Chapter II:33: The Legitimacy of Other Versions

Moreover, our AUTHOR has, The rash assertion from the statements of the Papists, resting upon the misrepresented Testimony of AUGUSTINE, that for many ages the Scripture was formerly read only in the Three Languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.  They are certainly deceived, if they want to conclude this from AUGUSTINE’S de Civitate Dei, book XV, chapter XIII at the end, opera, tome 7, column 298, where it reads:  “For also in certain Codices, three Greek, one Latin, and even one Syriac, agreeing among themselves, Methuselah did six years before the flood.”  For nothing else is gathered from these words, than that this threefold Version of the Old Testament was formerly esteemed to be of great value, since perhaps they were also surpassing all the respect with respect to antiquity, whence Augustine appeals to the consent of these.

The other passage of AUGUSTINE, from book II de Doctrina Christiana, chapter XI, opera, tome 3, part I, column 19, is no more to the point, of which Bellarmine expressly makes us, book II de Verbo Dei, chapter XV, column 141, to prove the hypothesis mentioned by our AUTHOR; for AUGUSTINE in that place speaks only of men of the Latin Tongue, whom he wish to learn also the Hebrew and Greek Languages, so that in doubts arising from the variety of Latin translations they might be able to have recourse to the founts:  “Indeed (says he), men of the Latin tongue, whom we now undertake to instruct, have need of two others for the knowledge of the divine Scriptures, namely, the Hebrew and the Greek, so that they might have recourse to the preceding exemplars, if the infinite variety of Latin translators should produce any doubt.”  But, 1.  Augustine in that place, speaking concerning men of the Latin Tongue, neither affirms nor denies concerning men of another tongue, whether they might also have the Sacred Scripture translated into their own Vernacular Language, or not; but many Fathers of the same period do affirm it.  2.  At least cerning men of the Latin Tongue he teaches that they ought to read Scripture in the Vernacular Language:  but if it is as harmful as the Roman Church maintains, neither ought the Scripture to be translated into the Latin Tongue.  3.  He wants these men in doubts arising from the Latin Version to have recourse to the Hebrew and Greek founts, which also little agrees with the tenets of the Roman Church, in which they attribute authenticity to the Vulgate Version.  4.  Finally, if it is lawful for men of the Latin Tongue to read Scripture in the Vernacular Language:  why shall that not be equally lawful for men of another Tongue?

Neither is it to be Objected that, if the use of Versions were necessary, the Apostles, furnished with the gift of Tongues, would have prepared more Translations of this sort, in which manner only would we be able to be confident concerning the infallibility of the Versions.

As may be expected, I Respond with our Author, the Apostles, α. were taken up with more necessary business, β. as Universal Doctors, wrote in the Language most common at that time; whence, γ. they left the task of translating the Scripture into more Languages to the diligence of the Church, which is no more infallible in the Translation of Sacred Scripture, than in its preaching and explication, although it ought to be faithful; and in all doubts recourse is given to the authentic Text:  consult GERHARD’S Confessionem catholicam, book II, specialis, partem I, article I, chapter II, pages 181-184.

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