« AnteriorContinuar »
At some time subsequent to all these discoveries, cotton, and finally linen paper were manufactured; concerning which, as they are now in such extensive use, I need say nothing further. Prior to their invention, the Bible writings were preserved on parchment, such as I have described.
Let me now speak briefly of the the different translations through which the Scriptures have passed. The Old Testament was first translated from Hebrew into Greek, some time between the years 284 and 246, B.C. The edition was styled the Septuagint, from the fact of its having the sanction of the Sanhedrim—the Jewish Council of Seventy. Both the Old and New Testaments were, at quite an early date, translated, several times, into the Latin, by some of the primitive Christians. These translations being made at separate times, by different persons, (some learned and others ignorant,) it was found at length that among the several versions, there were not only disagreements, but absolute contradictions, in some cases; which led Pope Damasus to appoint St. JEROME, a distinguished Latin scholar of that time, to collect and revise all the editions then abroad, and harmonize them, according to the best of his judgment. This he accomplished, after much patient labor; and his version, coming finally into general use, was uniformly styled the Vulgate, or Common Version—the word Vulgate signifying common, and corresponding with our English word vulgar, which once had the same meaning.
It is confidently alleged, by some writers of great research, that from remaining fragments of the old editions which Jerome attempted to improve, it is evident that he sometimes altered them for the worse. Of his translation, Dr. Adam Clarke, the learned Methodist commentator, says—#“No version of the Sacred Writ. ings was more generally received than this; and copies of it were multiplied beyond calculation. And perhaps scarcely any book has been more corrupted by frequent and careless transcription, than the Vulgate, from the year 384, till the invention of printing;”—i.e. for about one thousand and sixty years—printing not having been invented until the year 1440. In the time of Jerome, (the fourth century) and for a long while afterwards, the Latin language was very extensively spoken; and while the Roman Empire maintained its sway throughout Europe, the Scriptures were publicly read in this dialect.
To trace, minutely, the history of the Bible from this time forward through all the festering corruptions of the Roman Catholic Church, would be next to impossible;—and even could we effect an approximation towards the successful accomplishment of the task, which is hopeless, I am not fully convinced that the advantages to be derived would repay us for the toil. So we will pass over a long period of time, including the “dark ages,” and take up the consideration of the various translations of the great book into our mother tongue— the English. Although at quite an early date, some few portions were rendered into this language, in its more rude state, the old Anglo-Saxon, (among which may be mentioned a copy of the Psalms, and a part of the Four Gospels, attributed to King Alfred,) yet no complete translation was effected till that which was undertaken and accomplished by John Wickliffe, about the middle of the fourteenth century, copies of which were circulated as fast as they could be prepared by his exer. tions with the assistance of a few others. We shall have some conception of the immense labor of this undertaking, if we bear in mind that printing was then unknown, and the whole, therefore, was of necessity written by hand. No wonder that, as it is stated, the price of a single copy of the New Testament, at that time, was nearly $200 !—almost two thousand times the amount for which a printed copy of the same work, and doubtless a far more readable one, may now be purchased—School Testaments, bound in boards, of a size suitable for the pocket, in clear type, being now sold for one dime. The English people, generally speaking, were at that time exceedingly ignorant—being made and kept so, by having all the means of learning purposely withheld from them. The vast majority could neither write, nor even read, their own names' The praise-worthy efforts of Wickliffe to diffuse knowl. edge among them, brought down upon his head the fury of the corrupt and rotten-hearted priesthood of that day. They obtained immense sums of money by selling indulgences to their ignorant dupes whom they used as the
*Introduction to Com. on New Test.
mere panderers to their self-aggrandizement; and they were therefore, as might have been expected, opposed violently to the spread of information—they knew that their “craft was in danger”—they saw plainly that if the great mass of the people learned to read, they would soon discover to what an extent they had been imposed upon, and no longer submit to their oppressive domination. If in any one locality, more than elsewhere, there be a full concentration of all that is inimical to the advancement of the best interests of humanity, it is the heart of a narrow-minded, morose, selfish, conceited, ty. rannical bigot 1 whether, in mere name, he be Catholic or Protestant, priest or layman. Soon after the issuing of Wickliffe's translation, the ruling powers (for the government, you will recollect, was a union of Church and State) enacted a law declaring it an offence punishable with death to publish, or even to retain beneath one's own roof, a copy of the Bible, unless by royal permission. Wickliffe was emphatically the first ancestor of the great Protestant Reformation; although he died just one hundred years before the birth of its immediate father, Martin Luther, IIe raised his voice loudly against the usurpations of the Pope; and his sentiments were solemnly condemned by an assembly of the Pope's adherents, held at Oxford: but he himself was fortunate enough to escape from the snare of his enemies, and died a natural death, in retirement. If I may be allowed to frame a figure of speech which will convey a true idea of his agency in producing
the Reformation, he strewed the first kernels in that long train of powder, which, being ignited by the torch of Luther, resulted in such a grand explosion. During the reign of King Henry the fifth, in the first part of the fifteenth century, the cause of Wickliffe (he being dead) was espoused by Sir John Oldcastle, baron of Cobham, who at one time stood high in the king's favor; but who was finally indicted, tried, and condemned to death, as a heretic. After once escaping from confinement, and being re-taken, he was hung up with a chain by the middle, and over a slow fire roasted alive !*
About the year 1440, was revealed that noblest of all discoveries—that invention fraught with intellectual benefit to man, beyond all computation--the Art of Printing.
In 1526, the New Testament was printed in Antwerp, by William Tyndall, from a translation of his own. It was published without any name being affixed to it, but with an epistle inserted at the end, expressing the desire that the learned might correct whatever mistakes it contained, if they should discover any. Shortly after this edition appeared, the Bishop of London, being at Antwerp, employed an English merchant to purchase all the copies that were not then sold; of which the Bishop made a bon-fire, in the open air. But from this edition the Dutch printed 5000 copies, and put them in immediate circulation-so impossible is it to prevent the famished mind from grasping after knowledge, when it has once fairly tasted its sweets! The Dutch re-print was
* See Goldsmith's Hist. of England-Pinpock's ed, chap. xvii. $ &