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the studied the prided
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Scholastic exactness, theological precision, and an impartial ambiguity when the sense is controvertible, are the chief excellencies upon which the Authors of these translations have prided themselves; and a diction has generally been studied, that keeps at a respectful distance from the graces of good composition. We confess that we do not see what advantage is gained by all this. Having a settled Greek text and an exact standard version, we should have imagined that no danger, and much benefit, might attend a mode of translation that should approach nearer to colloquial plainness, for the sake of making the sense of Scripture better understood by the unlearned ‘lay people.
The only writer who has ventured upon any thing of the kind, is the Author of “The Process of Historical Proof.” In illustrating the historical inferences to be gathered from the apostolic epistles, some extracts from them are introduced in a version professedly paraphrastic, and not proposed as a model of translation, but adopted for a specific purpose, which is thus explained. “Pas“ sages which, by a reiterated perusal, have become too familiar
to be understood in their native sense, and which are too thickly
set with associated ideas to be fairly seen in their naked mean‘ing, may very advantageously be rendered (for a moment) into
the dialect of colloquial intercourse. Not as if such a translation were the true and the best rendering of the words, but merely that it conveys to the mind the substance of the thought, apart ' from those habitual notions of a religious kind which obscure
the simply historical significance of the words.'* But what, we would ask, is the simple, historical significance, but the true sense ?—that which Tyndale means by the literal sense,' and which, he contends, is at the same time spiritual.' "Thou • shalt understand, therefore, that the Scripture hath but one
sense, which is the literal sense. And that literal sense is the
root and ground of all, and the anchor that never faileth, ' whereunto if thou cleave, thou canst never err, or go out of the ' way. And if thou leave the literal sense, thou canst not but go
out of the way. Neverthelater, the Scripture useth proverbs, similitudes, riddles, or allegories, as all other speakers do ; but
that which the proverb, similitude, riddle, or allegory signifieth, ' is ever the literal sense, which thou must seek out diligently.' + Now this literal sense may be as completely obscured by the indistinct notions associated with a version to which we have become familiarized, as by being seen only through the medium of a dead language. And the substance of the thought,' which is the very matter of inspiration, may be scarcely recognized when
* Taylor's Historical Proof, p. 171.
+ Tyndale’s “Obedience of a Christian Man.” Scripture.)
(Four Senses of
presented in a new and simple shape. This is the source of that positive dislike which is often felt and betrayed towards any variation from the customary phraseology of the Authorized Version ; a prejudice which must, however, be surmounted, before we can attain to a competent acquaintance with the mind of the
Spirit’ in the unsophisticated word of God. There is no harm in preferring the old and familiar phraseology, and in returning to it as that which is consecrated to the memory ; but the danger consists in preferring the phrase to the idea, the acquired associations to the genuine import; and the advantage to be derived from varied translation is, that it compels the mind to institute a comparison which cannot but promote the clearer understanding of the subject matter. We subjoin a specimen or two of the mode of translation which Mr. Taylor has adopted for his specific purpose.
1 Cor. i. 26-29. "You perceive, my friends, to what sort of society you are called. You see that there are not (among you) many of the worldly wise, not many of the powerful, not many of the wellborn ; but that God has chosen those who, in the world's esteem, are fools, to put to shame the wise ; and the feeble to confound the strong. Yes, and the ignoble and the contemned has God chosen, and things of nought, to abolish things that are: in order that no place may be left for human boasting in his presence.'
1 Cor. xiv. “Cultivate love; aspire, however, to intellectual endowments, but especially to the faculty of preaching. He who speaks a language (unknown to the assembly) speaks to God, not to man; for no one attends : but in his own spirit he utters things profound. On the contrary, he who preaches, speaks that which tends to promote the edification, or encouragement, or comfort of the hearers. He who speaks a (foreign) language edifies himself; but he who preaches, edifies the congregation. I wish you all spoke (foreign) languages; but I had rather that you should preach. For the preacher discharges a more important function than the speaker of languages ; unless, indeed, he interprets what he utters for the benefit of the congregation. Wherefore, my friends, if I come among you speaking various languages, what will you be the better, unless I actually communicate to you some sacred discovery, or some information, or prediction, or instruction ? Thus, (to use a comparison) if inanimate instruments, the lute or the harp, make not a distinction in the sounds they produce, how shall the music be recognized ? Or if the clarion give an unmeaning blast, who will arm himself for the fight ? Apply this simile to yourselves : unless what you utter be intelligible, how shall your discourses be understood ? You may as well talk to the winds. There are—what shall we say-so many kinds of languages spoken by mankind; and not one of them is destitute of meaning. But unless I perceive the power of the words used by a speaker, we shall each deem the other a foreigner. But you would not wish to be like foreigners one to another. Wherefore, since you desire endowments, seek such as may promote the edification of the congregation.'
Whatever objection may be felt against any part of the wording of this translation, it must be admitted, that the sense of these passages is given with as much fidelity as by the Received Version, and at the same time with as much clearness as in the most diffuse paraphrase. Thus rendered, the text stands in no need of comment to make it intelligible to the humblest capacity ; a consideration which we cannot but deem of the first importance, and which has been too much lost sight of. If the whole of the New Testament could be given to the public in a similar style, call it translation or paraphrase, the meaning of the sacred text would unquestionably be divested of no small portion of the obscurity that now rests upon it.
This very obscurity, however, strange to say, forms, in the minds of many learned and pious persons, a reason against any private attempts to fix and imbody in plain language, the probable sense, inasmuch as this would be, it is contended, to substitute a comment for the text. A literal, verbal translation is preferred, because it leaves the sense undetermined; and because to determine its meaning would be, on the part of the Translator, it. is thought, an unauthorized assumption. This jealousy of private interpretation is unworthy of Protestants. It reminds us too strongly of the opposition which Tyndale and the early Translators had to encounter from the Romish party. Bishop Gardiner proposed that nearly a hundred Latin words should be left untranslated in the English Bible, or, if translated at all, be given with as little variation as possible. Among these were ancilla, pascha, pontifex, ecclesia, &c. King James's direction, that the old ecclesiastical words should be retained, that ecclesia should not be translated congregation, &c., was a concession to the same prejudice, though prompted by different motives. But can any better reason be given for leaving the sense of any part of the text virtually untranslated, than might have been urged in favour of leaving the Latin words in the English Version ? Cases may, indeed, occur, in which the Translator may feel to have no alternative. 'I translate these words literally', says Professor Stuart, in his note upon Heb. x. 20, 'because I am not well sa'tisfied that I understand their meaning.' * This is a valid excuse; but it seems to us the only sufficient reason for a literal translation. Many persons confound a literal translation with the literal sense; whereas, in fact, the literal sense can be conveyed only by a clear, and it may be a free rendering, while a literal translation leaves the literal sense often in obscurity. The Authors of the Public Version and their predecessors continually found themselves, no doubt, in the predicament so ingenuously
* Stuart's Comment. on the Hebrews, Vol. II. p. 264.
described by the American Translator: they rendered literally, what they only imperfectly understood. But now that a flood of light has been poured upon the text by the learned labours of Biblical critics and commentators during two centuries, can there be any occasion for adhering to the literal mode on this account? Is the veil to remain for ever untaken away from the meaning of our English Bibles? The existence of controversy, which is pleaded in defence of this system of half-translation, affords the strongest reason for endeavouring to give the Rule of Faith a more unambiguous character, by divesting it of that obscurity of phraseology which affords covert for every variety of opinion.
But then it is supposed, that this can be effected only by an Authorized Version. It would be equally reasonable to insist upon the expediency of having authorized commentaries, authorized annotations, authorized sermons. An authorized Version, in which all parties should concur, must be the very last to admit of the desired improvements. But can any Translation be, properly speaking, an authority? To claim, on behalf of our Public Version, any intrinsic authority, is to renew, in another shape, the mischievous error of the Papists, in exalting the Vulgate to supreme distinction as an efficient substitute for the inspired Codex. The English Bible is no authority with the Biblical critic, no ultimate authority with the theologian: the appeal lies from every translation to the sacred text; and that translation possesses the highest degree of authority, which most faithfully reflects its genuine import. The multiplication of versions the most varied and free, while the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Testament are at hand for the verification or refutation of every rendering, as well as of every gloss and comment, not only seems fraught with no danger, but will greatly conduce to promote a more extensive and intelligent use of the original Scriptures, and to ascertain and fix all that has been hitherto obscure or doubtful in their inspired contents. We know of no more likely method to drive away heresy from our churches.
The advantage to be derived from varied translations by the Biblical student, is admitted : and hence, a polyglot forms one of the most valuable parts of an apparatus for a critical study of the Scriptures. But the benefit to be derived from various renderings in the vernacular language, by the private Christian, has not been so generally acknowledged. Yet, we cannot but think that the simple reprint of Tyndale's, Coverdale's, and Parker's Versions, would have been of more use in promoting an intelligent perusal of the Scriptures, than half our commentaries. The substantial agreement in the renderings, on the one hand, would have the effect of strengthening the reader's confidence in the fidelity of the Authorized Version; while the variations would place the meaning in a more distinct light, and counteract the
VOL. VIII. N.S.
strange power of accustomed phrases to conceal from the mind the ideas they are intended to convey.' *
And such would be the beneficial effect of new translations of a popular character. They would clash with the prejudices, offend the taste, startle the drowsy understanding of the generality, but they would as it were compel the reader to reconsider the weighty truths which have become blunted in their force by long familiarity with their sound. This striking, startling effect, paraphrase cannot have; at least, to the same degree; nor does it come with the authority of a translation that challenges for itself the character of being a faithful representation, in equivalent terms, of the simple text. Add to which, paraphrase is always liable to suspicion. It is too often had recourse to, for the purpose either of explaining away the apparent, and possibly the real meaning of the text, or of making it speak more than the Writer intended. And it tacitly imputes to the inspired page an obscurity and imperfection which do not natively belong to it, but are greatly the result of imperfect translation. Let us not be thought to speak in terms of invidious disparagement of the labours of our Translators, who are entitled to our warmest gratitude. Their merits must be estimated by the difficulty of their task, by the state of criticism at that period,—by the imperfectly formed state of the English language, which they have contributed to fix and to enrich. Their erudition, integrity, and fidelity are above all praise. Still, it is undeniable, that many parts of the word of God, as presented in our Authorized Version, are, without a comment, unintelligible; that such passages were left in this state, not through design or choice, but from a sort of necessity; that this obscurity of meaning is an imperfection, but an imperfection that it would be manifest impiety to impute to the Scriptures themselves, which were unquestionably understood by those to whom they were first imparted; and that much of this obscurity is capable of being cleared away, if by comment, assuredly by intelligible translation. If so, without depreciating that Version or casting blame upon its Authors, we must regard it as so far deficient in the primary merit of perspicuity, and so far inadequate to its purpose as a translation. And there is some reason, we think, for jealousy, lest we should be found exalting the transcendent excellencies of a human composition, to the disadvantage of the work of Inspiration itself. We must be pardoned, if we are still more solicitous that the sublime beauties of the Hebrew Scriptures, and the reasoning of St. Paul, should be made apparent to the unlearned reader, than that justice should be done to any body of Translators. Their fame, however, is
* Saturday Evening, p. 247.