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TIE A. .ABIC.
57 of Cyril and Methodius, the first missionaries to the Sclavonians. Both were sons of a Greek nobleman of the name of Leo, a resident in Thessalonica. Cyril, then known as Constantine, was the companion of the young prince Michael, and received an excellent education, but betook himself in early life to the shores of the Black Sea, where he studied for some years, preparing himself for the arduous work to which he had deliberately devoted his life. Methodius held an appointment in the army, and was for ten years governor on the Sclavonian frontiers, where he had ample opportunity for studying the Sclavonic dialects. He ultimately accompanied his brother to Moravia, where they spent four years and a half in translating the Scriptures. They both died towards the close of the ninth century. One of the earliest editions of part of their version was published in 1495, at Montenegro; the earliest being published five years before at Cracow, in Poland.
There is one language more that claims a place in this list of ancient versions—the Arabic. Of all the Shemitish dialects, this language is the richest in grammatical forms and in literature, and it is still a spoken tongue. It is practically the vernacular speech of Arabia, Syria, Persia, Malabar, Egypt, Nubia, and Barbary. From the western confines of Africa to the Philippine islands, and from the tropic of Capricorn to Tartary--that is, over a hun
THE BIBLE IN ARABIC. dred and thirty degrees of longitude, and seventy degrees of latitude, this language is venerated and studied. “We will begin to preach," said Henry Martyn, “to Arabia, Syria, Persia, and Tartary, part of India and China, half of Africa, all the sea-coast of the Mediterranean and Turkey; and one tongue shall suffice for them all."
Though this language, however, is thus important in our own time, it will be easily seen that in the early age of the church it was less so. Greek, Latin, and Syriao, did much of the work for which Arabic is now required, and the progress of translation into this tongue extended in proportion as the empire of other tongues waned. One of the earliest versions was made in the seventh century. In the eighth, the bishop of Seville, finding Latin falling into disuse, and Arabic spreading through the Mohammedan conquests, executed a translation of Jerome's Vulgate into Arabio. The churches at Antioch and Alexandria also produced translations into Arabic at different periods from their own versions. Various other Arabic versions have been made at different times, and some in our own day. They, however, belong rather to a later period of our history. Mungo Park found that the Mandingo negroes possessed, among other mss., an Arabic version of the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and Isaiah. These mss. they had purchased from the Moors, and they were held by the people in high esteem.
If these facts be reviewed, several lessons
59 will appear obvious. Clearly it was a principle recognised among Christians from the first that the church was to give tie Bible to the world, not in a learned tongue, but in the vernacular. Wherever Christian missionaries went in the first age, thither went the Scriptures; so that, within four hundred years after Christ, not only the people of Syria, Greece, and Rome, but the natives of Egypt, of Ethiopia, and, soon after, of Armenia, Arabia, and, by and by, of central and northern Europe, all possessed, and could read in their own languages, the word of God the glad tidings of eternal life.
It may be added, that before the time of Jerome the Latin language had spread over a large part of Gaul and Spain. Indeed, till the eighth or ninth century, that language was the common speech among all persons of intellia gence and learning throughout the western part of Europe ; the vernacular languages which then sprang up in those countries being, like the Italian, modifications of that tongue.
It is equally clear that those versions were made, not from the Vulgate, but, in the case of the New Testament, from the original Greek, or, as in the case of the Syriac Old Testament, from the original HỊebrew. It is a Romisha novelty to claim for the Vulgate inspired or even exclusive authority.
It is a question of some interest how far copies of the Scriptures were sufficiently mul tiplied in those early times to meet the war
of the people ; for, after all, the influence of Scripture depends, not on the existence of a translation, but on the facility afforded for reading it. A translated Bible is no blessing unless it is easily accessible and frequently used.
In answering this question, it must be admitted that there was no such facility of access to Scripture as is now enjoyed in most Protestant countries. On the other hand, it is certain that Scripture was much more accessible than in the middle ages. This statement may seem paradoxical, but it is sustained by ample evidence; and as the subject is both interesting and important, part of that evidence we may supply.
Long before the Christian era, large libraries were formed in different parts of the ancient world, and existed for centuries. Pisistratus, who formed one of the earliest libraries in Greece, (A.D. 520) gathered an immense collection of the works of the learned. The Egyptian Ptolemies founded and enriched the vast library at Alexandria, and though it was partly destroyed by fire, and in the fourth century was much injured during some disturbances between the Pagans and Christians, yet it was so large that, on the Saracen invasion, the books are said to have been numerous enough to serve the four thousand ovens of the city for six months. In Rome there were, about the time of our Lord, several libraries both private and public: one was formed by Paulus Emilius, who placed
61 in it the books he had taken from Perseus, of Macedon ; another had been formed by Sylla ; another by Reguluis, who received from the people all the books that were taken at Carthage, Later than these last, Crassus, Cæsar, Cicero, Augustus, and Lucullus, each formed collections which excited the admiration of their contemporaries. There must, therefore, have been some thousands of volumes in Rome at that time. Some of the libraries of the Christians rivalled even these imperial collections. Pamphilus, the presbyter of Cæsarea, who lived at the close of the third century, collected a library in that city which contained thirty thousand volumes. This collection Beems to have been made chiefly for the use of scholars of that day, as the books were lent out very freely to all who were religiously disposed. Jerome mentions this collection, and Dr. Adam Clarke remarks upon it, “ that this is the first notice we have of a circulating library.” Of this library it may be added, some traces remained even to modern times. Montfaucon describes minutely two manuscripts, one in the Royal Library, and the other in the Jesuits' College at Paris, both of which profess to have belonged to this library at Cæsarea. The greater part of this collection was destroyed by the Saracens. * Contrast with these facts the following :- In the year 1364, the Royal Library of France, which now numbers half a million of volumes, did not contain twenty. * See Clarke's Succession of Sacred Literature, vol. i. p. 227.