Mainly, the meaning of the word, “testament” denotes the covenant which God entered into first with Abraham and then with the people of Israel. And also, the prophets who lived at past time, had understanding about the new covenant, given on Mount Sinai should give away. Hence, Jesus Christ states about the new testament of His blood at the Last Supper. The Apostle St.Paul also speaks at 02 Corinthians 3:6, that he was called as a minister of the new covenant. In the Septuagint for the Hebrew “berîth”, the Greek word “diatheke” is included and later, after agreeing with their literary taste, the interpreters “Aquila” and “Symmachus” replaced for the expression “diatheke” the more common “syntheke”.
However, the Sinhala Bible (or Sinhala Bible translation) speaks about the God’s covenant (testament), without damaging to the meaning of the words. When looking back to Christian era, especially at the early time period of Israelites, the expression was used to imply the whole revelation of God, due to the old covenant was merged into the canonical books, which was a simple step to make the term indicate the canonical scriptures (And Sinhala Bible / Sinhala Bible translation also didn’t forget to preserve the meaning of those expressions).
Therefore, according to Melito of Sardis and Clement of Alexandria also, the Scriptures are called as Old Testament’s books. But, it’s not clear whether these authors accepted Old Testament and Scriptures as same or not. And Origen illustrates that even though his writing signs of the gradual fixing of the expression were traced, the transition was complete in his time. It was proved that he declared constantly “so-called” Old Testament, when he meant the Scriptures. Likewise, there are many statements and ideas about this matter, by various types of authors and writers.
Still the western writers are unable to prove this usage of term at the ancient time. And according to the lawyer Tertullian, repeatedly he signifies the holy books, including above all, documents and sources of arguments, as “vetus and novum instrumentum”. After establishing use of this term among Greek as well as Latin, it has become as the common property of the world wide Christians. It means that the term “Old Testament” will be used in what follows as indicating the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament, even at Sinhala Bible / Sinhala Bible translation also. However, The Sinhala Bible / Sinhala Bible translation is also intended to provide Sri Lankans, to access the ‘WORD of GOD’ by their own language specially Sinhala Bible helps to understand the Old Testament with simple and latest Sinhala vocabulary.
II. HISTORY OF THE TEXT
BIBLE; CANON OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES; CODEX ALEXANDRINUS and many articles; HEBREW BIBLE; MASSORAH; MANUSCRIPTS OF THE BIBLE and VERSIONS OF THE BIBLE are some of documents, publications and ancient descriptions of the canon of the Old Testament. In all articles on the relevant books, it’s clearly suggested and responded to the questions about the origin and contents of the single books. And all these historical evidence led to have perfect Sinhala Bible or Sinhala Bible translation also. And today, Sri Lankans are able to read and understand this Old Testament by their own language, because of the Sinhala Bible. Sinhala Bible helps to understand God’s word in Old Testament easily.
A. Text of the Manuscripts and Massoretes
By the manuscripts, it was able to find the evidence of the accurate estimated beginning of the text of the Old Testament. And all these historical evidence led to have perfect Sinhala Bible also According to that, the earliest manuscripts belong to the ninth century AD and it had an identical and consistent tradition regarding the text. Unlike the history of the New Testament, these facts are more striking.
But concerning to the textual deviations in Old Testament’s manuscripts, it’d very small number; few insignificant differences of vowels and more rarely of consonants. Therefore, it’s clear that this striking homogeneousness is distinctive in the history of text-tradition and can’t be due to chance. But as the imperfect Hebrew system of writing, at some occasions, many and various errors and slips were found. In addition to that, various uniqueness of writing methods can be viewed there and it shows their constancy at everywhere. But the Sinhala Bible translation team (or Sinhala Bible) has taken a great effort to give the accurate meaning same as at that epoch.
For having Hebrew text in manuscripts, which was written down from the beginning and bequeathed unadulterated, there are many authorities on the Talmud, and alter Jewish religious leader and scholars of the 16th and 17th century helped and assisted. The history of the text in its essentials features has been established by the later investigations and finally, as the outcome of Massoretes’s labors, the uniformity of the manuscripts was generated. Massoretes were careful to consist in the faithful preservation of the transferred text. By maintaining accurate figures on the entire state of the Sacred Books, they accomplished this successfully and it led translators of Sinhala Bible or Sinhala Bible to be successful too. They had counted verses, words and letters; they assembled lists as words and forms of words with full and effective spelling, and they categorized possibilities of easy mistakes.
There were many textual criticisms by the Massoretes, very moderately. And it is obvious, that circumstances are not rare, when considering about the feelings of religion, which has directed to the replacement of a more harmless neutral term for an ill-sounding word. While the consonants are noted on the margin, the vowels of the expression to be read are attached to the written word of the text. Even Sinhala Bible also has done this as a great job in translation, in obedience to Jesus’ commandment to teach HIS WORD to every nation & in fulfillment of a burning divine desire of a visionary long time ago.
B. Older Witnesses
Before translating God’s Word into Sinhala Bible (as Sinhala Bible version), there were numerous copyists had taken efforts to publish the accurate Old Testament. For that many evidences are there. The “Talmud” with its notes on text-criticism and its numerous quotations assured the condition of the text previous to Massoretes’s age. The “Targums”/ “free Aramaic versions of the Scared Books”, which are composed between the last centuries BC and the fifth AD are another help. However, the Vulgate Version made by St. Jerome who was at the end of the 04th century and the beginning of the 5th century mainly proved the state of the text. The Hebrew original was followed by him and his special remarks on how a word was spelt or read enable readers to arrive at a definite judgment on the text in the 04th century.
According to St. Jerome’s remarks, the letters in which the manuscripts of that time were written are the “square characters” and this writing distinguished the ultimate forms of the famous five letters. From time to time, in opposition to the Massoretes and the Greek Version, the Vulgate alone seems to have preserved the correct separation. However, it is seem that the present text on the contrary have been resulted from the critical labor of the copyists from 01st century BC to 02nd century AD.
And there was no great changes of the text occurred at that time, according to the reading of the Bible in the synagogue and the statements of Josephus (Contra Apionem, I, viii) and of Plato (Eusebius, “Præp. Evang.”, VIII, VI) on the treatment of the Scriptures. And, when looking into the word of Jesus in Matthew 05:18 (about the jot and title), it was not passed away. Therefore, it shows about reliable care in the preservation of the exact letter and the unconditional authority of the Scripture assumes a high opinion of the letter of Holy Writ. And there are few differences were showed at the manuscripts’ period, from those of the following period and ancient form of the square characters was used to write the consonant-text also. However, the so-called final letters seemingly came into use later.
In addition to that, the history shows that Ten Commandments (Nash Papyrus) belongs to the 01st century and it was written by using well-developed square characters, especially using the “final letters”. Considering the Talmud, still there is the memory of the relatively late difference of the double forms of the five letters alive and as per the evidence, it is impossible that Talmud application in Holy Writ time to date back too far.
Even the Massorah has many phrases which have the “final letters” that are separated differently in the text and on the margin and it belongs to a period when the division was not as yet in use. When considering the historical development further, the term “final letters” does not seem very appropriate and it is not the final forms then created, but it seems to be the product of a new writing. However, the so-called final forms are old characters which exhibited partly at least even in the oldest writings. Nevertheless, Sinhala Bible / Sinhala Bible translation gives the accurate words of God, which are under Old Testament.
Old Testament of Sinhala Bible describes the universe in various ways and that there are three possible interpretations of these descriptions: they are phenomenological, they are mythological, and they are theological in that many of the descriptions reveal the cosmos as part of a big temple in which God dwells. And books of Old Testament of Sinhala Bible can be categorized as Pentateuch, Historical Books, Poetical Books and Prophets (major and minor prophets).
Due to the great efforts of these dedicated people in past, many nations are able to read the Old Testament. Especially Sri Lankans have the opportunity to read Sinhala Bible and study the God’s Word and receive divine revelations from the Holy Spirit leading to a deeper walk with Him. So, Sinhala Bible / Sinhala Bible translation helps to reap the perfect love and mercy of God too. Like all other translations of the Bible, Sinhala Bible / Sinhala Bible translation undoubtedly falls short of its goals including spreading God’s Word, showing God’s love and healing disappointed man.