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I was equally surprised at your concurrence in the hope that the English version would never be amended. Our ears have become familiarized with the ardent wishes expressed by the most learned and judicious Biblical critics, that such a work might be undertaken ; and the imperfect knowledge which the less informed among us have of
cal matter, to bind up with the seventh. Let the reader mark what nonsense would be made of the document, if the word reprint were substituted for translation.
“ This investigation of the Board has placed that incomparable translation of King James on higher ground, in their estimation, than ever; and their hope is that every friend of Divine truth, using the English tongue, will seek to guard that translation, in future, from all emendations. No Bible, among any people, has ever had such sway over its readers, as that now referred to; a fact to be accounted for, in part at least, by the wise principles on which it was made. It was obviously prepared in a spirit of Christian compromise, as well as with great ability and faithfulness. It was so made that to this day sincere lovers of the Bible, of every religious creed, appeal to it as authority. How different would have been the result had it appeared in a sectarian garb. Other versions with different party costumes would then have followed; the confidence of the unlearned Christian in what he read would have been weakened ; and the rejecter of revelation would have rejoiced in finding a series of clashing versions, all claiming origin from the same inspired mind. Your Board cannot but express their solicitude that the wise and salutary example of those who prepared the English Bible, may be imitated by those who are called to the responsible work of making translations into the pagan tongues. While no unfaithful versions should be encouraged, none which misstate in any degree the mind of the Spirit, they should still be so made that all serious readers of every name can use them. The Bible should itself convey but one sentiment to any nation. And this desirable object is attainable by domesticating, in every tongue, those few Greek words about which good men of every modern age, at least, are unable to think alike. As the Greek language is that in which the New Testament was originally written, and as numerous words now in the English Bible were transferred from that tongue without inconvenience, your Board can see no solid reason for not making such transfers into all tongues as shall enable the friends of Divine truth to use the same version. They are happy to learn that this course has been adopted with perfect facility by the missionaries at the Sandwich Islands and other mission stations."
We object to but one word in this passage, the word “compromise,” which, on this side of the Atlantic, is usually employed in a bad sense, though it is not meant so by the American committee. We will only add, that if King James's translators had not used the word “baptize,” which is an æcumenical term throughout Christendom in all ages, they would probably have used the word "wash,” and not immerse or plunge ; for they themselves say in their Preface, “We have on the one side avoided the scrupulosity of the Puritans, who leave the old ecclesiastical words and betake them to other, as when they put washing for baptism, and congregation instead of church; as also on the other side we have shunned the obscurity of the Papists, in their azimes, tunicle, rational, holocaust, &c."
Our correspondent says that he is “at an utter loss ” to understand how a minute investigation respecting capital letters, stops, italics, and so forth, could lead to any conclusion as to the merits of the translation. But does he not perceive, that to ascertain these matters satisfactorily, there must be a most patient and laborious attention to innumerable points of biblical criticism ; for how can any man decide, for instance, when the word “ Lord” ought to be in capitals, and when in small letters (as meaning Jehovah or Adonai); or whether a particular stop best brings out the sense, or whether a word ought to be italicised or not, but by a careful and minute investigation of the original text?
the original Scriptures, leads many to feel the propriety of their judgment.
• When we consider,” says Bishop Marsh, Lect. p. 297, “ the immense accession which has been since made, both to our critical and philological apparatus; when we consider, that the whole mass of literature, commencing with the London Polyglot, and continued to Griesbach's Greek Testament, was collected subsequently to that period; when we consider that the most important sources of intelligence for the interpretation of the original Scriptures were likewise opened after that period, we cannot possibly pretend that our authorized version does not require amendment.” On this subject we need only to refer to the work of Archbishop Newcome, entitled, “ An Historical View of the English Biblical Translations; the expediency of revising by authority our present English Translation; and the means of executing such a revision.” Indeed Dr. Macknight, in the second section of his general Preface, goes so far as to say of our authorized version, “ It is by no means such a just representation of the inspired originals, as merits to be implicitly relied on for deter, mining the controverted articles of the Christian faith, and for quieting the dissensions which have rent the Church.” Dr. Kennicott says, “Then only shall we see the great expediency, or rather the necessity, of a more exact English Bible; when we reflect that the Hebrew text itself is now found to be wrong in many instances, some of which are of considerable consequence.” (Kennicott's Remarks, &c., p. 6.) Dr. Blayney “indulges the hope that the time is not far distant, when a select assembly of learned and judicious divines will be 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 for the public service. This has been most devoutly wished by many of the best friends to religion and our Established Church.” (Prelim. Discourse to Jeremiah.) “ The expediency," says Bishop Lowth,“ of setting forth the Holy Scriptures for the public use of our Church, to better advantage than as they appear in the present English translation, grows every day more and more evident.” And Archbishop Secker : “Novam Scripturæ versionem desiderari plurimis videtur : nempe ut populus Christianus ea luce fruatur, quæ favente Numine oraculis divinis per continuas virorum doctorum vigilias affulsit, hisce 150 annis proxime elapsis, ante quos confecta est Anglica Versio. Et quis refragitur honestissimæ petitioni?"
With testimonies such as these in favour of the amendment of the authorized version, it will be interesting to some of your readers at least, to learn the reason why a hope is expressed, that it may be guarded in future, not from injudicious, but “ from all emendations." The papers
in your recent Numbers, “On the Modern Impressions of the English Bible," while they shew the improvement which has been made by some of the deviations from the editio princeps, afford equal evidence of the need there is of a revised translation. For your correspondent acknowledges that the italics are in some places “ not a translation but a comment;" that some of them convey a sense very different from that intended by the Author ; and that, in these cases, "they ought not to be admitted." It surely cannot be right that such passages should continue to be circulated in a version declared to be without Note or Comment;" and that it should be set forth as an "incomparable translation," while it is, at the same time, known to be, in many respects, imperfect and defective ? (2.)
(2.) Our correspondent as much mistakes what we said, as what the American testimonialists said, when he confined to reprints what they predicated of translation; as he now extends to translation what we spoke of reprints. Where did we ever express a hope “ that the English version would never be amended ?" What we meant, and what we concluded the American committee meant, was, that whereas since the edition of 1611 there have been various alterations in the printing, which upon the whole are a decided improvement, we should not now go back to the old text, but adhere to the modern reprint. We have expressed our views upon the whole question so often during the discussion raised by Mr. Curtis's committee, as well as on many former occasions, and more recently at great length in the numerous papers on the English version in our volume for 1836 (see inter alia, p. 484, 586, 734,) that it were superfluous to re-state them at large. We remarked (1834, p. 365), after speaking of the improvements in the text since 1611, that notwithstanding they were not duly authorized, “to go back would be folly," though it is very right to re-examine them; as Dean Turton and others in England, and our transatlantic brethren also, have done ; but we added, “ A revision of the translation, if that should at any time be thought desirable, would be a perfectly distinct consideration. We do not suppose that the authorized translation is perfect, and ought never to be tevised, but we thank God it is as it is ; and most alarming to our minds would be the idea of any material change at the present moment.'
The charge that we would wilfully retain as the word of God what is not his word, is so serious, that our correspondent ought to have referred to the discussions above alluded to before he preferred it. As some of the readers of our New Series may not have former volumes at hand, we will quote enough to place the subject in what appears to us a just light; for there is much plausible sophistry abroad about a new translation, grounded upon exaggerated notions of the advances in biblical criticism, and rendered plausible by the assertion that to refuse it is to deny the people the pure waters of life, and to confine them to the muddy streams of antiquated versions. We observed (1836, p. 586):
“Our object, in our cursory remarks upon the Authorized Version, was certainly not to claim for it infallibility (and without infallibility there must, of course, be ample scope for revision and improvement), but merely' to ease tender consciences, and to repel unfounded cavils, by shewing, that, upon the whole, it is admirably executed, and is perhaps the best transfusion extant, into any language, ancient or modern, of the original words employed by the Holy Spirit.
“In considering practically the propriety of a public revision, respect must be had, not merely to the questión whether in every instance the text and renderings are accurate, but whether upon the whole, and under all the circumstances of the present moment, there is the least hope that Biblical scholars would agree as to what are errors, either in text or rendering, and what ought to be substituted for them. It were impious to say that any thing should be retained as the word of God which is not His word ; but the very point in discussion is, What is His word ? and in proposing a new translation, or a revision, it is a just and necessary inquiry, whether it is practicable to get a more correct version. Numerous writers have given rules, and suggested corrections; but how few of them have agreed among themselves, as to what ought to be changed, and in what manner ! Among the many hundreds of alterations which have been proposed, few or none have been generally accepted. An individual may very properly suggest any modification he thinks right; but in a public version, which is common property, no change ought to be made without a very general concurrence of intelligent opinion; and we do not think that such concurrence could at this moment be expected. Professor Scholefield and others have very properly suggested various Mr. Hinton says, that he believes no change in the practice of the English version has been even “thought of" by the Baptists. It is
improvements towards a revision, when the time is ripe for one; but many, even of what appear to us to be the most satisfactory amendments proposed by them, have been, and are, controverted. All scholars acknowledge that modern collations of the original text, Greek and Hebrew, and the advances made in Biblical criticism, have afforded materials for revision; but they are as far as ever from arriving at any general conclusion as to what that revision should lead to. Under these circumstances, can we venture to say that there is no bazard in a revision at the present moment? Can we dare to hope, that, upon the whole, a purer version would be drawn up; or that, if it were, it would be accepted by the various bodies of Christians who reverence the present, and find it admirably adapted for their use_though one may wish one text altered, and another another; but not to such an extent as to derogate from general edification, since each can notice and correct the few passages which he thinks might be better rendered? As the translation is not imposed as an article of faith, no person's conscience is bound by it; each may take or reject what he thinks proper ; but the common stock should not be touched without common consent, and that consent is not declared.
“At the time when the present version was set forth, the Bible had been in use in the vulgar tongue, deducting Henry VIII.'s vacillations and Mary's reign, not much more than half a century; and during that short time there had been so many translations that the people were not accustomed to any tixed reading : besides which, the Scriptures were not circulated by millions of copies as they now are, nor was their diction embedded in two centuries of the religious literature of all nations where the English language is spoken. Again, there was not such a multiplicity of contending sects as at present; nor was there any question as to the right and duty of the public authorities of the land to set forth a version (which Dissenters now argue it was unlawful for a King to do, unless he paid for it out of his own purse, or by private subscription). This version, therefore, went forth with a weight of influence which no version, however excellent, could at present command. Nor do we believe that a revised version would be generally accepted. There are in the French language several versions, but, none of them having come out under public authority, each man selects his own, and the want of uniformity is found to be a serious evil. In this condition we fear the whole of the English-speaking portion of the world would be, if we discarded the present version ; for there is no reasonable hope that such a revision could be effected as would be generally acceptable.”
Again, at p. 734, we argued to the same effect in reply to the very remarks of the right reverend translator of Michaelis, quoted by our correspondent; concluding our statement with a still unanswered challenge.
“The most faulty translation that ever appeared in our language, if we except versions of a directly Socinianized character, would be better than the best that could be framed in the school of such perverted scholars as Michaelis. A verbal error is nothing to systematically eliding a miracle ; and it were better to err, if err we must, with the unlearned peasant who finds Christ in some text which does not primarily refer to him, than to become infected with the boasted rationalism which sets aside the spirituality of Scripture, and cools down the glowing ardour of Holy Writ to the frigid temperament of an unevangelical philosophism; for to this issue would matters have come, if, some quarter of a century ago, the demand for a new version had been complied with. Nor, judging from such specimens as we have seen of modern original translations, even where there was no corrupt bias, is there any temptation to exchange them for our own current version. We never saw even a single chapter which appeared to us, as a whole, better than the current reading. An occasional phrase might be improved, or an obscurity avoided ; but some doubtful rendering, some refinement of criticism, some tampering with dictionaries and grammars in order to avoid an apparent difficulty or contradiction, some harsh obtrusion of modern phraseology and “ink-horn” terms, soon mars our pleasure; and the best part of the chapter is usually that which follows the accustomed version ; which, in nineteen words out of twenty, even these “original” translators must do, to be tolerable: so that such a version as would be made by a translator who had never read a single page of our current copies, would not be endurable. If any ripe Biblical scholar will send us a single chapter, from any English version extant,
a little singular that he should have made such an assertion at the very time when many of his brethren, in America, and some of them in this country, are thinking seriously upon this very subject. Some of them “think," as you suggest they ought to think, that “the English authorized version ought to be altered," because it is “sectarian;
more especially because the word baptize, which Mr. Hinton supposes might be regarded by the Baptists as sufficiently Anglicised for their purpose, assuredly does not, to the popular ear, convey the idea of immersion." They cannot in conscience consent to the use of the untranslated word in India, and they believe that the word baptize should " be expunged from all English Bibles," and a translation of it "inserted in its place.” (3.)
SUSCEPTIBILITY IS NOT VIRTUE.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. I have been led, in contemplating the literature of the present day, its character and influences upon the public mind, to the study of one of its grandest utterances, Fiction in its varied forms of novels and theatrical representations; and there is one thing in particular which
either of the whole or of a portion of Scripture_including even the highly valuable labonrs of Dodderidge, Macnight, Lowth, Horsley, Stuart, and many others—which he would substitute for our vernacular text, we will present it to our readers ; pledging ourselves to shew, that, as a whole, it is not superior to the Authorized Version; and that its chief renderings, so far as they are true to the original, and expressed in plain idiomatic English, are based upon it.
“We of course admit, that, as nothing is perfect in this imperfect world, our English Bible is not so; and we shall be glad to see a revision of it, so soon as we can reasonably hope that a revision will be attended with real and generally acknowledged improvement: but, our expectations on that score not being sanguine, we think it best for the present to keep the common property un. touched ; leaving each scholar, and critic, and even each vernacular reader, with such lights as he can collect, to exercise his own judgment upon disputed renderings."
Such have always been our own views; and with regard to the American committee, we think they mean much the same thing. Indeed, as before remarked, our impression was that they intended only that alterations should be guarded against in printing the translation ; but upon reconsidering their words, which we are much obliged to our correspondent for leading us to do, we think they go to the whole question of revision under present circumstances, and we cordially rejoice in their concurrence.
(3.) We trust that the above frank statement of the views of the Baptists will operate as a salutary warning to their fellow Christians. We protest, however, against our correspondent's assertion, that we stated that the Baptists ought to think that the English version requires alteration, as being sectarian. We think it very sectarian of them to think so. What we said was, that if they cannot in conscience use the word baptize in India, why do they use it at home and why, instead of attacking the Bible Society, do they not attack the English version? This, it seems, the more rash among them are now prepared to do. We have no fear of the experiment. We trust also that their so doing will at length open the eyes of the Religious Tract Society to their designs.