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SOME introduction may be necessary to a work like the present, to explain its nature and establish its utility. To translate a translation when both the original and a direct version of that are in our hands appears a thankless task, and yet it may not be difficult to show that so peculiar is the case of the Septuagint as to vindicate a process which if adopted with regard to any other work would be comparatively useless.
There * is little doubt that part of this Version was made towards the commencement of the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus about the year B.C. 280. The Jews of Alexandria whether by his command or of their own accord translated a portion of the Scriptures into Greek. The popular story of the seventy-two Interpreters, attributed to Aristæas, may be dismissed as a fabulous legend; though we have internal evidence from the very words of the version that the writers belonged to Alexandria or at least to Egypt.
This portion when completed was referred to the Jewish Sanhedrim at Alexandria, and revised and approved by them, which circumstance was probably the real origin of the name SEPTUAGINT. The remaining part of the Translation was executed at different periods, and, as the wide diversity of style would lead us to suppose, by different hands.
We proceed to notice the principal advantages to be derived from the study of this ancient version, on which of course the utility of any translation made from it must depend.
The Septuagint either agrees with the Hebrew, or it differs from it. If it agrees, the manifest coincidence of the oldest version extant will form an interesting evidence of the purity of the original text,-of the fidelity of the version, and also,—of the correctness of our own translation, the authorised English Bible.
On the other hand, if the Septuagint does not agree with the Hebrew, many considerations naturally occur to our minds, involving questions of greater or less magnitude, but of deep interest to such as prize the integrity and inspiration of Scripture. Such are- e— the purity of the Hebrew text—the correctness of our English Translation—the value, antiquity and genuineness of the Hebrew pointsthe degree of sanction given by the Apostles to the Septuagint by their quotations from it in the New Testament, especially where those quotations are accompanied with variations from the Hebrew—the effects which such discrepancies should have upon our minds with regard to the extent of inspiration.
Happily for the Church of God, the grand questions of the Inspiration of Scripture, of the Purity of the sacred text, and the Correctness of the English Version do not remain to be settled. Nor if they did would the writer of these pages venture to discuss them. Here he may safely assume that they are settled.
All that he has to do is to notice the bearing which a comparison of the Septuagint with the Hebrew has upon the subjects above referred to.
It cannot be denied that there are cases in which the Septuagint appears as a witness in favour of the unpointed text. Remove the points and the Hebrew is
* See Preface to Lambert Bos's edition of the LXX.
found on some occasions to speak the language of the New Testament. Perhaps we can hardly select a more striking instance of this than is afforded by Gen. xlvii. 31, compared with Hebrews xi. 21. We will give the quotation at full length that our readers may understand both the difficulty and the solution. In the English version of Heb. xi. 21, Jacob is said to have worshipped, leaning on the top of his staff: (according to the Roman versions, worshipped the top of his staff).
The following is a literal quotation from the Septuagint of Genesis with which the English version is at variance:
Gr. προσεκύνησεν επί το άκρον της ράβδου αυτού.
Eng. Ver. bowed himself upon the bed's head. The difference is occasioned by the punctuation of the Hebrew, the Septuagint Translators reading noo matte, staff, the English Translators nan mittah, bed.
The writer believes this instance to be one of the strongest, if not the very strongest that can be adduced in favour of the unpointed Hebrew text, as far as the Septuagint is concerned.
Closely connected with the subject of the Hebrew points is that interesting question, How are we to reconcile the apparent discrepancies between the Apostolic quotations in the New Testament and the Hebrew original ? (i. e. in those cases where neither the change nor obliteration of the points would help us.) For the apparent mistranslations are quoted by the inspired writers. One or two instances will suffice. The Septuagint rendering of Psalm iv. 4, is 'Opyíteode kaì un apaprávere, Be ye angry and sin not. These words are quoted by St. Paul Eph. iv. 26. The meaning of the Hebrew (according to the English Version) is, Stand in awe and sin not.
Again, the literal rendering of the Hebrew in Prov. xi. 31, is, Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth, much more the wicked and the sinner. But the Septuagint version of the words is, 'E. ó Mèv dikalos μόλις σώζεται, ο ασεβής και αμαρτωλός που φανείται; If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? This passage is familiar to our readers as part of the first Epistle of Peter, iv. 18. Now allowing that the first instance is a more literal rendering of the original than the common one, it will hardly be said that the verse in Proverbs is more than a paraphrase of the Hebrew.*
The question, we must remember, has been throughout, not are such citations consistent with the general tenor of Scripture truth? but do they interfere with or destroy the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration? The writer believes they do not, and (to present the argument in as condensed a form as possible) chiefly for this reason, that what was uninspired before quotation becomes inspired after; or rather quotation by the Holy Ghost is the very stamp and seal of inspiration affixed to the words at the moment He condescends to use them. If God can employ human means, including human words and phrases too, not the pure tongue of Paradise, but language in itself (till purged by Him) witnessing to the pollution of man's sinful lips, may not the Heavenly Dove light upon truth, which has been ignorantly perhaps, foolishly, perversely uttered, and yet truth, and therefore infinitely precious, because of its capacity to minister to the spiritual wants of the children of God? If any think this language too strong let them refer to Tit. i. 12, 13, where we have the testimony of inspiration itself to assure
* In accounting for St. Paul's quotation of what was not exactly the Old Testament we may gain some assistance by referring to quotations which were not made from Scripture at all. In Acts 17.28, we find " As certain also of your own poets have said, 'For we are also his offspring.'" But it is objected, There Paul introduces the quotation by an appro. priate description, “As certain of your own poets have said.' Let us then take another instance, 1 Cor. 15. 33, " Evil communications corrupt good manners.
." This is quoted without any introduction at all. But a more formidable objection remains behind. There was no danger, it might be said, of the rest of Menander's works being mistaken for inspiration, because of a solitary quotation from them, there is danger of the whole of the Septuagint being considered an inspired work, if St. Paul quotes any part of it. But does this consequence necessarily follow? Let us imagine a parallel case with the circumstances slightly varied. Suppose Paul an inspired writer or preacher in this country at the present time. Is it inconsistent with the idea of plenary verbal inspiration to conceive that he could quote Sternhold and Hopkins with or without some such introduction as the following, “As your own metrical version has it.". The writer considers that this is quite possible, and believes also that it would by no means follow that the Old Version of the Psalms was inspired, or even that the whole of it was sound. If so, much more probable is it that the Apostle would have quoted the authorised prose translation, and more probable still that he would quote the Septuagint among the Greeks, which he did.