Remarks on the English Translation of the Bible

Andrew Fuller (1754 – 1815)


   Allowing all due honour to the English translation of the Bible, it must be granted to be a human performance, and, as such, subject to imperfection. Where any passage appears to be mistranslated, it is doubtless proper for those who are well acquainted with the original languages to point it out, and to offer, according to the best of their judgment, the true meaning of the Holy Spirit. Criticisms of this kind, made with modesty and judgment, and not in consequence of a preconceived system, are worthy of encouragement.

   But, besides these, there is a species of criticism which offers itself from a more familiar source, and of the propriety of which the mere English reader is competent to judge ; namely, the division of chapters, the use of supplementary terms, &c.

   If the following example of the former kind be thought worthy of a place in the Biblical Magazine, it is probable I may on a future occasion send you more of the same nature.

   The seventh chapter of John ends with these words : “And every man went unto his own house.” The eighth begins with these : “Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives.” Here, I conceive, the former chapter ought to have ended ; for here ends the labour of the day, and each party is described as withdrawing to his place of retirement.

   The whole passage contains a beautiful representation of the breaking up of a fierce dispute between the chief priests, the Pharisees, the officers whom they sent to arrest our Saviour, and Nicodemus. In the picture which is here drawn of it, we see at one view the very hearts of the different parties ; and if the subject were made to end with the retirement of Jesus to the Mount of Olives, it would appear to still greater advantage.

   The Pharisees and chief priests having sent officers to take Jesus, they return without him.

Pharisees. Why have ye not brought him?

Officers. Never man spake like this man!

Pharisees. Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him? But this people, who know not the law, are cursed.

Nicodemus. Doth our law judge any man before it hear him?

Pharisees. Art thou also of Galilee? Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.

Historian. And every man went unto his own house : Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives.

What an exhibition is here given, in a few simple words, of the workings of mind in the different parties! Follow them respectively to their places of retirement, and judge their feelings. The officers, stunned with conviction and stung with the reproaches of their employers, retire in disgust. The Pharisees, transported with rage and disappointment, go murmuring to their houses.–Nicodemus having ventured, though mildly, to repel their outrage, feels himself suspected of a secret adherence to the Galilean, and is full of thought about the issue of things. Jesus, with the most perfect calmness and satisfaction, retires to the place whither he was wont to resort for prayer and communion with God!





*From The Works of Andrew Fuller (first published 1841)