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Saxon version of the four gospels was made from the Italic, before it was corrected by Jerome. (No. 1401.) This version - was printed at London in the year 1571, by John Fox, the martyrologist, from a copy now in the Bodleian library.
As most of the ancient translations of the new testament copied the vulgate, it may be presumed that the persons who, in later times, translated the inspired writings into the different European languages, made their translations from the vulgate likewise. Accordingly, when Peter Waldus, in the year 1160, got the gospels and some other books of scripture translated into the French language, and John Wickliff, in the year 1367, translated the new testament into English, these translations were not made from the originals, but from the vulgate. About that time, likewise, there were other vernacular translations of the scriptures used in different countries, which were all made from the vulgate. (See Simon Hist. Crit. V. T. L. ii. c. 22.) Nor could they be otherwise made, very few in that age having any skill in the original languages. Nay, in times more enlightened, I mean about the beginning of the reformation, when Luther translated the new testament into the German language, and Tyndal into the English, and Olivetan into the French, though these excellent men are said to have made their translations from the Hebrew and Greek, it is more probable that they made them from the Latin, and corrected them by the Greek. This was the case with Tyndal, as shall be shewn afterwards. These fathers of the reformation, before their eyes were a little opened, having known no other word of God but the Latin bible, it was natural for them to follow it in their translations, where the doctrines in dispute between them and the Papists did not interfere. The high esteem in which the vulgate version was held at that time, was strongly displayed by the Fathers of the council of Trent, many of them men eminent for their learning, when, in their fourth session, after enumerating the books of scripture, they decreed as follows: If any person does not esteem these books, with all their parts, as contained in the vulgate edition, to be scriptures and canonical, let him be anathema*. Then, to strengthen their decree, they added, That in
The above decree must seem strange to those who know, that before it was made, the edition of the vulgate mentioned in it was acknowledged by the fathers of the council to be ex. ceedingly faulty, and to need much correction. Accordingly, after the council, pope Sixtus V employed a number of learned men to compare the common edition of the vulgate with the best copies thereof. And they having finished their task, Sixtus published his corrected edition in the year 1589, and, by his bull prefixed to it, declared it to be that wbich the council of Trent held as
all public readings, disputations, preachings, and expositions, the vulgate edition of the scriptures is to be held as authentic. (Fra. Paolo's History of the Council of Trent.) It is true, the first reformers neither acknowledged the authority of the council, nor carried their respect for the vulgate translation, so far as to place it on an equality with the originals. Yet, it was natural for them to follow that highly esteemed ancient version, especially when they were at any loss for the meaning of the Greek text.
Beza, perhaps, may be thought an exception from this charge. He translated the new testament into Latin, professedly to amend the vulgate version. Yet any one who compares his translation with the vulgate, will find that, notwithstanding he hath corrected a number of its faults, he hath often followed it in passages where it is erroneous*. Many of the Greek particles he hath translated with more latitude than is done in the vulgate. Yet, having followed its uniform translations of the particles in other passages, he hath perpetuated, in his version, a number of its errors. Besides, being deeply tinctured with the scholastic theology, by adopting the readings of the vulgate which favoured that theology, (No. 1258.) and by strained criticisms, he hath made texts express doctrines, which, though they may be true, were not intended by the inspired writers to be set forth in them. And thus, by presenting his favourite doctrines to the view of the reader, more frequently than is done in the scriptures, he hath led the unlearned to lay a greater stress on these doctrines than is done by the Spirit of God. Nor is this all; he hath mis-translated a number of texts, for the purpose, as it would seem, of establishing his peculiar doctrines, and of confuting his opponents : of all which examples shall be given afterwards. Farther, by omitting some of the original words, and by adding others without any necessity, he hath, in his translation, perverted, or at least darkened some passages: so that, to speak impartially, his translation is neither literal, nor faithful, nor perspicuous. Nevertheless, Beza having acquired great fame, both as a linguist and a divine, the learned men who afterwards translated the new testament, for the use of the reformed churches, were too much swayed by his opinions.
authentic. Nevertheless the succeeding popes endeavoured to suppress this edition, as inaccurate and imperfect. And, in the year 1592, pope Clement VIII. published a new edition, which not only differs from that of Sixtus, but in many places is directly contrary to it; as Dr. Thomas James keeper of the Bodleian library, who compared the two editions, hath shewn in a book, which he entitled, The Papal War. See Lewis's Complete History, 2d. edit. p. 28 8.
• In the following texts, Beza has adopted the erroneous translations of the rulgate, Rom. 1. 17.2 Cor. is. 4. Ephes. ii. 10. Heb. X. 15,--18.1 Pet. ü. 8. iv. 6.
Since, then, the first translators of the scriptures were considered as patterns, and copied by those who succeeded them, to judge whether the versions of the new testament, hitherto published, stand in need of amendment, it will be proper to inquire a little into the character and qualifications of the first translators of these inspired writings. It is true, neither their names, nor any particulars by which we might have judged of their learning and ability, are preserved in the history of the church. Yet both may be estimated, by the well-known characters of their contemporaries, whose writings still remain ; particularly Tatian, Irenæus, and Tertullian; and by the characters and talents of the Christian writers of the ages immediately following; such as Origen, Chrysostom, Jerome and others. These ancient writers, however learned in other respects, were not well acquainted with the meaning of the scriptures, nor free from the prejudices of the age in which they lived. This appears from the writings of the three first mentioned fathers, in which we find them misinterpreting particular passages,
purpose of establishing their own erroneous tenets. In like manner the three last mentioned ancient in their writings, have perverted a number of texts, to support the doctrines of purgatory and celibacy, and to bring monkery and rigid fasting, and other bodily mortifications into vogue; and to confirm the people in their superstitious practice of worshipping angels and departed saints*: all which corruptions had then taken place in the church. We find these fathers, likewise, misinterpreting passages, without any particular design. Of this number was Origen, as may be seen in his exposition of the epistle to the Romans. Ever Jerome himself was not faultless in the respects above mentioned, as shall be shewn in the author's notes on Gal. ii. 11. iii. 16. Not to mention, that in his criticisms on St. Paul's style, he hath discovered that he was not well acquainted with the use and propriety of the Greek languaget. Wherefore, though we do not know who were the first translators of the new testament, we may believe that they were not more intelligent, nor more skilful in the scriptures, than their contemporaries, whose writings still remain ; consequently, that they were not perfectly qualified for making an accurate translation of writings divinely inspired, wherein many ideas, respecting religion, are introduced, which they did not fully comprehend.
of the texts perverted by the fathers, for supporting the doctrine of purgatory, Beza hath produced examples, in his notes on Rom. ii. 5. Col. ii. 18.–And for recommending virginity and celibacy, in his notes on Rom. xii. 3. 1 Tim. jü. 4. Titus i. 8. 1 Pet. iü. 7.–And to establish the worship of angels, Col. ii. 18.
+ Of Jerome's improper criticisms on St. Paul's style, the reader will find examples in Beza's notes on Rom. vi. 19. 2 Cor. xi. 18. Col. i. 18, 19. ü. 19. Gal, ri. 1. See also the author's notes on 2 Cor. xi. 9.
More particularly, the ancient translators, that their versions might be strictly literal, not only rendered the Greek text verbatim, but introduced the Greek idioms and syntax into their versions, by which they rendered them not a little obscure. Nevertheless, by closely following the original, they were restrained from indulging their own fancy in the translation, and have shewn us what were the readings of the Greek copies which they made use of, which certainly are no small advantages. Farther, so great was their anxiety to give an exact representation of the original, that when they did not know the meaning of any Greek word in the text, they inserted it in their version, in Latin characters, without attempting to explain it. This method is followed, not only in the vulgate*, but in the Coptic or Egyptian version, which is supposed to have been made in the fifth century, (No. 1509).-Some words of the text, the ancient translators have omitted, either because they were wanting in their copies, or because they did not know how to translate them. Other words† they translated erroneously. Besides, although there are many elliptical expressions, especially in the epistles, the ancient translators have seldom supplied the words necessary to complete the sense; by which neglect their versions are often dark, and sometimes erroneous t. In other passages, they have added words and clauses, without any necessity ll. Nay, some passages they have translated in such a manner as to convey no meaning at all, or meanings extremely absurd *. Above all, the unskilfulness of the ancient translators appears in their assigning the same meaning to the same particle t, almost every where, notwithstanding the Greek particles have very different significations, especially as they are used by the sacred writers.
* Greek words in Latin characters are found in the following passages of the Vulgate: Mat. v. 29. Si oculus tuus deater (oxardani3:1) scandalizat te. -John vii. 2. Exayoended, Senopegia.—John svi. 7. Si ego non abiero (i capeXant) Paracletus non veniet ad vos...1 Cor. iv. 13. Omnium (arop ingece) peripsema usque adhuc.-Cor. v. 7. Sicut estis (asupos) azymi.—Heb. xi. 37. Circulerunt (ty pennatais) in melatis.--1 Pet. ii. 18. Ixonagas is interpreted by Dyscolis, which is a Greek word of equally difficult interpretation.
+ or erroneous translations in the vulgate, numerous examples might be given; but the following may suffice: Mat. vi. 11. Panem nostrum (væ1x61cy) supersubstantialem.-James v. 16. svepy & pevn, assidua. In nine passages the vulgate hath translated the word juotupov, by scicramentum. See also the following notes.
The words wanting to complete the sense in the two following passages, are not supplied in the vulgate, Rom. i. 4. Ex resurrectione mortuorum Jesu Christi.--Heb. xi. 21. Et adoravit fartigium verga sua.
| The following are examples of words added in the vulgate, without necessity: Rom. iji. 22. In eum.-Rom. iv. 5. Secundum propositum Dei--Rom. v. 2. Instead of gloriæ Dei, the vulgate hath gloriæ filiorum Dei. -Rom. xii. 17. Non tantum coram Deo.
The qualifications of the ancient translators of the scriptures, and the character of their versions, being such as the author hath described, it is easy to see that there must be many faults in them. Yet they are not such as to authorize Mosheim's harsh censure of the vulgate in particular; namely, that it abounds with innumerable gross errors, and in many places exhibits a striking barbarity of style, and ihe most impenetrable obscurity with respect to the meaning of the sacred writers. The barbarisms and obscurities of its style proceeded from its being a strict literal translation: and with respect to its errors, though some of them may have been occasioned, partly by the carelessness of transcribers, and partly by wrong readings in the copy from which it was made, the far greatest part of them have originated in the unskilfulness of the authors of the Italic translation, of which the vulgate is a transcript. I say authors, because, according to Mill, it was made by different hands, and at different times. Yet, with all its faults, the vulgate is a valuable work; as it hath preserved much of the beautiful simplicity of the original, and in many passages its translations are more just than those in some of the modern versions.
Upon the whole, since most of the ancient translators of the scriptures, on account of the antiquity and reputation of the Italic, or vulgate version, have followed it, noť indeed in its manifest absurdities, but in many of its less apparent mis-translations, and since the subsequent translators have generally copied the vulgate, or have been guided by it, we may now, with some degree of confidence, affirm, that the agreement observable in the ancient and modern versions of the new testament, especially in the more difficult passages, is owing, not to the justness of the translation, but to the translators having, one after another, followed the old Italic version, as it was corrected by Jerome in
• The following are examples of absurd unintelligible translations in the vulgate: Rom. ir. 13. Qui contra spem, in spem credidit, ut fieret pater multarum gentium.2 Cor. i. 11. Ut ex mula tarum personis facierum, cjus quæ in nobis est donutionis, per multos gratiæ agantur pro nobis.
+ The following are examples of a Greek particle, translated uniformly in the vulgate: Mat. Tii. 23. Et tunc confitebor illis (071) quod nunquam novi ras. Mat. xxii. 16. Magister scimus (471) quia rerares.-llom. xv. 11. Vivo ego dicit Dominus (STI) quoniam m: hi flectet.