« AnteriorContinuar »
the world and the final judgment. It is curious that the monogram of the name of Taut, formed by three Taus united at the feet, is to this day the “ jewel of the royal arch” among Freemasons. Free masonry, indeed, beyond a doubt, is of Egyptian original, and though the proposition may startle at first sight, it is not unlikely that the Great Pyramid, which I conceive to have been devoted to the mysteries of Apis, was the first Great Lodge.
Thoughts on a Revision of the Translation of various pas
sages in the Old Testament, by ARCHBISHOP SECKER, in a series of letters addressed to the Rev. Mr. Pilkington, author of Remarks, &c. &c.
Cuddesden, Nov. 17, 1756. I received yesterday the favor of your letter and plan. One cannot by any means judge fully of a work from short and general heads. But I will tell you frankly what occurs to me on reading them over; and you will take it, as I mean it, kindly. I presume you know and have seen the attempts of others before you on this subject : particularly on the ist. part of it, Capel's Critica . Sacra, and Buxtorf's Anticritica; the Commentaries of Grotius and Le Clerc, with the remarks made on them by learned men; Mr. Whiston’s and Mr. Kennicott's books, with the Answers to them; a pamphlet entitled Critical notes on some passages of Scripture, London, 1747, and Objections to it by Mr. Langford, printed the same year; Bishop Hare and Mr. Mudge on the Psalms; Dr. Grey on the Proverbs. I omit mentioning some smaller pieces, and perhaps forget some Jarger. But there is one great work, Houbigant’s Hebrew Bible lately published in 4 folios at Paris, which a writer on this subject ought by all means to see and consider : for he proposes more emendations, I believe, than all the Authors before him put togetber. These Critics, if you have not them, possibly may give you occasion to change some of your sentiments; and if you have seen them, it will be expected, that when they have preceded you in the same conjecture, you
sliould acknowledge it; and that when they differ from you, reasons should be given for your opinion. If they should have preoccupied any considerable number of your 800 texts, you will chuse to mention fewer; and though they should not, one would avoid not only in the title and general divisions, but through the whole contexture of a book, any thing which ill-natured people might call ostentatious, and with yet, greater care every ihing, which may offend or disquiet good persons, or give bad ones a pretence to triumph : for very small pretences will serve them. I am indeed of the opinion which now seems the prevailing one, that our present Hebrew.copies are all in some places faulty: but most, if not all, who have offered emendations I think have attempted too many and been too positive about them. And the larger alterations any one thinks requisite, the more modestly he should speak of them, and the more solicitously he should obviate the abuses and objections to which both Heterodox Christians and unbelievers will be templed on such occasions. I think therefore that one head of your book, and that diligently labored, should be to show, that neither the truth nor the doctrines of Christianity are affected by the liberties which you take. Indeed you should have, and I doubt not that you have had, this point in your view throughout. For the same purpose I should be backward to charge absurdities and contradictions on the present text, lest the alterations proposed should be disapproved, and the absurdities and contradictions imputed to the original writer. I should also avoid, unless evidence forced me, ascribing corruptions to ill design, because if that be once supposed it may go a great way. And if you will allow me to say it, I think you had better not propose the two general heads of your work under the pompous title of Canons of Criticism : particularly as a burlesque piece was published not many years ago with that name. I presume you have consulted, and on proper occasions mention, the authors who have treated of the several points in your 2nd part as well as your first; particularly Bochart's Hierozoicon on the 17th section. There are likewise two writers, Hillerus and Celsius, on the scripture vegetables, And
you will doubtless enter your protest against any perverse conclusions, which persons may attempt to draw from the obscurity of some parts of scripture, no less than from the corruption of others : and show the weakness of such arguments.—Mr. Brough in a letter to me lately hath named two places which you suspect of interpolation. The first is 1 Samuel xvii, I presume from v. 1] to 32.And Houbigant bath observed, as others had done before him, that these words are not jn the Vatican copy. But then they are in the Alexandrine copy, as old and as good as the Vatican; in the Complutensian and Aldine editions, in the Arabic translation,
which is taken from the Septuagint; and in St. Chrysostom's Homily of David and Saul, as Montfaucon hath noted in his Hexapla. They are likewise in the Latin, Chaldee, and Syriac translations. Yet Houbigant thinks they are not from the Author of the book; because the story would go on well without them, and because they repeat what had been said in a former chapter. But surely the first reason is of no force : and repetitions are so frequent in scripture that the second is of little. They seem to belong to the genius of the language in narrations: and the sacred writers might well be left to use their own style and manner : besides, what is repeated is very little. Houbigant conceives however that these words are from some other sacred writer, now lost, and ought to stand in the context. But why may they not have been inserted by the original author from another book extant before he wrote? This will account (if there be need) for the small repetition in the beginning : for he might think it right to transcribe the whole. You may have stronger arguments than his against the passage : but the authority of the Hebrew text and all its translations, excepting the single Vatican MS. of the Septuagint, make a considerable evidence in its favor.
The other interpolation named by Mr. Brough is in the next chapter. But several passages of it being omitted in the Vatican copy, I know not whether you suspect them all, or which : and therefore I forbear to say any thing about them.
A new translation of a book of scripture is an arduous undertaking; and Genesis hath several difficult parts in it. Therefore it may be advisable to subject a work of this kind to the remarks of more than one learned and judicious and attentive and plaindealing friend before it is published. You seem to have made in your specimen several improvements ou our common version. But some of your terms will be understood by few. I need not specify Chaotic as one. Firmament, I supposé, had its original from a wrong notion of solid Orbs, but it doth not convey that notion now in common use, and is more intelligible to the vulgar, than Expanse. The words so often translated rightly Spirit of God, may possibly in this one place signify a strong wind. But can we know enough of the matter to be sure that they do? If the Hebrew word following these denotes hovering or fluttering, it ought not to be translated raging. It seems to me more natural to refer the stars to, made, than to understand the passage, that the moon was to govern the night along with them. The word is
. . 20. signify teening creatures, but I know not that it any where doth. Breathing life seems not an usual or a clear expression for having breath as a living creature, and ws) is vo where else an active
may from one sense of its root שרע .20
.i .ואת but את not simply
verb. i. 6. supplying a negative seems harsh, unless we could be more certain that it is wanting. v. 15. might not took do full as well here as had taken, and so in the following verses ? v.'17:'a test is one method of acquiring knowledge, but I conceive nyt never signifies a test particularly elsewhere: and therefore 'had better be translated knowledge here, and left in its general significa- tion for the reader to apply as he shall see cause. This is, I think, a good rule in all like cases, where it is practicable. Shalt, seems to express the prohibition as well or better than must. As God is not bound to execute rigorously every thing which he threatens, and as the word die hath various senses, I apprehend our translation thou shalt surely die may be defended. At least be mortal seems too faint. Perhaps be guilty of death, a phrase used Matthew xxvi. 66. might do better: nia WIN is used in this sense 2 Samuel xix, 28, 29-Dyon signifies now at this time of this once. Genesis xviii, 32; xxix, 34, and elsewhere. Whether it ever signifies once in the sense of formerly I doubt. v. 25. and seems as proper as then, and the commonest sense of particles and all words should be taken when it can. iii, 5. if it be better to put discerners of than knowing, which I question, because one would translate the same phrase in the same context, as nearly as one can in the same manner : yet there seems no reason to say the discerners, for surely the persons meant are Adam and Eve, v. 8. 59p often signifies sound. But doth not the 5p of a person always signify the voice of a person, real or supposed, as thunder is supposed to be the voice of God? If so may thunder be meant here? and unless we knew better wbatsort of noise and motion is meant; if walking is disapproved, will it not be safer to say moving than rushing ? v. 16. And thy conception seems righter than even thy conception. Conception implies sorrow to come, but is not the same with it. v. 15. I do not find that 9 signifies to assault. v. 17. nor that signifies life, though Day doth. Else one might well suppose Eve to be called the mother of life, as our Saviour was to spring from her, but scarcely the mother of all life. And hath another obvious meaning. v. 22. It seems that, is become as one of us, should have the same sense bere, which, ye shall be as Gods, hath v. 3. Noldius ascribes to the sense of perhaps : but I think without sufficient authority. And he multiplies the senses of particles a great deal too much. I should rather think the sense is designedly left imperfect and suspended here, which manner is very expressive.
I will procure your Sermon as I can, and fairly tell you my thoughts of it. But I cannot go in the same way through the several particulars of your manuscript. You will easily, I hope, tind persons of more leisure as well as more abilities, ready to do you
what service you may want in that respect. And yet I could not be able without a close examination, if I could with it, to give you my opinion of the expediency of publishing it, further than I have already intimated. You will be so good as to excuse the remarks which I have taken the liberty of making, for they are desigued as the only acknowledgment in my power of your learned and judicious labors for the service of the gospel, and as a testimony of my being with much regard, Sir,
Your loving Brother and Servant,
I had no time to take your letter into consideration before I left Oxfordshire : and must do it now by piece-meal as I am able. I thank you for the candour which you express in relation to mine: and am glad that you have been so careful as to obviate the objections which some might be inclined to build on your proposed alterations of the Hebrew text. But you will permit me to observe that asserting the truth; authority, and correctness of the original text will be insufficient, if room be left for persons to allege, that great interpolations are confessed to have been made in it since, which are things of vastly more consequence than literal or verbal mistakes : that there may as easily bave been many other insertions which we cannot now discover, as these niany omissions and changes as well as additions ; and what facts or doctrines may have been affected by them we cannot know, nor consequently on what we may safely rely. I do not say that on supposition of interpolations, this consequence is just. But it will be drawn by many: and therefore one would be cautious of furnishing needless ground for it. That there are difficulties in the passages which you think the Vatican copy hath rightly omitted in 1 Samuel c, xvii. v. 18, must be allowed: and possibly I have not perceived the full weight of them. But at present it seems to me that a man of so unsettled a temper as Saul might have been very fond of David for a time, yet soon let him return to his father and forget him : that either the soldiers might tell David without foundation, that Saul's daughter was the promised reward for killing the Philistine, or that it might be really promised, but after the manner of courts postponed, and further conditions required: that behaviour like that of Eliab is too natural in an elder brother to a favourite younger : and that Bishop Patrick hath reasonably well accounted for the Philistine's presenting himself 40 days : not to say that one would rather put 4 than make so much greater an alteration : that as the 50th verse of c. xvii. may well be omitted,