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INTRODUCTION. The Bible, is the only authentic source from which we
derive instruction concerning the various dispensations of God to mankind and the duties required of men by their CREATOR. The word “ Bible” literally signifies book : and the word “ Scriptures," writings : but these words are now, by way of eminence and distinction, applied exclusively to those sacred compositions which contain the revealed will of God.
The Bible is divided into two parts, the Old and New Testament. The apostle St. Paul, at
2 Cor. iii. 6 & 14, calls the dispensation of Moses so the Old Testament,” and the dispensation of Christ, “ the New Testament,” and their distinguishing appellations were applied by the early ecclesiastical authors to the writings which contain these dispensations.
The books of the Old Testament were originally written in Hebrew; those of the New Testament in Greek. The principal translation of the Old Testament into the Greek language is that which is called the Septuagint, from the latin word Septuaginta, Seventy, the version being related to have been made by seventy or seventy-two interpreters. It is recorded that, the year before Christ 277, Ptolemy Philadelphus, being intent on forming a great library at Alexandria in Egypt, sent to Eleazar, the high priest of the Jews, to request a copy of the law of Moses; and, as he was ignorant of the Hebrew tongue, he farther desired that some men of sufficient capacity might be sent to translate it into Greek.
The messengers were received with great honour and respect, both by the high priest and all the people; and having
received a copy of the law of Moses, and six elders out of each tribe (seventy-two in all) to translate it, returned to Alexandria. Whatever may be thought of the truth of this story, it is certain that the translation called the Septuagint was held in esteem and veneration almost equal to the original, and was not only used by the Jews in their dispersion through the Grecian cities, but approved by the great Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, and quoted and referred to by our Saviour and his apostles.
The Latin translations of the Bible, we are told, were in early times extremely numerous, and that they were chiefly made from the Septuagint, and not from the original Hebrew, until the time of St. Jerome, who it appears was well versed in the Hebrew language.
It is impossible with any exactness to ascertain how soon there was a translation of the Holy Scriptures into the language of the inhabitants of Britain ; and so conflicting are the opinions, and so numerous the details of one age and another respecting the various versions of the Bible, that much
In the year
may as well be passed by, and proceed at once to notice two or three of the editions with which we
more immediately acquainted. 1535 Miles Coverdale published in folio the first English translation of the whole Bible and dedicated it to Henry the Eighth. probably printed at Zurich, and though it passed under the name of Coverdale only, it is generally supposed that great part of the work was performed by Tyndal, before he was imprisoned, and that his
not mentioned because he was then under confinement.
In 1537, a folio edition of the Bible was printed by Grafton and Whitechurch, at Hamburgh or Paris; it varied but little from Tyndal and Coverdales' translation, and the few emendations and additions it contained were supplied by John Rogers, who superintended the publication, and assumed the name of Matthews; hence this is always called Matthews' Bible. In the year 1538, an injunction was published
the vicar-general, “ordering the clergy to provide, before a certain festival, a Bible of the
" It was
largest volume in English, to be set up in some convenient place within their churches, where their parishioners might resort to read it.” wonderful” says Strype " to see with what joy this Book of God was received, not only among the more learned, and those who were noted lovers of the reformation, but generally all over England, among all the common people, and with what greediness God's word was read, and what resort there was to the places appointed for reading it; every one that could bought the book, and busily read it, or heard it read, and many elderly persons learned to read on purpose.”
The volume of the Holy Scriptures, now in common use amongst us, is the one arising out of the conference held at Hampton Court in 1603, before King James the First, between the Episcopalians and Puritans. Forty-seven persons were appointed to the task, and formed into six divisions, each division having a portion assigned to them. So careful however were they to be that every one of the company was to translate the whole parcel; then they were each to compare their translations together,