John Locke on the Language of Paul’s Epistles

Google Books now has a copy of John Locke’s A Paraphrase & Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul (1853) up (it may have been there for a while, but I just recently noticed it–thanks to an interesting post about how Locke anticipates some of the New Perspective writers over at Dr. Mike Birds blog).

Something I found interesting, particularly given the timing of Locke’s writing were his comments on the Hebraic pre-text underlying the Greek language of the letters themselves.

The language wherein these epistles are writ is another, and that no small occasion of their obscurity to us now: the words are Greek; a language dead many ages since; a language of a very witty, volatile people, seekers after novelty, and abounding with variety of notions and sects, to which they applied the terms of their common tongue with great liberty and variety: and yet this makes but one small part of the difficulty in the language of these epistles; there is a peculiarity in it that much more obscures and perplexes the meaning of these writings than what can be occasioned by the looseness and variety of the Greek tongue. The terms are Greek, but the idiom, or tun of the phrases, may be truly said to be Hebrew or Syriac. The custom and familiarity of which tongues do sometimes so far influence the expressions in these epistles, that one may observe the force of the Hebrew conjugations, particularly that of Hiphil, given to Greek verbs, in a way unknown to the Grecians themselves. (p vi – Preface)

Given the prominence that the Hebraic Roots and New Perspective movement have given to the importance of recognizing and understanding Semitisms (semitic idioms) in the text, I found it fascinating to read John Locke’s comments. After all, whether a book was originally written in Greek or subsequently translated into Greek is sort of a moot issue. The point is that they were written, without exception (other than the possible exception of Dr. Luke) by Hebrew speakers, to whom the Hebrew language and the Hebraic mindset were native.

I wonder if Dr. Robert Lindsey ever read Locke’s book?