« AnteriorContinuar »
the reader hear and see, and become familiar with the events, and customs, and conversations of the earliest ages.
Neither are the difficulties, which arise from diversity of climate, soil, animal and vegetable productions," such as vitally affect the great work of edification. For instance, those, which occur in identifying some of the creatures specified in the several classes of clean and unclean animals, do not produce the smallest difference in the use to be made of the distinction by the Christian reader; and, in the gospels, the similitude of the grain of mustard seed is not destroyed, though it may be diminished in its effect, by diversity of climate.
With respect to other diversities of " laws, manners," &c. similar observations will apply; to which it may be added, that these are in general sufficiently, and often minutely, explained in the Bible itself.
The nature of the figurative parts of Holy Scripture has been treated of in the second chapter: and as to the auxiliary of " external action," it appears to me to be highly conducive to clearness and impressiveness; rather than a cause of obsurity. Is the offering of wine to the Rechabites, or the breaking of the potter's vessel, a cause of obscurity in Jeremiah ? Is the doctrine, which our Saviour intended to inculcate upon his disciples, rendered less intelligible by his calling a little child and setting him in the midst of them ? But never can I recur to the New Testament without feeling amazement at the assertion of its aggravated obscurity! And I think it a duty to quote, as an awakening voice, the solemn declaration of St. Paul, that 6 if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.)
Conciseness is allowed to be a source of obscurity in some parts of the writings of St. Paul : yet it is compensated, even by the absence of that copious prolixity of eloquence, which would present a still greater difficulty to the illiterate. Extreme conciseness I am unable to discover, except in the preceptive parts I have before exemplified *, which derive such force and beauty from that very character.
* See Chap. II. § 13.
But it is in the points of “ elliptical phraseology" and “ Hebrew idioms,” that Mr. O'C. has arrived at the most palpable misrepresentation or mistake. For Ellipses are constantly supplied in our English translation, as must be obvious upon the slightest inspection of the words printed in Italics. These are so numerous, that wherever we open the Bible we can be at no loss to find examples. But it may be necessary to observe, that many of them are of such a nature, as tends to prove, that our translators, instead of being “ scrupulously literal *," either as to Idioms or Ellipses, were only so when a more free rendering might seem to be rather a disputable paraphrase, than a faithful translation. But, in general, where the words to be understood in the original were evident and certain, they have carefully supplied them in the English version ; yet, so as at the same time, to give notice of the fact. They have done so indeed in many cases where it seems almost superfluous; but I believe have seldom (if at all) omitted it, where really required by the sense. All which affords us a satisfactory demonstration of their scrupulous fidelity, combined with the utmost attention to perspicuity and the advantage of the illiterate. , ,
A very few quotations will be sufficient to illustrate these positions. In the 1st chapter of St. Luke's gospel, if our translators had been " scrupulously literal,” they would have rendered the 72nd verse, « To perform the mercy to our fathers.” But this would have been ambiguous in English, and they have therefore supplied the Ellipse or omission, by inserting the explanatory word “ promised.” In the Lord's pathetic apostrophe to Jerusalem in the 13th chapter, it would have been almost impossible to mistake the literal translation,-How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen her brood ;-yet they have been scrupulously perspicuous in supplying the Ellipse. But they would have been warranted, by the Hebrew idiom transfused into the Greek, to translate his words at the last supper.- This is a representation of my body ; yet they have not done so, probably because it would appear like an imposing of their own serise upon a disputed passage. Here then we have equal reason to admire their impartiality, as before their clearness. But
* See « Thoughts,” &c. at the end of the 5th Section.
in rendering the idiomatic phrase in the 4th verse of the 2nd chapter of St. John's gospel, a like degree of strictness has not been deemed necessary; probably because the literal translation could in no wise lead to the true sense, which is obviously pointed out by the use of the same idiom, in other unquestionable parts both of the Greek and Hebrew Testaments *. The idiom of expressing comparisons by negatives is retained in our version; as in the exhortation, “ Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you:” (John vi. 27.) But it would be difficult to transfuse its entire force without the idiom. As to the danger of a literal acceptation of the first clause; if not wholly chimerical, it must be of very rare occurrence: and if a singular instance should arise, it has its corrective in free access to those other Scriptures, which exhort to be " not sloth-, ful in business ;” and enjoin, that " if any would not work, neither should he eat.” Under this head, it may be admitted, that the idiomatic expression of hating, for being ready to surrender, &c. has been literally translated; perhaps in preference to a paraphrastic liberty, which . might introduce too great a latitude ;--and under a cons viction, that the religion, which commands the love of enemies, could never be supposed in any case to require literal hatred :—more especially, as the phrase must then be literally applied to a man's. “ own life.”..
. : Another principal example of transfused idiom, is that of expressing consequences by words importing intention and desire;-as, “ I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matt. x. 34.) Now to avoid the literal rendering, in this and other instances, would require (as I conceive) such a circumlocution, as no longer to retain the fidelity of translation : for this method would rather belong to the office of an expositor. At the same time, how plain and ;
abvious is it, that the Prince of Peace, whose birth was mannounced with the angelic hymn, 6. Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,”could never put a sword into the hand of his disciples, or represent persecution and war as the design of his coming ? And with these considerations the context will be found in perfect harmony, ascertaining that the Lord is speaking
* Sgę Luke viii. 28, and Joshua xxii. 24. in the originals.
not of what should be the aim of his disciples, but of what they must expect from the malice of their enemies. Is it not equally obvious, that he who hath “6 no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,” and who “ wept over.” Jerusalem, saying, " How often would I have gathered your children together"--could never of the inclination of his own heart have interposed, “ lest at any time they should be converted ?” And, have we not much greater reason to applaud the wisdom and sobriety of our translators, than to depreciate their excellent work, by imputing as a general character, what in reality belongs only to a few exceptions, and even in these is not adopted without reason; nor is it the occasion of such impenetrable obscurity to an unlearned reader, as our author would lead us to suppose. Let it be remembered too, that the cases which I have selected of a literal adherence to the idiom of the original, are perhaps among the strongest which exist ;- and that they are stated in candour, to lead to a fair estimation of the subject; whereas, the remarks of the objector are vague and indiscriminate ; and evidently, but unjustly, designed to be applied to the general tenor of the New Testament. With respect to that, the best answer, which can be given to accusations of obscurity, is the same which was given to one who asked, “ Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ?” — 66 Come and see.” In the mean time, the very margin of the Bible, in which so many literal meanings are inserted, will shew that other modes of expression were frequently preferred for the text; and every word which is printed in Italics will present an ocular proof, that the translators were not negligent in the elucidation of ellipses. :
It appears then, that the share of attack, in which our authorized version is involved with the Bible Society, is unmerited: and we should also be apprized, that the tendency of the attack is not merely to injure that Society, but to diminish the public reverence for a translation, which has stood the test of years, supported by the concurrent voice of many competent judges, who in other respects materially differed. But perhaps it is time that it should give place to modern improvements, since it is charged with the fault of being “ of two hundred years standing.” We must therefore, no doubt, conclude à priori, that its language is obsolete; though we are certain of the contrary by experience. But it may be worth
while to observe, how the natural operation of time was in this case arrested. And the phenomenon is primarily explained by the eminent purity, correctness, and beauty of the translation ; whereby it justly became a standard of the English language. To this its native excellence, assisted by the impression of the public reading of it, we are certainly indebted for the singularly happy union, which it now exhibits, of all the grace of youth with the dignity of age.
Let us not, then, lightly acquiesce in the disparagement of this admirable translation. But whether we do or not, we may be assured, that the quarrel does not terminate, either against the Bible Society, or our authorized version; but that it ultimately extends to the original Scriptures themselves. Why else are we reminded (p. 8.) of " the various sects among the Jews, and their discordant opinions, which they professed to derive principally from Scripture?” That “the authority of the apostles themselves could not prevent some of the first Christians from « wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction ?” That “the first centuries of the Christian Æra present to our view the endless contentions of rival sects, professing to derive their respective opinions from the sources of holy writ?” The evident tendency of all this (though I presume the author was not aware of it) is to represent the original Scriptures as the sources of mischief. Those of the Old Testament were in the hands of the Jews, and read in the synagogues. But, while we find the Lord Jesus charging their teachers with “ taking away the key of knowledge," and with “making void the word of God through their tradition," we never hear of the slightest hint of an indiscreet or excessive publication of the Scriptures. And, if apostolic authority was insufficient to prevent the wresting of the Scriptures by some of the first Christians, I ask Mr. O'C. in what manner was that authority exerted ? He knows perfectly, that it was not in restricting the reading of them. Does he then arraign the wisdom of their conduct ?-He does this tacitly, and impliedly; and in doing so, he involves in the same condemnation the instruments which they employed under the guidance of inspiration. But, if he disclaim and protest against such an implication, then why does he endeavour to condemn those, who pursued the apostolic track in the first centuries of the Christian Æra, and who must