Page images
[ocr errors]

and has ever since continued in general use. To this, which is commonly called the Authorized Version, our question relates; and it obviously includes some subordinate inquiries.

1. Were the Hebrew and Greek languages, considered merely as languages, as well understood by the learned in 1607 as they are now in 1809?

Certainly not. The highest degree of the knowledge of the Hebrew tongue then possessed, was drawn solely from the Rabbinical sources, and these but imperfectly explored. Every Orientalist now knows that Hebrew and Chaldee can be understood but very insufficiently, without the light cast upon them by the Arabic. Yet this important light had scarcely dawned, at the commencement of the 19th century. It would fill a volume to give the barest sketch of the treasures with which the study of the Old Testament language has been enriched, by the Buxtorfs, the Cappells, Erpenius, De Dieu, James Alting, Pocock, Lightfoot, Castell, Hyde, and pre-eminently Schultens and his school. But these treasures lay deep in the

Cl. II. At Cambridge.-From 1 Chron: to the Song of Solomon.
Mr. Edw. Livelye, Heb. Prof.; Dr. Richardson; Mr. Chaderton;
Mr. Dillingham; Mr, Harrison; Dr. Andrews: Mr. Spalding; and
Mr. Binge,

Cl. III. At Oxford.-The Prophets, and Book of Lamentations.
Dr. Hardinge, Heb. Prof.; Dr. Reinolds; Dr. Holland; Dr. Kilby;
Mr. Smith Hereford; Mr. Brett; and Mr. Fairclough.

CI. IV. At Cambridge.-The Apocrypha.

Dr. Duport; Dr. Branthwaite; Dr. Radcliffe; Mr. Warde, of Eman. Coll.; Mr. Downes; Mr. Bois; and Mr. Warde, of King's Coll. Cl. V. At Oxford.-The Gospels, Acts, and Revelation.

Dr. Tho. Ravis, B. of Gloucester; Dr. Geo. Abbott, Abp. of Canterbury; Dr. James Montague, B. of Bath and Wells; Dr. Giles Thompson, B. of Gloucester; Sir Henry Savile; Dr. Peria; Dr. Ravens; Mr. Harmer.

Cl. VI. At Westminster. The Epistles.

Dr. Wm. Barlow, B. of Rochester; Dr. Hutchinson; Dr. Spencer; Mr. Fenton; Mr. Rabbett; Mr. Sanderson; and Mr. Dakins.

To those who afterwards filled episcopal sees, we have annexed their subsequent promotions; though none of them were Bishops at the date of the Commission. The above number, forty-seven, must be increased by seven more; who, from death or other causes, failed to perform their parts, or else were overseers, to assist in inspecting and finally determining. Dr. Andrews, Dr. Bilson, afterwards B. of Winchester, and Dr. Miles Smith, afterwards B. of Gloucester, revised the whole, and wrote the Dedication. The Preface is attributed to Miles Smith. Though the Com mission was dated 1604 (supp. April or May) the work was not begun till 1606, or the beginning of 1607.

mine, unseen and perhaps scarcely conceived of, when our Bible version was published.

In a very considerable, though not in an equal, degree, similar accessions have been made to the stock of Greek philology. Budæus, Serranus, Xylander, Canter, and the great Henry Stephens, had already enriched it with their labours. But no competent judge will deny, that the knowledge of Greek literature, in all its departments, is indebted for the amplest additions, in extent, precision, and method, to the researches and discoveries of Casaubon, Scaliger, Salmasius,' Stanley, Bentley, Hemsterhusius, D'Orville, Ruhnkenius, Toup, Reiske, and the admirable but unhappy Porson. To this list, contracted as we have made it, it is no more than our duty to add the Author of the Doctrine of the Greek Article. The instances, then, in which the advances of the last two centuries in Greek philology have illustrated the language and the meaning of the New Testament, are innumerable, and extremely important.

We have reason therefore to assert, that the Hebrew and Greek languages, extensively considered, were by no means so well understood by the scholars of King James's reign, as they may be and are now by scholars of equal talent and diligence.

2. Was the peculiar phraseology of the scriptural writers, especially in application to the New Testament, properly known and attended to, as it has been in more recent times?

Calvin, Beza, Castellio, and Joseph Mede, had some just views of the idiom which is peculiar to the Scriptures, and which has given so marked and unique a character to the Alexandrine Old Testament, to the Apocrypha, and in the most especial and interesting respect of all, to the New Testament. But they rather employed their discoveries for the elucidation of theological difficulties and the symbols of prophecy, than attempted to form them into a body of consistent principles. It is necessary to remark, that King James's translators were grossly inattentive to the rendering of idiomatical expressions by equipollent English phrases; considering the knowledge which even then was accessible. But it must be confessed, that the means were not fully developed of pursuing this subject to its proper extent. The vain and injudicious Heinsius, by his Exercitationes Sacræ, called out, in 1643, the mighty Salmasius in his Commentarius de Lingua Hellenistica, and the facetious author of the Funus Linguæ Hellenistica. Our learned countryman Gataker contributed largely to the discovery and confirmation of just principles,

* See Ecl. Rev. Vol. IV. pp. 671, 767, 869.

[ocr errors]

both in basis and in superstructure, on the Style of the New Testament. The Dutch and German philologists of the eighteenth century have vigorously carried forwards their disquisitions on this important topic, highly to the satisfaction of biblical students. Some of them, it is true, have latterly displayed an equal want of sense and of piety, in the ridiculous length to which they have forced some of their conclusions; but the principles are not less valuable for having been abused. The very extravagance itself furnishes at once the motive and the means of restoring the investigation to the course, which good learning and a little sound judgement may, without much perplexity, discover.

There is, besides, another department of biblical criticism, of which our Translators scarcely ever thought. We mean the elucidation of Scriptural phraseology, by the numerous facts furnished by Travels in Palestine, Syria, Egypt, &c. and by the attention paid, within the last thirty years to the history, laws, religions, and customs of the Asiatic nations. The collections of Harmer, and the fragments appended to the recent Edition of Calmet, are convincing proofs that the instrumental means for understanding, and consequently for translating the Sacred Scriptures, are incomparably more abundant at present than they were two hundred years ago.

3. Were the means and opportunities, which King James's Translators actually possessed, employed in the best and fairest manner for the improvement and perfection of their great work?

This inquiry, also, we fear that we cannot answer in the affirmative. On looking over the list of translators, we feel some surprize that so few names occur that have the reputation of illustrious sholarship. There are symptoms, too many and too unequivocal, of an unworthy party spirit in the selection of persons, and in the arrangements prescribed. It was avowedly a leading object with the King, when he resolved on the measure, to make the new version an instrument of opposition to the Puritans, a body to whom the religious and political happiness of Britain is under indelible obligations. Hugh Broughton, though accused of visionary notions, and of a warmth and haughtiness of disposition which persecution is apt to engender in an ardent mind, was in all probability the most profound Hebrew and Rabbinical scholar in Christendom; he possessed a surprizingly extensive and accurate knowledge of Greek; he had already distinguished himself by numerous and learned publications on Biblical Criticism: he made an offer of his services to the King, but it was

* See the Review of Dr. A. Clarke's Edition of Harmer's ObservaMons, Vol. IV. p. 1104.

treated with contemptuous disregard, for he was suspected of Puritanism, and was odious to the cruel and oppressive Archbishop Bancroft. The third of the Injunctions, which his Majesty dictated to the translators, indicates the unfair spirit of which we complain: and there is evidence enough that the known predilections and the positive commands of the Royal Critic were dutifully honoured.

4. Did the translators use a becoming care and precision in the selection of English words and phrases; so that their terms should originally, and still, notwithstanding the lapse of two centuries, suggest the most proper and faithful idea of the original?

It would be absurd to expect that any translators could raise an impregnable rampart against the gradual wearings and innovations which time and usage effect in all spoken languages. The only method of obviating this inconvenience is, to apply a timely and temperate revision, as it may become necessary. But we should most strongly deprecate the removal of those venerable archaisms which add a solemn dignity to the vernacular Scriptures, except only where their retention leads to an erroneous construction. That many such instances do exist, is unquestionable. They produce, in some cases, a perplexing ambiguity; and, in some others, they can scarcely fail to suggest a wrong idea to the plain English reader.

For example: To take account of,' is now universally understood to denote the taking of a list, inventory, or description: but it is used in the sense of settling accounts, Matt. xviii. 23. "Worship', a word now restrained to the giving of divine honours, is frequently used to denote respectful civility of behaviour.-The verb 'deliver' in several places occurs, in an acceptation the very reverse of its constant use at present. How few among the poor and uninformed can be presumed to understand the following words, when they meet with them in their Bibles, in the significations which we have annexed, but which are undoubtedly the meaning of the translators:

Living' for Property, Notable' for Notorious,- Proverbs' for Parables, Lewdness' for Mischievousness, 'Plague' for Sickness of any kind,- Bishopric' (Acts i. 20.) for Office, Easter' for the Passover,— Carriages' for Burthens, -To occupy' for To trade,- Doubtful' for Anxious; &c. &c.

[ocr errors]

The translators have evidently studied to commit one fault, and that no little one. When a word is repeated in the same context, they have often exercised a systematical ingenuity in varying the translation of that word. This practice is not merely censurable for its puerility, but it leads to serious:



evils. The English reader feels warranted, or even compelled, to make a distinction in the sense, where he finds one in the phrase. It is to be feared that the mass of common readers are not seldom perplexed to find out the imagined difference between Justification by faith, and Justification through faith; Rom. iii. 30; between Living and Lively, 1 Pet. ii. 4, 5; between He is a debtor and He is guilty, Matt. xxiii. 16, 18; between the Ruler of the feast, and the Governor of the feast, John ii. 9. It is ever likely to enter the minds of the unlearned, that Areopagus and Mars' Hill (Acts xvii. 19, 22.) are one and the same place? or that the original word for wondered in Acts viii. 13. is the very same which had just before (vv. 9 and 11.) been rendered bewitched?"

[ocr errors]

Most of these examples we have extracted from Dr. Symonds's Observations, (4to. Cambridge, 1789) where a list may be found, much more ample than we could wish, of Words and Expressions Unmeaning, Equivocal, Vulgar, Harsh, Obsolete, and Ungrammatical; and all within the confined range of the Four Gospels and the Acts.

It has often been observed that the supplementary words of the translators, distinguished by being printed in, Italics, are in many instances needless and injurious to the sense. But it is not so generally known, that in the successive editions of the Bible the number of those supplementary words has been unwarrantably and surreptitiously increased to a large


That such blemishes should disfigure that translation of the best and most important of volumes, which has been and still is more read by thousands of the pious, than any other version, ancient or modern; that they should be acknowledged, by all competent judges, to exist; that they should have been so long and so often complained of; and yet, that there has been no great public act, from high and unimpeachable authority, for removing them, we are constrained to view as a disgrace to our national literature. We do not wish to see our common version, now become venerable by age and prescription, superseded by another entirely new; every desirable purpose would be satisfactorily attained by a faithful and well-conducted Revision. Whether there is much ground for expecting that our wishes, in this respect, will be realized, we cannot pretend to decide; but we know that they are supported by the wisest and best of our countrymen, as well contemporary as deceased. Two testimonies of this kind are so much in point, and so truly express our own views, that we think it right to adduce them. We refer to the honest Bishop Fisher, whose sentiments were adopted and confirmed by one

« PreviousContinue »