Imagini ale paginilor

as the Bishop justly remarks, the reason is obvious. And it is to be regretted, that that historian has not inserted in his valuable work the whole catalogue: Nothing could serve better to expose the latent but genuine purpose of the consecrated terms. Not that any judicious person can be at a loss to discover it: but the more numerous the examples are, the evidence is the stronger. The meaning of common words is learnt solely from common usage, but the import of canonized words can be got only from canonical usage. We all know what an image is, it being a word in familiar use; we therefore find no difficulty in discovering what we are forbidden to worship, by the command which forbids the worship of images: Whereas, had the word simulacrum, quite unused before, been substituted for image, it would have doubtless acquired a currency on theological subjects; but, being confined to these, would have been no better than a technical term in theology, for the meaning of which recourse must be had to men of the profession. Nor would it have required of the casuist any metaphysical acuteness in distinguishing, to satisfy those whom he taught to worship images, that they were in no danger of adoring a simulacrum.

31. To prevent mistakes, it may not be improper to observe, that the word simulacrum in the Vulgate itself is no more a term of art than similitudo or imago are; for they are all words in familiar use in Latin; but simulacrum is not in familiar use in English, though similitude and image are, which are both formed from Latin words of the same signification. It is not, therefore, their affinity, or even identity in respect of sound, but their difference in respect of use, which stamps nearly related words, or what we call convertible terms, with these different characters in different languages. Thus ευαγγελιζω and σκανδαλιζω are common, not technical terms, in the Greek New Testament; but evangelizo and scandalizo in the Vulgate are the reverse, technical, not common. Now it is for this reason, I say, that to adopt without necessity such terms in a language to which they do not belong, and in which consequently they are unknown, or known merely as professional terms, is to form a style the very reverse of what I should call the eloquence of the Holy Spirit, and the proper idiom of the Scriptures. For a greater contrast to the plain and familiar idiom of Scripture, and the eloquence of the Spirit, addressed entirely to the people, than a style that is justly denominated dark, learned, and technical, it is impossible to conceive.

Let it be observed, therefore, that it is the use, not the etymology, to which in translating we ought to have respect, either in adopting or rejecting an expression. A word is neither the better nor the worse for its being of Greek or Latin origin: But our first care ought to be, that it convey the same meaning with the original term; the second, that it convey it as nearly as

possible in the same manner, that is, with the same plainness, simplicity, and perspicuity. If this can be done with equal advantage by terms which have obtained the sanction of ecclesiastic use, such terms ought to be preferred. For this reason, I prefer just to virtuous, redeemer to ransomer, saviour to deliverer. But if the same meaning be not conveyed by them, or not conveyed in the same manner, they ought to be rejected: otherwise the real dictates of the Spirit, and the unadulterated idiom of Scripture, are sacrificed to the shadowy resemblance, in sound and etymology, of technical words and scholastic phrases.

32. Such, upon the whole, are my sentiments of the regard which, in translating holy writ into modern languages, is due to the practice of former translators, epecially of the authors of the Latin Vulgate. And such, in particular, is my notion of those words which by some critics are called consecrated, and which in general, in respect of the sense, will not be found the most eligible; nay, by the use of which there is greater hazard of deserting that plainness, and that simplicity, which are the best characteristics of the Scripture style, than by any other means I know.



HAVING been so particular in the discussion of the first part of this inquiry, namely, the regard which, in translating the Scriptures, is due to the manner wherein the words and phrases have been rendered by the authors of the Vulgate, it will not be necessary to enter so minutely into the second part, concerning the regard which an English translator owes to the expressions adopted in the common translation. The reasons for adopting or for rejecting many of them are so nearly the same in both cases, that, to avoid prolixity by unnecessary repetitions, I shall confine myself to a few observations, to which the special circumstances affecting the common English version naturally give rise.

2. That translation, we all know, was made at a time when the study of the original languages, which had been long neglected, was just revived in Europe. To this, the invention of printing first, and the Reformation soon afterwards, had greatly contributed. As it grew to be a received doctrine among Protestants, that the word of God contained in the Scriptures is the sole infallible rule which he has given us of faith and manners, the ineffable importance of the study of Scripture was perceived more and more every day. New translations were made, first into Latin, the common language of the learned, and afterwards into most European tongues. The study of languages naturally introduces the study of criticism; I mean that branch of criticism

which has language for its object, and which is, in effect, no other than the utmost improvement of the grammatical art. But this, it must be acknowledged, was not then arrived at that perfection, which, in consequence of the labours of many learned and ingenious men of different parties and professions, it has reached since. What greatly retarded the progress of this study in the first age of the Reformation was, the incessant disputes about articles of doctrines, ecclesiastical polity, and ceremonies, in which the reformers were engaged, both with the Romanists and among themselves. This led them insensibly to recur to the weapons which had been employed against them, and of which they had at first spoken very contemptuously-the metaphysical and unintelligible subtilties of school divinity.

This recourse was productive of two bad consequences: First, it diverted them from the critical study of the sacred languages, the surest human means for discovering the mind of the Spirit; secondly, it infused into the heads of the disputants, prepossessions in favour of such particular words and phrases as are adapted to the dialect and system of the parties to which they severally attached themselves, and in prejudice of those words and phrases which seem more suitable to the style and sentiments of their adversaries. There is, perhaps, but too good reason for adding an evil consequence produced also upon the heart, in kindling wrath, and quenching charity. It was when matters were in this situation that several of the first translations were made. Men's minds were then too much heated with their polemic exercises to be capable of that impartial, candid, and dispassionate examination, which is so necessary in those who would approve themselves faithful interpreters of the oracles of God. Of an undue bias on the judgment in translating, in consequence of such perpetual wranglings, I have given some specimens in the former Dissertation.*

3. In regard to the common translation, though not entirely exempted from the influence of party and example, as I formerly had occasion to show, it is, upon the whole, one of the best of those composed so soon after the Reformation. I may say justly, that if it had not been for an immoderate attachment in its authors to the Genevese translators, Junius, Tremellius, and Beza, it had been still better than it is; for the greatest faults with which it is chargeable are derived from this source. But since that time, it must be owned, things are greatly altered in the church. The rage of disputation on points rather curious than edifying, or, as the apostle calls it, 1 Tim. vi. 4, the dotage about questions and strifes of words, has, at least among men of talents and erudition, in a great measure subsided. The reign of scholastic sophistry and altercation is pretty well over. Now, when to this reflection we add a proper attention to the great acquisitions in

* Diss: X. Part v. sect. 4. &c.

literature which have of late been made, in respect not only of languages, but also of antiquities and criticism, it cannot be thought derogatory from the merit and abilities of those worthy men who formerly bestowed their time and labour on that important work, to suppose that many mistakes, which were then inevitable, we are now in a condition to correct.

To effect this, is the first, and ought doubtless to be the principal motive, for attempting another version. Whatever is discovered to be the sense of the Spirit, speaking in the Scriptures, ought to be regarded by us as of the greatest consequence; nor will any judicious person, who has not been accustomed to consider religion in a political light, as a mere engine of state, deny, that where the truth appears in any instance to have been either misrepresented, or obscurely represented, in a former version, the fault ought, in an attempt like the present, as far as possible to be corrected. To say the contrary, is to make the honourable distinction of being instruments in promoting the knowledge of God of less moment than paying a vain compliment to former translators; or perhaps showing an immoderate deference to popular humour, which is always attached to customary phrases, whether they convey the true meaning, or a false meaning, or any meaning at all. This, therefore, is unquestionably a good ground for varying from those who preceded us.

4. It deserves further to be remarked, that, from the changes incident to all languages, it sometimes happens that words which expressed the true sense at the time when a translation was made, come afterwards to express a different sense; in consequence whereof, though those terms were once a proper version of the words in the original, they are not so after such an alteration, having acquired a meaning different from that which they had formerly. In this case it cannot be doubted, that in a new translation such terms ought to be changed. I hinted before,* that I look upon this as having been the case with some of the expressions employed in the Vulgate. They conveyed the meaning at the time that version was made, but do not so now. I shall instance only in two. The phrase pœnitentiam agite was in Jerom's time nearly equivalent in signification to the Greek μετανοείτε. It is not so at present. In of the usages consequence which have crept in, and obtained an establishment in the churches subject to Rome, it no longer conveys the same idea; for having become merely an ecclesiastic term, its acceptation is regulated only by ecclesiastic use. Now, in that use, it exactly corresponds to the English words do penance; by which, indeed, the Rhemish translators, who translate from the Vulgate, have rendered it in their New Testament. Now, as no person of common sense, who understands the language, will pretend, that to enjoin us to do penance, and to enjoin us to reform or repent,

* Part iii. sect. 9.

is to enjoin the same thing; both Erasmus and Beza were excusable, notwithstanding the censure pronounced by Bois and Simon, in deserting the Vulgate in this place, and employing the ambiguous term resipiscite, in preference to a phrase now at least become so equivocal as pœnitentiam agite. We may warrantably say more, and affirm, that they would not have acted the part of faithful translators if they had done otherwise.

It was, to appearance, the uniform object of the priest of the Oratory (I know not what may have biassed the canon of Ely) to put honour upon the church, by which he meant the church of Rome; to respect, above all things, and at all hazards, her dogmas, her usages, her ceremonies, her very words and phrases. The object of Christian interpreters is, above all things, and at all hazards, to convey, as perspicuously as they can, the truths of the Spirit. If the former ought to be the principal object of the translators of holy writ, Simon was undoubtedly in the right; if the latter, he was undoubtedly in the wrong. The other expression in the Vulgate, which may not improbably have been proper at the time when that translation was made, though not at present, is sacramentum for μvorηpɩov, in the second scriptural sense which I observed to be sometimes given to the Greek word.* But, in consequence of the alterations which have since taken place in ecclesiastical use, the Latin term has acquired a meaning totally different, and is therefore now no suitable expression of the sense.

5. Now, what has been observed of the Latin words abovementioned, has already happened to several words employed in the common English translation. Though this may appear at first extraordinary, as it is not yet two centuries since that version was made, it is nevertheless unquestionable. The number of changes whereby a living language is affected in particular periods, is not always in proportion to the extent of time: it depends on the stage of advancement in which the language happens to be during the period, more than on the length of the period. The English tongue, and the French too, if I mistake not, have undergone a much greater change than the Italian in the last three hundred years; and perhaps as great as the Greek underwent from the time of Homer to that of Plutarch, which was more than four times as long. It is not merely the number of writings in any language, but it is rather their merit and eminence, which confers stability on its words, phrases, and idioms.

Certain it is, that there is a considerable change in our own since the time mentioned; a change in respect of the construction, as well as of the significations of the words. In some cases we combine the words differently from the way in which they were combined at the time above referred to: we have acquired many words which were not used then, and many then in use

Diss. IX. Part i. sect. 7.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »