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TAE VULGATE: INFALLIBILITY.
real founders of the true church at Romne would have been delighted to give. In the meantime, the honour paid to the Vulgate, whick has long ceased to be what its name implies— a version in the vulgar or common tongue—is the gravest censure that can be pronounced upon that church herself. She commends that version for a reason the very opposite of the one which induced Jerome to make it. He made it that the truth of God might become intelligible : she honours it because by it the truth of God is concealed.
The history of this version is instructive in another respect. It illustrates the “infallibility" of the “ Roman church." Rome claims for the pope, or for general councils, or for the church generally—for it is not agreed who or what is infallible in her system—the privilege of never erring, and of never being liable to err. It is not often that infallibility turns printer; and the history of the text of the Vulgate proves that when infallibility is pushed to this extent, it is a very inconvenient assumption. In 1546, the council of Trent declared the Vulgate to be the only authentic standard of faith. On this declaration it was deemed desirable that there should be an authentic edition of that authentic text. In 1590, therefore, Sixtus v. printed an edition at Rome, which he himself corrected, and then proclained to be the only genuine one, denouncing excommunication against any who should dare to alter it. It was soon found, however, that it coutained very THE INFALLIBLE TEXT.
many remarkable blunders ; and in 1592, one of his successors, Clement viii., issued another quthentic edition. Therein he corrected some of the errors of the Sixtine edition, claimed infallibility for this text, and threatened to excommunicate any who should alter it. This edition, however, added various errors of its own. Both those infallible editions contain some gross errors, and both are chargeable with grave omissions. The Sixtine text omits Prov. xxv. 24 ; Judges xvii. 2, 3; Matt. xxvii. 35. The Clementine text ornits 1 Sam. xxiv. 8; 2 Sam. viii. 8; Acts xiv. 6, xxiv. 18, 19. In matters material to the sense they contradict one another,-in Exod. xxxii. 28; Josh. ii. 18; xi. 19; 1 Kings ii. 28; iv. 22; and in many other places. Dr. James reckons two thousand instances in which they differ, and Lucas Brugensis (a Romanist author) reckons four thousand places in which the Bible of Clement needs correction. Cardinal Bellarmine intimates that many mistakes were passed over intentionally ; "for just reasons,” he adds, though he has not told us what they are. If the Romish church is as fallible in provinces beyond our investigation as she clearly is in provinces within it, she is nut likely to gain much confidence, or to deserve much through this claim.
Between the version of the Seventy and the Vulgate appeared the ancient Syriac. The language of this version was not very different 46
THE PESCHITO SYRIAC.
from what was probably the common tongue of the country districts of Palestine in the days of our Lord. It was then spoken in the town and district of Edessa, and is still the ecclesiastical language of the people in that district, and also of a body of Syrians found in recent times in Cochin, Travancore, and other parts of the Malabar coast. The history of the version is wrapped in obscurity. Tradition says that it was made by translators whom the apostle Jude and Abgarus, king of Edessa, had sent to Palestine for this purpose, and the tradition is sufficiently probable. From internal evidence it is believed that the translators were Jewish Christians, and the version cannot be much later than the first century, as Ephraim the Syrian speaks of it in the fourth as in many places obsolete and unintelligible.
There are also four or five other Syriac versions of parts of Scripture, all of them ancient, but not requiring special notice. They do not differ materially from the Peschito or literal version just named.
Though made in very ancient times, this version was not known in Europe till the middle of the sixteenth century. A copy was sent to Italy in the year 1552, and the New Testament was forth with printed at Venice. Great pains have since been taken to obtain Syriac manuscripts of Scripture, and with considerable success. Mr. Rich travelled with this object in view through part of central Asia, and discovered in Assyria fifty-nine
THE SYRIAC Syriac manuscripts, which are now in the British Museum. In 1806, Dr. Buchanan visited the Syrian Christians in India, and found among them several manuscripts of great antiquity. These he brought with him to England. He ascertained that the Syrian Christians in India amounted to nearly one hundred thousand persons, and that though they had suffered severely from the Inquisition at Goa, they still possessed a regular hierarchy, and numbered between fifty and sixty churches. The last few years of the life of Dr. Buchanan were devoted to the preparation of an edition of the New Testament from those manuscripts, and he died, it may almost literally be said, with the sheets of the Syriac Testament in his hands. The work was resunied, and ultimately completed, under the editorship of the late Dr. Samuel Lee of Cambridge. Shortly before the death of Dr. Buchanan, he was walking with a friend in the churchyard at Clapham, and entered into a minute account of the plan he had adopted in preparing the text. Suddenly he stopped and burst into tears; as soon as he recovered his self-possession, he said to his friend, “ Be not alarmed ; I am not ill; but I was completely overcome with the recollection of the delight with which I had engaged in the exercise. At first I was disposed to shrink from the task as irksome, and apprehended that I should find even the Scripture weary by the frequency of this critical examination; but 80 far from it, every fresh perusal seemed to
THE SYRIAN CHURCHES. throw new light upon the word of God, and to convey additional joy and consolation to my mind.” And so translators have ever found it. Many have expressed similar testimony, and acknowledged that the more they attempted to fathom the depths of Scripture, the more profound it has seemed, and the richer the treasures it has yielded to their search.
The language of this ancient Syriac version derives additional importance from the fact, that the language spoken by the Nestorians is nearly identical with it, though having a considerable mixture of modern Turkish and Persian. The visit paid that people by Dr. Wolfe, and still later by Dr. Grant, has excited a deep interest on their behalf.
Two results have followed the recent discovery of copies of this ancient version.
They have confirmed in a remarkable way the accuracy of our present text. The present text of both Testaments is found to agree in its readings with that of manuscripts which have been brought from the distant east, where they have been buried for centuries. At the very time when the nations of Europe were throwing off old bonds, and were peculiarly exposed to the danger of abusing their liberty, Providence was providing fresh evidence of the truth of Scripture from the very ends of the earth. They have supplied, moreover, a strong testimony against the assumptions of the Romish church. For fourteen centuries a large body of nominally Christian people have existed in India, and for a