Hebrew Concordance

About the year 1430, there lived here among the western Jews a famous rabbi, called by some Rabbi Mordecai Nathan, by others Rabbi Isaac Nathan, and by many by both these names, as if he were first called by one of them, and then, by a change of it, by the other. This rabbi being much conversant with the Christians, and having frequent disputes with their learned men about religion, he thereby came to the knowledge of the great use which they made of the Latin concordance composed by Cardinal Hugo, and the benefit which they had from it, in the ready finding of any place in the Scriptures which they had occasion to consult; which he was so much taken with, that he immediately set about making such a concordance to the Hebrew Bible for the use of the Jews. He began this work in the year 1438, and finished it in 1445, being seven years in composing it; and the first publishing of it happening about the time when printing was invented, it has since undergone several editions from the press. The Buxtorfs, father and son, bestowed much pains on this work; and the edition of it published by them at Basil in 1632 is by far the most complete, and has deservedly the reputation of being the best book of the kind that is extant. Indeed, it is so useful for the understanding of the Hebrew scriptures, that no one who employs his studies in this way can have a better companion; it being the best dictionary, as well as the best concordance to them.

In the composing of this book, Rabbi Nathan finding it necessary to follow the same division of the Scriptures into chapters which Hugo had made in them, it had the like effect as to the Hebrew bibles that Hugo's had as to the Latin, causing the same divisions to be made in all the Hebrew bibles which were afterward either written out or printed for common use; and hence the division into chapters first came into the Hebrew bibles. But Nathan, though he followed Hugo in the division into chapters, yet did not do so in the division of the chapters by the letters A, B, C, etc., in the margin, but introduced a better usage by employing the division that was made by verse. This division, as already mentioned, was very ancient; but it was till now without any numbers put to the verses. The numbering, therefore, of the verses in the chapters, and the quoting of the passages in every chapter by the verses, were Rabbi Nathan's invention; in everything else he followed the pattern which Cardinal Hugo had sent him. But it is to be observed, that he did not number the verses any otherwise than by affixing the numerical Hebrew letters in the margin at every fifth verse; and this has been the usage of the Jews in all their Hebrew bibles ever since, except that latterly they have also introduced the common figures for numbering the intermediate verses between every fifth. Vatalibius soon after published a Latin Bible according to this pattern, with the chapters divided into verses, and the verses so numbered; and this example has been followed in all other editions that have been since put forth. So that, as the Jews borrowed the division of the books of the Holy Scriptures into chapters from the Christians, in like manner the Christians borrowed that of the chapters into verses from the Jews. But to this day the book of the law, which is read by the Jews in their synagogues every Sabbath day, has none of these distinctions, that is, is not divided into verses as the Bible is.

An Illustrated History Of The Holy Bible;
Being a Connected Account of theRemarkable Events and Distinguished CharactersContained inThe Old and New Testaments,
- by John Kitto