SIX years have transpired, since we published the first edition of this work. During this period we have been receiving criticisms, suggestions, and queries, relative to further improvements in the version, and in the mode of exhibiting it. We also solicited and obtained, from some learned and pious men, their assistance in perfecting this translation. To all criticisms, and suggestions, from all quarters, both from friends and foes of new versions, we have, according to our opportunities, paid a diligent attention; and have, very carefully, examined, compared, and revised the whole version.
An improved version of both Testaments, in the current language of our own times, has long been a desideratum with very many sensible, intelligent, and pious men, and several have undertaken it. Few have been able to complete an entire version of the whole book; and to us it appeared more eligible to publish, in one volume, the joint labors of those most eminent translators, who have bestowed much labor on a part of the volume, than to take the whole of any one version, made by any one man, since the days of King James. Of the translators of the last generation, none have been better received than the authors of this version--none have stood higher than they.
It was not, however, without a very clear and full conviction, that their learned and pious labors could be still further improved, and their rules of interpretation so carried out, as to give a still better result, than that which they achieved in their first efforts, that we undertook the publication of this work, in the form and manner in which it appeared, in the first edition. Aware, also, of the prejudice and scrupulosity existing on the subject of any new version, we attempted little or nothing on our own responsibility. The emendatiosn substituted, except in some few instances, were from other translators of note, or from one of the three authors of the work, and still we gave, in an appendix, the words for which these substitutes were preferred.
The manner in which this work was received, by the more intelligent part of the community, and the liberality with which our efforts were estimated, induced us to make farther attempts towards the perfection of this version; and prevented us from multiplying editions of it, till we had, in a good measure, satisfied ourselves on the questions:--Whether any ememdations ought to be made; and if any, to what extent, and in what manner? The present edition presents some answers to these questions, and shows that, in the judgment of some at least, the style of the whole volume, even of the historical books, was susceptible of some improvement, and yet not such as to change, materially, the sense of any passage, or to introduce any new argument in favor of any new or old doctrine, or against it.
Some changes in punctuation may be said to have changed the meaning of some sentences; but these are made on the authority of Griesbach, and of the most approved Greek copies; and, as far as we now recollect, affect not any sectarian peculiarity. For example--"Sleep on now, and take your rest;" "Set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church;" when put into the interrogative form, give a different meaning--"Do you sleep now, and take your rest?" "Do you set them to judge who are of no esteem (or of little esteem) in the congregation?" But these alterations affect not any distinguishing tenet. In this way, and as respects the correction of numerous provincialisms, and the giving of greater precision and perspicuity to many phrases, there are numerous emendations, which may be said, in some sense, to change the meaning; yet not so as to affect any doctrine of the Christian religion.
Macknight presented more work for the pen of a reviser than Campbell; and Doddridge more than either. There is a clumsiness of expression, and a verbosity, peculiar to the latter, which subjected the Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation of John, to a severer retrenchment, than any portion of the historical books.
The Epistles, by Macknight, in the judgment of the ablest critics, required some improvement, as there are several awkward and rather barbarous phrases, which seem to have been selected, rather because they differed from the common version, than on account of their own intrinsic worth. His punctuation, and his supplements, are, in some instances, fancilful; and the latitude he has given to some ofthe Greek particles, is not sufficiently warranted by the authority of lexicographers and grammarians.
If this were merely our own opinion, we should not have asserted it so unceremoniously and unequivocally. But it is the deliberate and well-matured judgment of many distinguished men; who, while they give a decided preference to his version, upon the whole, regret that these imperfections whould have appeared in a work of such high merit. The recent works of Dr. Stuart on the Epistles to the Romans and the Hebrews--works of much merit, justify the eoffrts we have made to remo vethese blemishes from Macknight's version of the Epistles. Dr. Stuart himself, a gentleman of very high standing in the literary world, and for whose candor and abilities, as a critic, we entertain a very high opinion, has not, in our judgment, wholly escaped the censures, which he has very justly pronounced on others. Indeed, it is no easy matter to avoid the errors, which we detect and expose in others; and, perhaps, were ten thousand times ten thousand critics, each in his own way, to review the same work, no two of them would exactly agree in all their censures and commendations; nor in always adhering to the same rules, which they prescribe to others. We have followed, to the utmost of our ability and candor, the rules of criticism and interpretation, laid down by the masters of criticism, and the most distinguished translators.
Our qualifications for such a work are, that we have their labors before us--an ordinary knowledge of the languages--access to the most recent improvements--an acquaintance and correspondence with men of reputation--a small degree of mental independence--a little common sense--and some veneration for the oracles of God. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and, though of less stature, we can see as far as they; or, like the wren on the back of the eagle, we have as large a horizon as the eagle, which has carried us above the clouds.
The improvements and emendatiosn (for such we dare to call them) attempted in this volume, are such as, on comparison with the common version, and with the first and second editions of this work, will, most of them, speak for themselves, to all persons of discernment; and all of them, we think, to those much acquainted with the original language and other translations. When any amendment or alteration is substituted, such as might be supposed to require a note, we have supplied it either in the Tables, or in some part of the Appendix, with a marginal reference. But to write notes on all the verbal alterations, and to give reasons for every monosyllable and tansposition of words, would swell the book to a size rather cumbersome and expensive, than profitable to the reader. Besides, the reader, by his own comparison and reflection, must finally judge for himself, whether in the spirit of the writer, and in accordance with the drift of the context, the reading is to be preferred to that for which it is offered.
While the reader is not confined by any earthly authority to any one versin, and left to his own choice which to prefer for his daily companion, it is altogether out of the question for any person, or persons, to impose upon his credulity, unless he willingly give up himself, his understanding, and conscience into the hand of some master. The present edition was undertaken wholly with areference to the edification of those, who are desirous to understand the revelations, which God, in his great mercy, has vouchsafed to a benighted world. No attmept is made to lord over the faith or conscience of any person. We call upon all to judge for themselves, and to compare and examine before they decide. Having, as far as within our power, contributed to the increase of scripture knowledge, so much wanted in this age; and having faithfully obeyed the dictates of our conscience in this undertaking, we can, with an humble reliance on the truth and faithfulness of God, submit this work to his people, and those who wish to know what the will of Jesus Christ is, and await the day, when every man's work shall undergo the revision and judgment of him, who judges without partiality, and will render to all according to their works.
BETHANY, VA., October 10, 1932.
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