Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/737

This page needs to be proofread.




(12-17). Her empire is about to crumble, and its fall will be hailed by the triumphant applause of the whole universe (18-19).

Critical Questions. — Until a recent date, both the unity and authenticity of the Book of Nahum were undisputed, even by such critics as Kucik'H (( )iuler- zoek, ii, § 75), Wellhausen (Skizzen uml N'orarhciten, 1893, p. 15.5), and Cornill (Einleitung, 1S!I2, p. 188), and the objections alleged by a few against the gen- uineness of the words "The burden of Ninive" (i, 1) and the description of the overthrow of No-Aramon (iii, 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 unno- ticed have added to the old problems concerning au- thorship, 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 (ii, 1, 3-iii) 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, giounded 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 approxima- tion is obtainable. First, there is a higher limit which we have no right to overstep, namely, the cajiture of No-Ammon referred to in iii, 8-10. In the Latin Vul- gate (and the Douay Bible) No-Ammon is translated by Alexandria, whereby St. .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., XXV, 1260; cf. "Ep. CVIII ad Eustoch.", 14: P. L., XXII, 890: "In Is.", XVIII: P. L., XXIV, 178; "In Os.", IX, 5-6: P. L., XXV, 892). He was mistaken, however, and so were Champollion and Brugsch, ac- cording to whom No-Ammon should be sought in Lower Egypt (L'Egypte sous les Pharaons, II, 131-33); As- syrian and Egyptian discoveries leave no doubt what- ever that No-Ammon is the same as Thebes in Upper Egypt. Now Thebes was captured ami (Icstrfiycd by Assurbanipal in 664-663 B. c, whence it follows that the opinion of Nicephorus (in the edition of Geo. Syn- cell, "Chronographia", Bonn, 1829, I, 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.", IX, xi, 3), and the con- clusions of those modern scholars who, as Pusey, Nagelsbach, etc., date the oracle in the reign of Eze- chia.s or the earlier years of Manasses, ought to be dis- carded as impossible. The lower limit which it is al- lowable to assign to this part of the Book of Nahum is, of course, the fall of Ninive, which a well-known in- scription of Nabonidus permits us to fix at 607 or 606 B. c, a date 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 laaias, for instance, in one of his utterances delivered about 702 or 701 b. c. recalling witli the same vivid- ness of expression Assyrian conquests aeliieved thirty to forty years earlier (Is., x, 5-34). Nothing there- fore 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, more- over, represented as beset by mighty enemies and pow- erless to avert the fate threatening her. Such condi- tions existed when, after the death of Assurbanipal, Babylonia succeeded in regaining her independence (625), and the Medes aimed a first blow at Ninive (623; Kuenen, Van Hoonacker). Modern critics (Davidson, Kennedy, etc.) appear more and more in- clined 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 (ii, 1; Heb., 2); frontier fortresses have opened their gates (iii, 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 at- tention to this feature was Frohnmeyer, whose obser- vations, however, did not extend beyond vv. 3-7. Availing himself of this key, Bickell endeavoured 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. Tliis failure did not discourage Gunkel who declared himself convinced that the poem is alphabetical throughout, although it is difficult, owing to tlie present condition of the text, to trace the initial letters D to n (Zeitschr. fiir alttest. WLssensch., 1893, 223 sqq.). Tliis was for Bickell an incentive to a fresh study (Das alphab. Lied in Nah i-ii, 3, in "Sitzung.sberichte der philos.-hist. Classe der kaiser. Akademie der Wissensch.", Vienna, 1894, 5 Abhandl.), the 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 klcinen Proph- eten, 1897), Gray ("The Alphab. Poem in Nah." in "The Expositor" for Sept. 1898, 207 sqq.), Arnold (On Nah., i, 1-ii, 3, in "Zeitschr. ftir alttest. Wis- sensch.", 1901, 225 sqq.), Happel (Das Buch des Proph. Nah., 1903), Marti (Dodekaproph. erklart, 1904), Lohr (Zeitschr. fur alttest. Wissensch., 1905, I, 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 (N-?); but the second part still remains a cla.ssiral gniunil for scholarly tilts.

Wellhausen (Die kleinen Proph., 1898) holds that the noteworthy difference between the two parts from the point of view of i)oetical construction is due to the fact that the writer abandoned halfway his undertak- ing to write acrostically. Happel believes both parts were worked out separately from an unacrostic origi- nal. The first corrector went as far as the line begin- ning with the letter D, and as the last sentence closed on the word t."p, he noted in the title that his revision extended from PX tot;'p; and so the mysterious t^p-pX (later on misconstrued and misspelled 'E'pPS) has neither a patronymic nor a gentile connotation. Critits are inclined to hold that the disorder and corruption which disfigure the poem are mostly clue 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 over- crowded and blurred, this later on caused in the sec-