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

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 064:255 (Jul 1907)
Article: The Latest Translation Of The Bible
Author: Henry M. Whitney

The Latest Translation Of The Bible

Henry M. Whitney

IX. Concerning Idiom

In Acts 26:11 is a passage that illustrates in an interesting way the slow progress that the Bible has made toward being understood. We may trace it through several versions: —

1. Wyclif: Bi alle synagogis ofte y punyschide hem, and constreynede to blasfeme.

2. A. V.: I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme.

3. Conybeare and Howson: In every synagogue I continually punished them, and endeavored to compel them to blaspheme.

4. Both Revisions: Punishing them oftentimes in all the synagogues, I strove to make them blaspheme.

The form of the Bible Union agrees substantially with that of the Revisions. In forms 3 and 4 there has emerged a recognition of the fact that, by an idiom of the New Testament Greek, the imperfect tense may mean not only action continued (I was compelling), or action begun (I began to compel), or action frequent (I used to compel), and so on, but action attempted (I tried to compel).1 The last of these senses is so appropriate here that it is recognized at once as the necessary thing: force was applied, but it largely failed.

In this connection we may call attention to two other examples:—

Matt. 3:14: [John] tried to forbid him.
Luke 1:59: They started to name him Zachariah.

In these cases the Revisions have “would have hindered” and “would have called”: most other recent versions and the “Edition of Paris “show a recognition of the idiom in the tense, but the makers of the old standard English versions, the “English Hexapla,” were not acute enough for such things.

Recurring to Acts 26:11, we quote: —

5. Weymouth: In all the synagogues also I punished them many a time, and tried to make them blaspheme.

Here, more than in the previous forms, we are, in spite of the unfortunate comma, helped to realize that not only the punishing took place in the synagogues, but also the attempts to extort words of reprobation of Christ: this use of a place of worship is a touch that hightens the horror of the tale.

6. “Edition of Paris” (1805): Souvent meme dans toutes les Synagogues, je les contraignois de blasphemer en les punissant.

7. An edition dated 1785...

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