward became one of the three chief ministers in the kingdom.

The prophet, now at least eighty years of age, remained in that exalted position under Darius the Mede, a prince possibly to be identified with Darius Hystaspes (485 B.C.). Darius, moreover, thought of setting him over all the kingdom (6:4), when Daniel's fellow-officers, fearing such an elevation, sought to compass his ruin by convicting him of disloyalty to the Crown. They secured from the king a decree forbidding anyone, under penalty of being cast into the lions' den, to ask any petition of either god or man, except the monarch, for thirty days. As they had anticipated, Daniel nevertheless prayed, three times a day, at his open window, towards Jerusalem. This they reported to the king, and they forced him to apply the threatened punishment to the violator of the decree. Upon Daniel's miraculous preservation in the lions' den, Darius published a decree that all in his realm should honor and revere the God of Daniel, proclaiming that He is "the living and eternal God." And so Daniel continued to prosper through the rest of the reign of Darius, and in that of his successor, Cyrus the Persian (vi).

Such, in substance, are the facts which may be gathered for a biography of the Prophet Daniel from the narrative portion of his book (i-vi). Hardly any other facts are contributed to this biography from the second, and more distinctly apocalyptic, portion of the same work (vii-xii). The visions therein described represent him chiefly as a seer favored with Divine communications respecting the future punishment of the Gentile powers and the ultimate setting up of the Messianic Kingdom. These mysterious revelations are referred to the reigns of Darius, Baltasar, and Cyrus, and as they are explained to him by the Angel Gabriel from an ever clearer disclosure of what is to happen in "the time of the end."

In the deuterocanonical appendix to his book (xiii-xiv), Daniel reappears in the same general character as in the first part of his work (i-vi). Chapter xiii sets him forth as an inspired youth whose superior wisdom puts to shame and secures the punishment of the false accusers of the chaste Susanna. The concluding chapter (xiv), which tells the history of the destruction of Bel and the dragon, represents Daniel as a fearless and most successful champion of the true and living God.

Outside of the Book of Daniel, Holy Writ has but few references to the prophet of that name. Ezechiel (14:14) speaks of Daniel, together with Noe and Job, as a pattern of righteousness and, in chapter 28:3, as the representative of perfect wisdom. The writer of the First Book of the Machabees (2:60) refers to his deliverance out of the mouth of the lions, and St. Matthew (24:15) to "the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet."

As might well be expected, Jewish tradition had been busy with completing the meager account of Daniel's life as supplied by the Sacred Scriptures. Allusion has already been made to the tradition of the Jews, accepted by many Fathers of the Church, which states that he was made a eunuch in Babylon. Other Jewish traditions represent him as refusing divine honors proffered to him by Nabuchodonosor. They explain the reason why he was not forced with his three friends to worship that prince's statue in the plain of Dura (Dan. iii), he had been sent away by the king, who wanted to spare Daniel's life, for he knew full well that the prophet would never agree to commit such an act of idolatry.; They give many fanciful details, as for instance concerning what happened to Daniel in the lions' den. Others endeavor to account for what they assume to be a fact, viz. that Yahweh's devout prophet did not return to God's land and city after the decree of restoration issued by Cyrus; while others again affirm that he actually went back to Judea and died there.

Hardly less incredible and conflicting legends concerning Daniel's life and place of burial are met with in Arabic literature, although his name is not mentioned in the Koran. During the Middle Ages there was a widespread and persistent tradition that Daniel was buried at Susa, the modern Shuster, in the Persian province of Khuzistan. In the account of his visit to Susa in A.D. 1165, Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela narrates that Daniel's tomb was shown him in the façade of one of the synagogues of that city; and it is shown there to the present day. The Church assigns Daniel's feast as a holy prophet to 17 December, and apparently treats Babylon as his burial place. The Orthodox Church also honors him the Sunday before the Nativity of our Lord.


Book of Daniel.

In the Hebrew Bible, and in most recent Protestant versions, the Book of Daniel is limited to its proto-canonical portions. In the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and many other ancient and modern translations of the Bible, it comprises both its proto- and its deutero-canonical parts, both of which have an equal right to be considered as inspired, and to be included in a treatment of the Book of Daniel. As in the Vulgate nearly all the deutero-canonical portions of that prophetical writing form a kind of appendix to its proto-canonical contents in the Hebrew text. This article will deal first with the Book of Daniel as it is found in the Hebrew Bible, and next, with its deutero-canonical portions.

Proto-Canonical Portions. Contents.

The Book of Daniel, as it now stands in the ordinary Hebrew Bibles, is generally divided into two main parts. The first includes a series of narratives which are told in the third person (chaps. 1-6), and the second, a series of visions which are described in the first person (chaps. 7-12).

The opening chapter of the first series may be considered as a preface to the whole work. It introduces to the reader the Hebrew heroes of the book, Daniel and his three fellow-captives, Ananias, Misael, and Azarias, and records the manner in which these noble youths obtained a high rank in Nebuchadnezzer's service, although they had refused to be defiled by eating of the royal food.

The second chapter relates a disquieting dream of the king which Daniel alone was able accurately to set forth and interpret. Nebuchadnezzer's dream was that of a great statue made up of various materials and broken in pieces by a small stone which became a mountain and filled the whole earth. Daniel's interpretation was to the effect that the several parts of the statue with their various materials symbolized as many monarchies with their respective power, while the stone which destroyed them and grew into a great mountain prefigured a universal and everlasting kingdom which would break in pieces all the other kingdoms, and which, of course, is no other than that of the Messiah.

The next section (3:1-30, Vulgate, 3:1-23, 91-97) narrates how Daniel's three companions, having refused to worship a colossal statue set up by Nebuchadnezzer, were cast into a highly-heated furnace in which they were preserved unharmed, whereupon the king issued a decree in favor of their God and promoted them to places of dignity. The following section (3:31-4: Vulgate, 3:98-4:) contains Nebuchadnezzer's letter to all peoples and nations, recounting his dream of a mighty tree cut down at God's bidding, and its interpretation by Daniel, together with its fulfillment in the form of a seven years' madness which befell the king, and the recovery from which was the occasion of his thankful letter.

The fifth chapter (Heb. Bible, 5-6:1) describes Balthasar's profane banquet, the mysterious handwriting on the wall, and Daniel’s interpretation of that writing, and the overthrow, on that same night, of Balthasar's kingdom. In the sixth chapter Daniel is represented as the object of the special favor of Darius the Mede, and also of the persistent jealousy of the other officers of the Crown, who finally succeed in having him thrown into the lions' den, because of his faithfulness in praying to God three times a day. Upon Daniel's miraculous preservation, Darius decrees that all in his kingdom should "dread and fear the God of Daniel."

The second main part of the book in the Hebrew Bible (vii-xii) is taken up with four visions which Daniel describes in the first person. The first of these visions (ch. vii) is referred to the first year of Balthasar's reign, and offers a close parallel to the dream set forth and explained in the second chapter of the book. The nightly vision was of four several beasts coming out of the sea, and symbolical of the Gentile powers judged in due time by "the Ancient of days," and finally replaced by the universal and everlasting Messianic kingdom. Like the first, the second vision (ch. viii) is ascribed to the reign of Balthasar, and represents worldly powers under the figure of animals. Daniel sees a ram with two horns (the Medes and the Persians) pushing victoriously towards the west, north and south, until it is struck by a he-goat (the Greeks) with a great horn (Alexander) between its eyes. This great horn is soon broken in its turn, and gives place to four others (the Greek kingdoms of Egypt, Syria, Macedonia, and Thrace), from one of which grows out a "little horn," namely Antiochus Epiphanes. This prince is not, indeed, named by the Angel Gabriel, who explains the vision to Daniel, but is clearly designated by the description of the doings of the "little horn" against the host of heaven and its prince (God), desecrating "the sanctuary," interrupting the daily sacrifice for about three years and a half, and finally "broken without hand."

The next chapter contains the prophecy of the seventy weeks, which is referred to the first year of Darius, the son of Assuerus. As Daniel was supplicating God for the fulfillment of His promises of mercy in Jeremiah, 29:10 sq. or 25:11, he was favored with the vision of the Angel Gabriel. The heavenly messenger explained to him how the seventy years of desolation foretold by Jeremiah should be understood. They are seventy weeks of years, falling into three periods of seven, sixty-two, and one weeks of years, respectively.

The first period one of seven weeks, or forty-nine years, will extend from the going forth of "the word" for the rebuilding of Jerusalem to "an anointed one, a prince." During the second, of sixty-two weeks or four hundred and thirty-four years, the Holy City will be built, though "in straitness of times." At the end of this period, "an anointed one" will be cut off, and the people of a prince who shall come will "destroy" the city and the sanctuary. He will make a firm covenant with many for one week (or seven years), and during a half of this week he will cause sacrifice and oblation to cease and the abomination of desolation to be set up, until he meets with his fate.

The last vision, ascribed to the third year of Cyrus, is recorded in chapters x-xii. Its opening part (x-xi, 1) gives a description of the vision with a reference to Media, Persia, and Greece. The second part (xi) announces many events connected with four Persian kings, with Alexander and his successors and more particularly with the deeds of a king of the North, i.e. Antiochus Epiphanes, against Egypt, the Jews, the Temple, etc. until he should come to an end.

The conclusion of the vision (xii) declares how Michael (the guardian angel of Israel) will deliver the people. Mention is made of a resurrection of the dead, followed by rewards and punishments. For 1290 days, or about three and one half years, the daily sacrifice will cease and the abomination of desolation will be set up. Blessed is he who continues steadfast till 1335 days.

Object and Unity.

From these contents it readily appears that the Book of Daniel has not for its object to give a summary historical account of the period of the Babylonian Exile, or of the life of Daniel himself, since both its parts profess to give only a few isolated facts connected with either the Exile or the Prophet's life. From the same contents it can also be readily seen that the object of that sacred writing is not to record in substance prophetical addresses similar to those which make up the works ascribed to distinct prophets in the Old Testament literature. In respect to both matter and form, the contents of the Prophecy of Daniel are of a peculiar kind which has no exact parallel in the Bible, except in the Apocalypse of St. John.

In Daniel, as in this last book of the Bible, one is in the presence of contents whose general purpose is undoubtedly to comfort God's people under the ordeal of a cruel persecution, chiefly by means of symbolical visions bearing on "the time of the end." This is the obvious purpose of the four visions recorded in the second part of the Book of Daniel (chaps. 7-12), and also of Nebuchadnezzer's dream as given and explained in the second chapter of the first part of that inspired writing. The persecution therein in view is that of Antiochus Epiphanes, and the Jews are to be comforted by the assured prospect both of the fate that awaits their oppressor and of the setting up of God's universal and eternal kingdom. Nor have the narratives in chapters iii-vi a different general purpose: in each and in all of them the generous and constant servants of the true God — Daniel and his fellow captives — triumph in the end, while their oppressors, however mighty or numerous, are ultimately punished or made to acknowledge and promote the glory of the God of Israel.

This apocalyptic object of the Book of Daniel is admitted by most scholars of the present day, and is in harmony with the place assigned to that sacred writing in the Hebrew Bible, where it appears not among "the Prophets," or second great division of the original text, but among "the Writings," or third main division of that text.

As apocalyptic writings usually bear the impress of compilation, one might naturally be tempted to regard the Book of Daniel — whose apocalyptic character has just been described — as a compilatory work. In fact, many scholars have set forth positive grounds to prove that the author of the book has actually put together such documents as could make for this general purpose. At the present day, however, the opposite view, which maintains the literary unity of the Prophecy of Daniel, is practically universal. It is felt that the uniform plan of the book, the studied arrangement of its subject-matter, the strong similarity in language of its two main parts, etc. are arguments which tell very powerfully in favor of the latter position.

Authorship and Date of Composition.

Once it is admitted that the Book of Daniel is the work of one single author, there naturally arises the important question: Is this sole writer the Prophet Daniel who composed the work during the Exile (586-536 B.C.), or, on the contrary, some author, now unknown, who wrote this inspired book at a later date, which can still be made out? The traditional view, in vigor chiefly among Christians, is to the effect that the whole work, as found in the Hebrew Bible, should be directly referred to Daniel, whose name it bears. It admits, indeed, that numerous alterations have been introduced into the primitive text of the book in the course of ages. Tradition maintains, nevertheless, that this does not change the authorship. Both the narratives (chaps. i-vi) wherein Daniel seems to be described by some one else as acting as recorded, and the symbolic visions (chaps. vii-xiu) wherein he describes himself as favored with heavenly revelations, were written, not simply by an author who was contemporary with that prophet and lived in Babylon in the sixth century B.C. but by Daniel himself.

Such difference in the use of persons arises naturally from the respective contents of the two parts of the book. Daniel employed the third person in recording events, for the event is its own witness; and the first person in relating prophetical visions, for such communications from above need the personal attestation of those to whom they are imparted. Over against this time-honored position which ascribes to Daniel the authorship of the book which bears his name, and admits 570-536 B.C. as its date of composition, stands a comparatively recent theory which has been widely accepted by other scholars. Chiefly on the basis of historical and linguistic grounds, this rival theory refers the origin of the Book of Daniel, in its present form, to a later writer and period. It regards that apocalyptic writing as the work of an unknown author who composed it during the period of the Machabees, and more precisely in the time of Antiochus 4:Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.).

The following are the extrinsic testimonies which conservative scholars usually and confidently set forth as proving that the Book of Daniel must be referred to the well-known Prophet of that name and consequently to a much earlier date than that advocated by their opponents. Christian tradition, both in the East and in the West, has been practically unanimous from Christ's time to the present day in admitting the genuineness of the Book of Daniel. Its testimony is chiefly based on Matthew, 24:15: "When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand," in which passage Christ treats Daniel's visions as true oracles, and expressly names that Prophet as their writer. In so doing, it is argued, Christ endorsed and confirmed by His authority the view which was then received among the Jews, and which regarded Daniel as the author of the book which bears his name. Jewish tradition, both during and before Christ's time, bears also distinct witness to the genuineness of the Prophecy of Daniel.

In his "Antiquities of the Jews" (Bk. 11:ch. 8:5), the learned Jewish priest and Pharisee, Josephus (about A.D. 40-100), writes: "When the Book of Daniel was shown to Alexander the Great (d. 323 B.C.), wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended." Before the Christian Era the First Book of the Machabees (written very early in the first century B.C.) shows acquaintance with the Septuagint version of the Prophecy of Daniel (cf. I Mach. 1:54, with Dan. 9:27, I Mach. 2:59, 60 with Dan. 3:vi), whence it is inferred

Again, the Sibylline Oracles (Bk. 3:verses 388 sqq.), supposed to have been written about 170 B.C. contain an allusion to Antiochus 4: and to the ten horns of Dan. 7:7, 24, and therefore point to an earlier date than that which is proposed by the advocates of the recent theory. More particularly still, the Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch, made about 285 B.C. exhibits in Deut. 32:8, a doctrine of guardian angels which it has apparently borrowed from the Book of Daniel, and thus tends to prove the existence of that inspired writing long before the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Finally, according to Josephus (Contra Apion, VIII), the Old Testament Canon of the Jews of Palestine, which has always included Daniel among "the Writings," was closed by Esdras (middle of the fifth century B.C.), that is to say, at a date so near the composition of the book that its genuineness could then be easily ascertained, and would naturally be the reason for the insertion of the work into the Palestinian Canon.

To strengthen the inference drawn from these external testimonies, conservative scholars appeal to the following direct and indirect intrinsic grounds. Throughout the second part of his book Daniel speaks in the first person and thereby gives himself implicitly as the writer of chapters vii-xii. Even more, in the words: "Then he [Daniel] wrote the dream and told the sum of the matters," we have a statement which ascribes expressly to him the writing of the first vision (chap. 7) and, implicitly, that of the subsequent visions, which are indissolubly bound up with the opening one. Now, if the visions described in the second part of the book were recorded by Daniel himself, the same thing must be admitted in regard to narratives which make up the first part of the book (chaps. 1-6), because of the acknowledged unity of the work. And in this way direct intrinsic evidence is considered as making for the Danielic authorship. The indirect intrinsic grounds point in the same direction, inasmuch as they tend to show that the author of the Book of Daniel was

The first of these positions is borne out by the close acquaintance which the author evinces in the historical portion of the work (chaps. 1-6) with the manners, customs, history, religion, etc. of the Babylonians. The minute details he refers to, the local coloring of his descriptions, his exact references to facts, are such as only a resident in Babylon could be fairly supposed to possess. It is likewise borne out by a comparison of the form of Daniel's prophecies in chapters vii-xii with the general surroundings of one living in Babylon and with the Babylonian monuments in particular. The imagery of Daniel's vision in the seventh chapter, for instance, is nearly the same as that found on monuments in the ruins of Ninive; and in chapters 8:2 (Heb. text), and 10:4, the river banks are most appropriately given as the scenes of Daniel's visions. While thus very familiar with Babylonia, the author of the Book of Daniel betrays no such special knowledge of Persia and Greece as would be natural to expect if, instead of living in the sixth century B.C. he had been a contemporary of Antiochus Epiphanes.

This absence of distinct knowledge of the times subsequent to the Babylonian period has sometimes been urged to prove the second position: that the writer belonged to that period, and to no other. More often, however, and more strongly, the linguistic features of the Book of Daniel have been brought forth to establish that second position. It has been affirmed, on the one hand, that the Hebrew of Daniel with its numerous Aramaisms, bears a close affinity to that of Ezechiel, and is therefore that of the period of the Exile. And, on the other hand, it has been affirmed that the Aramaic portions of Daniel (2:4-vii) are in wonderful agreement with those of Esdras, while they are distinguished by many Hebrew idioms from the language of the earliest Aramaic Paraphrases of the Old Testament.

In particular, the easy transition from the Hebrew to the Aramaic (2:4), and the reverse (8:1 sqq.), is explicable, we are told, only on the supposition that the writer and the readers of the book were equally familiar with both. This free handling of both languages suits not the Machabean age but that of Daniel, or of the Exile, in which both tongues were naturally in equal use. The intrinsic grounds making for the last position (that the author of the Book of Daniel is best identified with the Prophet of that name), may be summed up in this simple statement: while no other seer during the Babylonian Exile has been, and indeed can be, named as the probable recorder of the visions described in that inspired writing, Daniel, owing to his position at the court of Babylon, to his initiation into the wisdom of the Chaldees, and to the problem of his calling as God had shown it to him, was eminently fitted at that time for writing the prophecies which had been imparted to him for the comfort of the Jews of his time and of subsequent ages.

Scholars who have examined this evidence, closely and without bias, have concluded that rationalistic critics are decidedly wrong in denying totally the historical character of the Book of Daniel. At the same time, many among them still question the absolute cogency of the extrinsic and intrinsic grounds set forth to prove the Danielic authorship. These latter scholars rightly reject as untrue the statement of Josephus, which refers the close of the Old Testament Canon to the time of Esdras. In the well-known bias of the same Jewish historian for magnifying whatever concerns his nation they have a valid reason for doubting his assertion that the prophecies of Daniel were shown to Alexander the Great when this prince passed through Palestine.

The alleged reference to Daniel's expressions in the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy they easily explain as a later gloss, and the actual acquaintance of the First Book of the Machabees with the Prophecy of Daniel they naturally regard as compatible with the non-Danielic authorship, and indeed with the composition of the Book of Daniel in the time of Antiochus IV. As regards the last external testimony in favor of the genuineness of that sacred writing, viz. Christ's words concerning Daniel and his prophecy, these same scholars think that they have a right not to consider the passage appealed to in Matt. 24:15, as absolutely conclusive. Without going against the reverence due to Christ's Person, and the credence due His words, they point out that Jesus does not say explicitly that Daniel wrote the prophecies that bear his name. To infer this from His words is to assume something which may well be questioned, viz. that in referring to the contents of a book of the Bible, He necessarily confirmed the traditional view of His day concerning authorship. In point of fact, many scholars whose belief in Christ's truthfulness and Divinity is beyond have thought that Christ's reference to Daniel in Matt. xxiv 15, does not bear out the Danielic authorship as it is claimed by conservative scholars chiefly on the basis of His words.

Having thus shown, to their own satisfaction, the inconclusive character of the external evidence, or mainstay in favor of the traditional view, the opponents of the Danielic authorship endeavor to prove that internal evidence points decisively to the late origin which they ascribe to the Book of Daniel. Briefly stated, the following are their principal arguments:

Not satisfied with the merely negative inference that the Book of Daniel was not composed during the Captivity, the opponents of the Danielic authorship strive to reach a positive conclusion as to the date of its origin. For this purpose, they examine the contents of that inspired writing, and they think that by viewing both its parts in the light of history, they are led to refer definitely its composition to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes.

It can be readily seen, we are told, that the interest of the visions which make up the second part of Daniel culminates in the relations subsisting between the Jews and Antiochus. It is this prince who manifestly is the subject of Dan. 8:9-13, 23-25, and who is very probably "the little horn" spoken of in Dan. 7:8, 20, 21, 25, while events of his reign are apparently described in Dan. 9:25-27, and undoubtedly so in 11:21-45; 12:6, 7, 10-12. Whoever bears this in mind, it is argued, is led by the analogy of Scripture to admit that the book belongs to the period of Antiochus. The rule is that "even when the prophets of the Old Testament deliver a Divine message for far distant days, they have in view the needs of the people of their own day. They rebuke their sins, they comfort their sorrows, they strengthen their hopes, they banish their fears. But of all this there is no trace in Daniel, if the book was written in the time of Cyrus. Its message is avowedly for the time of the end, for the period of Antiochus and the Machabees."

And this inference is confirmed by the fact that the narratives told in the first part, when studied in reference to the events of Antiochus's reign are found to impart lessons especially suited to the Jews of that period. The question of eating meat (Dan. i. 8 sqq.) was at that time a test of faith (cf. I Mach. 1:65 sq.; II Mach. 6:18 sqq.; vii). The lessons of the fiery furnace and the lions' den (Dan. iii vi) were most appropriate in the time of the Machabees when the Jews were ordered on the pain of death to worship foreign deities (cf. I Mach. 1:43-54). The accounts of the humbling of Nebuchadnezzer (Dan. 4:) and the fate of Balthasar (Dan. v) were also particularly calculated to comfort the Jews so cruelly oppressed by Antiochus and his officers.

Such a view of the date of the Book of Daniel is in harmony with the apocalyptic character of the whole work. It can be confirmed, it is said, by certain facts in the external history of the book, such for instance as its place among "the Writings" in the Palestinian Canon, the absence of all traces of Daniel's influence upon the post-exilic literature before the Machabean period, etc.

Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.

Several sections of the Book of Daniel contain Messianic predictions, the general import of which has been sufficiently pointed out in setting forth the contents and object of that inspired writing. One of these predictions, however, claims a further notice, owing to the special interest connected with its contents. It is known as the prophecy of the seventy weeks, and is found in an obscure passage (9:24-27), of which the following is a literal rendering:

24. Seventy weeks [literally heptads] have been decreed upon thy people and thy holy city, to close transgression and to make an end of sins, and to expiate iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet and to anoint a most holy [literally: holiness of holinesses]. 25. Know then and discern: from the going forth of the word to build again Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince, [there are] seven weeks, and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again [with] broad place and moat, and that in straitness of times. 26. And after the sixty-two weeks an anointed one will be cut off . . . [Sept. kai ouk estai]; and the people of a prince who shall come will destroy the city and the sanctuary, and the end thereof [will be] in a flood, and until the end [shall be] war, a sentence of desolations. 27. He will make a firm covenant with many for a week, and for half a week he shall cause sacrifice and oblation to cease, and instead thereof the abomination that makes desolate, and that until the consummation and that which is determined be poured upon the desolator.

The difficulty of rendering this passage of the Hebrew text is only surpassed by that of interpreting its contents. Most commentators admit, indeed, that the seventy weeks are weeks of years, which fall into three periods of 7, 62, and 1 weeks of years, respectively, but they are still at variance with regard to both the exact starting point and the precise terminus of the seventy weeks. Most of them, too, regard the prophecy of the seventy weeks as having a Messianic reference, but not even all Christian interpreters agree as to the precise nature of this reference. Some among them, seeing in the contents of the prophecy a typical reference to Christ, in preference to the literal one which has been, and is still, more prevalent in the Church.

Briefly stated, the following are the three principal interpretations which have been given by Dan. 9:24-27.

Text and Principal Ancient Versions.

One of the chief reasons for the obscurity which surrounds the interpretation of Dan. 9:24-27, is found in the imperfect condition in which the original text of the Book of Daniel has come to us. Not only in the prophecy of the seventy weeks, but also throughout both its Hebrew (Dan. 1-2:4; 8-12) and its Aramaic (2:4-7:) sections, that text betrays various defects which it is easier to notice and to point out than to correct. Linguistics, the context, and the ancient translations of Daniel are most of the time insufficient guides towards the sure restoration of the primitive reading.

The oldest of these translations is the Greek version known as the Septuagint, whose text has come down to us, not in its original form, but in that given to it by Origen (died about A.D. 254) for the composition of his Hexapla. Before this revision by Origen, the text of the Septuagint was regarded as so unreliable, because of its freedom in rendering, and of the alterations which had been introduced into it etc. that, during the second century of our era, it was discarded by the Church, which adopted in its stead the Greek version of Daniel made in that same century by the Jewish proselyte, Theodotion. This version of Theodotion was apparently a skilful revision of the Septuagint by means of the original text, and is the one embodied in the authentic edition of the Septuagint published by Sixtus V in 1587. In Dr. H.B. Swete's edition of the Septuagint, Origen's revision and Theodotion's version are conveniently printed side by side on opposite pages (vol. 3:pp. 498 sqq.). The version of the proto-canonical portions of the Book of Daniel in the Latin Vulgate is Blessed Jerome's rendering from practically the same Hebrew and Aramaic text as is found in the current Hebrew Bibles.

Deutero-Canonical Portions.

The Hebrew and Aramaic sections of the Book of Daniel thus far dealt with, are the only ones found in the Hebrew Bible and recognized by Protestants as sacred and canonical. But besides those sections, the Vulgate, the Greek translations of Daniel (Septuagint and Theodotion) together with other ancient and modern versions, contain three important portions, which are deuterocanonical. These are:

The first of these fragments (Dan. 3:24-90) consists of a prayer in which Azarias, standing in the midst of the furnace, asks that God may deliver him and his companions, Ananias and Misael, and put their enemies to shame (verses 24-45). It contains a brief notice of the fact that the Angel of the Lord saved the Three Children from all harm, whereas the flame consumed the Chaldeans above the furnace (46-50); and a doxology (52-56) leading on to the hymn familiarly known to the Latins as the "Benedicite" (57-90), which is sung on Holy Saturday.

The second fragment (ch. xiii) tells the history of Susanna. She was the faithful wife of a wealthy Jew named Joakim, and resident in Babylon. Accused falsely of adultery by two unworthy elders whose criminal advances she had repelled, she was sentenced to death by the tribunal before which she had been arraigned. As Susanna was led forth to execution, Daniel, moved by God, remonstrated with the people upon permitting without sufficient inquiry the condemnation of a daughter of Israel. He examined himself the two pretended witnesses separately, and proved their testimony to be self-contradictory. In fulfillment of the Law of Moses (Deut. 19:18, 19), the two elders were put to death, "and Daniel became great in the sight of the people from that day, and thenceforward."

The last deuterocanonical part of Daniel (ch. xiv) contains the narrative of the destruction of Bel and the dragon. It recounts first the clever manner in which Daniel undeceived the king, Cyrus, who regarded a Babylonian idol, called Bel, as "a living god" that actually ate ample offerings, whereas these were really consumed at night by the pagan priests and their families. In consequence, these impostors were put to death, and Bel and its temple destroyed. It records, in the second place, how Daniel caused to die a great dragon that the Babylonians worshipped, and that the king wished him to adore as "a living god." Enraged at this, the people forced the king to deliver Daniel to them, and cast the Prophet into a lions' den. Daniel remained there unharmed for six days, and fed by the prophet Habakkuk who was miraculously transported from Judea to Babylon. On the seventh day, the king having found Daniel alive in the midst of the lions, praised aloud the God of Daniel and delivered the Prophet's accusers to the fate which Daniel had miraculously escaped.

The Greek is, indeed the oldest form under which these deutero-canonical parts of the Book of Daniel have come down to us; but this is no decisive proof that they were composed in that language. In fact, the greater probability is in favor of a Hebrew original no longer extant. It is plain that the view which regards these three fragments as not originally written in Greek makes it easier to suppose that they were from the beginning integrant parts of the book. Yet, it does not settle the question of their date and authorship.

It is readily granted by conservative scholars (Vigouroux, Gilly, etc.) that the last two are probably from a different and later author than the rest of the book. On the other hand, it is maintained by nearly all Christian writers, that the Prayer of Azarias and the Song of the Three Children cannot be dissociated from the preceding and the following context in Dan. 3: and that therefore they should be referred to the time of Daniel, if not to that Prophet himself. In reality, there are well-nigh insuperable difficulties to such an early date for Dan. 3:24-90, so that this fragment also, like the other two, should most likely be ascribed to some unknown Jewish author who lived long after the Exile.

Lastly, although the deuterocanonical portions of Daniel seem to contain anachronisms, they should not be treated — as was done by Blessed Jerome — as mere fables. More sober scholarship will readily admit that they embody oral or written traditions not altogether devoid of historical value. But, whatever may be thought concerning these literary or historical questions, there cannot be the least doubt that these fragments proclaim the ancient and morally unanimous belief of the Church of God.



Name And Country.

Osee (Hôsheá‘–Salvation), son of Beeri, was one of the Minor Prophets, and a subject of the Ephraimite Kingdom which he calls "the land," whose king is for him "our king," and the localities of which are familiar to him, while he speaks of Juda but seldom and does not even make mention of Jerusalem.

Time of his Ministry.

According to the title of the book, Osee prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II in Israel, and in the time of Ozias, Joatham, Achaz, and Ezechias, kings of Juda, hence from about 750 to 725 B.C. The title, however, is not quite satisfactory and does not seem to be the original one, or, at least, to have been preserved in its primitive form.

None of the historical allusions with which the prophecy is filled appears to be connected with any event later than the reign of Manahem (circa 745-735). There is nothing concerning the Syro-Ephraimite war against Juda, nor the terrible intervention of Tiglath-Pileser III (734-733). The era of the Prophet, therefore, if it is to be judged from his writings, ought to be placed about 750-735; he was perhaps contemporaneous with the closing years of Amos and certainly with the first appearance of Isaias.

The reign of Jeroboam II was marked by great and glorious external prosperity; but this prosperity contributed to make the political and religious decadence more rapid. Political dissolution was approaching. Zachary, son of Jeroboam, was assassinated after a reign of six months. His murderer, Sellum, retained the sceptre but one month, and was put to death by Manahem, who occupied the throne for ten years, 745-735. Israel was hastening to its ruin, which was to be completed by the taking of Samaria by Sargon (722).

The Book of Osee.

It always occupies the first place among the twelve minor prophets, most probably on account of its length. In point of time Amos preceded it. The book is divided into two distinct parts: cc. i-iii, and cc. iv-xiv.

(a) In the first part, Osee relates how, by order of Jahve, he wedded Gomer, a "wife of fornications," daughter of Debelaim, in order to have of her "children of fornications." These are symbols, on the one hand, of Israel, the unfaithful spouse who gave to Baal the homage due to Jahve alone; and, on the other, figures of the children of Israel, who in the eyes of Jahve, are but adulterous children. The outraged husband incites the children against their guilty mother, whom he prepares to punish: while for the children themselves is reserved a fate in keeping with their origin. The first is named Jezrahel – the reigning dynasty is about to expiate the blood shed by its ancestor Jehu in the valley of Jezrahel. The second is a daughter, Lô-Ruhamah, "disgraced" – Jahve will be gracious no more to his people. The third is called Lô-‘Ammi, "not my people" – Jahve will no longer recognize the children of Israel as his people. However, mercy will have the last word. Osee is commanded to receive Gomer again and to prepare her, by a temporary retirement, to renew conjugal intercourse – Israel was to prepare herself in captivity to resume with Jahve the relationship of husband and wife.

Is the marriage of Osee historical or purely allegorical? The hypothesis most in favor at present says that the marriage is historical, and the grounds for it are, (1) the obvious sense of the narrative; (2) the absence of any symbolical sense in the words Gomer and Debelaim; (3) that the second child is a daughter. It appears to us, however, with Davidson (Hastings, "Dict. of the Bible," 2:421 sqq.) and Van Hoonacker, that the first reason is not convincing. A careful reading of cc. i-iii discloses the fact that the action is extremely rapid, that the events are related merely in order to express a doctrine, and, moreover, they appear to take place within the single time requisite to one or two speeches. And yet, if these events are real, a large part of the Prophet's life must have been spent in these unsavory circumstances. And again, the names of the children appear to have been bestowed just at the time that their meaning was explained to the people. This is especially the case with regard to the last child: "Call his name, Not my people: for you are not my people …"

Another reason for doubting this hypothesis is that it is difficult to suppose that God ordered His Prophet to take an unfaithful wife merely with a view to her being unfaithful and bearing him adulterous children. And how are we to explain the fact that the prophet retained her notwithstanding her adultery till after the birth of the third child, and again received her after she had been in the possession of another? That the second child was a daughter may be explained by dramatic instinct, or by some other sufficiently plausible motive. There remain the names Gomer and Debelaim. Van Hoonacker proposes as possible translations: consummation (imminent ruin), doomed to terrible scourges; or top (of perversity), addicted to the cakes of figs (oblations offered to Baal). Nestle also translates Bath Debelaim by daughter of the cakes of figs, but in the sense of a woman to be obtained at a small price (Zeitsch. für alttest. Wissenschaft, 29:233 seq.). These are but conjectures; the obscurity may be due to our ignorance. It is at least certain that the allegorical meaning, adopted by Blessed Jerome, satisfies critical exigencies and is more in conformity with the moral sense. The doctrinal meaning is identical in either case and that is the only consideration of real importance.

(b) The second part of the book is the practical and detailed application of the first. Van Hoonacker divides it into three sections, each of which terminated with a promise of salvation (iv-vii, 1a … 7:1b-xi … xii-xiv). We may accept this division if we also admit his ingenious interpretation of 6:11-viii, 1a: – And yet Juda, I shall graft on thee a branch (of Ephraim) when I shall re-establish my people; when I shall heal Israel. In the first section he speaks almost exclusively of religious and moral corruption. The princes and especially the priests are chiefly responsible for this and it is on them that the punishment will principally fall. As he speaks simply of the "house of the king" it would appear that the dynasty of Jehu still occupied the throne. It is different in the following chapters. In 7:1a- 8: the political and social disorders are especially emphasized.

At home, there are conspiracies, regicides, anarchy, while abroad alliances with foreign powers are sought. No doubt Menahem was already reigning. And yet the religious disorders remained the principal object of the prophet's reprobation. And in spite of all, mercy ever retains its prerogatives. Jahve will gather together again some day His scattered children. In the last section it is felt that the final catastrophe is close at hand; and, nevertheless, once again, love remains victorious. The book ends with a touching exhortation to the people to turn to God who on His part promises the most tempting blessings. An epiphonema reminds at last every one that the good and the wicked shall receive the retribution each has merited.

Style and Text.

Blessed Jerome has described in a few words the style of our Prophet: "Osee commaticus est, et quasi per sententias loquens." (P.L. 28:1015.) An intense emotion overpowers the Prophet at the sight of his dying country. He manifests this grief in short broken phrases with little logical sequence, but in which is revealed a tender and afflicted heart. Unfortunately the notorious obscurity of the Prophet hides many details from our view. This obscurity is due also to many allusions which we cannot grasp, and to the imperfect condition of the text. The question has been raised as to whether we possess it at least in its substantial integrity. Some critics claim to have discovered two main series of interpolations; the first, of small extent, consists of texts relative to Juda; the second, which is of far greater importance, consists of the Messianic passages which, it is said, lie outside the range of the prophet's vision. It is possible to detect several probable glosses in the first series: the second assertion is purely arbitrary. The Messianic texts have all the characteristics of Osee's style. They are closely connected with the context and are entirely in accordance with his general doctrines.


It is fundamentally the same as that of Amos: – the same strict Monotheism, the same ethical conception which paves the way for the Beati pauperes and the worship which must be in spirit and in truth. Only Osee lays much more stress on the idolatry which perhaps had been increased in the interval and was in any case better known to the Ephraimite Prophet than to his Judean predecessor. And Amos had in return a much more extended historical and geographical horizon. Osee sees but the dying Israel. His characteristic point of view is the bond between Jahve and Israel. Jahve is the spouse of Israel, the bride of Jahve,–a profoundly philosophical and mystical image which appears here for the first time and which we find again in Jeremias, Ezechiel, Canticle of Canticles, Apocalypse, etc.

The Ancient Alliance.

Jahve has taken to Himself His spouse by redeeming her out of the bondage of Egypt. He has united Himself to her on Sinai. The bride owed fidelity and exclusive love, trust, and obedience to the spouse; but alas! how has she observed the conjugal compact?

Fidelity is no more. She has prostituted herself to the Baals and Astartes, degrading herself to the level of the infamous practices of the Canaanite high places. She has worshipped the calf of Samaria and has given herself up to every superstition. No doubt she has also paid homage to Jahve, but a homage wholly external and carnal instead of the adoration which must be above all things internal and which He Himself exacts: "With their flocks, and with their herds they shall go to seek the Lord, and shall not find him…" (5:6). "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of God more than holocausts" (6:6).

Trust has failed in like manner. Costly alliances were sought with other nations as though the protection of the spouse were not sufficient:–"Ephraim hath given gifts to his lovers (8:9). He hath made a covenant with the Assyrians, and carried oil into Egypt" (Vulg. 12:1). The very favors which she has received from Jahve in her ingratitude she ascribes to false gods. She said: "I will go after my lovers, that gave me my bread, and my water, my wool, and my flax" (Vulg. 2:5). Obedience: –All the laws which govern the pact of union have been violated: "Shall I write to him [Ephraim] my manifold laws which have been accounted as foreign" (8:12).

It is a question here at least primarily of the Mosaic legislation. Osee and Amos in spite of contrary opinion knew at least in substance the contents of the Pentateuch. Anarchy is therefore rife in politics and religion: "They have reigned but not by me: they have been princes, and I knew not: of their silver, and their gold they have made idols to themselves" (8:4).

The root of all these evils is the absence of "knowledge of God" (4-5) for which the priest especially and the princes are to blame, an absence of theoretical knowledge no doubt, but primarily of the practical knowledge which has love for its object. It is the absence of this practical knowledge chiefly that Osee laments.

The Prophet employs yet another symbol for the bond of union. He sets forth in some exquisite lines the symbol of the chosen son. Jahve has given birth to Israel by redeeming it out of the bondage of Egypt. He has borne it in his arms, has guided its first feeble steps and sustained it with bonds of love; he has reared and nourished it (11:1 sq.) and the only return made by Ephraim is apostasy. Such is the history of the covenant. The day of retribution is at hand; it has even dawned in anarchy, civil war, and every kind of scourge. The consummation is imminent. It would seem that repentance itself would be unable to ward it off. As later Jeremias, so now Osee announces to his people with indescribable emotion the final ruin: Jezrahel "Disgraced." "Not my people." The children of Israel are about to go into exile, there they "shall sit many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without altar, and without ephod and without teraphim" (3:4). National authority shall come to an end and public national religion will be no more.

The New Covenant.

Yet the love of Jahve will change even this evil into a remedy. The unworldly princes now separated from the people, will no longer draw them into sin. The disappearance of the external national religion will cause the idolatrous sacrifices, symbols, and oracles to disappear at the same time. And the road will be open to salvation; it will come "at the end of days."

Jahve cannot abandon forever His chosen son. At the very thought of it He is filled with compassion and his heart is stirred within him. Accordingly after having been the lion which roars against his guilty people He will roar against their enemies, and His children will come at the sound of His voice from all the lands of their exile (11:10 sq.). It will be, as it were, a new exodus from Egypt, Juda will be reinstated and a remnant of the tribe of Ephraim shall be joined with him (6:11- 7:1a). "The children of Isreal shall return and shall seek the Lord their God, and David their king" (3:5). The new alliance shall never be broken: it shall be contracted in justice and in righteousness, in kindness and in love, in fidelity and knowledge of God.

There shall be reconciliation with nature and peace among men and with God. Prosperity and unlimited extension of the people of God shall come to pass, and the children of this new kingdom shall be called the sons of the living God. Great shall be the day of Jezrahel (the day when "God will sow"); (ch.2:), ch. 1:1-3 (Vulg. 1:10-2:1) ought likely to be set at the end of ch. ii. Cf. Condamin in "Revue biblique," 1902, 386 sqq. This is an admirable sketch of the Church which Christ is to found seven and a half centuries later. The doctrine of Osee, like that of Amos, manifests a transcendence which his historical and religious surroundings cannot explain.



The son of Phatuel, and second in the list of the twelve Minor Prophets. Nothing is known of his life. The scene of his labors was the Southern Israelite Kingdom of Juda, and probably its capital Jerusalem, for he repeatedly refers to temple and altar. The frequent apostrophes to the priests (1:9, 13-14; 2:17) also lead to the inference that Joel himself was of priestly descent.

Contents of Joel.

The seventy-three verses of this small book, in the Massoretic text of the Old Testament, are divided into four, and in the Septuagint and Vulgate into three, chapters, the second and third chapters of the Massoretic text forming one chapter, the second in the Septuagint and Vulgate.

The contents of the Prophecy of Joel may be regarded, taken altogether, as a typical presentation in miniature of the chief themes of prophetic discourse. It contains somber warnings of the judgment of Jahweh, intended to rouse the people from the existing moral lethargy, and joyful, glowingly expressed tidings of Jahweh's work of salvation, designed to keep alive the faith in the coming of the Kingdom of God. These two fundamental thoughts seem to be united, as the misfortunes of the judgment are a process of purification to prepare the people for the reception of salvation, and are in reality only one aspect of the Divine work of redemption.

In the first main division of the Book of Joel (1:2-2:17), the prophecies are threatenings of the day of judgment. The prophecies in the second division, which embraces the rest of the book (2:18-3:21), are consolatory descriptions of the day of grace. The first section is further divided into two discourses on the judgment: Chapter 1:2-20, describes a terrible scourge, a plague of locusts, with which the Prophet's land had been visited. These pests had so completely devoured the fields that not even the material for the meat- and drink-offerings existed.

For this reason the priests are to utter lamentations and to ordain a fast. Chapter 2:1-17, repeats the same thought more emphatically: all these plagues are only the forerunners of still greater scourges in the day of the Lord, when the land of the Prophet shall become a wilderness. The people must, therefore, return to Jahweh, and the priests must entreat the Lord in the holy place. The prophecies in the second section are also divided into two discourses: in 2:18-32, the Lord is appeased by the repentance of the nation and gives the blessing of bounteous harvests.

Just as in the earlier part the failure of the harvests was a type and foreshadowing of the calamity in the day of judgment, so now the plenty serves as an illustration of the fullness of grace in the kingdom of grace. The Lord will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and all who call upon His name shall be saved. In chapter 3:1-21, the redemption of Israel is, on the other hand, a judgment upon the heathen nations. The Lord will take vengeance, in the four quarters of the earth, upon those who tyrannized over His people, upon the Philistines, Phoenicians, Edomites, and Egyptians, for the nations are ripe for the harvest in the valley of Josaphat.

Literary and Theological Character of Joel.

Examined as to logical connexion, the four discourses of Joel show a closely united, compact scheme of thought. In regard to form they are a Biblical model of rhetorical symmetry. The law of rhetorical rhythm, which, as the law of harmony, regulates the form of the speeches, also shows itself. We see this particularly in the regular alternation of descriptions in direct or indirect speech, as in the sections given in the first or third person, and in the apostrophes in the second person singular and plural. The first two speeches are alike in construction: 2:1-11 resembles 1:2-12, and 2:12-17, is like 1:13-20. Also in the latter two speeches there is a verbal similarity along with the agreement in thought; cf. in 3:17 and 2:27, the like expression.

The language of Joel is full of color, rhetorically animated, and rhythmic. His prophecy of the pouring out of the spirit upon all flesh (2:28-32) was afterwards adopted as the first Biblical text of the first Apostolic sermon (Acts 2:16-21). Joel's discourses of the day of judgment, and of the abundance of grace which Jahweh in the fullness of time shall bestow from Sion form one of the most beautiful pages in the eschatology of the Prophets. Some of his fiery pictures seem even to have been borrowed by the writer of the Apocalypse of the New Testament (cf. Joel 3:13, and Apocalypse 14:15).

The swarm of locusts, which has so frequently received a symbolical interpretation, is no apocalyptic picture; neither is it a description of the progress of a hostile army under the figure of the imaginary advance of locusts. The passages in 2:4-7, "They shall run like horsemen . . . like men of war they shall scale the wall," make it absolutely certain that a hypothetical swarm of locusts was not taken as a symbol of a hostile army, but that, on the contrary, a hostile army is used to typify an actual swarm of locusts. Consequently, Joel refers to a contemporary scourge, and in the rhetorical style of prophecy passes from this to the evils of the day of judgment.

Date of the Prophecy of Joel.

The most difficult problem in the investigation of Joel is the date, and the many hypotheses have not led to any convincing result. The first verse of the book does not convey, as other prophetic books do, a definite date, nor do the discourses contain any references to the events of the period, which might form a basis for the chronology of the Prophet. General history took no notice of plagues of locusts which were of frequent occurrence, and it is an arbitrary supposition to interpret the swarm of locusts as the Scythian horde, which, according to Herodotus (1:103 sqq.; 4:1), devastated the countries of Western Asia from Mesopotamia to Egypt between the years 630-620 B.C.

The Book of Joel has been variously ascribed to nearly all the centuries of the prophetic era. Rothstein even goes so far as to assign the discourses to various dates, an attempt which must fail on account of the close connection between the four addresses. The early commentators, in agreement with Blessed Jerome, placed the era of composition in the eighth century B.C.; they took Joel, therefore, as a contemporary of Osee and Amos. In justification of this date they pointed out that Joel is placed among the twelve Minor Prophets between Osee and Amos; further, that among the enemies of Juda the book does not mention the Assyrians, who were anathematized by each Prophet from the time they appeared as a power in Asia.

However, in a book of only three chapters not much weight can be attached to an argument from silence. Those also who agree in placing the book before the Exile do not agree in identifying the king in whose reign Joel lived. The assignment to the period of King Josias is supported by the fact that Joel takes for his theme the day of the Lord, as does the contemporary Prophet Sophonias. To this may be added that the anathema upon the Egyptians may be influenced by the battle of Mageddo (608 B.C.). Later commentators assign the book to the period after the Exile, both because chapter iii assumes the dispersal of the Jews among other nations, and because the eschatology of Joel presupposes the later period of Jewish theology. It is, however, impossible for Joel to have been a contemporary of the Prophet Malachias, because of the manner in which the former looks upon the priests of his period as perfect leaders and mediators for the nation. None of the chronological hypotheses concerning Joel can claim to possess convincing proof.




The third among the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament is called, in the Hebrew Text, "'Ams." The spelling of his name is different from that of the name of Isaias's father, Amoç; whence Christian tradition has, for the most part, rightly distinguished between the two. The prophet's name, Amos, has been variously explained, and its exact meaning is still a matter of conjecture.

Life and Times.

According to the heading of his book (1:1) Amos was a herdsman of Thecua, a village in the Southern Kingdom, twelve miles south of Jerusalem. Besides this humble avocation, he is also spoken of in 7:14, as a simple dresser of sycamore-trees. Hence, as far as we know, there is no sufficient ground for the view of most Jewish interpreters that Amos was a wealthy man. Thecua was apparently a shepherd's town, and it was while following his flock in the wilderness of Juda, that, in the reigns of Ozias and Jeroboam, God called him for a special mission: "Go, prophesy to My people Israel" (7:15). In the eyes of the humble shepherd this must have appeared a most difficult mission. At the time when the call came to him, he was "not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet" (7:14), which implies that he had not yet entered upon the prophetical office, and even that he had not attended the schools wherein young men in training for a prophet's career bore the name of "the sons of a prophet."

Other reasons might well cause Amos to fear to accept the divine mission. He, a Southerner, was bidden to go to the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and carry to its people and its leaders a message of judgment to which, from their historical circumstances, they were particularly ill-prepared to listen. Its ruler, Jeroboam II (c. 781-741 B.C.), had rapidly conquered Syria, Moab, and Ammon, and thereby extended his dominions from the source of the Orontes on the north to the Dead Sea on the south. The whole northern empire of Solomon thus practically restored had enjoyed a long period of peace and security marked by a wonderful revival of artistic and commercial development. Samaria, its capital, had been adorned with splendid and substantial buildings; riches had been accumulated in abundance; comfort and luxury had reached their highest standard. The Northern Kingdom had attained a material prosperity unprecedented since the disruption of the empire of Solomon.

Outwardly, religion was also in a most flourishing condition. The sacrificial worship of the God of Israel was carried on with great pomp and general faithfulness, and the long enjoyment of national prosperity was popularly regarded as an undoubted token of the Lord's favor towards His people. It is true that public morals had gradually been infected by the vices which continued success and plenty too often bring in their train. Social corruption and the oppression of the poor and helpless were very prevalent. But these and similar marks of public degeneracy could be readily excused on the plea that they were the necessary accompaniments of a high degree of Oriental civilization.

Again, religion was debased in various ways. Many among the Israelites were satisfied with the mere offering of the sacrificial victims, regardless of the inward dispositions required for their worthy presentation to a thrice-holy God. Others availed themselves of the throngs which attended the sacred festivals to indulge in immoderate enjoyment and tumultuous revelry. Others again, carried away by the freer association with heathen peoples which resulted from conquest or from commercial intercourse, even went so far as to fuse with the Lord's worship that of pagan deities.

Man has a natural tendency to be satisfied with the mechanical performance of religious duties, and more particularly the Hebrews of old tended to adopt the sensual rites of foreign cults, so long as they did not give up the worship of their own God. Therefore, these irregularities in matters of religion did not appear objectionable to the Israelites, all the more so because the Lord did not punish them for their conduct. Yet it was to that most prosperous people, thoroughly convinced that God was well-pleased with them, that Amos was sent to deliver a stern rebuke for all their misdeeds, and to announce in God's name their forthcoming ruin and captivity (7:17).

Amos's mission to Israel was but a temporary one. It extended apparently from two years before to a few years after an earthquake, the exact date of which is unknown (1:1). It met with strong opposition, especially on the part of Amasias, the chief priest of the royal sanctuary in Bethel (7:10-13). How it came to an end is not known; for only late and untrustworthy legends tell of Amos's martyrdom under the ill-treatment of Amasias and his son. It is more probable that, in compliance with Amasias's threatening order (7:12), the prophet withdrew to Juda, where at leisure he arranged his oracles in their well-planned disposition.

Analysis of Prophetical Writing.

The book of Amos falls naturally into three parts. The first opens with a general title to the work, giving the author's name and the general date of his ministry (1:1), and a text or motto in four poetical lines (1:2), describing under a fine image the Lord's power over Palestine. This part comprises the first two chapters, and is made up of a series of oracles against Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Juda, and, finally, Israel.

Each oracle begins with the same numerical formula: "For three crimes of Damascus [or Gaza, or Tyre, etc. as the case may be], and for four, I will not revoke the doom"; it next sets forth the chief indictment; and finally pronounces the penalty. The heathen nations are doomed not because of their ignorance of the true God, but because of their breaches of the elementary and unwritten laws of natural humanity and good faith.

As regards Juda and Israel, they will share the same doom because, although they were especially cared for by the Lord who drew them out of Egypt, conquered for them the land of Chanaan, and gave them prophets and Nazarites, yet they have committed the same crimes as their pagan neighbors. Israel is rebuked more at length than Juda, and its utter destruction is vividly described.

The second part (chaps. 3-4) consists of a series of addresses which expand the indictment and the sentence against Israel set forth in 2:6-16. Amos's indictment bears (1) on the social disorders prevalent among the upper classes; (2) on the heartless luxury and self-indulgence of the wealthy ladies of Samaria; (3) on the too great confidence of the Israelites at large in their mere external discharge of religious duties which can in no way secure them against the approaching doom. The sentence itself assumes the form of a dirge over the captivity which awaits the unrepentant transgressors, and the complete surrender of the country to the foreign enemy.

The third section of the book (chaps. 7-9, 8b.), apart from the historical account of Amasias's opposition to Amos (7:10-17), and from a discourse (8:4-14) similar in tone and import to the addresses contained in the second part of the prophecy, is wholly made up of visions of judgment against Israel. In the first two visions — the one of devouring locusts, and the other of consuming fire — the foretold destruction is stayed by divine interposition; but in the third vision, that of a plumb-line, the destruction is permitted to become complete. The fourth vision, like the foregoing, is symbolical; a basket of summer fruit points to the speedy decay of Israel; while in the fifth and last the prophet beholds the Lord standing beside the altar and threatening the Northern Kingdom with a chastisement from which there is no escape. The book concludes with God's solemn promise of the glorious restoration of the House of David, and of the wonderful prosperity of the purified nation (9:8c-15).

Literary Features of the Book.

It is universally admitted at the present day that these contents are set forth in a style of "high literary merit." This literary excellence might, indeed, at first sight appear in strange contrast with Amos's obscure birth and humble shepherd life. A closer study, however, of the prophet's writing and of the actual circumstances of its composition does away with that apparent contrast. Before Amos's time the Hebrew language had gradually passed through several stages of development, and had been cultivated by several able writers.

Again, it is not to be supposed that the prophecies of Amos were delivered exactly as they are recorded. Throughout the book, the topics are treated poetically, and many of its literary features are best accounted for by admitting that the prophet spared no time and labor to invest his oral utterances with their present elaborate form.

Finally, to associate inferior culture with the simplicity and relative poverty of pastoral life would be to mistake totally the conditions of Eastern society, ancient and modern. For among the Hebrews of old, as among the Arabs of the present day, the sum of book-learning was necessarily small, and proficiency in knowledge and oratory was chiefly dependent not on a professional education, but on a shrewd observation of men and things, a memory retentive of traditional lore, and the faculty of original thought.

Authorship and Date.

Apart from a few critics, all scholars maintain the correctness of the traditional view which refers the book of Amos to the Judean prophet of that name. They rightly think that the judgments, sermons, and visions which make up that sacred writing center in a great message of doom to Israel. The contents read like a solemn denunciation of the incurable wickedness of the Northern Kingdom, like a direct prediction of its impending ruin. The same scholars regard likewise the general style of the book, with its poetical form and striking simplicity, abruptness, etc. as proof that the work is a literary unit, the various parts of which should be traced back to one and the same mind, to the one and holy prophet, whose name and period of activity are given in the title to the prophecy, and whose authorship is repeatedly affirmed in the body of the book (cf. 7:1, 2, 4, 5, 8; 8:1, 2; 9:1, etc.).

To confirm the traditional view of Jews and Christians in regard to authorship and date, the two following facts have also been brought forth:

It is true that Amos's authorship of numerous passages, and notably of 9:8c-15, has been and is still seriously questioned by some leading critics. But in regard to most, if not indeed to all such passages, it may be confidently affirmed that the arguments against the authorship are not strictly conclusive. Besides, even though the later origin of all these passages should be conceded, the traditional view of the authorship and date of the book as a whole would not be materially impaired.

Religious Teachings of Amos.

Two facts contribute to give to the religious doctrine of Amos a special importance. On the one hand, his prophecies are well nigh universally regarded as authentic, and on the other, his work is probably the earliest prophetical writing which has come down to us. So that the book of Amos furnishes us with most valuable information concerning the beliefs of the eighth century B.C. and in fact, concerning those of some time before, since, in delivering the Divine message to his contemporaries, the prophet always takes for granted that they are already familiar with the truths to which he appeals.

Amos teaches a most pure monotheism. Throughout his book there is not so much as a reference to other deities than the God of Israel. He often speaks of "the Lord of Hosts," meaning thereby that God has untold forces and powers at His command; in other words, that He is omnipotent. His descriptions of the Divine attributes show that according to his mind God is the Creator and Ruler of all things in heaven and on earth. God governs the nations at large, as well as the heavenly bodies and the elements of nature; He is a personal and righteous God who punishes the crimes of all men, whether they belong to the heathen nations or to the chosen people.

The prophet repeatedly inveighs against the false notions which his contemporaries had of God's relation to Israel. He does not deny that the Lord is their God in a special manner. But he argues that His benefits to them in the past, instead of being a reason for them to indulge with security in sins hateful to God's holiness, really increase their guilt and must make them fear a severer penalty. He does not deny that sacrifices should be offered to the Divine Majesty; but he most emphatically declares that the mere outward offering of them is not pleasing to God and cannot placate His anger. On the day of the Lord, that is, on the day of retribution, Israelites who shall be found guilty of the same crimes as the heathen nations will be held to account for them severely.

It is true that Amos argues in a concrete manner with his contemporaries and that consequently he does not formulate abstract principles. Nevertheless, his book is replete with truths which can never become superfluous or obsolete.

Finally, whatever view may be taken of the authorship of the concluding portion of the book of Amos (7:8c.-15), the Messianic bearing of the passage will be readily admitted by all who believe in the existence of the supernatural. It may also be added that this Messianic prophecy is worded in a manner that offers no insuperable objection to the traditional view which regards Amos as its author.



This name is the Greek form of the Hebrew `Obhádhyah, which means "the servant [or worshipper] of Yahweh." The fourth and shortest of the minor prophetical books of the Old Testament (it contains only twenty-one verses) is ascribed to Abdias. In the title of the book it is usually regarded as a proper name. Some recent scholars, however, think that it should be treated as an appellative, for, on the one hand, Holy Writ often designates a true prophet under the appellative name of "the servant of Yahweh," and on the other, it nowhere gives any distinct information concerning the writer of the work ascribed to Abdias.

It is true that in the absence of such authoritative information Jewish and Christian traditions have been freely circulated to supply its place; but it remains none the less a fact that "nothing is known of Abdias; his family, station in life, place of birth, manner of death, are equally unknown to us" (Abbé Trochon, Les petits prophètes, 193). The only thing that we may infer from the work concerning its author is that he belonged to the Kingdom of Juda.

The short prophecy of Abdias deals almost exclusively with the fate of Edom as is stated in its opening words. God has summoned the nations against her. She trusts in her rocky fastnesses, but in vain. She would be utterly destroyed, not simply spoiled as by thieves (1-6). Her former friends and allies have turned against her (7), and her wisdom shall fail her in this extremity (8,9). She is justly punished for her unbrotherly conduct towards Juda when foreigners sacked Jerusalem and cast lots over it (10-11). She is bidden to desist from her unworthy conduct (12-14). The "day of Yahweh" is near upon "all the nations," in whose ruin Edom shall share under the united efforts of "the house of Jacob" and "the house of Joseph" (16-18). As for Israel, her borders will be enlarged in every direction; "Saviors" shall appear on Mount Sion to "judge" the Mount of Esau, and the rule of Yahweh shall be established (19-20).

Date of the Prophecy of Abdias.

Besides the shortness of the book of Abdias and its lack of a detailed title such as is usually prefixed to the prophetical writings of the Old Testament, there are various reasons, literary and exegetical, which prevent scholars from agreeing upon the date of its composition. Many among them (Keil, Orelli, Vigouroux, Trochon, Lesêtre, etc.) assign its composition to about the reign of Joram (ninth century B.C.).Their main ground for this position is derived from Abdias's reference (11-14) to a capture of Jerusalem which they identify with the sacking of the Holy City by the Philistines and the Arabians under Joram (II Paralip. 21:16,17). The only other seizure of Jerusalem to which Abdias (11-14) could be understood to refer would be that which occurred during the lifetime of the prophet Jeremias and was effected by Nabuchodonosor (588-587 B.C.). But such reference to this latter capture of the Jewish capital is ruled out, we are told, by the fact that Jeremias's description of this event (Jer. 49:7-22) is so worded as to betray its dependence on Abdias (11-14) as on an earlier writing. It is ruled out also by Abdias's silence concerning the destruction of the city or of the Temple which was carried out by Nabuchodonosor, and which, as far as we know, did not occur in the time of King Joram.

A second argument for this early date of the prophecy is drawn from a comparison of its text with that of Amos and Joel. The resemblance is intimate and, when closely examined, shows, it is claimed, that Abdias was anterior to both Joel and Amos. In fact, in Joel, 2:32 (Heb. 3:5) "as the Lord hath said" introduces a quotation from Abdias (17). Hence it is inferred that the prophecy of Abdias originated between the reign of Joram and the time of Joel and Amos, that is, about the middle of the ninth century B.C. The inference is said also to be confirmed by the purity of style of Abdias's prophecy.

Other scholars, among whom may be mentioned Meyrick, Jahn, Ackerman, Allioli, etc. refer the composition of the book to about the time of the Babylonian Captivity, some three centuries after King Joram. They think that the terms of Abdias (11-14) can be adequately understood only of the capture of Jerusalem by Nabuchodonosor; only this event could be spoken of as the day "when strangers carried away his [Juda's] army captive, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem"; as "the day of his [Juda's] leaving his country . . . . the day of their [the children of Juda's] destruction"; "the day of their ruin"; etc. They also admit that Abdias (20) contains an implicit reference to the writer as one of the captives in Babylon.

Others again, ascribe the present book of Abdias to a still later date. They agree with the defenders of the second opinion in interpreting Abdias (11-14) as referring to the capture of Jerusalem by Nabuchodonosor, but differ from them in holding that (20) does not really prove that the author of the book lived during the Babylonian exile. They claim that Abdias (15-21) has strong apocalyptic features (reference to the day of the Lord as being at hand upon all nations, to a restoration of all Israel, to the wonderful extent of territory and position in command which await the Jews in God's kingdom). They maintain that, in light of these features, a close study connects necessarily the prophecy of Abdias with other works in Jewish literature [Joel, Daniel, Zacharias (ix-xiv)]. They believe these belong to a date long after the return from Babylon.

These, then are the three leading forms of opinion which prevail at the present day regarding the date of composition of the book of Abdias, none of which conflicts with the prophetical import of the work concerning the utter ruin of Edom at a later date and concerning the Messianic times.



The fifth of the Minor Prophets. The name is usually taken to mean "dove," but in view of the complaining words of the Prophet (Jonah, iv), it is not unlikely that the name is derived from the root Yanah = to mourn, with the signification dolens or "complaining." This interpretation goes back to Blessed Jerome (Comm. on Jonah, 4:1).

Apart from the book traditionally ascribed to him, Jonah is mentioned only once in the Old Testament, in IV Kings 14:25. This states that the restoration by Jeroboam II (see Jeroboam) of the borders of Israel against the incursions of foreign invaders was a fulfillment of the "word of the Lord the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amathi, the prophet, who was of Geth, which is in Opher." This last is but a paraphrastic rendering of the name Gath-Hepher, a town in the territory of Zabulon (Josephus, "Antiq." 19:xiii), which was probably the birthplace of the Prophet, and where his grave was still pointed out in the time of Blessed Jerome.

Mention is made of Jonah in Matt. 12:39 sqq. and in 16:4, and likewise in the parallel passages of Luke (11:29, 30, 32), but these references add nothing to the information contained in the Old Testament data. According to an ancient tradition mentioned by Blessed Jerome (Comm. in Jonah, Prol. P.L. 25:118), and which is found in Pseudo-Epiphanius (De Vitis Prophetarum, 16:P.L. 43:407), Jonah was the son of the widow of Sarephta whose resuscitation by the Prophet Elias is narrated in III Kings 17. But this legend seems to have no other foundation than the phonetic resemblance between the proper name Amathi, father of the Prophet, and the Hebrew word Emeth, "truth," applied to the word of God through Elias by the widow of Sarephta (III Kings 17:24).

The chief interest in the Prophet Jonah centers around two remarkable incidents narrated in the book which bears his name. In the opening verse it is stated that "the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amathi, saying: Arise and go to Ninive, the great city, and preach in it: for the wickedness thereof is come up before me." But the Prophet, instead of obeying the Divine command, "rose up to flee into Tharsis from the face of the Lord" that he might escape the task assigned to him. He boards a ship bound for that port, but a violent storm overtakes him, and on his admission that he is the cause of it, he is cast overboard. A great fish providentially prepared for the purpose swallows him, and after a three days’ sojourn in the belly of the monster, during which time he composes a hymn of thanksgiving, he is cast upon dry land.

After this episode, he again receives the command to preach in Ninive, and the account of his second journey is scarcely less marvelous than that of the first. He proceeds to Ninive and enters "after a day's journey" into it, foretelling its destruction in forty days. A general repentance is immediately commanded by the authorities, in view of which God relents and spares the wicked city. Jonah, angry and disappointed, wishes for death. He expostulates with the Lord, and declares that it was in anticipation of this result that on the former occasion he had wished to flee to Tharsis. He withdraws from Ninive and, under a booth which he has erected, he awaits the destiny of the city. In this abode he enjoys for a time the refreshing shade of a gourd which the Lord prepares for him.

Shortly, however, the gourd is stricken by a worm and the Prophet is exposed to the burning rays of the sun, whereupon he again murmurs and wishes to die. Then the Lord rebukes him for his selfish grief over the withering of a gourd, while still desiring that God should not be touched by the repentance of a city in which "there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons that know not how to distinguish between their right hand and their left, and many beasts." Apart from the hymn ascribed to Jonah (2:2-11) the contents of the book are prose.


Christians have always looked upon the Book of Jonah as a fact-narrative. In the works of some non-Orthodox writers, there is a leaning to regard the book as fiction. Some have even clearly denied the historicity of Jonah; these teachings are wrong.

Reasons for the traditional acceptance of the historicity of Jonah:

Jewish Tradition.

According to the Septuagint text of the Book of Tobias (14:4), the words of Jonah in regard to the destruction of Ninive are accepted as fact. The same reading is found in the Aramaic text and one Hebrew manuscript. The apocryphal III Mach. 6:8, lists the saving of Jonah in the belly of the fish along with the other wonders of Old Testament history. Josephus (Ant. Jud. 9:2) clearly deems the story of Jonah to be historical.

The Authority of our Lord.

This reason is deemed by Christians to remove all doubt as to the fact of the story of Jonah. The Jews asked a "sign" — a miracle to prove the Messiahship of Jesus. He made answer that no "sign" would be given them other than the "sign of Jonah the Prophet. For as the Jonah was in the whale's belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. The men of Ninive shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it: because they did penance at the preaching of Jonah. And behold a greater than Jonah here" (Matt. 12:40-1; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32).

The Jews asked for a real miracle; Christ would have deceived them had He presented a mere fancy. He argues clearly that just as Jonah was in the whale's belly three days and three nights even so He will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. If, then, the stay of Jonah in the belly of the fish be only a fiction, the stay of Christ's body in the heart of the earth is only a fiction. If the men of Ninive will really not rise in judgment, neither will the Jews really rise.

Christ contrasts fact with fact, not fancy with fancy, nor fancy with fact. It would be very strange, indeed, were He to say that He was greater than a fancy-formed man. It would be little less strange were he to berate the Jews for their real lack of penance by rating this lack in contrast with the penance of Ninive which never existed at all. The whole force of these striking contrasts is lost, if we admit that the story of Jonah is not fact-narrative.

Finally, Christ makes no distinction between the story of the Queen of Sheba and that of Jonah (see Matt. 12:42). He sets the very same historical value upon the Book of Jonah as upon the Third Book of Kings. Such is the very strongest argument that Christians offer for the firm stand they take upon the ground of the fact-narrative of the story of Jonah.

The Authority of the Fathers.

Not a single Father has ever been cited in favor of the opinion that Jonah is a fancy-tale and no fact-narrative at all. To the Fathers Jonah was a fact and a type of the Messias, just such a one as Christ presented to the Jews. Blessed Jerome, Saints Cyril and Theophilus explain in detail the type and meaning of the facts of the Book of Jonah. St. Cyril even forestalls the objections of the Rationalists of today: Jonah flees his ministry, bewails God's mercy to the Ninivites, and in other ways shows a spirit that ill becomes a Prophet and an historical type of Christ. St. Cyril admits that in all this Jonah failed and is not a type of Christ, but does not admit that these failures of Jonah prove the story of his doings to have been a mere fiction.

To the Rationalist and to the advanced Protestant Biblical scholar these arguments are of no worth whatsoever. They find error not only in Jewish and Christian tradition but in Christ Himself. They admit that Christ took the story of Jonah as a fact-narrative, and make answer that Christ erred. They claim that He was a child of His time and represents to us the ideas and errors of His time. The arguments of those who accept the inerrancy of Christ and deny the historicity of Jonah are not conclusive. They are as follows:

We answer, these objections prove that the book is not an historical account done according to later canons of historical criticism; they do not prove that the book is no history at all. The facts narrated are such as suited the purpose of the sacred writer. He told a story of glory unto the God of Israel and of downfall to the gods of Ninive. It is likely that the incidents took place during the period of Assyrian decadence, i.e. the reign of either Asurdanil or Asurnirar (770-745 B.C.). A pest had ravaged the land from 765 till 759 B.C. Internal strife added to the dismay caused by the deadly disease. The king's power was set at naught. Such a king might seem too little known to be mentioned. The Pharaoh of Mosaic times is not deemed to have been a fiction merely because his name is not given.

Jewish tradition assumed that the Prophet Jonah was the author of the book bearing his name, and the same has been generally maintained by the Christian writers who defend the historical character of the narrative. But it may be remarked that nowhere does the book itself claim to have been written by the Prophet (who is supposed to have lived in the eighth century B.C.), and most modern scholars, for various reasons, assign the date of the composition to a much later epoch, probably the fifth century B.C. As in the case of other Old Testament personages, many legends, mostly fantastic and devoid of critical value, grew up around the name Jonah. A list of these may be found in the "Jewish Encyclopedia."


Book of Micheas.

Micheas (Hebr. Mikhah; Jeremiah 26:18: Mikhayah keth.), the author of the book which holds the sixth place in the collection of the Twelve Minor Prophets, was born at Moresheth (Micheas 1:1; Jeremiah 26:18), a locality not far from the town of Geth (Micheas 1:14). Jerusalem was the scene of his ministry, which occurred, as we learn from the title of his book, under the Kings Joathan (c. 740-735 B.C.), Achaz (735-727?), and Ezechias (727-698?). We do not, however, appear to possess any of his addresses prior to the reign of Ezechias. He was thus a contemporary of the Prophet Isaias. His book falls into three parts.

Part One (Chapters 1-3).

The first part consists of chapters 1-3. Micheas begins by announcing the impending destruction of Samaria as a punishment for its sins, and Jerusalem also is threatened. In chapter 2 the prophet develops his threats against the Kingdom of Juda and gives his reasons for them. In chapter 3 he utters his reproaches with greater distinctness against the chief culprits: the prophets, the priests, the princes, and the judges. Because of their transgressions, Sion shall be ploughed as a field, etc. (3, 12). This passage was quoted by the defenders of Jeremias against those who wished to punish with death the boldness with which the latter had announced God's chastisements: Micheas of Morashti was not punished with death, but, on the contrary, Ezechias and the people did penance and the Lord withdrew his threat against Jerusalem (Jeremiah 16:18 sq.).

There is a general consensus of opinion to attribute to the Prophet Micheas the authorship of this part of the book; serious doubts have been expressed only concerning 2:11-12. Chapters 1-3 must have been composed shortly before the destruction of the Kingdom of Samaria by the Assyrians (722 B.C.).

Part Two (Chapters 4-5).

In the second part (4-5), we have a discourse announcing the future conversion of the nations to the Law of Yahweh and describing the Messianic peace, an era to be inaugurated by the triumph of Israel over all its enemies, symbolized by the Assyrians. In 5:1 sq. (Hebr. 2 sq.), the prophet introduces the Messianic king whose place of origin is to be Bethlehem-Ephrata; Yahweh will only give up his people "till the time wherein she that travaileth shall bring forth," an allusion to the well-known passage of Isaiah 7:14. Several recent critics have maintained that chapters 4-5, either wholly or in part, are of post-exilic origin. But their arguments, principally based on considerations inspired by certain theories on the history of the Messianic doctrine, are not convincing. Neither is it necessary to suppose that in 4:8, the comparison of the citadel of Sion with the "tower of the flock" alludes to the ruinous condition of Judea and Jerusalem at the time of the composition of the address. This comparison merely refers to the moral situation held towards the rest of the country by the capital, whence Yahweh is presumed to keep watch.

The connection of ideas, it is true, is interrupted in 4:10, and in 5:4-5 (Vulg. 5-6), both of which may be later additions. A characteristic trait of Micheas's style in chapter 1 is found in the puns on the names of localities, and it is noticeable that an entirely similar pun can be seen in 5:1 (Heb. 4:14), particularly when the LXX version is taken into account. The reading supposed by the LXX suggests a very satisfactory interpretation of this difficult passage: "And now, surround thyself with a wall (gadher), Beth-Gader." The difference of tone and contents clearly show that 4-5 must have been composed in other circumstances than 1-3. They probably date from shortly after the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. In 1-3 Micheas had expressed the fear that after the conquest of Samaria the Assyrian army would invade Judea; but Yahweh withdrew His threat (Jeremiah 16:19), and the enemy left Palestine without attacking Jerusalem. Chapters 4-5 have preserved us an echo of the joy caused in Jerusalem by the removal of the danger.

Part Three (Chapters 6-7). Chapters 6-7 are cast in a dramatic shape. Yahweh interpolates the people and reproaches them with ingratitude (6:3-5). The people ask by what offerings they can expiate their sin (6:6-7). The prophet answers that Yahweh claims the observance of the moral law rather than sacrifices (6:8). But this law has been shamefully violated by the nation, which has thus brought on itself God's punishment (6:9 sqq.). The passage 7:2-13 could be transposed to follow 7:6; in this way the justification of the punishments assumes a connected form in 6:6 to 7:6 and 7:11-13. The rest of chapter 7 (7-11 + 14 sqq.) contains a prayer in which the fallen city expresses hope in a coming restoration and confidence in God.

The opinions of critics are much divided on the composition of these chapters. Several consider them a mere collection of detached fragments of more or less recent origin; but the analysis just given shows that there is a satisfactory connection between them. The chief reason why a critic find it difficult to attribute to Micheas the authorship of chapters 6-7, or at least of a large portion, is because they identify the fallen city of 7:7 sqq. with Jerusalem. But the prophet never mentions Jerusalem, and there is no proof that Jerusalem is the city intended. On the contrary, certain traits are better explained on the supposition that the city in the prophet's mind is Samaria; see especially 6:16, and 7:14. According to this hypothesis, the prophet in 6-7:6 and 7:11-13, casts a retrospective look at the causes which brought about the fall of Samaria, and in 7:7-11 + 14 sqq. he expresses his desires for its return to the Lord's favor. As in the historical situation thus supposed there is nothing which does not exactly tally with the circumstances of Micheas's time, as there is no disagreement in ideas between Micheas 1 sqq. and 6-7. As, on the contrary, real affinities in style and vocabulary exist between Micheas 1 sqq. and 6-7, it seems unnecessary to deny to the Prophet Micheas the authorship of these two chapters.



One of the Prophets of the Old Testament, the seventh in the traditional list of the twelve Minor Prophets.


The Hebrew name, probably in the intensive form, Nahhum, signifies primarily "full of consolation or comfort," hence "consoler" (Blessed Jerome, consolator), or "comforter." The name Nahum was apparently of not rare occurrence. Indeed, not to speak of a certain Nahum listed in the Vulgate and Douay Version (II Esd. 7:7) among the companions of Zorobabel, and whose name seems to have been rather Rehum (I Esd. 2:2; Heb. has Rehum in both places), St. Luke mentions in his genealogy of Our Lord a Nahum, son of Hesli and father of Amos (3:25); the Mishna also occasionally refers to Nahum the Mede, a famous rabbi of the second century (Shabb. 2:1, etc.), and another Nahum who was a scribe or copyist (Peah, 2:6); inscriptions show likewise the name was not uncommon among Phoenicians (Gesenius, "Monum. Phoen." 133; Boeckh, "Corp. Inscript. Graec." 2:25, 26; "Corp. Inscript. Semitic." 1:123 a3 b3).

The Prophet.

The little we know touching the Prophet Nahum must be gathered from his book, for nowhere else in the canonical Scriptures does his specific name occur, and extracanonical Jewish writers are hardly less reticent. The scant positive information vouchsafed by these sources is in no wise supplemented by the worthless stories concerning the Prophet put into circulation by legend-mongers. We will deal only with what may be gathered from the canonical Book of Nahum, the only available first-hand document at our disposal. From its title (i,1), we learn that Nahum was an Elcesite (so D. V.; A. V. Elkoshite). On the true import of this statement commentators have not always been of one mind. In the prologue to his commentary of the book, Blessed Jerome informs us that some understood `Elqoshite as a patronymic indication: "the son of Elqosh"; he, however, holds the commonly accepted view that the word `Elqoshite shows that the Prophet was a native of Elqosh.

But even understood in this way, the intimation given by the title is disputed by biblical scholars. Where, indeed, should this Elqosh, nowhere else referred to in the Bible, be sought?

The Book. Contents.

The Book of Nahum contains only three chapters and may be divided into two distinct parts.

The one, including i and 2:2 (Heb. i-ii, 1-3), and the other consisting of ii,1, 3-ii (Heb. 2:2, 4-iii). The first part is more undetermined in tone and character. After the twofold title indicating the subject-matter and the author of the book (1:1), the writer enters upon his subject by a solemn affirmation of what he calls the Lord's jealousy and revengefulness (1:2, 3), and a most forceful description of the fright which seizes all nature at the aspect of Yahweh coming into judgment (1:3-6). Contrasting admirably with this appalling picture is the comforting assurance of God's loving-kindness towards His true and trustful servants (7-8. Then follows the announcement of the destruction of His enemies, among whom a treacherous, cruel, and god-ridden city, no doubt Ninive (although the name is not found in the text), is singled out and irretrievably doomed to everlasting ruin (8-14). The glad tidings of the oppressor's fall is the signal of a new era of glory for the people of God (1:15; 2:2; Heb. 2:1, 3).

The second part of the book is more directly than the other a "burden of Ninive"; some of the features of the great Assyrian city are described so accurately as to make all doubt impossible, even f the name Ninive were not explicitly mentioned in 2:8. In a first section (ii), the Prophet dashes off in a few bold strokes three successive sketches. We behold the approach of the besiegers, the assault on the city, and, within, the rush of its defenders to the walls (2:1, 3-3; Heb. 2:2, 4-6); then the protecting dams and sluices of the Tigris being burst open. Ninive, panic-stricken, has become an easy prey to the victor: her most sacred places are profaned, her vast treasures plundered (6-9); Heb. 7-10); and now Ninive, once the den where the lion hoarded rich spoils for his whelps and his lionesses, has been swept away forever by the mighty hand of the God of hosts (10-13; Heb. 11-13).

The second section (iii) develops with new details the same theme. The bloodthirstiness, greed, and crafty and insidious policy of Ninive are the cause of her overthrow, most graphically depicted (1-4); complete and shameful will be her downfall and no one will utter a word of pity (5-7). As No-Ammon was mercilessly crushed, so Ninive likewise will empty to the dregs the bitter cup of the divine vengeance (8-11). In vain does she trust in her strongholds, her warriors, her preparations for a siege, and her officials and scribes (12-17). Her empire is about to crumble, and its fall will be hailed by the triumphant applause by the whole universe (18-19).

Critical Questions.

Until recent centuries, both the unity and authenticity of the Book of Nahum were undisputed, and the objections alleged by a few against the genuineness of the words "The burden of Ninive" (1:1) and the description of the overthrow of No-Ammon (3:8-10) were regarded as trifling cavils not worth the trouble of an answer. In the last few years, however, things have taken a new turn: facts hitherto unnoticed have added to the old problems concerning authorship, date, etc. It may be well here for us to bear in mind the twofold division of the book, and to begin with the second part (2:1, 3-3), which, as has been noticed, unquestionably deals with the overthrow of Ninive. That these two chapters of the prophecy constitute a unit and should be attributed to the same author, Happel is the only one to deny; but his odd opinion, grounded on unwarranted alterations of the text, cannot seriously be entertained.

The date of this second part cannot be determined to the year. However, from the data furnished by the text, it seems that a sufficiently accurate approximation is obtainable. First, there is a higher limit which we have no right to overstep, namely, the capture of No-Ammon referred to in 3:8-10. In the Latin Vulgate (and the Douay Bible) No-Ammon is translated by Alexandria, whereby Blessed Jerome meant not the great Egyptian capital founded in the fourth century B.C. but an older city occupying the site where later on stood Alexandria ("Comment. in Nah." iii,8: P.L. 25:1260; cf. "Ep. CVIII ad Eustoch." 14: P.L. 22:890; "In Is." XVIII: P.L. 24:178; "In Os." 9:5-6: P.L. 25:892). He was mistaken, however, and so were those who thought that No-Ammon should be sought in Lower Egypt; Assyrian and Egyptian discoveries leave no doubt whatever that No-Ammon is the same as Thebes in Upper Egypt.

Now Thebes was captured and destroyed by Assurbanipal in 664-663 B.C. whence it follows that the opinion of Nicephorus (in the edition of Geo. Syncell, "Chronographia," Bonn, 1829, 1:759), making Nahum a contemporary of Phacee, King of Israel, the early tradition according to which this prophecy was uttered 115 years before the fall of Ninive (about 721 B.C.; Josephus, "Ant. Jud." 9:xi, 3), and the conclusions of those modern scholars who, as Pusey, Nagelsbach, etc. date the oracle in the reign of Ezechias or the earlier years of Manasses, ought to be discarded as impossible. The lower limit which it is allowable to assign to this part of the book of Nahum is, of course, the fall of Ninive, which a well-known inscription of Nabonidus permits us to fix at 607 or 606 B.C. This date is fatal to the view adopted by Eutychius, that Nahum prophesied five years after the downfall of Jerusalem (therefore about 583-581; "Annal." in P.G. CXI, 964).

Within these limits it is difficult to fix the date more precisely. It has been suggested that the freshness of the allusion to the fate of Thebes indicates an early date, about 660 B.C. according to Schrader and Orelli; but the memory of such a momentous event would long dwell in the minds of men, and we find Isaias, for instance, in one of his utterances delivered about 702 or 701 B.C. recalling with the same vividness of expression Assyrian conquests achieved thirty or forty years earlier (Is. 10:5-34). Nothing therefore compels us to assign, within the limits set above, 664-606, an early date to the two chapters, if there are cogent reasons to conclude to a later date.

One of the arguments advanced is that Ninive is spoken of as having lost a great deal of her former prestige and sunk into a dismal state of disintegration. She is, moreover, represented as beset by mighty enemies and powerless to avert the fate threatening her. Such conditions existed when, after the death of Assurbanipal, Babylonia succeeded in regaining her independence (625), and the Medes aims a first blow at Ninive (623). Modern critics appear more and more inclined to believe that the data furnished by the Prophet lead to the admission of a still lower date, namely "the moment between the actual invasion of Assyria by a hostile force and the commencement of the attack on its capital" (Kennedy). The "mauler," indeed, is already on his way (2:1; Heb. 2); frontier fortresses have opened their gates (3:12-13); Ninive is at bay, and although the enemy has not yet invested the city, to all appearances her doom is sealed.

We may now return to the first part of the book. This first chapter, on account of the transcendent ideas it deals with, and of the lyric enthusiasm which pervades it throughout has not inappropriately been called a psalm. Its special interest lies in the fact that it is an alphabetical poem. The first to call attention to this feature was Frohnmeyer, whose observations, however, did not extend beyond vv. 3-7. Availing himself of this key, Bickell endeavored to find out if the process of composition did not extend to the whole passage and include the twenty-two letters of the alphabet, and he attempted repeatedly but without great success ("Zeitschr. der deutsch. morg. Gesell." 1880, p. 559; "Carmina Vet. Test. metrice," 1882; "Zeitschr. fur kath. Theol." 1886), to restore the psalm to its pristine integrity. This failure did not discourage Gunkel who declared himself convinced that the poem is alphabetical throughout, although it is difficult, owing to the present condition of the text to trace the initial letters (Zeitschr. fur alttest. Wissensch. 1893, 223 sqq.). This was for Bickell an incentive to a fresh study (Das alphab. Lied in Nah. i-ii, 3, in "Sitzungsberichte der philos.-hist. Classe der kaiser. Akademie der Wissensch." Vienna, 894, 5 Abhandl.). His conclusions of which show a notable improvement on the former attempts, and suggested to Gunkel a few corrections (Schopfung und Chaos, 120). Since then Nowack (Die kleinen Propheten, 1897), Gray ("The Alphab. Poem in Nah." in "The Expositor" for Sept. 1898, 207 sqq.), Arnold (On Nah. 1:1-2:3, in "Zeitschr. fur alttest. Wissensch." 1901, 225 sqq.), Happel (Das Buch des Proph. Nah. 1903), Marti (Dodekaproph. erklart, 1904), Lohr (Zeitschr. fur alttest. Wissensch. 1905, 1:174), and Van Hoonacker (Les douze petits proph. 1908), have more or less successfully undertaken the difficult task of extricating the original psalm from the textual medley in which it is entangled. There is among them, a sufficient agreement as to the first part of the poem; but the second part still remains a classical ground for scholarly tilts.

Wellhausen (Die kleinen Proph. 1898) holds that the noteworthy difference between the two parts from the point of view of poetical construction is due to the fact that the writer abandoned halfway his undertaking to write acrostically. Happel believes both parts were worked out separately from an unacrostic original.

Critics are inclined to hold that the disorder and corruption which disfigure the poem are mostly due to the way it was tacked on to the prophecy of Nahum, The upper margin was first used, and then the side margin; and as, in the latter instance, the text must have been overcrowded and blurred. This later on caused in the second part of the psalm an inextricable confusion from which the first was preserved. This explanation of the textual condition of the poem implies the assumption that this chapter is not to be attributed to Nahum, but is a later addition. So much indeed was granted by Bickell, and Van Hoonacker (not to speak of Protestant scholars) is inclined to a like concession. On the one hand, the marked contrast between the abstract tome of the composition and the concrete character of the other two chapters, we are told, bespeaks a difference of authorship; and, on the other hand, the artificiality of the acrostic form is characteristic of a late date. These arguments, however, are not unanswerable. In any case it cannot be denied that the psalm is a most fitting preface to the prophecy.

Little will be found in the teaching of the book of Nahum that is really new and original. The originality of Nahum is that his mind is so engrossed by the iniquities and impending fate of Ninive, that he appears to lose sight of the shortcomings of his own people. The doom of Ninive was nevertheless in itself for Juda an object-lesson which the impassioned language of the Prophet was well calculated to impress deeply upon the minds of thoughtful Israelites. Despite the uncertainty of the text in several places, there is no doubt that the book of Nahum is truly "a masterpiece" (Kaulen) of literature. The vividness and picturesqueness of the Prophet's style have already been pointed out; in his few short, flashing sentences, most graphic word-pictures, apt and forceful figures, grand, energetic, and pathetic expressions rush in, thrust vehemently upon one another, yet leaving the impression of perfect naturalness. Withal the language remains ever pure and classical, with a tinge of partiality for alliteration (1:10; 2:3, 11) and the use of prim and rare idioms; the sentences are perfectly balanced; in a word Nahum is a consummate master of his art, and ranks among the most accomplished writers of the Old Testament.


Habacuc (Habakkuk).

The eighth of the Minor Prophets, who probably flourished towards the end of the seventh century B.C.

Name and Personal Life.

In the Hebrew text (1:1; 3:1), the prophet's name presents a doubly intensive form Hàbhàqqûq, which has not been preserved either in the Septuagint: Ambakoum, or in the Vulgate: Habacuc. Its resemblance with the Assyrian hambakûku, which is the name of a plant, is obvious. Its exact meaning cannot be ascertained: it is usually taken to signify "embrace" and is at times explained as "ardent embrace," on account of its intensive form. Of this prophet's birth-place, parentage, and life we have no reliable information. The fact that in his book he is twice called "the prophet" (1:1; 3:1) leads indeed one to surmise that Habacuc held a recognized position as prophet, but it manifestly affords no distinct knowledge of his person. Again, some musical particulars connected with the Hebrew text of his Prayer (ch. iii) may possibly suggest that he was a member of the Temple choir, and consequently a Levite: but most scholars regard this twofold inference as questionable. Hardly less questionable is the view sometimes put forth, which identifies Habacuc with the Judean prophet of that name, who is described in the deuterocanonical fragment of Bel and the Dragon (Dan. 14:32 sqq.), as miraculously carrying a meal to Daniel in the lion's den.

In this absence of authentic tradition, legend, not only Jewish but also Christian, has been singularly busy about the prophet Habacuc. It has represented him as belonging to the tribe of Levi and as the son of a certain Jesus; as the child of the Sunamite woman, whom Eliseus restored to life (cf. IV Kings 4:16 sqq.); as the sentinel set by Isaias (cf. Is. 21:6; and Hab. 2:1) to watch for the fall of Babylon. According to the "Lives" of the prophets, one of which is ascribed to St. Epiphanius, and the other to Dorotheus, Habacuc was of the tribe of Simeon, and a native of Bethsocher, a town apparently in the tribe of Juda. In the same works it is stated that when Nabuchodonosor came to besiege Jerusalem, the prophet fled to Ostrakine (now Straki, on the Egyptian coast), whence he returned only after the Chaldeans had withdrawn; that he then lived as a husbandman in his native place, and died there two years before Cyrus's edict of Restoration (538 B.C.). Different sites are also mentioned as his burial-place. The exact amount of positive information embodied in these conflicting legends cannot be determined at the present day. The Church celebrates the feast of the prophet Habacuc on 15 January.

Contents of Prophecy.

Apart from its short title (1:1), the Book of Habacuc is commonly divided into two parts. The one (i,2-ii, 20) reads like a dramatic dialogue between God and His prophet. The other (chap. iii) is a lyric ode, with the usual characteristics of a psalm.

The first part opens with Habacuc's lament to God over the protracted iniquity of the land, and the persistent oppression of the just by the wicked, so that there is neither law nor justice in Juda: How long is the wicked thus destined to prosper? (1:2-4). Yahweh replies (1:5-11) that a new and startling display of His justice is about to take place: already the Chaldeans — that swift, rapacious, terrible, race — are being raised up, and they shall put an end to the wrongs of which the prophet has complained. Then Habacuc remonstrates with Yahweh, the eternal and righteous Ruler of the world, over the cruelties in which He allows the Chaldeans to indulge (1:12-17), and he confidently waits for a response to his pleading (2:1). God's answer (2:2-4) is in the form of a short oracle (verse 4), which the prophet is bidden to write down on a tablet that all may read it, and which foretells the ultimate doom of the Chaldean invader. Content with this message, Habacuc utters a taunting song, triumphantly made up of five "woes" which he places with dramatic vividness on the lips of the nations whom the Chaldean has conquered and desolated (2:5-20).

The second part of the book (chap. iii) bears the title: "A prayer of Habacuc, the prophet, to the music of Shigionot." Strictly speaking, only the second verse of this chapter has the form of a prayer. The verses following (3-16) describe a theophany in which Yahweh appears for no other purpose than the salvation of His people and the ruin of His enemies. The ode concludes with the declaration that even though the blessings of nature should fail in the day of dearth, the singer will rejoice in Yahweh (17-19). Appended to chap. iii is the statement: "For the chief musician, on my stringed instruments."

Date and Authorship.

Owing chiefly to the lack of reliable external evidence, there has been in the past, and there is even now, a great diversity of opinions concerning the date to which the prophecy of Habacuc should be ascribed. Ancient rabbis, whose view is embodied in the Jewish chronicle entitled Seder olam Rabbah, and is still accepted by many Christian scholars (Kaulen, Zschokke, Knabenbauer, Schenz, Cornely, etc.), refer the composition of the book to the last years of Manasses's reign. Clement of Alexandria says that "Habacuc still prophesied in the time of Sedecias" (599-588 B.C.), and Blessed Jerome ascribes the prophecy to the time of the Babylonian Exile. Some more recent scholars (Delitzsch and Keil among Protestants, Danko, Rheinke, Holzammer, and practically also Vigouroux, among Catholics, place it under Josias (641-610 B.C.). Others refer it to the time of Joakim (610-599 B.C.), either before Nabuchodonosor's victory at Carchemish in 605 B.C. (Catholic: Schegg, Haneberg; Protestant: Schrader, S. Davidson, König, Strack, Driver, etc.); while others, mostly out-and-out rationalists, ascribe it to the time after the ruin of the Holy City by the Chaldeans.

As might be expected, these various views do not enjoy the same amount of probability, when they are tested by the actual contents of the Book of Habacuc. Of them all, the one adopted by Blessed Jerome, and which is now that propounded by many rationalists, is decidedly the least probable. To ascribe, as that view does, the book to the Exile, is, on the one hand, to admit for the text of Habacuc an historical background to which there is no real reference in the prophecy, and, on the other, to ignore the prophet's distinct references to events connected with the period before the Bablyonian Captivity (cf. 1:2-4, 6, etc.). All the other opinions have their respective degrees of probability, so that it is no easy matter to choose among them. It seems, however, that the view which ascribes the book to 605-600 B.C. "is best in harmony with the historical circumstances under which the Chaldeans are presented in the prophecy of Habacuc, viz. as a scourge which is imminent for Juda, and as oppressors whom all know have already entered upon the inheritance of their predecessors" (Van Hoonacker).

During the nineteenth century, objections had oftentimes been made against the genuineness of certain portions of the Book of Habacuc. In the first part of the work, the objections have been especially directed against 1:5-11. But, however formidable they may appear at first sight, the difficulties turn out to be really weak, on a closer inspection; and in point of fact, the great majority of critics look upon them as not decisive. The arguments urged against the genuineness of chapter 2:9-20, are of less weight still.

Only in reference to chapter 3:which forms the second part of the book, can there be a serious controversy as to its authorship by Habacuc. Many critics treat the whole chapter as a late and independent poem, with no allusions to the circumstances of Habacuc's time, and still bearing in its liturgical heading and musical directions (vv. 3-19) distinct marks of the collection of sacred songs from which it was taken. According to them, it was appended to the Book of Habacuc because it had already been ascribed to him in the title, just as certain psalms are still referred in the Septuagint and in the Vulgate to some prophets. Others, indeed in smaller number, but also with greater probability, regard only the last part of the chapter 3:17-19 as a later addition to Habacuc's work: in reference to this last part only does it appear true to say that it has no definite allusions to the circumstances of Habacuc's time.

All things considered, it seems that the question whether chapter iii be an original portion of the prophecy of Habacuc, or an independent poem appended to it at a later date, cannot be answered with certainty. Too little is known in a positive manner concerning the actual circumstances in the midst of which Habacuc composed his work, to enable one to feel confident that this portion of it must or must not be ascribed to the same author as the rest of the book.

Literary and Textual Features.

In the composition of his book, Habacuc displays a literary power which has often been admired. His diction is rich and classical, and his imagery is striking and appropriate. The dialogue between God and him is highly oratorical, and exhibits, to a larger extent than is commonly supposed, the parallelism of thought and expression which is the distinctive feature of Hebrew poetry. The Mashal or taunting song of five "woes" which follows the dialogue, is placed with powerful dramatic effect on the lips of the nations whom the Chaldeans have cruelly oppressed. The lyric ode with which the book concludes, compares favorably in respect to imagery and rhythm with the best productions of Hebrew poetry.

These literary beauties enable us to realize that Habacuc was a writer of high order. They also cause us to regret that the original text of his prophecy should not have come down to us in all its primitive perfection. As a matter of fact, recent interpreters of the book have noticed and pointed out numerous alterations, especially in the line of additions, which have crept in the Hebrew text of the prophecy of Habacuc, and render it at times very obscure. Only a fair number of those alterations can be corrected by a close study of the context; by a careful comparison of the text with the ancient versions, especially the Septuagint; by an application of the rules of Hebrew parallelism, etc. In the other places, the primitive reading has disappeared and cannot be recovered, except conjecturally, by the means which Biblical criticism affords in the present day.

Prophetical Teaching.

Most of the religious and moral truths that can be noticed in this short prophecy are not peculiar to it. They form part of the common message which the prophets of old were charged to convey to God's chosen people. Like the other prophets, Habacuc is the champion of ethical monotheism. For him, as for them, Yahweh alone is the living God (2:18-20); He is the Eternal and Holy One (1:12), the Supreme Ruler of the Universe (1:6, 17; 2:5 sqq.; 3:2-16), Whose word cannot fail to obtain its effect (2:3), and Whose glory will be acknowledged by all nations (2:14).

In his eyes, as in those of the other prophets, Israel is God's chosen people whose unrighteousness He is bound to visit with a signal punishment (1:2-4). The special people, whom it was Habacuc's own mission to announce to his contemporaries as the instruments of Yahweh's judgment, were the Chaldeans, who will overthrow everything, even Juda and Jerusalem, in their victorious march (1:6 sqq.). This was indeed at the time an incredible prediction (1:5), for was not Juda God's kingdom and the Chaldean a world-power characterized by overweening pride and tyranny? Was not therefore Juda the "just" to be saved, and the Chaldean really the "wicked" to be destroyed?

The answer to this difficulty is found in the distich (2:4) which contains the central and distinctive teaching of the book. Its oracular form bespeaks a principle of wider import than the actual circumstances in the midst of which it was revealed to the prophet, a general law, as we would say, of God's providence in the government of the world: the wicked carries in himself the germs of his own destruction; the believer, on the contrary, those of eternal life.

It is because of this, that Habacuc applies the oracle not only to the Chaldeans of his time who are threatening the existence of God's kingdom on earth, but also to all the nations opposed to that kingdom who will likewise be reduced to naught (2:5-13). And for this reason he solemnly declares that "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea" (2:15). It is because of the passage’s truly Messianic import that the second part of Habacuc’s orcale (2:4b) repeatedly appears in the New Testament (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Hebr. 10:38), emphasizing that the just shall live by faith.


Sophonias (Zephaniah).

The ninth of the twelve Minor Prophets of the Canon of the Old Testament, Sophonias preached and wrote in the second half of the seventh century B.C. He was a contemporary and supporter of the great Prophet Jeremias. His name (Heb. Zephanja, that is "the Lord conceals," "the Lord protects") might, on the analogy of Gottfried, be most briefly translated by the words God protect. The only primary source from which we obtain our scanty knowledge of the personality and the rhetorical and literary qualities of Sophonias, is the short book of the Old Testament (containing only three chapters), which bears his name. The scene of his activity was the city of Jerusalem (1:4-10; 3:1 sqq.; 14 sqq.).


The date of the Prophet's activity fell in the reign of King Josias (641-11). Sophonias is one of the few Prophets whose chronology is fixed by a precise date in the introductory verse of the book. Under the two preceding kings, Amon and Manasse, idolatry had been introduced in the most shameful forms (especially the cult of Baal and Astarte) into the Holy City, and with this foreign cult came a foreign culture and a great corruption of morals. Josias, the king with the anointed sceptre, wished to put an end to the horrible devastation in the holy places. One of the most zealous champions and advisers of this reform was Sophonias, and his writing remains one of the most important documents for the understanding of the era of Josias.

The Prophet laid the axe at the root of the religious and moral corruption, when, in view of the idolatry which had penetrated even into the sanctuary, he threatened to "destroy out of this place the remnant of Baal, and the names of the . . . priests" (1:4). He pleaded for a return to the simplicity of their fathers instead of the luxurious foreign clothing that was worn especially in aristocratic circles (1:8).

The age of Sophonias was also a most serious and decisive period, because the lands of Anterior Asia were overrun by foreigners owing to the migration of the Seythians in the last decades of the seventh century, and because Jerusalem, the city of the Prophets, was only a few decades before its downfall (586). The far-seeing watchman on Sion's battlements saw this catastrophe draw near: "for the day of the Lord is near" is the burden of his preaching (1:7). "The great day of the Lord is near, it is near and exceeding swift: . . . That day is a day of wrath, a day of tribulation and darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and whirlwinds" (1:14-15).


The book of the Prophet naturally contains in its three chapters only a sketch of the fundamental ideas of the preaching of Sophonias. The scheme of the book in its present form is as follows:

(a) 1:2-2:3. The threatening of the "day of the Lord," a Dies irae dies illa of the Old Testament. The judgment of the Lord will descend on Juda and Jerusalem as a punishment for the awful degeneracy in religious life (1:4-7a); it will extend to all classes of the people (1:7b-13), and will be attended with all the horrors of a frightful catastrophe (1:14-18); therefore, do penance and seek the Lord (2:1-3).

(b) 2:4-15. Not only over Jerusalem, but over the whole world (urbi et orbi), over the peoples in all the four regions of the heavens, will the hand of the Lord be stretched — westwards over the Philistines (4-7), eastwards over the Moabites and Ammonites (8-11), southwards over the Ethiopians (12), and northwards over the Assyrians and Ninivites (13-15).

(c) With a special threat (3:1-8). The Prophet then turns again to Jerusalem: "Woe to the provoking, and redeemed city. . . She hath not hearkened to the voice, neither hath she received discipline"; the severest reckoning will be required of the aristocrats and the administrators of the law (as the leading classes of the civil community), and of the Prophets and priests, as the directors of public worship.

(d) 3:9-20. A consolatory prophecy, or prophetic glance at the Kingdom of God of the future, in which all the world, united in one faith and one worship, will turn to one God, and the goods of the Messianic Kingdom, whose capital is the daughter of Sion, will be enjoyed. The universality of the judgment as well as of the redemption is so forcibly expressed in Sophonias that his book may be regarded as the "Catholic Epistle" of the Old Testament.

(e) The last exhortation of Sophonias (3:9-20) also has a Messianic culturing, although not to an extent comparable with Isaias.

Character of the Prophet.

Sophonias' prophecy is not strongly differentiated from other prophecies like that of Amos or Habacuc. It is confined to the range of thought common to all prophetic exhortations: threats of judgment, exhortation to penance, promise of Messianic salvation. For this reason Sophonias might be regarded as the type of Hebrew Prophets and as the final example of the prophetic terminology. He does not seek the glory of an original writer, but borrows freely both ideas and style from the older Prophets (especially Isaias and Jeremias).

The resemblances to the Book of Deuteronomy may be explained by the fact that this book, found in the Josian reform, was then the center of religious interest. The language of Sophonias is vigorous and earnest, as become the seriousness of the period, but is free from the gloomy elegiac tone of Jeremias. In some passages it becomes pathetic and poetic, without, however, attaining the classical diction or poetical flight of a Nahum or Deutero-Isaias.

There is something solemn in the manner in which the Lord is so frequently introduced as the speaker, and the sentence of judgment falls on the silent earth (1:7). Apart from the few plays on words (cf. especially 2:4), Sophonias eschews all rhetorical and poetical ornamentation of language. As to the logical and rhythmical build of the various exhortations, he has two strophes of the first sketch (1:7 and 14) with the same opening ("the day of the Lord is near"), and closes the second sketch with a hymn (2:15) — a favorite practice of his prototype, Jeremias. A graduated development of the sentiment to a climax in the scheme is expressed by the fact that the last sketch contains an animated and longer lyrical hymn to Jerusalem (3:14 sqq.). In Christian painting Sophonias is represented in two ways; either with the lantern (referring to 1:12: "I will search Jerusalem with lamps") or clad in a toga and bearing a scroll bearing as text the beginning of the hymn "Give praise, O daughter of Sion" (3:14).

Critical Problems offered by Sophonias.

The question of authorship is authoritatively answered by the introductory verse of the book. Even radical higher critics like Marti acknowledge that no reason exists for doubting that the author of this prophecy is the Sophonias (Zephaniah) mentioned in the title ("Das Dodekapropheton"), Tübingen, 1904, 359). The fact that this Prophet's name is mentioned nowhere else in the Old Testament does not affect the conclusive force of the first verse of the prophecy. Sophonias is the only Prophet whose genealogy is traced back into the fourth generation. From this has been inferred that the fourth and last ancestor mentioned Ezechias (Hizkiah) is identical with the king of the same name (727-698). In this case, however, the explanatory phrase "King of Judah" would undoubtedly have been put in apposition to the name.

Consequently the statement concerning the author of the book in the first part of the introductory verse appears entirely worthy of belief, because the statement concerning the chronology of the book given in the second half of the same verse is confirmed by internal criteria. The descriptions of customs, especially in the first chapter, showing the state of religion and morals at Jerusalem are, in point of fact, a true presentation of conditions during the first years of the reign of King Josias. The worship of the stars upon the flat roofs, mentioned in 1:5, and imitation of the Babylonian worship of the heavens that had become the fashion in Palestine from the reign of Manasses is also mentioned by the contemporary Prophet, Jeremias (19:13; 32:29), as a religious disorder of the Josianic era. All this confirms the credibility of the witness of 1:1, concerning authorship of Sophonias.

Critical investigations, as to where the original texts in the Book of Sophonias end and the glosses, revisions of the text, and still later revisions begin, have resulted in a unanimous declaration that the first chapter of the book is the work of Sophonias; the second chapter is regarded as not so genuine, and the third still less so. In separating what are called the secondary layers of the second chapter nearly all the higher critics have come to different conclusions — quot capita, tot sensus. Each individual verse cannot be investigated here as in the detailed analysis of a commentator. However, it may be pointed out in general that the technical plan in the literary construction of the speeches, especially the symmetrical arrangement of the speeches mentioned in section 2:and the responses spoken of in section 3:forbid any large excisions. The artistic form used in the construction of the prophetic addresses is recognized more and more as an aid to literary criticism.

The passage most frequently considered an addition of a later date is 3:14-20, because the tone of a herald of salvation here adopted does not agree with that of the prophecies of the threatening judgment of the two earlier chapters. It is, however, the custom of the Prophets after a terrifying warning of the judgments of Jahve to close with a glimpse of the brilliant future of the Kingdom of God, to permit, as it were, the rainbow to follow the thunder-storm. Joel first utters prophetic denunciations which are followed by prophetic consolations (Joel in Vulgate, 1-2, 17; 2:19-3:); Isaias in ch. i calls Jerusalem a city like Sodom and directly afterwards a city of justice, and Micheas, whose similarity to Sophonias is remarked upon by critics, also allows his threats of judgment to die away in an announcement of salvation.

One of the guiding eschatological thoughts of all the Prophets is this: The judgment is only the way of transition to salvation and the consummation of the history of the world will be the salvation of what is left of the seed. For this reason, therefore, Sophonias, 3:14-20 cannot be rejected. The entire plan of the book seems to be indicated in a small scale in the first address, which closes 2:1-3, with an exhortation to seek the Lord that is with a consolatory theme directly after the terrible proclamation of the Day of the Lord.

The queries raised by the textual criticism of the Book of Sophonias are far simpler and nearer solution than those connected with the higher criticism. The conditions of the text, with exception of a few doubtful passages, is good and there are few books of the Biblical canon which offer so few points of attack to Biblical hypercriticism as the Book of Sophonias.


Aggeus (Haggai).

Name and personal life.

Aggeus, the tenth among the minor prophets of the Old Testament, is called in the Hebrew text, Hággáy, and in the Septuagint Haggaios, whence the Latin form Aggeus. The exact meaning of his name is uncertain. Many scholars consider it as an adjective signifying "the festive one" (born on feast-day), while others take it to be an abbreviated form of the noun Hággíyyah, "my feast is Yahweh," a Jewish proper name found in 1 Paralipomenon 6:15 (Vulgate: 1 Paralipomenon 6:30).

Great uncertainty prevails also concerning the prophet's personal life. The book which bears his name is very short, and contains no detailed information about its author. The few passages which speak of him refer simply to the occasion on which he had to deliver a divine message in Jerusalem, during the second year of the reign of the Persian King, Darius I (520 B.C.) And all that Jewish tradition tells of Aggeus does not seem to have much, if any, historical basis. It states that he was born in Chaldea during the Babylonian Captivity, was a young man when he came to Jerusalem with the returning exiles, and was buried in the Holy City among the priests. It also represents him as an angel in human form, as one of the men who were with Daniel when he saw the vision related in Daniel 10:7, as a member of the so-called Great Synagogue, as surviving until the entry of Alexander the Great into Jerusalem (331 B.C.), and even until the time of Our Saviour. Obviously, these and similar traditions deserve but little credence.

Historical circumstances.

Upon the return from Babylon (536 B.C.) the Jews, full of religious zeal, promptly set up an altar to the God of Israel, and reorganized His sacrificial worship. They next celebrated the feast of Tabernacles, and some time later laid the foundation of the "Second" Temple, called also the Temple of Zorobabel. Presently the Samaritans — that is, the mixed races which dwelt in Samaria — prevented them, by an appeal to the Persian authorities, from proceeding further with the rebuilding of the Temple. In fact, the work was interrupted for sixteen years, during which various circumstances caused the Jews to neglect altogether the restoration of the House of the Lord. These circumstances included the Persian invasion of Egypt in 527 B.C., a succession of bad seasons entailing the failure of the harvest and the vintage, and the indulgence in luxury and self-seeking by the wealthier classes of Jerusalem.

Toward the end of this period the political struggles through which Persia passed would have made it impossible for its rulers to interfere with the work of reconstruction in Jerusalem, even had they wished to do so, and this was distinctly realized by the Prophet Aggeus. At length, in the second year of the reign of Darius the son of Hystaspes (520 B.C.), Aggeus came forward in the name of the Lord to rebuke the apathy of the Jews, and convince them that the time had come to complete their national sanctuary, that outward symbol of the Divine presence among them.

The prophecies.

The book of Aggeus is made up of four prophetical utterances, each one headed by the date on which it was delivered.

The simple reading of these oracles makes one feel that although they are shaped into parallel clauses such as are usual in Hebrew poetry. Their literary style is rugged and unadorned, extremely direct, and, therefore, most natural on the part of a prophet intent on convincing his hearers of their duty to rebuild the House of the Lord.

Besides this harmony of the style with the general tone of the book of Aggeus, strong internal data occur to confirm the traditional date and authorship of that sacred writing. In particular, each portion of the work is supplied with such precise dates and ascribed so expressly to Aggeus, that each utterance bears the distinct mark of having been written soon after it was delivered.

It should also be borne in mind that although the prophecies of Aggeus were directly meant to secure the immediate rearing of the Lord's House, they are not without a much higher import. The three passages which are usually brought forth as truly Messianic, are 2:7-8, 2:10, and 2:21-24. It is true that the meaning of the first two passages in the original Hebrew differs somewhat from the present rendering of the Vulgate, but all three contain a reference to Messianic times.

The primitive text of the book of Aggeus has been particularly well preserved. The few variations which occur in the manuscripts are due to errors in transcribing, and do not affect materially the sense of the prophecy.

Besides the short prophetical work which bears his name, Aggeus has also been credited, but wrongly, with the authorship of Psalms 111 and 145 (Hebrew 122, 146).



Zacharius, (Heb. zekharyahu and zekharyah; meaning "Yahweh remembers," Sept. Zacharia and Zacharias), son of Barachias, son of Addo, was a Prophet who rose in Israel in the eighth month of the seventh year of the reign of King Darius, 520 B.C. (Zach. 1:1), just two months after Aggeus began to prophesy (Agg. 1:1). The urgings of the two Prophets brought about the building of the second temple (1 Esdr. v and vi). Addo was one of the chief priests who, in the first year of the reign of Cyrus 538 B.C. returned with Zorobabel from captivity (II Esd. 12:4). Sixteen years thereafter, during the high priesthood of Joacim (verse 12), Zacharia, of the family of Addo (Heb. of verse 16), is listed as a chief priest. This Zacharia is most likely the Prophet and author of the canonical book of the same name. It is not at all probable that the Prophet Zacharias is referred to by Christ (Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51) as having been slain by the Jews in the Temple; that Zacharias was the son of Joiada (II Par. 24:20). Moreover, the Jews of Zorobabel's time obeyed the Prophet Zacharias (Zach. 6:7); nor is there, in the Books of Esdras, any trace of so heinous a crime perpetrated in the Temple court.

The Book.

The prophecy of Zacharias is one of the books admitted by both Jews and Christians into their canon of Sacred Writings, one of the Minor Prophets. This article will treat its contents and interpretation, canonicity, author, time, place, and occasion.

Contents and Interpretation.

Part First (Chapters 1-8).

Introduction. The purpose of the book, the return of the people to Yahweh (1:1-6).

  1. The eight visions of the Prophet, on the night of the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month of the second year of the rule of Darius in Babylon (1:7-6: 8).

(2) Sequel to the eight visions

As a sequel to the eight visions, especially to the fourth and fifth, Yahweh bids Zacharias take of the gold and silver brought from Babylon by a deputation of Jews of the captivity, and therewith to make crowns; to place these crown upon the head of Jesus the high priest, and then to hang them as a votive-offering in the Temple (6:9-15). The critics generally insist that it was Zorobabel and not Jesus who was to be crowned. They err in missing the prophetic symbolism of the action. It is the high priest rather than the king that is the type of the priest of the Messianic kingdom, "the Man Whose name is the Sprout" (Heb. text), Who shall build up the Temple of the Church and in Whom shall be united the offices of priest and king.

(3) The prophecy of the fourth day of the ninth month of the fourth year of the rule of Darius in Babylon (vii and viii)

Almost two years after the eight visions, the people ask the priests and Prophets if it be required still to keep the fasts of the exile. Zacharias makes answer as revealed to him; they should fast from evil, show mercy, soften their hard hearts; abstinence from fraud and not from food is the service Yahweh demands. As a motive for this true service of God, he pictures to them the glories and the joys of the rebuilt Jerusalem (7:1-9). The Prophet ends with a Messianic prediction of the gathering of the nations to Jerusalem (8:20-23).

Part Second (Chapters 9-14): The two Burdens.

Many years have gone by. The temple of Zorobabel is built. The worship of Yahweh is restored. Zacharias peers into the faraway future and tells of the Messianic kingdom.

(1) First burden, in Hadrach (ix-xi)

(2) Second burden, the apocalyptic vision of Jerusalem's future (12-14)


Zacharias is contained in the canons of both Palestine and Alexandria; Jews and all Christians accept it as inspired. The book is found among the Minor Prophets in all the canonical lists. The New Testament writers often refer to the prophecies of the Book of Zacharias as fulfilled. Matthew (21:5) says that in the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the details were brought to pass that Zacharias (9:9) had predicted; and John (12:15) bears like witness. Although, in 27:9, Matthew makes mention of Jeremias only-yet he refers to the fulfillment of two prophecies, that of Jeremias (32:6-9) about the purchase of the potter's field and that of Zacharias (11:12, 13) about the thirty pieces of silver, the price set upon the type of the Messias. John (19:37) sees in the Crucifixion a fulfilling of Zacharias's words, "they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced" (12:10). Matthew (26:31) thinks that the Prophet (13:7) foretold the scattering of the Lord's disciples.


In the foregoing analysis of the contents of Zacharias, we have stated the author, time, place and occasion of the book. The author of the entire prophecy is Zacharias. The time of part first is the second and fourth years of the reign of Darius in Babylon (520 and 522 B.C.). The time of part second is probably toward the end of the reign of Darius or the beginning of that of Xerxes (485 B.C.). The place of the entire prophecy is Jerusalem. The occasion of the first part is to bring about the building of the second Temple; that of the second part is perhaps the approach of the Prophet's death. The traditional view taken by Christian exegetes on the unity of authorship of the book is due in part to the witness of all manuscripts of the original text and of the various versions. This unanimity shows that both in Judaism and in the Church there has never been a serious doubt in the matter of the unity of authorship of Zacharias. Solid reason, and not mere conjecture, is necessary to shake confidence in this traditional view. No such solid reasons are forthcoming. Internal evidence is appealed to; but internal evidence does not here favor divine criticism. Quite the reverse; scope and style are one in the prophecy.

Unity of scope.

The entire prophecy has the same scope; it is permeated throughout with the very same Messianic forecasting. The kingdom and priesthood of the Messias are obscurely depicted in the visions of the first part; vividly in the two burdens of the second part. Both sections insist upon the vengeance to be wrought against foes of Juda (cf. 1:14, and 6:8, with 9:1 sq.); the priesthood and kingship united in the Christ (cf. 3:8 and 6:12 with 9:9-17); the conversion of the gentiles (cf. 2:11; 6:15, and 8:22, with 14:16, 17); the return of Israel from captivity (cf. 8:7, 8, with 9:11-16; 10:8 sq.); the holiness of the new kingdom (cf. 3:1, and 5:1 sq. with 13:1); its prosperity (cf. 1:17; 3:10; 8:3 sq. with 11:16; 14:7 sq.).

Unity of style.

Whatever slight differences there are in the style of the two sections can be readily enough explained by the fact that the visions are in prose and the burdens in poetry. We can understand that one and the same writer may show differences in form and mode of expression, if, after a period of thirty-five years, he works out in exultant and exuberant poetical form the theme which, long before and under very different circumstances, he had set forth in calmer language and prosaic mold.

To counterbalance these slight stylistic differences, we have indubitable evidence of unity of style. The modes of expression which occur in both parts are distinctive of Zacharias. Such are, for instance: the very pregnant clause "and after them the land was left desolate of any that crossed over and of any that returned into it" — Heb. me'ober umisshab (7:14, ad 9:8); the use of the Hiphil of 'abar in the sense of "taking away iniquity" (3:4, and 13:2); the metaphor of "the eye of God" for His Providence (3:9; 1:10; and 9:1); the designations of the chosen people, "house of Juda and house of Israel," "Juda, Israel, Jerusalem," "Juda and Ephraim," "Juda and Joseph" (cf. 1:2, 10; 7:15 etc. and 9:13; 10:6; 11:14 etc.). Moreover, verses and portions of verses of the first part are identical with verses and portions of verses of the second part (cf. 2:10, and 9:9; 2:6, and 9:12, 13; 7:14, and 9:8; 8:14, and 14:5).

Divisive criticism.

It is generally allowed that Zacharias is the author of the first part of the prophecy (chapters 1-8). The second part (9-14) is attributed by the critics to one or many other writers. Joseph Mede, and Englishman, started the issue, in his "Fragmenta sacra" (London 1653), 9. Wishing to save from error Matt. 27:9, 19, he attributed the latter portion of Zacharias to Jeremias. In this exegesis, he was seconded by Kidder, "The demonstration of the Messias" (London 170), 199, and Whiston, "An essay towards restoring the true text of the Old Testament" (London 1722), 92. In this way was the Deutero-Zacharias idea begotten. The idea waxed strong as was prolific. Divisive criticism in due time found many different authors for 9-14. By the end of the eighteenth century, Flugge, "Die Weissagungen, welche den Schriften des Zacharias beigebogen sind" (Hamburg, 1788), had discovered nine disparate prophecies in these six chapters. A single or a manifold Deutero-Zacharias is defended also by Bauer, Augusti, Bertholdt, Eichorn (4th. ed.), De Wette (though not after 3rd ed.), Hitzig, Ewald, Maurer, Knobel, Bleck, Stade, Nowack, Wellhousen, Driver etc. The critics are not agreed, however, as to whether the disputed chapters are pre-exilic or post-exilic. But traditional Biblical scholars are almost unanimous against this view. The arguments in its favor are given by Van Hoonacker (op. cit. pp. 657 sq.) and answered convincingly.


Malachias (Malachi).

Hebrew Mál'akhî, one of the twelve minor prophets. It is the last book of the collection of the twelve Minor Prophets which is inscribed with the name of Malachias. As a result, the author has long been regarded as the last of the canonical prophets of the Old Testament. All that is known of him, however, is summed up in the tenor of his preaching and the approximate period of his ministry.

The Jewish schools identified him quite early with the scribe Esdras. This identification is without historical value. It is based according to Blessed Jerome on an interpretation given to Mal. 2:7. It was at first probably suggested by the tradition which beheld in Esdras the intermediary between the prophets and the "great synagogue," whose foundation was attributed to him and to which he was considered to have transmitted the deposit of doctrine handed down by the prophets (Pirqe Abhôth, 1:2). The position of intermediary fully belonged to Esdras on the hypothesis that he was the last of the prophets and the first member of the "great synagogue." The name Malachias figures at the head of the book in the Septuagint. The Alexandrine translator, however, did not understand Mal. 1:1, to contain the mention of the author's proper name; he translates the passage: "The word of the Lord by the hand of his Angel," so that he has evidently understood the Hebrew expression to be the common noun augmented by the suffix; he has, moreover, read Mál'akhô instead of Mál'akhî.

We cannot say whether this reading and interpretation should not be considered as an effect of Jewish speculations concerning the identity of the author of the book with Esdras, or whether an interpretation of this kind was not at the foundation of the same speculation. However that may be, the interpretation of the Septuagint found an echo among the ancient Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, and even gave rise, especially among the disciples of Origen, to the strangest fancies.

A large number of more modern authors likewise refuse to see in Mál'akhî the proper name of the author. They point out that in Mal. 3:1, the Lord announces: "Behold I send my angel (mál'akhî)...." According to them, it is from this passage that the name Mál'akhî was borrowed by a more recent author, who added the inscription to the book (1:1). But, in the first place, this epithet Mál'akhî could not have the same value in 1:1, as in 3:1, where it is the noun augmented by the suffix (my angel). For in 1:1, the Lord is spoken of in the third person, and one would expect the noun with the suffix of the third person, as in fact is given in the Septuagint (his angel). The messenger of the Lord is moreover announced in 3:1, to arrive thereafter (cf. 4:5; Hebrew text, 3:23); consequently, no one could have imagined that this same messenger was the author of the book.

There would remain the hypothesis that Mál'akhî in 1:1, should be understood as a qualifying word signifying angelicus — i.e. he who was concerned with the angel, who prophesied on the subject of the angel (3:1). This explanation, however, is too far-fetched. It is at least more probable that Mál'akhî in 1:1, should be understood as the proper name of the author, or as a title borne historically by him and equivalent to a proper name. We are no doubt in presence of an abbreviation of the name Mál'akhîyah, that is "Messenger of Yah."

Contents of the Book.

The Book of Malachias in the Hebrew comprises three chapters. In the Greek Bible and in the Vulgate in contains four, chapter 3:19 sqq. of the Hebrew forming a separate chapter. The book is divided into two parts, the first extending from 1:2, to 2:16, and the second from 2:17, to the end.

In the first the prophet first inveighs against the priests guilty of prevarication in their discharge of the sacrificial ritual, by offering defective victims (1:6-2:4), and in their office of doctors of the Law (2:5-9). He then accuses the people in general, condemning the intestine divisions, the mixed marriages between Jews and Gentiles (2:10-12), and the abuse of divorce (2:13-16).

The second part contains a discourse full of promise. To a first complaint concerning the impunity which the wicked enjoy (2:17), Yahweh replies that the Lord and the angel of the New Testament are about to come for the purpose of purifying the sons of Levi and the entire nation (3:1-5). If the people are faithful to their obligations, especially with respect to the tithes, they will be loaded with Divine blessings (3:6-12). To a second complaint concerning the afflictions that fall to the lot of the just, while the wicked succeed in everything (3:13), Yahweh gives answer that on the day of his justice the good will take a glorious revenge (3:14 sqq.). The book closes with a double epilogue; the first recalls the remembrance of Moses, and the laws promulgated on Mount Horeb (4:4; Hebrew text, 3:22); the second announces the coming of Elias before the day of Yahweh (4:5-6; Heb. 3:23-24).

The unity of the book taken as a whole is unquestionable; but many critics consider as the addition of another hand either both the epilogues or at least the second. There is indeed no connection between these passages and what goes before, but from this consideration alone no certain conclusion can be drawn.

Date of Composition.

The opinion brought forward some time ago, that the book of Malachias was composed in the second century B.C. has received no support. Critics practically agree in dating the book from about the middle of the fifth century B.C. The text itself does not furnish any explicit information, but many indications are in favor of the assigned date:

(a) mention of the Peha (1:8), as the political head of the people takes us back to the Persian period; the title of Peha was indeed that borne by the Persian governor especially at Jerusalem (Agg. 1:1; I Esd. 5:14; II Esd. 5:14-15);

(b) the book was not composed during the first years that followed the return from the Babylonian captivity, because not only the Temple exists, but relaxation in the exercise of worship already prevails (Mal. 1:6 sqq.);

(c) on the other hand it is hardly probable that the discourses of Malachias are of later date than Nehemias. In the great assembly which was held during the first sojourn of Nehemias at Jerusalem, among other engagements, the people had taken that of paying the tithes regularly (II Esd. 10:38), and history testifies that in this respect the adopted resolutions were faithfully carried out, although in the distribution of the tithes the Levites were unjustly treated (II Esd. 13:5-13).

Now Malachias complains not of the injustice of which the Levites were the object, but of the negligence on the part of the people themselves in the payment of the tithes (3:10). Again, Malachias does not regard mixed marriages as contrary to a positive engagement, like that which was taken under the direction of Nehemias (II Esd. 10:30); he denounces them on account of their unhappy consequences and of the contempt which they imply for the Jewish nationality (Mal. 2:11-12);

(d) it is not even during the sojourn of Nehemias at Jerusalem that Malachias wrote his book. Nehemias was Peha, and he greatly insists upon his disinterestedness in the exercise of his functions, contrary to the practices of his predecessors (II Esd. 5:14 sqq.); but Malachias gives us to understand that the Peha was severely exacting (1:8);

(e) The date of composition can only fall within some short time before the mission of Nehemias. The complaints and protestations to which this latter gives expression (II Esd. 2:17; 4:4 sq.; 5:6 sqq. etc.) are like an echo of those recorded by Malachias (3:14, 15). The misfortune that weighted so heavily upon the people in the days of Malachias (3:9 sqq.) was still felt during those of Nehemias (II Esd. 5:1 sqq.). Lastly and above all, the abuses condemned by Malachias, namely, the relaxation in religious worship, mixed marriages and the intestine divisions of which they were the cause (Mal. 2:10-12; cf. II Esd. 6:18), the negligence in paying the tithes, were precisely the principal objects of the reforms undertaken by Nehemias (II Esd. 10:31-33, sqq. 38 sqq.). As the first mission of Nehemias falls in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I (II Esd. 2:1), that is in 445 B.C. it follows that the composition of the Book of Malachias may be placed about 450 B.C.

Importance of the Book.

The importance lies (1) in the data which the book furnishes for the study of certain problems of criticism concerning the Old Testament, and (2) in the doctrine it contains.

(1) For the study of the history of the Pentateuch, the Book of Malachias is directly connected with Deuteronomy, and not with any of those parts of the Pentateuch commonly designated under the name of priestly documents. Thus Mal. 1:8, where the prophet speaks of the animals unfit for sacrifice, brings to mind Deut. 15:21, rather than Lev. 22:22 sq.; the passage in Mal. 2:16, relating to divorce by reason of aversion, points to Deut. 24:1. What is even more significant is that, in his manner of characterizing the Tribe of Levi and its relations with the priesthood, Malachias adopts the terminology of Deuteronomy; in speaking of the priests, he brings into evidence their origin not from Aaron but from Levi (2:4-5 sqq.; 3:3 sq.). Consequently, it would be an error to suppose that in this respect Deuteronomy represents a point of view which in the middle of the fifth century was no longer held. Let us add that the first of the two epilogues, with which the book concludes (4:4; Hebrew text, 3:32), is likewise conceived in the spirit of Deuteronomy.

The examination of the Book of Malachias may be brought to bear on the solution of the question as to whether the mission of Esdras, related in I Esd. vii-x, falls in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I (458 B.C.), that is to say, thirteen years before the first mission of Nehemias, or in the seventh year Artaxerxes II (398 B.C.), and therefore after Nehemias. Immediately after his arrival in Jerusalem, Esdras undertakes a radical reform of the abuse of mixed marriages, which are already considered contrary to a positive prohibition (I Esd. 10). He tells us also that, supported by the authority of the King of Persia and with the co-operation of the governors beyond the river, he labored with full success to give to religious worship all its splendor (I Esd. 7:14-20 — 8:36). And nothing whatever justifies the belief that the work of Esdras had but an ephemeral success, for in that case he would not in his own memoirs have related it with so much emphasis without one word of regret for the failure of his effort. Can data such as these be reconciled with the supposition that the state of affairs described by Malachias was the immediate outcome of the work of Esdras related in I Esd. 7-10?

(2) In the doctrine of Malachias one notices with good reason as worthy of interest the attitude taken by the prophet on the subject of divorce (2:14-16). The passage in question is very obscure, but it appears in v. 16 that the prophet disapproves of the divorce tolerated by Deut. 26:1, viz. for cause of aversion.

The Messianic doctrine of Malachias especially appeals to our attention. In Mal. 3:1, Yahweh announces that he will send his messenger to prepare the way before Him. In the second epilogue of the book (4:5-6; Heb. text, 3:23 sq.), this messenger is identified with the prophet Elias. Many passages in the New Testament categorically interpret this double prophecy by applying to John the Baptist, precursor of our Lord (Matt. 11:10, 14; 17:11-12; Mark 9:10 sqq.; Luke 1:17). The prophecy of Malachias, 3:1, adds that, as soon as the messenger shall have prepared the way, "the Lord, whom you seek, and the Angel of the testament, whom you desire," will come to His temple. The Lord is here identified with the angel of the testament; this is evident from the construction of the phrase and from the circumstance that the description of the mission of the angel of the testament (vv. 2 sq.) is continued by the Lord speaking of Himself in the first person in v. 5.

A particularly famous passage is that of Mal. 1:10-11. In spite of a difficulty in the construction of the phrase, which can be avoided by vocalizing one word otherwise than the Massoretes have done (read miqtar, Sept. thymiama, instead of muqtar in verse 11), the literal sense is clear. The principal question is to know what is the sacrifice and pure offering spoken of in v. 11. A large number of Protestant exegetes interpret it of the sacrifices actually being offered from east to west at the time of Malachias himself. According to some, the prophet had in view the sacrifices offered in the name of Yahweh by the proselytes of the Jewish religion among all the nations of the earth; others are more inclined to the belief that he signifies the sacrifices offered by the Jews dispersed among the Gentiles.

But in the fifth century B.C. neither the Jews dispersed among the Gentiles nor the proselytes were sufficiently numerous to justify the solemn utterances used by Malachias; the prophet clearly wants to insist on the universal diffusion of the sacrifice which he has in view. Hence others, following the example of Theodore of Mopsuestia, think they can explain the expression in v. 11 as referring to the sacrifices offered by the pagans to their own gods or to the Supreme God; those sacrifices would have been considered by Malachias as materially offered to Yahweh, because in fact Yahweh is the only true God.

But it appears inconceivable that Yahweh should, by means of Malachias, have looked upon as "pure" and "offered to his name" the sacrifices offered by the Gentiles to this or that divinity; especially when one considers the great importance Malachias attaches to the ritual (1:6 sqq. 12 sqq.; 3:3 sq.) and the attitude he takes towards foreign peoples (1:2 sqq.; 2:11 sq.). The interpretation according to which chap. 1:11, concerns the sacrifices in vogue among the Gentiles at the epoch of Malachias himself fails to recognize that the sacrifice and the pure offering of v. 11 are looked upon as a new institution succeeding the sacrifices of the Temple. They furnish by their very nature a motive sufficient to close the doors of the house of God and extinguish the fire of the altar (v. 10). Consequently, v. 11 must be considered as a Messianic prophecy.

The prophets always propose the universal diffusion of the worship of Yahweh as a characteristic sign of the Messianic reign. That the phrase is construed in the present tense only proves that here, as on other occasions, the prophetic vision contemplates its object absolutely without any regard to the events that should go before its accomplishment. It is true that Mal. 3:3-4, says that after the coming of the angel of the testament the sons of Levi will offer sacrifices in justice, and that the sacrifice of Juda and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord. But the new institutions of the Messianic reign might be considered, either inasmuch as they were the realization of the final stage in the development of those of the Old Testament (and in this case they would naturally be described by the help of the images borrowed from the latter), or inasmuch as they implied the cessation of those of the Old Testament in their proper form. In Mal. 3:3-4, the religious institutions of the Messianic reign are considered from the former point of view, because the language is consolatory; in Mal 1:10-11, they are considered from the latter point of view, because the language here is menacing.

Certain authors, while admitting the Messianic character of the passage, think that it should be interpreted not of a sacrifice in the strict sense of the word, but of a purely spiritual form of devotion. However, the terms employed in v. 11 express the idea of a sacrifice in the strict sense. Moreover, according to the context, the censured sacrifices were not considered impure in their quality of material sacrifices, but on account of the defects with which the victims were affected. It is consequently not on account of an opposition to material sacrifices that the offering spoken of in v. 11 is pure. It is an altogether different question whether or not the text of Malachias alone permits one to determine in a certain measure the exact form of the new sacrifice. A large number of Christian exegetes believe themselves justified in concluding, from the use of the term minhah in v. 11, that the prophet desired formally to signify an unbloody sacrifice. The writer of the present article finds it so much the more difficult to decide on this question, as the word minhah is several times employed by Malachias to signify sacrifice in the generic sense (1:13; 2:12-13; 3:3-4, and in all probability, 1:10). For the rest, the event has shown how the prophecy was to be realized. It is of the Eucharistic sacrifice that Christian antiquity has interpreted the passage of Malachias (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. 22:1).




(Or Messias.)

The Greek form Messias is a transliteration of the Hebrew, Messiah, "the anointed." The word appears only twice of the promised prince (Daniel 9:26; Psalm 2:2); yet, when a name was wanted for the promised one, who was to be at once King and Saviour, it was natural to employ this synonym for the royal title, denoting at the same time the King's royal dignity and His relation to God. The full title "Anointed of Jahveh" occurs in several passages of the Psalms of Solomon and the Apocalypse of Baruch, but the abbreviated form, "Anointed" or "the Anointed," was in common use. When used without the article, it would seem to be a proper name. The word Christos, which in Greek means "Annointed," so occurs in several passages of the Gospels. This, however, is no proof that the word was generally so used at that time. In the Palestine Talmud the form with the article is almost universal, while the common use in the Babylonian Talmud without the article is not a sufficient argument for antiquity to prove that in the time of Christ it was regarded as a proper name. It is proposed in the present article:

I, to give an outline of the prophetic utterances concerning the Messiah;

II, to show the development of the prophetic ideas in later Judaism; and

III, to show how Christ vindicated His right to this title.

The Messiah of Prophecy.

The earlier prophecies to Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 18:17-19; 26:4-5) speak merely of the salvation that shall come through their seed. Later the royal dignity of the promised deliverer becomes the prominent feature. He is described as a king of the line of Jacob (Numbers 24:19), of Juda (Genesis 49:10: "The sceptre shall not pass from Juda until he comes to whom it belongs"), and of David (II Kings 7:11-16). It is sufficiently established that this last passage refers at least typically to the Messiah. His kingdom shall be eternal (II Kings 7:13), His sway boundless (Psalm 71:8); all nations shall serve Him (Psalm 71:11).

In the type of prophecy we are considering, the emphasis is on His position as a national hero. It is to Israel and Juda that He will bring salvation (Jeremiah 23:6), triumphing over their enemies by force of arms (cf. the warrior-king of Psalm 45). Even in the latter part of Isaias there are passages (e.g. 61:5-8) in which other nations are regarded as sharing in the kingdom rather as servants than as heirs, while the function of the Messiah is to lift up Jerusalem to its glory and lay the foundations of an Israelitic theocracy.

But in this part of Isaias also occurs the splendid conception of the Messiah as the Servant of Jahveh. He is a chosen arrow, His mouth like a sharp sword. The Spirit of the Lord is poured out upon Him, and His word is put into His mouth (42:1; 49:1 sq.). The instrument of His power is the revelation of Jahveh. The nations wait on His teaching; He is the light of the Gentiles (42:6). He establishes His Kingdom not by manifestation of material power, but by meekness and suffering, by obedience to the command of God in laying down His life for the salvation of many. "If he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a posterity and prolong his days" (53:10); "Therefore will I distribute to him very many, and he shall divide the spoils of the strong, because he hath delivered his soul unto death, and was reputed with the wicked" (53:12). His Kingdom shall consist of the multitude redeemed by His vicarious satisfaction, a satisfaction confined to no race or time but offered for the redemption of all alike. (For the Messianic application of these passages, especially Isaiah 52:13 to 53, cf. Condamin or Knabenbauer, in loc.) In spite, however, of Justin's use of the last-mentioned passage in "Dial. cum Tryphone," 89, it would be rash to affirm that its reference to the Messiah was at all widely realized among the Jews.

In virtue of his prophetic and priestly offices, the title of "the Anointed" naturally belonged to the promised one. The Messianic priest is described by David in Psalm 109, with reference to Genesis 14:14-20. That this psalm was generally understood in a Messianic sense is not disputed, while the universal consent of the Fathers puts the matter beyond question for Christians. As regards its Davidic authorship, the arguments impugning it afford no warrant for an abandonment of the traditional view. The prophet described in Deuteronomy 18:15-22, was also understood, at least at the beginning of our era, to be the Messiah. This is clear from the appeal to his gift of prophecy made by the pseudo-Messiah Theudas (cf. Josephus, "Antiq." 20, 5, 1) and the use made of the passage by St. Peter in Acts 3:22-23.

Special importance attaches to the prophetic description of the Messiah contained in Daniel 7, the great work of later Judaism, on account of its paramount influence upon one line of the later development of Messianic Doctrine. In it the Messiah is described as "like to a Son of Man," appearing at the right hand of Jahveh in the clouds of heaven, inaugurating the new age, not by a national victory or by vicarious satisfaction, but by exercising the Divine right of judging the whole world. Thus, the emphasis is upon the personal responsibility of the individual.

The consummation is not an earth-won ascendancy of the chosen people, whether shared with otter nations or not, but a vindication of the holy by the solemn judgment of Jahveh and his Anointed One. Upon this prophecy were mainly based the various apocalyptic works which played so prominent a part in the religious life of the Jews during the last two centuries before Christ. Side by side with all these prophecies speaking of the establishment of a kingdom under the sway of a divinely-appointed legate, was the series foretelling the future rule of Jahveh himself. Of these Is. 40, may be taken as an example: "Lift up thy voice with strength thou that bringest good tidings to Sion: lift it up, fear not. Say to the cities of Juda: Behold your God. Behold the Lord your God himself shall come with strength and his arm shall rule."

The reconciliation of these two series of prophecies was before the Jews in the passages — notably Ps. ii and Is. vii-xi — which clearly foretold the Divinity of the promised legate. "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace" — titles all used elsewhere of Jahveh Himself (cf. Davidson, "O.T. Prophecy," p. 367). But there seems to have been little realization of the relation between these two series of prophecy until the full light of the Christian dispensation revealed their reconciliation in the mystery of the Incarnation.

Messianic Doctrine in Late Judaism.

Two quite distinct and parallel lines are discernible in the later development of Messianic doctrine among the Jews, according as the writers clung to a national ideal, based on the literal interpretation of the earlier prophecies, or an apocalyptic ideal, based principally on Daniel. The national ideal looked to the establishment on earth of the Kingdom of God under the Son of David, the conquest and subjugation of the heathen, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the gathering in of the Dispersed. The apocalyptic ideal drew a sharp distinction between aion outos and aion mellon. The future age was to be ushered in by the Divine judgment of mankind preceded by the resurrection of the dead. The Messiah, existing from the beginning of the world, should appear at the consummation, and then should be also manifested the heavenly Jerusalem which was to be the abode of the blessed.

National Ideal.

The national ideal is that of official Pharisaism. Thus, the Talmud has no trace of the apocalyptic ideal. The scribes were mainly busied with the Law, but side by side with this was the development of the hope of the ultimate manifestation of God's Kingdom on earth. Pharisaic influence is clearly visible in vv. 573-808 of Sibyl. 3:describing the national hopes of the Jews. No mention is made of a last judgment, future happiness, or reward. Many marvels are foretold of the Messianic wars which bring in the consummation — lighted torches falling from heaven, the darkening of the sun, the falling of meteors-but all have for end a state of earthly prosperity. The Messiah, coming from the East, dominates the whole, a triumphant national hero.

Similar to this is the work called the Psalms of Solomon, written probably about 40 B.C. It is really the protest of Pharisaism against its enemies, the later Asmoneans. The Pharisees saw that the observance of the law was not of itself a sufficient bulwark against the enemies of Israel, and, as their principles would not allow them to recognize in the secularized hierarchy the promised issue of their troubles, they looked forward to the miraculous intervention of God through the agency of a Davidic Messiah. The seventeenth Psalm describes his rule: He is to conquer the heathen, to drive them from their land, to allow no injustice in their midst; His trust is not to be in armies but in God; with the word of his mouth he is to slay the wicked.

Of earlier date, we have the description of the final glories of the holy city in Tobias (c. 14), where, as well as in Ecclesiasticus, there is evidence of the constant hope in the future gathering in of the Diaspora. These same nationalist ideas reappear along with a highly developed system of eschatology in the apocalyptic works written after the destruction of Jerusalem, which is referred to below.

Apocalyptic Ideal.

The status of the apocalyptic writers as regards the religious life of the Jews has been keenly disputed. Though they had small influence in Jerusalem, the stronghold of Rabbinism, they probably both influenced and reflected the religious feeling of the rest of the Jewish world. Thus, the apocalyptic ideal of the Messiah would seem not to be the sentiment of a few enthusiasts, but to express the true hopes of a considerable section of the people.

Before the Asmonean revival Israel had almost ceased to be a nation, and thus the hope of a national Messiah had grown very dim. In the earliest apocalyptic writings, consequently, nothing is said of the Messiah. In the first part of the Book of Henoch (1-36) we have an example of such a work. Not the coming of a human prince, but the descent of God upon Sinai to judge the world divides all time into two epochs. The just shall receive the gift of wisdom and become sinless. They will feed on the tree of life and enjoy a longer span than the patriarchs.

The Machabean victories roused both the national and religious sentiment. The writers of the earlier Asmonean times, seeing the ancient glories of their race reviving, could no longer ignore the hope of a personal Messiah to rule the kingdom of the new age. The problem arose how to connect their present deliverers, of the tribe of Levi, with the Messiah who should be of the tribe of Juda. This was met by regarding the present age as merely the beginning of the Messianic

Apocalyptic works of the period are the Book of Jubilees, the Testament of the Twelve patriarchs, and the Vision of Weeks of Henoch. In the Book of Jubilees the promises made to Levi, and fulfilled in the Asmonean priest-kings, outshadow those made to Juda. The Messiah is but a vague figure, and little stress is laid on the judgment. The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs is a composite work. The foundation portion, conspicuous from its glorification of the priesthood, dates from before 100 B.C.; there are, however, later Jewish additions, hostile in tone to the priesthood.

Thus the Asmonean triumphs had produced an eschatology in which a personal Messiah figured, while the present was glorified into a commencement of the days of Messianic blessings. The Apocalypse of Baruch, written probably in imitation, contains a similar picture of the Messiah. This system of eschatology finds reflection also in the chiliasm of certain early Christian writers. Transferred to the second coming of the Messiah, we have the reign of peace and holiness for a thousand years upon earth before the just are transported to their eternal home in heaven (cf. Papias in Eusebius, "Hist. eccl." 3, 39).

The Vindication of the Messianic Dignity by Christ.

This point may be treated under two heads (a) Christ's explicit claim to be the Messiah, and (b) the implicit claim shown in His words and actions throughout His life.

Christ's explicit claim to be the Messiah.

Under this heading we may consider the confession of the Apostle Peter in Matthew 16 and the words of Christ before his judges. These incidents involve, of course, far more than a mere claim to the Messiahship; taken in their setting, they constitute a claim to the Divine Sonship. The words of Christ to St. Peter are too clear to need any comment. The silence of the other Synoptists as to some details of the incident concern the proof from this passage rather of the Divinity than of Messianic claims.

As regards Christ's claim before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, it might appear from the narratives of Matthew and Luke that He at first refused a direct reply to the high priest's question: "Art thou the Christ?" But although His answer is given merely as su eipas (thou hast said it), yet that recorded by St. Mark, ego eimi (I am), shows clearly how this answer was understood by the Jews. Dalman (Words of Jesus, pp. 309 sqq.) gives instances from Jewish literature in which the expression, "thou hast said it," is equivalent to "you are right." His comment is that Jesus used the words as an assent indeed, but as showing that He attached comparatively little importance to this statement. Nor is this unreasonable, as the Messianic claim sinks into insignificance beside the claim to Divinity which immediately follows, and calls from the high priest the horrified accusation of blasphemy. It was this which gave the Sanhedrin a pretext, which the Messianic claim of itself did not give, for the death sentence. Before Pilate on the other hand it was merely the assertion of His royal dignity which gave ground for His condemnation.

Christ's implicit claim shown in His words and actions throughout His life.

It is in His consistent manner of acting rather than in any specific claim that we see most clearly Christ's vindication of His dignity. At the outset of His public life (Luke 4:18) He applies to Himself in the synagogue of Nazareth the words relating to the Servant of Jahveh in Isaiah 61:1. It is He whom David in spirit called "Lord!" He claimed to judge the world and to forgive sins. He was superior to the Law, the Lord of the Sabbath, the Master of the Temple. In His own name, by the word of His mouth, He cleansed lepers, He stilled the sea, He raised the dead. His disciples must regard all as well lost merely to enjoy the privilege of following Him. The Jews, while failing to see all that these things implied, a dignity and power not inferior to those of Jahveh Himself, could not but perceive that He who so acted was at least the Divinely accredited representative of Jahveh. In this connection, we may consider the title Christ used of Himself, "Son of Man."

We have no evidence that this was then commonly regarded as a Messianic title. Some doubt as to its meaning in the minds of Christ's hearers is possibly shown by John 12:34: "Who is this Son of man?" The Jews, while undoubtedly seeing in Daniel 7:a portrait of the Messiah, probably failed to recognize in these words a definite title at all. This is the more probable from the fact that, while this passage exercised great influence upon the apocalyptists, the title "Son of Man" does not appear in their writings except in passages of doubtful authenticity.

Now, Christ not merely uses the name, but claims for Himself the right to judge the world (Matt. 25:31-46), which is the most marked note of Daniel's Messiah. A double reason would lead Him to assume this particular designation: that He might speak of Himself as the Messiah without making His claim conspicuous to the ruling powers till the time came for His open vindication, and that as far as possible He might hinder the people from transferring to Him their own material notions of Davidic kingship.

Nor did His claim to the dignity merely concern the future. He did not say, "I shall be the Messiah," but "I am the Messiah." Thus, besides His answer to Caiphas and His approval of Peter's affirmation of His present Messiahship, we have in Matt. 11:5, the guarded but clear answer to the question of the Baptist's disciples: "Art thou ho erchomenos?" In St. John the evidence is abundant. There is no question of a future dignity in His words to the Samaritan woman (John 4) or to the man born blind (9:5), for He was already performing the works foretold of the Messiah. Though but as a grain of mustard seed, the Kingdom of God upon earth was already established; He had already begun the work of the Servant of Jahveh, of preaching, of suffering, of saving men. The consummation of His task and His rule in glory over the Kingdom were indeed still in the future, but these were the final crown, not the sole constituents, of the Messianic dignity.

For those who, before the Christian dispensation, sought to interpret the ancient prophecies, some single aspect of the Messiah sufficed to fill the whole view. We, in the light of the Christian revelation, see realized and harmonized in Our Lord all the conflicting Messianic hopes, all the visions of the prophets. He is at once the Suffering Servant and the Davidic King, the Judge of mankind and its Savior, true Son of Man and God with us. On Him is laid the iniquity of us all, and on Him, as God incarnate, rests the Spirit of Jahveh, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and the Fear of the Lord.


Canon of the Old Testament.

The word canon as applied to the Scriptures has long had a special and consecrated meaning. In its fullest comprehension it signifies the authoritative list or closed number of the writings composed under Divine inspiration, and destined for the well-being of the Church, using the latter word in the wide sense of the theocratic society which began with God's revelation of Himself to the people of Israel, and which finds its ripe development and completion in the Catholic organism. The whole Biblical Canon therefore consists of the canons of the Old and New Testaments.

The Greek kanon means primarily a reed, or measuring-rod: by a natural figure, it was employed by ancient writers both profane and religious to denote a rule or standard. We find the substantive first applied to the Sacred Scriptures in the fourth century, by St. Athanasius; for its derivatives, the Council of Laodicea of the same period speaks of the kanonika biblia and Athanasius of the biblia kanonizomena. The latter phrase proves that the passive sense of canon — that of a regulated and defined collection — was already in use, and this has remained the prevailing connotation of the word in ecclesiastical literature.

The terms protocanonical and deuterocanonical, of frequent usage among modern theologians and exegetes, require a word of caution. They are not felicitous, and it would be wrong to infer from them that the Church successively possessed two distinct Biblical Canons. Only in a partial and restricted way may we speak of a first and second Canon. Protocanonical (protos, "first") is a conventional word denoting those sacred writings which have been always received by Christendom without dispute. The protocanonical books of the Old Testament correspond with those of the Bible of the Hebrews, and the Old Testament as received by Protestants. The deuterocanonical (deuteros, "second") are those whose Scriptural character was contested in some quarters, but which long ago gained a secure footing in the Bible of the entire Church, though those of the Old Testament are classed by Protestants as the "Apocrypha." These consist of seven books: Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First and Second Machabees; also certain additions to Esther and Daniel.

It should be noted that protocanonical and deuterocanonical are modern terms, not having been used before the sixteenth century. As they are of cumbersome length, the latter (being frequently used in this article) will be often found in the abbreviated form deutero.

The scope of an article on the sacred Canon may now be seen to be properly limited regarding the process of

It is thus seen that canonicity is a correlative of inspiration, being the extrinsic dignity belonging to writings which have been officially declared as of sacred origin and authority. It is antecedently very probable that according as a book was written early or late it entered into a sacred collection and attained a canonical standing. Hence the views of traditionalist and critic (not implying that the traditionalist may not also be critical) on the Canon parallel, and are largely influenced by, their respective hypotheses on the origin of its component members.

The Canon Among the Palestinian Jews (Protocanonical Books).

It has already been intimated that there is a smaller, or incomplete, and larger, or complete, Old Testament. Both of these were handed down by the Jews; the former by the Palestinian, the latter by the Alexandrian, Hellenist, Jews.

The Jewish Bible of today is composed of three divisions, whose titles combined from the current Hebrew name for the complete Scriptures of Judaism: Hat-Torah, Nebiim, and wa-Kéthubim, i.e. The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. This triplication is ancient; it is supposed as long-established in the Mishnah, the Jewish code of unwritten sacred laws, reduced to writing, c. A.D. 200. A grouping closely akin to it occurs in the New Testament in Christ's own words, Luke 24:44: "All things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me."

Going back to the prologue of Ecclesiasticus, prefixed to it about 132 B.C. we find mentioned "the Law, and the Prophets, and others that have followed them." The Torah, or Law, consists of the five Mosaic books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. The Prophets were subdivided by the Jews into the Former Prophets [i.e. the prophetico-historical books: Josue, Judges, Samuel, (I and II Kings), and Kings (III and IV Kings)] and the Latter Prophets (Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and the twelve minor Prophets, counted by the Hebrews as one book). The Writings, more generally known by a title borrowed from the Greek Fathers, Hagiographa (holy writings), embrace all the remaining books of the Hebrew Bible. Named in the order in which they stand in the current Hebrew text, these are: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticle of Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Esdras, Nehemias, or II Esdras, Paralipomenon.

Traditional view of the Canon of the Palestinian Jews.


In opposition to scholars of more recent views, conservatives do not admit that the Prophets and the Hagiographa represent two successive stages in the formation of the Palestinian Canon. According to this older school, the principle which dictated the separation between the Prophets and the Hagiographa was not of a chronological kind, but one found in the very nature of the respective sacred compositions. That literature was grouped under the Ké-thubim, or Hagiographa, which neither was the direct product of the prophetical order, namely, that comprised in the Latter Prophets, nor contained the history of Israel as interpreted by the same prophetic teachers — narratives classed as the Former Prophets. The Book of Daniel was relegated to the Hagiographa as a work of the prophetic gift indeed, but not of the permanent prophetic office.

These same conservative students of the Canon — now scarcely represented outside the Church — maintain, for the reception of the documents composing these groups into the sacred literature of the Israelites, dates which are in general much earlier than those admitted by critics. They place the practical, if not formal, completion of the Palestinian Canon in the era of Esdras (Ezra) and Nehemias, about the middle of the fifth century B.C. while true to their adhesion to a Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, they insist that the canonization of the five books followed soon after their composition.

Since the traditionalists infer the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch from other sources, they can rely for proof of an early collection of these books chiefly on Deuteronomy, 31:9-13, 24-26, where there is question of a books of the law, delivered by Moses to the priests with the command to keep it in the ark and read it to the people on the feast of Tabernacles. But the effort to identify this book with the entire Pentateuch is not convincing to the opponents of Mosaic authorship.

The Remainder of the Palestinian-Jewish Canon.

Without being positive on the subject, the advocates of the older views regard it as highly probable that several additions were made to the sacred repertory between the canonization of the Mosaic Torah above described and the Exile (598 B.C.). They cite especially Isaias, 34:16; II Paralipomenon, 29:30; Proverbs, 25:1; Daniel, 9:2. For the period following the Babylonian Exile the conservative argument takes a more confident tone. This was an era of construction, a turning-point in the history of Israel. The completion of the Jewish Canon, by the addition of the Prophets and Hagiographa as bodies to the Law, is attributed by conservatives to Esdras, the priest-scribe and religious leader of the period, abetted by Nehemias, the civil governor; or at least to a school of scribes founded by the former. (Cf. II Esdras 8-10; II Machabees 2:13, in the Greek original.)

Far more arresting in favor of an Esdrine formulation of the Hebrew Bible is a the much discussed passage from Josephus, "Contra Apionem," 1:viii, in which the Jewish historian, writing about A.D. 100, registers his conviction and that of his coreligionists. This conviction, presumably based on tradition, maintains that the Scriptures of the Palestinian Hebrews formed a closed and sacred collection from the days of the Persian king, Artaxerxes Longiamanus (465-425 B.C.), a contemporary of Esdras.

Josephus is the earliest writer who numbers the books of the Jewish Bible. In its present arrangement this contains 40; Josephus arrived at 22 artificially, in order to match the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, by means of collocations and combinations borrowed in part from the Septuagint. The conservative exegetes find a confirmatory argument in a statement of the apocryphas Fourth Book of Esdras (14:18-47), under whose legendary envelope they see an historical truth, and a further one in a reference in the Baba Bathra tract of the Babylonian Talmud to hagiographic activity on the part of "the men of the Great Synagogue," and Esdras and Nehemias.

However, the Scripturists who admit an Esdrine Canon are far from allowing that Esdras and his colleagues intended to close up the sacred library so as to bar any possible future accessions. The Spirit of God might and did breathe into later writings, and the presence of the deuterocanonical books in the Church's Canon at once forestalls and answers those Protestant theologians of a preceding generation who claimed that Esdras was a Divine agent for an inviolable fixing and sealing of the Old Testament. To this extent at least, writers on the subject dissent from the drift of the Josephus testimony. And while there is what may be called a consensus of exegetes of the conservative type on an Esdrine or quasi-Esdrine formulation of the canon, as far as the existing material permitted it, this agreement is not absolute; Kaulen and Danko, favoring a later completion, are the notable exceptions among the above-mentioned scholars.

Critical views of the formation of the Palestinian Canon.

Its three constituent bodies, the Law, Prophets, and Hagiographa, represent a growth and correspond to three periods more or less extended. The reason for the isolation of the Hagiographa from the Prophets was therefore mainly chronological. The only division marked off clearly by intrinsic features is the legal element of the Old Testament, viz. the Pentateuch.

The Torah, or Law.

Until the reign of King Josias, and the epoch-making discovery of "the book of the law" in the Temple (621 B.C.), say the critical exegetes, there was in Israel no written code of laws, or other work, universally acknowledged as of supreme and Divine authority. This "book of the law" was practically identical with Deuteronomy, and its recognition or canonization consisted in the solemn pact entered into by Josias and the people of Juda, described in IV Kings 23.

Three things demonstrate that a written sacred Torah was previously unknown among the Israelites. The first is the negative evidence of the earlier prophets. Second is the absence of any such factor from the religious reform undertaken by Ezechias (Hezekiah), while it was the mainspring of that carried out by Josias. Third and last is the plain surprise and consternation of the latter ruler at the finding of such a work. This argument, in fact, is the pivot of the current system of Pentateuchal criticism, and will be developed more at length in the article on the Pentateuch, as also the thesis attacking the Mosaic authorship and promulgation of the latter as a whole. The actual publication of the entire Mosaic code, according to the dominant hypothesis, did not occur until the days of Esdras, and is narrated in chapters viii-x of the second book bearing that name. In this connection must be mentioned the argument from the Samaritan Pentateuch to establish that the Esdrine Canon took in nothing beyond the Hexateuch, i.e. the Pentateuch plus Josue.

The Nebiim, or Prophets

There is no direct light upon the time or manner in which the second stratum of the Hebrew Canon was finished. The creation of the above-mentioned Samaritan Canon (c. 432 B.C.) may furnish a terminus a quo; perhaps a better one is the date of the expiration of prophecy about the close of the fifth century before Christ. For the other terminus the lowest possible date is that of the prologue to Ecclesiasticus (c. 132 B.C.), which speaks of "the Law," and the Prophets, and the others that have followed them." But compare Ecclesiasticus itself, chapters xlvi-xlix, for an earlier one.

The Kéthubim, or Hagiographa Completes of the Jewish Canon

Critical opinion as to date ranged from c. 165 B.C. to the middle of the second century of our era (Wildeboer). Christian scholars, without sharing all the views of the advanced exegetes, regard the Hebrew Hagiographa as not definitely settled until after Christ. It is an incontestable fact that some rabbis disputed the sacredness of certain parts of the Palestinian Bible (Esther, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles) as late as the second century of the Christian Era (Mishna, Yadaim, 3:5; Babylonian Talmud, Megilla, fol. 7). However differing as to dates, the critics are assured that the distinction between the Hagiographa and the Prophetic Canon was one essentially chronological. It was because the Prophets already formed a sealed collection that Ruth, Lamentations, and Daniel, though naturally belonging to it, could not gain entrance, but had to take their place with the last-formed division, the Kéthubim.

The Protocanonical Books and the New Testament.

The absence of any citations from Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles may be reasonably explained by their unsuitability for New Testament purposes, and is further discounted by the non-citation of the two books of Esdras. Abdias, Nahum, and Sophonias, while not directly honored, are included in the quotations from the other minor Prophets by virtue of the traditional unity of that collection. On the one hand, such frequent terms as "the Scripture," the "Scriptures," "the holy Scriptures," applied in the New Testament to the other sacred writings, would lead us to believe that the latter already formed a definite fixed collection. But, on the other, the reference in St. Luke to "the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms," while demonstrating the fixity of the Torah and the Prophets as sacred groups, does not warrant us in ascribing the same fixity to the third division, the Palestinian-Jewish Hagiographa. If, as seems certain, the exact content of the broader catalogue of the Old Testament Scriptures (that comprising the deutero books) cannot be established from the New Testament, a fortiori there is no reason to expect that it should reflect the precise extension of the narrower and Judaistic Canon. We are sure, of course, that all the Hagiographa were eventually, before the death of the last Apostle, divinely committed to the Church as Holy Scriptures, but we known this as a truth of faith, and by theological deduction, not from documentary evidence in the New Testament The latter fact has a bearing against the Protestant claim that Jesus approved and transmitted en bloc an already defined Bible of the Palestinian Synagogue.

Authors and Standards of Canonicity among the Jews.

Though the Old Testament reveals no formal notion of inspiration, the later Jews at least must have possessed the idea (cf. II Timothy, 3:16; II Peter 1:21). There is an instance of a Talmudic doctor distinguishing between a composition "given by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit" and one supposed to be the product of merely human wisdom. But as to our distinct concept of canonicity, it is a modern idea, and even the Talmud gives no evidence of it. To characterize a book which held no acknowledged place in the divine library, the rabbis spoke of it as "defiling the hands," a curious technical expression due probably to the desire to prevent any profane touching of the sacred roll.

But though the formal idea of canonicity was wanting among the Jews, the fact existed. Regarding the sources of canonicity among the Hebrew ancients, we are left to surmise an analogy. There are both psychological and historical reasons against the supposition that the Old Testament Canon grew spontaneously by a kind of instinctive public recognition of inspired books. True, it is quite reasonable to assume that the prophetic office in Israel carried its own credentials, which in a large measure extended to its written compositions. But there were many pseudo-prophets in the nation, and so some authority was necessary to draw the line between the true and the false prophetical writings. And an ultimate tribunal was also needed to set its seal upon the miscellaneous and in some cases mystifying literature embraced in the Hagiographa.

Jewish tradition, as illustrated by the already cited Josephus, Baba Bathra, and pseudo-Esdras data, points to authority as the final arbiter of what was Scriptural and what not. The so-called Council of Jamnia (c. A.D. 90) has reasonably been taken as having terminated the disputes between rival rabbinic schools concerning the canonicity of Canticles. So while the intuitive sense and increasingly reverent consciousness of the faithful element of Israel could, and presumably did, give a general impulse and direction to authority, we must conclude that it was the word of official authority which actually fixed the limits of the Hebrew Canon, and here, broadly speaking, the advanced and conservative exegetes meet on common ground. However the case may have been for the Prophets, the preponderance of evidence favors a late period as that in which the Hagiographa were closed, a period when the general body of Scribes dominated Judaism, sitting "in the chair of Moses," and alone having the authority and prestige for such action. The term general body of Scribes has been used advisedly; contemporary scholars gravely suspect, when they do not entirely reject, the "Great Synagogue" of rabbinic tradition, and the matter lay outside the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrim.

As a touchstone by which uncanonical and canonical works were discriminated, an important influence was that of the Pentateuchal Law. This was always the Canon par excellence of the Israelites. To the Jews of the Middle Ages the Torah was the inner sanctuary, or Holy of Holies, while the Prophets were the Holy Place, and the Kéthubim only the outer court of the Biblical temple, and this medieval conception finds ample basis in the pre-eminence allowed to the Law by the rabbis of the Talmudic age. Indeed, from Esdras downwards the Law, as the oldest portion of the Canon, and the formal expression of God's commands, received the highest reverence. The Cabbalists of the second century after Christ, and later schools, regarded the other section of the Old Testament as merely the expansion and interpretation of the Pentateuch.

We may be sure, then, that the chief test of canonicity, at least for the Hagiographa, was conformity with the Canon par excellence, the Pentateuch. It is evident, in addition, that no book was admitted which had not been composed in Hebrew, and did not possess the antiquity and prestige of a classic age, or name at least. These criteria are negative and exclusive rather than directive. The impulse of religious feeling or liturgical usage must have been the prevailing positive factors in the decision. But the negative tests were in part arbitrary, and an intuitive sense cannot give the assurance of Divine certification. Only later was the infallible Voice to come, and then it was to declare that the Canon of the Synagogue, though unadulterated indeed, was incomplete.

The Canon Among the Alexandrian Jews (Deuterocanonical Books).

The most striking difference between the Protestant and other Christian Bibles is the presence in the latter of a number of writings which are wanting in the latter and also in the Hebrew Bible, which became the Old Testament of Protestantism. These number seven books: Tobias (Tobit), Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, I and II Machabees, and three documents added to protocanonical books, viz. the supplement to Esther, from 10:4, to the end, the Canticle of the Three Youths (Song of the Three Children) in Daniel, 3:and the stories of Susanna and the Elders and Bel and the Dragon, forming the closing chapters of the Catholic version of that book. Of these works, Tobias and Judith were written originally in Aramaic, perhaps in Hebrew; Baruch and I Machabees in Hebrew, while Wisdom and II Machabees were certainly composed in Greek. The probabilities favor Hebrew as the original language of the addition to Esther, and Greek for the enlargements of Daniel.

The ancient Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint was the vehicle which conveyed these additional Scriptures into the Church. The Septuagint version was the Bible of the Greek-speaking, or Hellenist, Jews, whose intellectual and literary center was Alexandria. The oldest extant copies date from the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, and were therefore made by Christian hands; nevertheless scholars generally admit that these faithfully represent the Old Testament as it was current among the Hellenist or Alexandrian Jews in the age immediately preceding Christ.

These venerable manuscripts of the Septuagint vary somewhat in their content outside the Palestinian Canon, showing that in Alexandrian-Jewish circles the number of admissible extra books was not sharply determined either by tradition or by authority. However, aside from the absence of Machabees from the Codex Vaticanus (the very oldest copy of the Greek Old Testament), all the entire manuscripts contain all the deutero writings; where the manuscript Septuagints differ from one another, with the exception noted, it is in a certain excess above the deuterocanonical books. It is a significant fact that in all these Alexandrian Bibles the traditional Hebrew order is broken up by the interspersion of the additional literature among the other books, outside the law, thus asserting for the extra writings a substantial equality of rank and privilege.

It is pertinent to ask the motives which impelled the Hellenist Jews to thus, virtually at least, canonize this considerable section of literature, some of it very recent, and depart so radically from the Palestinian tradition. Some would have it that not the Alexandrian, but the Palestinian, Jews departed from the Biblical tradition. Christian writers have advocated the view that originally the Palestinian Canon must have included all the deuterocanonicals, and so stood down to the time of the Apostles (Kaulen, c. 100 B.C.). At that time, moved by the fact that the Septuagint had become the Old Testament of the Church, the Jerusalem Scribes put it under ban, actuated (thus especially Kaulen) by hostility to the Hellenistic largeness of spirit and Greek composition of our deuterocanonical books. These exegetes place much reliance on St. Justin Martyr's statement that the Jews had mutilated Holy Writ, a statement that rests on no positive evidence. They adduce the fact that certain deutero books were quoted with veneration, and even in a few cases as Scriptures, by Palestinian or Babylonian doctors. But the private utterances of a few rabbis cannot outweigh the consistent Hebrew tradition of the canon, attested by Josephus — although he himself was inclined to Hellenism — and even by the Alexandrian-Jewish author of IV Esdras.

We are therefore forced to admit that the leaders of Alexandrian Judaism showed a notable independence of Jerusalem tradition and authority in permitting the sacred boundaries of the Canon, which certainly had been fixed for the Prophets, to be broken by the insertion of an enlarged Daniel and the Epistle of Baruch. On the assumption that the limits of the Palestinian Hagiographa remained undefined until a relatively late date, there was less bold innovation in the addition of the other books, but the wiping out of the lines of the triple division reveals that the Hellenists were ready to extend the Hebrew Canon, if not establish a new official one of their own.

On their human side these innovations are to be accounted for by the free spirit of the Hellenist Jews. Under the influence of Greek thought they had conceived a broader view of Divine inspiration than that of their Palestinian brethren, and refused to restrict the literary manifestations of the Holy Spirit to a certain terminus of time and the Hebrew form of language. The Book of Wisdom, emphatically Hellenist in character, presents to us Divine wisdom as flowing on from generation to generation and making holy souls and prophets (7:27, in the Greek). Philo, a typical Alexandrian-Jewish thinker, has even an exaggerated notion of the diffusion of inspiration (Quis rerum divinarum hæres, 52; ed. Lips. 3:57; De migratione Abrahæ, 11,299; ed. Lips. 2:334). But even Philo, while indicating acquaintance with the deutero literature, nowhere cites it in his voluminous writings. True, he does not employ several books of the Hebrew Canon; but there is a natural presumption that if he had regarded the additional works as being quite on the same plane as the others, he would not have failed to quote so stimulating and congenial a production as the Book of Wisdom.

Moreover, as has been pointed out by several authorities, the independent spirit of the Hellenists could not have gone so far as to setup a different official Canon from that of Jerusalem, without having left historical traces of such a rupture. So, from the available data we may justly infer that, while the deuterocanonicals were admitted as sacred by the Alexandrian Jews, they possessed a lower degree of sanctity and authority than the longer accepted books, i.e. the Palestinian Hagiographa and the Prophets, themselves inferior to the Law.

The Canon of the Old Testament in the Roman Catholic Church.

The most explicit definition of the iaa s follows:

The five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first and second of Esdras (which latter is called Nehemias), Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidic Psalter (in number one hundred and fifty Psalms), Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets (Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacue, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias), two books of Machabees, the first and second.

The order of books is that of the Septuagint. The divergence of titles from those found in the Protestant versions is due to the fact that the official Latin Vulgate retained the forms of the Septuagint.

The Old Testament Canon (Including tThe Deuteros) in the New Testament.

The larger Canon of the Old Testament passed through the Apostles' hands to the church tacitly, by way of their usage and whole attitude toward its components. This attitude which, for most of the sacred writings of the Old Testament, reveals itself in the New, and for the rest, must have exhibited itself in oral utterances, or at least in tacit approval of the special reverence of the faithful. Reasoning backward from the status in which we find the deutero books in the earliest ages of post-Apostolic Christianity, we rightly affirm that such a status points of Apostolic sanction, which in turn must have rested on revelation either by Christ or the Holy Spirit. For the deuterocanonicals at least, we needs must have recourse to this legitimate prescriptive argument, owing to the complexity and inadequacy of the New Testament data.

All the books of the Hebrew Old Testament are cited in the New except those which have been aptly called the Antilegomena of the Old Testament, viz. Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles; moreover Esdras and Nehemias are not employed. The admitted absence of any explicit citation of the deutero writings does not therefore prove that they were regarded as inferior to the above-mentioned works in the eyes of New Testament personages and authors.

The deutero literature was in general unsuited to their purposes, and some consideration should be given to the fact that even at its Alexandrian home it was not quoted by Jewish writers, as we saw in the case of Philo. The negative argument drawn from the non-citation of the deuterocanonicals in the New Testament is especially minimized by the indirect use made of them by the same Testament. This takes the form of allusions and reminiscences, and shows unquestionably that the Apostles and Evangelists were acquainted with the Alexandrian increment, regarded its books as at least respectable sources, and wrote more or less under its influence. A comparison of Hebrews, xi and II Machabees vi and vii reveals unmistakable references in the former to the heroism of the martyrs glorified in the latter. There are close affinities of thought, and in some cases also of language, between I Peter 1:6, 7, and Wisdom 3:5, 6; Hebrews 1:3, and Wisdom 7:26, 27; I Corinthians 10:9, 10, and Judith 8:24-25; I Corinthians 6:13, and Ecclesiasticus 36:20.

Yet the force of the direct and indirect employment of Old Testament writings by the New is slightly impaired by the disconcerting truth that at least one of the New Testament authors, St. Jude, quotes explicitly from the "Book of Henoch," long universally recognized as apocryphal, see verse 14. In verse 9 he borrows from another apocryphal narrative, the "Assumption of Moses." The New Testament quotations from the Old are in general characterized by a freedom and elasticity regarding manner and source which further ten to diminish their weight as proofs of canonicity. But so far as concerns the great majority of the Palestinian Hagiographa — a fortiori, the Pentateuch and Prophets — whatever want of conclusiveness there may be in the New Testament, evidence of their canonical standing is abundantly supplemented from Jewish sources alone. We find this in the series of witnesses beginning with the Mishnah and running back through Josephus and Philo to the translation of the above books for the Hellenist Greeks.

But for the deuterocanonical literature, only the last testimony speaks as a Jewish confirmation. However, there are signs that the Greek version was not deemed by its readers as a closed Bible of definite sacredness in all its parts, but that its somewhat variable contents shaded off in the eyes of the Hellenists from the eminently sacred Law down to works of questionable divinity, such as III Machabees.

This factor should be considered in weighing a certain argument. A large number of Christian writers see a canonization of the deuteros in a supposed wholesale adoption and approval, by the Apostles, of the Greek, and therefore larger, Old Testament The argument is not without a certain force. The New Testament undoubtedly shows a preference for the Septuagint; out of the 350 texts from the Old Testament, 300 favor the language of the Greek version rather than that of the Hebrew. But there are considerations which bid us hesitate to admit an Apostolic adoption of the Septuagint en bloc. As remarked above, there are cogent reasons for believing that it was not a fixed quantity at the time. The existing oldest representative manuscripts are not entirely identical in the books they contain. Moreover, it should be remembered that at the beginning of our era, and for some time later, complete sets of any such voluminous collection as the Septuagint in manuscript would be extremely rare; the version must have been current in separate books or groups of books, a condition favorable to a certain variability of compass. So neither a fluctuating Septuagint nor an inexplicit New Testament conveys to us the exact extension of the pre-Christian Bible transmitted by the Apostles to the Primitive Church.

It is more tenable to conclude to a selective process under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and a process completed so late in Apostolic times that the New Testament fails to reflect its mature result regarding either the number or note of sanctity of the extra-Palestinian books admitted. To historically learn the Apostolic Canon of the Old Testament we must interrogate less sacred but later documents, expressing more explicitly the belief of the first ages of Christianity.

The Canon of the Old Testament in the Church of the First Three Centuries.

The sub-Apostolic writings of Clement, Polycarp, the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, of the pseudo-Clementine homilies, and the "Shepherd" of Hermas, contain implicit quotations from or allusions to all the deuterocanonicals except Baruch (which anciently was often united with Jeremias) and I Machabees and the additions to David. No unfavorable argument can be drawn from the loose, implicit character of these citations, since these Apostolic Fathers quote the protocanonical Scriptures in precisely the same manner.

Coming down to the next age, that of the apologists, we find Baruch cited by Athenagoras as a prophet. St. Justin Martyr is the first to note that the Church has a set of Old Testament Scriptures different from the Jews', and also the earliest to intimate the principle proclaimed by later writers, namely, the self-sufficiency of the Church in establishing the Canon; its independence of the Synagogue in this respect.

The full realization of this truth came slowly, at least in the Orient, where there are indications that in certain quarters the spell of Palestinian-Jewish tradition was not fully cast off for some time. St. Melito, Bishop of Sardis (c. 170), first drew up a list of the canonical books of the Old Testament While maintaining the familiar arrangement of the Septuagint, he says that he verified his catalogue by inquiry among Jews. Jewry by that time had everywhere discarded the Alexandrian books, and Melito's Canon consists exclusively of the protocanonicals minus Esther.

It should be noticed, however, that the document to which this catalogue was prefixed is capable of being understood as having an anti-Jewish polemical purpose, in which case Melito's restricted canon is explicable on another ground. St. Irenæus, always a witness of the first rank, on account of his broad acquaintance with ecclesiastical tradition, vouches that Baruch was deemed on the same footing as Jeremias, and that the narratives of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon were ascribed to Daniel.

The weighty authority of Origen represents the Alexandrian tradition. Influenced, doubtless, by the Alexandrian-Jewish usage of acknowledging in practice the extra writings as sacred while theoretically holding to the narrower Canon of Palestine, his catalogue of the Old Testament Scriptures contains only the protocanonical books, though it follows the order of the Septuagint. Nevertheless Origen employs all the deuterocanonicals as Divine Scriptures, and in his letter of Julius Africanus defends the sacredness of Tobias, Judith, and the fragments of Daniel, at the same time implicitly asserting the autonomy of the Church in fixing the Canon (see references in Cornely). In his Hexaplar edition of the Old Testament all the deuteros find a place. The sixth-century Biblical manuscript known as the "Codex Claromontanus" contains a catalogue to which both Harnack and Zahn assign an Alexandrian origin, about contemporary with Origen. At any rate, it dates from the period under examination and comprises all the deuterocanonical books, with IV Machabees besides.

St. Hippolytus (d. 236) may fairly be considered as representing the primitive Roman tradition. He comments on the Susanna chapter, often quotes Wisdom as the work of Solomon, and employs as Sacred Scripture Baruch and the Machabees. For the West African Church the larger canon has two strong witnesses in Tertullian and St. Cyprian. All the deuteros except Tobias, Judith, and the addition to Esther, are Biblically used in the works of these Fathers.

The Canon of the Old Testament During the Fifth Century.

In this period the position of the deuterocanonical literature is no longer as secure as in the primitive age. The doubts which arose should be attributed largely to a reaction against the apocryphal or pseudo-Biblical writings with which the East especially had been flooded by heretical and other writers. Negatively, the situation became possible through the absence of any Apostolic or ecclesiastical definition of the Canon. The definite and inalterable determination of the sacred sources, like that of all Christian doctrines, was in the Divine economy left to gradually work itself out under the stimulus of questions and opposition.

Alexandria, with its elastic Scriptures, had from the beginning been a congenial field for apocryphal literature, and St. Athanasius, the vigilant pastor of that flock, to protect it against the pernicious influence, drew up a catalogue of books with the values to be attached to each. First, the strict canon and authoritative source of truth is the Jewish Old Testament, Esther excepted. Besides, there are certain books which the Fathers had appointed to be read to catechumens for edification and instruction; these are the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Esther, Judith, Tobias, the Didache, or Doctrine of the Apostles, the Shepherd of Hermas. All others are apocrypha and the inventions of heretics (Festal Epistle for 367). Following the precedent of Origen and the Alexandrian tradition, the saintly doctor recognized no other formal canon of the Old Testament than the Hebrew one; but also, faithful to the same tradition, he practically admitted the deutero books to a Scriptural dignity, as is evident from his general usage.

At Jerusalem there was a renascence, perhaps a survival, of Jewish ideas, the tendency there being distinctly unfavorable to the deuteros. St. Cyril of that see, while vindicating for the Church the right to fix the Canon, places them among the apocrypha and forbids all books to be read privately which are not read in the churches. In Antioch and Syria, the attitude was more favorable. St. Epiphanius shows hesitation about the rank of the deuteros; he esteemed them, but they had not the same place as the Hebrew books in his regard. The historian Eusebius attests the widespread doubts in his time; he classes them as antilegomena, or disputed writings, and, like Athanasius, places them in a class intermediate between the books received by all and the apocrypha.

The 59th (or 60th) canon of the provincial Council of Laodicea gives a catalogue of the Scriptures entirely in accord with the ideas of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. On the other hand, the Oriental versions and Greek manuscripts of the period are more liberal; the extant ones have all the deuterocanonicals and, in some cases, certain apocrypha.

The influence of Origen's and Athanasius's restricted canon naturally spread to the West. St. Hilary of Poitiers and Rufinus followed their footsteps, excluding the deuteros from canonical rank in theory, but admitting them in practice. The latter styles them "ecclesiastical" books, but in authority unequal to the other Scriptures. Blessed Jerome cast his weighty suffrage on the side unfavorable to the disputed books. In appreciating his attitude we must remember that Jerome lived long in Palestine, in an environment where everything outside the Jewish Canon was suspect, and that, moreover, he had an excessive veneration for the Hebrew text, the Hebraica veritas as he called it. In his famous "Prologus Galeatus," or Preface to his translation of Samuel and Kings, he declares that everything not Hebrew should be classed with the apocrypha, and explicitly says that Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobias, and Judith are not on the Canon. These books, he adds, are read in the churches for the edification of the people, and not for the confirmation of revealed doctrine.

An analysis of Jerome's expressions on the deuterocanonicals, in various letters and prefaces, yields the following results. First, he strongly doubted their inspiration. Secondly, the fact that he occasionally quotes them, and translated some of them as a concession to ecclesiastical tradition, is an involuntary testimony on his part to the high standing these writings enjoyed in the Church at large, and to the strength of the practical tradition which prescribed their readings in public worship. Obviously, the inferior rank to which the deuteros were relegated by authorities like Origen, Athanasius, and Jerome, was due to too rigid a conception of canonicity, one demanding that a book, to be entitled to this supreme dignity, must be received by all, must have the sanction of Jewish antiquity, and must moreover be adapted not only to edification, but also to the "confirmation of the doctrine of the Church," to borrow Jerome's phrase.

The Canon of the Old Testament from to the Close of the Seventh Century.

This period exhibits a curious exchange of opinions between the West and the East, while ecclesiastical usage remained unchanged. During this intermediate age the use of Blessed Jerome's new version of the Old Testament (the Vulgate) became widespread in the Occident. With its text went Jerome's prefaces disparaging the deuterocanonicals, and under the influence of his authority the West began to distrust these and to show the first symptoms of a current hostile to their canonicity. On the other hand, the Oriental Church imported a Western authority which had canonized the disputed books, viz. the decree of Carthage, and from this time there is an increasing tendency among the Greeks to place the deuteros on the same level with the others.

E. The Canon of the Old Testament During the Middle Ages.

The Greek Church.

The result of this tendency among the Greeks was that about the beginning of the twelfth century they possessed a canon identical with that of the Latins, except that it took in the apocryphal III Machabees. That all the deuteros were liturgically recognized in the Greek Church at the era of the schism in the ninth century, is indicated by the "Syntagma Canonum" of Photius.

The Greek Orthodox Church preserved its ancient Canon in practice as well as theory until recent times.

The Canon of the Old Testament Outside the Church.

Among Various Heresies.

The Monophysites, Nestorians, Jacobites, Armenians, and Copts, while concerning themselves very little with the Canon, admit the complete catalogue and several apocrypha besides.


Among Protestants.

The Protestant Churches have continued to exclude the deutero writings from their canons, classifying them as "Apocrypha." Presbyterians and Calvinists in general, especially since the Westminster Synod of 1648, have been the most uncompromising enemies of any recognition, and owing to their influence the British and Foreign Bible Society decided in 1826 to refuse to distribute Bibles containing the Apocrypha. Since that time the publication of the deuterocanonicals as an appendix to Protestant Bibles has almost entirely ceased in English-speaking countries. The books still supply lessons for the liturgy of the Church of England, but the number has been lessened by the hostile agitation. There is an Apocrypha appendix to the British Revised Version, in a separate volume. The deuteros are still appended to the German Bibles printed under the auspices of the orthodox Lutherans.