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which will be entitled to greater or less credit, according to the degree of support it receives from other witnesses. If it is confirmed by the testimony of all or any of the ancient versions, and by that of all or any of the Oriental dialects, its authority will be proportionably increased; and vice versâ. In some instances, the traditionary sense is so overpowered by the other evidences, as to justify a critic in deserting it: still, however, its voice is always to be heard with respectful attention, and its authority is not to be rejected without strong and sufficient grounds.
It occasionally happens, that the traditionary sense, and a meaning derived from the Arabic, are opposed to each other, without other authorities appearing on either side. In this case, I own, I infinitely prefer Rabbinical authority, to vague and uncertain etymologies. Not that the Rabbins are infallible; not that prejudice has never blinded their eyes, nor error deceived their judgment: but that their evidence is more entitled to credit, be it more or less, than any other that can be produced.
Again; when the ancient versions and sister dialects are opposed to each other, the former mérit the preference; for the kindred languages afford, at
best, only a precarious evidence, while the ancient versions, for the most part, speak with a plain and intelligible voice.
If it be impossible to determine accurately the meaning of some Hebrew words, and that such there are must be granted, it furnishes no argument against the general perspicuity of the Jewish Scriptures, and need create no apprehension respecting the certainty of our faith. Such obscure words occur but seldom; they affect no historic or prophetic truth ; they alter no religious obligation, no rule of moral conduct.
The general perspicuity of the Old Testament cannot but be matter of astonishment, when we reflect, that the Bible, and not even the whole of it, is the only book that has descended to us in pure Hebrew; that no contemporary records exist; that the language of it has ceased to be spoken for above two thousand years; and that the Jews, who have always been so much interested in preserving a knowledge of it, and who have cultivated it with so much care since the Babylonish captivity, used no means to perpetuate it while it was yet a living language.
Though it is attended with fewer obscurities than could, antecedently, have been supposed, many, it must not be dissembled, do exist, and some which cannot, perhaps, be satisfactorily elucidated in the present state of Biblical criticism. In these cases, it is, surely, more consistent with the humility of Christian investigators of truth to acknowledge the obscurity, and to confess our ignorance, than presumptuously to attribute senses from remote and dubious sources; senses which the inspired penmen may never have intended to express. Infinitely less dangerous is it not to reach the full force of the sacred text, than to superadd a meaning of our own. In the one case, we do not ascertain all the truth ; in the other, we are representing our own opinions for divine, we are promulgating for commandments the doctrines of fallible men.
As the absolute certainty of demonstration cannot be obtained in critical investigations, moral evidence alone is to be expected; and when it is clear and definite, no well-regulated mind can withhold its assent. But it is difficult, and sometimes next to impossible, to discover the nice distinction between doubt and probability ; to ascertain the different degrees of the latter; and to define the quantum of evidence necessary to produce rational conviction. On subjects of philology and criticism, some difference of opinion may exist, without any detriment to the cause of religion and morality: it relates chiefly to particulars of less importance; for the leading articles of faith and rules of duty are repeatedly declared in Scripture with such clearness and precision, and are supported with such a weight of evidence, that they can only be doubted by those who are blinded by prejudice, or tinctured with the scepticism of the age.
Ir now remains to submit a short statement of what has been attempted in the following pages.
The translation is, in substance, the same as the one in general use, with such alterations only, as appear to be warranted by a critical interpretation of the original. In the prosecution of the work, I have prescribed it to myself, as an invariable rule, never to depart from the received translation, without evident necessity.* The authorized version is unrivalled for purity of diction and a commanding simplicity of style; it has been familiarized to the people by long and reverential use; and its sublime and simple phraseology would be ill exchanged for the meretri
* Newcome's Pref, to the Minor Prophets, Rule 11.
cious ornaments of modern composition. But it would betray an undue deference to a mere translation to retain it where it deserts the Hebrew text; it is inconsistent with a sacred regard for truth to support error, and defend mistake; whenever, therefore, it appeared erroneous or obscure, I have given what, in my judgment, is a clearer and more correct translation. With these exceptions, I have adhered to it with the utmost scrupulosity; not attempting to amend what is already good, or to substitute language of my own for that which has been sanctioned by two centuries of admiration and respect.
A love of novelty, a vain search after elegance of style, or an overweening opinion of their talents, have induced many modern translators to alter the received version without apparent necessity. What good can accrue from changing the phraseology, when little or no change is required in the sense? What benefit can arise from substituting equivalent, or nearly equivalent, expressions? Yet even the most learned and celebrated translators are chargeable with such useless innovation; of which a multitude of examples may be found on a cursory examination. Now, what advantage is gained by such a departure from the language of the common translation? While the sense remains the same, no