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On The Supposed Scriptural Expression For Eternity
by [?]

There is a Greek legend which openly ascribes to this translation all the characters of a miracle. But, as usually happens, this vulgarizing form of the miraculous is far less impressive than the plain history itself, unfolding its stages with the most unpretending historical fidelity. Even the Greek language, on which, as the natural language of the new Greek dynasty in Egypt, the duty of the translation devolved, enjoyed a double advantage: 1st, as being the only language then spoken upon earth that could diffuse a book over every part of the civilized earth; 2dly, as being a language of unparalleled power and compass for expressing and reproducing effectually all ideas, however alien and novel. Even the city, again, in which this translation was accomplished, had a double dowery of advantages towards such a labor, not only as enjoying a large literary society, and, in particular, a large Jewish society, together with unusual provision in the shape of libraries, on a scale probably at that time unprecedented, but also as having the most extensive machinery then known to human experience for publishing, that is, for transmitting to foreign capitals all books in the readiest and the cheapest fashion, by means of its prodigious shipping.

Having thus indicated to the unlearned reader the particular nature of that interest which invests this earliest translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, viz., that in fact this translation was the earliest publication to the human race of a revelation which had previously been locked up in a language destined, as surely as the Welsh language or the Gaelic, to eternal obscurity amongst men, I go on to mention that the learned Jews selected for this weighty labor happened to be in number seventy-two; but, as the Jews systematically reject fractions in such cases (whence it is that always, in order to express the period of six weeks, they say forty days, and not, as strictly they should, forty-two days), popularly, the translators were called ‘the seventy,’ for which the Latin word is septuaginta. And thus in after ages the translators were usually indicated as ‘The LXX,’ or, if the work and not the workmen should be noticed, it was cited as The Septuagint. In fact, this earliest of Scriptural versions, viz., into Greek, is by much the most famous; or, if any other approaches it in notoriety, it is the Latin translation by St. Jerome, which, in this one point, enjoys even a superior importance, that in the Church of Rome it is the authorized translation. Evidently, in every church, it must be a matter of primary importance to assign the particular version to which that church appeals, and by which, in any controversy arising, that church consents to be governed. Now, the Jerome version fulfils this function for the Romish Church; and accordingly, in the sense of being published (vulgata), or publicly authorized by that church, it is commonly called The Vulgate.

But, in a large polemic question, unless, like the Romish church, we uphold a secondary inspiration as having secured a special privileged translation from the possibility of error, we cannot refuse an appeal to the Hebrew text for the Old Testament, or to the Greek text for the New. The word aeonios (Î�Î�ωÎ�Î�Î�ς), as purely Grecian, could not connect itself with the Old Testament, unless it were through the Septuagint translation into Greek. Now, with that version, in any case of controversy, none of us, Protestants alike or Roman Catholics, have anything whatever to do. Controversially, we can be concerned only with the original language of the Scriptures, with its actual verbal expressions textually produced. To be liable, therefore, to such a textual citation, any Greek word must belong to the New Testament. Because, though the word might happen to occur in the Septuagint, yet, since that is merely a translation, for any of us who occupy a controversial place, that is, who are bound by the responsibilities, or who claim the strict privileges of controversy, the Septuagint has no virtual existence. We should not be at liberty to allege the Septuagint as any authority, if it happened to countenance our own views; and, consequently, we could not be called on to recognise the Septuagint in any case where it should happen to be against us. I make this preliminary caveat, as not caring whether the word aeonios does or does not occur in the Septuagint. Either way, the reader understands that I disown the authority of that version as in any degree affecting myself. The word which, forty years ago, moved my disgust by its servile misinterpretation, was a word proper to the New Testament; and any sense which it may have received from an Alexandrian Jew in the third century before Christ, is no more relevant to any criticism that I am now going to suggest, than is the classical use of the word aeon (Î�Î�ωÎ�) familiar to the learned in Sophocles or Euripides.