The Oracles of Jacob and Balaam. By Erie Burrows, S,J., edited by E. Sutcliffe, S.J., Bellarmine Series. (Burns Oates & Washbourne, 12s. 6do Reviewed by HUGH POPE, O.F.
THIS is an exceedingly difficult book to I review. Years ago 1 had the
privilege of hearing Fr. Burrows lecturing on the subject and I felt bewildered, mystified and resentfulowing to my ignorance. Briefly. his theory, which he constantly refers to as " probable, " possible," etc., is that there is an astronomical basis to the prophecy of Jacob, Gen. xlix and that this reappears in those of Balaton, Nbs. XXiii-xxiv, of Isaias, vii-ix, Deut xxxite Mich, v, 1-10, Osee, iii. 5, Zech. ix, 9-10. and ands, so to speak, ,Its culmination in the State seen by the Magi. At first this sounds fanciful to a degree; but as Fr. Burrows works it out, with a wealth of learning, especially Assyriological, it Is made to seem far from unreasonable.
If we take the curse on Reuben it will be seen that it falls into two parts. a play on his name and a curse, and the same feature appears almost throughout. Now Reuben is said to be " poured out as water " and " water " stands for the zodiacal sign of Aquarius. Again, Simeon and Levi arc brothers-the sign of the Gemini, and so on. Some of the identifications may seem far-fetched, Zabulon with his " ships," of course the parallel is " Pisces " (?). The most interesting, however, is the equation between "Shilo" and " Virgo"; this should be read in detail, pp. 51-60. And here we may say at once that a study of Fr. Burrows' " Conclusions," pp. 4.: If, will enable the sceptical reader to do fuller justice to the theory.
BUT now supposing all this astounding Li theory is justified, what becomes of the Messianic character. of these prophecies, and In what sense are they Inspired? Briefly: the original narratives of the Patriarchs contained none of these astronomical fancies, but "It is possible that a prophecy of Jacob of much simpler form was thoroughly recast by a poet of genius," p. 50 while the fundamental '' narratives were already substantially formed in the second ruthenium," B.C., p. 67. Of course, since the existing narrative alone comes under the category of Holy Scripture the inspiration will belong to "the poet of genius."
Space forbids our dealing wita the rest of Fr. Burrows' speculations, but anyone who can reconcile himself to some peculiarly stiff reading will enjoy the volume,