« PreviousContinue »
thus far succeeded, and probably it was not even entertained by the Revision Company. But some of the facts commented upon in the foregoing pages exbibit too much of the dogmatic spirit which dictated this proposal.
(4) In regard to the difficult word Shcol, rendered in the Authorised by 'grave,' “pit,' or 'hell,' the mode of proceeding appears to be on the whole not injudicious. The word is very probably a proper name, like the Greek Hades, denoting the under-world, or abode of the souls of the dead. “Under-world ’is scarcely admissible as an English word; otherwise, it might have been used as the equivalent of Sheol. “Grave,' and 'pit’are either of them too insignificant to stand as its sole representative. Hell, considering the ideas commonly associated with the term, is decidedly wrong, but the Revisers have left it in one passage, in which the context, as they think, sufficiently suggests and guards the signification intended. But this may be doubted, , and with ignorant or unthoughtful readers, such as we have in Sunday Schools as well as in congregations, the popular meaning of the word is pretty sure to be understood. Would it not then have been better, in Isaiah xiv., to have rendered - The world beneath is moved for thee,' with 'Sheol’in the margin? The Revision would thus have been rid of the objectionable 'hell'altogether; as this word ought also to have been removed from the New Testament, as a term which, in its mediæval and still living acceptation, goes so far beyond the real meaning of the original. The revisers have left 'grave' or 'pit'in the text (they tell us) in historical narratives--but have used the original word itself in the poetical books. This may pass, but it is not easy to see why 'pit' should have been introduced in place of - hell,' in such a passage as Psalm lv. 15, 'Let them go down alive into the pit,' when Sheol would have read equally well, and has in so many other places been substituted. In such cases there is perhaps simply oversight; but everywhere it is well that the original Sheol is found noted in the margin, when not used in the text. This gives at least the suggestion of uniformity which is due to the Hebrew ; and it enables a reader to detect and correct the inconsistency of the Revision. In many places too the word “grave' would have been a more poetical and melodious word than the unfamiliar Sheol; as in Job xi. 8, Deeper than the grave, what canst thou know?'
The Revisers would have preferred the word 'hell,' they tell us, as the usual rendering of. Sheol,' could the former have been taken in its original sense, as used in the Creeds.' This is a strange and surely an inconsiderate statement. Can there be a doubt that the word hell, as used in the Creeds' by those who in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries imposed or re-imposed the Creeds upon the English Church, was intended to be understood in the mediaval sense as 'the place of torment’? The Fathers of English orthodoxy, as ir, was then established, were devout believers in a hell of the most urquestionable kind, one of fire and brimstone, devils and lost souls. Such then, there can be no doubt, was intended to be the hell’ of the Creeds. From a Sheol of this description, it is at least satisfactory to see that the Revisers so evidently shrink, in common most probably with all thoughtful religious persons of our day.
(5) The reader of the revised New Testament will be prepared to find that the revisers of the Old, while retaining the numbering of the chapters and verses, have arranged their text in paragraphs, and at the same time have abandoned the chapter and page headings. This latter course was unavoidable, in the hands of honest and capable workmen. The headings of the Authorised are too often a confused and strange medley, tending only to put the reader off the true historical interpretation of a passage. This is more especially the case in the prophetical books. The headings are in truth wholly without authority, and nobody can say with any certainty from whose hand they proceeded. But one thing is clear enough, namely, that they correspond to the theological belief of King James's revisers, and the century to which they belonged, and if we are not to regard such persons as infallible, there is no reason for adhering to their ideas of the meaning of passages, unless independent inquiry should sanction them, as no doubt, in historical books, it often does. It is a pity that our popular preachers do not sometimes give their people more information than they commonly do give, on more than one of the points just touched.
(6) More questionable is the style of printing adopted by the Revisers, in order to exhibit the parallelism which is characteristic of Hebrew poetry. To some extent, a degree of parallelism is characteristic of Hebrew prose also, for this too has a constant tendency to run into the style designated by that term. Everywhere, however, this form of composition, where it exists, speaks for itself and asserts itself. It was therefore unnecessary, for the sake of exhibiting it to the
eye, to print the English version in lines so often broken and unsightly. The text is greatly disfigured by this arrangement, especially in pages or columns of small size, where so often the sentence cannot be put into one line, and where therefore there is a constant overrunning of words, and a breaking up of the lines into unequal parts. What can be more unpleasant in this way than the appearance of many portions of Job, for example?-or the greater part of Psalm xviii. ?-or much of Psalm lxxxix. ? In such cases and as a rule, nothing would have been lost, and much space would have been saved, by printing the lines in the ordinary prose manner,
and leaving the parallelism to speak for itself, as it would mostly do. Moreover, there is at times in the English a sort of pretence of parallelism to which the sense does not correspond—that is to say, there is no true parallelism, while yet the words are printed as if there were.
The inexpediency of this mode of printing is tacitly acknowledged by the Revisers when they come to the prophetical books, which although poetical in their language and spirit and abounding in instances of the most beautiful parallelism, as in Isaiah i. 2 seq., are printed as prose. It is to be regretted that the same mode of printing has not been followed throughout.
(7) The Preface further speaks of the relations of the English revisers with the American 0. T. Company, which, as in the case of the New Testament, appear to have been of an advantageous and barmonious character. The Americans, it will strike many persons, have shown themselves more free from hampering influences than their English co-workers, and have proposed various changes, the rejection of which many readers will regret. Among these is the suggestion to introduce the word Jehovah, wherever it occurs in the Hebrew text. This proposal, with many others of less consequence, was rejected by the English revisers, no doubt on consideration, but, so far as appears, without reason given. The reader has nevertheless, the advantage of seeing the American suggestions in the Appendix to each volume of the Revised Version.
Passing on from the Preface, a few additional observations may now be made on detached passages of special interest; and these will occupy the remainder of this paper. .
The words of Exodus iii. 14 are interesting both in themselves and because of the persistent attempts which have been made to connect them with John viii. 58. 'And God said unto Moses, I am that I am :' the margin properly recognises the fact that the tense here used is really a future in form, and that the words may be rendered, 'I will be that I will be.' The Authorised rendering to which the revisers have adhered may have had its origin from the Septuagint, imitated, though not closely, by the Vulgate, and so received into modern versions. The Septuagint reads żyó eigi ó óv, I am the existing one; or better, I am he who is. This is little more than a loose paraphrase and not by any means a close rendering of the Hebrew; and it was departed from by the ancient translators Aquila and Theodotion, wlio were both of them Jews, or Jewish converts, and well acquainted with Hebrew. Both of these translators are remarkable for the literal character of their Greek renderings from the Hebrew. They translate the words before us by the future čo ouai ôstooual, I will be what I will be ; and this was followed by Luther, by early English translators, by Dathe, Castalio, Geddes, Wellbeloved, and others. The purport of the words, in either rendering, it is not so easy to perceive. In the one case, it may be eternity of existence, suggesting the connection of the phrase with the name Jehovah;3 in the other case, it may be faithfulness to promises, as though the
3 The words are perhaps simply equivalent to “Jehovah'expressed, as it were, in the first person.
Speaker would say, My name shall be, ‘I will be faithful to the promises made of old to the fathers and now to you the people of Israel.'
In either case, the want of connection with John viii. 58 is clear enough. Here, a totally different reference, that namely to the Logos idea of the Gospel, is what most probably unlocks the meaning of the passage: or otherwise the “I am’of John is the same as the 'I am' of Mark xiii. 6, and is found also in other places of the fourth Gospel. The meaning, therefore, may be “ I am he, that is to say, the expected Messiah. We venture to think that the margin, in this case as in others, ought to have stood in the text; but to put it in this place of honour was more perhaps than ought to be asked for.
In Exodus vi. 2, the new text has been bold enough to adopt the form JEHOVAH instead of the LORD. From the nature of the context it could not have done otherwise. The same form recurs no less than four times in this chapter (vv. 2, 3, 7, 8); then after this unwonted adherence to the original, the rendering weakly goes back (v. 11) to the old form,' the LORD. Such is the inconsistency put upon our Revisers, or a preponderating minority of them, by the tyranny of long-descended usage—just as it must be held to have been in the New Testament in the case of the word 'Ghost,' and in several others of equal importance.
Passing on to the Book of Isaiah, we come to some other examples of the same inability to respond to the requirements of an independent and purely historical revision. Isaiah vii. 14, * Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,' is the first case in point. The Revisers have here adhered to the old rendering, in the face of the very plainest and most incontestable Hebrew. This, literally rendered, runs thus :• Behold the maiden (or young woman) is with child and beareth a son and calleth his name Immanuel. The article before maiden' has been left unacknowledged, except, in the margin. The word rendered - virgin,' it is well ascertained, is a word of elastic import, and may here denote what the words immediately following suggest, probably a young woman whose state was known to the prophet, and who was therefore, it may be inferred, the prophet's own wife. The word which the Revisers have rendered by shall conceive,' is not a verb but a verbal adjective, denoting an existing condition, not a future one. It is the identical word which occurs in connection with Hagar, Genesis xvi. 11, where it is correctly given by the Revision, • Behold, thou art with child. Why, then, is there such a deviation from the Hebrew in the rendering of the words of Isaiah ?—why, except, consciously or unconsciously, to suit a foregone theological theory as to the child of which Isaiah speaks? The margin, it may be said, apprises the reader of the true form of the Hebrew. But then, it should be remembered, the margin will not usually be read from the pulpit. The result therefore to the great public of church and chapel-goers will be much the same as if the Revision had adopted the bolder course of altogether keeping out of sight the exact full meaning of the prophet's words.
The necessity of close and careful rendering in this case is easily shown. It depends entirely on the translation whether the English reader is to accept the passage in its obvious historical sense, or in the imported, artificial sense of a mysterious and obscure prophecy relating to the distant future, having little connection with Isaiah's own day. The latter is what the text as it now stands will be popularly held to suggest, and would seem to have been intended to suggest ; but this is altogether without warrant, if we are to be guided by the prophet's words and their context.
Isaiah is speaking with immediate reference to the events of his day, and to persons there standing before him. He wishes to inspire the king and his attendants with confidence, and he gives them a visible sign by which they may be informed and guided. He refers to a person of whom he has knowledge whose child is shortly to be born. This child shall have a significant name given to it, and in this name is the main strength of the prophecy. The child shall be called Immanuel'(God is with us), and thus he shall be a visible sign that Jehovah has not forgotten his people, but will be with them to deliver them. The word rendered 'a virgin ’ may properly have the meaning ‘ young woman,' as Gesenius has shown. In this he is followed by Ewald, who however regards the words as Messianic. There is no necessity for so considering them and little probability in so doing, unless we are to suppose that Isaiah expected the birth of the Messiah within a few months of the time at which he was speaking. On the other hand it is observable that this prophet is fond of these significant names. In two cases he gives such names to his children, Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (vii. 3, viii. 1, 3). In this case of the child Immanuel, we have a third case of the kind; all the three therefore bearing special reference to the political circumstances of the time, and being intended to express the prophet's confidence in the future fortunes of his people, in spite of the adversities which for the moment seem to be overwhelming them. The words of the prophecy respecting Immanuel were, however, in later times, and especially among the Christians, read and applied in the Messianic sense, as is seen by the quotation of the verse in Matthew i. 23, where the writer (in Greek) of the Gospel, more faithful to the original scripture than the English revisers, has not omitted to render the article ; although (probably following the Septuagint) he has used future tenses for his verbs. These tense forms, however, are not in the Hebrew; for, as before said, in the one case we have a verbal adjective, denoting a present condition, while in the two other cases we have participial forms which are present, not future, in signification.
Another of these significant names occurs in a remarkable and