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DISSERTATION THE EIGHTH.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE MANNER OF RENDERING SOME WORDS, TO
WHICH THERE ARE NOT ANY THAT PERFECTLY CORRESPOND IN MO
It was observed in a former Dissertation', that there are words in the language of every people, which are not capable of being translated into that of any other people who have not a perfect conformity with them in those customs or sentiments which have given rise to those words. The terms comprehended under this remark, may be distributed into three classes. The first is, of weights, measures, and coins : the second of rites, sects, and festivals: the third of dress, judicatories, and offices.
1 Diss. II. P. I. § 5.
WEIGHTS, MEASURES, AND COINS.
As to the first class, it is evident that there is no thing, wherein nations, especially such as are distant from one another in time and place, more frequently differ, than in the measures and coins, which law or custom has established among them. Under coins I shall here include weights; because it was chiefly by weight that money was anciently distinguished. As commonly, in every country, the people have names only for their own, it is often necessary, in the translation of ancient and foreign books, to adopt their peculiar names, and by mentioning in the margin the equivalent in our own money, measures, and weights, to supply the reader with the proper information. This method has accordingly been, often, though not always, taken by the translators of holy writ. Into the common version of the Old Testament, several Oriental, and other foreign, names, have been admitted, which are explained in the margin. Hence we have shekel, ephah, bath, homer, cor, and some others. This, however (for what reason I know not), has not been attempted in the New Testament. Instead of it, one or other of these two methods has been taken: either some name of our own, supposed to be equivalent, or at least not strictly confined, by use, to a precise meaning, is adopted, such as pound, penny, farthing, bushel, firkin; or (which is the only other method ever used by our translators) some general expression is employed; as, a piece of money, a piece of silver, tribute money, a measure, and the like. These are three ways, every one of which has some advantages, and some disadvantages, and is, in some cases, the most eligible, and not in others.
One Monsieur le Cene, a French writer, who, in the end of the last century, wrote what he called, a Project for a new Translation of the Bible into French, has recommended a fourth method, which is, to give in the version the exact value expressed in the money, or measures, of the country into whose language the version is made. The anony. mous author of an essay, in English, for a new translation, has adopted this idea; or rather, without naming Le Cene, has turned into English, and transferred to our use, all those remarks of the Frenchman, which he accounted applicable to the English version. This fourth method, though much approved by some, on account of its supposed perspicuity, is, in my judgment, the worst of them all, nor do I know a single instance wherein I could say that it ought to be adopted'.
? Till I read it lately in Dr. Geddes' Prospectus, I did not know that Le Cene had published a version of the Scriptures. The
s 2. But, before I enter on the discussion of these methods, it is proper here to premise that, as to measures, the inquiry may well be confined to those called measures of capacity. The smaller length measures have originally, in every country, been borrowed from some of the proportions which take place in the human body. Hence inch, handbreadth, span, foot, cubit. The larger measures, pace, furlong, mile, are but multiples of the less. Now, as there is not an exact uniformity of measure in the parts of individuals, it would naturally follow, that different nations would establish, for themselves, standard measures, not much different from those of others, nor yet entirely the same. And this is what, in such measures, has actually happened. When any of them, therefore, is mentioned, we know the measure nearly, but cannot know it accurately, till we are informed of what nation it is the inch, span, foot, cubit, &c.
The names have, by use, acquired a latitude and a currency in these
attentive reader will perceive that the criticisms which follow, in relation to him, do not refer to that translation, which I never saw, but solely to his plan. If his version be conformable to
own rules, it is certainly a curiosity of its kind. But that cannot be; otherwise the learned Doctor, though not pro. fuse in its praise, would not, on some points, have spoken so favourably as he has done. Could he have said, for instance, that he is very seldom biassed by party prejudices? If Le Cene was faultless on this article, much may be said to excul.
Their parties were different, but their error was the same.
See Diss. X. P. V. § 13.