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Canon of the Old Testament; for after Malachi no prophet arose till the time of John the Baptist, who, as it were, connected the two covenants, and of whom Malachi foretold, that he should precede "the great day of the Lord (p)" that is, the coming of the Messiah. It cannot now be ascertained, whether Ezra's copy of the Scriptures was destroyed by Antiochus Epiphanes, when he pillaged the temple; nor is it material, since we know that Judas Maccabæus repaired the temple, and replaced every thing requisite for the performance of divine worship, which included a correct, if not Ezra's own, copy of the Scriptures. This copy, whether Ezra's or not, remained in the temple till Jerusalem was taken by Titus, and it was then carried in triumph to Rome, and laid up with the purple veil in the royal palace of Vespasian (q).
Thus, while the Jewish polity continued, and nearly 500 years after the time of Ezra, a complete and faultless copy of the Hebrew canon was kept in the temple (r) at Jerusalem, with which all others might be compared. And it ought to be observed, that although Christ frequently
(p) Mal. c. 4. v. 5.
(9) Joseph. de Bell. Jud. lib. 7. cap. 5.
(r) Josephus mentions the Scriptures deposited in the temple. Ant. Jud. lib. 3. cap. 1. and lib. 5. cap. 1.
reproved the rulers and teachers of the Jews for their erroneous and false doctrines, yet he never accused them of any corruption in their written Law, or other sacred books: and St. Paul reckons among the privileges of the Jews, "that unto them were committed the oracles of God (s)," without insinuating that they had been unfaithful to their trust. After the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, there was no established standard of the Hebrew Scriptures; but from that time the dispersion of the Jews into all countries, and the numerous converts to Christianity, became a double security for the preservation of a volume held equally sacred by Jews and Christians, and to which both constantly referred as to the written word of God. They differed in the interpretation of these books, but never disputed the validity of the text in any material point.
But though designed corruption was utterly impracticable, and was indeed never suspected, yet the carelessness and inadvertence of transcribers, in a long series of years, would unavoidably introduce some errors and mistakes. Great pains have been taken by learned men, and especially by the diligent and judicious Dr. Kennicott, to collate the remaining manuscripts of the (s) Rom. c. 3. v. 2.
Hebrew Bible; and the result has been satisfactory in the highest degree. Many various readings of a trivial kind have been discovered, but scarcely any of real consequence. These differences are 'indeed of so little moment, that it is sometimes absurdly objected to the laborious work of Dr. Kennicott, which contains the collations of nearly 700 Hebrew manuscripts, that it does not enable us to correct a single important passage in the Old Testament; whereas this very circumstance implies, that we have in fact derived from that excellent undertaking the greatest advantage which could have been wished for by any real friend of revealed religion; namely, the certain knowledge of the agreement of the copies of the antient Scriptures, now extant in their original language, with each other, and with our Bibles. This point, thus clearly established, is still farther confirmed by the general coincidence of the present Hebrew copies with all the early translations of the Bible, and particularly with the Septuagint (t) Version, the earliest of them all, and which
(t) This is a Translation of the Old Testament into Greek, made at Alexandria, when Ptolemy Philadelphus was king of Egypt. Aristeas relates, that Ptolemy applied to Eleazer, the high priest at Jerusalem, for proper persons to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek lan
which was made 270 years before Christ. There is also a perfect agreement between the Samaritan (u) and Hebrew Pentateuchs, except in one or
guage, and that the high priest sent six elders from each of the twelve tribes. These seventy-two persons soon completed the work, and from their number it was called the Septuagint Version, seventy being a round number. This account of Aristeas is but little credited. Some learned men have supposed that this was called the Septuagint Translation, because it was approved by the Sanhedrim, whose number was seventy. But whatever was the origin of its name, it is certain that this version was made in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and that it was in great esteem among the Jews in the time of our Saviour. Most of the quotations in the New Testament are made from it, except in St. Matthew's Gospel.
(u) The Samaritans, who were the descendants of the ten tribes that seceded in the reign of Rehoboam, and of the Cutheans, a colony brought from the East, and established in Samaria by Esarhaddon, professed the Hebrew religion; but the Pentateuch was the only part of the Jewish Scriptures which they acknowledged. The Samaritan Pentateuch is a copy of the original Hebrew, written in the old Hebrew or Phoenician characters. There are still some Samaritans, who have their high priest, and offer sacrifices, upon Mount Gerizim. Archbishop Usher procured two or three copies of the Samaritan Pentateuch, which were the first that had been in Europe since the revival of learning. It is well known that the language now spoken by the Jews is different from that of the Hebrew Scriptures, which has indeed been a dead language since the return from captivity; and in like manner the language spoken
two manifest interpolations, which were noticed immediately by the Jewish writers (r); and this is no small proof of the genuineness of both, as we may rest assured, that the Jews and Samaritans, on account of their rooted enmity to each other, would never have concurred in any alteration. Nor ought it to be omitted, that the Chaldee paraphrases (y), which are very antient, and so concise
by the modern Samaritans is different from that of their antient Pentateuch. There is a translation of the Pentateuch in the modern Samaritan language, which is published in the Paris and London Polyglots: it is so literal, that Morinus and Walton have given but one version for both, only marking the variations. Vide Gray and Prideaux, Part 1. ch. 5. & 6.
(*) Vide-Prideaux, part 1. b. 6.
(y) The Chaldee paraphrases, called Targums, or Versions, are translations of the Old Testament from the Hebrew into Chaldee, made for the benefit of those who had forgotten, or were ignorant of, the Hebrew, after the captivity. They were read publicly with the original Hebrew, sentence for sentence alternately. Vide Nehem. c. 8. v. 8. The two most antient and authentic are that of Onkelos, on the Law, and that of Jonathan, on the prophets; which from the purity of the language and other circumstances are considered as having been made soon after the captivity, or at least before the time of Christ. There are other Targums, which are of a much later date. The Targums are printed in the second edition of the Hebrew Bible, published at Basil, by Buxtorf the Father, in 1610. Vide Gray and Prideaux, part 2, book 8.