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Isaiah, as well as other parts of the Greek version, is come down to us in a bad condition, incorrect, and with frequent omissions and interpolations. Yet, with all these disadvantages, with all its faults and imperfections, this version is of more use in correcting the Hebrew text than any other whatsoever.
The Arabic version is sometimes referred to as verifying the reading of the LXX, being, for the most part at least, taken from that version.
The learned Mr Woide, to whom we are indebted for the publication of a Coptic lexicon and grammar, very useful and necessary for the promotion of that part of literature, has very kindly communicated to me his extracts from the fragments of a manuscript of a Coptic version of Isaiah, made from the LXX, with which he has collated them. They are preserved in the Library of St Germain de Prez at Paris. He judges this Coptic version to be of the second century. The manuscript was written in the beginning of the fourteenth century. The same gentleman has had the goodness, at my request, to collate with Bos's edition of the LXX, through the book of Isaiah, two manuscripts of the King's Library, now in the British Museum, the one marked 1. B. 11. the other 1. D. II. The former manuscript, containing the Prophets of the version of the LXX, was written in the eleventh or twelfth century, according to Grabe; (in the tenth or eleventh century, in Mr Woide's opinion); and by a note on the back of the first leaf appears to have belonged to Pachomius, patriarch of Constantinople in the beginning of the sixteenth century. Grabe highly valued this manuscript: and intended to write a dissertation on the superiority of this and of the Alexandrian manuscript to that of the Vatican ; but did not live to execute his design. See Prolegom. ad tom. 3tium, LXX Interp. edit. Grabe, sect. iii. and v., and Grabe de Vitiis LXX Interp. p. 118. I quote this manuscript by the title of MS Pachom. for the reason above given.
The latter manuscript 1. D. II. above mentioned, contains many of the historical books, beginning with Ruth, and ending with Ezra, according to the order of the books in our English Bible; and also the prophet Isaiah, of the version of the LXX. This manuscript in the book of Isaiah consists of two different parts: the first from the beginning to the word tuqaww, chap. xxxv. 5. written in a more ancient and better character, and upon better vellum ; which Mr Woide judges to be of the eleventh or twelfth century: the remaining part he refers to the beginning of the fourteenth century; which Grabe supposes to be the age of the whole: See Grabe de Vitiis LXX Interp. p. 104. This manuscript seems to have been taken from a good copy, as it frequently agrees with the best and most ancient manuscripts, and in particular with the manuscript of Pachomius.
The Coptic fragments above mentioned, and these manuscripts, are useful for the same purpose of authenticating the reading of the LXX; and, in consequence, of ascertaining or correcting the Hebrew text in some places.
My examination of Mr Woide's collation of the two Greek manuscripts of Isaiah, has been confined to this single view in respect of the Hebrew text. Were these manuscripts to be applied more extensively, and to their proper use, that of correcting the text of the LXX, through all the parts of it which they contain, I am persuaded they would be found to be of very great importance, and would contribute largely to the revision and emendation of that ancient and very valuable version ;-a work, which may be now considered as one of the principal desiderata of sacred criticism; and which ought to follow that arduous undertaking, which has so happily succeeded, the collation of Hebrew manuscripts; to which it stands next in order of importance and usefulness towards our attaining a more perfect knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.
The Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan Ben Uziel, made about or before the time of our Saviour, though it often wanders from the text in a wordy allegorical explanation, yet very frequently adheres to it closely, and gives a verbal rendering of it; and accordingly is sometimes of great use in ascertaining the true reading of the Hebrew text.
The Syriac version stands next in order of time, but is superior to the Chaldee in usefulness and authority, as well in ascertaining as in explaining the Hebrew text. It is a close translation of the Hebrew into a language of near affinity to it. It is supposed to have been made as early as the first century.
The fragments of the three Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, all made in the second century, which are collected in the Hexapla of Montfaucon, are of considerable use for the same purpose.
The Vulgate, being for the most part the translation of Jerome, made in the fourth century, is of service in the same way, in proportion to its antiquity.
I am greatly obliged to several learned friends for their observations on particular passages ;-—to one great person more especially, whom I had the honour to call my friend, the late excellent Archbishop Secker; whose marginal notes on the Bible, deposited by his order in the library at Lambeth, I had permission to consult by the favour of his most worthy successor. There are two Bibles with his notes: one a folio English Bible interleaved, containing chiefly corrections of the English translation ; 'the other a Hebrew Bible of the edition of Michaelis, Halle 1720, in 4to.; the large margins of which are filled with critical remarks on the Hebrew text, collations of the ancient : versions, and other short , annotations; - which stand an illustrious monument of the learning, judgment, and indefatigable industry of that excellent person: I add also, of his candour and modesty ; for there is hardly a proposed emendation, how. ever ingenious and probable, to which he has not added the objections, which occurred to him against it. : These valuable remains of that great and good man will be of infinite service, whenever that necessary work; a new translation, or a revision of the present translation, of the Holy Scriptures, for the use of our church, shall be undertaken. To his observations I have set his name, and to the remarks of others of my learned friends, I have likewise subjoined in the Notes their names respectively. “ Among these I must here particularly mention the late learned Dr Durell, Principal of Hertford College in. Oxford, who some years ago communicated to me his manuscript remarks on the Prophets. With his leave I took short memorandums of some of his corrections of the text; and had his permission to make what use I pleased of them. į. , : I am in a more particular manner obliged to my learned friend Dr Kennicott, for his singular favour in frequently communicating to me his collations while they were collecting, and the printed copy of the book of Isaiah itself as soon as it was finished at the press, for my private use, while the remainder of the volume is in hand and preparing for the public., :: These I have examined with some attention; and I hope the reader, whose expectations do not exceed the bounds of reason and moderation, will be satisfied with, the, assistance and benefit which he will find they have, afforded me., But I must beg to have it well understood, that I do by, no means pretend to have exhausted these valuable stores : many things may have escaped -me, which may : strike : the eye of another observer; many a :variation, which appears at first sight very minute and trifling, and manifestly false and absurd, may by some side-light tend to useful discoveries. To apply these materials to all the uses :which can possibly be made of them, will require much labour and consideration, much judgment and sagacity, and repeated trials by a variety of examiners, to whose different views they may show themselves in every possible light. Some critics may be very forward and hasty in pronouncing their judgments; but it must be left to time and experience to establish their real and full value.
In regard to the character and authority of the several manuscripts which have been collated, and which in the Notes are referred to, we must wait for the information which Dr Kennicott will give us in his General Dissertation. The knowledge of Hebrew manuscripts is almost a new subject in literature : little progress has been made in it hitherto; and no wonder, when they were esteemed uniformly consonant one with another, and with the printed text; consequently useless, and not worth the trouble of examining. Dr Kennicott, and his worthy and very able assistant Mr Bruns, who have been more conversant with Hebrew manuscripts, and have had more experience, and more insight, into the subject, than any, or than all, of the learned of the present age, will give us the best information concerning it that can yet be obtained. It must be left to the attentive observation and mature experience of the learned of succeeding times, to perfect a part of knowledge which, like others, must in its nature wait the result of diligent inquiry, and be carried on by gradual improvements.
In referring to Dr Kennicott's Variations, I have given the whole number of manuscripts, or editions which concur in any particular reading: what proportion that number bears to the whole number of collated copies which contain the book of Isaiah, may, I hope, soon be seen by comparing it with the catalogue of copies collated, which will be given at the end of that book. But that the reader in the meantime, till he can have more full information concerning the value and authority of the several manuscripts, may at least have some mark to direct his judgment in estimating the credit due to the manuscripts quoted, I have, from the kind communication of Dr Kennicott concerning the dates of the manuscripts, whether certain or probable, given some general intimation of their value in this respect : for though antiquity is no certain mark of the goodness of a manuscript, yet it is one circumstance that gives it no small weight and authority, especially in this case; the Hebrew manuscripts being in general more pure and valuable in proportion to their antiquity ; those of later date having been more studiously rendered conformable to the Masoretic standard.* Among the manuscripts which have been collated, I consider those of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, as ancient, comparatively and in respect of the rest. Therefore, in quoting a number of manuscripts, where the variation is of some importance, I have added, that so many of that number are ancient, that is, are of the centuries above mentioned.
I have ventured to call this a New Translation, though much of our vulgar translation is retained in it. As the style of that translation is not only excellent in itself, but has taken possession
* See Kennicott, State of the Printed Heb. Text, Dissert. ii. p. 470.
of our ear, and of our taste, to have endeavoured to vary from it with no other design than that of giving something new instead of it, would have been to disgust the reader, and to represent the sense of the Prophet in a more unfavourable manner ; besides that it is impossible for a verbal translator to follow an approved verbal translation which has gone before him, without frequently treading in the very footsteps of it. The most obvious, the properest, and perhaps the only terms which the language affords, are already occupied ; and without going out of his way to find worse, he cannot avoid them. Every translator has taken this liberty with his predecessors : it is no more than the laws of translation admit, nor indeed than the necessity of the case requires. And as to the turn and modification of the sentences, the translator, in this particular province of translation, is, I think, as much confined to the author's manner as to his words : so that too great liberties taken in varying either the expression or the composition, in order to give a new air to the whole, will be apt to have a very bad effect. For these reasons, whenever it shall be thought proper to set forth the Holy Scriptures, for the public use of our church, to better advantage than as they appear in the present English translation, the expediency of which grows every day more and more evident, a revision or correction of that translation may perhaps-be more advisable, than to attempt an entirely new one: For as to the style and language, it admits but of little improvement; but in respect of the sense and the accuracy of interpretation, the improvements of which it is capable are great and numberless.
The Translation here offered will perhaps be found to be in general as close to the text, and as literal, as our English ver, sion. When it departs at all from the Hebrew text on account of some correction which I suppose to be requisite, I give notice to the reader of such correction, and offer my reasons for it: if those reasons should sometimes appear insufficient, and the translation to be merely conjectural, I desire the reader to consider the exigence of the case, and to judge, whether it is not better, in a very obscure and doubtful passage, to give something probable by way of supplement to the author's sense, apparently defective, than either to leave a blank in the translation, or to give a merely verbal rendering, which would be altogether unintelligible. I believe that every translator whatever of any part of the Old Testament, has taken sometimes the liberty, or rather has found himself under the necessity, of offering such renderings as, if examined, will be found to be merely conjectural. But I desire to be understood as offering this apology in behalf only of translations designed for the private use of the reader ; not