Oriental Philology -- By: F. A. Tholuck

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 102:406 (Apr 1945)
Article: Oriental Philology
Author: F. A. Tholuck

Oriental Philology

F. A. Tholuck, D.D.

(Reprint from the February, 1844 Number of Bibliotheca Sacra)

A knowledge of the Oriental languages is requisite for the thorough understanding of the Old and New Testaments. It is requisite for the Old Testament because the Hebrew forms of speech are far better comprehended when they are compared with the cognate dialects, because the signification of many Hebrew words can be learned only by aid of these dialects, because some parts of the Old Testament are written in the Chaldaic idiom, because there are some very important translations of the Old Testament into Oriental languages, and lastly, because there are some instructive rabbinical commentaries on the Old Testament. A knowledge of the Oriental languages is requisite for the thorough understanding of the New Testament because the Syriac version of this Testament, which is a work of the second century, is very important in respect of exegesis and criticism, because in the time of Christ the Aramaean dialect was commonly spoken in Palestine and therefore many expressions of the Saviour and His apostles can be explained by the Aramaean, because, lastly, the spirit of the Oriental literature is discernible in the New Testament writings, at least in respect of style and form….

The Arabic language is usually recommended to the theologian as the most useful of the cognate dialects. This tongue has indeed the most extensive literature and yields an uncommonly rich amount of grammatical and lexicographical information. It has received the labors of philologists with whom the Arabic was the vernacular tongue.

But on account of this very exuberance is the study of the language so difficult that only he can qualify himself to judge in an independent manner of its idioms, and thus to derive benefit from their affinity to the Hebrew, who is able to spend a great part of his time in Arabic study. An attention to the Chaldaic and the Syriac tongues will be more fertile of good to the ordinary clergyman than attention to the Arabic. The literature of these two dialects is indeed not extensive, but the languages themselves are also circumscribed in their lexicographical limits and are simple in their grammatical forms. Properly speaking, the two languages are only one, the difference between them being for the most part in their pronunciation. The Chaldaic language gives the key to the reading of Daniel and of some passages in Ezra. A great part of the Talmud, also, is written in an impure Chaldaic. The Syriac enables us to understand the Peshito, which is the translation of the New Testament into the Syriac language, also to understand a number of important works connected with the history of the c...

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