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broad "principle" that "such denotes quality, so degree;" from which it will certainly seem to follow that not only is "such a high tree,” for "so high a tree," a faulty expression, but "such high trees" is equally faulty; and we should be bound on "principle" always to say, so high trees," "so lofty mountains," "so odd criticisms," however strangely or stiffly it may sound. (379). In the sentence, "See where thou hast been lien with;" "lien with," says he, "is a passive verb, effected by the conjoint efficacy of the preposition with." He has plainly forgotten "the Athenian mob."
We pass by his curious theories; that "mathematical propositions are not demonstrated by human reason," because "they are true or false in themselves," (318); and that "we speak hypothetically of that which is contingent as a fact, but not of that which is contingent in the speaker's mind," which furnishes his "principle" for the subjunctive mood. (292).
He has undertaken to give us a thorough and thoroughly "grammatical disquisition" on the proper distinctive uses of shall and will, should and would. (268-274). He says "the phrase 'I shall go tomorrow,' expresses simply the intention or fixed purpose of doing a certain thing;" [This may be true in some cases; but is not such a phrase more commonly the simple prediction of a certain fact?] "and 'he will go,' expresses the belief that it is the intention or will of the third person to do this or that." From which it will seem to follow that when we say "it will rain to-morrow," we express the belief that it is the intention or will of it [a "personified thing"?] to rain tomorrow; and do not merely predict the future event. "I should have been more mild." "Would in this case," says Mr. Harrison, "would express resolution; should, on the other hand, would express a simple intention,” - intention again, not a mere conditional fact. "Would expresses volition, and has reference either to time past or present. I would do it were I in your place,' expresses a present inclination with reference to a future action." And, on the same broad principle, and for aught that appears in this grammar to the contrary, he would do it were he in your place,' would also express his present volition or inclination, and the phrase, "were he to reëxamine his whole disquisition he would find it 'lamentably deficient in accuracy of expression,'" expresses his present volition or inclination so to find it. But he adds, "I would do it,' with the emphasis on 'would' expresses a present feeling and determination to have done a thing with reference to a particular time passed; i. e. 'I would at that time do it - I was determined to do it.'"! Had the Translators
Alleged Grammatical Errors in the Bible.
of the English Bible possessed some such clever grammatical principles such distinct notions of the relations of tenses· they might have been saved from "the intense nonsense" of saying, "If one went unto them from the dead they will repent."
To our mind, this whole disquisition on shall and will, should and would, belongs to that class of discourses which, so far from developing or settling either plain principles or certain facts, "darken counsel by words without knowledge."
Mr. Harrison appeals to classical authority as if it were final in matters of grammar (320-322); but if as great diversities of dialect and usage were held allowable in good English as were exemplified in Greek and Latin, even in so-called classical times, he would have been saved by far the greater part of the trouble of making his collection of grammatical errors. If the English really betrays a greater tendency to such errors than the classical languages, the cause is probably to be sought in what Mr. Harrison regards as its grand advantage-its comparative destitution of inflectional forms; in consequence of which there arises in them who use it a comparative inaptitude to employ with constant and strict appropriateness the few which it still retains.
But we hasten to direct attention to Mr. Harrison's forte - his collection of grammatical errors and criticisms. And here, to simplify matters, we shall confine ourselves, for the most part, to those drawn from the Received Version of the Bible. These will serve as fair specimens of the critic's taste and judgment; and will answer our purpose the better from being so perfectly familiar to all parties.
"In Scripture," says he, "the Deity is sometimes represented under the neuter gender,-Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab and wounded the dragon?' etc. There is a peculiar fitness in thus speaking of Deity as an abstraction, apart from all human distinctions. So, again, 'Our Father which,' not who, 'art in heaven,' avoiding human personality and paternity."
"The Americans have changed which into who, as being more consonant to the rules of Grammar. "This (justly observes the author of Men and Manners in America) is poor criticism, for it will scarcely be denied that the use of the neuter pronoun carried with it a certain vagueness and sublimity not inappropriate in reminding us that our worship is addressed to a Being infinite and superior to all distinctions applicable to material objects.""
"Just criticism"! Our Father in heaven is in English of the neuter gender!!
Now we confess we remember no case in which "the Deity" is represented in Scripture "under the neuter gender." And, until Mr. Harrison can suggest some plainer one than these, we shall beg leave to think that the peculiar "vagueness and sublimity" of such an idea and of its corresponding expression were utterly foreign to the minds as well as to the style both of the original writers and of the English translators of the Holy Scriptures; but are an invention of heathen or of modern philosophy. It is the glory of the Scriptures that they reveal to us a living God, not an abstract “Deity;” a personal God, not a mere first cause or universal law; a Father in heaven watching over his (its!?) children with paternal care and more than paternal love. In such views we see nothing degrading to God, but everything elevating, ennobling, comforting to man. But after all, this may be an Americanism.
As to the first passage which our author gives in proof of his position, we suppose it is from Isaiah 51: 9. If so, the pronoun "it" has for its antecedent, not Lord, but arm of the Lord. This passage, therefore, can afford him no support against the Americans.
Neither does the "which" in the Lord's prayer, denote the neuter gender, except to those who are ignorant of the "Rise, Progress, and Present State of the English Language." One feels humbled, to be obliged to inform Messrs. Harrison and Hamilton, that at the time when our present translation of the Bible was made, the relative pronoun which, was referred indifferently to persons or things, and to any gender, as is its etymological correspondent still in the cognate languages. As to the propriety of changing it to who, it is not a question of an abstract, or personal, or paternal Deity — not a question of gender at all-for, if the original Greek is to be followed, (and on this Mr. Harrison elsewhere lays great stress), the relative, i. e. the article, is unquestionably of the masculine gender; and indeed in what language was father ever conceived of "under" any other gender? It is not a question of gender at all; but simply a question whether we shall now pray in the English of the present day, or in that of the time of James I.
If one appeals to the devout and solemn associations which cluster around an old familiar form of words, we have not a word to say in reply. But such an appeal, if he made it, would come from Mr. Harrison with an ill grace; for he not only freely criticises, as we shall see, the familiar language of the received version of the Holy Scriptures, but, in one or two cases, openly calls in question expressions in the daily prayers of the English Church.
Criticisms on passages in the English Bible.
"Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give, that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments and also," etc.-[Collect. Evening Prayer.]
"The term both is ambiguous, for it may signify the hearts of both of us. [It might have so signified in Dean Swift's congregation, when, seeing no one present but the sexton, the facetious Dean began the exhortation with, "Dearly beloved brother Roger," etc.] Better, 'give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may both be set to obey thy commandments and also,' etc."
This might do, if "hearts" were to be the subject of the verb after "also," which it is not. As it is, the proposed amendment manifestly makes a bad matter worse-changes an ambiguity into a solecism; if, indeed, the ambiguity itself is, after all, certainly removed. The author seems not to have been sufficiently familiar with men and manners in America, to be aware that the "Americans," in the exercise of their "poor criticism," by simply omitting the word "both," have avoided ambiguity and solecism both together.
Bearing in mind Mr. Harrison's theory of the genders of the English article, let us proceed to note how far his criticisms upon its use are thereby enlightened. We shall see that he finds slight occasion for the application of his own elaborate "principles."
"When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people," etc. Matt. 27: 1.
"In cases of this kind, attention to the original text, in the use of the article, would keep us from error. In the Greek we have oi ПQεoẞúrεgo, and in the English we ought to have, the elders. The term elders in this passage, without having the definite article prefixed, according to the plainest idiom of our language, has a very different meaning from that which it is here intended to convey; for if we say that elders of the people took counsel, we mean that certain elders, or some elders, took counsel, which might be five out of five hundred; but when we say, the elders, we mean the elders as a body, a class, and this is the meaning required."
Here we have two remarks to add: First, that in this particular case it happens by a sad mischance that the insertion or omission of the definite article before elders produces, "according to the plainest idiom of our language," quite a contrary effect to that above alleged; (for neither in our copies of the Greek Testament, nor in the best editions of the English Version, is there any comma after "priests," and certainly there is no need of any; and) if we say "all the chief
priests and elders took counsel," ALL the elders will certainly be understood, and not merely the elders as a body—not to say "five, out of five hundred" of them; while, if we say all the chief priests and the elders, etc., it may be understood that perhaps not all the elders, but only the elders generally took counsel. Second, the original text is expressly appealed to as a safe standard in this and all similar cases. Now, it is remarkable that only thirty-nine verses before that above criticised, the phrase "from the chief priests and elders of the people" occurs, and forty-one verses further on, again, "with the scribes and elders;" in both of which cases the article is at least as necessary (in English) before elders as in the case under consideration, but in neither of them is it inserted before the Greek noεoßúrεQoL. See also Mark 15: 1; Acts 4: 5; John 18: 3; and almost innumerable other passages, where, in such phrases as, "the chief priests and elders," "the elders and scribes," "the chief priests and Pharisees," etc., the article is omitted before the latter noun in the Greek. Indeed its omission or insertion in such cases seems, with the writers of the N. Testament, to have been purely arbitrary.
We follow Mr. Harrison in his next passage, " And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers." Acts 2: 42.
"A strange inaccuracy and carelessness characterize the whole of this passage. In the first place, there is an ambiguity in the sound of the apostles' doctrine, which might mean the doctrine of one particular apostle or of all the apostles. Secondly, there is a grammatical error in the phrase, in breaking of bread. Thirdly, there is a total perversion of the meaning in the omission of the definite article before fellowship, before breaking, before bread, and before prayers; for the definite article is used before each of these terms in the original, and is absolutely necessary for a proper understanding of the passage either in Greek or English. The whole passage translated according to the original, would run thus:-'And they continued steadfastly in the doctrine and the fellowship of the apostles, and in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers.""
To this we answer seriatim: In the first place, must we then abandon the use of the English genitive in the case of all nouns whose plural ends in s? So it would seem; for if the sound of the genitive plural may be mistaken for the genitive singular, so may that of the genitive singular be mistaken for the genitive plural; and thus we should be allowed to use neither. It will not do to say that sometimes the connection may make the meaning clear, and then the gen