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this should have been overlooked by many, whose lavish praises have not been always appropriate, appears to me wonderful.
ON THE SEPTUAGINT VERSION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
In Dr. Adam Clarke's prospectus of his intended comment on the sacred scriptures, the following passage concerning the Septuagint excited my attention: As I found this truly venerable ver'sion was that to which our blessed Lord and his apostles had constant recourse, and from which they made all their quotations.'
The inaccuracy of supposing that our Lord himself, who wrote nothing, and who preached to none but those who spake Hebrew, or a dialect of that language, quoted constantly the Greek translation of the scriptures, is entitled to the most candid construction from the writer of this paper; because he was formerly betrayed into a similar one, though not quite so unqualified: for animadverting on which he was much obliged to the editors of the Monthly Review. Fas est, et ab hoste doceri.
But the question to which I would draw the attention of your numerous readers is this: Do the writers of the New Testament uniformly
quote the Septuagint, whenever they refer to any passage in the Old Testament?
I am by no means disposed to enter the lists on such a subject, with one of so high a reputation for biblical learning as Dr. Adam Clarke; but I have been for many years almost unavoidably under the necessity of examining this particular question; and I must presume to aver that his assertion is unsupported by fact, or, at least, far too unqualified; in which I am persuaded I shall have all learned men, who have turned their studies to this subject, on my side.
Far be it from me to speak of the Septuagint as not venerable, or as entitled to small authority in determining the true reading or meaning of the Old Testament. It is, indeed, exceedingly venerable, as the most ancient version ever made of the Hebrew scriptures, and as the only one extant in the days of Christ and his apostles. It was at that time, I apprehend, in universal use among the Hellenists, or Jews dispersed through the nations, who spake the Greek language, and read in their synagogues: and, no doubt, it was commonly received and used by the churches of the gentiles converted to Christianity. Nay, more: I am of opinion that this translation of the sacred oracles, into the language at that time most generally cultivated of any on earth, was one grand means in the hand of providence, of preparing the minds of very many gentiles to expect a great Deliverer from Judea, and of welcoming him when preached to the nations.
Its honour and usefulness have been very great indeed, and it is entitled to very high veneration.
Yet, like other honoured and venerable instruments of our God, it is fallible; and must not be made the rival and competitor of the original scriptures. No man, who has compared the Hebrew text with the Septuagint, can deny, that in numerous instances, and in many of no small importance, the latter materially differs from the former; not only as to the masoretic points, but as to the words themselves. Yet, if the sacred writers of the New Testament uniformly quoted it, even where it essentially differed from the Hebrew text, as it has been transmitted to us; and if they were divinely inspired in so doing, who can help seeing that the Septuagint is to be considered as the authentic word, and that the Hebrew text should be altered according to it, wherever there is any difference?
I by no means say that the zealous advocates for this ancient version intend this; but I maintain that this is a fair conclusion from their premises. We cannot have two discordant standards of truth and duty: one must give way to the other, in general; though it be allowed that some errors, which during a lapse of ages have occurred in the accredited competitor, may, with great caution, be corrected by the authority of the allowedly fallible version.
My own theory I would thus state, as the result at least, of long-continued and careful examination, and deep reflection on the subject. The sacred writers of the New Testament used the Greek language; as those of the Old Testament had, generally, the Hebrew. They had frequent occasions of quoting the ancient "oracles
"of God:" there was no other Greek version extant, except the Septuagint: this was generally in the hands of all the Christians who spoke the Greek language; and, wherever this only Greek version did not materially vary from the Hebrew scriptures, they quoted from it; yet seldom in the exact words. But where that version materially varied from the meaning of the Hebrew scriptures, they either gave the sense of the passage quoted in their own words, or took as much of the Septuagint as suited their purpose, and altered what needed alteration. Thus several passages, as it appears to me, are neither direct quotations from the Hebrew text, nor quotations from the Septuagint: and some agree with the latter, even where it varies from the former; but only when the deviation does not so affect the meaning of the passage as to interfere with the pertinency of the quotation for the purpose intended. All this accords to what ordinary writers, in similar circumstances, would have done, and in part have been authorized to do: but the sacred penmen, being themselves divinely inspired, might take liberties which we must not; because their comments were equally the word of God with the texts commented on.
It seems to me of no small importance that this subject should be well understood; and therefore, if you will allow me, I purpose to bring the matter of fact fully and fairly before the religious public, by producing every direct quotation from the Old Testament, which occurs in the New; contrasting the Septuagint with the original of the New Testament; and giving a translation of
the former, with some very short remarks; just noticing how far the one or the other most exactly agrees with the Hebrew text.
I acknowledge that I venture forth in such an undertaking with some degree of trepidation; but, as I only desire to have the real fact fairly ascertained, which I think will give more competent scholars an opening to adduce their remarks, I feel resigned, in the prospect of some degree of correction as to the execution of my plan, in hopes that by means of it "the word of God" may be better understood and more honoured. I will subjoin a specimen of what I purpose, which, if thought worthy of insertion in your publication, shall be followed up (D. V.) by regular communications.
[The above letter drew from Dr. Clarke a reply, which may be seen in the Christian Observer for June, 1810, pp. 336—340; and to which Mr. Scott made the answer that follows.-His 'specimen' of the collation proposed is deferred till after the insertion of the ensuing letter; when the whole collation, which was continued from April, 1810, to July, 1811, will be given in an unbroken series.-J. S.]
YOUR correspondent, Dr. A. Clarke, seems to have wholly misapprehended my design, in