Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

posely withholding from Englishmen the knowledge of the foundations of their religious faith. The idea of an authoritative version of the Scriptures in the vernacular thus became a national aspiration which could not be satisfied by paraphrases of detached devotional selections. In the fourteenth century, the entire Bible was translated into English by John Wycliffe and his followers. This translation was from the Vulgate, as was the first printed complete Bible in Englishthat of Miles Coverdale, published in 1535. Knowledge of the ancient tongues was, however, reviving in Europe. In the preparation of the “Great Bible,” first published in 1539, the Hebrew text of the Old Testament was used for comparison, at least; and the Geneva Bible of 1560 and the Bishops Bible of 1568 had the benefit of a great wealth of Greek and Hebrew scholarship

The editions mentioned above were only a few of many versions published in the sixteenth century, during which time the Bible was the most eagerly read and widely distributed book printed in English. The religious controversies which then raged so fiercely were, of course, the source origin of much of the people's eagerness to read the sacred texts; but in the Old Testament, the masses of the people, debarred by their ignorance of the Latin language from other original sources of information on these subjects, found a compendium of ancient history and ethical philosophy and the basic principles of a system of law, which they at once began to put to practi

To avert the danger that the multiplicity of versions might lead to confusion, the Church of England at the suggestion of King James I. undertook, in 1604, to produce an English translation of the Scriptures so faithful and authoritative that the humblest reader might quote without fear of being confounded by the superior learning of scholars of Hebrew and Greek. Six years of painstaking work to this end by the most learned men in England resulted in the work known as the King James or "authorized” English Bible, which was published in 1611.

cal use.

III. THE FORM OF THE “OLD TESTAMENT"

Note 3. The "Old TESTAMENT” is divided into “Books” an arrangement doubtless originating in the early time when "book” meant a roll of parchment or papyrus which could not be of any great length. The number and arrangement of the books are not the same in all the English versions, but the reasons for the difference need not be discussed here as no passages likely to be selected for class-room reading are affected. The division into chapters and verses, though of modern origin, is practically the same in all the English versions except the Revised Version, in which it is discarded. In the ordinary editions of this version, however, the familiar divisions are often indicated in the margin.

IV. THE LANGUAGE OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE

Note 4. The language of the English Bible is peculiar to itself in form and phrasing. It differs from the ordinary literary language, not only of the present time, but also of the period when the Bible became a classic of English Literature, to such an extent that a quotation from the Bible is instantly recognized in whatever literature it may be imbedded. This “Biblical language" in fact appears in the Wycliffe Bible of 1384 and may be traced in the paraphrases and metrical versions of still earlier times. Biblical language doubtless owed its peculiar form to the necessity felt by all translators of combining extreme simplicity with precision and dignity of expression. To this end, some ancient grammatical forms were retained, which, though not used in ordinary speech, were, and are still recognized as giving precision to simple language and a special discrimination was used in the choice of words which has never been applied and probably would not be applicable to any other form of literature. In choosing their words. the translators of the Bible went directly back to the two dead

languages which furnished the original elements of the living literary speech. With very few exceptions, the English words of the Bible are either pure Anglo-Saxon or pure Latin, the Latin words being used only where the Anglo-Saxon--a strong language arrested at a very early period of literary development—was plainly insufficient to express the idea. The hybrid and nondescript words, words carelessly borrowed from foreign languages, and words used with special or technical meaning, which form so large and expressive an element in the language of ordinary speaking and writing, were rejected in the making up of the Biblical language. A living language is in a constant state of Aux. It not only grows, but decays; its elements are continually disintegrating and regrouping themselves; and, in the process, the relation between words and ideas is constantly being modified. A dead language is fixed; a Latin or Anglo-Saxon word must express the same idea a thousand years hence that it expressed a thousand years ago; hence it is that the language of the English Bible, although it was old when first used, has never become obsolete. It is based on the imperishable foundations of the English language itself and must remain fresh and intelligible as long as the English language endures.

NARRATIVE EPISODES

I

THE STORY OF THE FLOOD

(Genesis i. 7-8.)

Introductory Note.—The Creator of the world is moved by the corruption and perversity of the 'human race to destroy all living things in a universal deluge. The righteousness of Noah, however, finds favor with the Creator, and Noah is instructed to build a great ark which shall carry himself and his family safely through the flood. He is to take with him in this ark the means of replenishing the earth with all living creatures.

And the Lord said unto Noah:-"Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female ; of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I

1. See Outline Study, Note 5. 2. Ark-box or chest.

3. Clean beasts-animals designated by the law of Israel as suitable for human food.

« ForrigeFortsæt »