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New-TESTAMENT commentaries are so numerous, and, many of them, so good, that a new essay requires some explanation. The present work is an attempt in a field which, so far as I am áware, is not covered by any one book, though it hias been carefully and ably worked by many scholars. Taking a position midway between the exegetical commentary and the lexicon and grammar, it aims to put the reader of the English Bible nearer to the stand-point of the Greek scholar, by opening to him the native force of the separate words of the New Testament in their lexical sense, their etymology, their history, their inflection, and the peculiarities of their usage by different evangelists and apostles.
The critical student of the Greek Testament will, therefore, find himself here on familiar, and often on rudimental, ground, and will understand that the book has not been prepared with any design or expectation of instructing him. It has in view, first of all, those readers whose ignorance of Greek debars them from the quickening contact of the original words, and to whom is unknown the very existence of those tracks which the Greek scholar threads with unconscious ease and in clear light.
No scholar will maintain that such a task is rendered superfluous by even the most idiomatic and accurate translation. The most conscientious and competent translator is fettered by difficulties inherent in the very nature of a translation. Something must exhale in the transfer from one language to another ; something which is characteristic in proportion to its subtlety. Reading an anthor in a translation is like hearing through a telephone. The words may reach the ear distinctly, but the quality of the most familiar voice is lost. In translation, as in exchange of money, transfer often necessitates breaking up—the destruction of the original symbol, in order to embody its contents in the symbols of another tongne. A particular coin of one country may have no exact representative in a coin of another country; and the difference inust be made out with small change. A single Greek word often requires two or three words for its reproduction in English, and even then the partial equivalent must be made good by comment or paraphrase. There are, besides, certain features of every language, and particularly of every dead language, which defy transfer by any process-einbodiments of a subtle play of perception or of thought which has vanished, like the characteristic expression from a dead face, and which, thongh it may give some hint of itself to an English mind, eludes the grasp of an English formula.
Difficulties like these can be met only by the study of individual words. The translator is coinpelled to deal mainly with the contents of sentences and periods; to make the forms of thought subordinate to the substance. A translation which should literally reproduce the idiomatic structure of its original would be a monstrosity. If the thought is to circulate freely and familiarly in Anglo-Saxon society, and to do its best work upon Anglo-Saxon minds, it must assume the Anglo-Saxon dress. It must modify or abandon its native habits. not be continually thrusting into notice its native antecedents, and the forms of the life which evolved it. It must be naturalized thronghont. Hence the translator is compelled to have mainly in view his own andience; to expound the message rather than to flatter the nationality of the messenger. He cannot stop to show his reader how each constituent word of
the original sentence is throbbing with a life of its own, and aglow with the fascination of a personal history. This is rather the work of the commentator; and not of the commentator who explains the meaning and the relation of verses and chapters, but of one who deals with words in detail, and tells their individual stories.
For a language is not made to order and ont of hand. It is a growth out of a people's life; and its words are not arbitrary symbols fixed by decree or by vote, but are struck out, as needed, by incidents and crises. They are the formulas in which new needs and first impressions of external facts spontaneously voice themselves, and into which social customs run. Hence language becomes more picturesque as we recede toward its earlier forms. Primitive speech is largely figurative; primitive words are pictures. As the language becomes the expression of a more conventional and artificial life, and of a deeper and more complex thought, new words are coined representing something more subjective and subtle; and the old words, as they become pressed into the new service and stretched to cover a wider range of meaning, lose their original sharpness of outline. They pass into conventional symbols in the multiform uses of daily speech; they become commonplace factors of a commonplace present, and remain historic only to lexicographers and philologists. None the less, these words forever carry hidden in their bosom their original pictures and the mark of the blow which struck each into life; and they will show them to him who lovingly questions them concerning their birth and their history.
These remarks apply in a peculiar manner to the Greek language, which was the ontgrowth of a national character at once poetic and passionate, logical and speculative, and which was shaped by an eventful and romantic history and by a rich and powerful literature. The words of a language which traverses the period from Homer to Aristotle, from Marathon to Leuctra; which told the stories of Herodotus, carried the mingled fire and logic of Demosthenes, voiced the tremendous passion of Oedipus, and formulated the dialectic of Plato and the reasoning of Aristotle, must enfold rare treasures; and the more as we follow it into its later development under the contact of Oriental thought, which fused it in the alembic of Alexandria, ran the new combination into the mould of the Septuagint, and added the last element necessary to constitute it the bearer of the Gospel message. The highest testimony to the resources of this wonderful tongue is furnished in its exquisite sensitiveness to the touch of the new faith, and its ready adaptation to the expression of the new truth. Its contact with the fresh, quickening ideas of the Gospel seemed to evoke from it a certain deep-lying quality, overlaid till then by the baser moral conceptions of Paganism, but springing up in prompt response to the summons of Christian thought and sentiment. Yet even the words which lent themselves so readily to the new and higher message of Christianity could not abjure their lineage or their history. They bore the marks of the older and less sacred burdens they had carried. In the histories of its choicest worde, Christianity asserts itself as a redeemer of human speech. The list of New-Testament words lifted out of ignoble associations and uses, and mitred as ministers of sacred truth, is a long and significant one; and there are few more fascinating lines of study than this, to which Archbishop Trench long ago directed English readers in his “Study of Words” and his “New Testament Synonyms."
The biblical student may therefore profitably combine two distinct lines of study; the one directed at the truth of scripture in mass, the other at the medium or vehicle of the truth in detail.
A thorough comprehension of scripture takes in the warp no less than the woof. Labor expended upon etymologies, synonyms, and the secrets of particles and tenses, upon the wide range of pictures and lints and histories underly