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The Christian community have founded colleges, established professorships for the study of the Oriental languages, and honored the learned men who have filled them. But it has ever manifested a jealousy and fear of the results of their learned labors. It has practically willed, that these labors should be limited to the providing of intellectual luxuries for a few studious men, readers of folios and quartos, and should terminate just at the point, when they might be most useful to the mass of the people. Almost every one, who has undertaken to translate a portion of the Scriptures, has found it necessary to apologize for his audacity, or vindicate himself from the imputation of being a corrupter of the Bible. Not a few have endeavoured to gain the reputation of being friends to the Scriptures by condemning those, who, without the hope of pecuniary emolument, have given their days and their nights, their health and their strength, to the business of making them understood by the community.
When we consider what has been published respecting the errors and faults of the common version by such men as Lowth, Newcome, Blayney, and Campbell, may not the contented reception of it be said to be a disgrace and scandal to the Christian church. Every one will admit, I presume, that intentionally to corrupt the text, or introduce error into the anslation, of the Scriptures, would be a great crime. I cannot perceive that the toleration and patronage of acknowledged corruptions and errors, already there, is a much lighter crime. I cannot perceive so very great a difference between causing an evil, and tolerating, acquiescing in, and encouraging one, which it is in our power to avoid or to remedy. It may be asked, indeed, and with some degree of reason, Where is the version, which deserves on the whole to be substituted for the present? But is not the deficiency alluded to in such a question, in a great measure, the consequence of the public feeling, to which I have referred. It is not so much the mere fact of the present reception of the common version, which I maintain to be dishonorable to the Christian church, but that so little inclination and exertion have been manifested to procure a better, and so little encouragement given, or rather so much discourag
ment offered, to those, who have engaged in the work of biblical translation. If it were for no other reason than to procure a respectful attention to the Scriptures from unbelievers, a new translation is highly desirable. It would do more for the cause of revealed religion than many an elaborate argument in its defence.
It is an idle fear, unworthy of this age and of this country, that the respect of the people for the Scriptures will be lessened by making them more true to the original, and, at the same time, more intelligible. It is a fear of the same nature as that, which in England has led to the cry, that the church was in danger, whenever one of its almost intolerable abuses was corrected, which branded the leaders of the Protestant reformation as impious heretics, and which led a celebrated writer to deprecate doubts concerning witchcraft, as leading directly to infidelity and atheism. I have long been convinced, that ignorance of the true character and meaning of the Scriptures is one of the principal causes of the infidelity of modern times. It is not by withholding, but by imparting light, that we may hope to stay its progress. Away with the notion, that the truth is endangered by separating from it the errors, which have been associated with it.
The character of a version will depend more upon the judgment and taste of the translator, than upon the principles and rules of interpretation and translation, by which he may profess to be guided. Hence I have made no professions in relation to the subject. I find, however, that there exists some misapprehension of my views, both in regard to the language of the old version, which I have altered, and to that, which I have retained. In some cases, in which regret has been expressed to me that certain verses were altered, fidelity to the original absolutely required such an alteration. The sentiment, Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, for instance, is one, which I altered with as great regret as any reader can feel in missing it. But regarding it to be the first duty of a translator to express the meaning of the original, and not to decide, which of two sentiments is the most excellent or pleasing, I could not hesitate to alter that verse, and others of a similar kind.
On the other hand, in regard to the phraseology of the common version, which I have retained, I have sometimes been mortified by what was meant for commendation. It seems to have been supposed by some, that I have retained a portion of the phraseology of the old version in deference to the popular prejudice in its favor. I therefore deem it proper to state, that I have proceeded upon no narrower principle than this, to adopt that meaning of the original, which appeared to my judgment the true one, and that mode of expressing it, which seemed to my taste the best. The associations connected with certain expressions form, it is true, an important part of their recommendation. But when I have used certain expressions on this account, it was because they had such associations in my own mind. In many instances a phraseology somewhat antiquated has been retained, because it was to my taste, or because I could think of no expressions, which, on the whole, I preferred to see in their place. I wish, therefore, to assume all the responsibility, though not the credit, connected with the phraseology of my version. I may have been unduly attached to certain forms of expression in the old version on account of feelings and prejudices existing in my own mind, but I wholly disclaim, in this matter, any deference to the feelings, prejudices, or opinions of others, farther than they wholly coincide with my own. I cheerfully forego all the patronage, which is founded on any supposed respect of mine for any prevailing public sentiment in relation to the subject. I think it hardly necessary to add, that I have found nothing in the character of the translators of the received version, or in the instructions which they received in relation to the execution of the work from the royal pedant their master, which should make their authority binding on all succeeding ages.
Those portions of the common version, which remain unaltered in mine, have, in proportion to their difficulty, been the subject of as extensive and laborious investigation, as those which have been altered. This fact deserves the attention of those, who object to new translations. The increased confidence, which they may place in those parts of the common version, which pass through the furnace of modern investiga
tion unchanged, should compensate them for any supposed evils, connected with the alteration of other parts of it.
In the translation of the Psalms, as in the following volume, fewer alterations occur than in the book of Job. This happens, not from the slightest change of my views, nor, as I trust, from any relaxation in my labors, but simply because the Book of Job was worse translated than any other portion of the common version, and needed more alteration. In what I may be able to translate hereafter, I shall proceed upon the same principle, with which I commenced, viz, to spare no idea, which seems unauthorized by the original, and no expression, for which I can substitute a better.
The few notes, which have been added, formed no part of my plan. They are such as could be prepared without any great expense of time, or interference with my plan of proceeding with the translation and publication of other portions of the Old Testament. They may serve to elucidate, to the attentive reader, some of the more difficult phraseology. They are not offered as supplying in the most distant degree the exposition, which is needed for the Prophets. If correct, they will do no harm, however much they may leave unexplained. For complete exposition the reader must have recourse to other sources, such as commentaries, Bible dictionaries, Jewish history, works on prophecy, &c.
It is hoped that the new arrangement of the prophets in their probable chronological order will be found to afford some facility for the study of them. The Jewish arrangement is the result either of accident, or ignorance. The distinction into major and minor prophets has even produced an impression on many minds, unfavorable to the latter. It has thrown such poets as Joel, Nahum, and Habakkuk into the back-ground, and greatly lowered that comparative estimation, which belongs to them among the writers of their nation. It is evident that the correct mode of arrangement is that, which is founded on the order of time in which the prophetic books were written. It has several advantages, too obvious to be mentioned. Nor is it easy to perceive any inconvenience, which can result from it. It is true that the date of some of the prophetic books is wholly
uncertain. These, however, I have distributed among the rest, according to the most plausible internal grounds, rather than to make them a class by themselves. I have not thought it expedient, however, to alter the arrangement of the contents of any prophetical book. It is well known that the separate prophecies in the book of Jeremiah are in a very confused state with respect to their arrangement. This is also true of some portions of the book of Isaiah; not to mention the questionable genuineness of a portion of the latter book. But as concordances, and other books of reference, are adapted to them in their present state, perhaps too great inconvenience would result from an alteration in the arrangement of the contents of the abovementioned books.
In addition to the usual helps of concordances, lexicons, &c. I have consulted the following works, in preparing this volume; Walton's Polyglott; Poole's Synopsis Criticorum; Pococke's Works, containing commentaries on Joel, Hosea, and Micah ; Vitringa, Lowth, Doederlein, and Geșenius' translations and expositions of Isaiah; Grotius, Dathe, and Rosenmueller on all the Prophets; Newcome's Minor Prophets; Stuck on Hosea; and the translations of Martin Luther, Junius and Tremellius, Castalio, and De Wette. To the admirable German interpreter Gesenius I am more indebted than to any other.
The remainder of the prophetic writings may, I suppose, be contained in two more volumes of the size of the present. It is wholly uncertain when these will appear.