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Scriptures, like all other ancient books, were written without any punctuation or distinction of words ; and as several Hebrew letters having very dissimilar significations closely resemble each other, it is surprising that more errors should not exist. Indeed, so inimitable, as an entire production, is the English version, so deep and extensive is the hold it has acquired of the public mind, so sacred has it become by our earliest associations, and by a hallowed prejudice, almost amounting to superstitious attachment, that no new translation materially differing from it is ever likely to become acceptable and popular.
The history of the English Bible records the great alarm that has always been excited by attempts to improve the translation, or to correct its acknowledged defects; and never did these apprehensions exist in a greater degree than when our present version was issued: but the result has proved that they were groundless; for nothing, perhaps, has contributed more to establish the truth of revelation, or to refute the sophistry of scepticism, than these corrections. Had no amended translation been given to us, we should have been compelled at this day to read the Bible as it existed in the days of Wickliffe, when the prevailing and then well understood language of Scripture was thus written : “bi feith, he that is clepid abraham: obeied to go out in to a place whiche he schulde take in to eritage, and he wente out: not witynge whidir he schulde go. bi feith he dwelte in the lond of biheest : as in an alien lond: dwellynge in litil housis with Isaac and lacob euen eiris of the same biheest, for he abode the citee hauynge foundementis, whose craftiman and maker is god."
Those who deprecate any interference with the authorized text, lest it should lead to distrust of the contents of the sacred volume, should bear in mind, that desirable as it might have been never to have disturbed the common version, yet it has been and is continually being altered by men of corrupt minds, who suppress and pervert the truth. It is therefore necessary to give to the world those emendations which most orthodox Christians agree in admitting to be more faithful renderings, and thus to counteract and deprive erroneous translations of their injurious influence.
Should an error be detected in Homer or Virgil, or in any other Greek or Roman author, scholars would examine all existing copies to determine the true reading and sense of a single word; or should an omission or misprint be discovered in Milton or Shakspeare, it would be at once corrected. Now, assuredly, the Bible ought to be az perfect and free from defects as any other book; yet any attempt to make our translation as plain, faithful, and intelligible as the originals warrant, even though it tend to overthrow the objections of atheists, sceptics, and infidels, is, by some, deemed unwise and dangerous, if not absolutely impious. Such timid and scrupulous persons should remem. ber, that, although the general faithfulness and excellence of our version are unquestionable, great changes have taken place in the English language, and such a flood of light has been thrown on the originals by the increased knowledge of Eastern dialects, and by the researches of travellers, that every argument employed in justification of a new translation two hundred years ago, when that now in use first appeared, applies, with tenfold force, to the present attempt. It should also be remembered, that a very different meaning is now attached to many words and forms of expression from that which prevailed when our valuable translation was made. Words then in ordinary use, and well understood, are now wholly discarded, as obscure, uncouth, obsolete, or indelicate; such as sith, astonied, taches, aliant, wotteth, fray, haft, delicates, greaves, scrabbled, earing time, marishes, helve, scant, magnifical, neese, ambassage, ouches, knop, bewray, &c.; all of which demand the substitution of other words which fully and clearly convey the original meaning of those which have now become unintelligible or improper. In this attempt to render the English version of the sacred Scriptures somewhat more in accordance with the spirit and letter of the originals, notwithstanding the introduction of nearly twenty thousand emendations, the least possible violence has been done to the inimitable vigour and beautiful style and expression of the Saxon dialect, so unequalled for its simplicity and power, so admirably adapted to the taste of general readers, and which invests the English Bible with much of its peculiar excellence and attraction.
Since the publication of the authorized version, scholars of pre-eminent piety and profound learning, of untiring industry, and inflexible integrity, have expended more time and talent on the Bible than on any other book in existence; and their combined labours have brought it nearer to a state of perfection than any ancient work. And, surely, if this blessed volume, so replete with the unsearchable riches of Christ, be the most
precious boon conferred on the heirs of immortality; if it be the common property of all the children of Adam, written as it was by "holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,” as well for such as are of comparatively feeble attainments, as for those of powerful intellect, and of cultivated minds; it should be presented to the church and to the world with the results of those labours which have shed so much light on its obscure and difficult passages; light-which has hitherto been scattered through publications so numerous, rare, or costly, as to be inaccessible to the great mass of mankind.
In this version of the Bible every consideration has been subordinated to that of elucidating and illustrating the sacred text, and the object unceasingly kept in view has been to give the sense of the inspired penmen, without being paraphrastic ; and although most of the proposed emendations are more literal renderings than those for which they are substituted, some few are more free, where the obscurity of the original language required it; yet not even to secure clearness of expression has fidelity of meaning in any instance been compromised. Neither has any merely conjectural rendering been admitted; and the adoption or rejection of every change, whether of punctuation, of a single word, or of an entire sentence, has been the result of much patient and reiterated consideration. Some biblical students may condemn the omission of emendations suggested by translators of erudition and piety, but almost all that have appeared in several hundreds of publications during the last two centuries have been carefully and impartially examined, and those only rejected which were deemed conjectural, useless, or unsupported by sufficient authority. Nearly treble the number might have been introduced, but several of those suggested, even by men of high standing in literature, have been most unwarrantably framed to sanction some disputed sentiment or heterodox doctrine, and could not be adopted without violating the commandment of Him who has said of his word, “Thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it ;" “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life.” Before adopting any emendation, all the known authorities relating to it have been consulted, and no suggestion has been received unless it was well sustained by internal evidence, and deemed to be in accordance with the mind and Spirit of God. Nothing has been altered to gratify the taste of the fastidious: the regions of uncertainty have been avoided, and debateable ground has been but seldom trodden. In every instance where men of equal research and talent have differed, and where there has appeared no preponderance of evidence on either side, it has been considered most prudent to allow the passage to remain as in the authorized version.
Some words used by our translators have necessarily been altered, having no sanction from the Hebrew or Greek languages, such as Easter, candle, candlestick, &c., which were unknown until centuries after the sacred Scriptures were written; and other expressions are so unwarrantable and unsupported by the originals, as "God save the king,” “God forbid,” “Would to God,” “God speed," &c., that although in some measure hallowed by familiar use, yet could not be allowed to remain, being direct violations of the commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” Connected with this subject is the alteration which scholars and divines of the highest eminence have proposed to make in reference to the terms JEHOVAH and ApoNAI, which, in our version, are indiscriminately translated Lord, a title equally given in the English Bible to Him who is the only uncreated, self-existent, unchangeable, and almighty Being, "whose name alone is Jehovah,” and to mere men in authority, "the lords of the heathen," and others. Although by many persons it may be deemed desirable to adopt the distinctive title of JEHOVAH, as belonging exclusively to Him who bears a name inapplicable to any created being, still, as it does not involve any compromise with error, or sacrifice of truth, it has been thought best, after the most mature consideration, to retain the word LORD, because it is inseparably associated by Christians with their earliest and most sacred feelings, and with their ordinary devotional engagements and language. There are a few words, such as Gehenna, (Matt. v. 22,) which cannot be translated into English, and therefore remain as in the original, but are fully explained in the General Index, at the end of this Bible.
Numerous grammatical errors, occasioned by the carelessness of transcribers, have been rectified. The punctuation has been carefully examined and corrected, but always with a strict and conscientious regard to the meaning of the sacred writers. Uniformity in translating the same original words has been observed, wherever it was practicable;
but there are many words, such as life, soul, hell, &c., which could not be always rendered the same without obscuring the sense and impairing the meaning of the inspired penmen: and this is one of the many proofs of wisdom displayed by our translators, who have employed, with judicious variety, difforent words expressive of the same meaning.
Many of tho marginal readings of the authorized version have been substituted, being decidedly preferable to those in the text; and their adoption has given energy and clearness to passages otherwise feeble and obscure. In several places the Hebrew idioms have been restored, on account of their beauty and force; but, in some instances, they have been abandoned, and the sense of the passage has been given in preference a practice very frequently adopted by our translators. Not a few of the most valuable emendations have been taken from the old English Bibles, because, in the judgment of eminent biblical critics, they far excel, both in perspicuity and fidelity, the corresponding words or sentiments in our present version; and it is gratifying to find that the majority of those passages of holy writ which have supplied infidels and sceptics with their most plausible objections, when correctly rendered, are destitute of any thing to support their vaunted triumph.
Faithfulness and consistency alike demand the abandonment of the practice of distinguishing supplementary words by printing them in italics, since many such words are in our authorized version without any such distinctive character; and were the principle fairly and fully carried out, it would involve the necessity of printing in italics a vast number of words not hitherto so characterized. Luther, Houbigant, Geddes, Campbell, and other eminent biblical scholars, have disapproved of thus distinguishing those words which our translators were compelled to introduce, on account of the elliptical brevity and peculiar grammatical construction of the Hebrew and Greek languages, and without the employment of which it would have been impossible to have made the sentence complete, or to have conveyed to the English reader the meaning of the inspired writers. Many words put in italics in our authorized version have been entirely withdrawn, because they obscure the sense, have no sanction from the originals, and are rejected by every sound biblical critic.
In the Bible now presented to the church and to the world, the sacred Scriptures are restored as nearly as possible to their original form, many of the chapters in our authorized version being most unwarrantably separated. This was first done in the Latin edition, in 1220, by Stephen Langton, then archbishop of Canterbury; and still more objectionably, 1250, by Cardinal Hugo, de Sancto Charo, and his associates. The yet more uncalled for, arbitrary, and absurd division of paragraphs into verses, was first made by Sanctes Pagninus at Lyons, in 1527, and subsequently about the middle of the sixteenth century, by Robert Stephens, a learned printer of Paris, during a journey on horseback (inter equitandum) from that city to Lyons. He began with the Greek New Testament; but, in 1557, he introduced similar divisions into the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses, which from an early period had been separated by the Jews into sections corresponding with the number of sabbaths in the year. In 1661, the entire Bible was so marred, and this injudicious subdivision into verses has been continued to the present day, although it frequently obscures the sense, breaks the narrative, and weakens or destroys the argument of the sacred writer. The first English Bible thus disfigured was printed at Geneva, by holy and devoted men who, during the persecution of Queen Mary, fled to that city, where they published the Bible long and deservedly esteemed as “the Geneva Bible."
The metrical portions of holy writ are printed in parallelisms; and the paragraphs as suggested by Reeve, Boothroyd, Coit, and others, have been adopted; but for the convenience of reference, the numbers of the chapters and verses are retained in the margin.
The names and uthorities proposing and supporting the emendations in is version of the Bible could not be given without increasing the book to at least ten times its present size, as will appear by one illustration. The Hebrew word barak is in the 1st and 2nd chapters of Job translated "curse," and this is defended by the learned Selden and others; but by many biblical scholars of the highest eminence, it is maintained that it should be rendered "bless." Now, were the editor to enter fully into this discussion, he must adduce the lengthened and often tedious and intricate arguments and trains of reasoning, for the adoption of the one word, and the rejection of the other, as they are to be found in the works of Mason Good, Lee, Clarke, Leigh, Selden, Noldius, Boothroyd, and others; and were he to do the same with each of the many thousand emendations adopted by him, it
is evident that several additional volumes would be required. He has therefore merely brought together the well-sustained emendations of some of the holiest and most learned men who have lived during the last two centuries. In this delightful work the editor has been engaged more than thirty years: it has been his solace and relief under the anxieties and toils of an arduous profession, thus to sit and be refreshed by the fountains of living waters: yet none but those who have been similarly oocupied can duly appreciate or form any idea of the amount of labour which it has involved. It is now offered as a contribution towards a more perfect revision of the authorized version ; and although it professes nothing absolutely new, and lays no claim to the impress of perfection, yet, having been commenced, carried on, and brought to a termination under a deep sense of responsibility, and in simple and prayerful dependence on Divine guidance and teaching, he trusts it may tend to promote the glory of God, and to advance the eternal interests of men, and more especially of that church which Jesus purchased with his most precious blood.
The emendations are derived from the Vatican, Alexandrian, and Aldine copies of the Septuagint; the Syriac, Arabic, Chaldee, Coptie, Samaritan, Ethiopic, Latin, Italian, French, German, Old English, and other versions of the sacred Scriptures; and also from the works of Lee, Bekker, J. P. Smith, Mill, Biel, Lowth, Boothroyd, Doddridge, Patrick, Greenfield, Geddes, Bloomfield, Vitringa, Lampe, Bodius, Locke, De Dieu, Campbell, Guise, Lightfoot, Mead, Horne, Arbuthnot, Coverdale, Jebb, Priestley, Wotton, Theophylact, Beza, Macknight, Skinner, Reid, Horsley, Vander-Hooght, Le Long, Kennicott, Newcome, Watson, Theodotion, Jenour, Mudge, Wemyss, Laurentius, Stephens, Hutcheson, Haldane, Manton, Jenkins, Lowman, Jones, Calmet, Keith, Roberts, D'Oyly, Hewlett, Lloyd, Wilson, Tennison, Field, Scattergood, Barker, Hayes, Canne, Suteliffe, Newman, Turton, Reineccius, Noldius, Wynne, Scarlet, Harwood, Penn, Burgh, Pick, Stroud, Green, Lardner, Williams, Fuller, Poole, Fell, Blayney, Good, Bellamy, Bush, Pagninus, Geierus, Valckenær, Herodotus, Bennett, Dobree, Clarke, Johnson, Townson, Townsend, Pirie, Romaine, Pococke, Augustine, Gill, Bayley, Harvey, Henry, Scott, Leighton, Peters, Owen, Percy, Tillotson, Hall, M'Lean, Walton, Holden, Burder, Burgess, Fletcher, Harris, Hallett, Jahn, Michaelis, Morison, Wardlaw, Hodgson, Newton, Robinson, Paley, Sharpe, Pearson, Watts, Stackhouse, Simon, Witsius, Dwight, Wetstein, Hody, Schleusner, Griesbach, Justin Martyr, Whitby, Symonds, Calvin, Leigh, Taylor, Casaubon, Pearce, Claude, Ryland, Scholefield, Onkelos, Aquila, Tucker, Cox, Holme, Luther, Iken, Hales, Mede, Dodd, Jennings, Godwin, Prideaux, Benson, Tremellius, Buxtorf, Knox, Bryant, Fenelon, Le Clerc, Harmer, Nolan, Mercer, Rosenmüller, Eusebius, Doederlein, Fleming, Saurin, Walford, Middleton, Wordsworth, Du Veil, Woodhouse, Maimonides, De Sola, Blackwall, Schættgen, Bengel, Hammond, Venema, Adams, Davenant, Knatchbull, Stuart, Hurdis, Baumgarten, Philo, Winder, Parkhurst, Bate, Savory, Allen, Dathe, Levi, Bochart, Ludolf, Shaw, De Rossi, Symmachus, Houbigant, Tomlinson, Ware, Capellus, Edwards, Jerome, Gesenius, Rabbi Kimchi, Ben Gerson, and Ben Jarchi, Holwell, Valpy, Tomline, Usher, Stock, Selden, Heath, Ostervald, Ward, Elmer, Robertson, Thompson, Schultens, Reiske, Barrington, Cocceius, Durell, Mercier, Desvoeux, Aben Ezra, Chandler, Gataker, Secker, Wintle, Stoner, Faber, Booth, Forsyth, Wheeler, Mendelssohn, Baudinel, Richie, Ambrose, Melancthon, Hodge, Weston, Wells, Mant, Davidson, Macculloch, Leusden, Gray, Harwood, Grabe, Drusius, Laney, Dupin, Kidder, Maundrell, Volney, Grey, Marsh, Meuschen, Stillingfileet, Dodson, Ainsworth, Benjoin, Greenway, Merrick, Worsley, Purver, Wakefield, Haweis, Willis, Dawson, Street, Mudge, White, Pierce, Wesley, Nares, Magee, Spanheim, Pilkington, Beausobre, David and Henry Hunter, Henderson, Shuttleworth, Grotius, and others. But let it not be supposed that the editor has personally examined, or primarily derived, all his emendations from the original works of the authors whose names are here recorded. This would imply an acquaintance with almost every modern and ancient language, and with deep and extensive biblical criticism, to which he makes no pretension. He disavows any thing but industrious research, inflexible integrity, and inviolable impartiality, whilst collating the labours of the many whose learning and piety have so greatly contributed towards this more perfect translation of the sacred Scriptures. His motto therefore is, “ Others have laboured;" I have “entered into their labours."
Some private manuscripts, never before examined, have been intrusted to the editor ; and several passages, respecting which the greatest difference of opinion exists, he has himself collated with the Codex Vaticanus, and other rare and valuable manuscripts in the Vatican library at Rome. In conclusion, he would say to his fellow men, “ With me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man's judgment: yea, I do not even judge raine own self: for though I am not conscious of any unfaithfulness, yet am I not hereby justified; but he who judgeth me is the Lord." And finally, the results of his lengthened labours are now, with the most profound reverence, and with the deepest humility, laid at His feet whose glorious perfections adorn the sacred page, and who is himself emphatically and essentially " THE WORD OF GOD."