« PreviousContinue »
The accession of various helps, and the advanced fate of learning, would be highly favourable to the execution of a new version, if the reasons given above did not convince us that such a verfion is neither necessary nor expedient. The fame may be said, with some limitations, of what it is fashionable to call our emancipation from pavery to the Masoretic points, and to the Hebrew text as absolutely uncorrupt.' We say with some limitation, for chough we are no longer interested in the debates which were supported with so much acrimony by Buxtorf and Capellus, we are sorry to see the moft faithful translation of the Hebrew Scriptures gradually finking into contempt. We are justified by the concurrent opinion of Bishop Lowth , when we consider the Masoretic punctuation as preferable, upon the whole, to any one of the ancient versions, from the peculiar advantage it possesses of hav. ing been formed upon a traditionary explanation of the text, and of being generally agreeable to that sense of Scripture which passed current, and was commonly received by the Jewild nation in ancient times. We know that the superftitious zeal of the Rabbins once supposed the points to have been written by the finger of God. They are now, on the contrary, too often denied that credit which is juftly challenged by the beft humaa authority,
Let us however be careful to guard our sentiments on the expediency of a new version againft the pollibility of misconstruction. We mean not to repress that laudable spirit of inquiry which has prompted so many able scholars to examine the Scriptures of the Old Testament in their original language ; we presume not to pass an undiftinguishing censure on every attempt to improve our prefent version on the contrary, we fincerely rejoice in the success of every effort, which tends even in the remoteft degree to illustrate the sacred Oracles of Truth; and we heartily wilh, that as much may speedily be done toward the elucidation of the remaining parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, as we have lately seen accomplished for Ifaiah, for Jeremiah, and for the Twelve Minor Prophets, by their respective translators. Our objections are levelled solely against the authoritative subftitution of a new version in the room of that which custom has familiarized to the ears, and hallowed in the imaginations of the great mass of English Christians; and those objections are founded merely in the apprehension, that the possible advantages of such a measure would be more than counterbalanced by the evils which, we think, would probably result from it.
After these observations, all tending to discourage the intro. duction of a new version into our religious assemblies, candour obliges us to subjoin the rules proposed by our Author for the
* Prelim. Dissert. to Isaiah, p. 55.
conduet of such a work. To each of these rules he has added a variety of pertinent remarks and exemplifications, which we have not room to transcribe.
• Rule I. The translator should express every word in the original by a literal rendering, where the English idiom admits of it; and where not only purity, but perspicuity, and dignity of expression can be preserved.
11. Where the English idiom requires a paraphrase, it should be so formed as to comprehend the original word or phrase; and the supplemental part hould stand in Italics ; except where harshness of language arises from pursuing this method.
ini. Where a verbal translation cannot be thus interwoven, one equivalent to it, and which implies the reading in the original, should be substituted ; and the idiom in the text should be literally rendered in the margin.
• IV. The same original word, and its derivatives, according to the leading different senses, and also the same phrase, should be respectively translated by the same corresponding English word or phrase : except where a distinct representation of a general idea, or the nature of the English language, or the avoiding of an ambiguity, or harmony of found, requires a different mode of expression.
• V. The collocation of the words should never be harsh, and unfuited to an English ear. An inverted structure may often be used in imitation of the original, or merely for the sake of rhythm in the sentence : but this should be determined by what is easy and harmo. rious in the English language : and not by the order of the words in the original, where this produces a forced arrangement, or one more adapted to the licence of poetry than to prose.
VI. The simple and ancient turn of the present version should be retained.
- VII. The old ecclefiaftical terms should be continued : as grace, elear, predeftinated, &c.
· VIII. Metaphors are, in general, to be retained ; and the subftitution, or unnecessary introduction, of new ones should be avoided.
' IX. Proper names should remain as they are now written.
• X. The best known geographical terms should be inserted in the text, and the original ones Thould stand in the margin. As Syria, marg. Aram : Ethiopia, marg. Cush, &c.
• XI. The language, fenfe, and punctuation of our present version Thould be retained ; unless when a fufficient reason can be affigned for departing from them.
• Xu. The critical sense of passages should be considered ; and not the opinions of any denomination of Christians whatever.
• XIII. Passages which are allowed to be marginal glofies, or about the authenticity of which critics have reason to be doubtful, should be placed in the text between brackets.
• XIV. In the best editions of the Bible, the poetical parts Mould be divided into lines answering to the metre of the original.
• XV. Of dark passages, which exhibit no meaning as they stand in our present version, an intelligible rendering should be made, on the principles of sound criticism.
Most of these rules are pregnant with good sense, and display an accurate and extenfive knowledge of the subject. We will add, too, that, should the wishes of the learned Prelate be gratified by the publication of a new, or a revisal of the old version of the Scriptures, his own rules may, with some few li. mitations, be very properly and fafely recommended to the transJators, as the models on which their work should be formed.
In found criticism, as it is mentioned in the last rule, the Bishop includes conjectural criticism, the sober use of which he frequently recommends. We agree with him, that, if it be ad. miffible at all, it cannot be used to soberly. “ Si ita literas ac verba mutare et transferre liceat," fays the great Pocock*, “ ubi tandem pedem figemus ? Tot erunt textus facri, quot critici vel interpretes, five in conjeetande feliciores, five paulum æquo doctiores.”
Bentley's specimen of his intended edition of the Greek Testa. ment, excites no regret in our minds, that even the first conjectural critic this country has boasted, was induced at length to leave the sacred volume untouched. We rather suspect, that had the work itself appeared, it would have afforded a serious example of what Burman + observed, indeed ironically-Dolus criticus et adfuetus urere, jecare, inclementer omnis generis libros tractare, apices, fyllabas, voces, diétiones confodere, et slylo exigere, continebitne ille ab integro et intaminato divinæ fapientiæ monumento crudeles un
We doubt, indeed, whether conjecture can ever be authorized in a translation which is intended for general use. For if it be exercised on fight occafions, it must be in some degree superAuous; if on material ones, it must ever be indecisive.
In justification of conjectural criticism, our Author cites the authority of Bishop Lowth, in the following extract from his Preliminary Differtation to Iraiah :
“ If the translation Mould sometimes appear to be merely conjectural, I desire the reader to consider the exigence of the case; and 19 judge, whether it is not better, in a very obscure and doubtful pafsage, to give something, probable, by way of supplement to the author's fense apparently defective, than either to leave a blank in the translation, or to give a merely verbal rendering which would be altogether unintelligible.” Prelim. Dissert. p. 73.
But the Bishop of London speaks of such versions only as are offered to the theological student. “ I believe,” says he, in the paffage immediately following that quoted by our Author, “ that every translator whatever, of any part of the Old Testament, has taken sometimes the liberty, or rather has found himself under the neceffity, of offering such readings as, if examined, will be found to be merely conjectural. But I desire to be understood, as offering this apology, in behalf only of those translations which are designed for the pri
* Nora micellaneæ in Portam Mofis, p. 135. + Burman. Orat. Lugd. Bat. 1720.
vale afe of the reader, not as extended without proper limitations to those that are made for the public service of the Church.”
Of Bilhop Newcome's tranllation it will be sufficient praise to observe, that it would be difficult to point out many instances, in which he has not adhered to bis ovin rules. As a specimen of his general manner, we will transcribe the following animated paffage from the Prophet Habakkuk, which Bishop Lowin bas produced in his Prælections on the Hebrew poetry *, as a ftriking example of that species of fublimity, which is peculiar to the Ode:
· Jehovah, I have heard thy + speech ;
• God came from Teman,
Was the anger of Jehovah kindled against the floods?
• Thou didst cleave the streams of the land :
• The fun and i he moon stood still in their habitation :
* Prælect. xxviii. p. 368. Edit. 2.,
i Hebr. were his.
** Or, rent -curtains. REV. Jan. 1787.
• In thine indignation didft thou march through the land;
• Thou did it wound the head out of the house of the wicked:
• When I heard thy speech, my bowels trembled :
And will capse me to tread on mine high places.'
וְנֹנָהּ כָּאוֹר תּהיה
His brightness was as the light. Our Author's note on the passage is as follows: • The verb 17p fignifies to shine, Exod. xxxiv. 29, 30. 35: and a pencil or cone of rays ifluing from a point, diverges in the thape of a horn.'- The propriety of the metaphor is sufficiently Atriking, and indeed this interpretation of the word op!!72 is justified by the authority of Aben Ezra, who, as Buxtorf informs us, understands it in this very passage to fignify radii Splendentes. On Exod. xxxiv. 29, &c. to which the Bishop refers, we Thall take occasion to remark, that the mis-translation of the word in by Aquila, and the Vulgate Latin version, has perhaps given rise to that vulgar and ridiculous error, by which horns have