(which also witnessed the opening up of the new study of Assyrian) by scholars such as Gesenius, Ewald, Olshausen, Renan, Nöldeke, Stade and Driver. This has done much to render possible a more critical interpretation of the Old Testament.
2. An increasing stress was laid on the literal sense of Scripture. The leading Reformers—Luther, Zwingli, Melancthon—frequently expressed themselves against the prevailing view of the manifold sense of Scripture, and in particular questioned the legitimacy of allegorical interpretation—except for purposes of popular and practical exposition. The effort to get at and abide by the literal sense is characteristic of Calvin’s extensive exegetical works. True, practice did not always keep pace with theory, and the literal sense had to yield if it came into conflict with the “Faith”: the allegorical method for long obscured the meaning of the Song of Songs, and any departure from it was severely condemned; just as Theodore of Mopsuestia drew down on himself for maintaining the literal sense of the Song the condemnation of the Second Council of Constantinople (A.D. 553), so Sebastian Castellio owed (in part) to the same indiscretion his expulsion from Geneva in 1544. Even in the 16th and 17th centuries scholars like Grotius and Michaelis met with violent opposition for the same cause.
But, however slowly and irregularly, the new conditions and the new spirit affected the study of the Old Testament. It became subject to the same critical methods which since the Renaissance have been applied to other ancient literatures. Biblical criticism is part of a wider critical movement, but it is noticeable how, from stage to stage, Biblical scholars adopted the various critical methods which as applied to other literatures have been proved valid, rather than themselves initiated them. The textual criticism of the classical literatures made way before the textual criticism of the Old Testament: Bentley’s Phalaris (1699) preceded any thorough or systematic application of Higher Criticism to any part of the Old Testament; Niebuhr’s History of Rome (1811) preceded Ewald’s History of Israel (1843-1859).
The fundamental principles of the Textual Criticism of the Old Testament are the same as those which apply to any other ancient text and need not be described here (see the article Textual Criticism). There are also, however, Conditions of Textual Criticism in the Bible. certain conditions peculiar to the text of the Old Testament. The significance of these and the extent to which they must govern the application of the general principles have even yet scarcely obtained full and general recognition. These, then, must be briefly described.
The earliest Hebrew MSS. of the Old Testament date from not earlier than the 9th century A.D., or nearly one thousand years after the latest parts of the Old Testament were written. These MSS., and the Hebrew Bibles as usually printed, contain in reality two perfectly distinct texts—the work of two different ages separated from one another by centuries: the one is a text of the Old Testament itself, the other a text of a later Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament. The text of the Old Testament consists of consonants only, for the alphabet of the ancient Hebrews, like that of their Moabite, Aramaean and Phoenician neighbours, contained no vowels; the text of the interpretation consists of vowels and accents only—for vowel signs and accents had been invented by Jewish scholars between the 5th and 9th centuries A.D.; the text of the Old Testament is complete in itself and intelligible, though ambiguous; but the text of the interpretation read by itself is unintelligible, and only becomes intelligible when read with the consonants (under, over, or in which they are inserted) of the text of the Old Testament. But the fact that the later text makes use of the earlier to make itself intelligible in no way destroys the fact that it is as entirely distinct a work from the earlier as is any commentary distinct from the work on which it comments. The first task of Old Testament textual criticism after the Reformation was to prove the independence of these two texts, to gain general recognition of the fact that vowels and accents formed no part of the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament. The conflict that arose over this question in the Christian Church was prolonged and bitter—in part because it unfortunately became inflamed by the contending interests of Roman Catholic and Protestant. The coeval origin of consonants and vowels had indeed been questioned or denied by the earliest reformers (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin), but later, in the period of Protestant scholasticism and under the influence of one school of Jewish Rabbis, Protestant scholars in particular, and especially those of the Swiss school, notably the Buxtorfs, had committed themselves to the view that the vowels formed an integral and original part of the text of the Old Testament; and this they maintained with all the more fervency because the ambiguity of the consonants without the vowels was a troublesome fact in the way of the extreme Protestant doctrine of the inspiration, verbal infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture, while it was by no means unwelcome to Catholic theologians with their doctrine of the need for an authoritative interpretation. Still in the end it was due in large measure to the learning and argumentative power devoted to this subject by the French Protestant scholar, Louis Capell, and, amongst others, by the English Protestant scholar, Brian Walton, that by the end of the 17th century this particular controversy was practically at an end; criticism had triumphed, and the later origin of the vowels was admitted. Yet, as often happens, the influence of tradition lingered long after it had been proved to be false; thus the R.V., instead of being an independent translation of the Hebrew text, is intended (with rare exceptions, as e.g. in Is. lix. 19, where R.V. translates the Hebrew text and R.V. margin the Jewish interpretation) to be merely a translation of the Jewish interpretation; and to the present day it is usual, though obviously uncritical and wrong, to describe perfectly legitimate translations of the received consonantal text, if they happen to presuppose other vowels than those provided by Jewish tradition, as based on emendation; even in the English edition of Haupt’s Sacred Books of the Old Testament (see below) the possibility of this unfortunate misunderstanding is not altogether removed.
But the original text of the Old Testament long before it was combined with the text of the Jewish or Massoretic interpretation had already undergone a somewhat similar change, the extent of which was indeed far less, but also less clearly discoverable. This change consisted in the insertion into the original text of certain consonants which had come to be also used to express vowel sounds: e.g. the Hebrew consonant corresponding to w also expressed the vowel o or u, the consonant h the vowel a, and so forth. For reasons suggested partly by the study of Semitic inscriptions, partly by comparison of passages occurring twice within the Old Testament, and partly by a comparison of the Hebrew text with the Septuagint, it is clear that the authors of the Old Testament (or at least most of them) themselves made some use of these vowel consonants, but that in a great number of cases the vowel consonants that stand in our present text were inserted by transcribers and editors of the texts. Again, and for similar reasons, it is probable that in many cases, if not in all, the original texts were written without any clear division of the consonants into words. In view of all this, the first requisite for a critical treatment of the text of the Old Testament is to consider the consonants by themselves, to treat every vowel-consonant as possibly not original, and the existing divisions of the text into words as original only in those cases where they yield a sense better than any other possible division (or, at least, as good). Certainly all this brings us face to face with much ambiguity and demands increased skill in interpretation, but anything short of it falls short also of strict critical method. A perception of this has only been gradually reached, and is even now none too general.
Apart from these changes in the history of the text, it has, like all ancient texts, suffered from accidents of transmission, from the unintentional mistakes of copyists. This fact was, naturally enough and under the same dogmatic stress, denied by those scholars who maintained that the vowels were an integral part of the text. Here again we may single out Capellus as a pioneer in criticism, in his Critica sacra sive de variis quae in sacris V. T. libris occurrunt lectionibus, written in 1634, much studied in MS. by scholars before its publication in 1650, and unavailingly criticized by Buxtorf the younger in his Anticritica seu vindiciae veritatis hebraicae (1653). Capellus drew conclusions from such important facts as the occurrence of variations in the two Hebrew texts of passages found twice in the Old Testament itself, and the variations brought to light by a comparison of the Jewish and Samaritan texts of the Pentateuch, the Hebrew