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62 EARLY STUDY OF THE BIBLE. Shortly afterwards, Charles the Fifth increased it to nine hundred ; and about the year 1440, the whole was transferred by the duke of Bedford to London, as one of the choicest treasures which either war or money could gain. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the library of Oxford consisted of “ a few tracts kept in chests."
The conclusion which is thus rendered probable by the comparatively large multiplication of books in early times is confirmed by other evidence. Augustine remarks, that in his day (the fourth century) there were many versions of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, and of the Greek Scriptures into Latin. " The translators of the former may be computed," says he, " but the number of those who have translated the latter cannot.” “I think,” says Fenelon, “ that much trouble has been taken in our times very unnecessarily to prove what is incontestible, that in the first ages of the church the laity read the Holy Scriptures. It is as clear as daylight that all people read the Bible in their native languages ; that as a part of education children were made to read it; that in their Bermons the ministers of the church regularly explained it to their flocks; that the sacred text of the Scriptures was very familiar to the people; that the clergy blamed the people for not reading it, and considered the neglect of the perusal of Scripture as a source of heresy and immorality."* This statement is the literal
* Euvres Spirituels, tom, iv. p. 241.
fact, and it proves that copies of the sacred writings abounded, for exhortations to read the Bible must have been worse than useless if the Bible itself was not accessible.
Nor, when judging of the general knowledge of Scripture in early times, ought a third fact to be overlooked. In the early ages of the church there were many ecclesiastical writers. Jerome mentions as many as a hundred and twenty who flourished during the first four centuries, and of those who wrote in the first seven, fragments of no less than a hundred and ninety remain. Their works are chiefly comments on Scripture. They quote very largely and accurately from the sacred text. From the fragments which have come down to us, the whole text of the New Testament might be gathered, even if the original Scripture had perished. Lord Hailes, in Scotland, and Dr. Bentley, in England, made the experiment, and confirm this statement. The authors of these works resided and taught in Gaul, Germany, Italy, Syria, and Africa. The works themselves were written in the Greek, Latin, and Syriac tongues. They were read by thousands, and could not have been read without giving an insight into the doctrines and phrascology of the Bible.
If it be asked what has become of these ancient volumes which were once so numerous ? the answer is at hand. A considerable number remain, and a much larger number have been destroyed. The Romans burned the books of
DESTRUCTION OF COPIES.
the Jews, of the Christians, and of the philosophers; the Jews, the books of the Christians and of the Pagans; and too often Christians burned the books of both Jews and Pagans. The reading and copying of the Jewish Talmud, for example, (which often contained copies of the Old Testament,) were forbidden by the emperor Justinian, by many of the French* and Spanish kings, and by several of the popes. In the year 1569, twelve thousand copies of it were thrown into the flames at Cremona. The Goths and Saracens burned, on principle, all Christian books wherever they found them. When Buda was taken by the Turks, a vast sum was offered to redeem the great library founded there by one of the Hungarian monarchs. The library was rich in Greek, Hebrew, and ancient classic manuscripts; thirty transcribers having been employed for many years in copying and illuminating them. The offer, however, was made in vain, and the whole were destroyed. The extent to which this destruction was carried may be gathered from the circumstance, that though the Roman emperor Tacitus (A. D. 275) had copies of the works of his great namesake and ancestor, the historian, placed in all the libraries of the empire, and every year had ten copies transcribed, nearly the whole have been lost. A considerable part of his writings we owe to a single copy, while some other parts are entirely wanting. It must be added that the writing of many
* See Jortin's Remarks, vol. iii., pp. 64, 313
NUMBER OF COPIES.
Mss. has been wilfully obliterated. Through the scarcity of parchment, great estates were often transferred in the middle ages by a mere verbal agreement, and the delivery of earth and stones before witnesses, without any written deed. Parchment was so scarce, that about the year 1120, "master Hugh," being appointed by the convent of St. Edmondsbury to write and illuminate a copy of the Bible for their library, could procure no material for this purpose in England. This scarcity tempted the needy or the unscrupulous to efface even the Scriptures, that the parchment might be devoted to some profitable use. So early had these practices begun, that in the seventh century (690) the council of Trullo found it necessary to notice and condemn them. *
Historians have been deeply impressed with these considerations; and some have ascribed the revival and extension of learning in modern times to the invention, not of printing, but of paper.
Comparing the number of manuscripts of Scripture, however, with those of ancient classic authors which have come down to us, we have great reason to feel grateful. An ample provision has been made for the preservation of the sacred text-a provision, too, which sustains this view of the large number of copies of Scripture in early times. The manuscripts of
# Wetstein's Prolegom. and Warton's English Poetry, vol. i., quoted by Townley.
classic authors generally amount to ten or twenty. Of Herodotus, for example, we have fifteen manuscripts, all belonging to periods between the tenth and fifteenth centuries. This is the average number, and is deemed sufficient to retermine the text. Of the New Testament upwards of six hundred manuscripts have been collated, and more are known to exist. Of these, about one hundred belong to periods between the fourth century and the tenth. Of Hebrew manuscripts, again, upwards of one thousand three hundred have been examined numbers which indicate a much more extensive multiplication of copies than ever took place, even in the case of the most renowned of ancient heathen writers.
The full amount of blessing conferred upon mankind by these versions and copies of the Bible, it is impossible to estimate. There must have been thousands of manuscripts, and millions must have heard or read them. Even when the use of them came to be confined to the clergy, it is highly probable that there were among that class many conscientious men who communicated to others what they themselves had heard and felt of the word of life. The general result upon the state of the ancient world even Gibbon admits. Within four centuries after the death of our Lord, Christians formed the majority throughout the Roman empire ; " and it must be confessed,” says the historian, “that Christianity mitigated the