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shadow of death, he worked under circumstances alone, perhaps, truly worthy of the task which was laid upon him; his spirit, as it were, divorced from the world, moved in a purer element than common air."
The translation of the New Testament by Dr. Noyes, conceived and executed in the spirit of Tyndale, was passing through the press, when its author, who had long been lying under death's shadow, was called to higher scenes. "The old house," he used to say, playfully alluding to his enfeebled body, "is out of repair, and the Owner is not pleased to put it in order again." But the mind was clear to the last; and, in the work before us, we have the crowning labor of his life, -the Testament he so much loved faithfully translated according to "the universally acknowledged principles of scientific interpretation," yet suffused by a tender and holy light, such as shines only from a heart set on the things above and not on things on the earth.
Of this translation, it is not too much to say, that the labors of the most eminent biblical scholars of this century in textual criticism and scripture interpretation have been laid under contribution to make a work worthy in all respects of the age in which it appears: the writings of critics, commentators, translators, and theologians of every creed and church, have been freely consulted; and to this extensive, we had almost said exhaustive, research, combined with the translator's own thorough and varied scholarship, the Christian world is indebted for an English version of the New Testament, which in most, if not all, points of comparison, we do not hesitate to pronounce superior to any which has preceded it.
Aside from its great merits as an exact translation of the best Greek text, Dr. Noyes's version is specially characterized by the uniform excellence of its English. To translate the Bible into any modern tongue requires in the translator an adequate knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, and a clear insight into the peculiar genius of these languages as employed by the writers of the various books. But the English Bible is a constituent and important part of English literature.
There is a "spirit and savor" in the language of the old and familiar version which English readers are not willing to lose, and which, in any new version that is to be widely and permanently read, will never be sacrificed, except to the paramount demand of fidelity to the original. Tyndale's translation, which furnished the basis, and in great measure the substance, of our Common Version, decided not for his day only, but for our own time as well, that the style of the English Bible should be popular, and not literary; its language, the English spoken and understood by the common people. In the translation before us, both the simplicity and the strength of diction which the translators of King James inherited from Tyndale are retained. While Dr. Noyes has restored in many places shades of meaning which the wear and tear of generations had well-nigh obliterated; has brought to light threads of thought and subtile lines of feeling, which, in the Common Version, are wholly concealed; and has even corrected the pattern itself, wherever through ignorance of the true text or mistakes of interpretation it had been altered from the original, — he has yet preserved, with an exactness which is truly remarkable in view of the numerous changes which he has made, the web and woof of the version endeared to English minds by long and constant use.
But we pass from these prolegomena to consider the translation itself. The principal arguments which for a long time have been urged in favor of a new and thorough revision of the English New Testament are: first, the mistranslation of many words and phrases in the Common Version; second, the changes which have taken place in our language since the days of King James; and, third, the possession by modern scholars of a Greek text far more accurate and trustworthy than that of the imperfect editions used by Tyndale and the translators of the authorized or common version. Many of the differences between this version and the translation by Dr. Noyes are due to the text of Tischendorf, which he has invariably followed; and while the common reader will be likely to judge unfavorably of certain renderings in the New Translation, from ignorance of these variations in the text,
it is equally necessary that those who are students of the Greek Testament should keep this fact constantly in mind. The most important of these various readings, relating to controverted passages, are well known to biblical students; and such works as Mr. Norton's "Statement of Reasons," Mr. Abbot's edition of the Memoir of the Controversy respecting 1 John v. 7, as well as most of the recent Commentaries on the New Testament, give ample information on these points to the general reader.
In adopting Tischendorf's reading of John i. 18, μovoyevns ɛós, Dr. Noyes merely adhered to the rule which he had laid down in his preface, not to interpose his own judgment concerning any of the various readings of the Greek text. Had he followed that reading which he himself regarded as the true one, the translation of the Common Version, "only begotten Son," would have been retained. In his eighth critical edition (of which the portion that includes this passage was published after Dr. Noyes's death), Tischendorf restores the old reading o povozerns viós,—thus confirming by his later decision the judgment which Dr. Noyes had before given concerning the correct reading.
The mistranslations in the Common Version of disputed passages relating to theological doctrine have been corrected by Dr. Noyes, yet in such a manner as to leave no just ground of complaint on the part of those who would prefer a different rendering. The famous passage in Romans ix. 5, is given as an ascription to God, and not, as our Common Version has it, a description of Christ. But in a note the ambiguity of the punctuation is conceded, and the possibility of the old translation freely admitted.
The incorrectness of the authorized version in Philippians ii. 6 has been generally conceded by competent scholars. Dr. Noyes's rendering is substantially the same as Alford's; but the whole passage is far more intelligibly translated, and is one of the many places wherein the superiority of the ver sion before us over other English translations is clearly seen.
But the advantage which the readers of Dr. Noyes's translation enjoy in having the true Greek text restored, and the
obscurity and inaccuracy of disputed passages removed, is only a small part of their indebtedness to the labors of this most careful and thorough scholar. As Dean Alford has forcibly remarked in an article on New Testament revision, "It is not too much to say that all the finer characteristics which give life and spirit to the Gospel narratives, all those features which could bring out to the intelligent student the attitude. and motive of the persons engaged, are lost in the carelessness or clumsiness of our much vaunted translation."
In a great number of passages, both in the Gospels and in the Epistles, these last features have been fully restored by Dr. Noyes. Not only has he given a correct rendering of the tenses of the Greek verb, whose exact force in numerous instances our Common Version wholly misses, and most mod ern revisions have but partially restored: he has also brought to light the precise meanings of many Greek words which Tyndale and the translators of King James mistook, and which, in our Common Version, are in different places represented by different English expressions; has carefully distinguished the various uses of the Greek article, pronouns, and particles; and has given accurate translations of Hebraisms and other peculiarities in the idiom of the New Testament Greek. While in this version we find no interpretations in place of translations, such, for example, as Mr. Norton's rendering of Matt. v. 3: "Blessed are they who feel their spiritual wants," we are constantly surprised by the clear elucidation given to some hitherto obscure passage by a rendering for the first time of the full force of the original.* In so far as a translation may legitimately serve as a commentary, by putting the English reader on the same vantage-ground with those who read and understand the Greek, the version of Dr. Noyes has a marked superiority, not only over the Common Version, but also over the various revisions of that version, with which it challenges comparison.
But perhaps the greatest merit of the work before us is to
*Compare, e.g., Matt. vi. 22, 23 in Dr. Noyes's Translation with the same passage in the Common Version.
be found in the clearness and force of the language into which the translation has been made. The majority of modern English versions of the New Testament, - indeed, we may fairly say, all such versions without exception, - however successful they may be in other respects, have failed in this. We can learn something from almost any of them in regard to the real meaning of words and expressions which, in the Common Version, are obscurely or inaccurately rendered. But the English dress in which these translations have been given is often distasteful alike to the common and the cultivated reader, and not infrequently is positively offensive to the lover of a pure and strong diction.
To have preserved throughout the integrity of the Common Version would have defeated one of the most obvious purposes for which a revision was needed; viz., to give an English translation which, so far as the language alone is concerned, would require no explanation to make its meaning plain. Yet the English dress in which Dr. Noyes's Translation appears is not the exclusively modern style which certain translators and revisers have adopted. Not to speak of the absurd and often ludicrous expressions which abound in such works as Harwood's "Literal Translation of the New Testament," and the version of the Gospels by Dr. Campbell, whose "Rhetoric" was far better in theory than in this application of it, or that astounding performance the "Elegant Version, by the Rev. Rodolphus Dickinson," the modernisms of style in the versions of Sawyer and Folsom, and even the much better English of Mr. Norton's Translation, are hardly to be preferred in many passages to the familiar language of the Common
We are not pleasantly impressed, when Paul in his vision cries out to Jesus, " Who are you, Lord?" Nor is the manner in which the priests and Levites accost the Baptist in Mr. Norton's Translation any more agreeable. "Are you Elijah? Are you the prophet.... Who, then, are you?" The old and solemn form of address, "Who art thou?" which in both places Dr. Noyes retains from the Common Version, is more in keeping with the occasions on which the words were originally