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Revision' of the English Bible.
THE revision of the English Bible is at the present time a popular subject. A sense of its importance, and even of its necessity, is becoming extensively diffused, and men of great eminence are employing their talented pens in a way which they hope will prove both preliminary and preparatory to some great undertaking of this kind. It is not to be wondered at that in such a state of the public mind individuals should be excited to try their hands at the work of revision ; and we have now to introduce to the attention of our readers a work of this class, which has just made its appearance.
It will be nothing, we trust, to the prejudice of this work in the estimation of our readers, as it is nothing in our own, that it is published by Messrs. Holyoake and Co. A sufficient notoriety, indeed, attaches to the name of Mr. Holyoake to give a presumptive character to all the publications which issue from his press; the only honourable critical motto, however, is Fiat justitia, and we are not among those who would deny, even to the infidel school, an opportunity of making any contribution in their power to so great and diversified a work as the illustration of the English Bible. We will do our endeavour that the volume now before us shall have neither less nor more than justice at our hands.
A person who should take up this book, paying no attention for the moment to either the Introduction, which, of course, is at the beginning, or to the Notes, which are at the end, would find himself in the midst of passages selected from the Old Testament-its finest and most beautiful passages-grouped together under new heads, and sprinkled with new translations. He will soon find, however, that, on the one hand, he has not the whole of the Old Testament, while, on the other, he has something more, in sundry portions of the apocryphal books;
*The Authorized Version of the Old Testament Scriptures, revised, condensed, corrected, and reformed. London: Holyoake and Co. 1858.
he will find also that the passages he has are extensively dislocated, while there are no references to indicate either what passages are omitted, or whence those which are inserted are derived. If the reader looks to the Introduction for a solution of the enigma which is in his hands, he will not find it; it is to be found, however, in a passage of considerable length, inserted in the advertisement of the book, entitled, 'Plan of the work by the author.' In justice alike to the reader and the author, we shall here present the material portion of this passage:
"Perhaps the readiest way to afford to the reader some sort of general idea of the character of a work, of which the leading feature may be said to be, the redistribution of the Old Testament Scriptures, were, to lay before him, in a few words, the process pursued towards its compilation.
Commencing with the historical Scriptures, the first step taken was, to efface, and then to withdraw, from the body of the work, one of all such portions as proved to have been a second time inserted; the Levitical law, the "genealogies;" titles to the several Books; headings to chapters, and numbers of the same, together with certain other scattered passages, and of which passages it is not to be presumed but that the most conscientious advocate for the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, upon calm considerations (that is, where capable of such), would very willingly consent to see them consigned to an eternal oblivion. This done, there was then displayed in continuous column, and exactly as it came to hand, all that which now remained to me of the Hebrew Bible. I then proceeded, in the course of an almost microscopic investigation, to the dissection of my now condensed volume; severing alike the text, at every break of continuity, inconsistency of sequel, or incongruity of context. So much achieved, the next thing done, was, to shuffle the whole together, exactly as one would the letters of an alphabet, and then to re-arrange afresh all this prodigious mass of mutilated and isolated matter. Which operation was repeated, not once, nor twice, but five and six times over: newer and more felicitous combinations being effected, in measure and proportion, as the compiler found himself to be becoming more profoundly imbued with the genius of the sacred and prophetic inspiration. 'A precisely similar course was followed in the case of each particular prophet. And, as it could not but be, that in the working up of so vast an amount of originally defective material certain fragments would present themselves for which no possible place could be found; such fragments, and such alone, sooner than to totally abandon, it was preferred to interweave, as best might be, with the nearest context which were offered of the next most kindred spirit. This character of ode will mostly be found to be inscribed thus, Isaiah-Amos; Habakkuk-Micah, &c. &c.'
The process here described (we cannot conceive why the description was not inserted in the Introduction) is, we should suppose, a novel one, and it is certainly as strange as it is novel. Such a reduction of the Old Testament Scriptures to a 'prodigious mass of mutilated and isolated matter' cannot but seem, we think, to our readers, as it certainly does to ourselves, as arbitrary and wanton a process as any literary Quixotism which can be conceived. No group of writings, ancient or modern, sacred or profane, was, we will venture to say, ever made the victim of such a vagary; nor, if such vagaries are to be sanctioned as legitimate criticism, will any writings in the world be ultimately secure of their integrity.
The ground which the author lays for his arbitrary mutilation and redistribution of the Old Testament writings, consists merely of the fact, which learned men long ago ascertained and acknowledged, that
the Hebrew Scriptures bear marks of local inaccuracy and derangement; and he avails himself of the testimony of Lowth, Blayney, and other critical scholars, on this subject. It is obvious, however, that he greatly overstates the fact. Nothing that ever has been ascertained or conjectured by critics of adequate information and sound judgment can authorize such a representation of the case as the following:
The first thing which must occur to any reflecting mind in the contemplation of the Hebrew Bible, is the conviction that some very great catastrophe has, at some one period or another, overtaken these writings. The soul is awed; we are oppressed, we are distressed; fancy sickens: something tells us that we are standing mid the wreck and ruins of some world before the "flood;" that they too have been swept as with the besom of destruction. Babylon or Nineveh scarce lies a verier ruin, or a monument more touching to the foreboding and the deeptoned sorrows of the Hebrew lyre; for assuredly there is something inexpressibly sad in the burden of prophetic wail; it is unearthly; it is sepulchral; it is the last lay of the hopeless.'-P. vii.
This, we hesitate not to say, is a pure extravaganza, in which the author draws largely, we had almost said to an extent without a parallel, on the blended ignorance and credulity of his readers. To what an unwarrantable extent he carries his notion of the dislocations of Old Testament Scripture will readily appear from the examples which he himself adduces. Thus, he says,
The first and most palpable degree of derangement to be evidenced of the sacred writings most clearly must be sought for in the historical portions. For instance, no man can question but that the twenty-sixth verse of the forty-sixth chapter of Genesis is the legitimate context to the seventh verse of the same; or disallow the twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth, and twenty-sixth verses of the fourth chapter of Exodus to have been, in some now unaccountable manner, deranged also. Few will not be disposed to consider the first verse of the third chapter of Genesis to be a sequel more felicitous to the seventeenth verse of the second, than that which is afforded of the eighteenth verse of the same.'-P. viii.
We have carefully examined these references, as our readers easily may after us, and we cannot hesitate to pronounce the notion of ' derangement' the merest fancy with respect to the whole of them. What, indeed, can open a wider field for a wanton imagination than a scheme of finding passages which may form a more felicitous sequel' to other passages than those with which the writers have conjoined them? Yet not more substantial than this is the ground on which the Old Testament Scriptures have been here 'mutilated and dislocated.'
Our readers may further test the scheme pursued by this author, by the following example of an Old Testament Ode' in two forms; first as lying in the Bible 'naked and mangled,' and secondly as 'recovered' by his sagacity.
4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
'6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
'Ps. civ.- Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:
3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind;
4 Who maketh his angels spirits;
his ministers a flaming fire.'
earth, and their words at the end of the
Here are the first six verses of the 19th Psalm, and the first four verses of the 104th, first dislocated' by being separated from the psalms to which they belong, and then violently placed together, simply on the ground, we presume, that they treat of the same subject, 'the glory of the heavenly system.' Why, if this were true, it would not justify the unwarranted apposition, since it is clearly possible, and indeed probable, that the same subject might have been celebrated in different odes, by different writers, or even by the same. The allegation, however, is not true. Any one at a glance may see that the portion of the 104th Psalm does not in any way relate to the glory of the heavenly system,' and that it constitutes an utterly inharmonious and ill-judged appendage to the portion of the 19th. The other examples given of so-called 'recovered' odes are not a whit more satisfactory than this. And this is the manner in which the entire volume is composed! We may notice here, in passing, that, in the Book of the Prophets, p. 132, there is inserted a chapter out of the Revelation of St. John.' May we ask the author to explain in what part of the Old Testament he found this? or why, if he touched on the New Testament at all, he did not proceed further? We proceed to give our readers a sample or two of the new transla. tions which our author has introduced. For clearness we shall resort to parallel columns.
'GENESIS X. 23, 24.
'And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, hear my voice, ye wives of Lamech, hearken to my speech; for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt: if Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.
'And Cain said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Cain, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my damage, and a young man to my hurt: if Cain be avenged sevenfold, truly Abel seventy and sevenfold.'
We have thus selected from the compass of a single page enough to show our readers how the matter stands. The author gives us new translations, not upon critical, but on purely conjectural grounds, and simply because he thinks they will make better sense. This principle is explicitly avowed in the following passage in the Introduction:
In illustration of this observation, I might refer to a passage in the first chapter of Isaiah; one which is probably as frequently quoted as any other in the whole Bible: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Nor docs Lowth ever once appear to have been struck with this most patent incongruity, but very gravely proceeds to enlarge himself upon the properties of crimson and of Tyrian dye. In the agonies of remorse, a man might reproach himself, or another might reproach him, with the blackness, the filthiness of his depravity; but for either to talk of the gaudiness, of red sins or of white sins, were, to the last degree, absurd and preposterous. From the "letter" I appeal to the spirit; from the text to the context: for "sins," we should read hands!'-P. x.
Certainly, if an appeal from the letter to the spirit after this fashion is to be allowed, all necessity for critical investigation is at an end, and our Bibles will for ever be open to change and contradiction, according to the temper of the 'spirit' which may be brought to the interpretation of them.
Of the objection to which his repudiation of the Hebrew text exposes him the author is not wholly unmindful, and we will present to the reader the manner in which he both states and answers it:
To this it will be urged-But the Bible, in its present distribution and rendering (some few inconsiderable passages excepted), is in every way conformable to the earliest and existing manuscripts in the Greek, in the Hebrew, in the Syriac, in the Arabic, in the Coptic, in the Chaldee; and hence it cannot but be admitted that the Authorized Version is and must be, to all intents and purposes, a faithful transcript of the original Old Testament Scriptures.'—P. xxi.
To this, after an allegory which, to our minds, has no relevancy, he replies in substance :
'A work such as the Hebrew Bible must be examined by the light of internal, for it will admit of no other evidence, and by that evidence alone must its every pretension be weighed, established, or disallowed.'-P. xxi.
Here a principle is laid down, which, if it could be substantiated, would clearly throw the Old Testament Scriptures into the hands of speculators and dreamers of every school, not excepting even the wildest. There is a vast difference, however, between assertion and proof, and we can only suppose that the author is either unacquainted with, or has been unmindful of, the evidence by which the history of