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ence: the symbols employed in prophecy have, like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, acquired a customary interpretation from the established use in that mode of writing, and are seldom or never varied; whereas the allegory is more at the discretion of the writer. One consequence of this is, that in the former there is not required the same exactness of resemblance between the symbols, or the types and their antitypes, as is required in allegory. The reason is obvious. The usual application supplies the defects in the first; whereas, in the second, it is solely by an accuracy of resemblance that an allegory can be distinguished from a riddle.
This difficulty however in the prophetic style, may be said, more strictly, to affect the expounder of the sacred oracles than the translator. For, in this mode of writing, there are two senses exhibited to the intelligent reader ; first, the literal, and then the figurative : for, as the words are intended to be the vehicle of the literal sense, to the man who understands the language; so, the literal sense is intended to be the vehicle of the figurative, to the man whose understanding is exercised “ to discern the things of the
Spirit.” It is to such, therefore, in a particular manner, that whatever is written in the symbolic style, in the New Testament, is addressed. Our Lord, to distinguish such from the unthinking multitude, calls them those who have ears to hear. Whoso hath ears to hear, says he, let him hear “2. The
12 Matth. xi. 15. xiii. 9. Mark, iv. I. Luke, viii. S.
same expression is also used in the Apocalypse *, a book of prophecies. And it deserves to be attended to, that Jesus Christ never employs these words in the introduction, or the conclusion, of any plain mo. ral instructions, but always after some parable, or prophetic declarations figuratively expressed. Now, it is with the literal sense only, that the translator, as such, is concerned. For the literal sense ought invariably to be conveyed into the version, where, if you discover the antitype or mystical sense, it must be, though not through the same words, through the same emblems, as you do in the original.
This also holds in translating allegory, apologue, and parable. A man may render them exactly into another tongue, who has no apprehension of the figurative sense. Who can doubt that any fable of Esop or Phedrus, for example, may be translated, with as much justness, by one who has not been told, and does not so much as guess the moral, as by one who knows it perfectly? Whereas the principal concern of the expounder is to discover the figurative import. In the New Testament, indeed, there is only one book, the Apocalypse, written entirely in the prophetic style: and it must be allowed that that book may be accurately translated by one who has no apprehension of the spiritual meaning. However, in the greater part, both of the historical, and of the epistolary, writings, there are prophecies interspersed. Besides, some knowledge in the diction, and
43 Rev. ii. 7. 11. 17. 29.
manner of the prophets is necessary for the better apprehension of the application made in the New Testament, of the prophecies of the Old, and the reasonings of the Apostles in regard to those prophecies.Indeed it may be affirmed in general, that for translating justly what is of a mixed character, where the emblematic is blended with the historical, some knowledge of the mystic applications is more essential, than for translating unmixed prophecy, allegory, or parable.
j 6. I SHALL mention, as the cause of a fifth difficulty in the examination, and consequently in the right interpretation, of the Scriptures, that, before we begin to study them critically, we have been accustomed to read them in a translation, whence we have acquired a habit of considering many ancient and oriental terms, as perfectly equivalent to certain words in modern use in our own language, by which the other have been commonly rendered. And this habit, without a considerable share of know. ledge, attention, and discernment, is almost never perfectly to be surmounted. What makes the difficulty still the greater is that, when we begin to become acquainted with other versions beside that into our mother-tongue, suppose Latin, French, Ita. lian ; these, in many instances, instead of correct. ing, serve but to confirm the effect. For, in these translations, we find the same words in the original, uniformly rendered by words which we know to correspond exactly, in the present use of those tongues, to the terms employed in our own translation.
I hope I shall not be so far misunderstood by any, as to be supposed to insinuate, by this remark, that people ought to delay reading the Scriptures in a translation, till they be capable of consulting the original. This would be to debar the greater part of mankind from the use of them altogether, and to give up the many immense advantages derived from the instructions, contained in the very worst versions of that book, for the sake of avoiding a few mistakes, comparatively small, into which one may be drawn, even by the best. A child must not be hindered from using his legs in walking, on pretence that if he be allowed to walk, it will be impossible always to secure him from falling. My intention in remarking this difficulty, is to show first, that those early studies, however proper and even necessary in Christians, are nevertheless attended with this inconveniency, that at a time when we are incompetent judges, prepossessions are insensibly formed on mere habit or association, which afterwards, when the judgment is more mature, cannot easily be surmounted ; 2dly, to account in part, without recurring to obscurity in the original, for the greater difficulty said to be found in explaining holy writ, than in expounding other works of equal antiquity; and, 3dly, to awake a proper circumspection and caution, in every one who would examine the Scriptures with that attention which the ineffable importance of the subject merits.
But, in order to set the observation itself in relation to this fifth difficulty in the strongest light, it would be necessary to trace the origin, and give, as it were, the history of some terms, which have become technical amongst ecclesiastical writers, pointing out the changes which in a course of ages they have insensibly undergone. When alterations are produced by slow degrees, they always escape the notice of the generality of people, and sometimes even of the more discerning. For a term once universally understood to be equivalent to an original term whose place it occupies in the translation, will naturally be supposed to be still equivalent, by those who do not sufficiently attend to the variations, in the meanings of words, which the tract of time, and the alterations in notions and customs thence arising, have imperceptibly introduced. Sometimes etymology too contributes to favour the deception. Is there one of a thousand, even among the readers of the original, who entertains the smallest suspicion that the words, blasphemy, heresy, mystery, schism, do not convey to moderns, precisely the same ideas which the Greek words βλασφήμια, αιρεσις, μυςηριον, oxioua, in the New Testament, conveyed to Christians, in the times of the Apostles? Yet that these Greek and English words are far from corresponding perfectly, I shall take an occasion of evincing afterwards 43. The same thing may be affirmed of several other words and even phrases which retain their.