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"Have you seen Mrs. Page? Mother, she is indeed an excellent

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[1] Trevelyan, England under the Stuarts, p. 54,

The fourth fact which helped to determine its English style is the loyalty of the translators to the original, notably the Hebrew. It is a common remark of the students of the original tongues that the Hebrew and Greek languages are peculiarly translatable. That is notable in the Hebrew. It is not a language of abstract terms. The tendency of language is always to become vague, since we are lazy in the use of it. We use one word in various ways, and a pet one for many ideas. Language is always more concrete in its earlier forms. In this period of the concrete English language, then, the translation was made from the Hebrew, which was also a concrete, figurative language itself. The structure of the Hebrew sentence is very simple. There are no extended paragraphs in it. It is somewhat different in the New Testament, where these paragraphs are found, certainly in the Pauline Greek; but even there the extended sentences are broken into clauses which can be taken as wholes. The English version shows constantly the marks of the Hebrew influence in the simplicity of its phrasing. Renan says that the Hebrew "knows how to make propositions, but not how to link them into paragraphs." So the earlier Bible stories are like a child's way of talking. They let one sentence follow another, and their unity is found in the overflowing use of the word "and"--one fact hung to another to make a story, but not to make an argument. In the first ten chapters of I Samuel, for example, there are two hundred and thirty-eight verses; one hundred and sixty of them begin with AND. There are only twenty-six of the whole which have no connective word that thrusts them back upon the preceding verse.

In the Hebrew language, also, most of the emotions are connected either in the word used or in the words accompanying it with the physical condition that expresses it. Over and over we are told that "he opened his mouth and said," or, "he was angry and his countenance fell." Anger is expressed in words which tell of hard breathing, of heat, of boiling tumult, of trembling. We would not trouble to say that. The opening of the mouth to speak or the falling of the countenance in anger, we would take for granted. The Hebrew does not. Even in the description of God you remember the terms are those of common life; He is a shepherd when shepherds are writing; He is a husbandman threshing out the nations, treading the wine- press until He is reddened with the wine--and so on. That is the natural method of the Hebrew language--concrete, vivid, never abstract, simple in its phrasing. The King James translators are exceedingly loyal to that original.

Professor Cook, of Yale, suggests that four traits make the Bible easy to translate into any language: universality of interest, so that there are apt to be words in any language to express what it means, since it expresses nothing but what men all talk about; then, the concreteness and picturesqueness of its language, avoiding abstract phrases which might be difficult to reproduce in another tongue; then, the simplicity of its structure, so that it can be taken in small bits, and long complicated sentences are not needed; and, finally, its rhythm, so that part easily follows part and the words catch a kind of swing which is not difficult to imitate. That is a very true analysis. The Bible is the most easily translated book there is, and has become the classic for more languages than any other one book. It is brought about in part in our English version by the faithfulness of the translators to the original.

Passing from these general considerations, let us look directly at the English Bible itself and its literary qualities. The first thing that attracts attention is its use of words, and since words lie at the root of all literature it is worth while to stop for them for a moment. Two things are to be said about the words: first, that they are few; and, secondly, that they are short. The vocabulary of the English Bible is not an extensive one. Shakespeare uses from fifteen to twenty thousand words. In Milton's verse he uses about thirteen thousand. In the Old Testament, in the Hebrew and Chaldaic tongue, there are fifty-six hundred and forty- two words. In the New Testament, in the Greek, there are forty-eight hundred. But in the whole of the King James version there are only about six thousand different words. The vocabulary is plainly a narrow one for a book of its size. While, as was said before, the translators avoided using the same word always for translation of the same original, they yet managed to recur to the same words often enough so that this comparatively small list of six thousand words, about one-third Shakespeare's vocabulary, sufficed for the stating of the truth.

Then, Secondly, the words are short, and in general short words are the strong ones. The average word in the whole Bible, including the long proper names, is barely over four letters, and if all the proper names are excluded the average word is just a little under four letters. Of course, another way of saying that is that the words are generally Anglo-Saxon, and, while in the original spelling they were much longer, yet in their sound they were as brief as they are in our present spelling. There is no merit in Anglo- Saxon words except in the fact that they are concrete, definite, non-abstract words. They are words that mean the same to everybody; they are part of common experience. We shall see the power of such words by comparing a simple statement in Saxon words from the English Bible with a comment of a learned theologian of our own time on them. The phrase is a simple one in the Communion service: "This is my body which is given for you." That is all Saxon. When our theologian comes to comment on it he says we are to understand that "the validity of the service does not lie in the quality of external signs and sacramental representation, but in its essential property and substantial reality." Now there are nine words abstract in their meaning, Latin in their form. It is in that kind of words that the Bible could have been translated, and in our own day might even be translated. Addison speaks of that: "If any one would judge of the beauties of poetry that are to be met with in the divine writings, and examine how kindly the Hebrew manners of speech mix and incorporate with the English language, after having perused the Book of Psalms, let him read a literal translation of Horace or Pindar. He will find in these two last such an absurdity and confusion of style with such a comparative poverty of imagination, as will make him very sensible of what I have been here advancing."[1]

The fact that the words are short can be quickly illustrated by taking some familiar sections. In the Ten Commandments there are three hundred and nineteen words in all; two hundred and fifty-nine of them are words of one syllable, and only sixty are of two syllables and over. There are fifty words of two syllables, six of three syllables, of which four are such composite words that they really amount to two words of one and two syllables each, with four words of four syllables, and none over that. Make a comparison just here. There is a paragraph in Professor March's lectures on the English language where he is urging that its strongest words are purely English, not derived from Greek or Latin. He uses the King James version as illustration. If, now, we take three hundred and nineteen words at the beginning of that paragraph to compare with the three hundred and nineteen in the Ten Commandments, the result will be interesting. Where the Ten Commandments have two hundred and fifty-nine words of one syllable, Professor March has only one hundred and ninety-four; over against the fifty two-syllable words in the Ten Commandments, Professor March has sixty-five; over against their six words of three syllables, he has thirty-five; over against their four words of four syllables, he uses eighteen; and while the Ten Commandments have no word longer than four syllables, Professor March needs five words of five syllables and two words of six syllables to express his ideas.[1]

[1] This table will show the comparison at a glance:

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