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The first translation of the Old Testament was made about the year 270 before the Christian era. It was made at Alexandria in Egypt into the Greek language, and probably for the use of the Jews who were scattered among pagan nations. It came to be extensively used in Judea, and no small part of the quotations in the New Testament were taken from it. It is called the Septuagint, or the version by the seventy, from a tradition that seventy elders of Israel, deputed for that purpose, were employed in making the translation.
The language spoken by our Saviour and his apostles was called Syro-Chaldaic, or more commonly the Syriac. The reason why the New Testament was not written in this language probably was, that the Greek had become the common language used throughout the eastern nations subject to the Romans
About the beginning of the fourth century the bible was translated into Latin by Jerome. This translation was made in consequence, as he says, of the incorrectness of a version then in use, called the Italic. The translation made by Jerome, now called the Latin vulgate, is the authorized version of the church of Rome.
The English translation of the bible now in use was made in the reign of James I. This translation was intended only as an improvement of those previously in existence.
It is the concurrent testimony of all who are competent to express an opinion, that no translation of the Bible into any language has preserved so faithfully the sense of the original as the English. The fact that it has for two hundred years poured light into the minds of millions, and guided the steps of generation after generation in the way to heaven, has given to it somewhat of the venerableness which appropriately belongs to a book of God. Successive ages may correct some of its few unimportant errors; may throw light on some of its obscure passages; but to the consumma tion of all things, it must stand, wherever the English language is spoken, upon the whole, as the purest specimen of its power to give utterance to the meaning of
ancient tongues, and of the simple and pure majesty of the language which we speak.
The general testimony of the world; the profound regard paid to it by men of the purest character and most extensive learning; the fact that it has warmed the hearts of the pious, ministered to the comforts of the wretched and the dying, and guided the steps of millions to glory, for two hundred years, and now commands the high esteem of christians of so many different denominations, evinces that it is, to no ordinary extent, faithful to the original, and has a claim on the continued reverence of coming generations.
The probability is, therefore, that while the English language is spoken, and as far as it is used, the English Bible will continue, and that the words which now pour light into our minds will illuminate the understandings and mould the feelings, of unnumbered millions, in their path to immortal life.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW.
THE word Gospel means good news, or a joyful message. It commonly signifies the message itself. But it is here used to denote the book containing the record of the message.
Epiphanius says that the Gospel by Matthew was written while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome. This was about the year of our Lord 63, about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. It is now generally supposed that this gospel was written about that time. There is very high evidence in the gospel that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. The destruction of the holy city is clearly and minutely foretold; but there is not the slightest intimation in it that these predictions had been accomplished; a thing which we should naturally expect if the gospel was not written until after these calamities came upon the Jews. Compare Acts xi. 28. In all copies of the New Testament, and in all translations, this gospel has been placed first. This, it is probable, would not have been done, had not Matthew published his gospel before any other was written.
Matthew, the writer of this gospel, called also Levi, son of Alpheus, was a publican, or tax-gatherer, under the Romans. See notes on Matt. ix. 9. Luke v. 27. Of his life and death little is certainly known. Socrates, a writer of the fifth century, says that he went to Ethiopia after the apostles were scattered abroad from Judea, and died a martyr in a city called Nadebbar; but by what kind of death is altogether uncertain. However, others speak of his preaching and dying in Parthia or Persia, and the diversity of their accounts seems to show that they are all without good foundation.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW.
1 THE book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
1. 'The book of the generation' is the proper title of the chapter. It is the same as to say, The account of the ancestry or family, or the genealogical table, of Jesus Christ. The phrase is common in Jewish writings. Compare Gen. v. 1. See also Gen. vi. 9. The Jews kept such tables of their families. 6 Jesus.' See v. 21. Christ.' The word 'Christ' is a Greek word, signifying anointed. The Hebrew word signifying the same thing is Messiah. Hence, Jesus is called either the Messiah or the Christ, both meaning the same. The Jews speak of the Messiah; the christians speak of him as the Christ. Anciently, when kings and priests were set apart to their office, they were anointed with oil, Lev. iv. 3; vi. 20.* Ex. xxviii. 41; xxix. 7. 1 Sam. ix. 16; xv. 1. 2 Sam. xxiii. 1. To anoint, therefore, means often the same as to consecrate, or set apart to any office. It is for this reason that the name is given to the Lord Jesus, Dan. ix. 24. He was set apart by God to be the King, and High Priest, and Prophet of his people. Anointing with oil, was, moreover, supposed to be emblematic of the influences of the Holy Spirit; and as God gave him the Spirit without measure, John iii. 34, so he is called peculiarly the Anointed of God. 'The son of David.' The word
son' among the Jews had a variety of significations. In this place it means a descendant of David; or one who was of the family of David. It was important to trace the genealogy of Jesus up to David, because the promise had been made that the Messiah should be of his family, and all the Jews expected it would be so. It would be impossible, therefore, to convince a Jew that Jesus was the Messiah, unless it could be shown that he was descended from David. See Jer. xxiii. 5. Ps. cxxxii. 10, 11; compared with Acts xiii. 23, and John vii. 42. 'The son of Abraham.' The descendant of Abraham. The promise was made to Abraham also. See Gen. xii. 3; xxi. 12; compare Heb. xi. 18. Gal. iii. 16. The Jews expected that the Messiah would be descended from him; and it was important, therefore, to trace the genealogy up to him also.
2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; 3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; 4 And Aram begat
Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; 5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; 7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; 8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; 9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; 11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon; 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; 13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim ; and Achim begat Eliud; 15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
2-16. These verses contain the genealogy of Jesus. Luke also (ch. iii.) gives a genealogy of the Messiah. No two passages of scripture have caused more difficulty than these: and various attempts have been made to explain them. It does not comport with the design of these notes to enter minutely into an explanation of the perplexities of these passages. Most interpreters suppose that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke that of Mary. They were both descended from David, but in different lines. It has been said also that Joseph was the legal son and heir of Heli, though the real son of Jacob, and thus the two lines terminated in him.
There are considerations which should set the matter at rest. No difficulty was ever found or alleged, in regard to them, by any of the early enemies of christianity. There is no evidence that they ever adduced them as containing a contradiction. Now, it is to be remembered that the Jews were fully competent to show that these tables were incorrect, if they were really so. And it is clear that they were fully disposed, if possible, to do it. The fact, therefore, that it is not done, is clear evidence that they thought them to be correct. The same may bé said of the acute