« AnteriorContinua »
TO THE READER.
The providence of God is particularly manifested in the preservation of the Holy Scriptures. To the Jews were comunitted the Oracles of God; and so faithful have they been to this sacred trust, that when copies of the law or the prophets were transcribed, they not only diligently compared the one with the other, but even counted the number of letters in each book, and compared the numbers.
No sooner did the gospel spread through the nations, than it was found necessary to translate the Bible for each into its proper language. Some atlirm that the five books of Moses and that of Joshua were translated into Greek before the days of Alexander the Great. But the most remarkable translation of the Old Testament is called the Septuagint, which, if the opinion of some eminent writers is to be credited, was made in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, about 280 years before the Christian era. At any rate, it is undoubtedly the inost ancient that is now extant, and on many accounts deserving notice, though not to be put on a level with the llebrew text, as has been sometimes done.
Other translations of the Old Testament into Greek were made, from A. D. 128 to 200. It is generally believed that the church of Antioch was favored with a Syrian version of the Bible in the year 100. The Ethiopians of Abyssinia have a version of the Bible, whic they ascribe to Frumentius, of the fourth century.Chrysostrom, who lived in the end of the fourth, and Theodoret, who lived in the middle of the fifth century, both inform us that they had the Syrian, Indian, Persian, Armenian, Ethiopic, Scythian, and Samaritan versions. The ancient Egyptians had the Scriptures translated into their language. The Georgians have a version in their ancient language. The Old Testament of all these versions, except the Syrian, is taken from the Septuagint.
The famous Latin translation of the Bible called the Vulgate, which is now, and has been for many ages, of authority in the church of Rome, is of great antiquity. It is by some said to have been written, or at least copied and improved, by St. Jerome in the fourth century ; probably the last was the case, for there existed before his time a Latin version, which Augustine calls the Italian, Jerome the Vulgate, and Gregory Nazeazen the ancient version. In the year 1200, Peter de Vaux translated the Bible into French; and about the same time the Spanish translation was made. There have been many translations both into French and Spanish since that time. The Polish version was published A. D. 1390; and the first Italian version, A. D. 1471. Luther composed his version of the Bible, in the German language, between the years 1521 and 1532 ; and what is remarkable, not only the Popish translations, but those of the Protestants, for a considerable time after the reformation, were made, not from the Hebrew of the Old, and Greek of the New Testament, but from the Latin of the Vulgate. We are told that early in the sixteenth century the Bohemians took their first version from the Vulgate ; but that toward the close of that cei tury eiglit divines were employed to compose another from the original text.
We will now give some account of the translations of the Bible into the English language. There have been some who have attirmed that Adelme, Bishop of Sherborn, who lived in the beginnmg of the eighth century, translated the Psalms into the Saxon tongue. That, however, is uncertain, as some of the best historians make no mention of it; yet it is possible, as he was a man of great parts, and of great learning for those times, and said to be the first Englishman who wrote in the Latin language. About the same time, or a little after, Bede, coinmonly called the Venerable Bede, translated some parts of the New Testament-some say the whole Bible, but that is not probable. Near two hundred years later, King Alfred translated the Psalıns into the same language. In 1382, Wicklitr finished his translation of the Bible, which is yet extant ; that is to say, there are copies of it in some public and private libraries. All these translations were made from the Vulgate. In the reign of Henry the Eighth, several editions of the Old and New Testaments were published in English: one of the most remarkable is that of William Tyndal in 1530. The translation of the New Testament was made from the original Greek, bat probably the Old Testament either from the Latin of the Vulgate, or the Greek of the Septuagint. This was soon followed by the improvements of Coverdale and Mathews. By order of the king, Tonstal, Bishop of Durham, and Heath, Bishop of Rochester, made a new translation, which was published in 1541; but, not pleasing Ilenry, it was suppressed by authority. In the reign of King Edward ihe Sixth, another translation was made, two editions of which were published, one in 1549, and the other in 1551. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, another translation was made, which, being revised by some of the most learned of the bishops, went by the name of the Bishops' Bible. This professed to be translated from the llebrew of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the New, though in some instances, when there was a difference, it preferred the Septuagint to the Hebrew.
This last circumstance, with some others, induced King James the First to select fifty-four persons, eminent in learning, and particularly well acquainted with the original languages in which the Old and New Testaments were written, to make a new translation of the whole Bible. In the year 1607, fortyseven of those persons, the other seven probably having died, assembled together, and arranged themselves into committees, to each of which a portion was given to translate. They were favored not only with the best translations, but with the most accurate copies, and the various readings of the original text. After about three years' assiduous labor, they severally completed the parts assigned them. They then met together; and while one read the translation newly formed, the rest liad each a copy of the original text in his hand, or some one of the ancient versions, and when any difficulty occurred they stopped, till by common consultation it was determined what was most agreeable to the inspired original. This translation was first published A. D. 1010, and is the one which lias been, ever since that time, generally approved by men of learning and piety of all denominations.
NEW AND COMPLETE
HISTORY OF THE BIBLE.
CONTAINING THE HISTORY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
that sacred volume which was written by Divine authority and which contains the will of God revealed to man. It comprises the Old Testament and the New, or the Jewish and Christian Scriptures,* and consists of history, prophecy, doc. trines, precepts, and devotional exercises. In some of the larger editions of the Bible there is a set of pieces called the Apocrypha, inserted beiween the two Testaments. but as they are not attended with evidences of Divine authority, they make no part of the Bible. These apocryphal books appear to contain a portion of authentic history, and many moral lessons, with much fiction and some gross absurdities.
The first five books of the Old Testament (which are called the Pentateuch), have all along been considered as written by Moses it the others, chiefly by those whose names they bear; or where they do not appear under the name of any person, by some one qualified and authorized for that purpose. The books of the New Testament show the names of ihe writers to whom they are ascribed, except the “ Acts of the Apostles,” which bears no name, but evidently appears to have been written by the Evangelist Luke. I
The Holy Scriptures are the gracious gift of God, an invaluable blessing vouchsafed to mankind. They carry with them indubitable marks of their Divine original; and that they are “written by inspiration of Gon,” has been demonstrated “ by many infallible proofs.” The attempts of infidelity, to overturn or weaken the evidence in their favor, have tended only to illustrate and confirm them. But while the outworks of revelation are ably defended, it becomes every sincere inquirer to search out with great diligence the sacred treasures deposited therein. Here, alas! what negligence do we discover! As if it were enough to know that the Bible is the word of God, we are willingly ignorant of all it contains; or else we take up with some crude, undigested notion of divine things, which we have received merely upon trust. The truth, excellence, and importance of the Scriptures, are by most persons assented 10; but, it is feared, few only, in comparison, are giving a serious and diligent attention to them. Every attempt, therefore, to illustrate the Bible, one of the oldest and most important books in the world-a book that has God for its author, and the eteraal happiness of the human race for its end, deserves the mosi serious aitention of all
+ The word Scriptures signifies the Writings.
those, especially, who profess the Christian religion. To answer this valuable pose, is the design of the present volume. Not merely for entertainment, bui for ** instruction in righteousness,” and to excite men to search the Scriptures for themselves, it is intended. One would think that curiosity, alone, would prompt persons to their study. For we shall hereby become acquainted with knowledge the most sublime, and events the most wonderful. Bui a far nobler motive than curiosity should recommend this duty to us. We are called to it by the highest authority; nor can we neglect it, without a manifest contempt of God, who, in that sacred book, makes known his will, and requires our unfeigned obedience. The external evidences in favor of the Bible, and the internal marks of Divine authority which it carries, together with its power on the hearts and consciences of men, have been sufficient in all ages, to convince the humble and candid inquirer after Truth, that the religion therein contained is from GOD—" the word of the living God," and is “ able to make us wise unto salvation."
The importance and value of the Old Testament, in the study of either ancient or sacred history, all must admit. * With its general advantages as a text-book, comprising every species of knowledge that is useful and entertaining, every reader should be acquainted. But there are some more peculiar to it; the first of which is, that the New Testament can not be understood without the Old. The apostles ofien cite it, and more frequently allude to it; and our blessed Lord taking his leave of his disciples, says: “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was still with you; that all must be fulfilled, which was written of me in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms.” Luke xxiv. 44.
Christ being the end of the law, many things which are spoken of in the Old Testament, relate to Christ and his servants, as well in a literal as an allegorical sense: “Our Fathers," saith St. Paul, “ were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses, and in that cloud, and that sea ; and did all eat the same spiritual food, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. Now all these things were types unto them, and were written to admonish us, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
Another great advantage is, that the Old Testament is a magazine furnished, with a variety of figures, examples, doctrines, and sententious oracles, not only relating to faith, but to a good life, ihat thence we may furnish ourselves with directions on all occasions. Thus our blessed Lord, by the example of Noah, and Lot's wife, stirs up the slothsul to watchfulness, Luke xvii. 27, 32. He threatens the obstinate
The formation of man, with all his full-grown powers of body and mind- primeval rectitude, federal character and fall-the promised Saviour and his predicted victories-the patriarchal age-the deluge, the foundation of the new world the settlement of the mother country--the division of the earth- the confusion of tongues, and the dispersion-the early settlement of Egypt--the rise and fall of the Assyrian empire, even to the names of all its successive princes from the first to the last - the origin, peculiarities, and overthrow of the Hebrew state--the progress and decline of Canaan, Persia, and Media,--are all familiar topics of Biblical history. Ancient cities, too, -Thebes--the No-Ammi of Nahum--Nineveh, Jerusalem, Babylon, with all that rendered them the wonders of the world, would be traced to the remote darkness of the fabulous age, but for the Old Testament. The only authentic history of these rernote events and kingdoms is in the Pentateuch and in the prophets. Before the days of Moses, there were no historical records cither in Assyria, Egypt, Phrenicia, Chaldea, or Greece. No other historian has lived at so remote a period as the exodus from Egypt. Dr. Winder shows, at considerable length, that Moses is the only man who had any considerable materials for Egyptian history; as the ancient learning of Egypt must have been chiefly lost by the excision of the first-born and the disasters of the Red sea. Since the priests the more common depositories of learning, usually attended in their wars, the people who were left beliind must have been chiefly the common people ; so that for a long time after this disaster, Egypt was involved in ignorance and darkness; nor is this nation subsequently mentioned in the Hebrow Scriptures until the reign of Solomon. "Moses was the father of history." Infidels have affirmed, there were astronomical calculations in Babylon that reached back to a period much farther than the Mosaic history; which therefore, if true, invalidate the entire account given by Moses. This assertion has received a very conclusive refutation from the astronomical calculations of Bedford. But there is a fact stated by Gillies, in his history of Greece, that confirms the calculations of Bedford. This historian states, that, alter the conquest of Babylon by Alexander, he “ eagerly demanded the astronomical calculations that liad been carefully preserved in that ancient capitol about nineteen centuries. By the order of Alexander they were faithfully transcribed and transmitted to Aristotle,” who was the preceptor of this prince. And " they re-mounted to twenty-two hundred and thirty-four years beyond the Chrisijan era," a period not even so remote as the dcluge. There is no history that can be so safely relied on, or that is so ancient, as the Mosaic history. Every other attempt at history, until the reigns of David and Solomon, is but a mass of shapeless, rearranged tradition, as corrupt as it is fabulous. Long after this time, indeed, the pages of writers, esteemed the inost authentic, are disfigured by absurd and disgusting fictions. This defect in the annals of earlier times must be everywhere and deeply felt, if we exclude the information obtained from the Bible. There only is the deficiency supplied. Sanconiathan, Berosus, Clesias, and Manetho are the oldest human historians; bu * Moses was five hundred years before the first and more than a thousand before the last."
Jews, by the remembrance of Sodom and Nineveh, and the queen of the South; and terrifies the uncharitable rich with the words of Abraham to Dives in hell: “ They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them,” Luke xvi. 29. St. Paul, as hath been before observed, says: “ All these things were done to them for examples to us, that we should avoid those judgments God had afflicted them with for their fornication, idolatry, murmuring,” &c.
The last advantage we shall mention is, that, as the Old Testament had the honor to precede the New, so it gave witness to it as John the Baptist did to Christ; both he, Moses, and the prophets, going before him to prepare the way, “ to give knowledge of salvation to his people, to give light to them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” In confirmation of which, Moses and Elias appeared at the transfiguration of Christ on the Mount, bearing witness of him, and speaking of his departure, Luke ix. 31. Indeed, so great is the force of the gospel-truths, that comparing the transactions of our Saviour's life, with what was foretold of them, none can doubt of the completion of those predictions in him only. But none go so far in the eulogies of Moses and the law, as our blessed Lord himself. • There is one that accuseth you, even Moses; had ye believed on him, ye would have believed on me; for he wrote of me: but if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words, John v. 45, 46.
Having said thus much of those incomparable histories and other excellent things contained in the Old Testament, it may not be improper to say something of the wriiers or compilers of them. And first of Moses.
And here, considering the dignity of that great and excellent legislator, to whom God did the honor of speaking face to face, it may seem almost a presumption to attempt his character. We shall only say, that, for some thousands of years, the sun did not behold his equal. He was from his infancy brought up in a court, where he received all the advantages of a royal education. He was skilled in Egyptian learning, conversing at court till he was forty years old : at which time, being divinely inspired, he withdrew from the court of Pharoah, and, disdaining to be thought the son of Pharaoh's daughter, chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than enjoy the pleasures of a sinful life. Being obliged to flee to Midian, he undertook the humble employment of feeding sheep. In which time Gon appeared to him in the bush, and gave him a commission to be ruler and leader of his people.
But if we inquire more particularly into the character of this excellent person, we shall find him the most honored mortal that ever was born, till the Son of God appeared to bless the form in human shape. He was prophet, prince, and poet. For the first we have his own acknowledgment: “ The Lord thy God shall raise up unto thee a prophet like unto me, from anong thy brethren,” Deut. xviii. 15. For the second, Gon himself invested him with royal power, when he gave him a commission to deliver and govern his people, Exod. ii. 10. That he was a poet appears from those eleven Psalms ascribed to him, from Psalm lxxxix. to Psalm c. Besides the many personal favors God bestowed upon this great man, he was pleased to honor him with his commendation, that he was the most faithful of his servants, to whom he would communicate his will by. express words, Numb. xii. 7, 8. And indeed, if we consider the frequent interviews between God and Moses, the conveyance of the law by him, and his daily pleading for the people in the tabernacle, where God more immediately revealed himself, we may justly call him the secretary of the Divine wisdom. We shall not need to advance his character by enumerating his wondrous works in Egypt: his miraculous conduct of the Israelites throngh the Red sea; his furnishing them with food from heaven : his producing water by a miracle; and his vindicating God's honor and his own reputation from the calumnies of their enemies by a just execution on Korah and his associates. Whoever examines his administration, will find in it the most refined polity and most exact economy that ever adorned the character of the most illu ious legislator; for he had to do with a most obstinate rebellious people, and whom he governed with such dexterity, that he always brought them to a sense of their duty. Nor was his humility the least embellishment of his character; for though the Ísraelites had often provoked him by their reproaches, and apostacy, and sometimes threatened to stone' him, unmoved'he beheld their ingratitude, and, instead of revenging himself by threats and punishments, he humbly addressed himself to God in their behalf; to deprecate the judgments they
deserved. And for this virtue God himself expressly distinguishes him with this eulogy, that “ he was the meekest man upon earth.”
As to the other writers of the Old Testament, little need be said. The first catalogue of sacred books was made by the Jews, but by whom is not certainly known. It is highly probable, it was by Ezra, who collected all the sacred books of the Old Testament, and showing the collection to the Jews, it was received and approved by the whole nation.
The five books written by Moses, contain the history of nearly three thousand years, from the creation till his death. The prophets who succeeded him, wrote in thirteen books, all that happened from his death to the reign of Artaxerxes.
It is not certain whether Joshua wrote the book that goes by his name; but it is very probable it was written by his command, and soon after his death ; for Moses had often, during his administration, ordered him to write the most remarkable occur. rences in a book. It contained a history of about seventeen years.
Some are of opinion, that every judge wrote what was transacted in his days; and that all these transactions were collected either by Samuel or Ezra. The book of Judges contains the history of three hundred years and upward, from the death of Joshua to the death of Samson. As for the story of Ruth, it is certain she lived in the time of the judges, probably under Shamgar.
The four books that follow, contain the history of near six hundred years. The first book of Samuel to the twenty-fifth chapter, was written by Samuel himself; the prophets Gad and Nathan finished it, and wrote the second book of Samuel. The two books of Kings were written by Jeremiah or Ezra.
The two books of Chronicles were written after the four former. It is generally believed they were composed by Ezra, who collected them partly out of the other hooks of the Bible, and partly out of the papers which were yet extant in his days, but since lost.
Ezra wrote that book which is called by his name: and contains the history of eighty-two years, from the first year of Cyrus to the twentieth of Artaxerxes Longi
The book of Nehemiah was certainly written by himself, and contains the history of about thirty-one years, from the reign of Artaxerxes to the beginning of the reign of Darius.
The time and author of the book of Esther are very uncertain. Some think it was written by Ezra, or Joachim the priest, the grandson of Jozedec.
As to the story of Job, some have questioned the truth of it; but Job being mentioned in Holy Wrii with so much applause, it would be criminal to doubt it.* The time in which he lived is difficult to be ascertained, as well as the author. Some say, it was written by himself, others by Moses. These are but conjectures. It is generally believed that Job lived before Moses, and that his afflictions befell him when the children of Israel were in the wilderness. Some are of opinion, that he was descended of Nahor, Abraham's brother; others from Esau, which last is most probable.
CHAPTER I. HAVING made these introductory observations, we begin with the first transaction that is recorded in history. It is the most awful and glorious that imagination can conceive, namely, THE CREATION OF THE WORLD. “ To whom are the heavens above us, the world which we inhabit, and the various objects with which it is filled, indebied for their existence?" A mild but majestic voice replies from the sacred oracle, “In the beginnig, God creaied the heavens, and the earth, and all that is therein.” Stupendous work! and worthy the amazing power of that Supreme Being by whom it was executed. The idea of creation is very sublime; but our familiarity with the term may have rendered us insensible of its magnificent character. It is, indeed, so vast, ihat many of the ancient philosophers denied the possibility of creation, and hence assigned ihe attribute of eternity to mattert making it, in this re
* See Ezekiel xiv. 14 ; James v. 11.
+ We know, from the infallible testimony of God, that men and other animals which inhabit the earth, the seas, and the air; all the immense varieties of herbs and plants of which the vegetable kingdoin con