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CHAPTER VII.THE TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE.
The authenticity of the Bible will be more fully established, by a consideration of some of its translations; and young believers cannot fail to be interested in being informed of some particulars concerning the history and character of that in the English language.
The Old Testament, as has been noticed in the preceding chapter, was translated into Greek nearly three hundred years before the birth of Christ. This version is commonly called The Septuagint, from the reported number of seventy-two, or, in round numbers, seventy Jewish elders, who were employed in the work. Soon after the publication of the apostolic writings, the Bible was translated into Latin, for the use of the Christians using that language. This version was called the Italic, which being in the vulgar tongue of the Romans, was called the Vulgate, of which, A. D. 384, Jerome, who died A. D. 420, published an improved translation, containing both the Old and New Testament, with prefaces to the several books: this is the only authorized Bible of the Romish church at the present time.
In French, the Waldenses had a translation of the Bible, made by their celebrated leader, Peter Waldo, about A. D. 1160, and another, more generally published, about A. D. 1383.
In Spain, Alphonsus, king of Castile, had a translation of the Sacred Books made into his native dialect, about A. D. 1280.
In Germany, a translation of the Bible was made about A. D. 1460. Luther published a new translation of the New Testament, A. D. 1522, and of the whole Bible, A. D. 1532.
In England, several attempts were made at different times to translate the Bible into the vulgar language, especially by Bede, a learned and pious monk, who died A. D. 785; and by king Alfred, who died A. d. 900; but the first complete English translation of the Bible, it is generally admitted, was made by Wickliff, about A. D. 1380. The New Testament by that great man has been printed; and there are, in several libraries, manuscript copies of his translation of the whole Bible. The first printed English Bible was a translation made by William Tindal, who retired to the continent, to prosecute that work in security. He was assisted by Miles Coverdale, another English exile. The New Testament was printed at Antwerp, A. D. 1526, but most of the copies were bought up and burnt, by order of Tonstal the popish bishop of London. An improved edition was published in 1530. În 1535 the whole Bible was published by Coverdale, and rapidly sold; but while this edition was being prepared, Tindal was seized by the papists, through the treachery of Henry Philips, an Englishman, and, being strangled, he was burnt as a heretic at Filford castle, between Antwerp and Brussels. This Christian martyr expired, praying, “Lord! open the eyes of the king of England!" Two of Tindal's assistants shared a similar fate: John Frith at Smithfield, and William Roye in Portugal. On the death of Tindal, the good work was carried on by Miles Coverdale, assisted by John Rogers, who was afterwards the first martyr in the reign of queen Mary. They revised the whole Bible, comparing it with the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and German: adding notes and prefaces from the German translation by Luther. It was dedicated to Henry VIII. and issued in 1537, under the borrowed name of Thomas Matthews. It was printed on the continent; but a license was obtained for publishing it in England by the influence of archbishop Cranmer, lord Cromwell, and bishops Latimer and Shaxton. This translation of the Bible, revised by Coverdale, with prefaces added by Cranmer, was printed in England in 1539, and called Cranmer's Bible. Another edition of this Bible was printed in the following year, 1540, and, by royal proclamation, every parish was obliged to place a copy of
it in the church, for public use, under the penalty of forty shillings a month. Two years afterwards the popish bishops procured its suppression by the king; it was restored under Edward VI., suppressed under Mary, and again restored under Elizabeth. In the reign of Mary, some English exiles at Geneva, among whom were Coverdale and John Knox, the celebrated Scotch reformer, made a new translation, which was printed in 1560. This is called the Geneva Bible: it contains marginal readings and annotations, the chapters divided into verses and other important helps; on which account it was greatly prized. Archbishop Parker engaged some learned men to make a new revision or edition, which was published in 1568, and was called the Bishop's Bible. This translation was used in the churches, though the Geneva Bible was generally read in private families: more than thirty editions of which were printed in as many years. King James disliked the Geneva Bible, on account of the notes : and when many objections against the Bishops' Bible were made at the Hampton Court conference in 1603,* in consequence of the request of Dr. Reynolds, the king gave orders for a new translation. Forty-seven learned divines were engaged in the work, which was commenced in 1607, and completed and published in 1611, with a learned preface, and a dedication to king James. After this publication, all the other versions fell into disuse, and king James's version has continued to this day to be the only Bible allowed to be printed, without notes, in Great Britain.
The translators did not pretend that it was a perfect and faultless version; and as it was made so long ago, it may be reasonably supposed that it is capable of some improvements: but of its general excellence, the following testimonies, given by learned divines of different communions, may be regarded as sufficient to satisfy any unlearned reader.
* A conference of many pious and learned divines, held in order to settle the disputes on religion.
About a hundred years ago, Dr. John Taylor wrote,*
may rest fully satisfied, that as our English translation is in itself by far the most excellent book in our language, so it is a pure and plentiful fountain of divine knowledge; giving a true, clear, and full account of the divine dispensations, and the gospel of our salvation; so that whoever studies the Bible, the English Bible, is sure of gaining that knowledge, which if duly applied to the heart and conversation, will infallibly guide him to eternal life.”
Dr. Geddes says,t—" If accuracy, fidelity, and the strictest attention to the letter of the text, be supposed to constitute the qualities of an excellent version, this of all versions, must in general be accounted the most excellent."
Dr. Doddridge observes, f—“ On some occasions, we do not scruple to animadvert upon it; but these remarks affect not the fundamentals of religion, and seldom reach any further than the beauty of a figure, or at best the connexion of an argument.
Dr. Adam Clarke declares, 8—" It is the most accurate and faithful of all translations. Nor is this its only praise: the translators have seized the very soul and spirit of the original, and expressed this, almost every where, with pathos and energy.'
The Rev. Thomas Scott writes,ll- -“ It may be asked, How can unlearned persons know, how our translation may be depended on, as in general faithful and correct? Let the inquirer remember, that Episcopalians, Presby'terians, and Independents, Baptists, and Pædobaptists, Calvinists, and Arminians, persons who maintain eager controversies with each other in various ways, all appeal to the same version, and in no manner of consequence object to it. This demonstrates that the translation, on the whole, is just. The same consideration proves the impossibility of the primitive Christians corrupting the Sacred Records."
* A learned divine of the church of England, died 1766. † A learned Roman Catholic priest in London, died 1802. | An eminent dissenting minister, author of the Family Expositor.
$ A distinguished Methodist, died 1832, said to be one of the most learned men of the age.
NA minister of the church of England, author of Family Bible,
Thus we see a merciful providence has marvellously appeared in raising up learned men to translate the Holy Scriptures: and there are at this time more than one hundred and fifty languages in which the oracles of God are circulated!
CHAPTER VIII. -STATE OF MIND NECESSARY TO THE
READING OF THE BIBLE.
The sovereign goodness of God has been singularly manifested in the wisdom and skill with which he has endowed his servants in relation to his inspired word. Through his gracious providence, the Holy Scriptures have not only been preserved down to our times, but they have been translated into our language by pious and devoted men; and by the same providence, skilful mechanics have been led to discover the wonderful art of printing; by which means, the Bible is now become the most common book among us, so as to have been our lesson-book from childhood; while four hundred years ago a copy cost a large sum of money, even if it could be obtained at all. But to derive saving and eternal benefit from the Scriptures, it is necessary to read them, not merely as at school, but as deeply and personally interested in their contents: as heirs of an eternal existence, and candidates for a glorious immortality.
Some persons read the Bible only as a book of amusement; others peruse it as the most ancient record of authentic and faithful history; and others again—a scholars, as critics in its refined classic language, and on account of the beauties of its style and composition. But there are not a few, who, according to its principal design, read it with devout veneration, and with earnest