« PreviousContinue »
after they had threatened Macedonia and all Greece
After the death of Sosthenes, who defeated the A. M. Gauls, and remained for some time in Macedonia, 3728. Antiochus, the son of Seleucus Nicator, and Anti-Ant. J. C. gonus Gonatus, the son of Demetrius Poliorcetes, formed pretensions to that crown, which their fathers had enjoyed, one after the other. Antigonus, who after the fatal expedition of his father into Asia, had reigned ten years in Greece, finding the state of his affairs more favourable than those of his competitor, was the first who ascended the throne, but each of them raised great armies, and contracted powerful alliances, the one to support himself in his new conquest, and the other to dispossess him. Nicomedes, King of Bithynia, having espoused the party of Antigonus in this conjuncture, Antiochus, when he was preparing to enter Macedonia, was unwilling to leave so powerful an enemy in his rear. Instead, therefore, of passing the Hellespont, he suddenly poured his troops into Bithynia, which then became the theatre of the war. The forces were at first so equal, that neither party would presume to attack the other, and continued for some time in that state of inaction; during which a treaty was concerted, and in consequence Antigonus espoused Phila, the daughter of Stratonice and Seleucus, and Antiochus resigned to him his pretensions to the throne of Macedonia. In this manner he remained peaceable possessor, and transmitted it to his posterity, who enjoyed it for several generations, to the time of Pe seus, the last of this race, who was defeated by Paulus Emilius, and divested of his dominions, which the Romans in a few years after, formed into a province of the empire.
Antiochus having thus disengaged himself from this war, marched against the Gauls, who after settling in the land granted them by Nicomedes, were
3729. Ant. J. C. 275
continually making incursions on all sides, by which they extremely incommoded their neighbours. Antiochus defeated them with great slaughter, and delivered the country from their oppressors. This action acquired him the title of Soter, which signifies a deliverer.
SECT. VI. Ptolemy Philadelphus causes the books of the holy scripture, preserved by the Jews with the utmost care, to be translated into the Greek language, as an ornament to his library. This is called the Version of the Septuagint.
A. M. THE tumult of the wars which diversity of interest 3727 had kindled among the successors of Alexander, Ant. J. C. throughout the whole extent of their territories, did 277. not prevent Ptolemy Philadelphus from devoting his utmost attention to the noble library he had founded in Alexandria, and wherein he deposited the most valuable and curious books he was capable of collecting from all parts of the world. This prince being informed, that the Jews were masters of a work which contained the laws of Moses, and the history of that people, was desirous of having it translated out of the Hebrew language into the Greek, in order to enrich his library with that performance. To accomplish this design, it became necessary for him to address himself to the highpriest of the Jewish nation; but the affair happened to be attended with great difficulty. A very considerable number of Jews had been actually reduced to a state of slavery in Egypt, by Ptolemy Soter, during the invasions of Judæa in his time; and it was represented to the king, that there would be no probability of obtaining from that people either a copy, or a faithful translation of their law, while he suffered such a number of their countrymen to continue in their present servitude. Ptolemy, who al
ways acted with the utmost generosity, and was extremely solicitous to enlarge his library, did not hesitate a moment, but issued a decree for restoring all the Jewish slaves in his dominions to their full li berty; with orders to his treasurer to pay twenty drachmas a head to their masters, for their ransom. The sum expended on this occasion amounted to four hundred talents; which make it evident that an hundred and twenty thousand Jews recovered their freedom by this bounteous proceeding. The king then gave orders for discharging the children born in slavery, with their mothers, and the sum employed for this purpose amounted to above half the former.
These advantageous preliminaries gave Ptolemy hopes that he should easily obtain his request from the high-priest whose name was Eleazer. He had sent ambassadors to that pontiff, with a very obliging letter on his part, accompanied with magnificent presents. The ambassadors were received at Jerusalem, with all imaginable honours, and the king's request was granted with the greatest joy. Upon which they returned to Alexandria with an authentic copy of the Mosaic law, written in letters of gold, and given them by the high-priest himself, with six elders of each tribe, that is to say, seventy-two in the whole; and they were authorized to translate that copy into the Greek language.
The King was desirous of seeing these deputies, and proposed to each of them a different question, in order to make a trial of their capacity. He was satisfied with their answers, in which great wisdom. appeared, and loaded them with presents, and other marks of his friendship. The elders were then conducted to the isle of Pharos, and lodged in a house prepared for their reception, where they were plentifully supplied with all necessary accommodations. They applied themselves to their work without losing
• About ten shillings.
+ About sixty thousand pounds.
time, and in seventy-two days completed the volume which is commonly called the Septuagint Version *. The whole was afterwards read, and approved in the presence of the King, who admired, in a peculiar manner, the wisdom of the laws of Moses, and dismissed the seventy two deputies with extremely magnificent presents; part of which were for themselves, others for the high-priest, and the remainder for the temple. Expences of this nature, though very considerable, never ruin a state, and do a prince great honour.
The author from whom these facts are extracted is Aristæus, who represents himself as one of the officers of the guard to Ptolemy Philadelphus. He adds a number of other circumstances, which I have omitted, because they seem more improbable than those I have inserted. It is pretended, that the writers, whether Jews, as Aristobulus, Phito, and Josephus; or Christians, as Justin, Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, Hilary, Austin, and some others; who have employed their pens on the subject of the Septuagint version, have founded all their relations on the mere veracity of Aristæus, when the work that bears his name is thought to be a spurious piece. Some of these authors have added circumstances which are generally disbelieved, because they have too much of the marvellous in them. Philo declares, that though their translations were made in separate apartments, yet the least difference in the sense, or style in which they were couched, was so far from appearing, that, on the contrary, the expressions were every were the same even to a single word; from whence he concludes, that these persons were not mere translators, but men inspired by the spirit of God, who conducted them on that occasion, and dictated the whole to them, even to the
Philo de vita Mosis, 1. ii. p. 658.
It is called the Septuagint for the sake of the round number 70, but the sacred books were translated by seventy-two persons.
minutest word. Justin, and, after him, the other fathers already mentioned, suppose that each of the seventy-two interpreters performed his version in a separate cell, without the least correspondence with each other, and yet that all their translations were perfectly conformable to each other in every particular.
I have frequently declared my resolution not to enter into any historical disquisitions of this nature, which require much time and learning; and would, therefore, call off my attention too long from my principal object. The reader may consult the learned Prideaux, who has treated this subject at large. All that can be depended upon, and which no one has thought fit to contest, is, that a translation of the sacred books from the Hebrew into the Greek, was made in Egypt, in the time of the Ptolemies; that we have this translation still extant, and that it is the same which was used in the time of our blessed Saviour, as most of the passages cited by the sacred writers of the New Testament, from the original Greek of the Old, are to be found verbatim in this version. It still subsists, and continues to be used in the Oriental churches; as it also was by those in the primitive ages, among whom it passed for a canonical translation.
This version, therefore, which renders the scripture of the Old Testament intelligible to a vast number of people, became one of the most considerable fruits of the Grecian conquests; and was evidently comprehended in the design God had in view, when he delivered up all the East to the Greeks, and supported them in those regions, notwithstanding their divisions and jealousies, their wars, and the frequent revolutions that happened among them. In this manner did God prepare the way for the preaching of the gospel, which was then approaching, and facilitate the union of so many nations of different languages and manners into one society, and the same worship and doctrines, by the instrumentality of the