Page images
PDF
EPUB

of common sense is a much better judge than a learned foreigner 22

§ 14. I EXPRESSED myself dubiously of Blackwall's seriousness in affirming that the Oriental idi. oms, with which the sacred authors abound, are highly ornamental to their compositions; because nothing can be plainer than that he is indefatigable in controverting their claims to the greater part of those ornaments. I cannot think he would have willingly injured them; yet it is impossible not to perceive, that he is at infinite pains, though on the most frivolous pretexts 23, to divest them of almost every beauty of

22 Hardly any foreigner of the last century has been more conversant with English men and English books than Voltaire. Yet his knowledge of our language, on which I have been told he piqued himself not a little, has not secured him from blun. dering when he attempted to write it. In a letter to the Pari. sians, prefixed to his comedy L'Ecossaise, which he thought proper to introduce to the world as a translation, he quotes the following sentence as part of a letter he had received from the English author : “ You have quite impoverished the character of Wasp; and you have blotted his chastisement at the end of " the drama.” An Englishman might have guessed what he meant by the first clause, but must have remained in total darkness about the second, if he had not explained himself by sub. joining the translation. Vous avez afaibli le caractere de Frelon; et vous avez supprime son chatiment a la fin de la piece. An explanation 'not less necessary to many of his English rea. ders than to his French.

23 The following is a specimen, Vol. II. Part I. Ch. 2. $ 2. 6 Kataboan xorus in the sacred writers, seemed to some gentle."

this sort ascribed to them by others ! I desire only to restore to them the merit, of which he has not very consistently, though I believe with a pious intention, • endeavoured to strip them. This critic did not con

sider that, when he admitted any Hebraisms in the New Testament, he, in effect, gave up the cause. That only can be called a Hebraism in a Greek book, which, though agreeable to the Hebrew idiom, is not so to the Greok. Nobody would ever call that a Scotticism which is equally in the manner of both Scots and English. Now, such foreign idioms as Hebraisms in Greek, Grecisms in Hebrew, or Latinisms in either, come all within the definition of barbarism, and sometimes even of solecism-words which have always something relative in their signification ; that turn of expression being a barbarism or a solecism in one language, which is strictly proper in another—and I may add, to one set of hearers, which is not so to another. It is, then, in vain, for any one to debate about the application of the names barbarism and solecism.

To do so, is at best, but to wrangle about words, after admitting all that is meant by them. The Apostle Paul, less scrupulous, does not hesitate, by impli.

men conversant in these studies unexampled in the old Gre. “ cians. Indeed it is very rare; but it is found in the lofty 56 Pindar (Nem. Od. 2.) K&Tu Bodav ingen ay www.” A most ex. traordinary way of proving that the phrase Kataloan xorus is not upexampled in the old Grecians. About the noun Kateboam no doubt was ever made, nor was any doubt made about Korres; the question was solely about the phrase, VOL. I.

12

cation, to call every tongue barbarous to those who do not understand it. If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be a barbarian to him that speaketh; and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian to mea. Nor does it make any difference, as appears from the whole of the Apostle's argument, even if what is spoken be spoken by the Spirit. Surely, with equal reason, we may say of those foreign idioms in any tongue, which render what is said unintelligible, or even obscure, to the natives, that, in respect of them, they are barbarisms. Nor is it, I think, denied, by any judicious person, that there are some idiomatical expressions in the New Testament which must have puzzled those who were absolute strangers to the language of Holy Writ 25. My intention, in observing this, is chiefly to show, that if we would

24 1 Cor. xiv. 11. 25 Take the two following for examples : Oux aduvatnsel kesee tw Otw nav gruce, Luke, i. 37. and 8x av Erw. In tara suelta Matth. xxiv, 22. phrases which, in my apprehension, would not have been more intelligible to a Greek author than Arabic or Persian would have been. Popese for thing, Tev 8x and T&T% 8X for no or none, caps for person, &c. would to him, I suspect, have proved insurmountable obstacles. Indeed the vulgar translation of the last phrase is no more Latin than the original is classical Greek. Non fieret salva omnis caro, which we may venture to affirm would have been no better than a riddle to Cicero or Cæsar. Castalio has expressed the sense in proper Latin, Nemo prorsus evaderet. Our translators have not un. fitly kept in their version the one Hebraism flesh for person, to which our ears are, by scriptural use, familiarised, and not less fitly rejected the other saying, No flesh should be suced; for enter thoroughly into the idiom of the New Testament, we must familiarize ourselves to that of the Septuagint; and if we would enter thoroughly into the idiom of the Septuagint, we must accustom ourselves to the study, not only of the original of the Old Testament, but of the dialect spoken in Palestine, between the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; for this last, as well as the Hebrew, has affected the language both of the old Greek translation and of the New Testament. But of this more afterwards.

$ 15. Such is the origin and the character of the idiom which prevails in the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists, and the remarkable conformity of the new revelation which we have by them, though written in a different language, to the idiom of the old. It has been distinguished in the former by the name Hellenistic, not with critical accuracy, if regard be had to the derivation of the word, but with sufficient exactness, if attention be given to the application which the Hebrews made of the term Hellenist, whereby they distinguished their Jewish brethren who lived in Grecian cities, and spoke Greek. It has been, by some of late, after father Simon of the Oratory,

every body must be sensible that if they had preserved also the other idiom in English, and said, All flesh should not be saved, the sense would have been totally altered. This is but a small specimen, not the hundredth part of what might be produced, on this subject.

more properly termed the Greek of the synagogue. It is acknowledged that it cannot strictly be denominated a separate language, or even dialect, when the term dialect is conceived to imply peculiarities in declension and conjugation. But, with the greatest justice, it is denominated a peculiar idiom, being not only Hebrew and Chaldaic phrases put in Greek words, but even single Greek words used in senses in which they never occur in the writings of prophane authors, and which can be learnt only from the extent of signification given to some Hebrew or Chaldaic word, corresponding to the Greek, in its primitive and most ordinary sense. This difference in idiom constitutes a difficulty of another kind from that which is created by a difference in dialect; a difficulty much harder to be surmounted, as it does not affect the form of the words, but the meaning.

$ 16. It is pertinent, however, to observe that the above remarks on the Greek of the New Testament, do not imply that there was any thing which could be called idiomatical or vulgar in the language of our Lord himself, who taught always in his mother tongue. His apostles and Evangelists, on the contrary, who wrote in Greek, were, in writing, obliged to translate the instructions received from him into a foreign language of a very different structure, and for the use of people accustomed to a peculiar idiom. The apparently respectful manner in which our Saviour was accosted by all ranks of his countrymen, and in which they spoke of his teaching, shows

« PreviousContinue »