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The evangelization of Armenia was wrought by Gregory the Illuminator, in the first years of the fourth century. Sozomen informs us that Tiridates was first converted, and then by public edict bade Armenia receive the faith of Christ. (Hist. Eccles. II. 8.)

For more than a century the Armenians had no proper version of Scripture nor liturgy. They made use of the Syriac text. At that time they had no alphabet.

When Isaac became patriarch (390–440), St. Mesrob, his co-laborer, gave himself to invent an alphabet. He traveled much and consulted many learned men, and finally, in 406, he perfected an alphabet of thirty-six letters, by which all the sounds of the Armenian language are expressed.

When Mesrob had arranged the Armenian alphabet (406 A. D.) he undertook, under the direction of the Patriarch Isaac, and with the aid of his principal disciples, John Egueghiatz and Joseph Baghin, a translation of the twenty-two canonical books of the Old Testament and a translation of the New Testament. This work was finished in 411. Cfr. Gorioun, Biography of Mesrob, in Langlois Collection of Ancient and Modern Histories of Armenia, 2 vols. in 4mo, Paris, 1839, t. II. p. 10; T. Néve, Christian Armenia and its Literature, in 8mo, Paris, 1886, p. 13, 22. Cfr. Moses of Khorene, III. 53. This first version was made by Saint Isaac from the Syriac, says Moses, the historian, III. 54, because no one possessed the Greek text, and the more, because the Syriac tongue had been, for different reasons, the liturgical language in certain countries of Armenia, up to the time of the invention of the Armenian alphabet by Mesrob. Gorioun, Biography of Mesrob, p. 11; Lazare de Pharbe, Histoire X. in Langlois Collection, t. II. p. 226. Cfr. Saint Martin, Historical and Geographical Memoirs of Armenia, 2 in 8mo, Paris, 1819, t. I. p. 11; Tchamitchian, History of Armenia Translated by Avdall, 2 in 8mo., Calcutta, 1827, t. I. p. 239; R. Simon, Critical History of the Versions of the New Testament, in 4mo, Rotterdam, 1690, p. 196. This first work, made in haste, from indifferent exemplars doubtless was defective in many things. Some years later, Isaac and Mesrob sent John Baghin with Eznik, another of their disciples, to Edessa, that they might translate the Holy Scriptures from the Syriac into the Armenian. [Gorioun, Biography of Mesrob, p. 11–12.] These two young men repaired from Edessa to Byzantium, where they were rejoined by other disciples of Mesrob, among whom was Gorioun, the author of the Biography of Mesrob. They passed several years at Byzantium, and were still there at the time of the Council of Ephesus (431). Their labors ended, they returned to Armenia, having among their literary effects the Acts of the Council, and authentic copies of the Holy Scriptures in Greek. [Gorioun, ibid.] Isaac and Mesrob immediately sought to turn these latter to good account, and retouch the old version made from the Syriac, by exactly comparing it with the authentic copies which had been brought to them. But the translators who worked under their orders did not have a sufficient knowledge of the Greek language, and their labor was judged very imperfect. They, therefore, sent other young men to study Greek at Alexandria. Moses of Khorene was among this number. (Moses of Khorene, III. 61) They doubtless brought back from Egypt, other Greek exemplars of the Bible, which they used to perfect the work of their predecessors in faithfully translating the text of the Septuagint from the Hexapla of Origen; because the same signs and asterisks are found in the old Armenian manuscripts of the Bible. Cfr. P. Zohrab, Armenian Bible, 4 in 8mo, Venice, 1805, Introd. p. 6, 7. See Gorioun, Biography of Mesrob, p. 11, 12. Moses of Khorene, III. 61; Tchamitchian, History of Armenia, I. 1. p. 239. Langlois, (Collection, t. II. p. 168, note), says that this version was officially adopted by the Fathers of the Council of Ashdishad, in 434. If the fact and the date are correct, the approbation of the Fathers can refer only to the first version made from the Greek. Vide P. Donat Vernier, Histoire du Patriarcat Arménien Catholique, in 8mo, Paris, 1891, p. 128–129.

The Armenian version follows very closely the Greek text for the Old Testament as well as for the New. The Greek text which it follows can not be reduced to any known recension, which is explained, perhaps, by the fact mentioned above, that some of the Greek manuscripts which the translators used, came from Constantinople, or Ephesus, while others came from Alexandria. Bertholdt, Einleitung, t. II. p. 560, believes that the former belong to the recension of Lucian, and the latter to that of Hesychius.

The Armenian version is very little known. The majority of scholars who have occupied themselves with the criticism of the Greek text of the Bible, did not know the Armenian language.

In 1662, the Armenian Patriarch James IV. sent Bishop Uscan to Europe to manage the publication of an Armenian Bible. He came to Rome, and sojourned five months.

As the Propaganda was not certain of his orthodoxy, he was unable to realize his project at Rome; whereupon, he withdrew to Amsterdam, where he published a complete Old Testament in 1666, and the New Testament complete in 1668. The edition of Uscan was not approved by Rome. It is very imperfect.

The work of Uscan was perfected by the Armenian religious, called the Mekhitarists at Venice.

In 1805 appeared the complete edition of the Scriptures by Zohrab, one of the Mekhitarists. At first, the book of Ecclesiasticus was placed in the appendix with certain apocryphal books. They discovered later a Codex of Ecclesiasticus of the fifth century, and in a later edition in 1859, restored Ecclesiasticus to its proper place. The verse of 1. John 5:7, is omitted in this edition.

Many editions have been published since that time, of which there is no need to speak.

The people living about Iberia and the region about Mt. Caucasus, who are termed Georgians, or Grusians, are said to have been converted in the fourth century by Armenians. In the life of St. Mesrob, it is stated that he also gave an alphabet to this people. They received their Scriptures from the Armenians, and it is uncertain whether the translation into their proper tongue was made in the sixth or eighth century. It is also uncertain whether it was made from the Greek or Armenian text. The Georgian tongue is but little known, and no scholar has given us the resources of the aforesaid version of Scripture.

There was printed at Moscow, in 1743, an edition of Georgian Scripture, based upon the Russian text, whence it is evident that it is of no critical worth.

The other Eastern versions are late and unimportant. In the ninth century, SS. Methodius and Cyril gave to the Slavs a Slavonic translation of Scripture, most probably made from the Greek text.

The Arabic translations, some of which appear in Waltons Polyglot, were made in the tenth and twelfth centuries and are of no critical worth.

The Persian text of the Gospels which appears in Waltons Polyglot, was made from the Syriac Peshitto. Its date is uncertain, but it is later than the eighth century.

Saadias Haggaon, a Jew living in Egypt in the tenth century, translated the Pentateuch from the Masoretic text into Arabic. In many places the work assumes the nature of a paraphrase. Translations by Saadias also exist of Isaiah, the Minor Prophets, the Psalter and Job.

The Arabic text of the Pentateuch by Saadias is published in Waltons Polyglot.

In 1662, Erpenius published an Arabic translation of the Pentateuch from a MS belonging to Joseph Scaliger. This is called the Arabs Erpenii. It was made from the Masoretic text by a Jew in the eighth century, and is of no critical value.

We know not the date or the author of the Arabic text of Joshua published by Walton. There are also Arabic fragments of Kings, and of Ezra whose origin is uncertain.

There is also a version of the Pentateuch made by Abou Said, a Samaritan, at an uncertain date ranging between the tenth and eleventh centuries. It was made from the Hebrew text of the Samaritan Codex in Samaritan characters.

The Arabic text of the Prophets which appears in Waltons Polyglot, was made from the Septuagint, and Theodotions version of Daniel. The Arabic text of the other books which appears therein was made also from the Greek at uncertain dates, but all later than the tenth century.

The Arabic text of the New Testament was made directly from the Greek. Its date is unknown, but the eighth century would be the earliest possible date.

The Persian Pentateuch of Walton was made by a Jew of the sixteenth century. It follows the Masoretic text servilely, and is of small critical worth. The Persian text of the Gospels which was made from the Greek, is assigned to the fourteenth century. Other versions may exist, but they have not been studied.








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