Hutchinson, John, 2
Hutchinson, John, 2
inventor of a theory of hermeneutics which gave rise to much discussion in the 17th century, and still has a few adherents, was born in 1674, at Spennithorne, in Yorkshire. After private education, he became, at the age of 19, steward to Mr. Bathurst, and afterwards to the duke of Somerset, who bestowed upon him many marks of confidence, and finally procured for Hutchinson a sinecure appointment of £200 per annum from the government. His time was now mainly devoted to religious study. He also made a large and valuable collection of fossils. In 1724 he published the first part of a curious work entitled Moses's Principia, in which he attempted to refute the doctrine of gravitation as taught in the Principia of Newton. In the second part of this work, which appeared in 1727, he continued his attack upon the Newtonian philosophy, and maintained, on the authority of Scripture, the existence of a plenum. From this time to his death he published yearly one or two volumes in further elucidation of his views, which evince extensive knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. He died August 28,1737.
"According to Hutchinson, the Old Testament contains a complete system of natural history, theology, and religion. The Hebrew language was the medium of God's communication with man; it is therefore perfect, and consequently, as a perfect language, it must be coextensive with all the objects of knowledge, and its several terms are truly significant of the objects which they indicate, and not so many arbitrary signs to represent them. Accordingly, Hutchinson, after Origen and others, laid great stress on the evidence of Hebrew etymology, and asserted that the Scriptures are not to be understood and interpreted in a literal, but in a typical sense, and according to the radical import of the Hebrew expressions. By this plan of interpretation, he maintained that the Old Testament would be found not only to testify fully to the nature and offices of Christ, but also to contain a perfect system of natural philosophy." His editors give the following compendium of the Hutchinsonian theory: "The Hebrew Scriptures nowhere ascribe motion to the body of the sun, or fixedness to the earth;
they describe the created system to be a plenum without any vacuum, and reject the assistance of gravitation, attraction, or any such occult qualities, for performing the stated operations of nature, which are carried on by the mechanism of the heavens in their threefold condition of fire, light, and spirit, or air, the material agents set to work at the beginning: the heavens, thus framed by Almighty wisdom, are an instituted emblem and visible substitute of Jehovah Elohim, the eternal three, the coequal and co- adorable Trinity in Unity: the unity of substance in the heavens points out the unity of essence, and the distinction of conditions the triune personality in Deity, without confounding the persons or dividing the substance. From their being made emblems, they are called in Hebrew Shermim, the names, representatives, or substitutes, expressing by their names that they are emblems, and by their conditions or offices what it is they are emblems of." As an instance of his etymological interpretation, the word Berith, which our translation renders Covenant, Hutchinson construes to signify "he or that which purifies," and so the purifier or purification "for," not "with," man. From similar etymologies, he drew the conclusion "that all the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish dispensation were so many delineations of Christ, in what he was to be, to do, and to suffer, and that the early Jews knew them to be types of his actions and sufferings, and that, by performing them as such, were in so far Christians both in faith and practice." All his writings are collected in The Philosophical and Theological Works of the late truly learned John Hutchinson, Esq. (Lond. 1749, 3rd edit. 12 vols. 8vo).
"Hutchinson's philological and exegetical views found numerous followers, who, without constituting a doctrinal sect, came to be distinguished as 'Hutchinsonians.' In their number they reckoned several distinguished divines in England and Scotland, both of the Established Church and of Dissenting communities. Among the most eminent of these were bishop Home, and his biographer, Mr. William Jones; Mr. Romaine, and Mr. Julius Bates, to whom the duke of Somerset, on the nomination of Mr. Hutchinson, presented the living of Sutton, in Sussex; Mr. Parkhurst, the lexicographer; Dr. Hodges, provost of Oriel; and Dr. Wetherell, master of University College, Oxford; Mr. Holloway, author of Letter and Spirit; and Mr. Lee, author of Sophron, or Nature's Characteristics of Truth. The principles of Mr. Hutchinson are still entertained by many divines without their professing to be followers of Mr. Hutchinson, but the number of professing Hutchinsonians is now very small." See English Cyclop. s.v.;
Jones of Noyland, Works, vols. 3 and 13; Bishop Horne, Works, vol. vi (ed. 1809); Bate, Defense of Hutchinson (Lond. 1751, 8vo); Spearman, Abstract of Hutchinson's Works (Edinb. 1755, 12mo); Kitto., Bibl. Cyclop. 2, 345.