R1353-167 Verbal Inspiration

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DEAR WATCH TOWER: The following examples, from the Youth’s Companion of May 24th, 1888, of mistranslations from modern and secular writers may prove interesting and instructive to some good readers who, believing in verbal inspiration, apply it to the King James version rather than to the original languages in which the Bible was written, and thus fail rightly to divide the Word of Truth. Yours,



“Not only do school boys and girls, when studying a language, make absurd mistakes in translation, but authors who consider their efforts correct enough for the dignity of print are also likely to fall into the pit of blunders. In Cornhill are to be found numerous examples of mistranslation, which would do credit, or discredit, to a very young linguist.

“A French writer, in translating the passage from Shakespeare:

‘A man. … So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone,’

renders the italicized words:

‘Thus, grief, go away with you!’

“A word used in a purely technical sense is apt to prove a stumbling-block to the translator. Thus an English historian says that Lord George Sackville was ‘broken’ for cowardice

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in battle, meaning simply that he was cashiered. A French writer translates the word into one indicating that the timid nobleman was broken on the wheel. As if to convince the reader of his unwavering belief in this interpretation, he adds a foot-note to the statement, commenting on the barbarity of this torture.

“Miss Cooper, a daughter of the novelist, says that in a French translation of ‘The Spy,’ the phrase, ‘He tied his horse to a locust,’ was rendered, ‘He tied his horse to a grasshopper.’ The author of this obvious blunder then drew upon his imagination to justify the improbable statement, and informed his readers that the grasshoppers in America grew to an enormous size, and that one of them, dead and stuffed, had thus been employed for a hitching post.

In one of Sir Walter Scott’s novels, a party was served with ‘Welch rabbit’ for supper, and a translator, not aware that the term applied to a compound of toasted cheese—it is now spelled rarebit—set down the phrase as ‘a rabbit of Wales.’ Not content with this, he also inserted a foot-note informing the credulous reader that the rabbits of Wales were of such superior flavor that they were in great demand in Scotland, and were forwarded to that country in large numbers.”


— December, 1891 —