Translators to the Reader

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When God would be known only in Jacob, and have His name great in Israel, and in no other place; when the dew lay on Gideon’s fleece only, and all the earth besides was dry; then for one and the same people, who spoke all of them the language of Canaan, that is, Hebrew, one and the same original in Hebrew was sufficient. However, when the fullness of time drew near, that the Son of righteousness, the Son of God, should come into the world, Whom God ordained to be the Savior through faith in His blood, not of the Jew only, but also of the Greek, yes even of all those who were scattered abroad; then, behold, it pleased the Lord to stir up the spirit of a Greek prince (Greek for descent and language) even of Ptolemy Philadelphus king of Egypt, to procure the translating of the book of God out of Hebrew into Greek. This is the translation of the Seventy interpreters [Septuagint - LXX], commonly so called, which prepared the way for our Savior among the Gentiles by written preaching, as John the Baptist did among the Jews by vocal [preaching]. For the Grecians, being desirous of learning, were not accustomed to permit books of worth to lie molding in kings’ libraries, but had many of their servants, ready scribes, to copy them out, and so they were dispersed and made common. Again the Greek language was well known and made familiar to most inhabitants in Asia by reason of the conquests that the Greeks had made, as also by the colonies which they had sent out. For the same causes also Greek was well understood in many places in Europe, yes, and in Africa too. Therefore the Word of God being set forth in Greek, became thereby like a candle set upon a candlestick, which gives light to all that are in the house [MAT 5:15]. Or it is like a proclamation sounded forth in the market-place, which most men soon take knowledge of. Therefore that language was best suited to contain the Scriptures, both for the first preachers of the Gospel to appeal unto for witness, and by which the scholars also of those times might search and check for themselves. It is certain that, that translation was not so sound and so perfect, but that it needed in many places correction. Who had been so sufficient for this work as the Apostles or apostolic men? Yet it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to the Apostles to take that which they found, (the same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather than by making a new translation, in that new world and green age of the Church. To do so would expose themselves to making many exceptions and trivial faultfinding, as though they made a translation to serve their own purposes. Bearing witness to themselves, their witness would not be believed. This may be supposed to be some cause, though it was commended generally, yet it did not fully content the scholars among the Jews. For not long after Christ, Aquila produced a new translation, and after him Theodotion, and after him Symmachus: yes, there was a fifth and a sixth edition, the authors thereof are not known. These with the Seventy [LXX] made up the Hexapla, and were worthily and for a great purpose compiled by Origen. Nevertheless the edition of the Seventy continued as the accepted version. Therefore not only was it placed in the midst by Origen, (for the worth and excellency thereof above the rest, as Epiphanius understands) but also it was used by the Greek Fathers for the basis and foundation for their commentaries. Yes, Epiphanius, named above, does attribute so much to it, that he held the authors thereof not only to be translators, but also to be prophets in some sense. Justinian the Emperor, urged his Jewish subjects to use especially the translation of the Seventy [LXX], giving as his reason, "Because they were, as it were, enlightened with prophetical grace." Yet for all that, as the Egyptians are said of the Prophet to be men and not God, and their horses flesh and not spirit [ISA 31:3]: so it is evident, (and Jerome said as much) that the Seventy were translators and not prophets. They did many things well, as scholarly men; but yet as men they stumbled and erred. Sometimes they erred through oversight or ignorance. Yes, sometimes they may be noted to add to the original, and sometimes to take from it. Therefore the Apostles had to depart from them many times, when they left the Hebrew, and to deliver the sense thereof according to the truth of the Word, as the Spirit gave them utterance. This may suffice touching the Greek translations of the Old Testament.

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This Page Last Updated: 12/08/98 A. Allison Lewis