Hebrew Scripture Integrity

The manner in which the original text of the Scriptures, particularly the Hebrew, has been preserved free from all material corruption, and handed down pure through such a long succession of ages, may now form the subject of our especial consideration.

It has been supposed by many that the Christian fathers accused the Jews of corrupting the text; but from an examination of such passages as seem to imply this, it appears that they spoke not of corrupting the text, but of adopting unfaithful translations. Justin Martyr, one of the most celebrated of the Christian fathers, defends the Jews very well as to this point, and proves that they have not corrupted the Scriptures; and it is past doubt that they have not; for, as St. Jerome observes, before the birth of Jesus Christ they had certainly made no malicious alterations in them. If they had done so, our Savior and his apostles, who cast so many reproaches upon the scribes and Pharisees, would not have passed over in silence so great a crime. To suppose such a thing, indeed, were to know little of the attachment of the Jews for the Scriptures. Josephus and Philo assure us that they would have undergone all sorts of torments rather than have taken a letter from the Scripture, or altered a word in it. A copy which had only one fault in it was by them thought polluted, and was not suffered to be kept above thirty days; and one that had four faults was ordered to be hid in the earth. In the Babylonian Talmud it is laid down as a regulation, that “the books of the law which have been written by a heretic, a traitor, one who is a stranger to the Jewish religion, an idolatrous minister--by which they mean a monk--a slave, a woman, one under age, a Cuthæan, or Christian, or an apostate Israelite, are unlawful.”

“This,” says St. Augustine, “is a most visible effect of the providence of God over his church. It pleased him that the Jews should be our librarians; that, when the Pagans reject the oracles of the ancient prophets concerning Jesus Christ, which we quote against them as being invented by us, we might refer them to the enemies of our religion, who will show them in their books the same prophecies which we quote against them.”