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was transmitted with more correctness in the earlier ages of the world than at present, since the longevity of man was then favourable to fidelity of report; and the manners of the eastern people, who delighted with peculiar pleasure in relations accurately and circumstantially recited, disposed them to repeat their daily tale with unwearied renewal of the subject as regularly as the evening closed.
The memory of the most remarkable events, spread with the dispersion of mankind, and the accounts of them were handed down in interesting details from father to son, till they became gradually changed and corrupted in the relations of successive generations *.
The various nations which colonized different countries after the confusion of tongues and the dispersion of mankind, carried with them the opinions and customs which then prevailed, retaining at the same time the notions of a common origin and of general events, and a reverence for common progenitors and benefactors. Circumstances, which had happened in the earlier periods of history, were accommodated to subsequent times; and
** Orig. Gent. Antiq. G. R. Cumberland, published by B. Payne in 1724. Plutarch de Isid. et Osirid. p. 352.
hence the resemblance which is to be found in the superstitions of the different nations of antiquity. The real country, in which the original event occurred, was often forgotten, and became insensibly lost in the variety of statements, while each nation contended for the truth and authority of its own persuasions*.
Notwithstanding, however we may be disposed to attribute much of the correspondence, which exists between sacred and prophane accounts, in part to the effect of oral tradition, there are many particulars to be found scattered in the writings of the Heathens, which may lead us to suppose that they had some acquaintance with the sacred books; and it may be useful, therefore, to enquire by what means an approach to the inspired oracles may have been obtained.
It is probable in itself, and there are historical accounts which confirm the belief, that parts of the Sacred Writings, in the original language, were occasionally shewn to the Heathens; as the Prophecies of Isaiah, to Cyrus; and those of Daniel, to Alexander; and, indeed, there can be no reason to doubt that the Jews, who were impressed with a profound reverence for their Scriptures, as written by inspiration, and who seem at all times to have been desirous of making proselytes, did invite attention, where they could, to the invaluable treasures which they possessed. On the other hand, Morinus informs us that the Heathens wished to possess the Scriptures that they might find in them the history of their deities *
* Shuckford's Sacred and Prophane Hist. connect. vol. i. b.v. p. 316, 317. 2d edit.
The Septuagint version of the Scriptures, into the Greek language, made at Alexandria in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, about 277 years before Christ, afforded a general access to the sacred oracles of ; and there is reason to believe, that the law and the Prophets, if not other parts of the Scripture, were translated into Greek before that period I.
The Septuagint established so much repu.
* De Linguâ primæva, p. 124. Morinus grounds his assertion on 1st Maccabees, c. iii, v. 4. where the Alexandrian copies read και εξεπίτασαν το βιβλίον τ8 νόμο περί ών εξηγευνων τα θνη τα ομοιώματα των ειδώλων αυτων. .
† Appendix to the literal Accomplishment of Prophecy, p. 117.152.
Clemens Alex. Strom. lib. i. c. 22. p. 409. Edit. Potter. lib. viii. c. 1--7.
tation, that it was in general use in the time of our Saviour, and many passages are cited from it by the Evangelical writers.
There can be little doubt that partial translations, at least, of the Scriptures were obtained also, in other languages, before the time of Christ. Such a work, however, as the Septuagint, made under royal patronage, at a period when literature fourished, and when Alexandria was the resort of learned men from all parts, could not but excite considerable attention. The historian would naturally have recourse to a work professing such high antiquity; and the poet would look with eagerness to a production written with such force of description, and animated with such strains of divine eloquence; diversified with beautiful allusions to the works of nature, and inspired with prophetic views of futurity-with visions of ages yet to come.
In proceeding to explore what remains of the structures of ancient times, it is not meant to search for every broken or defaced character, or to consider all the just maxims of Pagan philosophy, as transcribed from entablatures on the Jewish or Christian temples; but only to bring forward a general collection of the proofs, which the Heathen writers afford, of an acquaintance with many of the circumstances described in the Scriptures, and of the extent of information, which they derived from them, and which proofs occasionally are to be discerned, half concealed in mythological and corrupted accounts. The result of such an undertaking cannot but tend to give an interest to the classical works of antiquity, which they could not otherwise possess; and to draw testimonies to Christianity from monuments, which may seem to, have been sheltered by a divine care, principally with a view to demonstrate the nature of man in his unenlightened state; the necessity of revelation; and the contrasted and superior excellency of the Scripture, in which its communications are recorded, above any work of merely human production *.
Independently of the written memorials of the Heathens, which seem occasionally to indicate an acquaintance with the Hebrew Scriptures, there are circumstances, recorded in history, which serve to shew how strong and extensive were the impressions, which resulted, from the dispersion of revealed knowledge.
* See Leland's Paganum ; and Christianity compared.