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ample stores of critical information than our forefathers, we ought to employ them in the improvement of our national version. Not that this version labours under material deficiencies ; for it contains, as he admits, “nothing but what is pure in its representation of Scriptural doctrine ; nothing but what is aniinated in its expressions of devout affection ; general fidelity to its original being hardly more its characteristic, than sublimity in itself. The English language acquired new dignity by it; and has hardly acquired additional purity since: it is still considered as the standard of our tongue. If a new version should ever be attempted, the same turn of expression will doubtless be employed; for it is a style consecrated not more by custom, than by its own native propriety."*
The Plan adopted by Bishop Lowth in his translation of Isaiah was soon followed by Mr. Blayney, (afterwards D. D. and Regius Peofessor of Hebrew,) who in the year 1784 published a new version of Jeremiah. In his preliminary discourse the learned author strongly urges the expediency of a new translation of the whole Bible ; hoping that the time is not far distant, when the task of bringing forward Kennicot's collations “ will not be left in the hands of a few well intentioned individuals, but will be undertaken on a more extensive plan by a select assembly of the most learned and judicious divines, commissioned by public authority, to examine into the state of the Hebrew text, to restore it as nearly as possible to its primitive purity, and to prepare from it a new translation of the Scriptures in our own language for the public ser. vice.”+
Archbishop Newcome, then Bishop of Waterford, trod in the same path ; and published new versions of the Minor Prophets, and of Ezekiel. The former came out in 1785, the latter in 1788. And in 1792, Mr. Wintle
* Page 9,
+ Page ix.
completed, what was wanting in the list of prophetical writings, by publishing a new translation of Daniel.
In the mean time the literary world had to lament the death of Dr. Kennicot, who did not live long after editing his laborious collations. The latter part however of his life was employed in writing and preparing for the press, “ Remarks on select passages in the Old Testament,” which in 1787 ultimately became a posthumous publication. These remarks appear to have been composed with a view of assisting in the favourite project of the day, whenever it should be executed ; and the introduction to them, written by the author himself, pleads the necessity of the undertaking
At the same time, that these eminent scholars, and divines of the Church of England were employed in translating the prophetical books of Scripture, Dr. Geddes, a clergy man of the Church of Rome, was projecting a new version of the whole Bible, and in 1786 published his “ Prospectus of a new translation of the Holy Bible, from corrected texts of the originals, compared with the ancient versions."
In this prospectus he assumes “as a position generally agreed upon, that a new translation of the Bible, particularly of the Old Testament, is still wanted.”* Although he imputes faults and defects, as others had done before him, to our authorized version, yet he speaks of it with the greatest candour and liberality. He observes, “ The highest eulogiums have been made on it both by our own writers and by foreigners; and indeed if accuracy, fidelity, and the strictest attention to the letter of the text, be supposed to constitute the qualities of an excellent version, this of all versions must in general be accounted most excellent. Every sentence, every word, every syllable, every letter, and point, seem to have been weighed with the nicest exactitude, and expressed, either in the
* Page 2
text or margin, with the grearest precision. Pagninus himself is hardly more literal ; and it was well remarked by Robertson, above an hundred years ago, that it may serve for a lexicon of the Hebrew language, as well as for a translation."*
Archbishop Newcome mentions and quotes another pamphlet, which was published in 1787, under the title of “ Reasons for revising by authority our present version, &c." This I have never seen.
From the extracts given, it appears to contain answers to certain popular objections to the proposed measure.
But Archbishop Newcome himself gives the fullest account, and suggests the strongest arguments in favour of the undertaking, in a tract called, "An Historical View of the English Biblical translations ; the expedieney of revising by authority our present Translation : and the means of executing such a revision.” This, as its title imports, contains not only a detail of all which has been done in the way of English translation, and of all which has been written upon the necessity of a new version ; but also gives such rules as are best calculated in the authors judgment to render that version most perfect.
To the list of distinguished writers, arguing the propriety, and exhibiting in their own productions specimens, of an improved tratislation, must be added Bishop Horsley, who, with equal confidence in his critical emendations, but with less extravagance of critical principle, published a new translation of Hosea.
Perhaps too I should notice Mr. S. Greenaway, the author of a version, with a paraphrase, of Ecclesiastes. In this quaint production of talent, piety, and eccentricity, the principal part of which is expanded into a multifarious assemblage of " notes and reflections” unconnected and unarranged, that singular writer bitterly inveighs against
* Page 92.
the attempts of Houbigant, Lowth, Kennicot, Blayney, &c., for introducing alterations of the text by critical conjecture alone.
I shall simply quote his general remark upon Blayney. After having severely censured “ the petulant, conceited, presumptuous, and absurd Houbigant,' he thus proceeds ; “ But turn we, reader, to an author of a different character, Mr. Blayney ; to whom we obliged for a learned, judicious, and pious commentary on Jeremiah.” But he is touched with the distemper of con. jectural insanity, and in his fits gives us the most frightful views of corruptions in the sacred text. See in his index the article of, Corrections Hebrew text by MSS. 272 ; Corrections Hebrew text by ancient versions only 30 ; Corrections Hebrew text by conjecture 66 ; in all 368. What an alarming number ! Tell it not in Gath ! Publish it not in the streets of Askelon ! But it is only when viewed at a distance” (an assertion, which he subsequently endeavours to prove by a long and minute examination of them) 66 that they seem formidable. On a nearer view they are as harmless as the shadowy monsters, which appeared to oppose Æneas in his way to the Stygian lake.
-tenues sine corpore vitæ,
* Page 297.
Dr. Bellamy's New Translation. Object of it. His Incompe
tency. Proved from Genesis XIX. His Novel Translation of Ver. 5, 25, 32. Singular Disquisition on the word op. Ignorance in supposing the existence of a preterpluperfect tense in Hebrew.
In the preceding chapter I have given a short account of the writers upon the subject under consideratiori, who forished in the last century. And here perhaps I might terminate the enquiry. But at the commencement of the present century one of so peculiar a character has appeared in the catalogue of biblical translators, that it would be as improper to overlook, as it is mortifying to notice him. I allude to Mr. J. Bellamy, who, supported by a liberal subscription, has recently undertaken to give a new translation of the Bible from the Hebrew alone. His object is, as he himself states, “ to stem the torrent of infidelity, by enabling those, who have not studied the Hebrew language, to silence the objections, which have so long been, and still continue to be, advanced against the divine truth.”* Unlike however his predecessors in this arduous enterprize, he strenuously maintains the absolute integrity of the Hebrew text; and deems not only the Masoretical vowels, but even the Masoretical accentuation, of which nevertheless he seems to have a very superficial knowledge, undoubtedly original. In contempt likewise of every other interpretation given to that text by the most ancient, as well as by more modern translators, he blazons forth his own
* Classical Jourpal, No. XXXVI. p. 225.