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In his preface to “ The Epistles of Paul in Modern English," Professor Stevens, of Yale University says he has “sought to reproduce the thought of Paul's epistles, and the kindred letter to the Hebrews, in the language of to-day. The terms of our English versions have purposely been avoided, so far as practicable, because their very familiarity is often a hindrance to the apprehension of the meaning. I have hoped to awaken a fresh interest in the Apostle's thoughts by breaking up the form in which he expressed them, and by setting forth his ideas in a free modern rendering.
The reading of a "literal,' or verbal, translation of Paul's letters is attended by many difficulties. The Apostle's carelessness of form, his vehemence in utterance, his use of complex figures, and his involved and elliptical style, are among the peculiarities which often render his meaning obscure. Now a translation can only represent in English words the form of the original. It is debarred not only from introducing explanatory words, but even, to a great extent, from the use of free idiomatic English renderings. A literal translation is a kind of Anglicized Greek text. It necessarily reproduces, in large part, the idioms of the Greek language in English words, and taxes the mind of the reader by compelling him to grapple with all the perplexing irregularities of the Apostle's style.
It has seemed to me that a paraphrase, or thoughttranslation, which purposely disregards the form, and
expresses in idiomatic English the substance of the Apostle's thought, would greatly aid the understanding of our popular versions by presenting the meaning in a fresh setting, by disentangling, in some instances, the idea from its figurative form, by expressing the implied thought of many passages, and by concentrating attention upon the main drift of the argument.”
Professor Steven's Paraphrase does all he purposes and desires for it. It is not only profitable. It is delightful reading. It is fresh and invigorating. It is a decidedly great aid to the understanding of our popular versions.
But it does this as a Paraphrase, and not as a translation. As he well says: “A literal translation is a kind of Anglicized Greek text. It necessarily reproduces, in large part, the idioms of the
Greek language in English words, and taxes the mind of the reader by compelling him to grapple with the perplexing irregularities of the Apostle's style."
But a literal translation is not a true translation. And so it is not a fact that a genuine “translation can only represent in English words the form of the original.” It is not a fact that such a translation “is debarred not only from introducing explanatory words, but even, to a great extent, from the use of free idiomatic English renderings.”
On the contrary, a translation is to be esteemed as such in the proportion in which it represents the thought of the original most faithfully, not simply in words, but in English idioms. To do this effectively, it must of necessity introduce "explanatory words.” But it introduces these, not simply as such, but as part and parcel of the equivalent English expressions which must necessarily be used to translate the thought fully and forcibly.
Such a translation, like those of the great Hilary of Poitiers, is guarded carefully from bondage to the letter and is kept from the perpetual twistings due to a slavish obedience to the rule of words. And, like Hilary, again, he who makes such a translation must seize on the meaning of the original like a conqueror and transfer it most forcibly to his own native tongue,
In an appreciative review of the first two volumes of the Modern American Bible (S. Mark and S. Matthew,) the Standard of Chicago says: “It does not become colloquial and weak in its effort to be modern. In fact, the modernization of the Gospels (as compared with that of the Prophets or the Apocalypse, for example) involves little more than changing the verb endings, inverting transposed words, and substituting modern terms for a few obsolete nouns."
To our mind one of the most important points in the translation of the Gospels, besides those mentioned in the Standard's review, is what the Sunday School Times of Philadelphia mentions as the greatest innovation in our work, that is, “the close rendering of the tenses of the original Greek.”
But the main feature which we wish to emphasize, appears more prominently in the present volume. It is the one already referred to, that is, the broad principle of translation on which it proceeds. The present translator has done his work with the understanding with himself that if it is his first duty to reproduce the text of the original as faithfully as possible, his final duty is to reproduce it in good, terse, strong, idiomatic English, and that, too, not of yesterday or three hundred years ago, as it was then used in England, but of to-day, as it is now