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TO THE MOST HIGH AND MIGHTY PRINCE
BY THE GRACE OF GOD, KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND
IRELAND, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH, &c.
THE TRANSLATORS OF THE BIBLE
WISH GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.
GREAT and manifold were the blessings, most dread Sovereign, which Almighty God, the
~ Father of all mercies, bestowed upon us the people of England, when first he sent Your Majesty's Royal Person to rule and reign over us. For whereas it was the expectation of many, who wished not well unto our Sion, that upon the setting of that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth of most happy memory, some thick and palpable clouds of darkness would so have overshadowed this Land, that men should have been in doubt which way they were to walk; and that it should hardly be known, who was to direct the unsettled State; the appearance of Your Majesty, as of the Sun in his strength, instantly dispelled those supposed and surmised mists, and gave unto all that were well affected exceeding cause of comfort; especially when we beheld the Government established in Your Highness, and Your hopeful Seed, by an undoubted Title, and this also accompanied with peace and tranquillity at home and abroad.
But among all our joys, there was no one that more filled our hearts, than the blessed continuance of the preaching of God's sacred Word among us; which is that inestimable treasure, which excelleth all the riches of the earth; because the fruit thereof extendeth itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directeth and disposeth men unto that eternal happiness which is above in heaven.
Then not to suffer this to fall to the ground, but rather to take it up, and to continue it in that state, wherein the famous Predecessor of Your Highness did leave it: nay, to go forward with the confidence and resolution of a Man in maintaining the truth of Christ, and propagating it far and near, is that which hath so bound and firmly knit the hearts of all Your Majesty's loyal and religious people unto You, that Your very name is precious among them: their eye doth behold You with comfort, and they bless You in their hearts, as that sanctified Person, who, under God, is the immediate Author of their true happiness. And this their contentment doth not diminish or decay, but every day increaseth and taketh strength, when they observe, that the zeal of Your Majesty toward the house of God doth not slack or go backward, but is more and more kindled, manifesting itself abroad in the farthest parts of Christendom, by writing in
defence of the Truth, (which hath given such a blow unto that man of sin, as will not be healed,) and every day at home, by religious and learned discourse, by frequenting the house of God, by hearing the Word preached, by cherishing the Teachers thereof, by caring for the Church, as a most tender and loving nursing Father.
There are infinite arguments of this right christian and religious affection in Your Majesty; but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto Your Majesty. For when Your Highness had once out of deep judgment apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the Original Sacred Tongues, together with comparing of the labours, both in our own, and other foreign Languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English Tongue ; Your Majesty did never desist to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require.
And now at last, by the mercy of God, and the continuance of our labours, it being brought unto such a conclusion, as that we have great hopes that the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby; we hold it our duty to offer it to your Majesty, not only as to our King and Sovereign, but as to the principal Mover and Author of the work: humbly craving of your most Sacred Majesty, that since things of this quality have ever been subject to the censures of illmeaning and discontented persons, it may receive approbation and patronage from so learned and judicious a Prince as Your Highness is, whose allowance and acceptance of our labours shall more honour and encourage us, than all the calumniations and hard interpretations of other men shall dismay us. So that if, on the one side, we shall be traduced by Popish Persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor instruments to make God's holy truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness; or if, on the other side, we shall be maligned by self-conceited Brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil; we may rest secure, supported within by the truth and innocency of a good conscience, having walked the ways of simplicity and integrity, as before the Lord; and sustained without by the powerful protection of Your Majesty's grace and favour, which will ever give countenance to honest and christian endeavours against bitter censures and uncharitable imputations.
The Lord of heaven and earth bless Your Majesty with many and happy days, that, as his heavenly hand hath enriched Your Highness with many singular and extraordinary graces, so you may be the wonder of the world in this latter age for happiness and true felicity, to the honour of that great GOD, and the good of his Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord and only Saviour.
THE BI B L E.
THE BIBLE is the only authentick source, from which we can derive instruction
concerning the various dispensations of God to mankind, and the duties required of men by their Creator. The word • Bible' literally signifies book; and the word Scriptures,' writings : but these words are now, by way of eminence and distinction, applied exclusively to those sacred compositions, which contain the revealed will of God. The words “Scriptures' and `Scripture' occur in this sense in the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles; whence it is evident, that, in the time of our Saviour, they denoted the books received by the Jews as the rule of their faith. To these books have been added the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists, which complete the collection of books, acknowledged by Christians to be divinely inspired. The Bible, or the Book, the book of books, was used in its present sense by the early Christians, as we learn from St. Chrysostom.
The Bible is divided into two parts, the Old and the New Testament. The Apostle St. Paul, at 2 Cor. iii. 6 and 14, calls the dispensation of Moses “the Old Testament,” and the dispensation of Christ “the New Testament;" and these distinguishing appellations were applied by the early ecclesiastical authors to the writings which contain these dispensations. The Greek word translated “testament,' occurs in Scripture both in the sense of a testament or will, and in that of a covenant, Heb. ix. 16; Gal. iii. 15. It seems less properly applied to the ancient Scriptures in the former sense, since the death of Moses had no concern whatever in the establishment or efficacy of the Jewish religion; but, in the latter sense, it very properly signifies the covenant between God and His chosen people. The same word, when applied in the sense of a testament to the books which contain the Christian dispensation, may refer to the death of Christ, which forms an essential part of His religion; but even in this case it would perhaps have been better translated by the word covenant,' as referring to the conditions on which God is pleased to offer salvation to His sinful creatures, through the mediation of His only Son, Jesus Christ. Bp. Tomline.
The books of the Old Testament were originally written in Hebrew, those of the New Testament in Greek.
The principal translation of the Old Testament into the Greek language, is that which is called the Septuagint. This name is derived from the Latin word Septuaginta, Seventy, the version being related to have been made by seventy or seventy
GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE.
two interpreters. It is recorded that, about the year Before Christ 277, Ptolemy Philadelphus, being intent on forming a great library at Alexandria in Egypt, sent to Eleazar the high priest of the Jews, to request a copy of the Law of Moses; and, as he was ignorant of the Hebrew tongue, he further desired that some men of sufficient capacity might be sent to translate it into Greek. The messengers, who went upon this errand, and carried with them many rich presents for the temple, were received with great honour and respect, both by the high priest, and all the people; and having received a copy of the Law of Moses, and six elders having been assigned out of each tribe (seventy-two in all) to translate it, returned to Alexandria. Upon their arrival, the elders betook themselves to the work, and first translated the Pentateuch, afterwards the rest of the Old Testament, into Greek. Whatever may be thought of the truth of this story, it is certain that the translation, called the Septuagint, was held in esteem and veneration almost equal to the original, and was not only used by the Jews in their dispersion through the Grecian cities, but approved by the great Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, and quoted and referred to by our blessed Saviour and His Apostles.
The Latin translations of the Bible were, in early times, extremely numerous, but they were chiefly made from the Septuagint, and not from the original Hebrew, until St. Jerome, who was well versed in the Hebrew language, observing the errours of the many Latin translations, and their frequent disagreement with the original, undertook an entirely new translation, and with great care and exactness translated from the Hebrew all the Old Testament, except the Psalms. This translation of St. Jerome was not universally received in the Church ; and at length another, which was composed of this and some former translations, and which is called by the Romanists The Ancient Vulgate, came into general use. The Romanists pretend that this Vulgate translation is the very same with St. Jerome's, and that, whatever variations may be found, they were occasioned by the negligence of transcribers. However this may be, it cannot be denied that it has considerable faults, that it abounds with barbarous words, and that in many passages the sense of the original is corrupted, and in some entirely lost. Still the Council of Trent thought fit to declare that “the same ancient and vulgate Version, which has been approved and used in the Church for many ages past, shall be considered as the authentick Version in all publick lectures, sermons, and expositions, which no one shall presume to reject, under any pretence whatever.”
It is impossible to ascertain with any exactness how soon there was a translation of the Holy Scriptures into the language of the inhabitants of Britain. The earliest, of which we have any account, is a translation of the Psalms into the Saxon tongue by Adhelm, the first bishop of Sherbourne, about the year 706. Egbert, bishop of Lindisfern, who died in the year 721, made a Saxon Version of the four Gospels; and not long after, Bede translated the whole Bible into that language. There were other Saxon versions of the whole or parts of the Bible of a later date; and it appears indeed, that new translations were made from time to time, as the language of the country varied; but when the popes of Rome had established their spiritual tyranny in this as well as in other countries of Europe, they forbade the reading of these translations; and in the fourteenth century the common people had been so long deprived of the use of the Scriptures, that the latest of the translations were become unintelligible. Wickliff therefore, who was a strenuous opposer of the corruptions and usurpations of the Church of Rome, and from whom we are to date the dawn of