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There is now an additional point, which I beg particularly to present to the consideration of the reader; which is, that the principles of translation maintained by the Abbé are so fundamentally erroneous, that a decision founded upon them
cannot be correct.
First I would notice, that the Abbé, as appears by the part he acts, maintains the principle, that a version of the Scriptures is not to be borne with, unless it start into existence in a state of perfection, or, to say the least, of very great and almost unexceptionable accuracy. The reader will notice that he shews no mercy whatsoever to a version, on the ground that it is but in its early stages of existence, and consequently attended by the necessary infirmities of infancy.
The development of this unsound principle abundantly appears in the Abbé's ridicule and condemnation of the first chapter of the Canada (or Canarese) version of the book of Genesis, which has already been adverted to. This chapter was, as appears from the Report of the London Missionary Society for 1822, in its very infancy, and merely a first edition. Let the reader now mark the uncommon severity of the Abbé's criticism, contained in the notes which he has subjoined to his own retranslation of the chapter into English. The criticism seems to carry internal evidence of magnifying every defect,
and of representing the version in as unfavourable a light as it would possibly admit of; and when we see the Abbé commenting upon the term "figure of God," and denouncing this "a blasphemous expression," it cannot, I apprehend, but strike the reader, that instead of mercy rejoicing over judgment, neither justice nor mercy has been shewn.
I apprehend every unbiassed person will agree with me, that the Abbé's proper line of conduct would have been, to have pointed out, in a friendly inanner, any unsuitable renderings he might have discovered, and to have suggested more eligible expressions in their room, that the version might thereby be helped onward towards perfection.
That the author should not have acted upon the true principle, namely, that a high degree of perfection is to be waited for as the result of many editions and revisions, is the more surprising, as his own statements seem both to elicit and establish the very maxim contended for."It is a well known fact," says he, "that when England separated herself from the Church of Rome, not finding the version of the vulgate, till then used, sufficiently exact, the first care of her reformers was to procure a translation of the whole Bible, from the original Hebrew, into English; in consequence, one was produced with great trouble in the reign of the young King
Edward the Sixth; but this version, on a close investigation, proving abundant in errors, was finally laid aside, and a second undertaken in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. This also could not withstand criticism, and was found, on the whole, very incorrect and defective; a third version was therefore begun in the reign of James the First, which (if I am not mistaken) is that now used and approved by the Established Church. In order to render this as exact and correct as it was possible, the best scholars to be found in the kingdom were employed in the execution of it, and it is well known that this version, carried on by the joint labours of so many learned persons, took up a period of about sixteen years for its completion; and yet modern criticism has found many errors and mistakes in it, although obtained by so much trouble and care.” (p. 36.)
Why then, I would ask, upon the author's own representation, are first translators of the Bible into Indian tongues to be criticised with such merciless severity? On the contrary, do they not deserve to have extended to them the hand of encouragement and assistance? and does not a condemnation of their first effort to immediate destruction, because of the imperfections attending it, constitute an unjust sentence, founded upon an erroneous principle?
If the Abbé had pointed out, as far as he was
able, the best methods of giving to the existing versions superior degrees of correctness, he would have acted in harmony with the procedure which brought our own English translation to its present measure of perfection; but to condemn every fresh version, and suppress it for ever, because it does not in the outset come forth free from faults, would be to have deprived not only India, but England, France, and every Gentile country in the world, of a vernacular edition of the Sacred Scriptures to this very day.
For the yet further satisfaction of those who may have already contributed to the Indian versions of the Sacred Scriptures, and to fortify that confidence which the Abbé has (though, I trust, in vain) endeavoured to destroy, I will quote a paragraph from one of the last Reports of the Calcutta Bible Society, whereby it will appear that great pains are taken to render the various versions connected with the Bible Society's operations in India as accurate as possible.
The following is the paragraph I allude to, and is taken from the Eleventh Report of the Calcutta Auxiliary Bible Society, published at Calcutta in the year 1822.
"It would ill accord with the sentiments your Committee have expressed respecting the recently formed auxiliary society at Madras, not to advert to their proceedings as exhibited in their
first printed report. The advantages which they had anticipated from the new society, will be found amply justified on a perusal of that interesting document. The Committee at Madras have nobly entered upon their work, and by the judicious appointment of a sub-committee from their number, as a Committee for translations, have invested their proceedings with a character of gravity and prudence which cannot but secure the public confidence, and excite the liveliest hopes of the permanent utility of their exertions.
"Whilst your Committee cordially congratulate the Society at large on the union, and zeal, and wisdom, with which the early operations of this new auxiliary are distinguished, they would particularly notice the above-mentioned subcommittee, as a characteristic feature of the institution, and would suggest the importance of adopting a similar measure at this Presidency. The utility of such a body for the examining of translations is obvious. The formation of a similar sub-committee by this Society is recommended with the greater confidence from the following expression of the wishes of the Parent Society, as published in the Madras report, being an extract of a letter from the Rev. J. Owen to the Rev. J. Church.
"Next to the satisfaction received by our Committee from the fact of your Society having