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

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 061:242 (Apr 1904)
Article: The Latest Translation Of The Bible
Author: Henry M. Whitney

The Latest Translation Of The Bible

Henry M. Whitney

We have spoken of the relation of the figures and the literary methods of the Bible to the task of making a good translation. We have discussed hyperbole, ellipsis, paronomasia, metaphor, the remarkable class of metaphorical “sons,” the substitution of a genitive noun for an adjective, hendiadys, personification, and the attribution to the volition or the activity of God of everything, good or bad, that God permits to take place. These unfamiliar terms apply to very real and very important matters in the rhetorical or literary form.1 It requires something more than acquaintance with Hebrew and Greek to enable a man to catch the real idea lying in the use of any one of these figures or methods, and to bring it over in the best possible form into our mother-tongue.

1. For instance, if Huxley grew hot over Paul’s assertion, “If the dead rise not, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,” one is tempted to speculate upon the question what he thought of Ps. 51:4. David has ruined a home, and has murdered the man whom he has unspeakably wronged; then he turns his eyes away from the scene of his wrong-doing, to look up to God and exclaim, “Against thee, thee only, have

I sinned.” From Huxley’s standpoint these words are simply sardonic; as Hebrew hyperbole they are, in their own way, right.

In these days of revived interest in Emerson and his work, it may be well to note that his power of arresting attention was partly, if not largely, due to his use of hyperbole that went even beyond all biblical examples,—hyperbole that was audacious in the extreme. He said that the young man of the present day “should be taught all skepticisms, all unbeliefs”; and again: “Adhere to your own act, and congratulate yourself if you have done something strange and extravagant, and broken the monotony of a decorous age.” What would Huxley have thought of such utterances as those? Indeed, they seem to us to go beyond the limits of reason or taste: is it remarkable that such expressions led many to distrust the influence of Emerson over the unreflecting?

2. We may add some notable examples in which the ellipsis is so large or so daring that multitudes of people fail to get the sense: 2 Sam. 6:23. “Michal the daughter of Saul had no child [after that] unto the day of her death”; Ps. 10:4. “[There is] no God: [such are] all his thoughts”; Matt. 6:25. “Is not the life more than the food [that sustains it], and the body than the raiment [that covers it]?”—without the bracketed words the use of the before the nouns, as by t...

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