An Investigation In Syriac Philology -- By: Benjamin Davies

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 008:31 (Jul 1851)
Article: An Investigation In Syriac Philology
Author: Benjamin Davies


An Investigation In Syriac Philology

Benjamin Davies

Those who read with interest the article of Dr. Murdock on The Syriac Words for Baptism, in the Bibliotheca Sacra for Oct. 1850, may be inclined to inquire farther into the subject. The following remarks are respectfully offered in aid of that inquiry. It is indeed much to be wished, for the sake of Syriac philology, that an article on the question were contributed by one of the most learned and judicious of the American missionaries to the Nestorians, on whom chiefly the revival of Syriac literature may be said now legitimately to depend. But in the absence of such a contribution, the following may have its interest and its use.

The question may be thus stated. Is the Syriac , ,to be baptized, radically identical with the Hebrew עָמַד to stand, and therefore not properly expressive of the outward act indicated by βαπτίζω?

It is in the highest degree probable, that the Syrians had once a root to stand; since pillar (Heb. עַמּוּד) is clearly derived from it, and since all the cognate tongues (Heb., Chald., Samar., Arab, and Ethiopic) have it, with substantially the same meaning. But of the actual use of the verb in Syriac to denote to stand, no example has yet been found, as Michaelis (in his edition of Castell’s Syriac Lexicon sub voce) observes, ‘Standi significatione, reliquis linguis Orientalibus communem, apud Syros non reperio.’ Yet it has been the general opinion of Syriac scholars, that the word used for βαπτίζω had originally that very signification, as the same great Orientalist mentions, ‘In hac baptizandi significatione conferunt haud pauci cum Hebraico עמד stetit, ita ut, stare, sit, stare in flumine, illoque mergi. In this opinion and explanation, even Gesenius concurred, as may be seen under עמד, in the second edition of his Lexicon, by Dr. Robinson. But it is not too much to say, that discreet philology will feel some difficulty in accepting this view; Michaelis at least felt it, and declared, “Mihi verisimilius, diversum plane ab עמד, litterarumque aliqua permutatione ortum ex submergere. The existence of some difficulty in the case is also indicated and aptly illustrated by the great diversity which is manifest in the explanations offered by

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