HIS LIFE AND WORKS.
THE name of Francis Delitzsch is familiar to every student of German theology, as that of one of the greatest masters of our age in the departments of Old and of New Testament Exegesis, and in the immense field of the Jewish literature of the eras which have followed the completion of the Biblical Canon. He was born, February 23d, 1813, at Leipzig. The mother of Delitzsch was a pious woman, of humble position; his father was the proprietor of a stall of antiquarian books, a devout Jew originally, and who only four weeks before his death received Christian baptism.
The father's name was Leon. The name at
present borne by the family is derived from the town of Delitzsch in the Prussian circle of Merseburg.
In his native place, at the most ancient of the great Lutheran uersities, he devoted himself to theological and oriental studies. Among his instructors was the distinguished Egyptiologist, Dr. SeyfTarth. He subsequently passed through the habilitation which gave him the rights of a private lecturer within the venerable walls which had become familiar to him as a student.
In 1846, he was called to occupy the chair of theology as Ordinary Professor at Rostock, whose uersity is next in age to that of Leipzig, with but indeed a difference of ten years, which, in the long life of uersities of mediaeval origin, is a trifle.
At the beginning of Michaelmas Term, 1850, he was transferred to the corresponding Chair at Erlangen, which is " now the most flourishing school of orthodox Lutheranism in all Germany, and enjoys great confidence for its faithful adherence to the Augsburg Confession and the Formula of Concord." Here Delitzsch labored in conjunction with Thomasius, V. Hofmann, Harnack, and Schmid. With these, in the single professorship held by the Reformed; is associated Herzog, the editor of the Real-Encyclopedia, who succeeded Ebrard.
Delitzsch has been an unwearied laborer in various departments, presenting the rare union of versatility with thoroughness. Though his life has been mainly that of a theologian, he has nevertheless enriched the religious literature of his native land with works of a practical and devotional character, adapted in a high degree alike for the people and the preacher. These works are profoundly reverent, fi\ll of high thought and
deep feeling, showing everywhere that the largest originality, trained by the most thorough learning, is perfect in its consistency and beautiful in its union with an unreserved faith in the word of God, and with fidelity to the Confession which His Church has grounded upon it. It is not wonderful, therefore, that these works have been widely received with admiration and gratitude, as precious gifts for the Christian mind and the Christian heart. Among the most important of this class of his works may be mentioned the "Casket of Spiritual Epigrams and Maxims in Rhyme," (Dresden, 1842;) "The Sacrament of the True Body and Blood of Jesus Christ," (Dresden, 1844; 4th. ed. 1864, 5th. ed. 1871,) the most popular of his practical writings; "Four Books on the Church," (Dresden, 1847;) " On the House of God, or the Church," (Dresden, 1848.) The fourteenth original edition of his "Manual on the Lord's Prayer" appeared in 1854. It is a work of but some 380 pages, i6mo; yet the possessor of many volumes in theology might find that this little book was worth all the rest, as the means of aiding him in the full comprehension of that prayer. The introduction to the work has been translated by Rev. G. F. Krotel, D. D., and appeared in the "Evangelical Review."
The great labors of this noble life, however, have, in the nature of the case, been of a character in which the learned world would more particularly feel an interest. His earliest works were mainly devoted to Jewish literature. His " History of Jewish Poetry, from the close of the Holy Scriptures to the Present," (Leipzig, 1836,) written with the fire of youth, opened to the Christian world a domain of literature hitherto wholly unknown. The Hebrew remoulding, by the Jewish poet Suzzato, under the title of "Migdal Oz," of Guarini's pastoral drama, " The Pastor Fido," which Delitzsch edited, (Leipzig, 1837,) gave to the world the first insight into a history of the drama among the Jews, a drama, the very existence of which had hitherto hardly been suspected.
A little book from his pen, entitled, " Science, Art, Judaism— Pictures and Critiques," appeared, (Grimma,) 1838. It is dedicated to Guericke, and in the first essay speaks of the love and confidence with which its author regarded Martin Stephan, in whose very name he found a suggestion of affinity with Luther; and with the protomartyr, with whom he once contemplated coming, in that sad navigation, to this Western World, whose unhappy earlier issues we all know so well, but which God has overruled for so much ultimate good. The contributions to the mediaeval scholasticism "Among the Jews and Moslems," (Leipzig, 1841,) brought to light various productions of the scholastic lore of the Jews, which had hitherto been lying in manuscript.
In his Latin work, entitled "Jesurun," (Leipzig, 1838,) he gave an introduction to Hebrew Grammar and Lexicography, in which he maintained, in an enthusiastic and somewhat extravagant manner, in the judgment of some, the views in regard to the relation of the Semitic to the Indo-Germanic languages, which had been set forth by Furst in his earliest work on the idioms of the Aramaic, one design of which was to give its due place to the Semitic element, in the then infant science of Comparative Philology, (I83S)
In the department of Scientific Theology, many works of great value have been published by Delitzsch. The earlier of these, "The Biblico-PropheticTheology," (Leipzig, 1845,) forms the opening volume of a work under the title of "Biblico-Theological and Apologetico-Critical Studies," begun by him in conjunction with Charles Paul Caspari, the eminent Old Testament scholar, Professor in the Norwegian uersity of Christiana.
Another work which belongs here is the "System of Biblical Psychology," (1855; 2d edition, 1861,) translated into English for Clark's For. Theo. Libr., 1867. In the Catalogue of that house it appears with this notice:— "A System of Biblical Psychology. Contents: — Prolegomena. I. The Everlasting Postulates. II. The Creation. III. The Fall. IV. The Natural Condition. V. The Regeneration. VI. Death. VII. Resurrection and Consummation. Translated from the last German edition by Rev. Dr. Wallis. Second edition. 8vo."
"This admirable volume ought to be carefully read by every thinking clergyman. There is a growing Gnosticism which requires to be met by philosophical explanations of the Christian system, quite as much as, and even more than, by dogmatic statements of received truths; and we know no work which is better calculated as a guide to minds already settled on lines of sound theological principle, than the one we are about to bring before the notice of our readers."— Literary Churchman.
It is a profound exegetical investigation of the Biblical teachings on all the questions pertaining to the human soul, with which it combines all the light afforded by experience and history in the settlement of the difficult psychological questions of our day. A leading secular periodical of Germany says of it: "To the searcher of philosophy, and to the student of nature, it puts forth a helping hand — the hand, not of a beggar, but of a prince—a hand able to impart knowledge, where the knowledge supplied by the search of nature fails in despair."
The first edition of his "Exposition of Genesis" appeared at Leipzig, 1852, and was received with such favor that a new and greatly enlarged edition, with important improvements, appeared in the following year. It was followed by a third edition, i860, which was rewrought throughout in 1872. A translation of this Commentary, from the hand of the writer of this sketch, was announced by Smith and English, and had made considerable progress; but the unpropitious character of the times which followed (the years of our Civil War) delayed its appearance. A portion of the translation of the Introduction appeared in print. The "Song of Solomon" was published, 1851; "Habakkuk," 1854.
The hermeneutical labors of Delitzsch have been mainly on Old Testament subjects, and these peculiarly fitted him to become a commentator on the great Epistle, which may be called the Old Testament transfigured into the New. His masterly Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, with Archaeological Excursus on Sacrifice and Atonement, appeared in Leipzig, 1857. The labors on this book began in 1846, while he was yet at Rostock. They were continued with an indefatigable earnestness, the fruits of which are found in an Exposition, which, in philological, critical, and archaeological respects, utterly throws into the shade even the Commentaries of Bleek and Tholuck on the Hebrews, though those works are confessedly among the masterpieces in interpretation. The latest results of grammatical investigation, as presented by Mullach and Alexander Buttman, the classic parallels, the rich stores of Talmudic literature drawn from the originals, are inwrought in the reproductive method in which Genesis had been treated, a method which Delitzsch is the first to employ throughout on a New Testament book. (Translated into English, Clark's For. Theol. Lib., 1868-1870 — Biblical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Two vols., 8vo.)
"Not only in the interpretation of the Epistle has the theological department received especial care, but also the grammatical, critical, and the archaeological."— Ecclesiastical Gazette.
He wrote "New Investigations Touching the Origin and Plan of the Canonical Gospels," 1853.
In addition to these larger works he has written numerous monographs and dissertations, many of which have been furnished to periodicals, especially to Rudelbach and Guericke's Quarterly, to whose Book Notices also he is a regular contributor.
"As an Exegetical writer, Delitzsch belongs to the circle of Hofman, Baumgarten, Kurtz, and Caspari." This does not, however, imply that in all respects, even in all important ones, he would maintain the views they may hold in particular cases. The erroneous judgment, for example, on the subject of the Atonement, maintained so ably by Hofman in the second part of his "Scripture Proof," Delitzsch considers as utterly groundless. His position as to Christian theology is that of a positive faith derived from Revelation, and this faith he finds confessed in the doctrinal standards of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Delitzsch's Commentary on the Psalms appeared in two volumes, 1859-60, 2d edition; newly elaborated, 1867; translated into English, Clark's For. Theol. Lib., 1871—Biblical Commentary on the Psalms. Translated from the German (from the second edition, revised throughout) by the Rev. Francis Bolton, B. A. Three vols., 8vo.
"We welcome with peculiar satisfaction this work of Dr. Delitzsch, . . . and we think it almost unrivalled. Very heartily do we commend this book to our readers." Literary Churchman.
"There is much that is very precious in this Commentary. . . . The prefatory matter in the first volume, of the nature of introduction, is very valuable and instructive."
To this and his other larger works have been devoted the toils of twenty-eight years. He had entered the field when, with all the richness of the harvest, the laborers were few. God has shown, by His rich blessings on the labors of this master-workman, that he had not mistaken his vocation, and he comes again and again rejoicing, bringing another sheaf with him. For sixteen years Delitzsch lectured on portions of the Psalms, and a work introductory to them was published by him in 1846, and he wrote a critical Preface to Baer's edition of them, i860. In the preface to his new work he refys to the great merits of Hengstenberg's labors, and says that only on rationalistic grounds is it possible to ignore their epochmaking character. His whole characterization of Hengstenberg is beautiful and noble, the more so because that great scholar had not only sometimes combated the views of Delitzsch, but had shown, apparently, in some instances, a spirit of prejudice against him. As regards the merits of this Commentary, we have no room now to speak at large. Let it suffice to say that, following Hengstenberg, Stier, Umbreit, Tholuck, and last, but very far from least, Alexander, it is worth far more than all of them. It would be better to have Delitzsch on the Psalms, and nothing else, than to have everything else and not Delitzsch.
In 1867 he was called to a Chair on the Theological Faculty in Leipzig. His colleagues there are Kahnis, Luthardt, Lechler, Fricke, Tischendorf, Gustavus Baur, Holemann, Rudolf Hoffmann, and Woldemar Gottlob Schmidt.
In conjunction with Keil, he is now editing a Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. The following are the new parts which have appeared from his hand:
1. Job, 1864: Translated into English, Clark's For. Th. Lib., 1866—Biblical Commentary on the Book of Job. Two vols., 8vo.
"Unquestionably the most valuable work on this inexhaustibly interesting scripture that has reached us from Germany." — Nonconformist.
"Dr. Delitzsch combines thorough orthodoxy and spirituality of tone with a large and sympathetic appreciation for the methods and results of modern critical research. But it has also far stronger claims for approbation on account of special and intrinsic merits," — Literary Churchman.
2. Isaiah, 1866. Translated into English, Clark's For. Theol. Lib. — Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah. Two vols., 8vo.
"The author has long been honorably distinguished among the scholars of Germany. He occupies, indeed, a position always peculiar to himself; for, whilst his attainments in Hebrew philology and Talmudical lore are of the highest order, he unites with these a genuine appreciation of evangelical truth and godliness."—Literary Churchman.
In his " Manuscript Discoveries," Parts I., II., Leipzig, 1861/62, he made contributions to the textual criticism of the Apocalypse. Among smaller recent works from his hand may be mentioned: "Behold the Man! A Historical Picture." 1869. "Jesus and Hillel, with reference to Renan and Geiger compared." 1867. "Handicraft Life in the Time of Jesus: a Contribution to the History of New Testament Times," 1868, — a little work 292 FRANCIS DELITZSCH.
of extraordinary richness of matter and charm of style. The chapter " A June Day in Jerusalem within the last ten years before Christ," is a masterpiece of learning popularized, of descriptive power, and of pathos. "The Messiah as Propitiator: a Testimony, with Proofs, addressed to Educated Jews," written for the Paris Exposition. 1867.
"The System of Christian Apologetics," Leipzig, 1869, is one of the ablest books of its class, —" one of the most perfect productions in German theology, a book which makes an epoch, and by the sterling qualities of its matter and the artistic character of its form, takes its place as classic."
In 1871 he published a translation of the Epistle to the Romans into Hebrew, following the text of the Codex Sinaiticus, and adding illustrative notes from the Talmud and Midrasch.
"A Day in Capernaum " appeared in 1871. This is the book whose appearance in English we owe to Dr. J. G. Morris, of Baltimore, who has given us a translation worthy of the original, improving it for popular use, by the omission of that part of the notes which is designed only for a class of scholars of whom we have not a half dozen in America, and which would be, not simply useless, but appalling to the mass of readers. The sort of conception in which the book has originated is one which in a very general way has led to various admirable works, both in secular and religious literature, but it has rarely been wrought out with such learning, originality, and spirit as are here revealed. The general conception of the class to which it belongs is to give to history the life of its own day; by minute details and touches of descriptive art to place the reader in the past, as in a present. It is historical painting. It differs from the historical romance, in vigorously confining itself to the verities of the case. It conforms to history throughout, and not only is nothing said or done that might not have been said or done, but the events and conversations are detailed as in a general way they must have occurred.
The distinctive purpose of Delitzsch in this book is to present, within the compass of a single day, a vivid picture of the work of our Lord in Galilee. His materials are furnished by the narratives of the Evangelists, interwoven with each other and with everything which Sacred Antiquities and History contain for enlarging and illustrating them. To this part of the work the author has brought everything scattered in Josephus, the Talmud, and Midrasch (the Exposition of the Torah and Mishnah), and in all the Ancient Jewish Literature, in which Delitzsch is one of the greatest masters the world has ever known.
But the learning which has accumulated the material has been but the handmaiden to the higher purpose of the work. The imagination of the author has had to transfuse itself into the scenes of that wonderful life which stands alone in the annals of time, to bring our Lord before its own close but reverential gaze, and thus before the reader, in the clearness of an individual presence. Years of commonplace iteration have so deadened the general mind, that Christ has practically ceased to be a reality. The pictures of the pulpit are too often poor likenesses, in faded water colors, and these are the dim, monotonous portrayals which the popular mind holds before it. Anything which vivifies and actualizes Christ, at once takes hold of the hearts of men. "The Prince of the House of David " is in wretched drawing, and its colors are a mere daubing; but because they are a little brighter than is wont, the book has been eagerly read by hundreds of thousands. Renan, in his glaring delineation, has brought the Saviour of the world into Paris, in the same spirit, and aided by the same hand which once placed Him on the exceeding high mountain; yet, because when he falsified he also vivified, he has given to Frenchmen the thrill of a French Messiah. In colors not less vivid, but exquisitely pure, — in drawing not less elaborate, but incomparable in its accuracy, Delitzsch has brought before us our Redeemer, moving in the serene beneficence of His work. We stand with our guide on the spot — we see Jesus — "the Man" is before us — we can touch him; — yet is there nothing to weaken the divine Majesty of His person, or to impair the tender awe with which faith, joyous yet tremulous, cries out, " It is the Lord!"
A large part of the work was dictated, as Delitzsch was deprived of the use of his eyes for a time. The book bears marks of the introspection and reproductiveness, which are intensified and perfected by cutting off the external light. To the "dim suffusion" which veiled the eyes of Milton, the poet brought the hours of darkness for his great work:
"Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath,
That wash thy hallow'd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit."
In the prose poem before us, which is a leaf from Delitzsch's Conception of Paradise Regained, we mark the absorption of soul, the complete carrying away in the rapture of the heavenly vision, which belong to the time of the undistracting eye, the undisturbing light. It is music in the night,
"As the wakeful bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid,
Tunes her nocturnal note."
The book has five chapters: The Scene; Morning; Noon; The Vesper Time; Evening. The charm of the pictures is wonderful. As the day of Him who was fairer than the sons of men, the holiest and the best, moves before us, the cold misty conception floats aside, and there stands unveiled a form of divine beauty, breathing the breath of our human love glorified, — so sacred, so tender, so true, that the heart is borne away in a rapture of holy joy, and we whisper, "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."