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in 1380 (sixty-nine years before printing was invented). It is in English, indeed, but such English as would be quite unintelligible now-a-days; and was, after all, only a translation of a translation,-that is, of the Latin Vulgate, made by the worthy Jerome at the end of the fourth century.
William Tyndale, a man of great learning and piety, born in 1500, whose name ought always to awaken sentiments of the deepest respect, was impressed with a conviction that he had a work to do in the world, only one work, and that he should only have a short time in which to do it; viz., to publish in English the whole Bible, translated directly from the original Hebrew and Greek. In those dreadful days, when the Roman Catholic priests had caused many to be burnt to death for reading Wickliffe's Bible, it was not likely that a more modern translator could pursue his undertaking undisturbed. He fled successively from Oxford to Cambridge, to London, to Antwerp, to Hamburg. At the latter place he published his New Testament, and at last the whole Bible in 1524. The books got into England; but the revered translator was spied out, betrayed at Antwerp, condemned, strangled, and then burnt in 1536.
His translation is the foundation of our present version. It is not to be wondered at that it admits of many improvements. Miles Coverdale's followed in 1535. This was permitted by King Henry VIII. to be placed in churches, so that all who chose might read. Matthew's Bible appeared in 1537, Cranmer's in 1539, the Geneva in 1560, and the Bishops' in 1568. Numerous imperfections being still evident, James I., in 1604, selected fifty-four scholarly men to go through the whole, and make needful amendments. They were divided into six companies, to each of whom a separate portion was as
signed. They met periodically for the purpose of conferring on the result of their individual labours ;and at these meetings (says John Selden) one read the translation, the rest holding in their hands some Bible, either in the learned tongues, or French, Spanish, or Italian. If they found any fault they spoke; if not, he read on. So it was not a fresh translation, but only a revision. It occupied four years, and was published in 1611.
Since then, however, devout and learned men of all denominations, have expressed their conviction that this version, though on the whole admirable, is by no means as perfect as it may, and therefore ought to be, made. Indeed it would be a painfuĺ and pitiable consideration, that hundreds of thousands of thoughtful students should not, during two hundred and fifty years, have seen and thrown additional light on very numerous portions. We find, accordingly, that several distinguished scholars have successfully worked in this mine, and given their treasures to the public.
John Wesley published a translation he had made of the New Testament; Gilbert Wakefield the like in 1791; Nathaniel Scarlett in 1798; Alexander Greaves in 1827; Dr. George Campbell of the Gospels in 1788; Dr. James Macknight of the Epistles in 1795; and Lowth of Isaiah in 1778; Henderson in 1840; Govett in 1841. Dr. Conquest, a medical gentleman in London, spent thirty years in producing an edition, in a modest and reverend spirit improving the authorized version; yet it exhibits 20,000 emendations, which he says he could have trebled, and only offers them as a contribution towards a more perfect_revision. It appeared in 1841. In the same year David Bernard, a Baptist in America, published a similar and very valuable work, with perhaps as many emendations. And in exposi
tory works, like Dean Alford's, and countless others, who can calculate the number of improved renderings? The cry for a revisal has gone up on high. It has reached the very Convocation of Canterbury. However averse from change, the upper House has sanctioned the proposal, and the lower House has nominated a Committee to consult how it can best be effected. The Congregational Union at its recent meeting has all but unanimously applauded the design. And Mr. Charles Buxton, M.P. for East Surrey, has moved in the House of Commons for a Royal Commission to undertake the work. We Baptists, and especially General Baptists, will, I trust, give to this movement whatever impulse may be in our power. We have everything to gain by a revision, and nothing to lose, nothing to fear. Indeed, by the countenance we have given to the Bible Translation Society, we have fully committed ourselves to the principle. Years ago I fondly hoped that the same motives which made us so careful to give the Hindoos the word "dip" instead of baptize, would have impelled us to afford the same advantage to the people of England. Nothing of the sort has been attempted, but I trust that soon that and many equally proper renderings will replace others now in use. Such a work will edify the universal church, and tend to unite the children of God at present sadly scattered abroad.
I propose to show some evidences of the need of the talked of revisal.
1. The present version was, as is well known, prepared by persons of Calvinistic theology and of High Church proclivities. We find accordingly a good deal of gratuitous Calvinism and prelatical tradition thrust into the New Testament. Else, how came they to call the Passover in Acts xii. by the heathenish name, Easter- idolatrous
temples (Acts xix. 37), churchesthe office of Judas Iscariot (Acts i. 20), a bishopric-and the bishops of the congregation at Ephesus (Acts xx. 28), not as the Greek has it, bishops, but overseers? How? but because they wanted some plausible ground for their ecclesiastic superstitions, and because the king had unwarrantably commanded them not to alter any phrases appertaining to church matters.
And as to high doctrines-see Acts ii. 47- we read "the Lord daily added saved persons to the church;" where did they find the expression, "such as should be saved?" Acts xiii. 48-" As many as were ordained to eternal life believed;" why not have employed the word disposed, instead of ordained? In 1 Thess. i. 10, Paul says of the Lord Jesus, "who delivereth us (that is, is delivering us) from the wrath to come;" but instead of that they have given us "delivered," as if it were some past action, and not the present life of Christ. (See Rom. v. 10.)
2. Besides, recent scholars and critics, in this country as well as in Germany and elsewhere, have access to many MSS. which had previously been only imperfectly collated; and some very valuable MSS. have lately been discovered, especially that of Mount Sinai. The readings in these do, though in a very small degree, differ from those known to our authorized translators.
3. The genius of the English language, like others still in use, has in two centuries undergone some modifications; so that some expressions then commonly employed are now considered indelicate, or have, indeed, become quite obsolete, and should be replaced by others more suitable. Certain words, though still in use, have slid from their former acceptation for instance, "conversation," which now means verbal intercourse, seems not to have
been in those days used in that sense. In our version it is used for three different Greek words, for none of which is it a fair rendering in modern English. Thus, also, we have nitre in Jer. ii. 22, for soda. To ear the ground (1 Sam. viii. 12; Isaiah xxx. 24), for plough. Neeze, for sneeze (2 Kings iv. 35). Leasing, for falsehood (Ps. iv. 2; v. 6). "We do you to wit," for inform. "Cast in the teeth," for reproach. "This liketh you," for pleaseth you. "Thief," for robber. Carriages, for luggage (Acts xxi. 15). "I know nothing by myself," for "I am not conscious of wrong." Which, for who (Matt. vi. 9, and many other places). Whom, for which (Gal. vi. 14). Publicans for tax-farmers, &c.
4. But what is of more importance, some words convey either no meaning at all, or one that is erroneous. For instance (Heb. xi. 1), "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' Certainly in the present meaning of these words, faith is neither the one nor the other. The word is elsewhere rendered confidence (Heb. iii. 14; 2 Cor. ix. 4, &c.); why not here also ?" Faith is the confidence of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
"Reprobate" is not a word in common use, but is employed in theology to designate such unhappy beings as the Heavenly Father has been imagined to have resolved from all eternity to create for endless wickedness and misery. We are exhorted to examine ourselves, for "Christ is in us, except we be reprobates" (2 Cor. xiii. 5). Now the word signifies elsewhere destitute of discernment (Rom. i. 28; Titus i. 16); why not also in this place? And why did not our translators in all fairness apply it, as it is in the Greek, to Paul, in 1 Cor. ix. 27-"lest after preaching to others, I should myself be a cast
away." The horrible Calvinistic notion of Reprobation, that is, appointment to sin and damnation, is conveyed in another passage in the English of 1 Peter ii. 8, where we read of some "who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereto also they were appointed." Griesbach, Valpy, Alford, and many others, by merely putting a comma in the right place, remove the objectionable theology, and at the same time reinstate the imagery. The passage then reads thus" who, being disobedient to the word, stumble at that for which they were appointed." God appointed and commanded them to build themselves on the Rock; but they disobeyed His word, dashed against the stone, and were broken to pieces (Matt. xxi. 34). The Roman Catholic German, as well as the Lutheran, reads it thus-"They disbelieve that on which they also are laid." The little comma placed after instead of before to logo has, like a grain of sand in the eye, blinded scores of commentators and millions of readers.
5. Take another instance of misapprehension, derived, as I think, from sacerdotal superstition. Acts ii. 38
"Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins." Now we have the expression, "baptize into," in many instances. Mark i. 9-Into the Jordan. Matt. xxviii. 19-Into the name of the Father, and of the Son, &c. 1 Cor. x. 2-Into Moses. Rom. vi. 3-Into Christ, and into His death. All these were objects of baptism existing previously to the baptism. Why, when the object is remission of sins, is the same preposition in Greek changed in English, as if the forgiveness were not yet existing, but would be produced by the baptism? Why? but that the translators believed in sacramental efficacy and salvation by ordinances, baptismal regeneration, and pardon by what a priest can do.
6,7,8. Heb. xi.24-"Moses, when he was come to years," is the feeble rendering of "Moses having become a great man" (see Acts vii. 22). Heb. vii. 18, 19, should be read, "But there is the bringing in of a better hope, by which we draw near to God." Heb. ii. 11-"He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one" ("nature or family" should have been added).
9. In Heb. ix. 15, it is said that the Lord Jesus is "the Mediator of a better testament; and that there must needs be the death of the testator." I have no doubt we ought to read covenant. This word (diatheke) occurs about 140 times in the Greek of the Old and the New Testaments, and is almost always translated, even in this very epistle, by the word 66 covenant;" and in all instances might be so rendered with great advantage to the meaning. The only reason for employing the word "testament" is the "death of the testator." But even in this passage it was not the Maker of the will who died, but only the executor of the will-the mediator. It is clear the word testator means the testifying or ratifying victim. Such victims we read of as ratifying a covenant, in Gen. xv. 17; Jer. xxxiv. 18.
10. In 2 Cor. v. 15, we are taught to judge, "that if One died for all, then all died."* But this simple statement has been made complex, and its beautiful theology obscured, by being rendered, "then were all dead;" casting the thoughts back on the state in which mankind had been previously to the death of Christ, instead of fixing the attention on the change in their position effected for them by that death. In Christ's death they died, in His resurrection they rose: that is, in His death borne in infinite love to
*Heis apethanen, pantes apethanon.
sinners, followed by His resurrection in infinite power, both of which were effected for all men, all men received a benefit equivalent to the exhaustion of the penalty they had incurred, and to the recovery of the life they had lost; and that new life they should use, not to please themselves, but to glorify their Redeemer. In the same chapter another emendation is needed (2 Cor. v. 21), so as to read, "He hath made Him, who knew no sin, to be a sin-offering for us." (See Lev. iv. 29; Heb. ix. 28.)
11. One of the most obscure passages in the Bible is Gal. iii. 20, "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one." It has, however, been made needlessly darker by departing from the simplicity of rendering. Paul does not say "Now a mediator;" he says, "BUT THE Mediator." He had, in the fourteenth verse, said that "Christ had redeemed us . . . that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles." This grace of God toward the Gentiles was always denied by the Jews; and the apostle teaches them in the verse before us that THE Mediator was not of ONE (nation only), but that "there is one God" over all nations. A truth of unspeakable importance clearly brought to view in Rom. iii. 30, where we read, "Seeing it is one God, who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith;" and in 1 Tim. ii. 4-6, "God will have all men saved... for there is one God, and one mediator . . . who gave Himself a ransom for all."
12. Another similar obscurity arising from a similar neglect of the word "but" is to be noticed in Gal. v. 16. "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the desires of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, BUT the Spirit against the flesh and these are contrary the one to the other: IN ORDER THAT
ye MAY not do the things (the evil things) ye would."
13. I might adduce Ephes. v. 22, where the usual rendering of a little word would have saved a very sad misapprehension, a misapprehension. of the very character of God. The apostle says, "Even as God, in Christ, has forgiven you;" the English version unhappily has (in this one instance alone of all the New Testament), made the preposition into "for the sake of." The passage simply rendered is just parallel to 2 Cor. v. 19, "God was IN Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing to them their trespasses.'
14. In 1 Cor. xv. 27, 28, the apostle uses the same word six times, but our version employs three different terms for it, put under," subject," and "subdue." This introduces an element of needless obscurity. Verse 26 should be read, "Death, the last enemy, shall be destroyed."
15. "If by any means I might
attain to the resurrection of the dead," (exanastasin) should be "resurrection from among the dead" (Phil. iii. 1). See Luke xx. 35, where it is put still more emphatically.
16. The revised version, it is to be hoped, will deal more fairly with the English readers respecting the word aeon, or age, than the present version does. This word, and its adjective, appear, when turned into English, under, I think, nine different forms; many of which were designed to convey the idea of endlessness. But where that idea was inadmissible, as in Matt. xiii. 22, 1 Cor. x. 11, Heb. i. 2, the translators substituted a totally different expression— "world." This is particularly to be regretted in Heb. ix. 26, where two widely differing words are both rendered "world." "He must often have suffered since the foundation
of the (habitable) world; but now once at the end of the AGES he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." This last passage also demonstrates that cons are not without an end; for here, and in Matt. xxiv. 3, and 1 Cor. x. 11, we read of the end of them.
17. We hope, also, that in the forthcoming revision, the proper names of persons and places will be spelt in the New Testament the same way as in the Old. For why should Hosea be written Osee; Isaiah, Esay; Elijah, Elias; Elisha, Eliseus; Joshua, Jesus; Simeon, Simon; Jehovah, the Lord; Kish, Cis; Shechem, Sychar; Judah, Judas; Rachel, Rahel-Jer. xxxi. 15; Rehoboam, Roboam; Abijam, Abia; Jehoshaphat, Josaphat; Hezekiah, Ezekias, &c. &c.
18. These smaller obscurities may as well be removed; and also the sad misdivisions called chapters and verses. They are of no sort of authority, and have been made most thoughtlessly, many a time so as to mar the beauty of a passage-see John vii. 53 and viii. 1: or to defeat its purpose and argument, Isa. xli. 29, and xlii. 1; xliii. 28, and xliv. 1; Heb. ii. and iii., iv. 14; Rom. vii. and viii.; Rom. iv. and v. The excellent system of alternative renderings in the margin will, I trust, be both preserved and enlarged, and also the printing of supplemental words in italics.
I hope it will be understood that the above observations are offered only as a very diminutive specimen of the improvement which may be effected.