Графични страници
PDF файл

ever distributing to such choice portions which he gathers for that purpose. These are the contented and happy ones. They are in no danger of getting lost or into mischief, nor do wild beasts or thieves come near them. The great body, however, are mere worldlings intent upon their own pleasures or selfish interests. They run from bush to bush, searching for variety or delicacies, and only now and then lift their heads to see where the shepherd is, or, rather, where the general flock is, lest they get so far away as to occasion remark in their little community, or rebuke from their keeper. Others, again, are restless and discontented, jumping into everybody's field, climbing into bushes, and even into leaning trees, whence they often fall and break their limbs. These cost the good shepherd incessant trouble. Then there are others incurably reckless, who stray far away and are often utterly lost.” Vol. I, pp. 299, 302.

In this pleasing style, Dr. Thomson interweaves in one sketch almost every biblical allusion to the shepherd and the sheep. And we may venture the assertion that no other land than Palestine could have suggested such varied allusions to the habits of sheep and the shepherd, as are contained in the Bible. Dr. Thomson's method of illustrating the Scriptures is to group about some one locality whatever pertains to a subject suggested by that locality, and thus to give the vividness of present impressions to the utterances of prophets, psalmists, evangelists, and apostles. While he avoids dry topographical and antiquarian discussions, and seeks rather to illustrate and elucidate the Bible for the common reader, Dr. Thomson omits nothing of real interest to the biblical scholar. His lucid expositions of the Bible (as of Mat. v, 13, Luke xvii, 6) are often suggestive germs of thought, which can be developed into a sermon. He has contributed much toward the identification of ancient biblical places in Palestine. To him we owe the discovery and description of the sources of the Jordan. In these volumes he sheds much light upon lost or disputed localities around Lake Tiberias, and, we think, identifies Gergesa, and establishes Capernaum at Tell Hům, against the authority of Dr. Robinson. His argument for the former is a good example of Dr. Thomson's treatment of topographical questions :

“The name of this prostrate town is Kerza, or Gersa, as my Bedawîn guide shouted it in my ear the first time I visited it, on that windy day we have been describing. It was a small place, but the walls can be traced all round, and there seem to have been considerable suburbs. I identify these ruins with the long


lost site of Gergesa, where our Lord healed the two men possessed with devils, and suffered those malignant spirits to enter into the herd of swine. If this be correct, it is a discovery of some importance. From Origen down to the last critic who has tried his skill upon the Greek text of the New Testament, the conflicting and contradictory readings of manuscripts in regard to the place where the miracle was performed, have furnished a fruitful source of discussion. Matthew locates it at Gergesa ; Mark and Luke at Gadara. A few various readings give Geresa. The Vulgate, Arabic, and others that followed the Vulgate, read Gergesa in all the evangelists ; nor are these all the discrepancies in regard to the name of this place. Only one of these readings can be correct. Which shall we select? This is the question to be settled. Our inquiries will, of course, be confined to the topographical indications, which may have a bearing upon the problem.

“Our first point is that the miracle could not have occurred at Gadara. It is cer. tain, from all the accounts we have of it, that the place was near the shore of the lake. Mark says that when he came out of the ship, immediately there met him a man, etc.

With this precise statement the tenor of all the narratives coincides, and therefore we must find a locality directly on the shore, and every place must be rejected that is not consistent with this ascertained fact. Again, the city itself, as well as the country of the Gergesenes, was at the shore of the lake. All the accounts imply this fact. Lastly, there was a steep mountain so near at hand that the herd of swine, rushing down it, were precipitated into the lake. Now Gadara does not meet any one of these necessary conditions. I take for granted, what I believe to be true, that Um Keis marks the site of Gadara; and it was, therefore, about three hours to the south of the extreme shore of the lake in that direction. There is first a broad plain from Khurbet Samra to the Jermuk; then the vast gorge of this river, and after it an ascent for an hour and a half to Um Keîs. No one, I think, will maintain that this meets the requirements of the sacred narratives, but is in irreconcilable contradiction to them. It is true that a celebrated traveler, from his lofty stand-point at Um Keis, overlooks all intervening obstacles, and makes the swine rush headlong into the lake from beneath his very feet. But to do this, in fact, (and the evangelists deal only in plain facts,) they must have run down the mountain for an hour and a half, forded the deep Jermuk, quite as formidable as the Jordan itself, ascended its northern bank, and raced across a level plain several miles before they could reach the nearest margin of the lake, a feat which no herd of swine would be likely to achieve, even though they were possessed.' The site of the miracle, therefore, was not at Gadara. This is an important result. Nor was it in the country of the Gadarenes, because that country lay south of the great river Jermuk; and, besides, if the territory of that city did at any time reach to the south end of the lake, there is no mountain there above it adapted to the conditions of the miracle ; and, farther, the city itself where it was wrought was evidently on the shore. There we must find it, whatever be its name. And in this Gersa or Chersa we have a position which fulfills every requirement of the narratives, and with a name so near that in Matthew as to be in itself a strong corroboration of the truth of this identification. It is within a few rods of the shore, and an immense mountain rises directly above it, in which are ancient tombs, out of some of which the two men possessed of the devils, may have issued to meet Jesus. The lake is so near the base of the mountain that the swine, rushing madly down it, could not stop, but would be hurried on into the water, and drowned. The place is one which our Lord would be likely to visit, having Capernaum in full view to the north, and Galilee over against it,' as Luke says it was. The name, however, pronounced by Bedawin Arabs, is so similar to Gergesa, that, to all my inquiries for this place, they invariably said it was at Chersa, and they insisted that they were identical, and I agree with them in this opinion.

“In studying the details of the miracle, I was obliged to modify one opinion or impression which had grown up with me from childhood. There is no bold cliff overhanging the lake on the eastern side, nor, indeed, on any other, except just north of Tiberias. Everywhere along the northeastern and eastern shores, a smooth beach declines gently down to the water. There is no jumping-off place,' nor, indeed, is any required. Take your stand a little south of this Chersa. A great herd of swine, we will suppose, is feeding on this mountain that towers above it. They are seized with a sudden panic, rush madly down the almost perpendicular declivity, those behind tumbling over and thrusting forward those before, and, as there is neither time nor space to recover on the narrow shelf between the base and the lake, they are crowded headlong into the water, and perish. All is perfectly natural just at this point, and here, I suppose, it did actually occur. Farther south, the plain becomes so broad that the herd might have recovered and recoiled from the lake, whose domain they would not willingly invade.

“How do you suppose these discrepancies in the name of this place crept into the text?

“We must leave that question to professed critics. I have an abiding conviction, however, that Matthew wrote the name correctly. He was from this region, and personally knew the localities. His Gospel, also, was written first of all, and mainly circulated, in the beginning, in these Oriental regions." Vol. II,

pp. 34-36.

Dr. Thomson avoids committing himself upon the disputed topography of Jerusalem, which indeed is hardly pertinent to the main object of his book. But he evidently leans to the view that the Tyropæon was the valley beginning near the Damascus gate, and that Acra was the eminence north of the Haram. His work appropriately closes with a description of the Mount of Olives, which witnessed the sorrow of Gethsemane and the glory of the Ascension.

The design of Mr. Osborn, in his beautiful volume, “ Palestine, Past and Present,” is neither a minute geographical and topographical description of Palestine, por the copious illustration of the Bible from the manners and customs of the land; yet, interwoven with his pleasant narrative of the ordinary tour of Palestine, and his picturesque sketches of scenery and incident, are valuable historical references, scientific observations, and elaborate discussions of points upon which skepticism has attempted to impeach the testimony of the Bible. We have before cited Mr. Osborn's estimate of the agricultural capabilities of Palestine ; and upon this and many other topics, we regard his work as an admirable counterpoise to Volney's Ruins. His volume ought to be in the libraries of all colleges and academies, and of lyceums and associations frequented by young men. Its beautiful typography will also entitle it to a place in the choicest home-libraries.

The chief labor of Mr. Osborn has been expended where it will be least appreciated by the general reader-upon his elaborate geographical appendix, and his separate map of Palestine, which has been issued by Challen & Son, upon a scale adapted to the Sabbath-school and the lecture-room. This map has been constructed with great care, and is at once the most accurate and the most elegant map of Palestine yet published in this country.

But neither American nor English cartography can yet vie with the exquisite products of the German burin. Lieut. Van de Velde's map of Palestine, just issued by Perthes of Gotha, is surpassingly beautiful. It is published in eight sections, which are neatly enclosed in one case, but may be adjusted together as one map. Sections 1 and 2 comprehend the Lebanon and Anti-lebanon chains. Section 3 embraces the southern section of Lebanon, Jebel Rihân, and gives the course of the Litany and of the upper Jordan. Sections 4 and 6 comprehend the Hauran and trans-jordanic regions. Section 5 contains the middle belt of the country southward to the line of Yafa and Jerusalem. Section 7 embraces the country from the Philistine coast to the Dead Sea. Section 8 is trans-jordanic within the same parallels, with the addition of a plan of Jerusalem, reduced from the elegant plan lately published by the same author. In addition to his own extended and careful survey of Palestine-in which he used “the boussole ďarpentage with two levels, cross-threaded plunging telescope and vertical semicircle with nonius "-Lieut. Van de Velde

has availed himself of the astronomical observations of Niebuhr, Seetzen, Lynch, and others, and the triangulations of Lieut. Symonds, and has determined many geographical positions with a precision never before attained. The results embodied in his map are amplified in the accompanying memoir, which also contains his itinerary, and a valuable catalogue of “identifications.” This publication redeems Van de Velde from the character of superficialness which his “ Narrative” had fastened upon him. His comment upon the general aspect of the country confirms the personal impressions which we have given above.

“It so happens that the old beaten pilgrim-routes lead through the rockiest and bleakest parts of the land; and hence its barrenness, although very striking in some parts, is too sweepingly pictured as belonging to the whole of Palestine. But this country shows even in its present cursed condition, enough of nature's riches and beauties to justify the name it bears in Holy Writ. The fertility of Palestine is even at this hour very remarkable. ......

. . Syria possesses at the same time, the glorious, bracing, and moderate, in some places even cool climate of the Alps of Switzerland and Savoy; the warmer, but yet beautiful and pure air of Italy; and the hot, oppressive temperature of the Tropics.”

Dr. Coleman presents us with a new and improved edition of his historical geography of Palestine—the best manual at present accessible to the English student. This edition embodies in brief the results of Dr. Coleman's recent travels in the East. We could wish, however, that he would digest more thoroughly his arduous compilation of materials. If Dr. Coleman would unite his extensive learning and his habit of patient investigation with Mr. Osborn's ready observation and skill in cartography, these two gentlemen, working upon Robinson's Researches, Ritter's Erdkunde, and Van de Velde's map as a basis, might produce an apparatus for the study of biblical geography worthy of the present stage of that science. We believe that Palestine is destined to yield yet more abundant testimony to that word of truth which was written chiefly within its borders; and we may hereafter discuss the wonderful and gracious providence of God in keeping that land in perpetuity as the counterpart of his revelation.

« ПредишнаНапред »