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THE COPTIC VERSION.
49 yet longer time in Syria. They knew nothing of the adoration of the Virgin, of the doctrine of transubstantiation, or of the pretended supremacy of Rome. They held none of her peculiar dogmas, and they witness in the east, like the churches of Piedmont in the west, to the pure gospel of Christ. If the history and name of the Vulgate are a standing protest against the sin of keeping the truth of God sealed up in an unknown tongue, the history of the Syriac version is a protest no less decisive against other novelties and corruptions of the papacy.
Thus have we seen that most parts of the ancient world had each their own Bible. The Syriac version meets the wants of the southern Asiatic; the Greek, of the native of Greece and of Asia Minor; and the Latin, of western Europe. On the borders of the districts occupied by those different forms of speech, however, there were other tongues into which it was necessary, if the people were to read the Bible, that it should be translated ; and this necessity seems also to have been met in very early times.
In Egypt, for example, dialects of the ancient Egyptian prevailed for centuries before the commencement of the Christian era; and though that tongue yielded among the educated classes to Greek in the days of Ptolemy, and to Arabic after the Mohammedan conquest, yet there had always been a considerable population who used either the Coptic or the Thebaic, the two common forms of the ancient speech. Both
THE COPTIC CHURCH. dialects are peculiarly interesting to the scholar. They form a connecting link between the Shemitish and African families of languages; and the versions in them which still remain are instructive, also, as evidence of the genuineness of the present Greek text. The present Coptic version was probably made in the second or third century; the Old Testament portion being fouuded upon the translation of the Seventy, and the New translated immediately from the original Greek. It is mentioned in church history that one of the ascetics of Egypt, Antoninus, read the Egyptian Scriptures before the close of the third century, though it is not certain whether the copy he possessed was in the Coptic or the Thebaic dialect.
One effect of this ancient version has been to keep alive a form, if not the spirit of Christianity in Egypt, during a long series of centuries, among a persecuted people, surrounded by Mohammedan oppressors. They are still called Copts; their numbers, however, being but small. The population of Egypt, long the “basest of kingdoms," as was foretold, has dwindled from seven millions (its number in the days of Diodorus Siculus) to less than two millions, and of these about one hundred and fifty thousand only are Copts--that is, native Egyptian Christians. Their peculiarity, religiously, is that they confound the Divine with the human nature of our Lord, and are therefore called Monophysites advocates of one nature. Their heresy was condemned at the council of Chalcedon, a. Dhe
51 451. An error not less fatal, certainly, is rather spiritual than theological. “Our head," said an intelligent Copt to a missionary in Cairo, (Mr. Kruse)“is sick, and the whole body is spiritually dead. What we want" he added, “is a man like your Luther, bold enough to stand fast by the faith, and to reforin our church."
About the same time—that is, in the second century, and not later than the third-a version of the Scripture into Sahidic, or Thebaic, was completed. This is the language formerly spoken in Upper Egypt, and about one-third of the New Testament has been printed in this tongue. It is really a dialect of the Coptic, and, except for critical purposes, the version is not now of practical value.
Long before the days of our Lord, a colony of Arabians crossed the Red Sea, and settled in the districts south of upper Egypt, in what is now the modern Abyssinia. Froin this country came the Ethiopian eunuch to Jerusalem, and to this country he was probably the first to carry the gospel. The general extension of it throughout Ethiopia, however, seems to belong to a somewhat later period ; and as the Abyssinian church has been dependent for many centuries on the Coptic church in Egypt—the latter having the appointment of the chief bishop of Abyssiniait is not unlikely that Ethiopia received the gospel from Egypt. However this be, we find an Ethiopian Bishop, Frumentius, in the fourth century, and to him the translation of the Scriptures into Ethiopic is generally ascribed.
The Old Testament, the whole of whicir las not been printed, was made from the Seventy, and the New from the Alexandrian manuscript of the Greek. To Ludolf, the Ethiopian scholar, (1700,) we are indebted for most of our knowledge of Abyssinia and its versions. From the matrices presented by him in that year, to the Frankfort library, was made the type from which most editions of parts of the Ethiopian Scriptures have been printed. It is to the Ethiopians we owe a curious apocryphal document, called the book of Enoch. Though without any claim to be regarded as part of the canonical Scriptures, it is undoubtedly of great antiquity.
In the region between the Black and the Caspian Seas, and south of the great range of the Caucasus, is the native seat of the Armenians. In this neighbourhood the ark rested after the flood, and hence the first settlers ascended into the plains of Shinar and India. For ages, the people who originally belonged to this district have been the travellers and merchants of the east. They are found from Palestine to central Africa, from Venice to Canton. Their religious faith is nominally Christian, and not unlike that of the Coptic church. They are Monophysites, and are still governed by their own patriarchs. They have a large religious establishment, in their own country, in Turkey, and even in Hindostan. The forefathers of this people very early received the gospel. At the beginning of
the fifth century, (406,) Miesrob, a learned Armenian, invented a set of characters adapted to the language of the nation. Tradition relates that he received them from heaven; but without crediting this statement, it is certain that they were formally adopted by royal edict, and have ever since continued in use among Armenians. Immediately after this invention, Miesrob communicated it to the Armenian patriarch, (Isaac by name,) and then travelled through the country to establish schools, in order to teach the people the Christian faith. On his return to the capital, he found that the patriarch was engaged in transcribing the Scriptures from the Syriac (the only written language then in use in that country) into the newly-invented Armenian, and by a joint effort this work was soon completed. At the council of Ephesus, two pupils of Miesrob appeared, by direction of their master, to recount the progress made in the translation, and to request a complete copy of the Seventy, and of the Greek New Testament, for the use of the translators. On receiving this boon, (which, we may suppose, was voted by acclamation,) Miesrob and Isaac prepared to revise their work. They found themselves, however, ignorant of Greek, and therefore they sent others of their pupils to Alexandria—then the great school of Greek learningto study the language. On the return of those young men, (one of whom was Moses Choronensis, the historian of Armenia,) the work was resumed, and soon after completed. For many