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TRANSLATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
God's care of the Scriptures—Samaritan version of the Pentateuch
-The Septuagint Translation-Dr. Prideaux's account of it, Remarks of Professor Rollin-Origen's Hexapla—The New Testament written in Greek—The Old Italic Version–Jerome's Latin Version—The Vulgate Latin-Substituted for the originals by the Roman Catholics.
DIVINE Revelation, to be profitable to all nations, must be presented to them in their several languages. This essentially necessary work has been accomplished by the gracious arrangements of the providence of God. The history of this work is one of the most instructive and interesting chapters in the records of the world.
God having graciously given the revelation of his will to mankind, some one language, or more than one, must have been selected as the medium. The Hebrew was chosen for the books of the Old Testament, and the inspired writers of the New Testament employed the Greek. Both of these have ceased to be spoken languages; and yet the infinite wisdom of God designed that all nations should be blessed with the knowledge of the truth taught in the Holy Scriptures. This, therefore, required numerous translations.
Divine Providence has been wonderfully manifested in connection with the successive translations of the sacred oracles; and scarcely any other subject brought under the consideration of man can be more truly edifying to the devout mind. This good work was not committed to mighty monarchs, nor to wise senators, nor yet to the learned councillors of the nations; nevertheless it has been extensively accomplished, with a degree of fidelity and care which has excited the profound admiration of the wisest servants of God.
The Samaritan Pentateuch was the first translation of the Holy Scriptures. This arose from the conquest of Samaria by the Assyrians, in the year B.C. 721. For when they came to settle with the Israelites in Samaria, they found it expedient, for the sake of those who used the common language, to make a version of the Five Books of Moses. It is a valuable work; and being perfectly literal, the same Latin translation answers to the Hebrew and the Samaritan Pentateuch ; and all the three are published in the Polyglots of London and Paris.
The Old Testament was first translated into the Greek language, above two thousand years ago, nearly three hundred years before the incarnation of Christ, and while that portion of divine revelation was considered as belonging exclusively to the Jews. This Greek version of the Old Testament is called by scholars “ THE SEPTUAGINT," commonly expressed by them with Roman numerals, thus, “ LXX.,” because seventy-two Jewish elders were reputed to have been engaged in that important work, to meet the wishes of Ptolemy Philadelphus, King of Egypt. This celebrated king had been for ten years associated on the throne with his father, Ptolemy Lagus, who died in the year B.c. 284, after a reign of thirtynine years, from the death of Alexander. It is probable that he might have desired a translation of the laws of Moses from Hebrew into Greek, as he had made himself famous by having written a life of Alexander the Great. But the true reason of this translation appears to have been the necessities of the Jewish people, who were fast forgetting their native tongue, partly in consequence of the general adoption of the Greek language by the nations, after the conquests of Alexander in the East.
Dr. Prideaux states the history of this work with admirable propriety and brevity thus:-“Alexander the Great, on building Alexandria, brought these various colonies to people his new city, among whom were a great many Jews. To these he granted the free use of their own laws and religion. His successor, Ptolemy Soter, having fixed the seat of his empire in that city, brought there many more of this nation to increase the strength of the place; and having granted them the same privileges with the Macedonians and other Greeks, they soon grew to be a great part of the population. Intercourse with the Greeks necessitated them to learn their language, by which they forgot their own, as before at Babylon they had forgotten it, and had learned the Chaldee. This rendered it necessary to have the Scriptures translated for their use, which at first were limited to the five books of Moses, as the law
only was read in their synagogues; but afterwards, when the prophetical books came into use in the public worship, they also were translated. By this means, therefore, it was that wherever the apostles went preaching the gospel, they found the Scriptures in the Jewish synagogues which were in the Grecian cities, as we learn from the Acts of the Apostles.”*
Divine wisdom and goodness appear in this important dispensation of Providence, as a necessary preparation for the publication of the Gospel. Thus, therefore, Professor Rollin remarks upon it :-“In this manner did God prepare the way for the preaching of the Gospel, which was then approaching, and facilitate the union of so many nations of different languages and manners into one society, and the same worship and doctrines, by the instrumentality of the finest, most copious and correct language that was ever spoken in the world, and which became common to all the countries that were conquered by Alexander.”
Christ and his apostles referred to this translation of the Old Testament; and its value may be estimated by the fact of its being generally quoted by the apostles in their epistles, which were written in Greek. The Septuagint version was generally received, but in the transcription of multiplied copies errors crept in. Being used by the early Christian fathers, the Jews objected against various things in it, as not agreeing with the Hebrew. To serve the cause of Christ, therefore, Origen undertook to re
* Connection between the Old and New Testament, vol. ii., p. 73
vise it, and he travelled about for twenty-eight years collecting materials for his work. He found six Greek translations, three of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion, and three anonymous, which he published in six columns, from which it was called Hexapla. This immense work has been of inestimable value to the cause of the Bible.
All the books of the New Testament (except the Apocalypse) were written in the Greek language, within about thirty years after the ascension of Christ; and both parts of the sacred volume were, within a short period, translated into the language of the Romans.
Rome had brought all the civilised nations under her dominion before the advent of Messiah. Her language, therefore, while the apostles preached the gospel throughout the world, prevailed in many countries, especially in those in the western parts of Europe and of Northern Africa. The Roman, or Latin, was thus superseding the Greek as a general language, and it became indispensable that the sacred books should be translated into Latin. Learned men were, therefore, raised up by Providence to accomplish this good work soon after the several books of the New Testament were written; so that in the second century, most of the sacred books were translated, not only into the Syriac and some other languages, but into the popular Italic, for the use of those Christians whose native tongue was Latin.
Many different versions in this language were found to exist among the people; so that Augustine declared:-“Those who have translated the Bible into