Page images
PDF
EPUB

HEBREW NEW TESTAMENTS. 149 From very early times, attempts were made in Europe to direct the attention of the Jews to the claims of the Messiah ; and with that view various versions of portions of Scripture were made in the sixteenth century, chiefly by Jews who had been led to embrace the gospel. The first complete version of the New Testament in Hebrew was made by Elias Hutter, a Protestant, and professor of Hebrew at Leipsic. It appeared in his Polyglot Bible of 1599, and has been repeatedly printed. It is confessedly defective in grammatical accuracy and in purity of idiom, and several attempts have been made to obtain a better version. In 1815, Mr. Frey and other learned Hebraists executed a transiation under the patronage of the Jews' Society, and many thousand copies were circulated. Anxious to obtain a yet better version, the Bible Society applied to Gesenius, who corrected part of Frey's version, but was not able to finish it. His corrections, with others by Dr. Neumann, were afterwards put into Mr. Greenfield's hands, and the results appear in Bagster's Hebrew Testament. In 1839, the Bible Society made another attempt, and issued a version made by Dr. M.Caul, the late bishop Alexander, and others. That version is the one now circulated by the Society.

A remarkable incident occurred, some years since, in relation to the Hebrew Testament, When in India, D'. Buchanan gained possession of a translation, :xecuted by a Jewish rabbi in Travancore; t'e style he found to be elegant, 150

TREMELLIUS. and the version generally faithful. It was undertaken by the translator, we are told, with the view of confuting Christianity. By the time, however, he had gone through the life of Christ, his confidence in Judaism was shaken, and in the end he seems to have become a martyr to the bigotry of his people. After embracing the faith, he sealed his testimony with his blood. The manuscript is now in the university library at Cambridge. Many Jews, it may be added, have ascribed their conversion to the study of the biography of our Lord.

One of the most eminent labourers on behalf of the Jews was Tremellius. He was himself the son of a Jew, and was converted to Christianity first as a Roman Catholic by Reginald Pole, and then to Protestantism by Peter Martyr. In the reign of Edward vi. he came to England, and taught Hebrew at Cambridge. On the death of Edward, he, with many others, left this country, and returned to Germany. He was successively professor of Hebrew at Heidelberg and Sedan. His Latin version of the Old Testament was long one of the most popular versions of the sixteenth century. He published also a Syrian New Testament in Hebrew character, and that ancient text had to the Jews charms which no modern version could possess. It is interesting to notice, that since the Reformation some of the ablest Biblical scholars have been Jews, who had become converts to the Christian faith.

Soon after the Reformation, the Old Testa

ROBERT BOYLE : IRISII.

151 ment was printed in the rabbinical Hebrew common in Spain, Italy, Poland, and Germany.

One of the noblest labourers in the department of Biblical translation was our countrynian, the Hon. Robert Boyle ; and to him we owe editions of the Scriptures in Irish, in Turkish, in Malayan, and in American Indian.

The New Testament had been translated into the Irish language towards the close of the sixteenth century, and was printed, in 1602, at the expense of sir William Usher. Bishop Bedell, an Englishman, who, on his elevation to the see of Kilmore and Ardagh, mastered the Irish tongue, undertook a translation of the Old Testament, and completed it amongst many difficulties. The Irish rebellion, and then his own death in 1641, stayed the progress of the work, and it was not till 1681 that it was resumed. The Irish type which queen Elizabeth had given for the purpose of printing the New Testament had been carried off, in the meantime, by the Jesuits to Douay. The copies of the New Testament, printed by sir William Usher, had been all destroyed, or bought up. Mr. Boyle, therefore, had to begin the work afresh; he cast the type, and successively printed the New Testament and the Old, in 1681-86. After binding thein, he sent over many hundred copies, he tells us, to Ireland. Two thousand copies were also sent to Scotland, for the use of the Highlanders, who spoke a lanyuage closely akin to the Irish Gaelic.

About the same time, a version was printed

-152

TURKISH. "in Welsh ; Mr. Gouge, a man of noble bezeroJence, issuing an entire edition of eight thousand copies at his own charge. A hundred years * later the Bible was printed in Manx. Dr Moore, who largely engaged in the publication, -“ blessing God, at the close of his lite, for all the comforts of his existence, and, above all, that he had a capital hand and concern in the Manx Scriptures."

Some years before, (1666,) Willianı Seaman, a moderate Nonconformist, who had been chaplain at the Porte, translated the New Testament into Turkish, and was largely assisted in printing it by Mr. Boyle. Ten years later, that noble man printed, at his own expense chiefly, the Gospel and Acts in Malayan, as translated by Dr. Hyde ; and, still earlier, he contributed three hundred pounds towards the expense of printing the Bible in one of the languages of the American Indians. The translator was Eliot. Dr. Cotton Mather states, that this version was the first Bible printed in America, and that the whole of the translation was written with one pen. The language was a dialect of the Mohegan, and the version appeared in 1661. The name of Boyle, therefore, well deserves to be added to the list of efficient sup. porters of Biblical translation.

There are also other movements, partly individual, partly united, which deserve to be named. At the commencement of the eighteenth century, the king of Denmark, Frederick iv., resolved, against the opinion of many of his

THE EAST.

153 counsellors, to establish missions at Tranquebar, in the East Indies, and elsewhere throughout the Danish colonies. This resolution was strongly commended by professor Francke, of Halle, the chief at that time of the Pietist, or evangelical party in Germany. Ziegenbalg and Plutscho were accordingly sent out to India. On their arrival, they at once proceeded with the work of translation. In 1711, the New Testament was completed in Tamul, and the Old Testament commenced; when both those labourers were called to their reward. They were succeeded by Schultze and others, and in 1727 the Old Testament was published in the same tongue. The mission gradually extended, till it included Madras and Calcutta, and more labourers were sent to occupy the field. Among them was the indomitable Schwartz, who soon gained the confidence of all classes, and did signal service to the cause, both of humanity and of religion, during the terrible wars that distinguished the close of the eighteenth cen tury. When Schwartz died, the New Testa ment had been translated into Telinga and Hindustani, though the latter only had been printed. An edition of the New Testament, in Tamul, was also printed in 1743, at Colombo, in Ceylon, by order of the Dutch governor. The Danish government, it may be added, gradually withdrew its support from the missionaries on this coast, and they became dependent on the English “Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.”

« PreviousContinue »