Imágenes de páginas

able obscurity, and sometimes ambiguity, in the expression.

03. A THIRD difficulty arises from the penury of books extant in the genuine and ancient Hebrew, there being no more than the books of the Old Testament, and not even all these. When we consider the manner in which the knowledge of any language, even of our native tongue, is acquired, we find it is solely by attending to the several ways in which words are used in a vast variety of occurrences and applications, that the precise meaning is ascertained. As it is principally from conversation, in our mother. tongue, or in any living language which we learn from those who speak it, that we have occasion to ob. serve this variety, so it is only in books that we have occasion to observe it, when employed in the acqui. sition of a dead language. Consequently, the fewer the books are, there is the greater risk of mistaking “the sense, especially of those words which do not frequently occur. This has given rise to doubts about the meaning of some words, even of the first class, to wit, the names of a few natural objects, as plants, animals, and precious stones, which occur, but rarely, in Scripture, and, solely, in passages where sufficient light cannot be had from the context.

$ 4. It may indeed be said, that as the writers of the New Testament, employed not the Hebrew, but the Greek language, in their compositions ; neither of the two remarks last mentioned can affect


[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

them, however they may affect the penmen of the Old. The Greek is indeed a most copious language, and the books written in it are very numerous. But whoever would argue in this manner, must have forgotten, what has been fully evinced in the former Dissertation, that though the words, the inflection, and the construction in the books of the New Testament are Greek, the idiom is strictly Hebraical ; or at least, he must not have reflected on the inevi. table consequences of this doctrine; one of which is, that the Hebraistic Greek, or Greek of the synagogue, as it has been called, will, in a great measure, labour under the same inconveniences and defects with the tongue on which its idiom is formed. Another consequence is, that the scarcity of books in the language which is the parent of the idiom, is, in effect, a scarcity of the lights that are necessary, or at least convenient, for the easier discovery of the peculiarities of the idiomatic tongue formed upon it. The reason of both is obvious; it is from that language we must learn the import of the phrases, and even sometimes of particular words, which otherwise would often prove unintelligible.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

$ 5. The fourth difficulty which the interpreter of the Bible has to encounter, arises from the nature of the prophetic style, a style highly figurative, or, as some critics have thought proper to denominate it, symbolical. The symbolic or typical is, in my apprehension, very much akin to what may be called the allegoric style. There is, however, this differ

ence : the symbols employed in prophecy have, like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, acquired a customary interpretation from the established use in that mode of writing, and are seldom or never varied; whereas the allegory is more at the discretion of the writer. One consequence of this is, that in the former there is not required the same exactness of resemblance between the symbols, or the types and their antitypes, as is required in allegory. The reason is ob. vious. The usual application supplies the defects in the first; whereas, in the second, it is solely by an accuracy of resemblance that an allegory can be distinguished from a riddle.

This difficulty however in the prophetic style, may be said, more strictly, to affect the expounder of the sacred oracles than the translator. For, in this mode of writing, there are two senses exhibited to the intelligent reader; first, the literal, and then the figurative : for, as the words are intended to be the vehicle of the literal sense, to the man who understands the language; so, the literal sense is intended to be the vehicle of the figurative, to the man whose understanding is exercised “ to discern the things of the

Spirit.” It is to such, therefore, in a particular manner, that whatever is written in the symbolic

le, in the New Testament, is addressed. Our Lord, to distinguish such from the unthinking multitude, calls them those who have ears to hear. Whoso hath ears to hear, says he, let him hear 42 The

42 Matth. xi, 15. xiii. 9. Mark, ir. 9, Luke, viii. S.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

same expression is also used in the Apocalypse 45, a book of prophecies. And it deserves to be attended to, that Jesus Christ never employs these words in the introduction, or the conclusion, of any plain moral instructions, but always after some parable, or prophetic declarations figuratively expressed. Now, it is with the literal sense only, that the translator, as such, is concerned. For the literal sense ought invariably to be conveyed into the version, where, if you discover the antitype or mystical sense, it must be, though not through the same words, through the same emblems, as you do in the original.

This also holds in translating allegory, apologue, and parable. A man may render them exactly into another tongue, who has no apprehension of the figurative sense. Who can doubt that any fable of Esop or Phedrus, for example, may be translated, with as much justness, by one who has not been told, and does not so much as guess the moral, as by one who knows it perfectly? Whereas the principal concern of the expounder is to discover the figurative import. In the New Testament, indeed, there is only one book, the Apocalypse, written entirely in the prophetic style: and it must be allowed that that book may be accurately translated by one who has no apprehension of the spiritual meaning. However, in the greater part, both of the historical, and of the epistolary, writings, there are prophecies interspersed. Besides, some knowledge in the diction and

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

43 Rev. ii. 7, 11, 17, 29.

manner of the prophets is necessary for the better apprehension of the application made in the New Testament, of the prophecies of the Old, and the reasonings of the Apostles in regard to those prophecies.Indeed it may be affirmed in general, that for translating justly what is of a mixed character, where the emblematic is blended with the historical, some knowledge of the mystic applications is more essential, than for translating unmixed prophecy, allegory, or parable.

$ 6. I SHALL mention, as the cause of a fifth difficulty in the examination, and consequently in the right interpretation, of the Scriptures, that, before we begin to study them critically, we have been accustomed to read them in a translation, whence we have acquired a habit of considering many ancient and oriental terms, as perfectly equivalent to certain words in modern use in our own language, by which the other have been commonly rendered. And this habit, without a considerable share of knowledge, attention, and discernment, is almost never perfectly to be surmounted. What makes the difficulty still the greater is that, when we begin to become acquainted with other versions beside that into our mother tongue, suppose Latin, French, Italian ; these, in many instances, instead of correcting, serve but to confirm the effect. For, in these translations, we find the same words in the original, uniformly rendered by words which we know to correspond exactly, in the present use of those

« AnteriorContinuar »