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Edited by E. Hershey Sneath, Ph.D., LL.D.


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The Bible text used in this volume, except where otherwise marked, is
taken from the American Standard Edition of the Revised Bible, (in several
passages referred to as the American Revised Version) copyright 1901 by
Thomas Nelson & Sons, and is used by permission.






This volume is simply what its title indicates, "A
Book about the English Bible." It has grown out of a
series of lectures delivered to students in the University
of Pennsylvania, the purpose of which was to give a
brief account of the English Bible, its immediate
sources and their contents, their literary background
and surroundings, the forms and characteristics of the
constituent books and their relation to each other.
To the chapters, in which these subjects are suggested,
rather than discussed, have been added several others
containing a short history of the translation of the
Bible into English, from Saxon times to our own day.
Attention is called to the differences between the
commonly used English versions as regards contents
and translation, and to the reasons for the differences.

It is hoped that the reader may be sufficiently in-
terested by what is said in the various chapters, to de-
sire to pursue the study further by means of other books
such as those named in the appended Bibliography. .

To my colleagues Dr. C. G. Child and Dr. J. A.
Montgomery, of the University of Pennsylvania, and
to Dr. F. C. Porter and Dr. E. H. Sneath, of Yale
University, all of whom read the manuscript, or special
portions of it, and to my brother Dr. James H. Penni-
man who read the proof, I desire to express my gratitude
for suggestions and corrections. To Dr. Montgomery
I am indebted also for his kind permission to print his
translation of several of the poems of Isaiah.

Thanks are due to publishers for permission to make
quotations from their copyrighted books; to Houghton






Over the entrance to the Library of the University
of Pennsylvania are the lines: —

"O blessed letters that combine in one
All ages past, and make one live with all,
By you we do commune with who are gone,
And the dead-living unto counsel call."

Impressive words! reminding the student who may
chance to read them that in literature the world has a
heritage with which no other of its possessions can
compare in value, for by words, more than by any
other form of expression, the mind and heart are re-
vealed and the intellectual and spiritual treasure of
the race preserved. Through books we may know the
mind of the past and transmit the mind of the present.

The greatest book is the Bible, and the reason for
the place assigned to it is that it contains interpretations
of human life, actual and ideal, which reveal man to
himself, in his joys and sorrows, his triumphs and his
defeats, his aspirations and his possibilities, his rela-
tions to other men, and, comprehending and enveloping
all, his relations to God. Men may differ about what


the Bible is, but the fact remains that for centuries
millions of men, of all grades of intelligence and learning,
have believed that the Bible speaks to them as no other
book has ever spoken, and that what it says comes with
an authority derived from God himself. The primary
spiritual problem of man is his relations to God. Men,
everywhere, recognize the existence of an intelligent
power outside and higher than themselves that con-
trols and regulates the universe. The individual who
doubts or denies the existence of God is exceptional,
and his opinions are at variance with human belief
and experience. The Bible, concerned as it is in its
component parts with the revelation of God to man,
and the relation of man to God, has held the attention
of men because it is true to the truths of life and sat-
isfying to the yearnings of the human spirit. Men
have found it so, and there is an abiding faith that men
will continue to find it so.

Beliefs concerning the Jehovah of the Old Testament,
and the worship of Jehovah, existed long before any
accounts of such beliefs and worship were ever written.
The writings we have are not the earliest. Included in
the Old Testament are portions of writings that long
antedate any of the existing books as we have them,
and that may properly be regarded as important
sources of the books. The teachings of Jesus were re-
lated orally for some years before any part of the New
Testament was written.

Reverence for the Bible is increased by a knowledge
of the history of its transmission down the centuries,
through many languages, and many versions, preserv-
ing always its distinctive qualities unimpaired by the
frailties of human copyists, and unchanged through
the lapse of time.



The title-pages of the modern English versions of the
Bible, with the exception of the Douay Bible, state
that they are translations from the original tongues.
A copy of the latter states that it is "translated . . .
out of the Authentical Latin . . . conferred with the
Hebrew, Greeke and other Editions in divers lan-

The Old Testament is in Hebrew, with the exception
of a few passages, which are in Aramaic, Ezra 4:8-6:18;
7:12-26, Daniel 2:40-7:28, Jeremiah 10:11. The New
Testament is in Greek. These are the original lan-
guages. The conquests of Alexander spread the knowl-
edge of Greek in the East, and in cities like Alexandria,
great and populous, were many Jews who adopted the
language as their own. In the time of Jesus the con-
quests of Rome had brought Latin also into the East
where it became the language of the government. At
the Crucifixion, the inscription placed on the cross was
"in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek." John 19: 20.
These three languages contain the immediate sources
of our Bible. The original language of the Old Testa-
ment was Hebrew, but our oldest manuscripts con-
taining it are in Greek, into which the Jewish Scrip-
tures were translated. Some of the Greek versions
antedate by centuries our oldest Hebrew copies, which
are the Petrograd Codex of the Prophets 916 a. d. and
a manuscript of the entire Scriptures, also at Petrograd,
and dating perhaps as early as 1009 a. d.

The Jewish Scriptures have come down to us with
what is known as an "accepted text" as a result of the
care of the Sopherim, who were the custodians of the
sacred text until the sixth century, when it was taken


over by the Massorites, the work of the two groups of
scholars being thus differentiated by Dr. C. D. Gins-

"The Sopherim . . . were the authorized revisers and
redactors of the text according to certain principles, the
Massorites were precluded from developing the principles
and altering the text in harmony with these canons. Their
province was to safeguard the text delivered to them, by
* building a hedge around it/ to protect it against alterations,
or the adoption of any readings which still survived in man-
uscripts or were exhibited in the ancient versions." l

The Jewish Scriptures, which the early Christian
Church accepted as inspired, consisted of three sep-
arate collections as follows: I, "The Law"; Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; 2, "The
Projects"; Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samuel, I
Kings, II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, (The
Twelve), Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah,
Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah,
Malachi; 3, "The Writings"; Psalms, Proverbs, Job,
Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes,
Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, I Chronicles, II
Chronicles. It will be seen that the order in which the
books are placed in the English Bible is not that of the
Hebrew Scriptures. The latter vary slightly in the
order of the books in "The Prophets" and "The Writ-
ings," but no book of one collection is ever placed in
another. The three collections are each definite in text
and in contents. "The Prophets" are subdivided into
the "Former," Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samuel,
I Kings, II Kings, and the "Latter," Isaiah-Malachi.
The "Latter" are divided by length of books into "The

1 C. D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, London, 1897, p. 421.


Major," Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 1 and "The Twelve"
or "The Minor," Hosea-Malachi. Included in "The
Writings" is a group known as the "Five Rolls" or
"Megilloth," the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations,
Ecclesiastes, and Esther, which were and are read in
the synagogues at the celebration of the Passover,
Pentecost, 9th of Ab (destruction of Jerusalem), Tab-
ernacles, Purim, respectively. There are two distinct
series of historical books in the Old Testament, one of
which consists of Genesis-II Kings, 2 inclusive, that is,
from Creation to the release of Jehoiachin from Babylon
562 b. c; the other is I Chronicles-Nehemiah, inclu-
sive. This begins with Adam, I Chronicles 1:1, and
closes with the second visit of Nehemiah to Jerusalem,
432 b. c. The Hebrew Scriptures ended with II Chron-
icles and this will explain the reference in Matthew
23 135, "all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from
the blood of Abel (Genesis 4:8) . . . unto the blood of
Zachariah, son of Barachiah," (II Chronicles 24:20, al-
though he is there called the son of Jehoiada 3 ).

The dividing, into two books each, of Samuel, Kings,

1 Daniel is in " The Writings " in the Hebrew Scriptures, not in " The

2 Except Ruth, which, because of its opening reference to the Judges, was
placed in the Septuagint, and consequently in the Latin and English versions,
immediately after Judges.

"There are many such apparent discrepancies in the Bible. In Ezra 5:1,
Zechariah is called "the son of Iddo"; in Zechariah 1:1, "the son of Bere-
chiah," "the son of Iddo." Similarly Zerubbabel is in I Chronicles 3:19
the son of Pedaiah; in Ezra 3:2, Nehemiah 12:1, and Haggai 1:1 he is "the
son of Shealtiel." Salah (Shelah) is in Genesis 11:12, the son of Arpachshad,
and in Luke 3 :3S— 36, the son of Cainan, son of Arphaxad. There are twenty
seven differences between the two lists of names given in Ezra 2:2-60, and
Nehemiah 7:7-62. These and other discrepancies are usually easily ex-
plained. In Matthew 27:5, we are told that Judas "hanged himself," while
in Acts 1:18, we read of him "and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the
midst, and all his bowels gushed out." One statement does not exclude the
possibility of the other. He may have hanged himself on some high place
from which he afterwards fell.


Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles, which Jerome called
"double books," and the counting of the "Minor
Prophets" as twelve, where the Jews counted them as
one book, causes our Old Testament to include as thirty-
nine the books, which in the Hebrew Scriptures were
counted as twenty-four. Among Jewish scholars were
differences of opinion as to the inclusion of Esther,
Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Ezra and Chronicles,
but as a result of the Rabbinical Councils at Jamnia
about 90 a. d. and 118 a. d. the third collection of the
Hebrew, as we have it, was finally decided upon.

There is reason for believing that the Scriptures of
the Palestinian Jews were complete as early as the time
of Judas Maccabseus, although among different sects
such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots,
were differences of opinion concerning the books, which
continued until the Councils of Jamnia. The threefold
collection is thought to be referred to in the Prologue
of the Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach: —

"My grandfather Jesus, . . . having much given himself
to the reading of the law, and the prophets, and other books
of our fathers, etc."

In the time of Jesus the Son of Sirach, the Hebrew
Scriptures were accessible in Greek. About that time,
in the persecution by Antiochus, "sacred books" of the
Jews were burnt and possessors of a copy of the book
of the Covenant were put to death.

When the Hebrew collections were made we do not
know. The book of the law was fundamental and
there was doubtless some written form of the law very
early. In Joshua 8:32-35, a book closely associated
with Deuteronomy, we are told that Joshua read "all
the words of the law . . . written in the book of the


law" and also that he wrote upon "stones a copy of
the law of Moses." According to an ancient tradition
the inscriptions here mentioned were in all the languages
of the world. Jehoshaphat appointed men to teach
the law to the people, II Chronicles 17:7-9, and Ezra
read to the people from the book of the law of Moses,
Nehemiah 13:1. In the reign of Josiah a copy of the
law was found by Hilkiah the priest, II Chronicles
34:14. This book, so often referred to, was not our
Pentateuch, as we have it, but it seems certain that
our Pentateuch includes a large part, if not all of what
is in these passages called "the law of Moses." It is
probable that the following statement has reference to
the preservation of the collections which now constitute
the Old Testament: —

"And the same things were related both in the public
archives and in the records that concern Nehemiah; and how
he, founding a library, gathered together the books about the
kings and prophets, and the books of David, and letters of
kings about sacred gifts. And in like manner Judas also
gathered together for us all those writings that had been
scattered by reason of the war that befell, and they are still
with us." II Maccabees 2:13-14.

There is an old story that the Hebrew Sacred Books
were lost during the Babylonian captivity, 605 to 536
b. c, and that their preservation is due to Ezra. In
the Fourth Book of Esdras (II Esdras of the Apocry-
pha), which dates probably from about 100 a. d., is a
passage, 14:23-48, in which it is stated that Ezra,
from memory, with the aid of five skillful scribes pro-
duced in a forty-day period "ninety-four" (Syr. Eth.
Arab, Arm. versions, reading "two hundred and four,"
Latin copies varying) books, of which twenty-four


(the Hebrew Scriptures?) were to be published openly
and the remaining "seventy" kept for "such as be
wise among the people." This story is connected with
another tradition, equally without foundation in fact,
that Ezra and a group of learned men known as the
"Great Synagogue" or "Assembly," connected with
the second Temple, after the return from Babylon,
collected and edited the Hebrew Sacred Scriptures.
During the third century b. c. we find the Hebrew
"Law" being translated into Greek, a language into
which all the Scriptures were put, forming ultimately
, what became known as the Septuagint, or Greek Old

The Hebrew collections are referred to in the New
Testament in a number of passages, such as Matthew
7:12, "this is the law and the prophets"; Luke 16:31,
" If they hear not Moses and the prophets." " Psalms "
in the following passage may refer simply to the book
of Psalms or to the third collection, called by the name
of the book which is usually placed first in it; at all
events the three collections were evidently in mind
when the words were spoken : —

"All things must needs be fulfilled, which are written
in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms con-
cerning me." Luke 24:44.

Upon the restoration of the Jewish State, as related
in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, it was necessary
that the people should become familiar with the an-
cient law of Moses. There was, however, a difficulty,
as the Hebrew of the law was not the spoken language
of the people. This is probably the meaning of the
words :


"And they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly
(margin 'with an interpretation'); and they gave the sense,
so that they understood the reading." Nehemiah 8:8.

"The Rabbis perceived in this activity of the first
generation of the Sopherim the origin of the Aramaic
translation known as the Targum, first made orally,
and afterwards committed to writing, which was neces-
sitated by the fact that Israel had forgotten the sacred
language, and spoke the idiom current in a large part
of western Asia. All this, however, is veiled in obscurity
as is the whole inner history of the Jews during the
Persian rule." x

The Aramaic Targum is of importance because, as Dr.
Margolis says: — " ... it enables us to gain an insight
into the interpretation of the Scriptures at a time when
tradition had not yet wholly died out." 2 The Baby-
lonian Targum of Onkelos contained the Pentateuch,
as did also the Palestinian Targum of Jerusalem. Of
the "Prophets" there is a Babylonian Targum and
fragments of a Palestinian. The Targum of the "Writ-
ings" is Palestinian. There are other Targums which
differ somewhat from each other in being freer, or more
literal, in their translation of the Hebrew text.


It was but natural that books held in such reverence
by the Jews should become known to others, and a
Greek translation of the Scriptures was sure to be made.
Special reasons for it existed at Alexandria, that being
a great center of Greek learning and the seat of a famous

1 Preface to The Holy Scriptures, a new translation, The Jewish Publica-
tion Society of America, 1917.

2 M. L. Margolis, The Story of Bible Translations, Philadelphia, 1917, p. 21.


library. There had been Jews in Egypt for centuries
before the time of Alexander, who, when he founded
'./Alexandria (332 b. a), recognized the loyalty and
courage of a race, representatives of which had fought
in his armies, by setting apart in the new city a special
place for Jewish colonists, whom he admitted to full
citizenship. 1 They were allowed to transform an
Egyptian temple at Leontopolis into a replica of the
Temple at Jerusalem, and to celebrate Jewish rites there
until the coming of the Romans ended this. An idea
of the wide dispersion of the Jews and also of their
loyalty to their religion and to Jerusalem its center,
is given in the opening of the second chapter of

The Greek version of the Scriptures was in circulation
in the time of Jesus. A story of how this version came
into existence is told in an ancient letter of Aristeas to
Philocrates. This letter was quoted by the Alexandrian
writers Aristobulus and Philo, and by Josephus, the
historian of the Jews. We know, therefore, that the
letter was in existence as early as the first century of
the Christian era. Aristeas says that the Greek transla-
tion of the Pentateuch was made by order of Ptolemy
Philadelphus (285-246 b. c.) at the suggestion of
Demetrius Phalereus, librarian of the royal library at
Alexandria. An embassy was sent to Eleazar the High
Priest, at Jerusalem, with the request that he send to
Alexandria, with a copy of the Hebrew Law, six elders,
from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, to make a
translation for the royal library. Philo states that the
anniversary of the completion of the translation was
celebrated yearly. This story, while for many reasons

1 See H. B. Swete, The Old Testament in Greek, Cambridge, 1900, Introduc-
tion, p. 4.


of doubtful accuracy and authenticity, is quoted by
early Christian writers as authority. An interesting
variant of the story makes the number of translators
seventy, instead of seventy-two, and states that they
worked independently, each in a separate cell, and that
when they compared their work, on its completion,
every copy agreed, verbatim et literatim, with the others.
The Talmud gives the story of the seventy-two trans-
lators, but speaks also of another tradition which
attributed the Greek version of the Law to five elders.
What we are sure of is that a translation of the Old
Testament into Greek was made, beginning probably
with the Pentateuch, about the time of Philadelphus,
and completed in later years, by different hands.
This Greek version came to be known as the " Septua-
gint" (Latin, Septuaginta) commonly written LXX,
and is referred to in ancient Greek manuscripts as the
version "according to the Seventy." Jerome, whose
name is associated with the Latin version of the Bible,
doubts the story of the cells and says: — * "Nescio quis
primus auctor LXX cellulas Alexandria mendacio suo
exstruxerit, etc."

In Book II of his Apology for Himself against the
books of Rufinus, 402 a. d., 2 Jerome mentions the
important differences in text between different Greek
versions of the Old Testament and differences between
the Greek versions and the Hebrew text. We are con-
cerned with the Septuagint, in this volume, only so far
as it contributes one of the early sources of our text of
the Old Testament, for the most ancient texts of it
that we possess are in Greek. The Old Testament of
the early Christian Church was in Greek, not in Hebrew,

1 In the Preface to Genesis.

2 Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, New York, 1892, Vol. Ill, pp. 516-17.


and quotations in the New Testament are from the
Greek version.

Of Greek manuscripts the most important are: —

The Codex Vaticanus, brought to Rome in 1448 and
believed to have been copied in Egypt in the fourth

The Codex Sinaiticus, of the fourth century, found in
1 844-1 859 in the Convent of St. Catherine on Mount
Sinai, and now in the Imperial Library in Petrograd.

The Codex Alexandrinus sent in 1628 by the Patriarch
of Constantinople to Charles I as a gift. It was prob-
ably made at Alexandria in the fifth century and since
1753 has been in the British Museum.

Each of these three contains almost the whole Bible
and Apocrypha.

The Ephraem manuscript, now in the National Li-
brary in Paris, belongs also probably to the fifth century.
It is a bundle of fragments representing about three-
fifths of the original manuscript.

The Manuscript of Beza, so called because once
owned by that scholar, was presented by him to the
University of Cambridge in 158 1. It is generally re-
ferred to the sixth century. It contains the Gospels
and Acts and is remarkable as being the earliest to
contain John 7:53-8:11.

These manuscripts and the hundreds of others, of
different dates, and of a more or less fragmentary char-
acter, are the oldest versions we have of any parts of
the Bible either Old Testament or New. The discovery
of additional manuscripts often throws light on the
text, and it will be noticed that most important man-
uscripts have come to our knowledge since the comple-
tion of the King James Version in 161 1. In addition
to the Hebrew and Greek sources of the text of the


Bible, we have also manuscripts, of various ages, of a
fifth century Armenian translation of the whole Bible,
fragments of a Gothic version made by Wulfilas in the
fourth century, of several different Egyptian (Coptic)
versions of parts of the Bible, of an Ethiopic version
and of a Syriac version. All of these, as well as early
quotations from the Bible, are important as indicating
what the contents and text were regarded as being,
for the manuscripts differ in text, and do not all contain
the same books. There are important differences,
the Syriac Peshitto version, for example, omitting the
Apocrypha entirely. The name Apocrypha meaning
"hidden" or "secret," had been applied to the books of
certain sects. It was used by Jerome of a number of
books which had been included in the Greek version.
Of these, some were originally in Greek, while others
were a Greek translation of Hebrew or Aramaic writings.
The original Hebrew of the Wisdom of Jesus Son of

Online LibraryJosiah Harmar PennimanA book about the English Bible → online text (page 1 of 30)