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VII. Inspiration must be attributed only to the original writers of the Scriptures, not to copyists or translators.

To multiply copies of the sacred volume, and to translate it into the various languages spoken among men, were good and necessary works, correspondent to the gracious counsels and commands of their divine Author. Without the intervention of a miracle, or at least of some very extraordinary occurrence, the autographs, that is, the original manuscripts of Scripture, could not have been preserved to all succeeding generations. Whatever care had been exercised in keeping them, they must at last have become illegible by length of time, and even crumbled into dust. The original copy of the law, written by the hand of Moses, most probably perished at the destruction of the first temple. Tertullian, who flourished in the second century, refers to some autographs of the New Testament Scriptures as then extant; but all of them, it is generally agreed, have long since disappeared.

Many ancient apographs, however, that is, copies of the original Hebrew and Greek, as well as of old translations, still remain. Yet it were rash to imagine that either the men who copied the autographs, or those who translated the Scriptures into other languages, possessed the advantage of inspiration. Had God so pleased, he could easily have upheld a regular series of infallible scribes and translators, during the successive ages of the world. With the same facility, too, he could have ensured impeccability to printers. In his adorable wisdom, however, miracles, strictly so called, were in every form discontinued, shortly after the completion of the Canon of Scripture. It was left to the church, to whom the oracles of God were committed, under the ordinary agency of his Spirit and providence attending the use of suitable means, to preserve them pure and entire.

High pretensions have been advanced in favour of some ancient versions. A Jewish tradition represents the translation of the Old Testament Scriptures into Greek, executed at Alexandria nearly three hundred years before the birth of Christ, and commonly called the Septuagint, as aggrandised by a wonderful miracle.* The Popish Council of Trent were also pleased, in their wisdom, to canonize, as authentic, the Latin translation, denominated the Vulgate, which abounds with errors and mistakes, and to decree that the originals should be corrected by that version. But the Jewish tradition regarding the Septuagint is obviously fabulous; and the Popish decree, in reference to the Vulgate, accords with the other proceedings of “that man of sin, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, and who sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."* Who does not see, that, as in the case of human testaments and royal charters, so in that of the inspired volume, which is the Testament of God our Saviour, and the great charter of salvation granted by the King Eternal to mankind, the original documents form the standard by which all copies and translations ought to be tried and corrected.

* This version is said to have been made, under the auspices of Pto. lemy Philadelphus, by seventy-two Jewish Elders. Philo, the Alexandrian Jew, affirms, that in their interpretations they all so exactly agreed as not to differ so much as one word—from whence he infers that they acted not herein as common interpreters, but as men prophetically inspired and divinely directed, who had every word dictated to them by the Holy Spirit of God, through the whole version.” The story was afterwards iin2 Thes. ij. 3, 4. † The Chaldee language, it is well known, is cognate to the Hebrew. “ The Biblical and more ancient Chaldee," says a competent judge, “as to its external form, differs not more from the Hebrew than the modern Spanish from the Latin, or even than the Doric from the Attic or Ionic dialect in Greek.” The same writer adds the following statement regarding the use made of this language in the Old Testament:-“ Besides some Chaldee words originally inserted in the historical and prophetical books, after the Israelites became acquainted with the Assyrians and Babylonians, the following parts of Scripture are written in the Chaldee dialect: namely, Jeremiah, chap. x. verse 11; Daniel, from verse 4 of the second to the end of the seventh chapter; Ezra, chap. iv. from verse 8 to chap. vi.

That there was any pre-eminent dignity or excellence either in the Hebrew or the Greek tongue, considered in themselves, by which they were peculiarly entitled to the preference above every other language, as the primitive vehicles of divine revelation to men, it is not necessary for us to believe or affirm. Yet, independently of the circumstances that the Hebrew was possibly the most venerable for antiquity, and was the living tongue of that nation which was first privileged with the sacred oracles; and that the Greek was the language most extensively spoken throughout the known world at the commencement of the Christian dispensation, and the one best understood, in general, both by the writers and the first readers of the New Testament we have cause to adore the divine wisdom in so arranging matters, that the Old Testament, excepting a very small portion in Chaldee, † was written in proved by the additional fiction of the learned interpreters being shut up in separate cells, where each made a distinct version by himself, yet all the versions, when compared, perfectly agreeing in every word. - See Prideaux's Connection, &c., vol. iii.p. 38–77; and Dr Alexander's short notice of the Septuagint, p. 16.

Hebrew, and that the New Testament, with, perhaps, no exception, was written in the Greek.”* The Hebrew language is distinguished by a noble simplicity and energy, and the Greek by an extraordinary copiousness as well as by

the accuracy

of its structure; and whilst our remaining helps for understanding the sacred books in Hebrew are greater than, from its high antiquity, could well have been expected, the critical aids for the just interpretation of the Greek original are numerous and valuable. The Hebrew and Greek originals, at all events, constitute the primary and authentic touchstone, by which all translations, whether ancient or modern, ought to be judged.

The disappearance of the original manuscripts written by the

pens, or under the immediate eye and dictation of Prophets and Apostles, ought not to be deplored as an unlooked for disaster, or a fatal loss. No critic doubts the authenticity of the acknowledged productions of Xenophon, Cicero, and other ancient authors of Greece and Rome, because the identical copies which these celebrated individuals personally wrote, are no longer extant. And why then should we question the authenticity, or the general accuracy, of the Sacred Scriptures, penned by Moses, Paul, and other holy men, although it is impossible now to gratify a natural curiosity, by fixing our own eyes on the autographs, or by unrolling these venerable parchments with our own hands?

Inspiration, it is certain, ought not to be ascribed to the copyists. We have good reason, however, to conclude that the great and merciful Author of the Scriptures has never ceased to exercise a peculiar care for the preservation of their integrity and purity, and many circumstances combine to assure us,

that they are, in nothing material, mutilated or changed. Transcribers, it may be hoped, have generally engaged in their work under the impression that the books before them were sacred, and that it became them to discover the strictest attention and faithfulness. Scarcely could they fail, we should presume, to display a far more scrupulous accuracy than the transcribers of the most esteemed human compositions. The verse 19, and chap. vii. from verse 12 to verse 27.”-Parkhurst's Chaldee Grammar, prefixed to his Hebrew Lexicon, preface.

• The Gospel by Matthew and the Epistle to the Hebrews are thought by some men of learning to have been originally written in the vernacular Hebrew of the age. With regard to the former, the reader may consult the candid remarks of Dr Alexander on the True Canon of Scripture, part ii. sect. 4. As to the latter, it is proved by Dr Owen that the notion of a Hebrew original is without foundation. See Exercit. iv. prefixed to his Exposition of that Epistle.

mutual jealousies of rival sects, too, both among Jews and Christians, must have contributed to secure the fidelity of the writers, to whatever persuasion they belonged, in transcribing copies of that inspired volume, to which they all appealed as their common and infallible standard. The least appearance of a single sentence or expression fraudulently omitted, foisted, or altered, could hardly escape immediate detection, or fail to bring instant disgrace on all that were concerned in the trick. It particularly deserves to be noticed that our blessed Lord preferred no accusation against the Jews, relating to their transcripts of the Law and the Prophets. Their false comments on the Word, and their backwardness to understand and improve it aright, often called forth his seasonable and merited reproofs: but never did he accuse them of interpolating or corrupting the sacred text. It was a common saying among the Jews, that to alter one letter of the law, was no less a sin than to set the whole world on fire. The Jewish critics of the fifth century, known by the name of Masorites, showed a laudable industry in composing a work intended to ascertain the true reading of the Hebrew Scriptures; and with much scrupulous care, they numbered the verses, the words, the letters, the vowel-points, and the accents. Yet it can be no just matter of wonder, that in a series of books, the very last of which existed more than fourteen hundred years prior to the invention of printing, whatever degree of care were exercised by transcribers, many variations have been introduced. Certain eminent scholars, subsequently to the revival of learning in Europe, have employed themselves, at a vast expense of time and labour, in collecting and comparing the various readings to be found in the ancient manuscripts both of the Hebrew and Greek originals; but, in spite of the gloomy apprehensions many conscientious Christians were apt to entertain, the result is highly satisfactory. These various readings, alarmingly numerous as at first sight they appear, are in reality, with few exceptions, altogether unimportant. “ They consist almost wholly," says a very respectable writer, “ in palpable errors in transcription, grammatical and verbal differences, such as the insertion or omission of a letter or article, the substitution of a word for its equivalent, the transposition of a word or two in a sentence. Taken altogether, they neither change nor affect a single doctrine or duty, announced or enjoined in the word of God."*_“ The truth is,” says another talented inquirer, when adverting to

The Evidence and Authority of Divine Revelation, by Robert Hal dane, Esq. vol. i. p. 127, 2d edition.

the researches of Mill, Wetstein, and Griesbach, near the close of a Lecture on the Sacred Text, “that, by a hundred and fifty thousand various readings, no doctrine or duty of our holy religion is affected; and the labours of biblical critics have terminated in establishing, instead of weakening, the authority of the text. We are now fully satisfied that we possess substantially the same text which was exhibited in the autographs of the Evangelists and Apostles; and this is also the result of the critical labours whích have been bestowed upon the Old Testament."*

Nor have we cause to undervalue faithful Translations of the Old and New Testaments. Translators, we admit, have considerable difficulties to encounter. To retain the spirit and manner as well as the sense of an author, and to convey his whole meaning, without the slightest shade of diminution, or addition, or change, is an arduous task. The more beautiful, terse, and sublime the original work, it becomes the less easy for the translator to do it perfect justice; and when the book is written in a language long since dead, the difficulty is obviously increased. The Hebrew and Greek originals, it may be confidently affirmed, exhibit, in numberless instances, an energy and a beauty which it is impossible fully to transfuse into any version. Translators, too, who have no claim to miraculous aid from above, whatever be their talents and efforts, or by whatever co-operation they may attempt to ensure a perfect correctness, are universally liable, less or more, to error and mistake. The originals are, without question, the standard to which an ultimate appeal must be made on all questions relative to the genuine meaning of the sacred oracles. No one of the inspired penmen, much less that Divine Spirit by whom they were actuated, is to be held responsible in any degree for errors, greater or smaller, that translators may have committed, , whether from deficiencies in knowledge and capacity, inadvertence, or design. Yet the God of the Bible may justly be expected to smile on the labours of its upright and diligent translators; and owing to his gracious, though not miraculous assistance, many versions, both ancient and modern, are distinguished by general accuracy, and entitled to high esteem, as faithful representations of the original records. Our own authorized English version, though not free from imperfections and mistakes, is justly regarded as one of the best that has ever appeared. Let those who have it in their power to acquire a correct knowledge of the original tongues, by all

Dr Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. i. pp. 218, 219.

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