Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

illuminations which they had received from above, is manifest from the regulations, on this subject, established by the apostle Paul in the church of Corinth. The words wherewith he concludes his directions on this topic are very apposite to my present purpose. "The spirits of the prophets," says he, "are subject unto the prophets," 1 Cor. xiv. 32. Such is the difference between those who are guided by the Spirit of truth, and those who are under the influence of the spirit of error. There is therefore no reason to doubt, that the sacred writers were permitted to employ the style and idiom most familiar to them, in delivering the truths with which they were inspired. So far only they were over-ruled, in point of expression, by the divine Spirit, that nothing could be introduced tending, in any way, to obstruct the intention of the whole. And sometimes, especially in the prediction of future events, such terms would be suggested, as would, even beyond the prophet's apprehension, conduce to further that end. The great object of divine regard, and subject of revelation, is things, not words. And were it possible to obtain a translation of Scripture absolutely faultless, the translation would be, in all respects, as valuable as the original.

4. But is not this doctrine, it may be said, liable to an objection also from the gift of tongues conferred on the apostles and others for the promulgation of the gospel? In the languages with which those primitive ministers were miraculously furnished, it may be objected, they could not have any style of their own, as a style is purely the effect of habit, and of insensible imitation. This objection, however, is easily obviated: First, as they received by inspiration those tongues only whereof they had previously no knowledge, it is not probable, at least it is not certain, that this gift had any place in the writings of the New Testament that in most of them it had not, is manifest. But, 2dly, If in some it had, the most natural supposition is, 1st, That the knowledge of the tongue wherewith the Holy Ghost inspired the sacred writers must have been, in them, precisely such a knowledge and such a readiness in finding words and expressions, as is, in others, the effect of daily practice. This is even a necessary consequence of supposing that the language itself, and not the words of particular speeches, (according to Dr. Middleton's notion), was the gift of the Spirit. * was the gift of the Spirit. 2d, That their acquaintance with the tongue supernaturally communicated, must have been such as would render their teaching in it best adapted to the apprehensions of the people, with whom they would be most conversant, or such as they would have most readily acquired among them in the natural way. Now on this hypothesis, which appears on many accounts the most rational, the influence of habit, of native idiom, and of particular genius and turn of Essay on the Gift of Tongues.

thinking, would be the same on the writer's style as though he had acquired the language in the ordinary way.

As to the hypothesis of the author above-mentioned, it is not more irrational in itself, than it is destitute of evidence. It is irrational, as it excludes the primary use, the conversion of the nations, for which, by the general acknowledgment of Christians in all ages, the gift of tongues was bestowed on the apostles, and represents this extraordinary power as serving merely to astonish the hearers, the only purpose, according to him, for which it ever was exerted. And as to evidence, the great support of his system is an argument which has been sufficiently considered already, the defects of the style of the sacred writers, when examined by the rules of the rhetoricians, and the example of the orators of Athens. For, because Cicero and the Greek philosophers were of opinion that if Jupiter spoke Greek he would speak like Plato, the learned Doctor cannot conceive that a style so unlike Plato's as that of the evangelists, can be the language of inspiration, or be accounted worthy of God. It was not, we find, peculiar to the Greeks, or to the apostolic age, to set too high a value on the words which man's wisdom teacheth. Nor was it only in the days of Samuel, that men needed to be taught that "the Lord seeth not as a man seeth," 1 Sam. xvi. 7.

DISSERTATION II.

THE CAUSES TO WHICH THE PRINCIPAL DIFFERENCES IN LANGUAGES ARE IMPUTABLE; THE ORIGIN OF THE CHANGES PRODUCED ON THE LANGUAGE AND THE IDIOM OF THE JEWS; AND THE PRINCIPAL DIFFICULTIES TO BE ENCOUNTERED IN TRANSLATING THE SACRED BOOKS.

PART I.

THE CAUSES OF THE DIFFERENCES IN LANGUAGES.

WHEN We compare one tongue with another, if we enter critically into the genius and powers of each, we shall find that neither the only nor the chief difference is that which is most obvious, and consists in the sounds or words employed, the inflections, the arrangement, and the construction. These may soon be learnt from a tolerable grammar, and are to be considered as affecting only the form of the language. There are others, which, more intimately affecting its spirit, it requires a nicer discernment to distinguish. These serve much more to characterize both the language and the people who speak it. Indeed, the knowledge of one of these has a great effect in advancing the knowledge of the other. We may say, with the greatest justice, that as, on the one hand, the real character of a nation will not be thoroughly understood by one who is a perfect stranger to their tongue; so, or the other, the exact import of many of the words, and combinations of words, made use of in the language, will never be perfectly comprehended by one who knows nothing of the character of the people, who is totally unacquainted with the history of their religion, law, polity, arts, manners, and customs. Whoever, therefore, would be a proficient in either kind, must be a student in both. It is evident, that the particulars enumerated, or whatever regards the religion, the laws, the constitution, and the manners of a people, operate powerfully on their sentiments; and these have a principal effect, first on the associations of ideas formed in their minds in relation to character, and to whatever is an object of abstract reflection; secondly, on the formation of words, and combination of phrases, by which these associations are expressed. But this will be better understood from what follows.

2. There are certain words, in every language, to which there are other words perfectly corresponding in other languages. There are certain words, in every language, which but imperfectly correspond to any of the words of other languages. There are certain words, in every language, to which there is nothing,

in some other languages, in any degree correspondent. I shall exemplify these three classes in Greek, Latin, and English, which will sufficiently illustrate my meaning.

3. In all languages, the words whereby the obvious productions of nature, and the plainest distinctions of genera and species known to the people are signified, correspond respectively to one another. Thus to the Greek words ήλιος, σεληνη, ορνις, δενδρον, αεтоç, аμжελoç, Aos, the Latin words, sol, luna, avis, arbor, aquila, vitis, lapis, and the English, sun, moon, bird, tree, eagle, vine, stone, are perfectly equivalent in signification; and we are sure that we can never mistake in rendering the Greek word nos, wherever it occurs, into Latin by the word sol, and into English by the word sun. The same thing holds true of the other terms in the three languages, taken severally in the order in which I have placed them.

To this class we must add the names of natural and obvious relations, as πατηρ, μητηρ, υἱος, θυγατηρ, αδελφος, αδελφη, to which the Latin words pater, mater, filius, filia, frater, soror, and the English words father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, perfectly correspond.

To the same class we ought also to assign those words whereby the most common and necessary productions of the mechanic arts are expressed: for though, in different countries, and distant ages, there are considerable differences in the fashion and appearance of their productions, we attend solely, in translating, to the prin cipal uses which a piece of work was intended to answer. Consequently, when in these we find an entire coincidence, we, without further examination, pronounce the names equivalent. Thus OIKOS, VAVG, Kλın, in Greek, and domus, navis, lectus, in Latin, answer sufficiently to house, ship, bed, in English, on account of the coincidence in use of the things signified, notwithstanding the less important differences in structure and workmanship.

These, however, are not entirely on the same footing with natural objects; in which there is every where, and in every age, a more perfect uniformity. The names Bißiov, liber, book, are in most cases suited to one another. But as the books of the ancients were in outward form and construction very different from ours, when we find any thing advanced concerning ßßλov in Greek, or liber in Latin, with an evident allusion to the outward make, we know that the English word book is not a proper version. Thus the words ουρανος απεχωρισθη ὡς βιβλίον εἵλισσομεvov, Rev. vi. 14. if rendered "heaven departed as a book that is rolled up," would not be intelligible, though nothing conveys a more distinct image than the words in the original. Their books consisted of long scrolls, commonly of parchment, sewed or pasted together, and fastened at the ends to two rollers. Our translators properly therefore employed here the more general word

66

scroll, which perfectly conveys the meaning. Again, the word Bißλov occurs in an application wherein the term book could not be rightly apprehended by a mere English reader: Bißiov yeγραμμενον εσωθεν και οπισθεν, in the common version, “ a book written within and on the back-side," Rev. v. 1. To such a reader, the last term thus applied would be understood to mean the cover, which is not very fit for being written on, and could, besides, contain no more than might have been contained in one additional leaf, though the book had consisted of a thousand leaves. Now the long scrolls or books of the ancients were seldom written but on one side, here said to be tow≈ɛv, within, because that side was turned inwards in rolling. When any of these scrolls was written on both sides, it contained twice as much as if written in the usual way. The chief intention of the prophet in mentioning this circumstance must have been to signify, that this volume was replete with information, and that its contents were not to be measured by its size. But notwithstanding the exceptions in a few particular cases, the names of the common productions of the most necessary arts may be considered as so far at least corresponding to each other in most languages, as not to throw any difficulty worth mentioning in the way of a translator.

4. The second class above-mentioned is of those words which, in one language, do but imperfectly correspond to any of the words of another language compared with it. Of this kind will be found, if properly attended to, most of the terms relating to morals, to the passions and matters of sentiment, or to the objects of the reflex and internal senses, in regard to which it is often impossible to find words in one language that are exactly equivalent to those of another. This holds in all languages less or more, according as there is more or less uniformity in the constitution, religion, and laws, of the nations whose languages are compared; on which constitution, religion, and laws, as was observed, the sentiments, manners, and customs of the people, in a great measure depend. Herein consists one principal difficulty, which translators, if persons of penetration, have to encounter. Finding it sometimes impossible to render fully the sense of their author, they are constrained (if I may borrow a term from the mathematicians) to do the best they can by approxi

mation.

Τo come to examples: Το the Greek words αρετη, σωφροσύνη, εγκρατεια, φρονησις, ελεος, the Latin words, virtus, temperantia, continentia, prudentia, misericordia, are not entirely equivalent; still less the English words, virtue, temperance, continence, prudence, mercy for, though these last are manifestly formed from the Latin words, one would think that, by being adopted into another country, they had all, more or less, changed their na

* A book executed in this manner the Greeks called onSoygaps, which is thus expressed by Juvenal, "Scriptus et in tergo." Sat, 1.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »