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Jews were ever susceptible to the influences to which they were here especially exposed; and, in fact, notwithstanding the general belief as to their bigotry and exclusiveness, their history is full of evidences of the facility with which they adopted foreign customs and modes of thought, even to the extent of frequent and total apostasy. But Alexandria was the meeting-place of all known religions, philosophies, sciences, arts. It was full of scholars and professors, whose great work it was to criticise and to reconcile. The men of creative genius had passed away ; it remained for their successors only to construct an eclectic system out of the fragments of their wisdom. In the universal comparison, the Jewish Scriptures could no way be omitted. The history of Moses, of the patriarchs, and of the kings, was adapted to classical models; and it began to be affirmed-a proposition thoroughly congenial to the Alexandrine character—that the Pentateuch was the real source even of Greek philosophy. In proof of this, a very liberal use was necessary, on both sides, of allegory and non-natural interpretation; and this was also in accordance with the peculiar principles of Alexandrine criticism.
For the object of Alexandrine criticism, as applied, for instance, to Homer or Hesiod, was not to ascertain the very words which Hesiod or Homer had written, to produce a true text corresponding perfectly with the original. But the critics set out with the assumption that the writer with whose works they were concerned was perfect ; and they determined the genuineness of any phrase or passage according to its conformity with this assumed standard of perfection. Not content to reproduce the works of poets or philosophers, they must needs amend them in accordance with certain principles of æsthetics and grammar. It is easy to perceive the effect which these standards of criticism would be certain to have upon any translation of the Old Testament by Alexandrian Jews; and that Alexandria was the birthplace of the Septuagint is beyond dispute.
The origin of this celebrated version is almost lost in fablefables, however, which by their very exaggerations and extravagancies testify to the honour in which the Septuagint was held. It appears at the present day in four principal editions, differing somewhat widely from each other, and clearly derived from very divergent original texts. The Codex Vaticanus perhaps represents the Septuagint before the labours and emendations of Origen; while we have codices derived from Origen's Hexapla, and others of an intermediate character, such as the Codex Alexandrinus. What Origen did for the Septuagint he has himself described. “Now there is plainly," he says, “a great difference in the copies, either from the carelessness of scribes, or the rash and mischievous correction of the text by others, or from the additions or omissions made by others at their own discretion. This discrepancy in the copies of the Old Covenant we have found means to remedy, by the help of God, using as our criterion the other versions. In all passages of the Septuagint rendered doubtful by the discordance of the copies, forming a judgment from the other versions, we have preserved what agreed with them, and some words we have marked with an obelos as not found in the Hebrew, not venturing to omit them entirely, and some we have added with asterisks affixed to show that they are not found in the Septuagint, but added by us from the other versions, in accordance with the Hebrew.” The versions to which Origen here refers were those of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, and his own labours produced not so much a new and accurate edition of the translation of the LXX. as a new version altogether. The great work, the Hexapla, which was the fruit of his unremitting toil for many years—an unconquerable energy and perseverance which earned for him the name Adamantius-perished in the flames by which the library at Cæsarea was consumed, A.D. 653. A copy, however, had been made of the one column of the Hexapla which contained the amended Septuagint, with the marks which indicated the omissions and additions wbich, as we have seen, were the result of a comparison with other versions. These marks, in course of time, were lost or changed, and in the Hexaplar texts it is now impossible to determine how much we owe to the LXX. and how much to Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus. Of these last it would be needless here to speak but for their incorporation by Origen into the Septuagint itself. Aquila was a Jew of Pontus, and his translation of the Old Testament was undertaken to meet the exigencies of controversy between the Jews and Christians. The latter accepted the Alexandrine version as authoritative, while the Jews complained that it was not an accurate rendering of the Hebrew, and when pressed in argument retired into the original Scriptures whither the Christians were unable to follow them. The very principle of Alexandrine criticism, which was faithfully reflected in the translation of the LXX., would, as we have seen, afford the utmost room for development and allegory, and therefore lend itself easily to Messianic interpretations favourable to the Christian theory. The Hebrew, on the other hand, while admitting of expansion, and capable of being enlarged according to the growing necessities and widening experiences of the Jewish people, yet did itself belong to a time far anterior to these spiritual needs, and would not of itself suggest them. Hence a perfectly literal rendering would leave open every question at issue between Jews and Christians, and compel the latter to prove their positions rather by a careful comparison of facts than by the quotation of predictions of doubtful significance. Aquila undertook to supply this want. His version
of the Old Testament was so rigidly literal that it was in some places even unintelligible. The Jews called it the Hebrew Veracity. It is not at all surprising that the Christians accused it of perverting and distorting several passages relating to the Messiah, for similar complaints are still to be heard, and it is always easier to “ beg the question ” than to prove it. The versions of Symmachus and Theodotion are of less importance, though Theodotion's rendering of Daniel was early substituted, and is still generally used, in place of that of the Seventy. In our present copies of the Septuagint, however, excepting (perhaps) those which are derived from the Codex Vaticanus, we have whatever Origen thought worthy of addition from the other versions which he had, with so much labour, collected. We have every reason to congratulate ourselves that, if the original Septuagint text was to be altered at all, its revision had fallen into such competent hands.
As to this ancient version it may be taken as agreed that its birthplace was Alexandria, and that it was made, or at least was commenced, in the time of the first Ptolemies, in the first half of the third century B.C. As to the translators themselves we know nothing, and the myths that have come down to us instead of history are both contradictory and incredible. The story that comes to us through Irenæus is to the following effect :-Ptolemy I. (Lagi), desiring to adorn his library with the literature of all nations, requested from the Jews a copy of their sacred Scriptures for translation into Greek. The Jews thereupon sent seventy elders well skilled in their own Scriptures and in other tongues, and the king, having first put them apart from one another in separate cells, set them to translate the several books. “When they came together before Ptolemy and showed their versions, God was glorified, for they all agreed exactly from beginning to end, in every phrase and word, so that all men may know that the Scriptures are translated by the inspiration of God." Justir Martyr gives the same account, and was even taken to see the very cells in which the interpreters had worked, just as Herodotus was taken to see the statues of the Egyptian kings. It seemed to some of the Fathers—e.g., to Augustine, who looked also with suspicion and alarm on Jerome's Biblical labours—an enormous advantage to have some outward and almost material guarantee of the Divine authority of whatever was regarded by ordinary readers as the Word of God. This is a feeling with which at least we can sympathise, and which is still to be found among ourselves in great strength. It must, however, be admitted that if the seventy translators were inspired at all, they were not inspired to translate accurately; indeed, it was half believed that their very errors were divinely suggested for the purpose of getting a better meaning or adaptation of the original words.
We owe to Aristeas, or Aristæus, followed by Josephus, a more gorgeous but less miraculous account of the origin of this famous version. Aristæus was a Cyprian, and a high officer at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus, by whom, we are told, he was sent, with Andreas, the commander of his bodyguard, to Jerusalem, to obtain a copy of the Jewish law for the Alexandrine library. They carried presents to the Temple, and obtained from the high priest Eleazar a genuine copy of the Pentateuch, and a body of seventy elders, six from each tribe, who could translate it into Greek. “On their arrival in Egypt the elders were received with great distinction by Ptolemy, and were lodged in a house in the island of Pharos, where, in the space of seventy-two days, they completed a Greek version of the Pentateuch, which was called, from the number of the translators, kará tous Boouýkovra (the Septuagint); and the same name was extended to the Greek version of the whole of the Old Testament when it had been completed under the auspices of the Ptolemies" (Smith's "Dictionary of Biography," s. v. Aristeas).
These stories may account for the name by which the Alexandrine version has been universally known, though neither of them can be accepted as historical. Moreover, the translators were certainly not Palestinian Jews. For the version itself bears the marks of imperfect knowledge of Hebrew, exhibits the forms and phrases of the Macedonic Greek prevalent in Alexandria, with a plentiful sprinkling of Egyptian words (see Smith’s“ Dictionary of the Bible,” 8. V. Septuagint). It must remain doubtful whether it was produced by command of the king, or to meet the exigencies of the Alexandrine Jews themselves.
The version is generally faithful but not minutely accurate, many of the variations from the original being probably designed. It can claim, indeed, no special inspiration, but it has had already a very wide influence, and will still abundantly repay the most diligent study. It is of considerable importance even in the criticism of the Hebrew text. For the use of English readers a very
available translation (English and Greek in parallel columns) has recently been published by Messrs. Bagster.
CHAPTER XXVI.-AMONG THE BREAKERS. We laid Martin and Margery together in Dovercourt churchyard, on Christmas-eve, and Rebecca and I prepared to spend a sad, solitary Christmas-day at the Gate-louse. Phæbe went home with
Mrs. Miller the night that Margery died. It was the dreariest Christmas-day I ever remember. The morning was wild and wet, for the weather was stormy, and a strong wind was blowing from the North-west; dark clouds swept rapidly across the heavens ; every now and then the rain fell in torrents, and the sea, with a foamy crest on every inky wave, broke like thunder upon the deserted shore.
I went to church in the morning, but it was dreary there as elsewhere, and as I passed up the avenue which led to the porch, I could see, not very far off, the bare, newly-raised mound of yesterday.
For a moment it hurt me that they should be out there in the fierce, wintry tempest. Only for a moment, though ; the next, I knew that it mattered nothing to them, that pitiless rain and that o'ersweeping blast!-they were safe where “tempests never beat, nor billows roar!” Safe “in the Kingdom,” as they both loved to call the heavenly country beyond the grave; safe with those who had gone before them to their rest; safe with God, their Father and their Friend; safe with Him through whom they won the victory, and in whose blessed blood they had washed their sinpolluted garments of the flesh, and entered into rest! What mattered now the wildest storm of earth to those who had passed into the regions of everlasting peace? Yes, their warfare was accomplished; their long pilgrimage was over at last. God had given them length of days, and they had lived to His honour and glory. They had trusted Him, and He had never failed them; and when heart and flesh failed, He was their sure Portion for ever! He had guided them with His counsel, now he received them into glory.
And as the wild wind bowed the leafless trees in the churchyard, and swept over that lowly mound, I thought of our great bard's homely verse :
" Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages.” Oh! was it not well to be at home, safe from all the toils, and troubles, and temptations of this sublunary sphere which we call life? For I felt sad and dispirited that day, my future seemed dark before me, and a strange sense of coming evil weighed heavily on my spirit.
When I got into the church, it looked dismal enough, för all the holly-branches that adorned it. There was a very small and scattered congregation, the weather had prevented so many people from coming out; most of the choristers and nearly all the school