James Murdock Peshitto

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A Literal Translation from the Syriac Peshito Version.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year
One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty-one,



To extend his own long cherished but scanty knowledge of the Syriac language, the writer commenced reading the Peshito Syriac New Testament in January, 1845, and at every step he found increasing delight. The artless simplicity, directness, and transparency of the style,-the propriety and beauty of the conceptions of Christ and his followers, as expressed in a Shemitish dialect very nearly identical with their vernacular tongue,-the pleasing thought that the words were, probably, in great part, the very terms which the Saviour and his Apostles actually uttered in their discourses and conversations,-and especially the full comprehension which the Syriac translator seemed to have of the force and meaning of the inspired original, served to chain attention and hold the mind spell-bound to the book. Such exquisite pleasure the writer longed to have others share with him; but as few persons, even among the clergy, have either leisure or facilities for acquiring the Syriac language, he soon came to the conclusion, that he could do nothing better than first read the book carefully through, and then give a literal and exact translation of it. Accordingly he furnished himself with several of the best editions of the book, and the best Lexicons and Grammars, and commenced his translation early in August, 1845, and completed it on the 16th of June, 1846. This is briefly the history of the work here presented to the public. The Syriac text followed in the first part of this translation, was that of the beautiful edition printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society, London, 1816, 4to., which was prepared for the press, as far as the Acts of the Apostles, by the late Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D.D., Author of " Christian Researches," "Star in the East," &c., and the remainder by the Rev. Samuel Lee, D.D., Professor of Arabic in the University of Cambridge, England. The latter part of the translation was made from the second edition of the same Bible Society, London, 1826, 4to.; but the text of Leusden and Schaaf's edition, Leyden, 1717, was everywhere consulted, and much use was made of their Latin translation of it. The pocket edition of Gutbir, Hamburgh, 1684, 12mo., was also generally consulted. The Lexicons constantly used throughout, were the Lexicon Syriacum Concordantiale in Nov. Testamentum of Charles Schaaf, Leyden, 1717, 4to.; the Lexicon Syriacum of Edmund Castell, revised and enlarged by J. D. Michaelis, Gottingen, 1788, 4to.; and the small Lexicon Syriacum in Nov. Testamentum of Giles Gutbir, bound up with his Syriac New Testament. The Grammars relied upon were, the elaborate Grammaticae Syriacae Libri iii. of Andr. Theoph. Hoffmann, Philos. et Theol. Doctor, Halle, 1827, 4to.; and the Elementarlehre der syrischen Sprache, by Prof. Fred. Uhlemann, Berlin, 1829, 8vo. In this translation, the Books of the New Testament are divided into Paragraphs, according to the sense; just as in Campbell's translation of the Four Gospels, and in the Greek Testaments of Bengel, Griesbach, Knapp, and others. The common divisions into Chapters and Verses are noted in the margin, and the Verses are also put in parentheses in the middle of the lines. For the benefit of those who have some knowledge of the Syriac language, the more important words are frequently placed in the side margin, with references to the corresponding words in the translation. Deviations of the Syriac text from the Greek, and also the susceptibilities of the Syriac words, or phrases, of a different rendering from that in the text, are likewise indicated in the side margin. The foot margin is reserved for occasional comments and critical observations.

The principles adopted in this translation, were:

(1) To translate, as literally as possible, in consistence with idiomatic and perspicuous English

(2) To use Saxon phraseology in preference to Latin, as better according with the spirit of the Peshito original.

(3) To adopt the obsolescent and solemn style of the English Bible, e. g. thou speakest, he speaketh, ye speak, instead of you speak, he speaks, &c., as more seemly for this holy Book.

(4) To write the proper names of persons and places, which are mentioned in the Old Testament, as they are written in our English Old Testament; and those which occur only in the New Testament, as they are written in our English New Testament. This is the rule adopted by Dr. Campbell in his translation of the Four Gospels. Yet (Meshihha) has been translated Messiah, and not Christ; and (Shemun) has been translated Simon, and not Peter.

(5) In general, to avoid using technical theological terms, when good substitutes could be found, in order to call away attention from the word to the thing: thus (an Apostle) is rendered Legate; and (Saviour) is rendered Vivifier, as being more literal, for the verb (especially in the Conjug. Aphel, properly signifies to make alive, to vivify; and its derivatives, properly signify} life, and life-giver, or vivifier. These are the usual terms of the Syriac version, denoting that salvation which Christ bestows on fallen men, who are represented as "dead in trespasses and sin." The terms (liberator, deliverer) and (deliverance) are indeed sometimes used of this salvation, but less frequently.-Yet there is one family of Syriac technicals, which have been rendered by the English technicals for the same ideas, to the neglect of their primary meaning. They are (properly, intransitive, to stand up, to stand firm,) which is translated, to be baptized:-; (literally, transitive, to cause another to stand, to establish), translated, to baptize:-, (an establisher, one who makes others to stand), translated, a baptizer:- and(a standing up), translated, baptism.

(6) To translate idiomatic phrases not fully naturalized in the English language, by equivalent English phrases, and not to transfer them in their foreign costume. Thus, ES; (a feeder on detraction), an epithet of Satan, is translated a calumniator: (lord of enmity) is translated an enemy: (major-domus) is rendered, a steward: (mastership of the house) is rendered stewardship:-; (accepting faces) is rendered, having respect of persons, or partiality:- ; (assumers of faces) is rendered hypocrites:- ; (letting out breath), apologizing, or defending one's self: and (holding the breath), being patient, or long suffering.- ; (living from roofs, roaming in fields) are lunatics. So also many compounds of, a son, and of , a house or home, are paraphrased; e. g. son of his city, rendered, his fellowcitizen:-son of my yoke, rendered, my yoke-fellow, or colleague:-son of forty years, rendered, forty years old:-son of their trade, rendered, one of their occupation:- son of a man, rendered, a man:-sons of men, rendered men; &c. And house of the prisoners, translated, a prison:-house (home) of the dead, translated, a grave, or sepulchre:-house of gatherings, translated, a garner, or store-house:-house of the publicans, translated, a custom house:-house (home) of olives, translated, an olive yard:- house (home) of the eyes, translated, the forehead; &c.

When the translator had finished his work, he supposed that he had produced the only English translation of the New Testament ever made from the Peshito; but after about three months, the London press issued a book, entitled, " A Literal Translation of the Four Gospels from the Peshito, by J. W. Etheridge;" and announced, as in preparation, by the same author, "The Apostolical Acts and Epistles, from the Peshito." The Gospels of Mr. Etheridge were speedily procured; but, on comparing them with this version, the plan and aims of Mr. Etheridge were found to be so diverse from his own, that the translator had no hesitation in going forward with his work. Accordingly, he continued to revise and correct it; and, for the sake of improving it, as he found opportunity, he pursued the study of the Syriac language and literature, for more than four years. The result he now presents to the Christian public, hoping it may prove both interesting and useful to all such as are anxious to perfect themselves in the knowledge of the holy Scriptures of the New Testament.

NEW-HAVEN, July 23, 1851.