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This is a Work of extraordinary Merit; the Authors have left scarcely
This Work, which is prefixed to the Author's Paraphrafe and Notes
Article of it contains Matter for much Confideration, and fhews the
OU defire to know, "Since the Greek Septuagint and the EngHebrew,
"it comes to pafs that these two Tranflations have fuch Variations " from each other? I do not mean in fome few Words only, but in "whole Sentences; many being in our English Tranflation which are "not to be found in the Septuagint, and fome again in the LXX which "are not to be found in our English Bible."
I do not at all wonder at your asking fuch a Question; for a Clergyman who has but a fmall Benefice, which will not afford him Means to buy Books of a large Price, and lives in an obfcure Place in the Country, near no Library from which he may borrow fuch Books, or have Opportunity to confult them, is not to be blamed, if he fhould not know how to answer this, or other Queftions relating to ecclefiaftical Matters. For although he came from the Univerfity well verfed in the learned Languages, (as you fhew yourself to be, or you could not have compared our English Bible with the LXX, and fo would never have thought of the Matter) yet for want of Books to inform him how the Scriptures have from Time to Time been copied, tranflated and publifhed, he may not be able to answer fuch a Question, and fatisfy himfelf in fuch a Point as this.
And I must confefs for myself, that if I had not the Polyglot Bible, before which Bishop Walton (the learned Editor of that noble and ufeful Work, confifting of fix large Folios) has put feveral excellent Prolegomena, and Du Pin's Compleat Canon of Scripture, with fome other Books relating to the Editions and Tranflations of the Holy Scriptures, I could not have answered your Queftion, But by the Affiftance of
thefe Books, I hope I may do it to your Satisfaction. And I can give you a plain, fhort, and cafy Anfwer, which is, that there were different Copies of the Hebrew Original, and the LXX tranflated from one Copy, and our English Tranflators from another; fo as the Copies differed, the Tranflations differed alfo.
But another Queftion may arife. How came there to be fo much Difference between feveral Copies of the fame Book? I answer, the fame will always happen in all Books frequently transcribed by feveral Hands. Now, I believe no Book ever had fo many Tranfcripts as the Bible. As the Jews had feveral Synagogues in Judea, fo had they in all Countries where they were difperfed after the Captivity. For they did not all return to Judea at the Reftoration of Jerufalem and the Rebuilding of the Temple, but very many continued in those Parts of the Chaldean, Perfian, Grecian and Roman Empires where they had obtained Settlements, where alfo they increased and multiplied. This we may be convinced of from what we find in the New Testament, where we read that in every Place unto which the Apoftles went to preach the Gospel they found Numbers of Jews and a Jewish Synagogue. And every Synagogue had at least one Copy of the Bible, befide the many Copies written for the Ufe of private Perfons. Every one of thefe Copies was written fingly by itfelf, (the Invention of Printing, by which ten Thoufand Copies coming out of the fame Prefs fhall not differ fo much as a Letter or a Comma, being yet fcarce three Hundred Years old) and therefore could hardly fail to differ in fome Particulars even from the Copy from which it was taken, unless more than once carefully revifed, compared and corrected, which we may reafonably fuppofe was not always done. Thefe Copiers therefore could hardly keep free from making many Miftakes, fuch as often to omit a Word, or to write one Word for another: which laft Miftake might easily be made in Hebrew Books, where the Letters and, and, and, and fome others are fo near alike, that very often in Writing one can hardly be diftinguifhed from the other; and the mistaking fuch a Letter changes the Word, and gives it another Signification.
Copiers alto, in the tranfcribing fo large a Book as the Hebrew Bible, might cafily mistake fo far as to be guilty of confiderable Overfights, even to overlook and omit a whole sentence, efpecially when they wrote in Hafte, as, no Doubt, many of them did, who made it their Bufinefs to copy Books for their Livelihood. Where therefore the LXX want a Period or Sentence which is in our English Bibles, we may fuppofe it was wanting in the Copy from whence they tranflated: And where they have a Sentence which is wanting in our English Bibles, we may fuppofe it was in the Copy from which their Tranflation was made, but left out in the Copy from whence our prefent Hebrew Copies were taken, and from which we have our English Tranflation-t And fo vice verfa. This I think is a natural and rational Account how thefe Diverfities arofe; that is, from different Copies of the Original. Which Differences could hardly be avoided, and might easily happen. through the Careleinefs and Overfights or Miftakes of Tranfcribers, who ould fcarce avoid them in fo long a Work.
Some indeed will tell you that the LXX in their Tranflation took
great Liberties, and departed from the original Text with Defign, adding fome Things, and leaving out others wilfully to ferve fome private Views of their own. And others will tell you that this has been done by the Jews, who out of Hatred to the Chriftians have malicioufly altered the Hebrew Copies. But I think it is unjuft to charge either the Jews, who were the Keepers and Prefervers of the Original Hebrew, or the LXX, who tranflated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, with any wilful Variations from the true and authentic Text, where those Variations may be otherwife accounted for in the Manner I have fhewed they may be. However, I confefs, there are fome Variations, which I think cannot be fo accounted for; the Difference being fuch as could hardly proceed from mere Mistake or Overfight. This particularly appears in the Genealogies of the Patriarchs in the fifth and eleventh Chapters of Genefis: Where almost every Patriarch is faid to have lived an hundred Years longer before he begat his Son according to the LXX, than he is according to the prefent Hebrew Bibles. Such a long, regular Difference as this could not proceed from the Carelef nels or mere Overfight of any Tranfcriber. However, we cannot fay that the LXX did here wilfully vary from the Original, or that this Variation was not in the Hebrew Copies before the LXX made their Tranflation, and that thefe hundred Years might be in that Hebrew Copy from whence they tranflated; though at this Distance of Time we cannot account for it. We have juft Reafon to believe that in the Chronology of thofe Genealogies there was a Variation in the Hebrew Copies before the Days of Jofephus, who lived at the Time when Jerufalem and the Temple were deftroyed by the Romans: And therefore alfo might be in thofe Copies before the Verfion of the LXX.
Jofephus was a Prieft, who in his Courfe attended on the Temple to perform the Service of the Temple, we can scarce doubt but he had an Hebrew Copy of the Bible; nevertheless, in his Chronology, he differs from the prefent Hebrew Text, as he does alfo from the LXX. The Samaritan likewife (which is but another Copy of the Original Hebrew, written in the more ancient Hebrew Letter; that which is now used by the Jews, being what they learned from the Chaldeans during their Captivity in Babylon) differs in its Chronology from the other three. From whence we may reasonably conclude, that the LXX were not the Authors of this Difference, but followed that Hebrew Copy from whence they tranflated.
Another great Difference between the prefent Hebrew Copies and the LXX, which may also feem to have been done with Defign, is the Tranfpofition of Chapters or Parts of Chapters towards the latter End of the Book of Exodus. After you come to the End of the feventh Verfe of the 36th Chapter in the LXX, you will find immediately following, what follows not in the prefent Hebrew, confequently not in our English Bibles, until you come to the 39th Chapter. And fo through the 36, 37, 38 and 39th Chapters, you will find that put in one Place of the LXX which ftands in another Place in the present Hebrew and English Bibles. The Occafion of thefe Tranfpofitions, and of the like in fome other Places, Dr. Grabe, in his Letter to Dr. Milles, conjectures might probably proceed from thofe who made up or ftitched
together the Rolls or Leaves of the Books after they were written, and by Miftake placed one Roll or Leaf where another should have been: Such Miftakes we find Bookbinders fometimes make now. And this Miftake having been made in the Hebrew Copy from whence the Verfion of the LXX was made, these Diflocations are found in all the Copies of the LXX.
Another Ocoafion of various Readings, particularly as to whole Sentences or Periods, is fuppofed to have rifen froin marginal Notes, which private Perfons fometimes made in their Bibles; fome Copier tranfcribing from fuch Book, believing thefe Notes to have been fet there to fupply an Omiffion of a Sentence by the former Copier, has put it into the Text of the Copy he writes, from whence other Copies being taken, this marginal Note becomes Part of the Text in those Copies which are tranfcribed from it. This might be done in Hebrew Bibles, before the Tranflation of the LXX, and from thence might be taken into that and other Translations.
Many various Readings alfo with regard to Words only between the LXX and other ancient Tranflations, and that of our English Bible. and other modern Tranflations made from the prefent Hebrew Copies, have proceeded from the Jewish Maforites, who having invented a Number of Vowel Points and Pauses, have thereby affixed a particular Reading and Senfe to many Words, different from that Reading and Senfe in which they were understood by the LXX, and other ancient Tranflations made before the Invention of thefe Points. But of these Maforitic Points I fhall have Occafion to fay more hereafter.
As I faid before, various Readings, and confiderable ones too, will be found in all Books written before Printing was invented. And the more Copies of fuch Books have been written, the more various Readings there will be. And as more Copies of the Holy Scriptures have been written than of any other Books, it is no Wonder if more various Readings be found in them, than in Books lefs often tranfcribed. For except the Tranfcribers of the Holy Scriptures were all infpired, and preferved from Error by the Spirit of God, as the firft Penmen of thofe facred Books were, it is morally impoffible but they should be guilty of fome flight Miftake or Overfight in fo long a Work. And therefore we find like various Readings in the Greek Copies of the New Teftament, which you (by comparing the LXX and the English Versions) have done in the Old, though perhaps not fo confiderable. The learned and induftrious Dr. Milles has collected a very great Number of various Readings from feveral Manufcripts, in his excellent Edition printed at Oxford and published 1707. To give an Inftance of one or two confiderable ones. The Doxology at the End of the Lord's Prayer, Matth. vi. 13. is omitted in feveral MSS. And eleven whole Verfes at the Beginning of the eighth Chapter of St. John's Gofpel. Alfo the 7th Verfe of the fifth Chapter of the firft Epiftle of St. John is omitted in almost all the MSS. now remaining in thefe western Parts of the World. So that the Doctor could not procure or be informed of one MS. that had it. Though Robert Stephens declares it to have been in fome of the MSS. from which he published his neat and correct Edition of the New Testament 200 Years ago: Which Edition our prefent