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· ECLECTIC REVIEW,
For FEBRUARY, 1806.
Art. 1. Vetus Testamentum Græcum cum variis Lectionibus. Edidit · Robertus Holmes, S. T. P. R. S.S. Ædis Christi Canonicus. Tomus
Primus. Folio. Including the Pentateuch, in five Parts. price 51. 5s, THIS is a work of great use in Biblical enquiries; and the
diligence, the accuracy, the learning, the expence of time and labour bestowed in the execution of it, confer credit not only on the author, but also on the University with which he is connected, and even the country. in which he lives. From the well-directed, if unaided, talents of the editor, much benefit might be expected in a publication of this kind : but we know that he is assisted in his important labours, and the names of some of the most illustrious scholars at home, and on the conti. nent, are recorded, as the friends and promoters of the work.
The cultivation of biblical learning, it is well known, and cannot be denied, has not hitherto been pursued in this country with a zeal equal to the importance of the subject, or to the opportunities which men of letters, especially those connected with the Universities, enjoy for ensuring success. While all are de sirous to distinguish themselves in some branch of literature, or of science, they are, comparatively, indifferent to those divine oracles, Jewish or Christian, which are calculated to make them wise unto salvation. Of this general and lamentable indifference the causes are to be sought in the nature of our religious tenets, the circumstances of the times, and the prevailing modes of education. Confiding in the rectitude of our opinions, we are apt to think it dangerous in others to believe more or less than ourselves; and separating, perhaps, too much the exercise of reason from the use of revelation, and taking for granted not only the integrity of the original text, but also the correctness of the common translation; we are not anxious to make its records the subject of free enquiry, or to bring them to the stand. ard of sound criticism. By the generality of mankind, who value every pursuit by its subserviency to their pleasure or interest, theo. logical speculations are deemed matters of barren curiosity and remote effect. In our public seminaries, the study of the scriptures forms no part of instruction. Classical learning is all in all; and our youths are led to conclude, if they be not directly told, that
in the land of Judea dry roots only are to be found; while they should seek the flowers of rhetoric, and the delicious fruits of taste, in the cultivated soil of Greece and Rome. Thus, while Moses and the prophets, Christ and his apostles, are nego lected; Homer and Virgil, Xenophon and 'Livy, with other writers of fiction and narrators of fable, are diligently studied; not only as models of taste and composition, but also as the established means of introducing the votaries of fame and fortune to dignities in the state, and preferments in the church; to the assemblies of the gay, and ihe societies of the learned. In the midst of this general neglect, however, many in the last century arose, who pursued biblical knowledge with great credit, 10-themselves and usefulness to the community. The example of Kennicot has been followed by Lowth, Dodson, Newcombe, Wakefield, and we may add the name of Sir W. Jones. By the labours of these scholars, much has been done in the field of sacred criticism. The original text, in many places, has been rectified; and the errors of transcribers detected,' by collating different manuscripts, and comparing the ancient versions. Many obscure passages have been elucidated, by exploring the customs peculiar to the Eastern countries, and bringing them within the knowledge of the English reader. Manifold mistakes, into which our first translators, from their prejudices, or their limited information, have fallen, are corrected in new versions, founded upon a more adequate acquaintance with the original languages; upon a nicer attention to the import of particular terms; a scrutiny into the general design of the context; and finally upon a fuller in vestigation of the institutions and manners of the Eastern nations. The work before us has the same happy tendency; and we offer the editor the tribute of unfeigned gratitude and esteem for this specimen of indefatigable industry and accuracy.
On the present occasion, we shall confine ourselves to the author's plan, leaving the merit of the execution to a future article. The preface, written in a Latin style, perspicuous, but not sufficiently easy, correct but not ambitiously elegant, comes first under our animadversion. And here, whatever may be said of the style, we feel it incumbent upon us to observe, that in substance it is not by any means what it ought to have been. It is defective in point of information, and incommensurate with the importance and extent of the volume. No account is given of the origin of the edited version, “ ego, istius argumenti multiplias filum haud retexam," are his own words : no dissertation is delivered on its authority, its use in biblical enquiries, no remarks on its characteristic qualities, calculated to ascertain its excellencies and defects, or its subserviency to disclose the true state of the Hebrew text in the age, in which it was at first forined. The labours of former editors are but transiently mens
tioned; and the reader, not knowing what was left undone in former editions, is not able to ascertain, and to appreciate what is done in the present. In a word, we are compelled, throughout the volume, to regret the absence of the profound, instructive critic; and to accompany the laborious, but useful, Collator of copies. The preface, however, is satisfactory, as far as its object extends, and we shall presently submit to our readers a table of its contents.
The Greek translation of the Old Testament, now edited by Dr. H. is generally known by the name of the Septuagint; and is supposed to have been executed at the request, and for the use of Ptolemy Philadelphus, King of Egypt, about three hundred years before the christian æra, by seventy Jews, who were sent by Eleazar from Jerusalem to Alexandria for that express purs pose.* This celebrated version, from the character of the persons concerned in the execution of it, as well as the fider lity with which it was, doubtless, effected, was, for a long time, held in high estimation by the Jews themselves. To those, who were born and bred in Gentile countries, and therefore unacquainted with the language of Palestine, it must have proved peculiarly acceptable and useful. Nothing can more clearly evince the high value which was generally fixed upon it, and the frequency of its use, at least by the Hellenistic Jews, than that the Apostles and Evangelists quoted it in preference to the original Hebrew text then extant. But this circumstance, as it opposed their prejudices, excited the aversion of the Jews; and this translation which they before revered as authentic, they now affected to reject, as of no authority, and contrary to the Hebrew text. Errors and alterations, whether from design or negligence,
* The most ancient account of the origin of this version is given in a book, written in the Greek language, and which is still extant under the name of Aristeas, an officer in the guards of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, at the time the version was executed, and is delivered by way of letter to his brother Philocrates. The story, however, as related by this author, mast in some measure be fabulous, and the book itself, perhaps, spurious; though the general fact is unquestionably true. The fact is asserted by Aristobulus, a Jewish commentator on the Law of Moses, before the Christian æra, whose words are quoted by Eusebius in his Præparatio Evangelica, Lib. viii. 9. and by Clemens Alexandrinus in his Stromata, p. 595. His words, as quoted by these authors, are to this effect, “ The whole and complete translation of whatever relates to our Law, was made, at the earnest request of Ptolemy, surnamed Philadelphus, one of your royal progenitors, under the care and superintendency of Demetrius Phalareus, to whom the ordering and conducting the same was chiefly committed.” The same thing is attested by Philo, in his life of Moses, and by Josephus in his Antiquities, and again in his book against Apiquá .
must, no doubt, have by this time been introduced into the Greek text; and it was natural in the Jewish doctors to avai? themselves of these corruptions, in order to undermine the authority of a version, by which their adversaries, the advocates of the new faith, were enabled to defend and propagate their tenets. In the disputes, which for two centuries were carried on between the disciples of Moses and those of Christ, an unfortunate concession seems to have been made by the latter, which gave the former an undue advantage, and at the same time tended to overthrow the authority of the version, which they supported and used. The Hebrew copy, adopted by the Alexandrian translators, must, from its age, have been more free from errors and interpolations, and consequently of higher authority than any other produced in a period four or five centuries later. Yet the exclusive integrity of such a copy, as maintained by the teachers of the synagogue, was admitted by the Christian fathers; and they appear to have allowed every version to be erroneous, which did not accord with this standand. · In the midst of these disputes arose Origen, who under this impression commenced his work of immortal fame, The Hexapla. The nature of it was as follows: It consisted of six parallel columns, in a very large page. In the first column was inserted the text in Hebrew, from such a copy as the Jews, whom he was in the habit of consulting, respecting the letter of the scripture, recommended as the most accurate and best corrected; the second contained the Hebrew text in Greek characters; the third and fourth the versions of Aquila and Symmachus; the fifth and sixth were occupied by the respective versions of the Septuagint and Theodotion.
With the Hebrew text, which the Jews then held to be genuine and authentic, Origen compared the several versions; and, in order to make the principal one, namely, that of the Seventy, tally with it, he adopted the following strange and unjustifiable method. He prefixed to such Greek terms as had none corresponding to them in Hebrew, an obelus or dagger, signifying that They were to be rejected; while on the other hand, he inserted such words or clauses as were deficient, taken from the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, (but chiefly from the latter,) and placed an asterisk, or star with several points, at the end of every such addition. Much depended, says Doctor Kennicot, on the nature of the Hebrew copy; because it was now made the judge of all differences between the versions. Certainly if this copy, thus placed in the seat of judgement, was itselt much corrupted, and had received many alterations from chance or design; the Greek version of the Seventy, which was made from Hebrew MSS. some part of it above five hundred, and the rest upwards of 400 years, must have appeared before an
improper tribunal. At least it must have received a most unrighteous sentence; if it had been condemned, as corrupted, merely from not agreeing with the novel Hebrew copy, there confronted with it.
Origen indeed must have been sensible, that the Hebrew text, which he had adopted as the standard, was itself in some instances corrupted ; and contained readings different from the older copies of the synagogue. He could not, therefore, have avoided the conclusion, that the old Greek version, in places. where it might be right, was made to conform to a copy, which itself may have been erroneous. Nor can we account for his conduct in this respect, but upon the supposition that from the want of an adequate acquaintance with the Hebrew tongue, he was uoable from the use of the Greek to draw the proper inferences, respecting the state of the original text, employed by the Seventy translators. But whatever was the cause, he sacrificed his own judgement, and the high authority of the Greek version, to a decision, not the most respectable, that of the Rabbis. . · Nor is this the only consequence pernicious to the Septuagint, resulting from the conduct of Origen. The common edition, which was that in use before him, fell into discredit, was neglected, and soon sunk in oblivion. The corrected, or rather the altered edition, usurped its place; and, as might be expected, losing in process of time the asterisks, it became in some degree a jumble of different versions. The interpolations, still continuing, cannot now with certainty be distinguished from the genuine readings; and, usurping an authority to which they have no pretension, they serve to bring the primary version itself into neglect and disgrace. This evil was felt so early as the days of Jerome: and hence that zealous father with justice observes, Origines, quod majoris audacia est, in editione LXX. Theodotionis editionem miscuit. Germana illa antiquaque translatio corrupta est atque violata-asteriscis subtractis distinctio confunditur. If, indeed, a copy of the edition, (called the common edition) which prevailed before the age of Origen, had been preserved, the inischief might have been easily remedied. But no such thing is in being; and every book or manuscript, contain. ing this ancient version, is taken, and that not immediately, from the Hexaplar edition of Origen,
There were, however, before the year 300, no less than three new editions of the old Greek version, all agreeing in this, that they were taken from the Hexapla, yet each differing so much from the other two, as to claim the name of a different author; and to have a large part of the world for its peculiar province. Lucian, a presbyter of Antioch, formed the copy which prevailed in that city, and in Constantinople ; Hesychius compiled gliat adopted in Alexandria and Egypt; and that which was reGS