The Latest Translation Of The Bible -- By: Henry M. Whitney

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 059:235 (Jul 1902)
Article: The Latest Translation Of The Bible
Author: Henry M. Whitney


The Latest Translation Of The Bible

Henry M. Whitney

2. Aims And Results

What especial improvements do the American Revisers think that they have made? Do their changes make a total that justifies their challenge to the attention of the English-speaking world? And what is there that they did not do and that still invites the doing?

Doubtless the best beginning for the answer to these questions may be found in the prefaces that they have given with the two Testaments.

1. The primary and most summary statement is their own,—that they have embodied in the text all but a few of the American suggestions of change that in the Revision of 1885 were relegated by the English Committee to an appendix. In the Revision of 1901 the terms of that appendix are simply reversed: the American suggestions lead, and the readings preferred by the Englishmen are given with equal fullness and emphasis as having been displaced. Here the issue is frankly joined: which list will have the final verdict from those who are competent to judge?

It might easily have been, that, although the judgment went, on the whole, to the later Revision, yet a large percentage of the American suggestions would fail to commend themselves to American opinion or sentiment; but we believe it to be a fact, that, among such Americans as know the Bible intimately and have made themselves acquainted with the appendix of 1885, there are very few

who do not hold that the use of substantially all the American preferences would have been then, and is now, an excellent thing. To them it has always been hard to comprehend how our English friends could have thought it wise to cling to so many expressions that (1) by shift of meaning had become less dignified or even coarse, or (2) had changed to a different though not a coarse significance, or (3) had gone wholly out of use. So nearly absolute a difference must be at bottom a matter of national temperament,—the greater separation of the English scholar, in fact and in sympathy, from the actual life of the multitude,—the idea that the vocabulary of religion may well be broadly differentiated from the vocabulary of other high thought and feeling.

It was truly said by Southey: “There is, as you must have heard Wordsworth point out, a language of pure intelligible English, which was spoken in Chaucer’s time and is spoken in ours, equally understood then and now, of which the Bible is the written and permanent standard, as it has undoubtedly been the great means of preserving it”; but this does not alter the fact that the English language is changing all the time, that Chaucer can be read only with almost constant reference to a g...

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