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ty, for Christ's birth, advent, for his coming, epiphany, for his manifestation to the Magians by the star, do very well in the titles of the several divisions in the Book of Common Prayer, being there a sort of proper names for denoting the whole circumstantiated event, or rather the times destined for the celebration of the festivals, and are convenient, as they save circumlocution ; but would by no means suit the simple and familiar phraseology of the sacred historians, who never affect uncommon, and especially learned words. Thus, in the titles of the books of Moses, the Greek names of the Septuagint, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, are not unfitly preserved in modern translations, and are become the proper names of the books. But where the Greek word genesis, which signifies generation, occurs in that ancient version of the book so named, it would have been very improper to transfer it into a modern translation, and to say, for example, “ This is the genesis of the heavens and the earth," Gen. 2: 4. In like manner, exodus, which signifies departure, answers very well as a proper name of the second book, which begins with an account of the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt; but it would be downright pedantry to introduce the term exodus, exody, or exod, (for in all these shapes some have affected to usher it into the language), into the body of the history.
I remember but one passage in the New Testament, in which our translators have preferred a scholastic to the vulgar name, where both signified the same thing ; so that there was no plea from necessity. The expression alluded to is, “To whom he showed himself alive after his passion,” Acts 1: 3. Passion, in ordinary speech, means solely a fit of anger, or any violent commotion of the mind. It is only in theological or learned use that it means the sufferings of Christ. The evangelist wrote to the people in their own dialect. Besides, as he wrote for the conviction of infidels, as well as for the instruction of believers, it is not natural to suppose that he would use words or phrases in a particular acceptation, which could be known only to the latter. sion, uera to natsiv avrov, which is literally, after his sufferings, is plain and unambiguous, and might have been said of any man who had undergone the like fate. Such is constantly the way of the sacred writers; nor is any thing in language more repugnant to their manner than the use of what is called consecrated words. I admit at the same time, that post passionem suam, in the Vulgate, is unexceptionable, because it suits the common acceptation of the word passio in the Latin language. Just so, the expression accipiens calicem, in the Vulgate, Matt. 26: 27, is natural and proper. Calix is a common name for cup, and is so used in several places of that version; whereas, taking the chalice, as the Rhemish translators render it, presents us with a technical term not strictly proper,
His express inasmuch as it suggests the previous consecration of the vessel to a special purpose by certain ceremonies, an idea pot suggested by either the Greek totolov or the Latin calix. I do not mean, however, to controvert the propriety of adopting an unfamiliar word, when necessary for expressing what is of an unfamiliar, or perhaps singular nature. Thus, to denote the change produced on our Saviour's body, when on the mount with the three disciples, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, a more apposite word than transfigured could not have been found. The English word transformed, which comes nearest, and is more familiar than the other, would have expressed too much.
10. To conclude, the reasons which appear sufficient to justify a change of the words and expressions of even the most respectable predecessors in the business of translating are, when there is ground to think that the meaning of the author can be either more exactly or more perspicuously rendered ; and when his manner, that is, when the essential qualities of his style, not the sound or the etymology of his words, can be more adequately represented. For to one or other of these, all the above cases will be found reducible.
AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT IS ATTEMPTED IN THE TRANSLATION OF THE
GOSPELS, AND IN THE NOTES HERE OFFERED TO THE PUBLIC.
The things which will be treated in this Dissertation may, for the sake of order, be classed under the five following heads :-The first comprehends all that concerns the essential qualities of the version ; the second, what relates to the readings (where there is a diversity of reading in the original) which are here preferred; the third contains a few remarks on the particular dialect of our language employed in this version; the fourth, what regards the outward form in which it is exhibited ; and the fifth, some account of the notes with which it is accompanied.
THE ESSENTIAL QUALITIES OF THE VERSION. The three principal objects to be attended to, by every translator, were explained in a former Dissertation. It is perhaps unnecessary to say, that to thein I have endeavored to give a constant attention. It is not however to be dissembled, that even those principal objects themselves sometimes intersere. And though an order, in respect of importance, when they are compared together, has been also laid down, which will in many cases deterinine the preference, it will not always determine it. Í may find a word, for example, which hits the sense of the author precisely, but which, not being in a familiar use, is obscure. Though, therefore, in itself a just expression of the sentiment, it may not clearly convey the sentiment to many readers, because they are unacquainted with it. It is, therefore, but ill fitted to represent the plain and familiar manner of the sacred writers, or, indeed, to answer the great end of translation, to convey distinctly to the reader the meaning of the original. Yet there may be a hazard, on the other hand, that a term more perspicuous, but less apposite, may convey somewhat of a different meaning—an error more to be avoided than the other. Recourse to circumlocution is sometimes necessary; for the terms of po two languages can be made to correspond ; but frequent recourse to this mode of rendering effaces the native simplicity found in the original, and in some measure disfigures the work. Though, therefore, in general, an obscure is preferable to an unfaithful translation, there is a degree of precision, in the correspondence of the terms, which an interpreter ought to dispense with, rather than involve his version in such darkness as will render it useless to the generality of readers. This shows sufficiently, that no rule will universally answer the translator's purpose, but that he must often carefully balance the degrees of perspicuity on one hand against those of precision on the other, and determine, from the circumstances of the case, concerning their comparative importance. I acknowledge, that in several instances the counterpoise may be so equal, that the most judicious interpreters may be divided in opinion ; nay, the same interpreter may hesitate long in forming a decision, or even account it a matter of indifference to which side he inclines.
* Diss. X, Part i.
2. I shall only say in general, that however much a word may be adapted to express the sense, it is a strong objection against the use of it, that it is too fine a word, too learned, or too modern. For though, in the import of the term, there should be a suitableness to the principal idea intended to be conveyed, there is an unsuitableness in the associated or secondary ideas which never fail to accompany such terms. These tend to fix on the evangelists the imputation of affecting elegance, depth in literature or science, or, at least, a modish and flowery phraseology ; than which nothing can be more repugnant to the genuine character of their style—a style eminently natural, simple, and familiar. The sentiment of Jaques le Fevre d'Estaples,* which shows at once his good taste and knowledge of the subject, is here entirely apposite : “ What many think elegance is, in God's account, inelegance, and painted words.”
3. On the other hand, a bad effect is also produced by words which are too low and vulgar. The danger here is not indeed so great, provided there be nothing ludicrous in the expression, which is sometimes the case with terms of this denomination. When things themselves are of a kind which gives few occasions of introducing the mention of them into the conversation of the higher ranks, and still fewer of naming them in books, their names are considered as partaking in the meanness of the use, and of the things signified. But this sort of vulgarity seems not to have been regarded by the inspired authors. When there was a just occasion to speak of the thing, they appear never to have been ashamed to employ the name by which it was commonly distinguished. They did not recur, as modern delicacy prompts us to do, to periphrasis, unusual or figurative expressions, but always adopted such terms as most readily suggested themselves. There is nothing more indelicate than an unseasonable display of delicacy; for which reason, the naked simplicity wherewith the sacred penmen express themselves on particular subjects, has much more modesty in it than the artificial, but transparent disguises, which on like occasions would be employed by modern writers.*
* An old French commentator, who published a version of the Gospels into French in 1523: His words are, “ Ce que plusieurs estiment éléo gance, est inélégance et parole fardée devant Dieu.”
A certain correctness of taste, as well as acuteness of discernment, taught a late ingenious author (Rousseau) to remark this wonderful union of plainness and chastity in the language of the Bible, which a composer
of these days, in any European tongue, would in vain attempt to imitate. Yet it is manifest, that it is not to justness of taste, but to purity of mind in the sacred authors, that this happy singularity in their writings ought to be ascribed. This, however, is an evidence, that they did not consider it as mean or unbecoming to call low or common things by their common names.
But there are other sorts of vulgarisms in language with which they are never chargeable—the use of such terms as we call cant words, which belong peculiarly to particular professions or classes of men ; and contemptuous or ludicrous expressions, such as are always accompanied with ideas of low mirth and ridicule.
4. Of both the extremes in language above-mentioned I shall give examples from an anonymous English translator in 1729, whose version, upon the whole, is the most exceptionable of all I am acquainted with in any language; and yet it is but doing justice to the author to add, that, in rendering some passages, he has been more fortunate than much better translators. For brevity's sake I
I can sca
ely give a better illustration of this remark than in the correction proposed by Dr. Delany, of the phrase " him that pisseth against the wall,” which occurs sometimes in the Old Testament, and which, he thinks, should be changed into him that watereth against the wall. I am surprised that a correction like this should have the approbation of so excellent a writer as the Bishop of Waterford. (See the preface to his Version of the Minor Prophets.) To me the latter expression is much more exceptionable than the former. The former may be compared to the simplicity of a savage who goes naked without appearing to know it, or ever thinking of clothes; the other is like the awkward and unsuccessful attempt of an European to hide the nakedness of which, by the very attempt, he shows himself to be both conscious and ashamed. The same offensive idea is suggested by the word which Delany proposes, as is conveyed by the common term ; but it is suggested in so affected a manner, necessarily fixes a reader's attention upon it, and shows it to have been particularly thought of by the writer. Can any critic seriously think that more is necessary in this case than to say, Every male ?