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CHAP. VIII.

Recapitulation. Conclusion English Established Version

translated from the Hebrew. Style of it admired. Obsolete expressions. Defects of it counterbalanced by its many Excellencies. Not likely to be superseded by a better.

If we take then a review of the arguments adduced by those, who have contended for the necessity of a new translation, the solitary arguments, if arguments they can be called, of Mr. Bellamy alone excepted, they will appear to be grounded upon the presumptions, that the Hebrew text, from which our present translation was made, was a corrupted one ; that it has however since received many great and important emendations ; that the transla. tors themselves from a defect in the literature of their day possessed not a competent knowledge of the Hebrew language; and that Hebrew erudition has in modern times been caried to an unparalleled extent by a deep and accurate investigation of certain principles, which Hebrew

possesses in common with other Oriental languages.

In opposition to the first and second points presumed I have endeavoured to prove in detail, that the reverse is the fact; that the received Hebrew text is not only the most perfect, but the only one, upon which any reliance can be placed in existence; and that the emendations, which have been proposed, have tended not to purify, but to corrupt it. I have likewise pointed out the indisputable antiquity of this text, originally grounded upon the traditional readings of the Jewish synagogue ; and insisted, that to depart from this altogether is to involve the sacred writings in chaotic darkness. At the same time however I have admitted, that inaccuracies, although of trivial importance, may have crept into it; and that if it were possible it

would be highly desirable to remove them ; but that they have never yet been satisfactorily pointed out; and that no effectual attempt has been made by an appropriate classification of manuscripts, and a complete collation of versions, or by other means, even to detect, much less to to amend, them. Under such circumstances then I cannot but maintain, that to talk of a new translation from an improved Hebrew text argues a blind temerity, bordering upon the extreme of folly. I am disposed to give full scope to every display of critical investigation; but I cannot admit, that a public version of Scriptures should be cast in a mould accomodated to individual fancy and conceit.

We know what the labours of Mill, Wetstein, and Griesbach, have affected in advancing the criticism of the New Testament; and that Griesbach particularly spent the greatest part of his life in the classifications of MSS., and in minutely ascertaining the value of their respective readings upon the most rigid principles. We also know, that the result of his labours has been made public; and that what he considered as an improved text has appeared under the form of a new and distinct edition of it. But were another version of the New Testament to be prepared for public use, which would be the text translated ? The received text or that of Griesbach ? I think without much hesitation we may affirm, that it would be the former : for surely prudence and propriety would point out, that a text so long established, and to which other translations are accommodated, would in such a case be preferred to one, how ingeniously soever constructed, the authority of which must depend upon the critical judgment of a single indivi. dual.

If then after so much has been done to improve the received text of the New Testament, we should still conceive ourselves acting unwisely if we departed from it, supposing that another public translation was deemed adviseable, is it possible, that, embarked in a similar undertaking, we could think ourselves at liberty to depart froni the received text of the Old Testament, for the improvement of which nothing effectual or satisfactory has ever been done, or even attempted ?

Such then is the outline of the reasoning which I have adopted in confutation of the two leading points presumed on the other side. I shall now shortly allude to the notice which I have taken of the two latter; but indeed these, correctly speaking, are only one ; for if the knowledge of Hebrew has been considerably augmented in modern times by a more extended cultivation of Oriental literature in general, it must follow, that the knowledge which was possessed by preceding translators was at best but defective.

My object however here has principally been to demonstrate, that if much has been attempted in theory, little has been really effected in practice; I mean, that the collateral elucidation of the Hebrew language by a comparison with others of a similar origin has produced little or no important practical results. From the constant flux in the signification of all words in all languages it must prove a task of no common difficulty to distinguish between their primary and secondary significations; to trace up their ever varying meanings to their sources ; and to determine, with any tolearble degree of certainty, from what precise fountain this or that particular signification originally sprung, as well as how far it continued its course in one, or suddenly ceased to flow in another, kindred language. Nor does it appear, I have remarked, in the least probable that the primary senses of the same words should be their most frequent senses in modern Arabic, while their secondary are their most frequent in ancient Hebrew.

But in truth the whole hypothesis seems more adapted to illustrate the philosophy of the Hebrew language, if philosophical we suppose its construction to be, than to pursue the capricious deviations of colloquial usage and

expression. And as I cannot perceive, that the best Lexicons of our own days, etymological refinements alone excepted, differ in their exposition of words from the best Lexicons in the days of our forefathers, I do not see in what respect our practical knowledge of the language exceeds theirs. Neither indeed can I admit, if our lexicographers, entangled in the web of critical theory, even proceeded to change the established meanings of words in Hebrew, because those words have such meanings in one of the sister dialects, that a translator would be excusable, who should be seduced by their example from the plain and direct path of approved interpretation.

The principal arguments, which I have controverted, and those, which I have advanced in refutation of them, are applicable to all translations; but in conclusion I shall now advert to the peculiarities of our own. This how. ever will require no long or formal discussion ; as its merits in point of composition have been sufficiently extolled on the other side; extolled by every advocate for a new version, who has been distinguished, as well by taste, as by talents and erudition.

That it is a translation from the Hebrew alone, and also as correct a one, as the alleged deficiency of the times in Oriental literature would permit, has been universally acknowledged ; except indeed by a single eccentric author of the present day, whose vain and wandering intellect seems to be in a constant aphelion, enlightened possibly by a solar influence, unknown to all preceding translators, but certainly not by the critical luminary of any visible system. The very circumstance, which he imputes to our translators as a dereliction of their professed object to translate from the Hebrew only, viz. that they appear occasionally to have consulted the various versions of ancient and modern times, instead of detracting, as he conceives, from their characters and talents, adds lustre to both. For uninfluenced by the childish vanity of imagining, that no

translators of any period possessed a correct knowledge of the Hebrew language, except themselves, and anxious not to misapprehend, where missapprehension might be important, they duly examined, and scrupulously weighed, the treasures of combined wisdom, with which the labours of their predecessors in the same undertaking had furnished them. They translated from the Hebrew, like most of those who had gone before them; and were only guilty of thinking it possible, that the wise and good of former times might have had some little knowledge of the language, which they undertook to translate.

In point of expression our authorized version has received the most marked testimonies of approbation from the very writers, who were desirous of some new translation to supersede it. Its style, says Bishop Lowth,“ is not only excellent in itself, but has taken possession of our ear, and of our taste. Dr. White remarks, that “general fidelity to its original is hardly more its characteristie than sublimity itself;" that “the English language acquired new dignity by it;" that “it is still considered as the standard of our tongue ;” and that it possesses "a style consecrated not more by custom, than by its own native propriety.”* Ought not the judgment of writers like these to outweigh on this point that of those wild projectors, who with all the tinsel of modern diction, are desirous of embellishing its phraseology, and of adding, what they conceive to be, brilliancy to its periods ?

But it has been said, that it retains many obsolete, and some indelicate, expressions. To remove these, however, I should scarcely conceive the appointment of a formal committee of critics and divines by public authority to be requisite ; or if requisite, certainly not the appointment of a committee, invested with unlimited powers of emendaţion beyond the specific object in view. Indeed several

* See Chap. i.

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