« AnteriorContinuar »
Some of them are fifty yards long, and written in characters so large and distinct, that he must be a very careless reader who should mistake or confound them. But, notwithstanding this distinctness, together with the great care of the Jews in transcribing the Scriptures, it is certain that mistakes do occur in the very best of the manuscripts; and these corruptions, or losses, it is the main business of Biblical criticism to rectify and restore. These maculæ do not at all invalidate the Divine authority of the Scriptures, which fully testify of Jesus, and contain the words of everlasting life. But when the Word, to whom they testify, “ became flesh and dwelt among us, the book was thenceforward left in the keeping of man; and so, with all possible care on his part, could not but suffer that loss incident to every thing which has frail man for its guardian. Had the Scriptures retained in every minute particular their original perfection, such a phenomenon must have been regarded as miraculous, and the soundest mind could scarcely escape feeling a superstitious reverence, bordering on idolatry; while to the bulk of mankind they would really have become an idol of the grossest kind; for they would regard the book as Divine, while every letter proved its human origin. Now it is as a treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, not of men.
Before the light of Prophecy was extinguished in the church, and before the Jews could be even suspected of perverting the text of Scripture, the providence of God appointed means by which we are now able to assure ourselves that the Hebrew text is not corrupted : First, in the Greek translation of the LXX., confirmed as it is by its agreement with those passages quoted from the Old Testament by our Lord and the Apostles : secondly, by still confiding the care of the Hebrew Scriptures to Jews, opponents of the Gospel ; while the Christian church with the same jealous and rival fidelity preserved the Greek Scriptures. After the time of the Apostles, for nearly a thousand years, the Hebrew language was almost unknown to the church. Only two of the fathers, Origen and Jerome, made use of it for interpreting Scripture; and they had not taken up the study till late in life, and are not to be considered as masters of the language. The knowledge of Hebrew was then retained only by the Jews, and even among them mainly by their Talmudical and Cabalistic propensities. These mysterious and often puerile discussions were overruled, in the providence of God, to the safe keeping of his revelation: an end which was more completely attained by the talismanic power they attached to particular positions and combinations of letters, checked as it was by the laborious enumerations of the Masoretes, and the calculations founded thereon, than it could have
VOL. 1.-NO, II.
been by any more rational devices, in those ignorant ages. Moreover, these men were so intent on the supposed mystery which every letter of the Bible involved, that the idea of corrupting the text they would start from as a sacrilege which might provoke instant judgment; and even if they had attempted such a crime, the cross ligatures of these intricate combinations, which fixed every letter to its own place, rendered the crime impracticable. It is clear, from Philo-Judæus and parts of Josephus (to say nothing of Sohar, Bahir, or Jetzirah), that the Cabalistic dogmas are of very early date; the Talmudists and Paraphrasts begin as early : and if any one should suspect the Jews of desiring to corrupt the text of the Hebrew Scriptures, let him consider this argument, derived from their own Talmuds and Cabala, and he will immediately perceive the utter hopelessness of such an attempt. The pursuits of these men remind us of the alchemists, who, vainly pursuing an imaginary good, conferred unintentionally far more important benefits upon mankind. The Cabalistic writings, too, have much that is analogous with the philosophy of Plato; with a dim shadowing forth of incomprehensible mysteries, which, stripped of their puerilities, shew profundity and sublimity beyond any other speculations *. It was this which struck on the ardent mind of Picus of Mirandula, and through him became the principal cause of the revival of Hebrew learning in Christendom. From him, Peter Galatine and Reuchlin caught their ardour; but they also gave their chief study to Cabalistic lore. Reuchlin, however, published his Hebrew Grammar and Lexicon; and, the way being then opened, Pagninus, Munster, Brixianus, the Buxtorfs, Castell, and a thousand more, succeeded; who left no region of Oriental literature unexplored, and largely contributed to the brilliancy of that blaze of light which the church enjoyed in that Augustan age of theology, during which she accumulated a treasure of learning which her sons of the succeeding ages have been too indolently contented to draw upon, without sufficiently exerting themselves to add fresh stores to the common stock. But a more generous and independent spirit seems now to animate them, and may God bless and increase it!
* As a specimen of the apparent trifling, but real depth, of their writings, we may quote the commencement of the Sohar, where the letters of the alphabet are represented as contending for precedency in recording the revelation of God. ñ first puts in his claims, as being the end and completion of all things, as summing up the most comprehensive name of God, nON, &c. n is at length dismissed, with the promise that he shall have the honour of sealing the servants of God (Ezek. ix. 3) when the wicked are cut off; and so of the other letters. Now, under this strange conceit is set forth to an attentive reader the same great truth as by the Alpha and Omega of the Apocalypse (Rev. xxii. 13); with the further indication, that all things not only have respect to the final purpose of God, but that they must wait to be unfolded in their proper time and order : the end, though first in purpose, must be last in development.
The Greek text of the New Testament would at first sight appear to have been less carefully guarded from corruption than the Hebrew text of the Old. For in the Christian church there existed no prohibition against transcribing the Scriptures, nor was there any prescribed rule or imperative necessity for examining the finished manuscript. Clearness of writing was more regarded than competency of knowledge ; and some of the earliest manuscripts remaining—the Alexandrine, for instancewere written by women indifferently acquainted with the language, and owe their preservation to the little use which was made of them. But the copies of the New Testament were so very numerous, the comments of the Fathers so copious and minute, the versions began so early, and the great doctrines were so interlaced into whole chapters and epistles, by the many controversies with heretics and the many councils assembled on their account, that we are able, by these multiplied checks on error, and these numerous avenues to truth, as certainly to fix the true meaning of the New Testament Scriptures as that of the Old. The best editions of the Hebrew Bible, are 1. Athias and Leusden, 1667; from which the Jews generally now write their rolls for the synagogue. 2. Jablonski, 1699; the most beautiful, and, as we think, the most accurate of all the editions. 3. Vanderhooght, 1705; which is most generally esteemed, and is a very fine edition. 4. David Nunes Torres, 1700, 4 vols. 12mo, an edition much esteemed by the Jews. But to the theological student, that of Michaelis, 1720, is by far the most useful Hebrew Bible: its text is among the most correct, and its marginal references and notes are incomparably valuable. Correct editions of the Greek Testament abound every where, and are too numerous to specify. All the editions of Stephens are carefully printed. Mill, in the edition of 1707, rendered important service to the church, in his extensive collection of various readings : Bengel, Wetstein, Griesbach, and many more, have followed in the same course ; and, though it is still going on, we think little more remains to be done, all the principal stores of information having been now thoroughly examined.
In discussing the merits of the several translations from the Hebrew Scriptures, we give the first place, for importance as well as for age, to the venerable Septuagint.
In disputed passages of the sacred text, this version affords more light than all the others put together; and if we now possessed it in the original state, we should probably need no other help in interpretation : but not having been confided to guardians só vigilant as the Jews, it became sadly corrupted before the time
of Origen, as his notes prove. It is not to our present purpose to enter upon the history of this version, nor to inquire whether ours is that of the age of Ptolomy: we know it to be the same which Origen thought the LXX., excepting the book of Daniel, which is Theodotion's. In the time of Origen, this was the version commonly used by the church; but in transcription it had grown corrupt; and he corrected it from the best manuscripts, and it formed one of the columns in his Tetrapla. He inserted it also in his Hexapla, which consisted of-1. the Hebrew text; 2. the Hebrew words written in Greek characters; 3. the version of the LXX.; 4. the version of Aquila ; 5. the version of Theodotion; 6. the version of Symmachus-arranged in six parallel columns. Of all these, excepting the LXX., fragments only remain; which were collected first by Drusius, afterwards more diligently by Montfaucon. Aquila's version was ploddingly literal, and regarded rather as a mere lexicon of word for word, than a transfusion of the meaning of the original. Theodotion and Symmachus, on the other hand, were too paraphrastic, and both of them Ebionites. Jerome speaks of two classes of the LXX.; one, the common sort, and very incorrect; the other, from Origen's Hexapla, which he followed. But the Greek versions at that time were very numerous; and of the Latin, he says, there were almost as many versions as there were copies. Jerome, therefore, undertook to reform the Latin version ; and the ultimate result of his labours was the Vulgate, which has ever since been the authorized version of the Roman Church. Jerome, considering the time, was well fitted for the work he had undertaken ; and he omitted no pains which might increase his qualifications : four several times does he record his having recourse to Jews, to perfect himself in the Hebrew : and he seems to have pursued his object indefatigably, and with the ardour of one who loved his work; and though we hold in true Protestant abhorrence the several Popish inferences which have been drawn from Jerome's blunders, we still dare to be just, and pronounce the Vulgate version to have been a noble work. His blunders were those of honest ignorance, not of systematic perversion; and, being honest, they are generally palpable, and often self-contradictory. Take it all in all, and as the work of one man, it does him much honour; nor is there any version, even now, which in the prophetic parts comes nearer to the sense of the original than the Vulgate does.
As Origen had fixed the Greek version by his Hexapla, so Jerome fixed the Latin version by the Vulgate, and for a thousand years it continued the standard of the Western churches. The first important innovation in this long-established prescription, was made in the literal version of Santes Pagninus, 1527.
Pagnine was a good Hebrew scholar, and he spent thirty years on his translation; but he does not seem to have had an acute mind ; and when his verbal knowledge of Hebrew failed him, he either gives the Vulgate rendering, or words alone, without meaning. But, still, his version assisted much in opening the Hebrew Scriptures ; and his Lexicon, especially when improved by Mercer, still more. Arius Montanus rather increased the dry literality of Pagninus, and had not so much learning to support or excuse it.
Munster was the next, who in 1539 published a new translation from the Hebrew : it was dry, literal, and abounded in barbarisms,
The next translation of importance, was that begun by Leo Juda, completed by Bibliander and his coadjutors, and published in 1543. This, though in some places becoming a paraphrase rather than translation, is an excellent version, and was reprinted by Stephens, with notes by Vatablus, 1545.
Castalio's translation was published 1551. He, wishing to avoid the barbarous style of Munster, fell into the opposite extreme; and, by moulding the phraseology of his version after classical models, rather offended pious minds, while he failed in pleasing those of refined taste. But his work is very valuable. He generally perfectly understands the original text, and his notes are full of piety and simplicity; and where he is unable to interpret, he has the honesty to stop, and confess his igno
The last of the versions which we have occasion to notice, is that of Tremellius and Junius, published 1579. This translation, though now much neglected, is to the Hebrew student very important. Tremellius was a converted Jew, and well understood Hebrew, the sense of which he generally gives exactly. He thought not of style in his version, and in most cases adhered to the Hebrew idiom. He has also the sole merit of marking the distinction between the different names and appellations of God, which no other version does uniformly. For these and many other excellencies, we think it deserving of much higher estimation than it now receives.
These versions, either singly or combined, have formed the basis of nearly all the modern translations; and it might be very instructive, were this the place, to trace the doctrines of the different national churches, according to the version from which their vernacular translation of the Scriptures was chiefly deduced : for each of those Latin versions proceeded from a disciple of some particular school of theology, the peculiarities of which it could not but retain, and would transmit to those which were copied from it. With this caution impressed upon the mind should they be consulted ; for a reference to them can hardly, we think, be dispensed with by any one who would satisfy himself that he under