Bengali Version of the Scriptures
Bengali Version Of The Scriptures Among the Indian daughters of the Sanscrit none, except the Pali, approach so nearly the parent stock as the Bengali; and as for style and grammar, it bears the same relation to the Sanscrit as the Italian does to Latin. The commencement of the first Bengali version of the Scriptures may be dated from the year 1793, when Dr. Carey and his coadjutors quitted England to enter upon their labors in India. In 1801 he published the New Testament in Serampore, which was followed in 1806 by a second and in 1811 by a third edition. The Old Testament appeared between the years 1802 and 1809. A fourth and revised edition of the New Testament appeared in 1816, and in 1832 the eighth edition was committed to the press, shortly before the translator's death.
Another version of the New Testament was undertaken by Mr. Ellerton of the Church Missionary Society, which was printed in 1818 by the Calcutta Bible Society. Other editions followed. In the meantime, the attention of the Calcutta committee was drawn to the great improvements which have been made in the Serampore version of the New Testament by the critical revisions to which each successive edition had been subjected; and on a careful examination of Mr. Ellerton's version, it was determined by the committee either to subject it to a very minute and accurate revision, or to substitute some other version in its place. This led to the important measure of endeavoring to obtain what might be accounted a standard version of the Scriptures in Bengali. With this view, a sub-committee was formed in 1830. composed of the best scholars of the different denominations of Christians friendly to the Bible Society in Bengal. They were appointed to execute a version of the entire Scriptures, and agreed to submit their labors to the suggestions of other distinguished scholars. They began with the book of Genesis, and published it in 1833. In the meantime a third version of the Bengali Scriptures had been prepared by Dr. Yates, and his New Testament was published in 1833. This version was pronounced by competent judges "an able and excellent translation." The Old Testament was completed by Dr. Yates in 1844. In 1845 Dr. Haberlin offered to the Calcutta society a new version of the entire Bengali New Testament, and two hundred and fifty copies of the Gospel according to Mark, and the same number of the Epistle to the Ephesians, were printed as specimens of this version, to test its value.
In 1845 an inquiry was instituted by the Calcutta society respecting the state of the Bengali versions, and the practicability of obtaining a version which they might consider their own. It was finally decided to reprint Dr. Yates's New Testament, and an edition was published in 1847. Since that time Dr. Yates's translation of the New Testament has been revised by the Rev. J. Wenger, and editions of this revised version have been printed. The revision of the Old Testament was also undertaken by Mr. Wenger, and was completed in 1873. In addition to these three versions another was commenced by the Rev. R. P. Greaves, of the Church Missionary Society. His premature death, however, prevented his continuing the work. Only two of the gospels prepared by him had been printed, and another was complete. These translations were purely tentative, the object being to discover if it was possible to prepare a version which should be at once idiomatic and literal. The death of Mr. Greaves is the more to be lamented because he was a prominent member of a committee which had been appointed to consider the possibility of attaining greater uniformity in the renderings of religious terms among the Indian languages. As it was deemed desirable to prepare a special edition of portions of Scripture for the use of that large section of the Mussulman population of Bengal who, while they read the Bengali character, speak a dialect of the Bengali language which is largely mingled with Persian and other foreign terms, the gospels of Luke and John, in Mussulman-Bengali, were issued from the Calcutta press at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society, in 1855 and 1856. Luke, the first issued of the Mussulman-Bengali version, was prepared under the care of. the Rev. J. Paterson, who was followed by the Rev. S. J. Hill, of the London Missionary Society. Mr. Hill translated the Gospel of John and other portions of the Bible. In the report for 1858 we read:
"The propriety of rendering the Scriptures, or at least any further portions, into this mixed language having been called in question, your committee, aided by the opinion of missionaries resident in the districts where the dialect prevails, and where our books in it have been used, deliberated on the subject, and adopted the resolution, to maintain a supply of the publications already issued and ordered in the language, and to prepare also the two remaining gospels of Matthew and Mark, leaving it to future consideration whether any other parts of the New-Testament should be added." All that had been published in this mixed tongue were the four gospels and Acts, Genesis, Psalms, and Isaiah. In 1875 the work of translation was resumed again, and a sub-committee was appointed to prepare a new translation of Luke. This gospel was issued by the Calcutta Auxiliary in 1876, it being edited by the Rev. J. E. Payne, of the London Missionary Society. A number of copies were especially prepared to receive the criticisms of those best acquainted with the requirements of the Mussulmans of Lower and Eastern Bengal. See Bible of Every Land, p. 109 sq.
Linguistic helps have been prepared by Forbes, A Grammar of the Bengali Languages (Lond. 1861); Shama Churn Sircar, Introduction to the Bengalee Language (Calcutta, eod.); Yates, Introduction to the Bengali Language (edited by J. Wenger, ibid. 1847 and 1864); Carey, A Dictionary of the Bengalee Language (Seranpore, 1825, 2 vols.; and an abridged edition, ibid. 1871). (B. P.)