The Holy Scripture is originally written in 3
languages: in Hebrew, Aramaic, and in Greek.
The greater part of the Old Testament is written
in Hebrew. In the Old Testament chapters 2-8 of the book of Prophet Daniel,
chapters 4-8 of the 1st book of Ezra and the book of Sirach, and in
the New Testament the Gospel of St. Mathew are written in Aramaic.
In the Old Testament in Greek are written the 2d
and 3d books of Maccabees and the entire New Testament, except for the Gospel
of Mathew. Besides, the Gospel of Mathew, and all the Books of the Old
Testament, which are not accepted by the Jewish canon, were preserved just in
Greek, and their Jewish and Aramaic originals were lost.
The first known to us translation of the Holy
scripture was the translation of all the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew
into Greek, which was made by the so-called 70 (and to be more exact 72)
interpreters in the 3d century BC.
Demetrius Phalareus, the scientific great noble of
the Hellenistic Egyptian King Ptolemaios Philadelphus, set a goal to gather all
the existing in the entire world books in the capital of his king. Judea at
that time (284-247 BC) was submitted to the Egyptian kings, and Ptolemaios
Philadelphus ordered to the Jews to send to the Alexandrian library all the
existing by them books, together with their Greek translation. Probably, none
of their contemporaries understood that the typical for bibliophiles strife of
the king and his noble to make the most full collection of the books will have
such an important significance for the spiritual life of mankind.
The Jewish high priests treated this task with the
extreme seriousness and realization of their responsibility. In spite of the
fact that by that time the entire Jewish nation concentrated in one generation
of Judas and the Jews could boldly fulfill the wishes of the Egyptian king
themselves, together with that, justly and holy longing for the participation
of entire Israel in that, the spiritual leader of the Jews proclaimed fasting and
concentrated prayer among the people and called the 12 generations to choose 6
interpreters from each one of them, so that they could unanimously translate
the Holy Scripture into Greek, the most spread then language.
This translation, which appeared to be, this way,
the fruit of the council exploit of the Old Testament Church, got the name of the
Septuagint, i.e. the Seventy, and became the most authoritative narration
of the Holy Scripture of the Old Testament for the Orthodox Christians.
Much later (obviously, around the 1st
century BC, for the Old Testament part of the Holy Scripture and around the
beginning of the 2d AD for Its New Testament part) appeared the translation of
the Holy Scripture into Syrian, the so-called Peshitta, which coincides in the
most important details with the translation of the Septuagint. For the Syrian
Church and the eastern churches, connected to the Syrian church, Peshitta was
in the same way authoritative, as for us the Septuagint, and in the Western
church the translation made by blessed Geronimo, the so-called Vulgate (which
in Latin means exactly the same as in Aramaic Peshitta — "simple"),
was considered as more authoritative, than the Jewish original. This might seem
strange, but we shall try to explain it.
By the time of Christ the Savior Ancient Hebrew,
in which the Law and the majority of the rest books of the Old Testament are
written, was already a dead language. The Jewish population of Palestine was
speaking the language, common for that time for the Semitic tribes of Front
Asia — Aramaic. Christ the Savior spoke that language as well. Those little
worlds of Christ, which the Evangelists cite literally: "Talitha
cumi" (Mark 5:41), "Abba," when the Lord addressed God the
Father (Mark 5:41), the mortal howl of the Lord on the cross: "Eloi, Eloi,
lama Sabachtani" (Mark 15:34) — these Aramaic words (in the Gospel of
Mathew the words "Eloi, Eloi" — My God, My God) — are given in
Ancient Hebrew "Ili, Ili," but the second part in both the Gospels is
given in Aramaic.
When during the 1st and 2d centuries
after the storms of the Jewish war and rebel of Bar Kochba, the existence of
the Jewish-Christian communities ceased, the Holy Scripture in Hebrew
disappeared from the Christian medium. It was good for the Divine Providence
that the rejected this Providence and by that being unfaithful to its main
designation Jewish community would get the new designation, turning out to be
the only keeper of the Holy Scripture in the original language, and despite its
own will, would be the witness of the fact, that what is said by the Church of
Christ concerning the ancient prophesies and prototypes of Christ the Savior
and about the Divine Fatherly preparation of the people for acceptance of the
Son of God, is not invented by the Christians but is the authentic verity.
When after many centuries of the separate
existence in different and together with that battling to the last circles, in
the Greek and Aramaic translations of the Holy Scripture and in the
translations from Greek and Aramaic from one side and the Jewish original from
the other, when they all were brought together to be compared, it turned out
that in all the main things they, with the rarest exceptions, are identical.
This unanimity is the testimony to the fact, how carefully the holy text of the
Divine words was preserved, how triumphantly mankind justified the Divine
confidence, which entrusted the absolute truth to the infirm and limited human
But if the texts coincide in the main details,
then why does the Greek translation remain to be more authoritative for the
Orthodox Christians, but not the Hebrew original? It happens because it was
kept by the Divine grace in the Church of Christ since the apostolic times.
When the lines of the Bible were rewritten by the Christian writers, then a
writer himself, being a child of the Church, the participant of the Church
Divine life, knowing the Truth, did not make any grave mistake in the
re-written text, and the listeners of that text, to whom he passed the copied
book, could not leave without attention anything distorting the significance of
the holy words, to which the Church was always so attentive.
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