Holy Scriptures

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Holy Scriptures [1]

the term generally applied in the Christian Church, since the 2d century, to denote the collective writings of the Old mid New Testaments. (See Bible). The names Scripture, or "writing" Γραφή ,  2 Peter 1:20), Scriptures ( Αἱ Γραφαί ,  Matthew 22:29;  Acts 8:24), Holy Scriptures ( Ἱερὰ Γράμματα ,  2 Timothy 3:15), are those employed in the New Test. to denote exclusively the writings of the Old. (See Testament). About A.D. 180, the term The Holy Scriptures ( Ἱερὰ Γράμματα ) is used by Theophilus (Ad Autolyc, iii, 12) to include the Gospels. Irenaeus (ii, 27) calls the whole collection of the books of the Old and New Testaments The Divine Scriptures ( Αἰ Ασ῾Γίαι Γραφαί ) , and The Lord'S Scriptures (Dominicae Scripturae, v, 20, 2). By Clement of Alexandria ( Strom. vii) they are called the Scriptures ( Θεῖαι Γραφαι ) , and the Inspired Scriptures ( Αἱ Θεοπνεύστοι Γραφαί ) . From the end of the 2d and beginning of the 3d century, at which time a collection of the New- Test. writings was generally received, the term came into constant use, and was so applied as to include all the books contained in the version of the Sept., as well as those of the Hebrew canon. (See Scripture).

I. Contents Of The Scriptures. The Scriptures are divided into the books held sacred by the Jews, and those held sacred both by Jews and Christians. The former are familiarly known by the name of the Old Test., and the latter by that of the New. (See Bible). The Old Test., according to the oldest catalogue extant in the Christian Church, that of Mellto, bishop of Sardis in the 2d century, consists of the five books of Moses, or the Pentateuch (viz. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; four books of Kings and two of Paralipomena (Chronicles); the Psalms of David; the Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, and Job; the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah; the twelve Prophets; the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Ezra, under which head Nehemiah and Esther seem to be included (Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. 4: 26). Origen, in the next century, reckons twenty-two books, calling them by their Hebrew names, which consisted generally of the initial word of the book, viz. Bresith, or Genesis; Walmoth, or Exodus; Waikra, or Leviticus; Ammesphekodeim, or Numbers; Ellahade-barim, or Deuteronomy; Joshua ben-Nun; Sophetim, or Judges and Ruth: Samuel; Wahammelech Dabid, or 3 and 4 Kings; Dibre Hajammin, or Chronicles; Ezra, which included Nehemiah; Sepher Tehillim, or Psalms; Misloth, or Proverbs; Koheleth, or Ecclesiastes; Sir Hasirim, or Canticles; Isaiah; Jeremiah, Lamentations, and the Epistle; Daniel; Ezekiel; Job; and Esther; "besides which," he adds, "is Sarbath Sarbane El, or Maccabees." He omits, perhaps by an oversight, the book of the twelve minor prophets. To the books enumerated in the preceding catalogue, Origen applies the term canonical Scriptures, in contradistinction to secret (apocryphal) and heretical books. He does not, however, include in these latter the deutero-canonical Ἐν Δεύτερῳ , see Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. 4: 36) or ecclesiastical books; to which he also applies the terms Scripture, the Divine Word, and the Sacred Books ( De Princip. ii, 1; in Opp. i, 16, 79, etc.; Cont. Cola. 8, in Opp. i, 778). Jerome enumerates twenty-two books, viz.:

1. The Pentateuch, which he terms Thorn, or the Law.

2. The eight prophets, viz. Joshua, Judges and Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve prophets.

3. Nine Hagiographa, viz. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Daniel, Chronicles, Ezra, and Esther.

Some, he adds, enumerate twenty-four books, placing Ruth and Lamentations among the Hagiographa. The other books, read in the churches, but not fouln in the canon, as Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Tobit., and the Shepherd, he terms Apocrypha. With this catalogue agrees his contemporary Rufinus, who accuses Jerome of compiling, or rather plundering (com-pilands), the Scriptures, in consequence of the rejection by that father of Susanna and the Benedicite. Cyril of Alexandria divided the canonical books into five of Moses, seven other historical, five metrical, and five prophetical.

With these catalogues the Jews also agree. Josephus enumerates twenty- two books five of Moses, thirteen prophets, and four books of morality. The prophets were divided by the ancient Jews into the early prophets (viz. Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) and the later prophets, which 'were again subdivided into the greater (viz. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel) and the twelve lesser prophets. The Talmud and the modern Jews agree with Jerome's division into eight prophets and nine Hagiographa (Kethubim). The canon of the Alexandrian version includes the other books, called ecclesiastical, which we have already given in their order, (See Deutero- Canonical).

As the early Christians (who were not acquainted with Hebrew) received this version, for which they had the sanction of its employment by the New-Test. writers, and as from it flowed the old Latin and several other ancient versions, we must not be surprised at finding that all these books, being thus placed in the Bible Without any mark of distinction, were received indiscriminately by the primitive Christians, and were, equally with the canonical, read in the churches. Jerome, in his Latin translation of the Bible from the Hebrew in the 4th century., introduced a distinction by means of his prefaces, prefixed to each book, which continued to be placed, in all the MSS. and in the early printed editions of Jerome's version, in the body of the text, from which they were for the first time removed to the beginning or end of the Bible after the decree of the Council of Trent in A.D. 1546 (see Rev. G. C. Gorham's Letter to Van Ess [Lond. 1826]). Luther was the first who separated these books from the others, and removed them to a place by themselves in his translation. Lonicer, in his edition of the Sept., 1526, followed his example, but gave so much offence by so doing that they were restored to their places by Cephalaeus in 1529. They were, however, published in a separate form by Plantin in 1575, and have been, since that period, omitted in many editions of the Sept. Although they were never received into the canon either by the Palestinian or Alexandrian Jews, yet they seem to have been, by the latter, considered as an appendix to the canon (De Wette, Einleitung). There are, besides these, many books cited which have long since perished, as the book of Jasher ( Joshua 10:13;  2 Samuel 1:18), and the book of the Wars of Jehovah ( Numbers 21:14). Some books bearing these names have been printed, but they are forgeries. The book of Jasher, however, published at New York in 1840, is not, as would appear from the appendix to Parker's translation of De Wette's Introduction, a reprint of the Bristol forgery, but a translation of the much more respectable (though also spurious) book of Josher which we have already referred to as published at Naples in 1625, and written in excellent Hebrew before the close of the 15th century. See the American Christian Examiner for May, 1840. (See Jasher).

In regard to the order of the books, the Talmndists and the Masoretes, and even some MSS. of the latter, differ from each other. The Alexandrian translators differ from both, and Luther's arrangement, which is generally followed by Protestants, is made entirely according to his own judgment. The modern Hebrew Bibles are thus arranged, viz. five books of Moses; Joshua, Judges, two books of Samuel, two books of Kings; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets; Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah,, 1 and 2 Chronicles. The New Test. consists of the four Gospels, the Acts, Epistles of Paul, Catholic Epistles, and the Apocalypse; these are differently arranged in the Greek and Latin MSS. All these writings have been considered in the Christian Church from the earliest period as divinely inspired ( Θεόπνευστοι ,  2 Timothy 3:14-16), as no doubt the books of the Old Test. were by the Jews (see Talmud, Passim: Philo, De Vit. Mosis, vol. ii; Josephus, Cont. Apion. I, 3; and the manner of their citation in the New Test.). The early Christian writers also constantly maintain their inspiration (Justin Martyr, Second Apology; Irenaeus, i, 4; Origen. Περι Αρχῶν , Praef.), the only difference of opinion being as to its limits. Some of the fathers maintain their verbal inspiration, others only that of the thoughts or sentiments, or that the sacred writers were merely preserved from error (Dupin, On The Canon ) . But the first controversy raised on this subject was in the 16th century, when the theses Of the Jesuits, (See Maccabees), who had maintained the lower notion of inspiration, were condemned by the faculties of Louvain and Douai. Jahn observes ( Introd. ) that on this subject the entire Christian world was divided, and that the condemnation of the theses was not sanctioned by the Church or the Roman primate, and that the Council of Trent has pronounced no judgment on the subject. Henry Holden, doctor of the Sorbonne, published his Analysis Fidei in 1652, in which he defended that notion of the fathers which maintained only an exemption from errors appertaining to doctrine. Jahu further observes (loc. cit.) that most Protestants, until the middle of the 18th century, defended the most rigid notions of verbal inspiration; but that, from the time of Tollner and Semler, the idea of inspiration was frittered away and eventually discarded. The high notion of inspiration has been recently revived among Protestants, especially in the eloquent work of M. Gaussen, of Geneva, Theopneustia (1842). The moderate view has been that generally adopted by English divines (Henderson, On Inspiration, Horne's Introd.; appendix to vol. i), while m America the extreme view of verbal inspiration has, until very recently, prevailed. (See Inspiration).

II. History And Authenticity Of The Holy Scriptures.

1. The Old Testament. The first Scripture, the Pentateuch, was kept in a sacred place, the tabernacle, both in the wilderness and in the land of Canaan; and the successive sacred writings that were produced before the building of the Temple of Jerusalem were committed to the same safe custody; but when the Temple was built, Solomon removed into it these writings, and commanded that all succeeding Scriptures should be there preserved also. Though the Temple was burned by Nebuchadnezzar, it does not appear that the MSS. were destroyed, for none of the succeeding sacred writers allude to anything of the kind, which they certainly would have done as a matter of deep lamentation. During the captivity,  Daniel 9:11;  Daniel 9:13 alludes to the written law as in existence; and Ezra ( Nehemiah 8:5;  Nehemiah 8:8) read the book of the law to the people On their return from Babylon. About the time of Ezra, inspiration closed; the Spirit departed from Israel with Malachi, the last of the prophets, or, as the Jews call him, the seal of the prophets. Then the canon was formed by Ezra, and the Jews never dared to add, Or allow anything to be added, to it. The canon of the Scriptures, as collected by Ezra, is attested by Josephus in his book Contra Apio,. wherein he mentions the number of the hooks, the arrangement, and the contents; and adds that after a long lapse of time no one has dared to add, diminish, or alter; and that it is implanted in all Jews from their birth to consider these books the oracles of God, and, if need require, cheerfully to die for them. Five hundred years after Ezra, a complete copy of the canon of Hebrew scripture was preserved in the Temple, with which all others might be collated. Although Christ often reproached the scribes and Pharisees for their erroneous glosses on Scripture, he never said that they had in any way falsified the Scriptures.' Paul ( Romans 3:2) reckons among their privileges that "to them were committed the oracles of God," without implying that they ever abused their privilege by corrupting them.

The Jewish canonical division of Scripture into three great parts the law, the prophets, and the holy writings (which commence with the Psalms) is authorized by our Saviour ( Luke 24:44) when he alludes to this threefold division: "All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me."

The authenticity of the Old Test. is abundantly proved

(1) by the unintentional testimonies of profane authors, who speak in a corroborative manner of the persons and facts mentioned in it; such profane authors being unquestionably proved to have lived at a later period than the sacred writers whom they corroborate, such as Diodorus Siculus, Longinus, Porphyry, etc., who corroborate Moses;

(2) by the fact testified by Grotius that there do not appear in any genuine ancient record any testimonies that contradict those produced in the Old Test.;

(3) by the corroboration of many traditions preserved among different and remote nations;

(4) by the collation of many hundreds of MSS. of the Old Scriptures written at different periods and by various persons: in all of which MSS. the most wonderful similarity is to be observed, the only variations being some trifling ones easily accounted for and explained, and not of the slightest consequence as to doctrine or fact (Dr. Kennicott collated seven hundred Hebrew MSS. without finding one various reading of any actual importance);

(5) by the agreement of ancient writings, such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, with the Hebrew, which, from the violent enmity between the Jews and Samaritans, could never have been by collusion (the old Chaldee Targums, or paraphrases, agree so remarkably with the Hebrew as to be more properly translations than paraphrases);

(6) by the extraordinary candor of the Hebrew writers, who detail simply the frailties of their great men and their own national crimes, instead of seeking to exalt themselves and their nation like other historians.

2. The New Testament. From the time the canon of the Old Test. was completed till the publication of the last of the books of the New Test., about four hundred and sixty years elapsed. During the life of Jesus Christ, and for some time after his ascension, nothing on the subject of his mission seems to have been committed to writing, for the purpose of publication, by his followers. During the period between his resurrection and the publication of the last of the books of the New Test.. the churches possessed miraculous gifts, and the apostles and disciples were enabled to explain the predictions of the Old Test., and to show their fulfilment. After the Gospel had attracted attention, and Christianity was planted, not only in Judaea, but in the cities of Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor, the Scriptures of the New Test. were written by the apostles and other inspired men, and intrusted to the keeping of the churches. Already had others written narratives on the rise of the new religion, but they were not authenticated ( Luke 1:1). When authentic documents were required for the information of the churches, and for the promotion of life and godliness in every region, six of the apostles and two disciples, all of whom were contemporary with the Master, were divinely inspired to write them. The evangelists may, under divine guidance, have made use of the earlier narratives of others, also of public records, and even of private memoranda; but the fact must not be lost sight of that all the sacred writers were divinely guided as to what they should write.

These several pieces which compose the Scriptures of the New Test. were written in the Greek language, which was then almost universally understood. They were not only received by the churches with the highest veneration, but were immediately copied and handed about from one Church to another till each was in possession of the whole. From the manner in which they were at first circulated, some portions were necessarily longer in reaching certain places than others. While copies of each book would be extensively multiplied, it is, at the same time, a certain fact that no other books besides those which at present compose the volume of the New Test. were admitted by the early churches. The original collection of the several books for the formation of the canon of the New Test. evidently took place in, or immediately after, the apostolic age; but it was not any Council convened by any bishop or Church that first, ascertained and determined their canonical authority. Indeed, the books admitted into the canon were never supposed to derive their authority and validity from any council, inasmuch as the authority of the books existed before any council, and consequently prior to any official or ecclesiastical declarations concerning them. As the several books were assumed to be of complete authority as soon as they were published by their inspired authors, the churches were eager for their possession, and had them transcribed and freely circulated everywhere. Thus, even in the apostolic age, several churches would be in possession of all the writings of the New Test., for the genuineness and authenticity of which they had all the requisite evidence from the highest sources. Though the books of the New Test. were written in the Greek language, the writers were Jews, hence, as might be expected, their compositions evidence Jewish thought, which everywhere gives a Hebrew coloring to the style of their several writings. We have no evidence that the books of the New Test. were ever corrupted; indeed, as these books were the foundation of the Christian faith, alterations were both impossible and impracticable without detection. These books are quoted or alluded to by a series of Christian writers, as well as by the adversaries of the Christian faith, who may be traced back in regular succession from the present time to the apostolic age. Some of the ancient versions, as the Syriac, and several Latin versions, were made at the close of the first, or at the commencement of the second, century. Now the New Test. must necessarily have existed previously to the making of those versions; and a book which was so early and so universally read throughout the East in the Greek and in the Syriac languages, and throughout Europe and Africa in the Latin, must be able to lay claim to a high antiquity; while the correspondence of those versions with our copies of the original Greek attests their genuineness and authenticity.

But though the ancient MSS. of the Scriptures which have descended to our times have not been wilfully altered, they have, nevertheless, been subject to the vicissitudes incident to copying in the course of transmission. Still, the uniformity of the MSS. which are dis-versed in so many countries and in so great variety of languages is truly astonishing. The various readings Consist almost wholly in palpable errors in transcription, grammatical and verbal differences, such as the insertion or omission of a letter or article, the substitution of a word for its equivalent, or the transposition of a word or two in a sentence. Taken altogether, they neither change nor affect a single doctrine or duty announced or enjoined in the Word of God. From the recent herculean labors in examining the MSS. and collecting the variations, we have for the New Test. the investigations of Mill, Bengel, Wettstein, Griesbaeh, Mattheir, Scholz, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Mai, Tregelles, and Scrivener, who have examined several hundreds of MSS. and compared their differences. The old versions also, such as the several Syriac copies, the Latin, Gothic, etc., have been compared and their supposed variations added to the lists. Even the quotations found in the fathers have been subjected to the same ordeal, and all their discrepancies and peculiarities seized on and subjoined to the formidable catalogue. -The various readings of Greek New-Test. Scriptures, thus multiplied by the fidelity of collators, may now amount to more than a hundred thousand. This immense combination of labor has established so convincingly the astonishing preservation of the sacred text, copied, nevertheless, so many thousands of times in Hebrew during thirty-three' centuries, and in Greek during eighteen hundred years that the hopes of the enemies of religion in this channel have been overwhelmed; while the faithful can rejoice in the fact that they possess in all their purity those writings which are able to make them wise unto salvation.