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standing is exercised “ to discern the things of the Spirit.” It is to such, therefore, in a particular manner, that whatever is written in the symbolic style in the New Testament is addressed. Our Lord, to distinguish such from the unthinking multitude, calls them those who have ears to hear ; “Whoso hath ears to hear," he says, “ let him hear," Matt. 11:15. 13: 9. Mark 4: 9. Luke 8:8. The same expression is also used in the Apocalypse, 2: 7, 11, 17, 29), a book of prophecies. And it deserves to be attended to, that Jesus Christ never employs these words in the introduction or the conclusion of any plain moral instructions, but always after some parable, or prophetic declarations figuratively expressed. Now, it is with the literal sense only that the translator, as such, is concerned. For the literal sense ought invariably to be conveyed into the version where, if you discover the antitype or mystical sense, it must -be, though not through the same words, through the same emblems, as you do in the original.
This also holds in translating allegory, apologue, and parable. A man may render them exactly into another tongue, who has no apprehension of the figurative sense. Who can doubt that
fable of Æsop or Phædrus, for example, may be translated with as much justness by one who has not been told, and does not so much as guess the moral, as by one who knows it perfectly? whereas the principal concern of the expounder is to discover the figurative import. In the New Testament, indeed, there is only one book, the Apocalypse, written entirely in the prophetic style : and it must be allowed that that book may be accurately translated by one who has no apprehension of thes piritual meaning. However, in the greater part both of the historical and of the epistolary writings, there are prophecies interspersed. Besides, some knowledge in the diction and manner of the Prophets is necessary for the better apprehension of the application made in the New Testament of the prophecies of the Old, and the reasonings of the apostles in regard to those prophecies. Indeed it may be affirmed in general, that for translating justly what is of a mixed character, where the emblematic is blended with the historical, some knowledge of the mystic applications is more essential, than for translating unmixed prophecy, allegory, or parable.
6. I shall mention as the cause of a fifth difficulty in the examination, and consequently in the right interpretation of the Scriptures, that, before we begin to study them critically, we have been accustomed to read them in a translation, whence we have acquired a habit of considering many ancient and oriental terms, as perfectly equivalent to certain words in modern use in our own language, by which the other have been commonly rendered. And this habit, without a considerable share of knowledge, attention, and discerninent, is almost never perfectly to be surmounted. What makes the difficulty still the greater is, that when we begin to become acquainted with other versions besides that into our mother-tongue, suppose Latin, French, Italian, these, in many instances, instead of correcting, serve but to confirm the effect: For in these translations we find the same words in the original uniformly rendered by words which we know to correspond exactly, in the present use of those tongues, to the terms employed in our own translation.
I hope I shall not be so far misunderstood by any as to be supposed to insinuate, by this remark, that people ought to delay reading the Scriptures in a translation till they be capable of consulting the original. This would be to debar the greater part of mankind from the use of thein altogether, and to give up the many immense advantages derived from the instructions contained in the very worst versions of that book, for the sake of avoiding a few mistakes, comparatively small, into which one may be drawn even by the best. A child must not be hindered from using his legs in walking, on pretence that if he be allowed to walk it will be impossible always to secure him from falling. My intention in remarking this difficulty is to show, first, That those early studies, however proper and even necessary in Christians, are nevertheless attended with this inconveniency, that, at a time when we are incompetent judges, prepossessions are insensibly formed on mere habit or association, which afterward, when the judgment is more mature, cannot easily be surmounted ; 2dly, To account in part, without recurring to obscurity in the original, for the greater difficulty said to be found in explaining holy writ then in expounding other works of equal antiquity; and, 3dly, To awake a proper circumspection and caution in every one, who would examine the Scriptures with that attention which ihe ineffable importance of the subject merits.
But, in order to set the observation itself in relation to this fifth difficulty in the strongest light, it would be necessary to trace the origin, and give, as it were, the history of some terms which have become technical amongst ecclesiastical writers, pointing out the changes which in a course of ages they have insensibly undergone. When alterations are produced by slow degrees, they always escape the notice of the generality of people, and sometimes even of the more discerning. For a term once universally understood to be equivalent to an original term whose place it occupies, in the translation, will naturally be supposed to be still equivalent, by those who do not sufficiently attend to the variations in the meanings of words, which the tract of time, and the alterations in notions and customs thence arising, have imperceptibly introduced. Sometimes etymology, too, contributes to favor the deception. Is there one of a thousand, even among the readers of the original, who entertains the smallest suspicion that the words, blasphemy, heresy, mystery, schism, do not convey to moderns precisely the same ideas which the Greek words, βλασφημία, αιρεσις, μυστήριον, σχίσμα, in the New Testament, conveyed to Christians in the times of the apostles? Yet that these Greek and English words are far from corresponding perfectly,
I shall take an occasion of evincing afterward.* The same thing may be affirmed of several other words, and even phrases, which retain their currency on religious subjects, though very much altered in their signification.
7. The sixth and last difficulty, and perhaps the greatest of all, arises from this, that our opinions on religious subjects are commonly forined, not indeed before we read the Scriptures, but before we have examined them. The ordinary cousequence is, that men afterward do not search the sacred oracles in order to find out the truth, but in order to find what may authorize their own opinions. Nor is it, indeed, otherwise to be accounted for, that the several partisans of such an endless variety of adverse sects (although men who, on other subjects, appear neither weak nor unfair in their researches) should all with so much confidence maintain, that the dictates of holy writ are perfectly decisive in support of their favorite dogmas, and in opposition to those of every antagonist. Nor is there, in the whole history of mankind, a clearer demonstration than this, of the amazing power of prejudice and prepossession.
It may be said, that interest often warps men's judgment, and gives them a bias toward that side of a question in which they find their account; nay, it may even be urged further, that, in cases in which it has no influence on the head, it may seduce the heart, and excite strenuous combatants in defence of a system which they themselves do not believe. I acknowledge that these suppositions are not of things impossible. Actual instances may be found of both. But, for the honor of human nature, I would wish to think that those of the second class now mentioned are far from being numerous. But, whatever be in this, we certainly have, in cases wherein interest is entirely out of the question, nay, wherein it appears evidently on the opposite side, irrefragable proofs of the power of prepossession, insomuch that one would almost imagine that, in matters of opinion, as in matters of property, a right were constituted merely by preoccupancy. This serves also to account, in part, for the great diversity of sentiments in regard to the sense of Scripture, without recurring to the common plea of the Romanists, its obscurity and ambiguity.
8. Thus the principal difficulties to be encountered in the study of biblical criticism are six, arising 1st, from the singularity of Jewish customs ; 2dly, from the poverty (as appears) of their native language ; 3dly, from the fewness of the books extant in it; 4thly, from the symbolical style of the prophets ; 5thly, from the excessive influence which a previous acquaintance with translations may have occasioned ; and, 6thly, from prepossessions, in what way soever acquired, in regard to religious tenets.
OF THE STYLE OF THE SCRIPTURE HISTORY, PARTICULARLY THE
GOSPELS. -ITS PERSPICUITY DEFENDED AGAINST THE OBJEC-
From what has been evinced in the preceding discourse, it will not improbably be concluded, that the style of holy writ, both of the New Testainent and of the Old, of the bistorical books as well as of the prophetical and the argumentative, must be generally obscure, and often ainbiguous. So much, and with so great plausibility and acuteness, has been written by some learned men in proving this point, that were a person, before he ever read the Scriptures, either in the original or in a translation, to consider every topic they have employed, and to observe how much, in regard to the truth of such topics, is admitted by those who cannot entirely acquiesce in the conclusion, he would infallibly despair of reaping any instruction, that could be depended on, from the study of the Bible, and would be almost tempted to pronounce it altogether unprofitable.
What can exceed the declarations to this purpose of the celebrated Father Simon, a very eminent critic, and probably the greatest oriental scholar of his age ? “We ought,” says he,* "to regard it as unquestionable, that the greater part of the Hebrew words are equivocal, and that their signification is entirely uncertain. For this reason, when a translator employs in his version the interpretation which he thinks the best, he cannot say absolutely that that interpretation expresses truly what is contained in the original. There is always ground to doubt whether the sense which be gives to the Hebrew words be the true sense, because there are other meanings which are equally probable.” Again,t “ They (the Protestants] do
Hist. Crit. du V. T. liv. ii. ch. 2. On doit supposer comme une chose constante, que la plus-part des mots Hebreux sont equivoques, et que leur signification est entièrement incertaine. C'est pourquoi lors qu'un traducteur einploye dans sa version l'interpretation qu'il juge la meilleure, on ne peut pas dire absolument que cette interpretation exprime au vrai ce qui est contenu dans l'original. Il y toujours lieu de douter si le sens qu'on donne aux mots Hebreux est le veritable, puisqu'il y en a d'autres qui ont autant de probabilité.
† Hist. Crit. du V. T. liv. iii. ch. 4. Ils n'ont pas pris gårde, que même
not consider, that even the most learned Jews doubt almost everywhere concerning the proper signification of the Hebrew words; and that the Hebrew lexicons composed by them commonly contain nothing but uncertain conjectures.” Now if matters were really as here represented, there could be no question that the study of Scripture would be mere loss of time, and that, whatever might be affirmed of the ages of the ancient prophets, it could not be said at present, that there is any revelation extant of what preceded the times of the apostles : For a revelation which contains nothing but matter of doubt and conjecture, and from which I cannot raise even a probable opinion that is not counterbalanced by opinions equally probable, is no revelation at all. How defective, on this hypothesis, the New Testament would be, which every-where presupposes the knowledge and belief of the Old; and in inany places how inexplicable without that knowledge, it is needless to mention.
2. It would not be easy to account for exaggerations so extravagant, in an author so judicious, and commonly so moderate, but by observing, that his immediate aim, whereof he never loses sight throughout his whole elaborate performance, is to establish TRADITION as the foundation of all the knowledge necessary for the faith and practice of a Christian. Scripture, doubtless, has its difficulties; but we know at least what, and where it is : As for tradition, what it is, how it is to be sought, and where it is to be found, it has never yet been in the power of any man to explain, to the satisfaction of a reasonable inquirer. We are already in possession of the former, if we can but expound it: We cannot say so much of the latter, which, like Nebuchadnezzar's dreain, we have first to find, and then to interpret.
I am not ignorant that Simon's principal aim has been represented by some of his own communion, particularly Bossuet, bishop of Meaux, as still more hostile to religion than from the account above given we should conclude it to be. That celebrated and subtle disputant did not besitate to maintain, that, under the specious pretext of supporting the church, this priest of the Oratory undermined Christianity itself; a proceeding which, in the end, must prove fatal to an authority that has no other foundation to rest upon. The bishop accordingly insists, that the general tendency of his argument, as appears in every part of the work, is to insinuate a refined Socipianism, if not an universal skepticism. Certain it is, that the ambiguous manner often adopted by our critical historian, and the address with which he sometimes eludes the expeciation of his readers, add not a little probability to the reasoning of his acute antag
les plus sçavans Juifs doutent presque par-tout de la signification propre des mots Hebreux, et que les dictionnaires qu'ils ont composés de la langue Hebraique ne contiennent le plus souvent que de conjectures incertaines,