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language hath gone forth far beyond the bounds of Arabia, and is known to almost “a third part of men”
in the east. The koran has consecrated it in the eyes - of millions, in central Asia, on the continent of Af. rica, and in the Isles of the Indian ocean. i
A version of the whole Bible in Arabic has come down to us; but it is now antiquated, like the Persian, both in dialect and orthography. It does not appear that any composition in a living language, of a higher date than about five hundred years, can be of popular use, unless we learn it from our infancy.
The language of our own scriptures becomes now peculiar in many respects, and distinct from the popular speech. It is supposed, that the Arabic translation is upwards of a thousand years old. Had there been no interruption in the profession of christianity in Arabia, the ancient translation might possibly have sufficed: in like manner as the Hebrew is -still understood by the Jews, and the Syriac by the Syrian Christians. But when a new religion is to be proposed to a people, we must use the most dignified medium, and present it in the language which is in popular use. The present Arabic translation in the Polyglot is perfectly intelligible to those who will study it with a lexicon; but we certainly cannot offer it at this time as conveying the meaning of the Christian scriptures to the land of Yemen, or Arabia the happy..
Soon after Sabat, the Arabian, had been converted to christianity, * the object which chiefly occupied his thoughts, was a translation of the scriptures for his native country. He himself could easily read and understand the existing translation; for he is a learned man, and acquainted radically with every dialect of the language; and it was by means of that translation that he himself became a Christian;t but
•See an account of his conversion in the "Star in the East."
The copy of the New Testament, which tell into the hands of Sabat, was one of the editions published in 1728, by. "The Society for promoting Christian
be says he should be ashamed to offer the Bible to his countrymen in its present form ; such a version would neither be acceptable to the learned, nor intel. ligible to the unlearned.
This noble Arabian has been now three years, or more, employed in translating the scriptures into the Arabic language, with the aid of other learned Asiatics, under the superintendance of the Rev. H. Martyn, who has himself been long a student of the Arabic tongue. Mr. Martyn has lately stated their reasons for undertaking a new translation, which the author will hear subjoin, in deference to the learned at home, who may think some further explanation necessary.
“Of the Arabic version of the Polyglot, the late professor Carlyle, in his copy of proposals for printing a new edition of it, speaks in the highest terms, and obseryes, that it was used both by Jews and Christians as a faithful and elegant representation of their respective books of faith. But even supposing that both Jews and Christians are satisfied with the translation, no one, who has had an opportunity of observing the degraded state of these people in the East, would admit them as competent judges of the Arabic. The professor has adduced, in favor of the version in question, the opinions of Erpenius, Gabriel Sionita, and Pocock; names of high consideration in Arabic learning, particularly
the last. It is certain, however, that such of the - Mahomedans as have seen this version, think very
differently of it. If we would invite the fastidious Mussulman to review the sacred law which he supposes abrogated, let us not neglect our present op portunities; but, with such an instrument as Sabat in
knowledge," revised by Solomon Negri. An investment of these Arabic Testaments, was sent about 1759, to the society s missionaries in Calcutta, who circulated them through different provinces. The following is a well-attested fact: they sent some copies to the Mahomedan triests at Delhi, who request.. ed that the supply might be continued,” See proceedings of the society of that period.
our possession, let us attempt at least, to send forth the scriptures in a style which shall command res. pect, even in Nujed and Hejaz.”
Mr. Martyn adverts to the new edition of the Polyglot translation, now publishing in England, under the patronage of the bishop of Durham, and highly commends the design. “We rejoice," writes he, "to hear that the old Polyglot is going forth at last in a new dress. It may be useful to some in Asia, as it was to Sabat.” And in regard to the extent of country through which the Arabic is spoken, he observes that the Arabic translation is of more importance than one fourth of all the translations now in hand. “We will begin," says he, “to preach to Arabia, Syria, Persia; Tartary, part of India and of China, half of Africa, all the sea.coast of the Mediterranean and Turkey: and one tongue shall suffice for them all.”
The proposal for publishing the Arabic Bible has already met with a very liberal patronage in India. It is intended to publish an edition of the New Testament, in a splendid form, for the use of the chief men in Arabia and Persia, resembling, as nearly as possible, their own beautiful writing. The universities, and literary bodies in Europe, will, no doubt be disposed to subscribe for some copies of this truly classical work. It is stated in the last accounts, dated May 1810, that the translation::of the New Testament was expected to be finished by the end, of the present year, 1811. .
THE ARABIC SCHOOL
FOR THE TRANSLATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
The Rev. Henry Martyn, B. D. Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, went out to India about five years ago. His qualifications for the general superintendance of scriptural translation, are truly
respectable. After acquiring the highest academical honors in science, and a just celebrity for classical knowledge, he devoted himself to the acquirement of the Arabic and Hindostanee languages. His mind was strongly impressed, at an early period, with the duty and importance of communicating the revealed religion to heathen nations. He had a spirit to follow the steps of Swartz and Brainerd, and preach to the natives in the woods; but his peculiar qualifications, as a critical scholar, have fixed him to the department of translation. He had not been long in Bengal before he was joined by Sabat and Mirza, and other learned natives; so that they now form an Arabic school, from which it is not pretended that there is any appeal in India.*
Mr. Martyn's own proper department is the Hindostanee language. Soon after his arrival, he translated the liturgy of the church of England into that tongue; being the first who introduced the church service to our native subjects in Bengal. He found that many of the wives of the English soldiers were Hindostanee women, professing christianity, but who did not understand the English language, and being desirous to discharge faithfully the duties of his clerical office, he thought it proper to attempt such a translation. After reading prayers to the soldiers in English, he reads Hindostanee prayers to their wives, and to other natives. This original work, having received repeated revision and amendment, is esteemed by competent judges to be a perspicuous and faithful version of the subliiae original. He also translated, about the same time, the parables and parabolic speeches, or apophthegms, of our Saviour, into the same language, with an explanation subjoined to each.
* As Mr. Martyn and his associates at Cawppore constitute the Arabic school in India, for the translation of the scriptures; so Dr. Carey, and the Missionaries at Serampore, compose the Shanscrit school. See two memoirs lately pubs lished, and the proceedings of the Baptist Society, publisbed annually,
But the grand work which has chiefly engaged the attention of this oriental scholar, during the last four years, is his translation of the whole Bible into the Hindostanee language. It has been often acknowledged, that a version of the scriptures into what is justly called “the grand popular language of Hindostan," would be the most generally useful in India. Mr. Martyn is in no haste to print any part of his work, being desirous that it should be first revised and approved by the best scholars. His chief difficulty is in settling the orthography of the language, and in ascertaining what proportion of words ought to be admitted from the Persian and Arabic fountains; for the Hindostanee is yet in its infancy, as a written and grammatical tongue; and it is probable, that Mr. Martyn's work will contribute much to fix its standard. To evince the care and accuracy which he proposes to himself in this translation, it will be proper to subjoin his last official report on the subject, dated Dec. 1809. ?
“The Hindostanee New Testament has been finished some time, and submitted to the inspection of a variety of persons, in different parts of the country; but the opinions formed of the work have not hitherto appeared to justify its publication. I am perfectly convinced of the inutility of attempting to please all; yet I thought it better to withhold from the press what longer experience, and the possession of more efficient instruments, might enable me to send forth, in a form more calculated to give general satisfaction. The person, whose assistance I was · most anxious to obtain, has once more joined me, and I am now willing to hope that the word of God may be presented to the natives of India, so as to be intelligible to the generality of readers. The grammar of the language is nearly fixed by Mr. Gilchrist's learned and useful labors; but it is still difficult to write in it with a view to general utility. For the higher Mahomedans and men of learning