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And we would also join in sacred mirth,
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF A GENUINE TRANSLATION
OF THE SACRED SCRIPTURE.1 MR. CHAIRMAN,—In order that we may be able to see clearly and definitely the importance of a genuine translation of the Sacred Scripture, we must first have a clear and definite idea of the uses of the Sacred Scripture; and after knowing what the uses of the Sacred Scripture are, we can by a comparison judge how these uses are performed by a translation which is genuine, and by one which is not genuine.
A translation, however, is genuine when it calls up in the mind the very same ideas which are called up by the reading of the original; and a translation is not genuine when it substitutes different ideas from those which are furnished by the original.
The uses of the Sacred Scripture are twofold : in the first place, it is the source whence all the doctrines of the Christian Church are drawn, and by which these doctrines are afterwards confirmed ; according to this statement of the doctrine of the New Church : “ The doctrine of the Church is to be drawn from the literal sense of the Word, and to be confirmed thereby. It is to be drawn from the letter of the Word, because the Lord there, and not anywhere else, is present with man and illustrates and teaches him the truths of the Church ; for the Lord never operates anything except in a state of fulness; and the Word is in its fulness in the sense of the letter, wherefore doctrine is to be derived thence” (D. S. S. 53). “Doctrine, however, is not only to be drawn from the letter of the Word, but also to be confirmed thereby : for unless the truth of doctrine is confirmed by the letter of the Word it appears as if only the intelligence of man, and not the Lord's Divine Wisdom is contained in it; doctrine also in this case would be like a house in the air and not upon the earth, and thus it would be without a basis” (D. S. S. 54).
The second use of the Sacred Scripture is, that by means of its literal sense is effected the conjunction of man with the Lord, and his consociation with angels. On this subject we read in “ Heaven and Hell” (No. 306): “I was informed out of heaven that the Most Ancient people had an immediate revelation, because their interiors were turned towards heaven, and that the Lord's conjunction with the human race was thence at that time. That after their times, however, there was not such an immediate revelation,
1 A Lecture delivered at the New Church College, Devonshire Street, Islington, on February 22, 1876, by Prof. R. L. Tafel, A.M., Ph. D.
but a mediate one by correspondences: for their whole Divine worship consisted of such correspondences; wherefore, the churches of that period were called representative churches. They knew then what correspondence and representation is; and also that all things on earth are correspondences of the spiritual things which are in the church and in heaven, or what is the same thing, that they represented them; wherefore the natural things which were the externals of their worship served them as means of thinking spiritually, and thus with the angels. After the knowledge of correspondences and representations became obliterated, the Word was written in which all words, and the meaning of the words, are correspondences, and thus contain a spiritual or internal sense in which the angels are: when man, therefore, reads the Word, and perceives it according to the sense of the letter, or according to its external meaning, angels perceive it according to the internal sense, or according to its spiritual meaning. For all thought with the angels is spiritual, but the thought of men is natural; their thoughts, indeed, appear diverse, but still they are one by correspondence. Hence it is, that after man removed himself from heaven and broke the bond, the Lord provided a means of conjunction of heaven with man by means of the Word.”
. We see, therefore, that the Word, on the one hand, furnishes to man precepts of life, and enables him to obey these precepts, because the Lord Himself is present in the Word; and, on the other hand, is effective of conjunction between the angels of heaven and the men of the church on earth.
The power of the Word, therefore, does not consist in the mere fact of its containing precepts of life, and enabling man to distinguish between what is good and evil; but its power consists also in this, that · by virtue of the correspondences which are contained in it the Lord Himself with the angels of heaven is able to be present in it, and to assist man with His omnipotent power.
This power of the Word resides in its fulness in the original text; for there we have the original words upon which the Spirit of God alighted in the minds of the prophets, through whom the Word of God was communicated to man.
Concerning the power of the Word of God in the original Hebrew tongue, Swedenborg says as follows:"A small piece of paper was let down, written over with Hebrew letters, such as were used in the Most Ancient times. They differ somewhat from the Hebrew letters of the present day, but not much. An angel who was with me told me that
he understood everything that was written there from the mere shape of the letters; and that each letter contained some idea, even a whole chain of ideas; he informed me also of the signification of the · (Jod), the x (Aleph), the is (Heth); but he was not permitted to give the meaning of the remaining letters. He also said that all things of the Word are thus inspired, and that the third heaven, when the Word is read by man in the Hebrew text, knew thence everything divine celestial which was inspired; further, that all things there in general and in particular treat concerning the Lord. This sense cannot be expounded, because it is the very celestial sense, not even an idea of which can be expressed by human language. From this it may appear that the Word, according to the Lord's words, is inspired according to each jot, and also according to each tittle. I conversed with them on this circumstance that the form of the Hebrew letter only presented these things; and the cause was traced to the form of the flux of heaven which is such; and as the celestial angels are in that flux which constitutes the basis of order, they are able to have such a perception " (S. D. 4671).
In another part he says, “ When the Jews read the Word in the original language, the celestial angels derive from their ideas, which are drawn from the very form of their language, the celestial things which are in the Word. For the correspondence of that language as to its syllables is with celestial forms." And then Swedenborg continues as before: “It appears hence that the Word is Divine not only as to every word, but also as to its syllables and letters; and it may be known hence what is signified by this, that not even the least jot and the least tittle shall perish. From this also may be seen the reason why the Jews were induced to number every letter in the Word; and why they believed that arcana were contained in each letter, although they did not know how” (S. D. 3619, 3621).
It may be useful to mention here that what are called Hebrew letters at the present day are not the Hebrew letters proper, but the Chaldaic characters. In the Hebrew letters proper we are told there is not a single straight line, but they consist altogether of curves and spires. These ancient Hebrew characters have been preserved among the Jews, and because the shape of the Hebrew letters proper differs from that of the Hebrew printed letters, therefore in their synagogues their lessons from the Word are always, if possible, read from manuscript copies. Swedenborg refers to this fact in these words: “The Jews have been preserved on account of the Hebrew language ; they
have also the Word written in the ancient Hebrew language, where all letters are inflected, because the Word when written in that character has a more immediate communication with heaven” (S. D., vol. vii. Appendix i. p. 83).
Such is the conjunction of the Word with heaven, when read in the original Hebrew language, especially when this is written in the ancient Hebrew characters. We have seen also that when read in that language it effects conjunction with the angels of the inmost or third heaven. It is plain, also, that this principle of conjunction is completely lost when the Word is translated from the original Hebrew into any other language.
Yet it does not follow from this that there is no conjunction with heaven effected by means of the translated copies of the Word; for we have seen that in the Word not only the very words, but also “ the meaning of the words” consists of correspondences, and thus effects conjunction. In the translated copies of the Word, therefore, the very words, and the apexes, jots, and tittles of the words, are no longer inspired, but the meaning of the words. alone; conjunction with heaven therefore in this case is effected by " the meaning of the words” which is derived from the Word by those who read it in a holy state; and this meaning is perceived not by the celestial, but by the spiritual angels of heaven, and conjunction with them is thereby effected.
You see, therefore, how important it is that the meaning of the original words should be properly rendered in translations.
The reason, however, why it is so very important that the meaning of every word in the original should be properly rendered, and that there should be nothing dropped, and nothing added, is on account of the internal sense, lest this be mutilated and violated. And that there is a danger of mutilating, and thus of injuring the internal sense by an improper translation, you may see from the following passages of the Writings :-In A. C. 7933 we read : “The internal text is so continuous, that not even the least word can be omitted without an interruption of the series.” And in the “ Last Judgment,” 41, Swedenborg says, “This I can assert, that every least particular in the Word contains in itself a spiritual sense, and that in that sense all things of the church as to its spiritual state are described in fulness from beginning to end; and because each word there signifies something spiritual, therefore not a single word can be omitted without the series of things in the internal sense suf