Japanese Version of the Scriptures
Japanese Version Of The Scriptures The honor of translating the first portion of Scripture into the language of the extensive empire of Japan belongs to the late Dr. Gutzlaff (q.v.). About the year 1835 three shipwrecked Japanese mariners arrived at Macao on their voyage homewards, and during the few months that they remained in that city Dr. Gutzlaff availed himself of their aid in translating the gospel of John into their language. This translation was printed at Singapore about 1838. In this version the word used for God was Gokuraku, the term the Buddhists use for paradise or the state of supreme bliss. For Logos or the Word he used Kashikoi mono, the wise or clever person; for Holy Spirit, Kami. While in England Dr. Gutzlaff proposed, in 1849, to the British and Foreign Bible Society, to have the Scriptures printed in the Japanese tongue. The Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of John were consequently printed according to Gutzlaff's translation.
As the style of his version was found inferior, and little likely to prove acceptable to the better educated in Japan, a new translation was undertaken by Dr. Bettelheim, a medical missionary and convert from Judaism. He was sent to the Loochoo islands in 1846, and while there made a translation of the New Test. While in Hong Kong he published the gospel of Luke, under the care of the bishop of Victoria, and at the expense of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. It was printed on blocks, in royal octavo size, with Giltzlaffs Chinese translation at the top of the page, and Bettelheim's, in the Loochoo dialect, at the bottom, in Katakana, or the character used for scientific works. When Bettelheim left Japan in 1854 he took up his residence in Chicago, and from this place he offered, in 1860, to sell his translation to the United States government. The government, wishing to know its merits, sent a copy of one of the gospels and a grammar he had compiled to its minister resident in Japan, Mr. Harris, to be examined by scholars there and reported on. Mr. Harris not knowing what better to do, sent it to Drs. Brown and Hepburn, two missionaries, but whether from the peculiarities of the dialect, or out of very imperfect knowledge of the Japanese language at that early day of their residence there, they could not make anything out of it. So it was returned to Mr. Harris with an unfavorable report. Dr. Bettelheim, however, revised his work in Chicago, with the assistance of a Japanese, bringing it more into conformity with the pure Japanese. This revision, consisting of the four gospels and Acts, was offered to the British and Foreign Bible Society, and purchased by them. It was printed at Vienna in 1872 for that society, in the Hiragama character, which is more generally understood in Japan than the Kantakana, in which it was written.
This publication was the only direct effort made by that society as a temporary measure until something better could be prepared. The committee appointed by the missionary convention commenced its sittings in June, 1874. There were invited to meet and participate in the work of translation the Reverend R.S. Maclay, of the American Episcopal Mission; Reverend N. Brown, D.D., of the American Baptist Mission; the Reverend John Piper, of the Church Missionary Society; and the Reverend W.B. Wright, of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Mr. Piper and Mr. Wright, owing to their residing at such an inconvenient distance, could not meet the committee. Dr. Nathan Brown sat with the committee about eighteen months, until January 1876, when he resigned, and continued to prosecute the work of translation alone. The other members of the committee continued at the work of translation and revision with but slight interruption, Dr. Maclay being absent about eighteen months, owing to other duties, and Dr. Brown being compelled through ill-health to cease work in July, 1879. The committee finished their work of translation and revision of the New Test. Nov. 3, 1879, about five years and six months after they had commenced. The work was cut on blocks and published in- the following order: Luke, August 1875; Romans, March 1876; Hebrews and Matthew (revised), January 1877; Mark (revised), April 1877; epistles of John, June 1877; Acts, September 1877; Galatians, January 1878; John, gospel (revised), May 1878; 1 Corinthians, August 1878; 2 Corinthians, Septemnber 1878; Ephesians, Philippians, 1st and 2d Thessalonians, June 1879; Philemon, James, 1st and 2d Peter, Jude, Colossians, Revelation, April 1880. As to the literary style of the translation — a matter of no small importance — the following statement, made by the Reverend Dr. J.C. Hepburn on the occasion of celebrating the completion of the Japanese version of the New Test., April 19, 1880, at Tokio, will be of interest:
"In this country, where, from the earliest times, the Chinese language and literature has had such a powerful influence upon the cultivation and language of the people, it was, at the very first, a matter of considerable anxiety in what literary style our work should be brought out to make it most acceptable and useful. The conclusion was not difficult to arrive at: that-avoiding on the one hand the quasi-Chinese style, only intelligible to the highly educated, scholarly, and comparatively very snlall portion of the people; and on the other hand, a vulgar colloquial, which, though easily understood, might make the Scriptures contemptible — we should choose that style which, while respected even by the so-called literati, was easy and intelligible to all classes. We thus adhered to the vernacular, or pure Japanese, and to a style which may be called classical, in which many of their best hooks intended for the common reader are written. And our more enlarged experience has given us no reason to regret our first determination, but rather to be more and more satisfied with it, and to believe that in this, as well as in maly other matters, we have been under the guidance of a kind and all-ruling Providence.
The committee had assistance from several Japanese scholars, among whom Mr. Okuno and Mr. Matsuyama are mentioned. Of the latter it is said, "He has been with the committee from the first and throughout its whole work. He has been our chief dependence, assistant, and .arbiter in all cases of difficulty. Whatever virtue there is in our Japanese text, it is mainly, if not altogether, owing to his scholarly ability, the perfect knowledge he has of his own language, his conscientious care, and identifying himself with the work." At present the New Test. is circulated in Japan in the following editions:
1. The Standard, or Kanamejiri, New Testament. — This is a republication of the New Test. completed in 1880, with such changes as the translation committee finally decided upon.
2. The Romanized New Testament; or, Warera no shu Iyesu Kirisuto no Shin Yaku zen sho. — This is the Japanese of the Standard New Test., in Roman letter. The transliteration was done by Dr. Hepburn. The Daily Gazette of Yokohama, October 16, 1880, has the following notice concerning the editor: "The labors of this modest but excellent philanthropist and Japanese scholar in the causes of learning and Christianity in Japan are well known. His dictionary, Japanese-English and English-Japanese was the first work of its kind published in this country, and notwithstanding the more elaborate and copious contribution of Mr. Satow, it still retains its high rank for accuracy and general usefulness. In the midst of other occupations, Dr. Hepburn has found time to add to his literary reputation a complete Romanized version of the New Test., a piece of work which can be but imperfectly estimated by its extent, which embraces six hundred and fifty-three closely printed royal octavo pages.
"Of the quality of the translation we do not feel competent to form an opinion. Dr. Hepburn's close association with the gentlemen who undertook the work is itself a guarantee of excellence: but we may, at a later time, have occasion to notice it critically.
"The American Bible Society is to be congratulated on this valuable addition to its library, and the thanks of all who desire the promotion of good works are due to those wh'ose labor has yielded this good fruit."
3. The Common Reader's, or Sohirakana, New Testament. In this the common cursive Japanese character is used almost alone, with but very few Chinese characters. It is intended to meet the wants of the most illiterate; The first volume will appear in a few days, and the entire work will be finished, we hope, before the close of the year. It will be a volume slightly thinner than the Standard New Test. The Reverend M. Knox, of the Presbyterian Mission, has kindly superintended the proof-reading.
4. The Shinkatakana New Testament. — In this style the angular Japanese kara are used, with many Chinese characters. It is thought that this will be the favorite edition with the scholarly classes. It is of just about the same size as the Standard, and its cost and selling price will he the same. The proof-reading of this work has been under the supervision of Dr. Hepburn.
5. The Chino-Japanese, or Kunten, New Testament and Psalms. — The New Test. was prepared by the Reverend D.C. Greene, D.D., and the Psalms by the Rt. Reverend W.C. Willias, D.D. This is an adaptation of the Bridgman and Culbertson Chinese translation for the use of Japanese readers. In the words of Dr. Greene, The word kuenten is the name given to the diminutive characters written on the right side of the Chinese ideographs. These, which consist for the most part of the Japanese phonetic characters, serve to supply the terminations of the Japanese verbs and such particles as are not found in the Chinese construction. Besides the kunten, there are certain numerals and arbitrary signs placed on the left of each column, which indicate the Japanese order of thought. By the insertion of these marks, this book becomes substantially a translation into Japanese of the Chinese version above mentioned." A commencement with the translation of the Old Test. into Japanese has also been made. Delegates of the Protestant missions in Japan met in Tokio, May 10, 1878, to consider principally plans for translating the Old Test. A permanent translation committee was arranged for, to consist of one member from each mission, to be elected by the mission itself, who are to assign the work of translating the different portions of the Old Test. to various sub-committees; and the results of their labors are to be submitted to a general revising committee, to be appointed by the permanent committee. The revision committee is made up of Drs. Hepburn, Brown, Maclay, and the Reverend Messrs. Green and Piper. As to the progress made in the Old Test. translation, we learn from the different reports of the British and Foreign Bible Society that most of the books have been translated, and that some have already been printed. Besides the reports of the British and Foreign Bible Society, compare also the Bible Society Record of the American Bible Society. (B.P.)