Imagini ale paginilor


proof but in direct opposition to it. For let it be observed, that the copies, ancient versions, and quotations, which are conformable to the common reading, are positive evidence in its favour, and therefore against the conjecture; and even if the readings of the passage be various, there is, though less, still some weight in their evidence against a reading merely conjectural, and consequently destitute of external support, and different from them all. It must however be acknowledged, that the variety itself, if it affect some of the oldest manuscripts and translations, is a presumption that the place has been early corrupted in transcribing.


14. I cannot avoid here taking notice of a correction, merely conjectural, proposed by the late Dr. Kennicott; a man to whose pious and useful labours the learned in general, and the students of the divine oracles in particular, are under the greatest obligation. The correction he proposes is on these words, E. T. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, Isa. liii. 9. This ingenious critic supposes that the words and p and n have, by some means or other, changed places. He would have them therefore transposed, or rather restored, each to its proper place, in consequence of which the import will be, (I give it in his own words,) And he was taken up with wicked men in his death; and with a rich man was his sepulchre. He adds: "Since the preceding parts of the prophecy speak so indisputably of the sufferings and death of the Messiah, these words seem evidently meant as descriptive of the Messiah's being put to death in company with wicked men, and making his grave or sepulchre (not with rich men but) with one rich man.'

Now let it be observed, that of all the vast number of manuscripts which that gentleman had collated, not one was found to favour this arrangement; that neither the Septuagint nor any other old translation is conformable to it; that no ancient author known to us, in any language, quotes the words, so arranged, either from the original or from any version; and, consequently, that we cannot consider the conjecture otherwise than as opposed by such a cloud of witnesses, as, in inquiries of this kind, must be accounted strong positive evidence. Had the words, as they are read in Scripture, been ungrammatical, so as to yield no meaning that we could discover, and had the transposition of the two words added both sense and grammar to the sentence, and that in perfect consistency with the scope of the context, I should have readily admitted, that the criticism stood on a firmer foundation than mere conjecture, and that the external proofs, from testimony, might be counterbalanced by the intrinsic evidence arising from the subject. But this is not pretended here. To be associated with the rich in death, is equally grammatical, and equally intelligible, as to be associated with the wicked: the * Diss. ii. chap. iv. 2d period.

.E. T ויתן את רשעים קברו ואת עשיר במתיו

[ocr errors]

like may be said in regard to burial. Where, then, is the occasion for a change? The only answer that can be given is certainly a very bad one: The occasion is, that the words may be adjusted to an event which, in our opinion, is the fulfilment of the prophecy.

But if such liberties may be taken with the Prophets, there will be no difficulty in obtaining from them proofs in support of any interpretation. The learned Doctor takes notice, that the preceding part of this chapter speaks indisputably of the sufferings and death of the Messiah. I am as much convinced as any man, that the subject of the prophecy is as he represents it; but to say that it is indisputably so, seems to insinuate that it is universally admitted. Now this is far from being the fact. It is disputed by the whole Jewish nation, and is allowed by some Christian expositors to be only in a secondary sense prophetical of Christ. Suppose a Christian, after the passage shall have been in the Christian Bibles new-modelled in the way proposed, to urge it on a Jew, as an argument from prophecy, that Jesus the son of Mary is the person in whom the prediction was fulfilled, and therefore the Messiah; inasmuch as the words exactly represent what, in so signal a manner, happened to him-he suffered with malefactors, and was buried in a rich man's sepulchre; would not the other have reason to retort, "Ye Christians have a wonderful dexterity in managing the argument from prophecy: ye, first by changing and transposing the prophet's words, accommodating them to your purpose, make him say, what we have direct evidence that he never said; and then ye have the confidence to argue, this must infallibly be the event intended by the prophet, it so exactly answers the description. Ye yourselves make the prophecy resemble the event which ye would have to be predicted by it, and then ye reason, from the resemblance, that this is the completion of the prophecy !"

Let us judge equitably of men of all denominations. Should we discover that the Masorets had made so free with the declaration of any prophet, in order to adapt it to what they take to be the accomplishment, would we hesitate a moment to call the words so metamorphosed, a corruption of the sacred text? In an enlightened age, to recur to such expedients will be always found to hurt true religion, instead of promoting it. The detection of them, in a few instances, brings a suspicion on the cause they were intended to serve, and would go far to discredit the argument from prophecy altogether. I cannot conclude this remark without adding, that this is almost the only instance wherein I differ in critical sentiments from that excellent author; from whose labours, I acknowledge with gratitude, I have reaped much pleasure and instruction.

15. To conclude what relates to various readings; Those variations which do not affect either the sense or the connexion, I

take no notice of, because the much greater part of them would occasion no difference in translating; and even of the few of these which might admit some difference, the difference is more in words than in meaning. Again, such variations as even alter the sense, but are not tolerably supported by either external or internal evidence, especially when the common reading has nothing in it apparently irrational or unsuitable to the context, I have not judged necessary to mention. Those, on the contrary, which not only in some degree affect the sense, but from their own intrinsic evidence, or from the respectable support of manuscripts and versions, have divided the critics about their authenticity, I have taken care to specify. When the evidence in their favour appeared to me clearly to preponderate, I have admitted them into the text, and assigned my reason in the notes. Whereever the matter seemed dubious, I have preferred the common reading, and suggested in the notes what may be advanced in favour of the other. When the difference lay in the rejection of a clause commonly received, though the probability were against its admission, yet, if the sentence or clause were remarkable, and if it neither conveyed a sentiment unsuitable to the general scope, nor brought obscurity on the context, I have judged it better to retain it than to shock many readers by the dismission of what they have been accustomed to read in their Bible. At the same time, to distinguish such clauses, as of doubtful authority, I inclose them in crotchets. Of this the doxology, as it is called, in the Lord's prayer, is an example. In other cases, I have not scrupled to omit what did not appear sufficiently supported.



As to what concerns the language of this version, I have not much to add to the explanations I have given of my sentiments on this article in the latter part of the preceding Dissertation, and the first part of the present, when the common translation was made and (which is still earlier) when the English liturgy was composed, the reigning dialect was not entirely the same with that which prevails at present. Now, as the dialect which then obtained does very rarely, even to the readers of this age, either injure the sense or effect the perspicuity, I have judged it proper in a great measure to retain it. The differences are neither great nor numerous. The third person singular of the present of the verb terminates in the syllable eth in the old dialect, not the letters, as in that now current. The participles are very rarely contracted; nor is there ever any elision of the vowels. Indeed,

these elisions, though not entirely laid aside, are becoming much less frequent now than they were about the beginning of the last century. The difference is in itself inconsiderable; yet, as all ranks and denominations, of Christians are, from the use of either the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer, or both, habituated to this dialect; and as it has contracted a dignity favourable to seriousness from its appropriation to sacred purposes; it is, I think in a version of any part of holy writ, entitled to be preferred to the modern dialect.

[ocr errors]

2. The gayer part of mankind will doubtless think that there is more vivacity in our common speech, as, by retrenching a few unnecessary vowels, the expression is shortened, and the sentiment conveyed with greater quickness. But vivacity is not the character of the language of the sacred penmen. Gravity here, or even solemnity, if not carried to excess, is much more suitable. "I bid this man," says the centurion in the anonymous translation, "Go, and he's gone; another, Come, and he's here; and to my servant, Do this, and it is done," Matt. viii. 9. And in the parallel place in Luke, ch. vii. 6. "Lord, don't give yourself the trouble of coming; I don't deserve you should honour my house with your presence." There are, I believe, not a few who would prefer this manner to that of the common version, as being much smarter as well as more genteel. Surely, if that interpreter had given the smallest attention to uniformity, he would never have rendered αμην αμην λέγω ὑμῖν, as he sometimes does, by the antiquated phrase, "Verily, verily, I say unto you." It would have been but of a piece with many passages of his version, to employ the more modish and more gentlemanlike asseveration," Upon my honour." With those who can relish things sacred in this dress, or rather disguise, I should think it in vain to dispute.

3. Another criterion of that solemn dialect is the recourse, when an individual is addressed to the singular number of the second personal pronoun thou and thee, and consequently to the second person singular of the verb; which, being in common language supplied by the plural, is in a manner obsolete. This also is, from scriptural use, and the constant use of it in worship in the British dominions, both by those of the establishment and by dissenters, universally intelligible, and now considered as the proper dialect of religion. Immediately after the Reformation, the like mode in using the pronoun was adopted by all Protestants translators into French, Italian, and German, as well as into English. But as, in Roman Catholic countries, those translations, were of no authority, and as the Scriptures are read in their churches, and their devotions and ceremonies performed, in a language not understood by the people, the customs of dissenters, as all Protestants are in those countries, could not introduce into the language of religion so great a singularity

of idiom.

And as there was nothing to recommend this manner to the people, whilst there were several things to prejudice them against it, we do not find that it has been employed by any late Popish translators into French.


What tended to prejudice them against it is, first, the general disuse of it in the ordinary intercourse of men; and, secondly, the consideration, that the few exceptions from this disuse in common life, instead of showing respect or reverence, suggest always either pity or contempt; no person being ever addressed in this way but one greatly inferior, or a child. This being the case, and they not having, like us, a solemn to counterbalance the familiar use, the practice of Protestants would rather increase than diminish their dislike of it. For these reasons, the use of the singular pronoun in adoration, has the same effect nearly on them which the contrary use of the plural has on us. To a French Catholic, Tu es notre Dieu, et nous te benirons, and to an English Protestant, You are our God, and we will bless you, equally betray an indecent familiarity. By reason of this difference in the prevailing usages, it must be acknowledged that French Romanists have a plausible pretext for using the plural. We have however a real advantage in our manner, especially in worship. Theirs, it is true, in consequence of the prevalent use, has nothing in it disrespectful or indecent; but this is merely a negative commendation: ours, on account of the peculiarity of its appropriation in religious subjects, is eminently serious affecting. It has, besides, more precision. In worship it is a more explicit declaration of the unity of the Godhead; and, even when in holy writ addressed to a creature, it serves to remove at least one ambiguous circumstance consequent on modern use, which does not rightly distinguish what is said to one from what is said to many. And though the scope of the place often shows the distinction, it does not always.

4. A few other particulars of the ancient dialect I have also retained, especially in those instances wherein, without hurting perspicuity, they appeared to give greater precision: but those,

The way in which Saci, who appears to have been a pious worthy man, translates from the Vulgate the Lord's prayer, rendered literally from French into English, is a striking example of the difference of manner: "Our Father who are in heaven, let your name be sanctified, let your reign arrive, let your will be done," &c. Yet the earlier Popish translators chose to use the singular number as well as the Reformed. It had been the universal practice of the ancients, Greeks, Romans, and Orientals, It was used in the English translation of Rheims, though composed by Papists in opposition to the Protestant version then commonly received. In the later versions of French Protestants, this use of the singular number of the second person is given up entirely, except in addresses to God; the formularies read in their meetings having, in this particular, established among them a different usage. Beausobre and Lenfant [see Preface Generale sur le Nouveau Testament] strenuously maintain the propriety of their not using the singular of the second personal pronoun, except in worship. I admit their arguments to be conclusive with respect to French; but, for the reasons abovementioned, they are inconclusive applied to English. Yet in this some English transla, tors have followed the French manner, but not uniformly.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »