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(c.) THE VULGATE.-This is the appellation given to the common Latin translation of the sacred Scriptures. After Christianity extended itself in the West, a Latin version of the Bible naturally became necessary. In the time of Augustine there were several of these; although only one of them was adopted by ecclesiastical authority. This was called Vulgata, common, popular, because it was made from the Greek version, also denominated on common. In modern times this ancient Latin version is often called Itala (Italic) in consequence of a passage in Augustine; but the reading there is false, and it should be read usitata. This translation was made literally from the Septuagint, and gives, most conscientiously, even all the verbal mistakes of the Greek. There are still extant of it the Psalms, Job, and some of the apocryphal books complete, besides fragments. As the manuscripts of this version had become by degrees very much corrupted, a revision of the Psalter and book of Job was undertaken in A. D. 383, by Jerome in pursuance of an appointment to the work by Damasus bishop of Rome. This is still extant, and called Psalterium Romanum, because it was introduced into the Roman diocese. While Jerome was thus employed in the revision of the ancient Vulgata, or Itala, he ventured to commence also, a new version of his own, out of the original Hebrew; being induced to the undertaking partly by the counsel of his friends, and partly by his own feeling of the necessity of such a work. He began with the Books of Kings, and completed the work, A. D. 405, with Jeremiah. While engaged in this work, he enjoyed the oral instruction of learned Jewish Rabbins in Palestine, and availed himself of all the former Greek versions and of the Hexapla of Origen. His new version surpasses all the preceding in usefulness. The knowledge of Hebrew which Jerome possessed was, for the age, very respectable; and he also made himself master of the Chaldee. His manner of explanation connects itself very closely with that of the Jews; and his choice of Latin expressions is, for the most part, very happy. Still, the production did not meet with the anticipated success and general reception; and especially Augustine and Rufinus wrote against it with virulence, as if a new Bible were about to be introduced. Nevertheless, the new version maintained itself along with the ancient one; and at length, in the seventh century, supplanted it almost entirely.
The Vulgate was the first book ever printed. The first edition is without date or place; the first with a date was printed at Mayence, 1462. At the council of Trent, in 1545, the Vulgate was declared to be the standard version of the Catholic church, and to be of equal authority with the original Scriptures. Since this time, the study of the original text has been regarded by the Catholics as a verging towards heresy. The Vulgate at present consists of different elements; the Psalms and most of the apocryphal books being from the ancient version, or Itala, and the rest from the latter Vulgate. The popes have taken great pains to obtain as correct a text of the Vulgate as possible; thus, in 1590, under Sixtus V., appeared the Editio Sixtina, which was declared to be the standard for all future editions. But many errors being afterwards discovered in it, the popes purchased up all the copies, so far as possible, and a new standard, the Editio Clementina, was published in 1592, which still retains its authority.
The great value of this version, which among Protestants has been underrated from the circumstance of its being so highly regarded by the Catholics, arises from its extreme antiquity. It is a consideration of no small weight that even
the latest part of it was made upwards of fourteen hundred years ago, and is consequently many centuries prior to all the Latin translations now current, none of which can claim a date earlier than the revival of letters in the West. There are two things in this circumstance which powerfully tend to recommend the Vulgate version. (1.) Having been made from manuscripts older than most, perhaps than any now extant, it serves in some degree to supply the place of those manuscripts and to furnish us with the probable means of discovering the genuine ancient readings. For this reason this translation is usually considered as equivalent to a manuscript of the fourth century. (2.) From its having been executed long before those controversies arose which are the foundation of most of the sects now existing, we may rest assured, that, in regard to these, there will be no bias from party zeal to either side of the question; which cannot be said of the translations which have been made since the rise of Protestantism, either by Protestants or Papists.
From the fact of its having been solemnly declared by the Council of Trent, in 1545, as the standard version of the Catholic church, and from some few passages having been produced which seem to favour the abuses and corruptions of that church, the impression became very common that the Vulgate is a Popish Bible, calculated for supporting the Roman Catholic cause. Now although it is certain that besides many barbarisms and solecisms, there are several expressions occurring in this version which vary widely from the original, and seem to favour the false dogmas of the papacy, yet it can as little be doubted that in most of these cases there is nothing more than a perversion of the phrase from its primitive and genuine sense, occasioned by the corruptions which have subsequently and gradually crept into the church. From the changes incident to all languages, it sometimes happens, that words which expressed the true sense at the time when a translation was made, come afterwards to express a different sense. As institutions change, the meaning of terms applied to them changes also. Consequently, though those terms were once a proper version of the words in the origiral, they are not so now, having acquired a new, adventitious sense, totally different from that which they formerly conveyed. Thus, for example, it cannot well be questioned that the Latin phrase 'penitentiam agite,' do penance, is in itself as correct a rendering of the Gr. peravoew as the language admits and implies as much at least as the English word repent. But the erroneous notions which early found their way into the church in respect to the virtue of auricular confession and of various public exercises as a testimony of repentance, led at length to a total misapplication of the original phrase, which has been unhappily perpetuated by ecclesiastical usage and authority. The same may be said of several other modes of expression occurring in the Vulgate, which may reasonably be pronounced, on the whole, a good and faithful version, though unequal in style, often lacking in purity and perspicuity, and not seldom erroneous in its renderings. As to the enormously corrupt translation of Heb. 11. 21, which represents Jacob as 'adoring the top of his staff,' instead of 'worshiping, leaning on the top of his staff,' the best judges among the Roman Catholics admit that the Latin text is not entire in this place, and that there has been an accidental omission of the preposition through the carelessness of transcribers; for they have not now a writer of any name who infers from the declaration of authenticity, either the infallibility of the translator or the exactness of the copiers.
As to the prejudices which have arisen against this version on the ground of its having been officially authenticated by the council of Trent, and made the standard of ultimate appeal, the following remarks of Campbell (Prelim. Dissert. X. part 3. § 6), are well worthy of consideration. 'It is no further back than the sixteenth century since that judgment was given in approbation of this version, the first authoritative declaration made in its favour. Yet the estimation in / which it was universally held throughout the western churches, was, to say the least, not inferior, before that period, to what it is at present. And we may say with truth, that though no judicious Protestant will think more favourably of this translation on account of their verdict, neither will he, on this account, think less favourably of it. It was not because this version was peculiarly adapted to the Romish system that it received the sanction of that synod, but because it was the only Bible with which the far greater part of the members had, from their infancy, had the least acquaintance. There were but few in that assembly who understood either Greek or Hebrew: they had heard that the Protestants, the new heretics, as they called them, had frequent recourse to the original, and were beginning to make versions from it; a practice of which their own ignorance of the original made them the more jealous. Their fears being thus alarmed, they were exceedingly anxious to interpose their authority, by the declaration above-mentioned, for preventing new translations being obtruded on the people. They knew what the Vulgate contained, and had been early accustomed to explain it in their own way; but they did not know what might be produced from new translations: therefore, to preoccupy men's minds, and prevent every true son of the church from reading other, especially modern, translations, and from paying any regard to what might be urged from the original, the very indefinite sentence was pronounced in favour of the Vulgate, that in all disputes it should be held for authentic, ut pro authentica habeatur.'' On the whole, therefore, we ought not to consider the version in question, as either better or worse for their verdict. It is not intrinsically calculated to support Romish errors and corruptions, nor ought it to be regarded as the exclusive property of that church. It is the legacy of the earliest ages of Christianity to the universal church, much older than most of the false doctrines and groundless ceremonies which it has been brought to countenance. 'For my own part,' say the writer Just cited, though it were my sole purpose, in recurring to a version, to refute the corruptions and absurdities of Popery, I should not desire other or better arguments than I am supplied with by that very version which one of their own councils has declared authentical.'
§ 4. Modern Versions.-The English.
Referring to other sources for a more extended historical view of the earlier English translations of the Scriptures, we propose to notice only the present Authorised Version, which it is well known, was undertaken at the command of king James the First, of England, in consequence of several objections having been made, at the conference held in Hampton Court, in 1603, to the Bishop's Bible, which had previously been the one in common use. In pursuance of a resolution adopted the following year, the king gave orders that a new translation should be undertaken, and fifty-four men, pre-eminently distinguished for
piety and learning, were appointed to execute this great work. Before it was commenced, seven of the persons nominated had either died or declined, and only forty-seven actually entered upon it. These were divided into six classes, and each individual translated every book allotted to his division. The whole division then met, and agreed upon the renderings which they would adopt. Their part thus finished was sent to each of the other companies to be again examined, and here the method was for one to read the translation aloud, while the others holding each in his hand some other Bible, either in the original tongues, or in some modern version, diligently compared what they heard with what was before their eyes, interrupting the reader by remarks whenever they deemed it necessary. In this way every precaution was taken to secure a faithful translation, as the whole Bible underwent at least six different revisions by the most learned men in the kingdom. The result of their labours was first published A. D. 1611. It has subsequently been frequently revised with great care, and many marginal additions made, but no changes attempted in the body of the work. It still remains not only the standard Version, but by the unanimous voice of the most competent judges, it is ranked among the very best translations of this or any other book in the world. In point of fidelity, perspicuity, simplicity, energy, and dignity, it doubtless stands unrivalled. It cannot indeed be considered immaculate; but it may be doubted whether, taken as a whole, it could be surpassed by any translation which should now be attempted. A distinguished biblical critic of the last century (Dr. Geddes), in a work written with the express design of impuguing the established version, and stating the reasons which had induced him to undertake a new one, is still constrained to acknowledge, that if accuracy, fidelity, and the strictest attention to the letter of the text, be supposed to constitute the qualities of an excellent version, this of all versions, must, in general, be accounted the most excellent. Every sentence, every word, every syllable, every letter and point seem to have been weighed with the nicest exactitude, and expressed, either in the text or margin, with the greatest precision. Pagninus himself is hardly more literal, and it was well remarked by Robertson, above a hundred years ago, that it may serve for a lexicon of the Hebrew language, as well as for a translation.' (Prosp. of a New Trans. p. 92). Testimonies to the same effect, and equally decided, from the most conpetent sources, might be accumulated almost without number in favour of the excellence of our received translation. to all which we are disposed heartily to subscribe. At the same time, it will not be considered as revoking the ample concession thus made, if we advert to some undeniable defects in this version. This we do, not for the purpose of weakening the confidence or lessening the pleasure with which the vernacular Scriptures are studied, but simply as a matter of impartial justice. And in noticing these defects we shall pass by all those which arose necessarily from the age and the circumstances in which the translation was made. In the nature of the case, the translators were precluded access to various sources of biblical criticism and elucidation which are abundantly enjoyed at the present day. We have a far more extended biblical apparatus than they had or could have at the period in which they lived. The publication of polyglots, the collation of ancient manuscripts and versions, the multiplication of grammars, lexicons, concordances, and critical dissertations, the enlarged comparison of the affinities of the Oriental dialects, the researches of tray
ellers into the geography, manners, customs, natural history, &c. of the East, the more accurate tables of chronology, coins, weights, and measures, and the generally more advanced state of scientific criticism; have all tended to enrich us with facilities for performing such a work, to which our fathers were strangers. But not to dwell upon these considerations, nor upon the embarrassments thrown in their way by the arbitrary restrictions, growing out of the prejudice, the pedantry, or the caprice of the monarch by whom they were employed, the received version is marred by blemishes of another kind for which we cannot find the same apology. Of these, by far the most prominent is a want of uniformity in the mode of rendering, both in regard to single words and to phrases. This, we admit, was in some degree to be expected, partly from the magnitude of the work itself, and partly from the number of persons employed in it; nor should we perhaps dissent from what the translators have said in justification of their not tying themselves down to an absolute 'identity of phrasing.' As they remark, it would perhaps 'savor more of curiosity than wisdom' that translators should feel bound in every case to render, for example, the same Hebrew or Greek words, by purpose, never by intent; always by think, never by suppose ; always by journeying, never by travelling; always by pain, never by ache; always by joy, never by gladness, &c. Yet it is obvious that a more scrupu lous exactness may justly be required in a translation of the Scriptures, than in any other translation, and we doubt not that the instances adduced below will show that they have actually transcended all reasonable allowance on this score, not only often varying the terms unnecessarily, but so as to deprive the unlearned reader of the signal advantages to be gained in the study of the Bible from comparing terms and phrases strictly parallel. The justice of our criticism will be more evident from the subjoined specimens.