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THE word Bible is taken from the Greek word Biblos which signifies book; and the volume to which Christians give that title, by way of eminence, is called The Bible, because of its superior excellency, being the book of books, the best book.
The Bible is called The Scriptures, from the Latin word Scriptura, which signifies a writing; and it is called The Holy Scriptures, because it contains the collection of the writings of holy men, who, at different times, were raised up and inspired of God, for the purpose of publishing his commandments and promises, and the records of his mercies and judgments, for the instruction and salvation of mankind.
THAT the Bible has existed from very remote ages, will not be disputed, except by those who are grossly ignorant. The proofs of its antiquity are, beyond all comparison, more numerous and convincing, than can be advanced in favor of any other book in existence. It has never been without its intelligent witnesses, and zealous guardians; though some of them have been the greatest perverters of its peculiar principles, or the bitterest enemies of the Christian name. The Old Testament has been preserved by the Jews, in very age, with a scrupulous jealousy, and with a venera
tion for its words and letters, bordering on superstition; demonstrating their regard for it as divinely inspired. The Hebrews never were guilty of negligence in relation even to the words of their sacred books; for they used to transcribe and compare them so carefully, that they could tell how often every letter came over again in writing any book of the Old Testament. The Old Testament contains, besides the account of the former ages of the world, the code of the Jewish laws, both civil and religious; and the records of their national history, for more than one thousand nine hundred years, from the call of Abraham; as well as prophecies which regarded distant futurity, and which have respect to times yet to come. The celebrated Roman historian Tacitus, who lived in the apostolic age, speaks of the Jewish books as very ancient in his time. They were translated from the Hebrew into the Greek language, more than two thousand and one hundred years ago; and they were possessed in both languages by the Jews. By those Jews who lived among the Greeks, they were read in their synagogues every Sabbath day, in the translation, the same as the Hebrew Scriptures were read by the native Jews; commentaries were written upon them by their learned doctors; copies of them were circulated in every nation where the Jews were scattered, and thus the sacred books were multiplied without number. The books of Moses, including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, were written more than three thousand and three hundred years ago, and nearly fifteen hundred years before the Christian era; many of the other books were published above a thousand years, and those of the older prophets about eight hundred years before the advent of Christ.
The books of the Old Testament, in the number and order in which we now possess them, were held sacred by the Jewish church. Concerning them especially, the apostle Paul declares, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” 2 Tim. iii. 16, and the apostle Peter, in reference to the same, testifies, “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” 2 Pet. i. 20, 21.
Being inspired by God, signifies being supernaturally influenced by his Holy Spirit; thus the ancient prophets are said to have spoken by divine inspiration. The inspiration of the sacred writers consisted, 1. in their being excited and moved to undertake their work; 2. Being furnished by special revelation from God with the knowledge of things which they had not previously possessed ; 3. Being directed in the choice of proper words to express their conceptions; and, 4. Being guided to write according to the will of God.
That the Holy Scriptures were inspired, is evident from their divine sentiments in religion; 1. The glorious char acter under which they represent Almighty God; 2. The purity and reasonableness of their morality; 3. The majestic simplicity of their style; 4. Their wonderful efficacy on the minds of believers; 5. The faithfulness and disinterestedness of the writers; 6. The miracles by which they confirmed their doctrines; 7. The astonishing preservation of the several books to our times; and, 8. The fulfilment of their numerous and various prophecies.
The authenticity of the Bible will be more fully estabblished, by a consideration of some of its translations and young believers cannot fail to be interested, in being informed of some particulars concerning the history and character of that in the English language. The Old Testament was translated into Greek, nearly three hundred years before the birth of Christ. This version is commonly called The Septuagent, from the reported number of seventy two, or, in round numbers, seventy Jewish elders, who were employed in the work. Soon after the publication of the apostolic writings, the Bible was translated into Latin, for the use of the Christians using that language. This version was called the Italic, which being in the vulgar tongue of the Romans, was called the Vulgate, of which, A. D. 384, Jerome, who died A. D. 420, published an improved translation, containing both the Old and New Testament, with prefaces to the several books; this is the only authorized Bible of the Romish church at the present time. It is in common use in this country. Many other translations were made, and finally King James of England, in 1603, in consequence of the request of Dr Reynolds, gave orders for a new translation. Fortyseven learned divines were engaged in the work, which was commenced in 1607, and completed and published in 1611, with a learned preface, and a dedication to king James. After this publication, all the other versions fell into disuse, and king James's version has continued to this day to be the only Bible allowed to be printed, without notes, in Great Britain. The translators did not pretend that it was a perfect and faultless version ; and as it was made so long ago, it may be reasonably supposed that it is capable of some improvements: but of its general excellence, the following testimonials, given by learned divines of different communions, may be regarded as sufficient to satisfy any unlearned reader. About a hundred years ago, Dr John Taylor wrote, – “You may rest fully satisfied, that as our English transla
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tion is in itself by far the most excellent book in our language, so it is a pure and plentiful fountain of divine knowledge ; giving a true, clear, and full account of the divine dispensations, and the gospel of our salvation; so that whoever studies the Bible, the English Bible, is sure of gaining that knowledge, which if duly applied to the heart and conversation, will infallibly guide him to eternal life.” Dr Geddessays, – “If accuracy, fidelity, and the strictest attention to the letter of the text, be supposed to constitute the qualities of an excellent version, this, of all versions, must in general be accounted the most excellent.” Thus we see a mercisul providence has marvellously appeared in raising up learned men to translate the Holy Scriptures; and there are at this time more than one hundred and fifty languages in which the oracles of God are circulated :
The principal countries mentioned in the Old Testament, except Egypt, are situated on the western border of the Asiatic continent. In that quarter of the world, the first man was created—there dwelt the first long-lived patriarchs, and the descendants of Noah, till long after the deluge — there the great monarchies of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia were founded and flourished. The ruins of stately palaces and of other magnificent buildings, which are still to be seen throughout the countries that formed the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires in Asia, sufficiently attest the multitude and riches of its ancient inhabitants, and corroborate the astonishing accounts transmitted to us by different ancient historians.
Paradise, or the garden of Eden, is supposed to have been situated in Armenia, near the celebrated river Euphia tes. The country called Palestine, or the land of Judea;