« PreviousContinue »
ber that no insertion of any kind is made in the English Bible, which did not, in the judgment of the translators, appear necessary to express more clearly and fully the sense of the original Hebrew; yet these are represented by this daring perverter of the truth as interpolations, obscuring the sense, making the text speak what was never intended, and charging God with commands he never gave!
But Mr. Bellamy is not more courteous to the other existing translations; since the time of Aquila, A. D. 128, (he says,) I do not find that the translators in any one instance have confined themselves to the Hebrew only.' p. x. And he makes it his own peculiar boast that he translates literally from the pure Hebrew text only! -p. 2.
From his general manner, we readily comprehend what he means by translating from the Hebrew only'; namely, that he throws aside the assistance afforded by the best ancient versions, and attends solely to the Hebrew text. Now we have no hesitation in saying that, had our translators proceeded in this way, they would have forfeited that reputation for sound judgment and learning, which they have so justly established, and produced a version by no means entitled to that high character which the present bears. Let us recollect a little how the matter stands. The Hebrew, in which the books of the Old Testament are written, has ceased to be the vernacular language of any nation for more than 2000 years; and, what is very different from the case of the Greek and Latin languages, of which abundance is come down to us, both in poetry and prose, we possess in the ancient Hebrew those books only which form the volume of the Old Testament. Under such circumstances, if we had no translatious of them, made in times when greater advantages for interpretation were afforded, than we now enjoy, we should frequently be at a loss to ascertain the true sense. Many words and forms of construction occur in these books, some perhaps only once, others not more than two or three times; and if we were left to discover the meaning of them either from the context, or from internal evidence, we should find the task of translating the Scriptures with certainty, often very difficult, and sometimes even impossible. But, providentially, we possess, together with the Hebrew, several valuable versions of great antiquity, which accurately record the meaning of the original as it was understood in those early times, and therefore afford a most important guidance to us in interpreting it at present. We have, in the first place, the Greek version, well known by the name of the Septuagint, which has ever been prized most highly by both Jews and Christians as conveying generally the true interpretation of the Hebrew. This version was made at a time (about B. C. 270) when the language of the Bible had scarcely ceased to be vernacular; for, although the Jews who
returned from the captivity used a mixture of the Hebrew and Chaldee, yet it is probable that some societies of them, who escaped the general captivity by flying into neighbouring countries, still spoke the original language quite or nearly in its purity or if the language was not at that time any where strictly vernacular, yet it had ceased to be so only for a short period: many writings in it of various descriptions then existed, no doubt, which have since been wholly lost, not to mention grammars, dictionaries, and other assistances for interpretation, remaining from the period when the language was in use. Thus no reasonable doubt can exist that the authors of the Septuagint version possessed the means of making it most faithful to the original. That they really did so make it, is confirmed by the fact of its general reception amongst the Jews from the first, by its being quoted by many early writers who had the best means of ascertaining its fidelity, and by the concurring opinions of all antiquity. But the circumstance which-affixes as it were the seal of authority to the accuracy of the Septuagint version is, its being quoted by our Saviour and the inspired writers of the New Testament. We observe that Mr. Bellamy, with a view to his own purposes, strains every nerve to make his readers hold the Septuagint version in contempt, and calls that which we possess, the spurious Septuagint., Hard names carry no weight when unsupported by solid arguments; and not a semblance of argument is produced by him to excite the least suspicion that the version now called the Septuagint is materially different from that which has always borne this name. We readily allow indeed that it is not a perfect work as it is the production of human beings, it contains errors and imperfections; as it has been preserved by human means, it has suffered occasionally by negligence and mistakes of transcribers. But we speak the concurring sentiment of all learned men when we affirm that, taken as a whole, it has come down to us in a state of great purity and perfection; and that we have the highest possible authority for deeming it to convey, in the main, a faithful record of the true sense of the Hebrew Scriptures.
But, in addition to the Septuagint, we possess other important assistances derived from antiquity for the interpretation of the Hebrew. We have the Samaritan version, made, as is thought, before the birth of Christ; the Chaldee Paraphrases, or Targums of Onkelos on the law, and of Jonathan on the prophets, being free translations of the Scriptures, made about the time of Christ; we have the Syriac version, made, according to constant tradition, not long after the time of the Apostles; the Latin Vulgate, formed from St. Jerome's translation from the Hebrew, which was made at the close of the third century. We have also some scattered fragments of three translations of the Old Testament into Greek, all made in R 3
the second century severally by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, together with versions of less antiquity into eastern and other languages; all these, having been made, more or less, with advantages for the right interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, far greater than any modern translator possesses without their aid, are justly entitled to very great consideration. And a person who professes to translate from the Hebrew only,' or who, in other words, wholly throws aside the valuable assistance of the ancient translations, pro claims in the outset his utter want of judgment, and tells the public that while he is attempting to execute an important work, he neglects some of the most valuable means of executing it faithfully.
We now proceed to a particular consideration of some of those passages, in which Mr. Bellamy, from his knowledge of the Hebrew, professes to make discoveries of the true meaning of the ori ginal, which have escaped the penetration of every former translator. In doing this, we beg to remind the reader that in questions which concern the meaning of words in the dead languages, we cannot, in the nature of things, bring the point at issue to a mathematical demonstration, but must refer it to the common authority and consent of mankind. If, for example, Mr. John Bellamy should think proper in his wisdom to contend that the word niger in the Latin language signifies white, and not black, as has been universally thought, and should pretend to prove that, in every passage where the word occurs in Latin authors, a much better sense would be made by translating it white, than black, we could never prove to a demonstration that he is wrong: we could only plead the concurring authority of all who have interpreted the word, to shew that it really signifies black,' and that it is used with this sense wherever it occurs.
The first passage to which we shall direct our attention is Gen. ii. v. 21, 22. where it has always been understood, that woman was formed by the Almighty from the side of man. The English translation, agreeing with every known translation, states that, after the Lord God had caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, 'he took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman and brought her unto the man.' A beautiful reason is afforded in the words which follow, for this dispensation of the Creator, that it was designed as a symbol of the close and entire union that should subsist between a man and his wife, who is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, and that they two should be one flesh.' That the infidel objector may have found matter for his scoffs in this, as in other passages of Scripture, affords not the slightest proof that it is really deserving of ridicule, or that it records any thing inconsistent with reason or with the known perfections of the Deity. But our
present business is with the fact whether this is or is not the undoubted sense of the original. Mr. Bellamy boldly affirms that it is not. 'A translation' (he says) ' more foreign to the true meaning of the original could not have been given:' and he therefore renders it in this improved manner
"Then he brought one to his side, whose flesh he had inclosed in her place. Then Jehovah God built the substance of the other, which he took for the man, even a woman: and he brought her to the man.'
Before we proceed, we entreat the reader to pause, and reflect on what is involved in this assertion of Mr. Bellamy's,-nothing less arrogant, in fact, than, that all who have translated the passage before, whether Jews or Christians, have completely mistaken a plain historical passage, and that he is the first person who has discovered its true sense. Nor is this all. The fact of woman having been formed from the side of man has been universally réceived as matter of belief by Jewish rabbis and by Christian fathers, by all, in short, who have admitted the divine authority of the book of Genesis. But it must have been entirely on the declaration of this passage that such a belief was ever formed. The universality, therefore, of the belief affords the fullest proof of the universal agreement which has prevailed respecting its sense.
In order, however, to shew more fully that all who have had the best advantages for interpretation have agreed as to the meaning of this passage, we think it worth while to produce the rendering of it from the oldest versions. The Septuagint has Ἔλαβε μίαν τῶν πλευρῶν ἀυτὲ καὶ ἀνεπλήρωσε σάρκα ἀντ ̓ ἀυτῆς, καὶ ἠκοδόμησεν πλευρὰν ἦν ἔλαβεν ἀπο τῷ ̓Αδὰμ εἰς γυναῖκα. The Targum of Onkelos gives it, literally, according to the Latin words which follow.*. Et tulit unam de costis ejus, et replevit carne locum ejus-et ædificavit costam quam tulerat de Adam in mulierem.'† The Hebræo-Samaritan, Cepit unam de costis posuitque carnem pro eâ ædificavit autem costam quam sumpsit ex Adamo, in mulierem. The Syriac-Sumpsit unam e costis ejus, et applicavit carnem loco ejus, et condidit costam quam sumpserat ex Adamo in mulierem. The Arabic-Extraxit unam costarum ejus, et obturavit locum ejus carne, et fabricavit costam quam acceperat (here ex Adamo is omitted) in mulierem. The Latin Vulgate
* We here quote from Walton's Polyglott bible.
It is worthy of remark that Mr. Bellamy, whenever it suits his purpose, considers the authority of Onkelos, conclusive for the meaning of Hebrew words. In a note on Ge. nesis iii. 22. after referring to passages in the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, he says, as these two writers are allowed to have been the most eminently learned men among the Jews, and who lived when the Hebrew language was a national language; it is full authority to determine the meaning of the word,' &c. Why then does he ever depart from their authority by rendering passages differently from them? If what he says of their authority true in one passage, it is true in all.
-Tulit unam de costis ejus, et replevit carnem pro eâ, et ædificavit Dominus Deus costam quam tulerat de Adam in mulierem. In addition to these, we have mentioned already the Greek translations made in the second Christian century, of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, of which some fragments only are preserved; but it so happens that those fragments are sufficient to prove that they rendered the passage precisely in the same sense. The translation of this passage by Theodotion is extant, and he renders it precisely in the same words as the Septuagint. Those of Aquila and Symmachus are lost; but their translation of part of the next verse is preserved, which proves fully how they understood the preceding verses. For, in the expression of the next verse as it stands in our translation, therefore she shall be called woman, because she was taken from the man,' they render the latter words, OTI Ex T8 avopos εληφθη αυτη, which clearly proves that they collected from the whole passage that woman was formed from man. Thus it appears that while in these ancient versions there was here and there a minute difference as to the words, there is a most complete agreement as to the sense, so as to shew that not the smallest doubt prevailed about the right interpretation at the times when those versions were formed.
But Mr. Bellamy boldly flies in the face of all these authorities, affirms that he understands more of Hebrew than was understood by those concerned in framing former versions, and that he alone can give the true sense where they have all fallen into the grossest errors. Let us see how he proceeds.
-which is as lite ויקח אחת מצלעתיו The words of the original are
rally translated, as the words admit, and he took one of his ribs ;' the words exactly correspond to the Latin words Et cepit (or tulit) unam de costis ejus, and there is as little reason to doubt about the meaning of the Hebrew words as of the Latin. But, says Mr. Bellamy, п" may be translated and he brought.' 'It requires,' he says, "a word from the same root more consistent with the obvious and rational meaning of the passage: for this word varies in its application, as words vary in all languages.' He then quotes Numb. xxiii. 18. for the signification he brought:' 'therefore,' he proceeds, this clause will truly read, then he brought.' We trust the reader will admire his logic, that because a word in one passage bears a peculiar sense, therefore it may be used in that sense whenever it occurs: but, in fact, he has made some mistake; for in the only passage (Numb. xxiii. 18.) where he affirms that the word occurs in the sense of brought,' it so happens that it does not occur at all. However, whether it be possible or not to adduce any single instance in which the word is rendered in the sense of bring,' we are prepared to state most distinctly, the