ページの画像
PDF
ePub

poses that, because the Abbé has been many years in India, he is therefore competent to give an opinion respecting all the versions which have been made, or are making, in Hindostan. If an Englishman had lived many years in France, when he came back to England would any one think of saying,--Sir, you are just returned from the Continent; do tell me whether the Russian version of the Scriptures printing at St. Petersburg, and the Danish version printing at Copenhagen, and the Swedish version printing at Stockholm, are good versions or not: on the contrary, if he who had resided in France were to offer his opinion, it would be received with doubt and hesitation, and many preliminary questions would be asked, such as, - Do you know the Russian, Danish, and Swedish languages ? What reputation have you for the extent of your skill in these several tongues ? and, above all, have you actually read the versions in question?

Now India is like the Continent of Europe, with a yet greater multitude of languages and alphabetical characters; and though here and there, an illustrious scholar, like Sir William Jones or Dr. Carey, may master many of them, yet this is an achievement which falls to the lot of but few, and has not, unless I am greatly mistaken, fallen to the lot of the Abbé Dubois. Had he been the great oriental scholar qualified to

[ocr errors]

justify the high judicial iinportance be assumes, a far different verification of his sentence would, I apprehend, have been appended to his book, than the solitary first chapter of the Canarese version of Genesis, to which chapter I shall have occasion again to refer.

The question, whether the author were intimately acquainted with the versions he condemns, may be determined from his own statements. “ Since writing these pages,” he says, “I have learned, with some surprise, " that the Missionaries at Serampore have surpassed the most sanguine expectations of the public, by translating the Scriptures, within the short period of nine or ten years, into no less than twenty-four Asiatic languages. This brilliant success has not in the least dazzled me, nor altered my opinion, or diminished my scepticism, on the entire inadequacy of such means to enlighten the pagans, and gain them over to Christianity; and I would not certainly dare to warrant, that these twenty spurious versions, with some of which I am acquainted, will, after the lapse of the same number of years, have operated the conversion of twenty-four pagans,” &c.—(p. 37.)

It thus appears, from the author's own acknowledgment, that he condemns the majority of the Indian versions without being acquainted with them.

[ocr errors]

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 inercy 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

« 前へ次へ »