Page images

speaker, orator, declaimer, haranguer, holder-forth. The subject of them all is the same, being what the first expression, public speaker, simply denotes; the second expresses also admiration in the person who uses it ; the third conveys disapprobation, by hinting that it is the speaker's object rather to excite the passions, than to convince the judgment; the fourth is disrespectful, and the fifth contemptuous.

But there is a difference in words called synony. mous, arising from the customary application, even when they imply little or nothing of either sentiment or affection. The three words, death, decease, demise, all denote the same thing. The first is the simple and familiar term ; the second is formal, being much employed in proceedings at law; the third is ceremonious, and scarcely used of any but princes and grandees. There are also some words peculiar to poetry, some to burlesque, which it is needless here to specify. From these observations we learn that, in writings where words of this second class frequently occur, it is impossible, in a consistency with either perspicuity, or propriety, to translate them uniformly, by the same terms, like those of the first. For, as has been obseryed, they are such as do not perfoctly correspond with the terms of a different tongue. You may find a word that answers exactly to the word in question in one acceptation, that will not suit it in another; though for this purpose some other term may be found equally well adapted.

It was too servile an attempt in the first translators of the Old Testament (at least of the Pentateuch,




for the whole does not appear to have been translated at one time, or by the same persons), at this rigid uniformity in rendering the same Hebrew words by the same Greek words, which has given such a peculiarity of idiom to the style of the Septuagint, and which, issuing thence as from its fountain, has infected, more or less, all the writings of the New Testament. I might observe further, that there are some words, in the original, by no means synonymous, which have been, almost uniformly, rendered by the same 'term, partly, perhaps, through not adverting sufficiently to some of the nicer differences of signification, partly through a desire of avoiding, as much as possible, in the translation, whatever might look like comment or paraphrase. Of this I shall have occasion to take notice afterwards.

5. The third class above mentioned is of those words, in the language of every nation, which are not capable of being translated into that of any people, who have not a perfect conformity with them in those customs which have given rise to those words. Such are the names of weights, measures, and coins, which are, for the most part, different in different countries. There is no way that a translator can properly take in such cases, but to retain the original term, and give the explanation in the margin. This is the way which has actually been taken, perhaps in all the translations of the Old Testament. To substitute for the original term a definition or circumlo. cution, if the word frequently occur, would encumber the style with an offensive multiplicity of words, and awkward repetitions, and thereby destroy at once its simplicity, vivacity, and even perspicuity. In this class we must also rank the names of the particular rites, garments, modes, exercises, or diversions, to which there is nothing similar among those into whose language the version is to be made. Of this class there are several words retained in the common English translation ; some of which, by reason of their frequency have been long since naturalized amongst us; as synagogue, sabbath, jubilee, purim, ephod, homer, ephah, shekel, gerah, teraphim, urim and thummim, phylacteries, cherubim, seraphim, and a few others.

Beside these, often the names of offices, judicatories, sects, parties, and the like, scarcely admit of being transferred into a version in any other manner. It must be owned, however, that in regard to some of these, especially offices, it is a matter of greater nicety than is commonly imagined, to determine when the name ought to be rendered in the translation by a term imperfectly corresponding, and when it ought to be retained. What makes the chief difficulty here is, that there are offices, in every state, and in every constitution, which are analogous to those of other states and constitutions, in many material circumstances, though they differ in many others. It is not always easy to say, whether the resemblances or the peculiarities preponderate. If the former, the word ought to be translated, if the latter, it ought to be retained. The inconveniency of an excess in the first way is, that it may lead the reader into mistakes; that of an excess in the second is, that it occasions obscurity, and by the too frequent interspersion of uncouth and foreign words, gives the appearance of barbarism to a version.

It may be said, however, in general, that the latter is the safer error of the two. Not only does the speciality of the case afford a sufficient apology for the use of such words; but if either the dignity of the nation, which is the subject, or our connexion with the people, or interest in their history, shall familiar. ize us to their institutions and customs, the barbarism of the terms will vanish of course. Who considers now these names of Roman magistracies, consul, pre. tor, edile, censor, questor, dictator, tribune, as barbarous ? Yet they are not the names of offices amongst us correspondent, or similar, to those among the Ro

To have employed, instead of them, mayor, alderman, sheriff, &c. we should have justly thought much more exceptionable. I have heard of a Dutch translator of Cesar's Commentaries, who always rendered consul, burgomaster, and in the same taste, the name of all the other officers and magistrates of Rome. A version of this kind would appear to us ridiculous.


ý 6. It is almost unnecessary to observe, that the two last are the only classes of words wherein the student will find any thing that can greatly puzzle him. A mere schoolboy, with the help of his grammar and lexicon, may acquire all that is requisite for the just interpretation of the words of the first class. Those of the third, it is manifest, are not to be understood by us without a previous knowledge of the religious and political constitutions of the country, together with their ceremonies and usages; and those of the second, which is the matter of the greatest delicacy of all, cannot be thoroughly apprehended without an acquaintance with the national character, that is, the prevalent cast of mind, manners, and sentiments of the people. So much is necessary in order to be master of the language of any country; and of so much importance it is, in order clearly to comprehend the style of Scripture, to be well acquainted with whatever concerns the Jewish nation.



It is true that, as the New Testament is written in Greek, it must be of consequence that we be able to enter critically into the ordinary import of the words of that tongue, by being familiarized to the genius and character of those who spoke it. But from what has been observed it is evident that though, in several cases, this knowledge may be eminently useful, it will not suffice; nay, in many cases it will be of little or no significancy. Those words, in particu

« PreviousContinue »