« PreviousContinue »
display more lofty, powers of description, and the first four lines struck us as particularly simple and vigorous.
The sun set red, the clouds were scudding wild,
A hoarser murmur and a heavier wave.'-p. 85. The poem ends with exhibiting woman in her natural sphere,the gentle guardian of rural and domestic retirement.
We have not read Mr. Barrett's former work on this subject, but we may venture to assure him, that those faults of style which he attributes to it, do not exist in the present. We might indeed point out several blemishes of a verbal nature, but we shall content ourselves with stating, in general terms, that they appear, for the most part, to originate in too much solicitude with regard to language; the versification though combining, as our readers must have observed, conciseness and strength with a considerable degree of harmony, is yet, from want of variety in the modulation of its pauses, occasionally cloying and oppressive.
On the whole, however, Mr. Barrett has evinced both talent and genius in his little poem, and sustained a flight far above the common level. Some passages of it, and those not a few, are of the first order of the pathetic and descriptive; we hope, therefore, (in compliment to our own judgment,) that he will not, after another lapse of years, quarrel with his present lady as he did with his first; nor, with the characteristic inconstancy of all professed admirers of the sex, repudiate and vilify a second Woman, for the sake of adopting a third.
Art. XII.—The Holy Bible, newly translated from the original
Hebrew; with Notes critical and explanatory. By John Bel
lamy, Author of The History of all Religions.' London. 1818. WE
E can scarcely conceive an employment of more serious re
sponsibility, than that of translating the Holy Scriptures from their original languages. When we consider that they convey the word of the Most High to man, and unfold those truths which concern his eternal interests, it is of the utmost importance that their meaning should be clearly given, without addition or diminution, without admixture, perversion or corruption, that those who cannot peruse them in the original tongues may be enabled to ascertain their contents with the greatest possible accuracy.
This was forcibly felt by the government in the reign of James the First, when our present authorized version was made with every human provision for accuracy and general excellence. The work, which was then produced by the joint labour of the
most learned men in the kingdom, with the greatest care and deliberation, and with the advantage of all the aids that could be supplied by any authority, ancient or modern, has justly been deemed, in the words of Dr. Gray,) ' equally remarkable for the general fidelity of its construction and the magnificent simplicity of its language.'
But, while it has been thus admired for its general excellencies, it has never been contended that it is a perfect work, or that there are no particular passages susceptible of improvement. Notwithstanding the clearness of the language of Scripture on the more essential points, it is admitted that, occasionally, in the poetical parts especially, texts occur of difficult construction, the elucidation, of which has employed with various success the labours of the learned. In rendering these, the translators gave that sense which, on the whole, they deemed to be the best, not that which should be so clear and decided as to unite the opinion of every biblical critic in its favour.
But, independently of the passages, where the difficulty of the construction has produced diversity of opinion as to the sense, and of a few others perhaps in which the translators, as human beings, bave erred in judgment; considerable advancement has been made, since the period of the translation, in the criticism of the Bible; the knowledge of the original languages has been in some instances improved; particular texts have been illustrated by the successful labours of the learned to which may be added, that the natural flux of our language bas rendered some expressions less appropriate, and less easily understood than when the translation was first made.
It can never, therefore, be supposed that the fact of our possessing a translation so excellent on the whole can render unnecessary the labours of those learned persons, who attempt improvements, whether their object be to give a correcter meaning in particular passages, or to alter for the better the general course and character of the style. Of the many attempts of this description, some have proceeded from incompetent and injudicious persons, and have speedily sunk into oblivion. Others have been the matured fruits of the industry, learning, and talents of such men as Lowth, Blayney, Horsley, and Newcome, men, whose qualifications for the work were undoubted. That these and other sound scholars have materially assisted the cause, and produced many valuable elucidations of particular passages, is gratefully acknowledged by all who are acquainted with their works. Yet, with all the respect which we feel for their labours, we venture to express a doubt whether any new translation of even a single book of Scripture has appeared since the publication of the authorized version, which, taken as a whole, has come up to its standard, either for the general fidelity and cor
rectness with which it conveys the sense of the original, or the dig. nity, simplicity, and propriety of the language in which that sense is conveyed.
The person, whose work is now, before us, Mr. John Bellamy, some time ago issued proposals for publishing a new Translation of the Holy Bible.' We confess that, from the first, we augured no good from them. We scarcely knew Mr. Bellamy by name; we could meet with no one who knew much more of him; and the only proof of his competence, was presumed to be afforded by what appeared to us a series of wild unmeaning trash, but which he himself dignified with the name of Hebrew Criticisms,' published in a periodical Jonrnal which passes through few hands. Nor did it appear to us that the bold design of newly translating the whole Bible, instead of trying his strength on some single portion of it, implied that he took a just measure either of his own powers or of the nature of the work in which he had engaged. But, on reading his proposals, we found insinuations and assertions respecting modern translations, which convinced us that he is apt to make them at hazard. We found, too, several specimens of his new translation printed in parallel columns, with the corresponding texts of the received version. These specimens perfectly astonished us; it seemed impossible that they could proceed from a person possessed in any tolerable degree of the qualifications requisite for a translator of the Bible, and we began to fear that his work might eventually prove worse than useless; that it might have a very mischievous tendency, as far as its influence should reach, in shaking the confidence of the unlearned in the certainty of those interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures, which have hitherto, and with the greatest justice, been universally received.
Mr. Bellamy, however, was encouraged to proceed by a list of subscribers, not large indeed, but containing some illustrious and dignified nanes. He even obtained permission to dedicate bis translation to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent. He obtained also the subscriptions of some learned and respected dignitaries of the church. In regard to the latter, it is gratifying to see them on general occasions extending their patronage for the encouragement of sacred learning; but we confess that, in the present instance, we felt some regret that names, which deservedly carry weight on such a subject with the public, should be found recommending a work of this nature, from a person whose competence to the office which he had undertaken was unknown.
The first part of Mr. Bellamy's new translation of the Holy Bible,'* containing his introduction and the book of Genesis, has
confirmed * The title-page to this work is inaccurate. It is called the Holy Bible newly
confirmed our worst anticipations. We find him to be a person whose arrogance, presumption, and contempt of others are perfectly intolerable, who proceeds in a rash and wild spirit of innovation, setting aside, on the authority of his own assertion, the decisions of the learned and the wise, and hazarding statements of the niost intrepid kind, on the slenderest foundations. His knowledge of the Hebrew consists in little more than a common acquaintance with the meaning of the roots, and the more ordinary and obvious rules of grammar, not of the peculiarities of idiom, and the niceties of construction: he is, besides, totally destitute of judgment. Generally speaking, when a person proposes to give a new translation of the Bible, or of any other well known book, we are prepared to : expect that the most he will endeavour to accomplish will be, to express the received meaning of the original with greater closeness or propriety, and, where the construction is difficult, to bring out the serse with greater clearness. Not so Mr. Bellamy; he pretends not, in the ordinary meaning of the word, to give a new translation, but to make new and unheard of discoveries of the sense; and this, in plain historical passages, where the meaning and construction of the words have hitherto been deemed as little subject to doubt, as in any sentence that was ever written in any language.
Before we examine the manner in which he arrives at these discoveries, we intreat the reader to reflect for a moment how the probabilities stand, on the first view of such a proceeding. That part of the Bible wbich we are now considering is the oldest composition in the world; and has been always reverenced by Jews and Christians, as proceeding from a person inspired by God, and conveying the records of his dispensations to his creature. To say
that as much pains have been bestowed on the discovery and elucidation of the meaning of this and the Bible at large as were ever bestowed on the most admired writings of classical authors, is to put the matter on too low a ground. The feeling of the high importance of the sacred book, and the reverence with which it has been viewed, have caused it to be sifted and examined with far more scrupulous diligence. Every phrase has been the subject of painful investigation; whole treatises have been composed on single passages; the principles of its grammar and construction have been carefully explored; translations have been made not only in modern times, but when a dialect of the Hebrew language was vernacular, and carefully handed down for our use; and concordances have been formed of every individual word. In short, all buman means have been employed in the development of the true sense of Scripture. And will it be be
translated from the original Hebrew. Now the term Holy Bible includes the Old and New Testamients, and, as only the Old Testament is written in Hebrew, it is only that art of the Holy Bible which can be translated from the original Hebrew.'
lieved, after all this, that, in plain historical passages, where there is no doubt about the integrity of the text as to a single letter affecting the sense, and where the language has hitherto been deemed so clear that no suspicion even of a doubt has been hinted— will it be believed that in such passages, every person, ancient or modern, Jew or Christian, bas hitherto been grossly mistaken, and that the day on which Mr. John Bellamy published his new translation was the first on which the true meaning was unfolded to the understandings of mankind !
"But we have not even yet come to the worst part of Mr. Bellanıy’s proceedings. In his notes on many of those passages which, as he pretends, have been hitherto mderstood in a sense at variance with the original, he eagerly dwells on the absurdity and inconsistency of the received sense, and retails at full length the objections which have been advanced by the most notorious infidel writers, as Chubb, Morgan, Tindal, Sir William Drummond, &c.; objections which have been refuted over and over, but which, as if with the most determined purpose of mischief, he repeats in the most offensive language. Thus, (Introduction, p. xii.) he says,
No one can possibly silence the arguments which objectors have advanced against the common translations of the Bible.' Again;• As long as such objectionable passages are permitted to disgrace the
pages of the sacred volume, if men were to preach with the language of angels, arguments, however reasonable for the defence of the Scriptures, cannot possibly produce any ultimate good.' At Gen. vi. 6. after bringing together all the impious trash that has ever been written about repentance being ascribed to the all-perfect God, he says, 'Surely it is a reproach to all the Christian nations to see the errors of the early ages still retained in the sacred pages.' At Gen. xi. 1. after a similar collection of the objections advanced by the most malicious unbelievers, he says, “The received view of this subject as it now unfortunately stands in all the translations, operates against the religion of the Bible. The most strenuous advocates of the sacred volume can neither comprehend nor believe it, and it does them credit, because it is not contained in the original : while, on the other hand, it is one of those objections which render the Deist so formidable in his arguments against the Scriptures.' And at Gen. xxii. he bursts forth into language more outrageous than we ever met with among the bitterest effusions of the most envenomed intidel. Every individual must necessarily feel here that disgust which is impossible for all the powers of language to describe;' when we consider what is stated, one of the most astonishing considerations is, that the Scriptures during this long period have been preserved from oblivion, and have been deemed sacred in the eyes of Europe to the present day.'