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JEROME AND THE VULGATE.

menced his labours with the New Testament ; and in 382 A.D. executed a version into Latin, using the old Latin texts then in use as a basis. He then translated the book of Psalms, though this version was superseded by one made subsequently, when his knowledge of Hebrew had enabled him to do fuller justice to the original. He next turned his attention to the Old Testament. To fit himself more thoroughly for this work, he retired to Judæa, and spent several years at Bethlehem. Here he acquired a knowledge of Hebrew, and, at the suggestion of several friends, commenced to translate suc: cessive portions of the Old Testament. To these labours he devoted twenty years, and at last published the whole Bible. At first his work was regarded with much suspicion. The existing version of the Seventy was still deemed by many to be of Divine authority, and Jerome was charged with unsettling the faith of the church. Within a hundred years of his death, however, his version of both Testaments was generally received. Written in what was then the common or vulgar tongue, and adapted, therefore, for all readers, it came to be called the Vulgate, and has exercised very great influence over the religious progress of Europe, and on modern versions. Two of the chief revisions of this version were executed by countrymen of our own-Alcuin, the friend of Charlemagne (802,) and Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury. There is now a beautiful manuscript of

Alcuin's revision in the British Museum,

TAE VULGATE : MODERN VERSIONS. .43 There is a strong tendency in some minds to appeal in matters of religious faith to antiquity, and to antiquity Protestants also love to appeal, only they make their appeal on two conditions. It must be more ancient than the time which now so often usurps the name. Let us go back as nearly as we can to apostolic times : that is the first condition; and then we must take antiquity, not as authority, but as evidence. It is a fair help to the meaning of Scripture, but no substitute for Scripture itself: that is the second. Subject to these conditions, we have no fear of any appeal to antiquity, and the great principles of our Protestantism, we believe, will be found to be at least as old as the Gospelş. To antiquity, however, the church of Rome appeals, and justifies on this ground, in part, her practice of withholding from the people the New Testament in the vernacular tongues. The Vulgate, says she, is the only authoritative standard of faith, and in no other language may men read the wonderful works of God," without special license from ourselves." This assumption is met by the very version she recommends. That version belongs in part to the earliest age of the church. It was made by one of the most eminent of the fathers in order to meet the wants of the people, and render Scripture accessible to all readers. Would Rome but do what the translators of the Vulgate did, give the Bible to the people in the language most intelligible to them, she would copy the fathers, and confer a boon upon the nations such as the

44

THE VULGATE: INFALLIBILITY.

real founders of the true church at Rome would have been delighted to give. In the meantime, the honour paid to the Vulgate, whick has long ceased to be what its name impliesa 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 lia 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 proclaimed to be the only genuine one, denouncing excommunication against any who should dare to alter it. It was boon found, however, that it contained very

own.

THE INFALLIBLE TEXT.

45 many remarkable blunders ; and in 1592, one of his successors, Clement vm., issued another authentic 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

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 omits 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 not 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 tlie 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 Wis sent to Italy in the year 1552, and the New Testament was forthwith 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

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