صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

induce him to prosecute further search, and this was rewarded by the ultimate finding of the rest of the manuscript. It proved to be a complete copy of the Greek translation from the Hebrew of the Old Testament, made by seventytwo of the most learned men employed by Ptolemy, king of Egypt, for that purpose ; and also the New Testament in Greek, with the entire epistle of Barnabas, and a part of “the Shepherd of Hermas.” Dr. Tichendorf has given to the world, in a little volume entitled Wann wurden unsere Evangelien verfasst? (When were our Gospels written?) a most interesting account of his discovery and of the difficulties which he had to overcome in making it, and in obtaining the manuscript. There can be no doubt that hundreds of precious manuscripts are still lying in obscure nooks in the ancient monasteries of that continent. Could these documents be brought to light and placed in the hands of such men as Tischendorf, there is no saying what service might be rendered to biblical knowledge, and to history. To those who are blessed with wealth and have enterprise to undertake such explorations here is a rich field for their labours. Throughout Asia Minor, Armenia, western Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Arabia, Egypt, northern Africa, and Ethiopia, which, in the early centuries of the Church and of the time of the rise of the Saracen empire in the 8th century, were the seats of flourishing churches, and were respectively under the jurisdiction of the patriarchs or presiding bishops of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Carthage, exist the remains of many monasteries, once wealthy and influential communities, but now the shades of poor and ignorant recluses who live in constant dread of their Mahommedan oppressors, and of the predatory hordes which infest these lands.

Here the traveller may at the same time gratify his love of adventure and a desire to immortalize his name as a benefactor of literature and of humanity. Let any one so disposed take example by Dr. Tischendorf, and consider what may be achieved by strong determination to overcome obstacles and to carry out an iden, or crotchet if you will. A long course of severe study of the Scriptures in the lan

guages in which they were written convinced Dr. Tischendorf that many serious errors had crept into the sacred text, owing to the fact of the original writings having been copied, recopied, and multiplied by hand during the centuries which elapsed previous to the invention of printing in the 15th century. In order to rectify these errors Dr. Tischendorf formed the design of revising and examining with the utmost possible care the most ancient manuscripts of the New Testament which were to be found in the libraries of Europe, and of collecting all the Greek manuscripts which could be obtained that were more than a thousand years. old, and he extended his investigations to the Apocryphal books before mentioned, and, indeed, to any manuscript which could throw light directly or indirectly on the text of Scripture. He commenced his labours in 1839 with the New Testament, using such materials as he had access to in Germany, and in the autumn of 1840 he produced his first critical edition of it. But he had become convinced that much more was to be done by a fresh examination of the original documents existing in foreign countries, and he accordingly cast about for the means of carrying out his design. He obtained a hundred dollars from the Saxon government to defray his travelling expenses for one year, and a promise of another hundred for the next. With this paltry sum he went to Paris, having when he reached that city but fifty dollars left, and not sufficient means to purchase a proper travelling suit. In Paris he continued to support himself by his pen, while he devoted his spare time to the explora-tion of the valuable libraries of that great city.

It was in Paris that Dr. Tischendorf made his first grand discovery. In one of the libraries was a parchment Greek manuscript, the writing of which, of the date of the fifth century, had been retouched and renewed in the seventh and again in the ninth century. In the twelfth century this parchment had been washed and pumiced in order that some one might write on it a treatise of an old Father of the Church of the name of Ephraom. Five centuries later the Swiss theologian, Wetstein, had attempted to discipher a few traces of the original manuscript; and later still, another

theologian, Griesbach of Jena, came to try his skill on it, although the librarian assured him that it was impossible for mortal eye to rediscover a trace of the writing. The French government assisted him by having recourse to powerful chemicals in order to bring out the effaced characters. These attempts failed.

But in 1841 Dr. Tichendorf tried his hand at deciphering the manuscript and succeeded completely. This brought him into favourable notice; and the king of Saxony and several eminent patrons of learning at Frankfort, Geneva, Rome and Breslau, came forward with offers of assistance. He was thus enabled to visit the great libraries of England, Holland, Switzerland, and Italy, spending three years in his labour. In April, 1844, he pushed on to the East, and in the course of that year he visited Egypt and the Coptic convents, the convents of Mount Sinai, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, St. Saba, Nazareth, Smyrna, Patmos, Beyrout, Constantinople, and Athens.

In the convent of St. Catharine, at the foot of Mount Sinai, he made the discovery which has made him famous. In the middle of the great hall of that convent he perceived a great basketful of old parchments, and the librarian told him that two heaps of similar parchments had already been committed to the flames. In this heap he found a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, and was allowed to take possession of about fortyfive of them ; but his eagerness to get possession of the rest aroused suspicions as to their value; so he was obliged to content himself with what he had got; and, having requested the monks to take care of the parchments, he returned to Germany with his treasure, which he deposited in the library of the University of Leipzig. In January, 1853, he returned to the Sinaitic convent and discovered more manuscripts. In 1856 he submitted to the emperor of Russia a plan for systematic researches in the East, and in 1858 that enlightened monarch placed the necessary funds at his disposal. In January, 1859, he again started for the East, and revisited the convent of Mount Sinai. There the steward of the convent privately showed him, not only the fragments which fifteen years before had been taken by him out of the basket, but also other parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and, in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas, and a part of the Shepherd of Hermas.

It is to the labors and self-devotion of such men that we are indebted for much of the light thrown upon the Scriptures during the past hundred years. These German seekers after truth are content with their crust of bread and threadbare coat provided they have the range of some great library like the Imperial Library at Paris, or that of the British Museum, London. Perhaps, many a palimpsest is to be found in these great store houses of literature, which awaits the patient investigation of a Griesbach or Tischendorf to disclose to the eyes of an astonished and gratified world some such treasure as that of the Sinaitic manuscript. Surely those myriads of copies of the Scriptures and the classic authors, which the monks of the middle ages busied themselves in making for the benefit of posterity, cannot all have perished. Some of the “lost books" are still to be found somewhere !

One of the ablest of the works on the subject of Early Christian Literature which have appeared in our time is that of M. Ozanam, whose early death cut short the promise of the high rank to which he would doubtless have attained as a historian and a philosopher. He was born at Milan in 1813, and died in France in 1853, in the forty-first year of his age. Bred to the law, he preferred inculcating the science of jurisprudence, to the active practice of his profession. In politics he was a decided Liberal ; in religion a fervent Catholic. His more important works were developed in lectures delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, and his scheme was to embrace the history of civilization from the fall of the Roman Empire to the time of Dante. But he lived to complete only his review of the progress of the civilized world as far as the fifth century of the Christian era. In his History of Civilization in the Fifth Century, he analyzes in the most masterly manner the reciprocal influence of Christianity and Paganism upon each other, and points out the gradual process by which the salient points of the latter were absorbed into the former, until at last such vitality as there was or ever

had been in the ancient systems of religion was transferred to Christianity, and so Paganism died of inanition. Still the process was but slow, and had not been carried out even at so late a period as the sixth century. The literature of the time was mainly Pagan. Claudian, the poet, par excellence, of the fifth century, was firmly attached to the old cult; and his cotemporary, Rutilius Numentiames, openly abused Christian institutions. The Christian literature of the first centuries was strongly tinged with Pagan ideas, and with the reminiscences and influence of the glorious old literature of Greece and Rome: and, indeed, this may be said with still greater truth of the literature of the revival in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries : nay, at this day, many of the most effective illustrations employed by our classical writers are borrowed from the ancient Heathen.

The charms of the old poetry caused many relapses to Paganism, and it was with the greatest difficulty that Christianity ultimately succeeded in making the literature of Europe her own. Even Jerome and Augustine, the two greatest pillars of the church, clung tenaciously to their early lore. Jerome made his monks copy “thie Dialogues of Cicero," and carried a copy of Plato with him on a journey to Jerusalem. He taught grammar at Bethlehem, and expounded Virgil, and the lyric poets, with the ancient comic writers and historians, to those children who had been confided to him for training in Christianity. When he fled to the desert he carried his library with him, read Cicero while he fasted, and devoured Plautus while he bewailed his sins. Vagnus, a rhetorician of Rome, reproached him for having filled his work with Pagan memories, and for being unable to write a letter withont alluding to Cicero, Horace, and Virgil : to whom Jerome rereplied that he (Magnus) would never have applied such a reproach to him had he known the sacredness of antiquity : for St. Paul, pleading the cause of Christ before the Arcopagus, had not scruple to use the inscription on a Pagan altar in defence of the faith, and to invoke the poet Aratus as a witness. Moreover, the austerity of his cloctrine did not hinder the Apostle from citing Epimedes in his Epistle to Titus, (I. 12) and a verse from Menander in another place.

« السابقةمتابعة »