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ends in speculation. One man may believe implicitly in his sacred books. Another may reject all such belief as superstition. The belief or disbelief can never, in this world, pass into knowledge. Let no man therefore give out for truth more than he can prove. Let him not pass off for knowledge what cannot be more than conjecture. This is the first rule.
With regard to babes and sucklings, of whatever age, when bliss and ignorance go hand in hand, let them be. Nevertheless, he who has honestly earned his opinions (provided always he observe the former rule), need not hesitate to preach them. The plainer he speaks the better; there are plenty who wish to learn. If he be wrong, he will the sooner be corrected.
The influence of steadfast inquiry upon one's own mind -the love of accuracy which it promotes, is as constant on the one hand, as are the hurtful consequences of an indolent security on the other. The force of this unpalatable fact is unfortunately not fully recognised until mental discipline has become a habit.
If any one were to offer us, as a bargain, a handsome crystal which he declared would, like the fabled gem, give out light in the midst of darkness, our first thought would be: is it a genuine diamond ? This we should not be able to decide without some acquaintance with precious stones. But as a first step in the inquiry, we should be sure to ask how the bearer got it, or what was its history.
Such is our position with regard to the Bible. Its divine authority, its miraculous revelations, its intrinsic merits, demand the consideration of so many collateral matters that it is convenient to set these aside while we inquire what is known of the Book itself.
We speak of the sacred volume as of one book; yet we all know that it is a collection of many books. Inquiry therefore as to the authenticity of the whole, demands investigation of the separate parts; one or more of which might be spurious, while the rest were genuine. It is far beyond my reach to attempt criticism of this kind. Little short of a lifetime devoted to Biblical research, with all its linguistic and ethnological entailments, qualifies any one to give an opinion of his own upon the exegesis, the authorship, or the history of a single book—or single sentence, I might almost say—in either the Old Testament or the New. A glance at the labours of Ewald alone (to say nothing of scholars like Paulus, Eichhorn, Strauss, Bauer, Gesenius, de Wette, Renan, Davidson, Westcott, and battalions of others) is enough to appal the most resolute student; and more than enough to stagger the easy confidence of the most faithful, or the contemptuous indifference of the unbeliever. It will be my endeavour to select such passages here and there as illustrate the verdicts of competent authorities. I shall state, however, without reserve, the inferences which seem to me legitimate.
We will, if you please, make our start from the English version of the Old Testament. In 1530, Tyndale was the first to translate the Pentateuch from the Hebrew text. Five years later the entire Bible was printed and published by Coverdale. Soon after, a new edition was brought out at Geneva by some English exiles. Cranmer's, or the Bishops' Bible, which was partly Tyndale's and partly Coverdale's, followed; and these two remained in use until the reign of James I.
James, disliking certain renderings in the Geneva Bible (especially that of the divine approval of the Hebrew midwives who disobeyed Pharaoh's orders to destroy the male children-disobedience which he condemned as “seditious and traitorous conceits”), ordered a new translation. This was undertaken by forty-seven scholars; who completed and published, in 1611, the version now used by the Church of England. “If you ask what they had before them, truly it was the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Greek of the New," &c. 1
What are we to understand by the Hebrew text. What was the original which these men translated ? Let us trace the line of descent from this point, for it is here that our interest begins.
You are probably aware that the Roman Catholic Bible contains many books which the Greek Church rejected in the fourth century; and which the Protestant Church now excludes as apocryphal. In not very old editions of English Bibles these books are inserted between the two Testaments. The fact indicates that the different Churches disagree as to the genuineness of writings which at one time or other were esteemed as sacred. Upon what principles, then, was authenticity decided ? Are the Greek and English Churches rejecting at the present hour divinely inspired works which the Latin Church preserves ? or, how do the books retained escape the doubt attached to those eliminated ? As regards the Church of Rome this matter was finally settled by Clement VIII. at the end of the sixteenth century. Fifty years before his time the Council of Trent had declared Jerome's version to be the standard and only authoritative one; which indeed it had been with the Western Churches for nearly a thousand years. During that long period it had become so corrupted by emendations that, Clement suppressed the edition revised under his immediate predecessor; and tried to produce one more in accordance with the translation of Jerome, most of which, however, had long been lost. Clement's edition, published in 1598, became, and remains to this day, the Vulgate of the Latin Church. Notwithstanding the professed deference to the authority of St. Jerome, the existing Vulgate contains all the apocryphal writings which Jerome himself excluded from the canon. Luther translated the apocryphal books with the rest of the Bible, but he and the Protestants refused to accept the decrees of Rome as to their canonicity, and appealed to the decision of Jerome in justification of their own choice.
1 Translators' Preface.
This takes us back to the end of the fourth century of our era. Jerome's translation was from the Hebrew into Latin; but before his time (probably more than two hundred years before it) Latin versions of the Bible already abounded. Why then did Jerome undertake a new one? For the same reason which influenced the Council of Trent and Clement VIII., viz., the corrupt state of the current editions. St. Augustine speaks of an indefinite number of Latin versions; and copies were extensively multiplied not only for Europeans, but for the Latin-speaking Christians of Carthage. The Pope Damasus, struck with the numerous and gross discrepancies between these versions and the Septuagint, of which, be it observed, they were but translations, urged Jerome to revise the best of them—known as the Itala, and recognised as the Vulgata of that period.
What means were at hand for the accomplishment of such a task? Was there any authentic collection of autograph manuscripts; or any undoubted copies even of the original writings ? There was neither one nor the other. Jerome had to avail himself, in the first instance, of the four great Greek translations already made. These were the Septuagint or Alexandrine, and three others, by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. But if they were all translated from the Hebrew, why could not Jerome go to the same fountain-head? The translators of our English version tell us they made use of the Hebrew text, and Jerome tells us the same. Again, we have to ask, what was the Hebrew text? The only Hebrew text then extant was that which the Jews of his time accepted as canonical. The only Hebrew text known to our translators was that which they obtained from the Rabbins of their day. To the Synagogue then, and not to the Christian
Churches, we must look for the history of the Sacred Writings.
I have said there were not even copies of the original scriptures in Jerome's time; and that the highest authority of the Western Churches was the Septuagint. It should be mentioned that the Christians of Palestine had a Syriac version called the Pechito. This, however, although taken direct from the Hebrew, was not of earlier date than the second century of our era. The Septuagint was four, if not five hundred years older. It was the version of the Old Testament with which St. Paul was most familiar. It was the only one intelligible to the mass of the Hellenistic or Greek-speaking Jews of Jerusalem. It was recognised by all Rabbinical authorities until at least the end of the first century; and it is to this day venerated by the Greek Church as a work of divine inspiration. The Septuagint, therefore, must be regarded as the safest guide to the state of the Hebrew text when that was first rendered into Greek. Some elementary notice of it will lead us onward in the historical criticism which it is our object here to pursue.
After Alexander the Great had founded Alexandria, he transported thither a vast number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and of Samaria. About twenty to thirty years later Ptolemy I., who had been one of his generals, and was then king of Egypt, captured Jerusalem, and forced 100,000 Jews to return with him to Alexandria. This took place in the year 301 B.C. In the course of a century the captives, largely augmented by Jewish immigrants, had peopled a great part of Ethiopia, Lybia, and the African shores of the Mediterranean; and for the main part had adopted the language of their conquerors. At the time of Christ, so completely had they forgotten their own speech, that even such a scholar as Philo was unacquainted with Hebrew, and seems to have had no knowledge of any tongue save the Greek. It was pre