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Languages formed in the Regions near Pa*'. lœjline, much sooner than we can imagine to have been, had they gradually arisen from the same common Stock. When Jacob and Laban made a Covenant together, Genesis xxxi. 47. they erected a Heap bf Stones on which they eat; and Lab an called it Jegar Sabadutha, and Jacob Gal-Ed; which Words signify one in Chaldee,the other in Hebrew, a Heap of Witness. Laban's are genuine Chaldee Words, as Jacob's, are Hebrew. Pharaoh called Joseph Tfophnatb-Paaneahh, i. e. a Revealer of hidden Things, which Words are not Hebrew, though Tjbpbnath has an Affinity with the Hebrew Root Haphan, which signi* fies to hide. Here then we fee three distinct Dialects formed in Jacob's Time. The Hebrew seems to have been the Language of Canaan, when Abraham who was by Birth a Chaldœan, came thither f1. 1
The particular Texture of the Arabic, which is much more operose, and yet more regular than the Hebrew, leads me to think that it is as old as the Hebrew. Before Mahornet's Time, who Was a Native of Arabia, the Inhabitants of that nobleCountrey seem to have been very little known to, or knowing of the Inhabitants of the rest of the World. They had then no Learning among them, nor
m See.Mri Z^CiWs.first Dissertation befort his Commentary, upon Genesis. ", '.
long afterwards till the Time of Almamoun, who was the 28th Chalipb of the Saracens, and the 7th of the Race of AbaJJidae. Their Language was then the same that it is now, and the Alcoran is looked upon as the Standard of the Tongue, and allowed to be so by the best Judges among the Europeans, who cannot be supposed to be led by any superstitious Motive to pass such a Judgment. They never were conquered by any Foreign Nation, and tho' some of those who lived the nearest to Ægypt and Syria drove a Trade in Caravans in Jacob's Time, Gen. xxxvii. 2f. as they do to this Day, yet Strangers seem to have known very little of the Heart of their Countrey. Excepting the Inroads which-Sejbflris made among them, before his great Expedition into Asia, when he led his victorious Army up as high as the Euxine Sea, we read of no Foreign Enemy that ever made any great Impression upon their Countrey. Neither the Persians, nor the Macedonians, nor the Romans, could ever conquer them. They lived in Tribes like the Jews, deriving themselves from lfhmael and Joktan; and Nations that live after that Manner, if they are not overrun by a Foreign Force, keep themselves more unmix'd, and their Language consequently is far less subject to Alteration, than that of other People who converse more promiscuously with Strangers. The Æthiopians seem by their Language, which agrees very much with the Ara:"-- biCy bic, to have been a Colony of the Arabians, rather than of the Ægyptiansn.
From all these Things put together, I am apt to conclude, that 'tis hard to judge which of these three Languages, the Hebrew, the Chaldee, or the Arabic, was the oldest. , Their mutual Agreement in the Fundamentals which I have before described, is no Argument to me that any one them is derived from the rest, if we consider their great Antiquity. The Syriac indeed comes from the Cbaldee, and was formed upon the Plan of that Language after the the Babylonish Captivity. It is natural to suppose (as I hinted before) that when God confounded the Speech of the Builders at Babel, he made the Dialects of those People who were to live near one another so far to agree, that they might with less Difficulty, and in a shorter Space of Time, mutually understand each other, and so the more easily maintain an Intercourse together, which it was necessary for them to do.
The Children of Japhet were sent farther off, to the North and to the West, and for the same Reason several Dialects among them too, agreed in some common Principles, as the Eastern ones also did. Junius who published
n Debet qui Linguae Æthiopicae operam dare instituit, Arabicae peritum efle, tanta enim est inter has cognatio, ut quot Arabicas voces didiceris, tot fere Æthiopicas disces. Ockleii Introd. ad Lingg. Orient, pag. 160.
G the the Fragments of the four Gospels out of a very ancient Copy which he found in Germany, in a Language which is manifestly a Dialect of the Teutonic, observes and proves by Abundance of Instances in his Glossary upon that Book, that the Greek and Gothic (as he calls it, supposing it to have been the Translation made by Ulfilas) were but different Dialects which seem to have sprung from the same common Root. This Language spread it self throughout Germany and Scandinavia, and got at last into England and the Netherlands. That the Latin owes its Original in a great Measure to the Greek, is, I believe, allowed by most learned Men that have considered of the Matter. But now whether all these Colonies of the Japhetic Line, who were dispersed into these Regions, had at first but one Language; or whether there were at first several Kindred-Branches, (as I suppose to have been in those Countries that bordered upon the Land of Canaan) which though different in very many Things, yet had some common Fundamentals to testify -their Relation, it is impossible at this Distance, for want of knowing the History of those People, to determine. But the Finnish, the Slavonian, and the Hungarian seem to be original Tongues, and to have no real Affinity with the Teutonic, or the Greek. Whether the Cantabric, and the ancient Gaulish, (of which the British, the Irish, the Aremorican, and the Manks are but Dialects) be not so likewise I
will will not decide. Still there is Persia, China, the East-Indies, the Midland Parts of Afric, and all America behind. It is enough to my Purpose that I have proved there were some distinct Languages, at least two, I think many more formed at Babel; whereas Moses says expresly there was but one before. The Miracle is equally great and visible in making one Language at once, as one Hundred. This is all I contend for, and what I think conducive to Religion to grant.
For I must own that I have often with Concern observed that some Interpreters, otherwise very learned Men and very useful Commentators, have shewn a great Aversion to allow any Thing to be miraculous in the History of the Old Testament, where they could possibly avoid it without abandoning their Religion. Prophecies require a supernatural Knowledge, as well as Miracles do a supernatural Power; and therefore we have seen some of the Prophecies in the Old Testament, which relate to the Messiah, industriously and artificially eluded, when they have been applied out of the Old Testament, to the Circumstances of our Redemption in the New. ' This, in my Opinion, is a Matter of pernicious Consequence to Religion, tho' I dare not arraign those Interpreters who have done it of Irreligion, especially since they have so solemnly acquitted themselves of that Imputation. i'