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OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS,
AMENDMENTS OF THE LANGUAGE,
BY NOAH WEBSTER, LL. D.
PUBLISHED BY DURRIE & PECK.
Sold by HEZEKIAH HOWE & Co., and A. H. MALTBY, New Haven;
and by N. & J. WHITE, New York.
West, Capt. M.C.
THE English version of the sacred scriptures, now in general use, was first published in the year 1611, in the reign of James I. Although the translators made many alterations in the language of former versions, yet no small part of the language is the same, as that of the versions made in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
In the present version, the language is, in general, correct and perspicuous; the genuine popular English of Saxon origin; peculiarly adapted to the subjects; and in many passages, uniting sublimity with beautiful simplicity. In my view, the general style of the version ought not to be altered.
But in the lapse of two or three centuries, changes have taken place, which, in particular passages, impair the beauty; in others, obscure the sense, of the original languages. Some words have fallen into disuse; and the signification of others, in current popular use, is not the same now as it was when they were introduced into the version. The effect of these changes, is, that some words are not understood by common readers, who have no access to commentaries, and who will always compose a great proportion of readers; while other words, being now used in a sense different from that which they had when the translation was made, present a wrong signification or false ideas. Whenever words are understood in a sense different from that which they had when introduced, and different from that of the original languages, they do not present to the reader the Word of God. This circumstance is very important, even in things not the most essential; and in essential points, mistakes may be very injurious.
In my own view of this subject, a version of the scriptures for popular use, should consist of words expressing the sense which is most common, in popular usage, so that the first ideas suggested to the reader should be the true meaning of such words, according to the original languages. That many words in the present version, fail to do this, is certain, My principal aim is to remedy this evil.
The inaccuracies in grammar, such as which for who, his for its, shall for will, should for would, and others, are very numerous in the present version. There are also some quaint and vulgar phrases which are not relished by those who love a pure style, and which are not in accordance with the general tenor of the language. To these may be added many words and phrases, very offensive to delicacy and even to decency. In the opinion of all persons with whom I have conversed on this subject, such words and phrases ought not to be retained in the version. Language which cannot be uttered in company without a violation of decorum, or the rules of good breeding, exposes the scriptures to the scoffs of unbelievers, impairs their authority, and multiplies or confirms the enemies of our holy religion.
These considerations, with the approbation of respectable men, the friends of religion and good judges of this subject, have induced me to undertake the