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32

DECAY OF WELSH SCHOLARSHIP.

into writing soon after the commencement of the era of the Christian faith.

Happily, the ancient world was not left to gather its knowledge of the Old Testament from these Jewish writings. The fables and stories which they contain must have brought religion into contempt, had these books been circulated among the Greeks. But the Jews guarded them from profane eyes with most religious care. Nor were they published—that is, they were neither largely multiplied nor publicly sold-till after the days of our Lord. They were put into a permanent form early enough to preserve to our own day a knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, but not so early as to interfere with the circulation of another version, (“ without note or comment") which has in its turn done a great work for the cause of truth-the version of the Seventy.

Any one acquainted with Wales and Welsh literature must have marked the lamentations which Welsh scholars pour forth on the progress in the principality of our English tongue. The language of Cymri-that is, of Gomer and his descendants-is far more ancient, rich, and melodious than the hybrid Saxon. The decay of Welsh scholarship, they tell us, is one of the saddest signs of the times. And yet the English continues to trench on the districts occupied by its rival ; and it is not difficalt to determine what time will elapse before the Welsh ceases to be a spoken tongue.

Such is, in brief, the history of all speech,

THE GREEK TONGUE.

33 A dialect of the Welsh was once spoken throughout Britain. Within the last five or six hundred years it was found in Cumberland an.. in Cornwall ; it yielded, however, to the Saxon as elsewhere the Saxon had yielded in part to the Norman. The writings of Wycliffe and Chaucer, however, (both of whom were thorough Englishmen) stemmed the tide of NormanFrench, and enabled the old Saxon to enter into alliance with the conqueror.

Our modern English is the fruit of this union. As the power of Britain has extended through other countries, the English tongue has prevailed. In the western world it has driven out from Trinidad the Spanish, from Canada (to a large extent) the Indian dialects and the French. At the Cape it is subduing the Dutch and Caffir, while in the East Indies it is dividing our empire with the different forms of the native languages.

A struggle very similar began in Palestine with the conquest of Alexander. Aristotle had by that time proved the fitness of Greek to express the nicest distinctions of human · thought ; Plato had illustrated its richness and beauty. Then appeared the “he-goat" of Greece, who pushed his victories to " utmost Ind," and carried with them the literature and language of his country. Before the days of our Lord, Greek had become the tongue of commerce, of literature, and even of social life, from Babylon to Rome. It was for the world, therefore, that the version of the Seventy was

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34

THE ALEXANDRIAN LIBRARY. prepared, though those who originated it had much narrower views.

Among the names which occupy a large place in ancient history, that of the Ptolemies is one of the most notable. The influence of their dynasty in the later history of Egypt was not unlike that of the Pharaohs in the earlier. One of them, nained Ptolemy Philadelphus, was fond of books; not a great reader, probably, but anxious to form a library in his capital, and, if possible, to make Alexandria the seat of eastern learning. He therefore commissioned an Athenian, called Demetrius Phalereus, to collect books, authorizing him to spare no cxpense in carrying out this plan. Demetrius had heard of the sacred manuscripts of the Jews, and was desirous of adding a copy of them in intelligible Greek to the collection of his master. Ptolemy concurred this feeling, and sent an embassy to Eleazar the high priest, at Jerusalem, with a view of obtaining a correct copy of the ancient Scriptures, and of inducing a band of grave and learned men to visit Alexandria, and translate the work into Greek. Aristeas, an officer in the king's household, (whose letter to his brother gives us this account,) and another nobleman, carried the royal letter to Jerusalem, taking with them many costly offerings for the temple. They were favourably received by the authorities of the nation. Eleazar sent back a copy of the law at least, written in letters of gold upon skins of exquisite beauty. Six elders out of each

THE SEVENTY.

85 tribe, seventy-two in all, were also chosen, and sent with the messengers of Ptolemy to execute the proposed translation. On their arrival, the king graciously received them, tested their wisdom by seventy-two different questions, and after sumptuously feasting them for many days, ordered them to be conducted to the isle of Pharos, in the harbour of the capital. Here they commenced their work, daily comparing their separate versions, and then dictating the approved version to Demetrius. In seventy-two days they completed their translation, which was then read in the presence of the king. He expressed his high admiration of their learning, and rewarded them with several talents of gold. He then sent them back to Jerusalem with great honour, and commanded the version itself to be deposited with the utmost care in the Alexandrian library. Such is the narrative of Aristeas. What with the “ seventy-two translators," the "seventy-two questions," and the “seventy-two days," it is easy to see that the version is not inappropriately named the version of the Seventy, or, as more fully written, of the Seventy-two.

Philo, the Jewish philosopher, who lived at the commencement of our era, and was ignorant of many of the circumstances narrated by Aristeas, has himself given an account not less extraordinary. According to him, Ptolemy Philadelphus sent to Palestine for some learned Jews to execute this translation. On their arrival at Alexandria, he tells us they went !

36

THE SEVENTY: ITS ORIGIN.

Pharos, and there executed each a distinct version.

When these versions were compared, it was found that they exactly agreed both in sense and in expressions. Naturally it was concluded that the translators must have been Divinely directed ; "every word,” it was added, “ being dictated to them by the Spirit of God.” He informs us also that a festival was celebrated in his own day by the Alexandrian Jews, to preserve the memory of this version, and to thank God for the blessing which had thus been conferred upon their body: the Jews of Palestine, however, marking the time of the completion of this work by a fast.

These are the two accounts that have come down to us, and it is evident that there is much fable connected with each. A very cursory examination of the version itself shows it to have been made by different hands ; probably at different times, and certainly without any such accuracy or perfection as would justify the supposition of miraculous interference on its behalf. Nearly all modern writers, from Scaliger downwards, deny the genuineness of the narrative of Aristeas. Dr. Masch thinks that the translation was promoted by Ptolemy on political grounds, in order to check the intercourse of the Jews in Egypt with Judæa. The reason alleged by the embassy to Jerusalem he regards as a pretence, and the whole narrative of Aristeas as a plausible story, got up under royal patronage to gain influence for the new translation. Horne supposes that the version

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