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them. The reverse would take place if every faction had a standard of its own, so prepared as to be clearly decisive in supporting all its favorite dogmas, and in condemning those of every other faction. It may be said, that the original would still be a sort of common standard, whose authority would be acknowledged by them all. It no doubt would ; but when we consider how small a proportion of the people, of any party, are qualified to read the original, and how much it would be the business of the leading partisans, in every sect, to preoccupy the minds of the people in regard to the fidelity of their own version, and the partiality of every other; we cannot imagine that the possession of a standard, to which hardly one in a thousand could have recourse, would have a sensible effect upon the party. Of so much consequence it is in a translator to banish all party considerations; to forget as far as possible that he is connected with any party; and to be ever on his guard, lest the spirit of the sect absorb the spirit of the Christian, and he appear to be more the follower of some human teacher, a Calvin, an Arninius, a Socinus, a Pelagius, an Arius, or an Athanasius, than of our only divine and rightful teacher, Christ.
15. Some allowance is no doubt to be made for the influence of polemic theology, the epidemic disease of those times wherein most of the versions which I have been examining were composed. The imaginations of men were heated, and their spirits imbittered with continual wranglings, not easily avoidable in their circumstances; and those who were daily accustomed to strain every expression of the sacred writers in their debates one with another, were surely not the fittest for examining them with that temper and coolness which are necessary in persons who would approve theinselves unbiassed translators. Besides, criticism, especially sacred criticism, was then but in its infancy. Many improvements, through the united labors of the learned in different parts of Europe, have since accrued to that science. Much of our scholastic controversy on abstruse and undeterminable questions, well characterized by the apostle, 1 Tim. 6: 3, etc. “ strifes of words, which minister not to godly edifying,” are now happily laid aside. It may be hoped, that some of the blunders into which the rage of disputation has formerly betrayed interpreters, may with proper care be avoided ; and that the dotage about questions which gender contention, (questions than which nothing can be more hollow or unsound),* being over, some will dare to speak, and others bear to bear, the things which become sound doctrine, the doctrine according to godliness.
* See an excellent sermon on this subject, by my learned colleague, Dr. Gerard, vol. ij. p. 129.
OF THE REGARD WHICH, IN TRANSLATING SCRIPTURE INTO ENG
LISH, IS DUE TO THE PRACTICE OF FORMER TRANSLATORS, PARTICULARLY OF THE AUTHORS OF THE LATIN VULGATE, AND OF THE COMMON ENGLISH TRANSLATION.
THE REGARD DUE TO THE VULGATE.
In the former Dissertation* I took occasion to consider what are the chief things to be attended to by every translator, but more especially a translator of holy writ. They appeared to be the three following : first, to give a just and clear representation of the sense of his original; secondly, to convey into his version as much of his author's spirit and manner as the genius of the language which he writes will admit ; thirdly, as far as may be, in a consistency with the two other ends, to express himself with purity in the language of the version. If these be the principal objects, as in my opinion they are, they will supply us with a good rule for determining the precise degree of regard which is due to former translators of reputation, whose works may have had influence sufficient to give a currency to the terms and phrases they have adopted. When the terms and phrases employed by former interpreters are well adapted for conveying the sense of the author, when they are also suited to his manner, and do no violence to the idiom of the language of the translation, they are justly preferred to other words equally expressive and proper, but which, not having been used by former interpreters of name, are not current in that application. This, in my opinion, is the furthest we can go, without making greater account of translations than of the original, and showing more respect to the word and idioms of fallible men, than to the instructions given by the unerring Spirit of God.
2. If, in respect of any of the three ends above-mentioned, former translators, on the most impartial examination, appear to have failed, shall we either copy or imitate their errors ? When the question is thus put in plain terms, I do not know any critic that is hardy enough to answer in the affirmative. But we no sooner descend to particulars, than we find that those very persons who gave us reason to believe that they agree with us in the general principles, so totally differ in the application, as to show themselves disposed to sacrifice all those primary objects in translating, to the phraseology of a favorite translator. Even Father Simon could admit that "it would be wrong to imitate the faults of Saint Jerom, and to pay greater deference to his authority than to the truth."* How far the verdicts he has pronounced on particular passages, in the several versions criticised by him, are consistent with this judgment, shall be shown in the sequel.
* Diss. X. Part i.
3. But before I proceed further, it may not be amiss to make some remarks on what appears to have been Simon's great scope and design in the Critical History; for, in the examination of certain points strenuously maintained by him, I shall chiefly be employed in this Dissertation. His opinions in what regards biblical criticism have long had great influence on the judgment of the learned, both Popish and Protestant. His profound erudition in oriental matters, joined with uncommon penetration, and I may add, strong appearances of moderation, have procured him on this subject a kind of superiority, which is hardly disputed by any. Indeed, if I had not read the answers made to those who attacked his work, which are subjoined to his Critical History, and commonly, if I mistake not, thought to be his, though bearing different names,
1 should not have spoken so dubiously of his title to the virtue of moderation. But throughout these tracts, I acknowledge, there reigns much of the illiberal spirit of the controvertist. None of the little arts, however foreign to the subject in debate, by which contempt and odium are thrown upon an adversary, are omitted. And we may say with truth, that by assuming too high an ascendant over Le Clerc and his other antagonists, he has degraded himself below them, further, I believe, than by any other method he could have so easily effected.
4. In regard to Simnon's principal work, which I have so often had occasion to mention, The Critical History of the Old and New Testaments, its merit is so well known and established in the learned world, as to render it superfluous now to attempt its character. I shall only animadvert a little on what appear to me, after repeated perusals, to be the chief objects of the author, and on his manner of pursuing these objects. It will scarcely admit a doubt, that his primary scope, throughout the whole performance, is to represent Scripture as in every thing of moment either unin
* En effet, il [Paguin) auroit eu tort d'imiter les fautes de St Jerôme, et de deferer plus à l'autorité de ce père, qu'à la verié.--Hist. Crit. du Vieux Testament, liv. ii. ch. 20.
telligible or ambiguous. His view in this is sufficiently glaring; it is to convince his readers, that, without the aid of tradition, whereof the church is both the depository and the interpreter, no one article of Christianity can, with evidence sufficient to satisfy a rational inquirer, be deduced from Scripture. A second aim, but in subordination to the former, is to bring his readers to such an acquiescence in the Latin Vulgate, which he calls the translation of the church, as to consider the deviations from it in modern versions, from whatever cause they spring, attention to the meaning or to the letter of the original, as erroneous and indefensible.
The manner in which the first of these aims has been pursued by him, I took occasion to consider in a former Dissertation,* to which I must refer my reader ; I intend now to inquire a little into the methods by which he supports this secondary aim, the faithfulness of the Vulgate, and, if not its absolute perfection, its superiority at least to every other attempt that has been made in the western churches towards translating the Bible. This inquiry naturally falls in with the first part of my subject in the present Dissertation, in which I hope to show, to the satisfaction of the reader, that he might with equal plausibility, bave maintained the superiority of that version over every translation which ever shall or can be made of holy writ.
5. From the view which I have given of his design with respect to the Vulgate, one would naturally expect that he must rate very highly the verdict of the council of Trent in favor of that version that he must derive its excellence, as others of his order have done, from immediate inspiration, and conclude it to be infallible. Had this been his method of proceeding, his book would have excited litile attention from the beginning, except from those whose minds were pre-engaged on the same side by bigotry or interest, and would probably, long ere now, have been forgotten. What person of common sense in these days ever thinks of the ravings of Harduin the Jesuit, who, in opposition to antiquity and all the world, maintained, that the apostles and evangelists wrote in Latin ; that
* Diss. III. sect. 1-17.
+ Such as, that, except Cicero's works, Pliny's Natural History, the Georgics, Horace's Epistles, and a few others, all the ancient classics, Greek and Latin, are the forgeries of monks in the 13th century, Virgil's Æneid is not excepted. This, according to bim, was a fable invented for exhibiting the triumph of the church over the synagogue. Troy was Jerusalem, in a nilar manner reduced to ashes after a siege. Æneas carrying his gods into Italy, represented St. Peter travelling to Romne to preach the gospel to the Romans, and there lay the foundations of the hierarchy. I heartily join in Boileau's sentiment (for of him it is told, if I remember right), “I should like much to have conversed with friar Virgil, and friar Livy, and friar Horace ; for we see no such friars now.”
the Vulgate was the original, and the Greek New Testament a version, and that consequently the latter ought to be corrected by the former, not the former by the latter, with many other absurdities, to which Michaelis has done too much honor in attempting to refute them in his lectures ?
But Simon's method was in fact the reverse. The sentence of the council, as was hinted formerly, he has explained in such a manner as to denote no more than would be readily admitted by every moderate and judicious Protestant. The inspiration of the translator he disclaims, and consequently the infallibility of the ver
He ascribes no superiority to it above the original. This superiority was but too plainly implied in the indecent comparison which Cardinal Ximenes made of the Vulgate, as printed in his edition (the Complutensian) between the Hebrew and the Septuagint, to our Lord crucified between two thieves, making the Hebrew represent the hardened thief, and the Greek the penitent. Simon, on the contrary, shows no disposition to detract from the merit either of the original or of any ancient version ; though not inclinable to allow more to the editions and transcripts we are at present possessed of, than the principles of sound criticism appear to warrant. He admits, that we have yet no perfect version of holy writ, and does not deny that a better may be made than any extant.* In short, nothing can be more equitable than the general maxims he establishes. It is by this method that he insensibly gains upon his readers, insinuates himself into their good graces, and brings them, before they are aware, to repose an implicit confidence in his discernment, and to admit, without examining, the equity of his particular decisions. Now all these decisions are made artfully to conduct them to one point, which he is the surer to carry as he never openly proposes it, namely, to consider the Vulgate as the standard, by a conformity to which the value of every other version ought to be estimated.
6. In consequence of this settled purpose, not declared in words, but without difficulty discovered by an attentive reader, he finds
every other version which he examines either too literal or too loose in rendering almost every passage which he specifies, according as it is more or less so than that wbich he has tacitly made to serve as the common measure for them all. And though it is manifest, that even the most literal are not more blamably literal in any place than the Vulgate is in other places; or even the most loose translations more wide of the sense than in some instances that version may be shown to be; he bas always the address to bring his readers (at least on their first reading his book) to believe with him, that the excess, of whatever kind it be, is in the other versions,