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BY HOWARD OSGOOD, OF THE AMERICAN REVISION COMMITTEE.
Replying to the request to give some idea of the changes in the forthcoming American Revision of the Bible, I can offer no more than an outline sketch. The subject is too large for a short article.
Our companies of the Old and the New Testaments have always kept strictly within their own spheres, and I can speak only of the Old Testament.
All Bibles, Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Latin, German, French, English, are the results of many revisions, not to add to or take from them, but to obtain the most accurate text and translations. The revision under King James, 1611, followed a hundred years of repeated revisions. That revision was an admirable work of high scholarship in Hebrew, Greek and English. But so great has been the change in the meaning and usage of words that some translations, accurate in their day, now misrepresent the Hebrew and Greek, as well as the English, of three hundred years ago. "Prevent" then meant to go before, meet; now it means to hinder. "Let" then signified to hinder; now it means to permit. "Lust" then, as in German now, meant pure pleasure, desire, joy; now it breathes vile passion. And so through a long list of words.
Could those good scholars rise up and see how time has wrenched and changed their words, they, with the same common-sense shown in their previous work, would be the first to advocate making the translation plain in the words of to-day. They believed, as we do, that the Bible was given to be made clear, and not to be wrapped up in dead and misleading terms.
The revision of 1885 removed many of these dark and twisted words, but it also left a large number which the American Company of Revisers have greatly reduced, though they have not been able to get them all out.
Why should we be compelled to read in the Bible the strange spellings "bewray," "ciel," "grisled." "holpen," "hough," "lien," "marish," "minish," "pourtray," "shew," "sith," "strake," "strowed," "victual," and many similar? That is not our spelling, and will not be. A special dictionary of strange Bible words is required to interpret such spellings to us.
There is one word occurring often which has one meaning in England, and an entirely different meaning in our land. "Corn," in England, is grain of all kinds, especially wheat, oats, barley, etc., but with us the word is never so used; it means to us Indian corn, and that alone. We do not call platters chargers, nor the hump of the camel its bunch. Traders with us are not chapmen, nor are merchants occupiers. Umpires are not known as daysmen, and we would never speak of a perfumer as a confectionary. In the language of to-day, conversation is dialogue, but in the Bible it is manner of life. Under the disguise of "fat," we would not recognize a vat, nor in a chapiter the capital of a column. What "go to" means puzzler all except the readers of Old English. We do not dress our soldiers in harness. Our statesmen are arrayed in hosen, but there are few of them who would know their trousers under that name. Farmers, with us, do not speak of the ground's being chapt, or of draining a marish, or of fraying away birds, or of sending a feller to lay the forest low. We do not take our shoes to be clouted, nor do we give cast clouts to the poor. Collops may be familiar to others, but they certainly are not to us. To fine, with us, is to impose a penalty in money, but in the Bible it means to refine; while to impose a fine is, in the Bible, to amerce. But enough. Many pages might be filled with spellings and words that are entirely foreign to us, and which therefore make the Bible more difficult of understanding.
We do not use "an" before strong aspirates,—an heart, an house. The usage in the Bible is a strange medley,—a hard and an hard, a harp and an harp, a hole and an heap. There has been an endeavor to conform to our usage of "an" only before words beginning with the vowel sound. There is the same confusion in the use of "my," "mine," "thy," "thine," before aspirates,—"thy handmaid" and "thine handmaid," "my head" and "mine head,"— and there has been a persistent effort to eliminate the confusion.
Dr. Johnson was a great man in his day of more than a hundred years ago, but he was not strong enough to block the progress of the language; and "which," despite his protest, no longer to us means "who," and "the which" is out of date as a relative.
There are also words remaining in the revision of 1885 that are needlessly harsh and repulsive, which may be replaced by just as accurate translations not so repulsive.
Until Calvin set bankers free by right teaching concerning interest on money loaned, the man who would take interest was exposed to all the penalties of the church. "Usury," in Old English, meant interest. So no interest was taken after the loan, but a bonus was exacted before the loan that put interest to the blush. And all this because of a false interpretation of Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36,37; Deuteronomy 23:19, where the Hebrews were forbidden to lend or give money or food to their poor brethren on interest. The poor would always be with them, and they were to give them sufficient to supply their need, and not make the poor repay them (Deut. 15:7-11). The injunction concerns only gifts to the needy, and has nothing to do with commercial operations. It is interesting to note that there is, among the Jews of New York to-day, a society that, loans money to the poor without bonus or interest.
What "dragons," "cockatrices," "satyrs," meant to the men of 1611 it is difficult to say; to us they are mythical terms. In King James' revision there were twenty-two "dragons." The revision of 1885 replaced fourteen of these by the right translation, "jackals;" the other eight "dragons" by plain translation of the Hebrew, will be seen in their places no more. There were four "cockatrices," with the marginal rendering "adders," in King James' revision, which were replaced by "basilisks" in 1885; but now "cockatrices" and "basilisks" have departed, and the plain translation of the Hebrew "adders" has taken their place. The "satyrs" have ceded their room to an animal that is not a myth, but very familiar, the accurate translation of a common Hebrew word,— the goat.
In "God forbid" and "would God" God is not expressed or understood in the Hebrew. They are simply "far be it" and "would that." Why these plain terms were ever translated "God forbid" and "would God" is a mystery.
Perhaps hasty critics will be astonished that so many of the references in the margins of the revision of 1885 to the Samaritan, Greek, Syriac, and Latin Bibles have been omitted in the American revision. They have been omitted because in a hundred and fifty-one out of the two hundred and forty marginal references the majority of the versions is against the references; in thirty-three places not a single version supports the reference. In 1885 the American Company voted against that set of references, not because they were ignorant on the subject, or wished to preclude investigation, or to shield any theory of inspiration, but because, as true to the Hebrew, Samaritan, Greek, Syriac, and Latin Bibles, they could not approve statements so plainly inaccurate. With no critical text of any of the versions, it is large guessing in the dark to stamp any of them on the margin of our Bibles, when a few years' investigations may nullify the proof. A very greatly reduced number of references to the versions that give some help in difficult places has been retained, and the versions are quoted that contain them.
There is no designation by capital letters of "God," "Jehovah," "the Spirit," in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, or Greek. In these languages the same size of letters employed in common narrative is used for these names. In them we read, as it were, "god," "holy spirit," "the spirit," while in English we read "God," "Holy Spirit." The use of these capitals has become very properly our method to express reverence. Much may be expressed in respect or in depreciation by capitals. When an American writer now intentionally and often prints "bible," "god," "christ," we know that he does so of set purpose to depreciate them. The English-speaking world would be justly shocked if in the Old Testament were found only "god," but, in the New, "God." That would be to us a godless evolutionism carried to its highest power. But what can be said for printing "my spirit" in Isaiah 42: 1 and Joel 2: 28, and, when these very passages are quoted in the New Testament, for printing "my Spirit"? (Matt. 12: 18; Acts 2: 17.) Similarly, "the spirit of the Lord" (Isa. 61: 1) and "the Spirit of the Lord" (Luke 4: 18), "his holy spirit " (Isa. 63: 10) and "the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7: 51). There have been strange vagaries in editions of the Bible in assigning capitals to the "Spirit" in the Old Testament, until at last our Bibles have known no "Holy Spirit" or "Spirit" before the first chapter of Matthew. And yet the New Testament declares that the presence and work of the Holy Spirit or the Spirit was the same under both Testaments; that the Holy Spirit is a person, the same God the Spirit under the Old as under the New Testament. If it would be wanting in reverence to print "spirit," "holy spirit," in the New Testament, what is it to so print in the Old? Such things ought not to be, and there is in the new American revision an endeavor to right the wrong.
Rochester, N. T.
SOME OF THE STRIKING CHANGES.
And God said, Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth.—Gen. 1: 20.
Now the time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.— Exod. I2: 40.
And that ye may make a distinction between the holy and the common.—Lev. 10: 10.
On the behalf of the children of Israel, that it may be theirs to do the service of Jehovah.— Num. 8: 11.
Jehovah, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as ye are.—Deut. 1: 11.
A great altar to look upon.— Josh, 22: 10.
From heaven fought the stars, From their courses they fought against Sisera. —Judg. 5: 20.
God, my rock, in him will I take refuge.—2 Sam. 22: 3.
And when they were departed from him (for they left him very sick).—2 Chron. 24: 25.
Their young ones become strong.—Job 39: 4.
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with beholding thy form. —Psa. 17: 15.
I said in my haste,
All men are liars. —Psa. 116: 11.
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and let fowl fly, etc.—Gen. 1: 20.
Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, which they sojourned in Egypt, was four hundred, etc.—Exod. IS: 40.
And that ye may put difference between the holy and the common.—Lev. 10: 10.
On the behalf of the children of Israel, that they may be to do the service of the Lord.— Num. 8: 11.
The Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times so many more as ye are.— Deut. 1: 11.
A great altar to see to.—Josh. 22: 10.
They fought from heaven, The stars in their courses fought against Sisera. —Judg. 5: 20.
The God of my rock, in him will I trust.-2 Sam. 22: 3.
And when they were departed from him (for they left him in great diseases).—2 Chron. 24: 25.
Their young ones are in good liking.— Job 39: 4.
I shall be satisfied when I am awake, with thy likeness.—Psa. 17: I5.
I said in my haste,
All men are a lie. —Psa. 116: 11.
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