Page images


There .כי עתה תבוא אליך now it is come upon thee

that it may justly be questioned, whether any possible sense can by fair interpretation be deduced from the words in not a few places."*

The charges thus adduced against our established version appear I must confess at first sight rather formidable, and in support of them references are made to certain passages in the book of Job; but they melt into air upon a closer examination. The tendency indeed of the whole is altogether unimportant. As a specimen however it will be sufficient to quote the three proofs alleged in support of that charge against it, in which the accuser says, that 66 frequently it expresses not the proper subject of the senHis first proof is thus worded : Job iv. 5, but

. “ being no subject to the verb in the Hebrew, the LXX supply here móvos, and the Vulgate plaga ; and I think it would be better, if, in imitation of them, we were to add in another character the word misfortune or affliction instead of the pronoun it to which there are no traces of an antecedent in the text." But our translators in rendering the verb X120 “it is come” were right, and the critic wrong in his substitution of the Nominative case misfortune or affliction. There is a rule in Syntax, which Schröder thus expresses: “Usum neutralem in ter. tia

persona singulari, tam masculina quam fæminina, recipere possunt verba intransitiva et passiva. Is locum habet *

* in verbis, quæ se referunt non ad certum et definitum nomen, sed ad rem, vel actionem, in sermone expressam, pronomine, quod ad eam pertinet, vel addito vel omisso. Such then is the general rule; and it is remarkable, that among other examples the grammarian illustrates this rule by the very passage under discussion. His reference is, 777x xion venit ad te, and 77'?y yan pertingit usque ad te ; scilicet, he adds, hoc ipsum, quod alii ante te perpessi erant.* It seems then that the grammatical inaccuracy is here altogether on the side of the critic.

* Pages vi, vii.

Page 5.

Durell's second proof is the following : “ Job viii. 18. If he destroy him, (wya' Dx) Rather with our old version, If any destroy him : for God is at too great a distance to suppose that he is the antecedent.”+ The reason assigned to prove that the word God cannot be what is termed the antecedent, seems of little validity ; for that word occurs in the 13th verse, which runs thus; “ So are the paths of all that forget God, and the hypocrite's hope shall perish : whose hope, &c. ;” and so on to the verse in question, with which all the intervening verses are in evident connexion. Nor is the remoteness of the antecedent term at all unusual; as in Genesis xli. 13, “me he restored to my office, and him he hanged,” where the nominative pronoun he evidently does not refer to Joseph, to whom the two preceding verses allude, but to Pharaoh who is not mentioned after the tenth verse, the account of Joseph intervening.

The third proof is thus expressed : “Job xv. 26. He runneth upon him, even on his neck; 789821588797) In our present version it is not clear whether God or the wicked man is here the aggressor; from the construction the latter might seem most probable : but from reason it must be the former. I would therefore with our old version, supply, Therefore God.+ To prove the charge adduced of mistaking the proper subject of the sentence, it should have been clear, what is stated to be not clear, that our translation erroneously represented the wicked man aggressor. But if it be doubtful to whai

the pronoun he refers in the English version, so also is it equally doubtful in the original. Indeed this intermixture of allusions to different persons by the use of the same pronoun in the same verse is too common in Hebrew to attract particular notice. A remarkable instance of it occurs 2 Samuel xi. 13. "And when David had called him (Uriah,] he [Uriah) did eat and drink before him [David;] and he [David] made him [Uriah] drunk: and at even he (Uriah] went out to lie on his bed, &c.The substitution of the word God for the pronoun he would, I adınit, give a more determinate sense, but it would be substituting that, which is not to be found in the Hebrew text ; such a liberty might indeed suit a free paraphrase, but it would scarcely be tolerated in a literal translation.


as the

* Institut. Ling. Heb. p. 361.

+ Page 16.

Were these however, and even all the charges brought against our present version, fully established, the stability of religious opinion would not be in the slightest degree affected by them. For supposing the long wished for undertaking to be accomplished, and the many emendations which have been proposed, to be embodied in a new translation, Durell remarks, “The minds of the people cannot hereby be unsettled. All the leading arguments of religion will remain undisturbed; neither will the ground of their faith or practice be ever so remotely affected."* Nevertheless hoping that the “very desirable period may not be far distant, when the great Council of these realms shall think it expedient to delegate the important charge of a new translation to men of approved learning and judgment, I have thought it,” he says, “my duty to lay before the public some part of the materials, which have lain by me for a considerable time. My motive for so doing is, that they may be duly weighed in the interval, in order that if they meet with approbation they may be serviceable on that occasion; and that others blessed with greater abilities and advantages may hereby be ind'iced to pursue the same course.+

But the distinguished Scholars, whose own feelings were interested, and who laboured to interest those of the public, in this favorite project, were not contented with a bare recommendation of it. They now began individually to attempt new translations of detached books of Scripture; not I apprehend with a view of thus superseding our established version of those books, but rather perhaps to exhibit the superiority of modern knowledge, and of modern criticism. Bishop Lowth himself, now advanced to the see of London, led the way by publishing in 1778 a new translation of Isaiah, which he denominated "an attempt to set in a just light the writings of the most sublime and elegant of the prophets of the Old Testament,”* and which he was probably induced to undertake as affording an ample field for the display of poetical taste, and of critical conjecture. Nor did he forget again to notice, what he had long before suggested, the necessity of a new version under the sanction of public authority.

* Preface, page 7.

† Preface, page 1.

Alluding to some manuscript criticisms of Archbishop Secker upon the Bible, deposited in the Archiepiscopal Library at Lambeth, he remarks, 6 These valuable re, mains of that great and good man will be of infinite service, whenever that necessary work, a new translation, or a revision of the present translation, of the holy Scriptures, for the use of our Church, shall be undertaken.”

+ Again he observes, “ whenever it shall be thought proper to set forth the holy Scriptures, for the public use of our Church, to better advantage, than as they appear in the present English translation, the expediency of which grows every day more and more evident, a revision or correction of that translation may perhaps be more adviseable, than to attempt an entirely new one. For as to the style and language it admits of but little improvement; but in respect of the sense and accuracy of interpretation, improvements of which it is capable are great and numberless."* The design of his own version of Isaiah was, he states, “not only to give an exact and faithful representation of the words and of the sense of the prophet, by adhering closely to the letter of the text, and treading as nearly as may be in his footsteps ; but moreover to imitate the air and manner of the author.”+ Nevertheless he remarks, “much of our vulgar translation is retained in it. For as the style of that translation is not only excellent in itself, but has taken possession of our ear, and of our taste, to have endeavoured to vary from it, with no other design then that of giving something new instead of it, would have been to disgust the reader, and to represent the sense of the prophet in a more unfavourable manner.” And when it does deviate, still, he adds, it “ will perhaps be found to be in general as close to the text, and as literal, as our English version."'S

* Dedication to the King.

of Preface, page 61, Ed. 1793.

In the following year the Laudian Professor of Arabic|| published a Sermon, which had been preached before the University of Oxford, under the following title ; “A revisal of the English translation of the Old Testament recommended.” The great argument advanced by the Professor, in favour of the revisal, which he recommends, is derived from the improved state of bibilical criticism in modern times contrasted with that, which existed at the period, when our present version was compiled. At that time, he observes, “ the MS. copies of the Old Testament had not been consulted; the ancient Masoretic text was in general followed without scruple. * * The collateral dialects of the original tongues had been but moderaterly cultivated, and were but imperfectly understood. * * Ancient versions have since been published, which were not before extant, at least in a public form, to Europe in general.”T Hence therefore he argues, that possessing more

* Preface, page 63. † Preface, page 1. # Ibid. page 63.

$ Ibid. # J. White, M. A., afterwards D.D., and regius Professor of Hebrew. | Page 11.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »