history of biblical structures
- The following is taken from Dr. E. W. Bullinger's work entitled "How to ENJOY the Bible", pages 199 to 202.
The correspondence between parallel lines must always have been visible even on the surface to any one who carefully observed the Scriptures even as literary compositions.
Josephus, Philo Judaeus, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, Isidore, among the Ancients, professed to have discovered metres in the Hebrew original. They were followed by others among modern scholars, some of whom agreed with them, while others refuted them.
In spite of Bishop Lowth's Larger and Shorter Confutations, which showed that all efforts to discover the rhymes and metres which characterize common poetry must be fruitless, some few writers have persevered in such attempts even to the present day.
"Bishop Lowth was the first to put the whole subject on a better and surer foundation; reducing the chaos of mediaeval writings to something like order. His works were based on one or two who had preceded him, and had laid the foundations on which he built with such effect that he came to be universally recognised and appealed to as the ultimate and classical authority in these matters." Bishop Jebb, Sacred Literature, p. 15.
But, as we have said, Bishop Lowth built on the foundations laid by others.
Abravanel, a learned Jew of the fifteenth century, and Azariah de Rossi in the sixteenth century, were the first to demonstrate and illustrate the phenomena exhibited in the parallel lines of Holy Scripture.
Azariah de Rossi published, in 1574-5, in Mantua, his celebrated work which he called The Light of the Eyes. It was a remarkable work and almost an encyclopedia of biblical literature in itself. Several of its chapters have been translated and published separately, in Latin and English. One chapter (ch. lx.) was sufficient to kindle Bishop Lowth's enthusiasm; and he translated it in his Preliminary Dissertation to his last great work, his translation of Isaiah (London, 1835). But, before this, Lowth had already used De Rossi's wonderful work to such purpose that in 1753 he published his Proelections on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews. This caused quite a sensation in the biblical world, and soon became of European fame.
Meanwhile Christian Schoettgen (born 1687) had published in 1733-42 his Horoe Hebraicoe et Talmudicoe (2 vols. 4to), at Dresden and Leipzig; Bishop Lowth does not appear to have known of this work, for it anticipates him, and under the heading "Exergasia Sacra" it lays down the very doctrine which it remained for Lowth to improve and elucidate. Schoettgen lays down ten canons, and he illustrates each with three examples.
Bishop Jebb (born 1775 at Drogheda) published his Sacred Literature in London, 1820: and, until Thomas Boys began to write in 1824, Jebb's work had remained the last word on the subject. It was a review of Lowth's work and "an application of the principles so reviewed" to the illustration of the New Testament.
But both these works of Bishop Lowth and Jebb were almost entirely confined to the verbal correspondences in parallel lines; and never proceeded beyond short stanzas; and, even then, did not rise beyond what Lowth called "parallelism" and Jebb called "Sacred Composition".
It was reserved for Thomas Boys to raise the whole subject on to a higher level altogether, and to lift it out of the literary parallelism between words and lines; and to develop it into the correspondence between the subject matter and truth of the Divine Word.
In 1824 Thomas Boys soon followed up Bishop Jebb by publishing his Tactica Sacra, and in 1827-30 his Key to the Book of Psalms.
While the successive works of Bishop Lowth and Jebb were enthusiastically and generally received, yet the works of Thomas Boys not only had to fight their way through much opposition, but are now practically unknown to Biblical students. Whether it is because they afford such a wonderful evidence of the supernatural and miraculous in the Bible, and such a proof of the Divine Authorship of the Word of God, that they are therefore the special object of attack by the enemies of that Word (both Satanic and human) He alone knows. But so it is.
Bishop Jebb, however, we are thankful to say, in the Second Edition of his Sacred Literature (1831), does recognize Boys's work in a note on page 74. He says, "Since the publication of Sacred Literature, this peculiarity of composition has been largely and happily illustrated, in his Tactica Sacra, by the Rev. Thomas Boys."
In 1851 Richard Baillie Roe made a great effort to revive the subject by publishing An Analytical Arrangement of the Holy Scriptures according to the principles developed under the name of Parallelism in the writings of Bishop Lowth, Bishop Jebb, and the Rev. Thomas Boys.
This appears to have shared the same fate as all the others. Roe's book gives too much as well as too little. It gives too much of dry analysis, and too little of the end for which it is made. Moreover, it is not improved by departing from Boys's simplicity; and serves only to complicate the subject by adding much that is arbitrary in arrangement. It may be said of Roe's method, that what is true is not new; and what is new is no improvement.
The facts being as thus stated, it shows that the subject has either not yet been grasped nor understood by Bible students; or, that it makes too much for the Inspiration and Divine Origin and Authority of the Word of God; and that there are spiritual powers, working with the human, whose one great object is to make the Word of God of none effect (Eph. vi. 12 and 17).
And yet, we may say that, no more powerful weapon has yet been placed in our hands outside that Word, which is "the Spirit's sword". It affords a wondrous proof of Inspiration; it gives us a clearer and more comprehensive view of the scope of the Scriptures, than the most learned and elaborate commentaries can ever hope to do; and it is capable of even turning the scale in doubtful, doctrinal, and critical questions.
By its means the student is led to views and truths, and reflections which, without it, would never have occurred to him. And it is not too much to say that until the Correspondences of the Biblical Structure are duly recognized we shall never get a correct translation or a true interpretation of many passages which are to this day dark and confused in both our Versions, the R.V. as well as the A.V.