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rity, and sometimes ambiguity, are unavoidable in a translation. In many cases words cannot be found to express the precise meaning of the original. Complex terms in different languagés, embrace sometimes more and sometimes fewer ideas. The translation is therefore in danger of expressing too much or too little; and among different terms which may be adopted for the translation, it is sometimes difficult to determine which comes nearest to the truth. It is possible indeed, to translate such words by a paraphrase; but paraphrases, in proportion as they gain in perspicuity, lose in precision, force, and beauty. And after all, the man who is ignorant of the original, whatever other assistance be may have, must, in most cases, take his information upon trust; and, in many instances, adopt opinions which he would not have done had he possessed the means of judging for himself. These observations are intended for those especially whose destination in life contemplates the instruction of others.
Nothing is more common than to hear preachers of this description, remark an emphasis in the expressions of the translations, where there is none in the original; such phrases as 'trees of God,' 'mountains of God,' which have been supposed to contain some niystical meaning, are intended simply to express large trees, exceedingly high mountains_such as human art is incapable of producing or imitating. On the other hand, a real emphasis is often overlooked. Of this we have a fine example in the translation of II. Peter, i. v.7, "Add to your faith virtue.' In this passage, the word translated 'add,' is very inadequately rendered. The original word expresses a beautiful allusion to the chorus in the ancient tragedy, where the principal personage leads the way, taking by the hand the next in succession, who again leads by the hand the third, the whole choir in order, thus advancing, in a long compacted line, every part of which co-operates to the regularity, harmony, and perfect symmetry of the action. An emphasis has often been remarked in the passage, ‘I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.' But the distinction betwixt will and shall, on which the emphasis is founded, has no place in the original; both verbs are merely expressed in the future tense, as promises usually are.
II. The peculiar structure and idiom of the original languages is important to be known and attended to. Every language has modes of expression peculiar to itself, which demand particular attention, in order to be understood. This is one of the chief difficulties in acquiring a foreign language; and it is a difficulty which we feel more sensibly when we attempt to speak, write, or translate a foreign language. This difference in the idiom and strueture of languages, arises from numerous sources, and more especially from the diversified modes of thinking which prevail in different countries. All the nations of Europe have produced
writers in the Latin language, the greater part of whom, whilst they wrote in a foreign language, have thought in their own vernacular idiom. The result of this has been that, instead of a classical composition, they have respectively produced a semibarbarous jargon of their own. It would be endless to enumerate ridiculous instances of mistakes, arising from misconception or mistranslation of the peculiar idioms of different languages. This is a fertile and familiar source of entertainment in comedy, where foreigners are introduced as speakers. A familiar example of such a mistake, may serve to impress the truth of the remark on the memory. Gall and Spurzheim, the craniologists, had a parcel of stucco casts of the human skull, which were exhibited for sale, in the window of the well-known Corri. It seems, that in the German, the same word which signifies a human soul, signifies also the skull. The appalling impression, therefore, may more easily be imagined than described, which was produced by the sage label that invited the passengers' attention-" Humun souls sold here."
III. A knowledge of the translations into other languages, especially into the ancient languages, is not only useful for emendation of the sacred text, but likewise for understanding its meaning. Many corrections of the sacred text have been proposed, upon the authority of ancient versions, which, when rightly understood, show nothing more than the profound ignorance of both.
IV. Much light may be derived in the interpretation of the Scriptures, from a knowledge of the geography and scenery of the country in which the writers lived, and to which in their writings, frequent allusion is made. In the song of Deborah and Barak, for example, we read Judges v. 21, “The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon.' question, one would think, must naturally occur, (which in fact does not seem to have occurred to any of the translators.) Why is the river Kishon, which was, and is, in ordinary cases, a small stream (though at that time it appears to have been swollen by the rain) why is it styled ancient ? If we examine the original, we shall find that the word thus translated is Kedem, and that the primary meaning of that word is eastern, because the east was the cradle of the human race. Hena Cadmus, literally the eastern, is the name of the man who first brought letters into Greece. Turning again to a description of the rivers of Palestine, we learn that there were two rivers called Kishon, both rising in the mountains of Tabor,--the one flowing west into the Mediterranean Sea, the other east into the Lake Tiberias. It was the latter of these—the eastern Kishon, which swept away such numbers of Sisera's army; and now we discover the beauty and propriety of this graphic description, 'the river Kishon, the eastern river, the river Kishon swept them away.'
V. A knowledge of chronology is in many cases important, and
peculiarly useful to correct mistakes, and reconcile apparent differences ; especially in the account of the lives of the ancient patriarchs, and of the Kings of Judah and Israel. To give you a single example. It is generally taken for granted, that Cain and Abel were the first born children of our first parents ; though this is no where said in Scripture. But infidels, taking this for granted, have ridiculed Cain's apprehension lest some one should find him, and kill him, seeing on their, assumption, there was none in the world, himself excepted, but his father and mother. Another class of them have presumed to account for the circumstance of Cain's apprehension, by supposing that there were several races of men created coincident with, or prior to, the creation of Adam. But the ridicule of the one, and the gratuitous supposition of the other, are both set aside, by simply noticing the chronology. Adam was one hundred and thirty years old at the birth of Cain and Abel, who cannot well be supposed to have been less than twenty years of age at the death of the latter. The command, therefore, to increase and multiply, having taken effect at this period, that is, in the one hundred and fiftieth year of the world, according to the calculation of Lightfoot, (which any one, moderately skilled in the common operations of arithmetic, may verify for himself) there may have been, and there is reason to believe there actually were, thousands of descendants from the original pair by that time.
VI. History is another source of interpretation. To sacred history in particular, there are frequent allusions, especially in the poetical parts of Scripture. History and chronology reciprocally, throw light upon each other. Thus, the age of the book of Job, is determined to be posterior to the flood, and to the destruction of Sodom and Gommorha, because it contains allusions to both. It is likewise determined to be anterior to Exodus, because in it there is no allusion to that event. Bishop Stock, in his late translation, has rendered himself ridiculous, by an absurd and unsuccessful attempt to find out some allusion to the Exodus.
In Psalm lxxvii. v. 19, the general meaning is obvious, and the expression beautiful. But the beauty and propriety of the terms, are rendered more apparent, when we consider the historical fact to which the passage alludes,—God's way was in the sea,' when through the Red Sea, he opened up a passage for his people, and conducted them safely over its channels as on dry land—and the. traces of his footsteps, which he plants in the sea, were no longer to be discerned, when the impatient billow returned to its strength and overwhelmed his enemies.
Sacred history is a fruitful source of Scriptural illustration. The Scriptures abound with an exhaustless variety of the most interesting allusions, drawn from this source; many of which are passed over unobserved by careless readers and superficial thinkers. The apostle's description of ministers as earthen vessels, has an allusion
to Gideon's earthen pitchers; by the breaking of which, alarm was carried into the camp of Midian, and the victory shewn to be of God. In the same manner he alludes to the falling of the walls of Jericho, when he says, 'the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.'
Besides the sacred history, the history of all nations is subservient to the illustration of Scripture. From the tenth and eleventh chapters of Genesis, we learn more respecting the origin of ancient nations, of the names, genealogies, destinations, and settlements of the various families and tribes of mankind, than could have been gathered from any other source,—nay, than from all other sources united. And to the names mentioned in these two chapters, there are such frequent allusions throughout the Scriptures, that many passages would be unintelligible without an acquaintance with them.
There is such a close connection between promises and their performances, predictions and their accomplishment, that without the knowledge of history, it is impossible to perceive the force and exactness of both. The history of Cyrus, by Xenophon, is a full and faithful development of the truth of the predictions regarding Cyrus; and Josephus's History of the Jewish Wars, is the best comment upon the prediction of our Lord, respecting the destruction of Jerusalem.
VII. The manners and customs of the Jews in ancient times, and of the Oriental nations who still retain their ancient customs, is of the greatest utility. Many Christian expositors confiding in the dogmatical authority of German or Spanish Jews, (who knew as little of Oriental customs and manners as themselves, and far less than the bulk of the literary public now know from the writings of modern travellers) have thus rendered themselves ridiculous, and their writings fanciful and erroneous.
Dr. Hammond among the Armenians, and Dr. Gill among the Calvinists, are writers of this description. In the natural history of the Holy Land, most others, until within little more than half a century, and many of them much later, relying on the authority of Aristotle and Pliny, (or, perhaps, on imperfect translations of them,) for their accounts of the botany and zoology of the Scriptures, have exposed themselves to be laughed at by those who, from a reference to more authentic sources of knowledge have come to be better informed. The account of Sainpson's foxes, which has been ridiculed by infidels, admits no room, when properly understood, for their prophane raillery; when it is considered that the same word which signifies a fox, signifies also a jackall—that the jackall resembles the fox in various respects, and even in the sound it utters,—that it is a gregarious animal—of which an equal number, to that which Sampson provided, could easily be collected at this day and employed for any similar purpose of annoyance.
VIII. The cousideration of the scope and connection of a particular book or passage, and the comparison of the words and phrases that occur in one passage with similar words and phrases in other passages, or other books, which afford more ample illustra, tion, is of immense advantage. Many men, of good plain sense, by the assistance of marginal references in their Bibles, have attained a knowledge of Scripture, which seems almost incredible to the indolent and inattentive.
Many of you may have heard prudence inculeated under the name of holy guile, an absurd phrase which has been universally exploded by all who have formed more correct ideas of the passage from which it is pretended it was originally borrowed.--2 Corin. xii. 16. being crafty, I caught you with guile. Let any man of common sense read the whole chapter, and observe the scope of the passage; he will find that the object of the Apostle is to defend himself from the accusations of his enemies, that he was not sincere in the regard which he professed for the church to whom he wrote, that though he took no maintenance from them for himself, it was only an expedient to draw from them more liberally in future. He anticipates the objections of his enemies in these words, which must be rendered interrogatively. 'Be it so, I did not burden you ; but being crafty I caught you with guile !' And so far from appearing guilty, of what modern refiners would have justified, under the sanctimonious appellation of a pious fraud, he repels the objection by appealing to fact, “Did Titus make a gain of you by any of those I sent unto you?'
IX. The comparison of the Old Testament with the New, especially in those passages of the former which are quoted or alluded to in the latter, is an important source of interpretation. This department opens up a wide field of investigation; the parallel passages and other subjects of comparison are numerous, and many of them confessedly difficult. This is a subject too which, notwithstanding its importance, has been less assiduously cultivated than most of the others I have already mentioned; most writers having treated it briefly and superficially, the only book expressly written upon the subject which has coine to my knowledge, is 'Surenhusius de formalis allegundi Scripturas. This work is quite adequate to the purpose which the writer intended, namely, to answer the objections of the Jews, by an appeal to their own principles and practice in quoting Scripture in their own writings, some of which principles are solid, but many of them are such as cannot satisfy any rational mind, and are only calculated to bring religion into contempt.
Having cursorily pointed out several of the principal sources of Scripture interpretation, I shall, in my future lectures, enter into a more minute examination, in doing which it shall be my endeavour to comprise and condense into narrow a compass