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JSTOR helps people discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com. ARTICLE VIII. THE ARABIC BIBLE DRS. ELI SMITH AND CORNELIUS V. A. VAN DYCK. By Pbop. ISAAC H. HALL, OF NEW YOBK CITY. Presented to the Society, October 25th, 1883. The sources of this account are, 1. personal inquiries and investigations, made both in this country and at Beirut; and 2. an account written by Dr. Van Dyck himself, and kindly transmitted to me in May, 1883. Though several persons are no longer living who would have been able to. add a number of interesting, if not important par- ticulars, and to supply facts now recoverable only by inference, yet perhaps a little more might still be learned at Beirut by oral inquiry than I am now able to accomplish by letter. Several persons who are still living, both native and foreign resident, would readily supply desirable facts in oral com- munication, from whom nothing is to be hoped in the way of correspondence. But all such inquiries, when made, except from people who were actually engaged in work upon the Arabic Bible, have, at most, resulted in the discovery of some extraneous incident, or in putting me on the scent of some fact for which I had to go again to headquarters. Different persons (innocently, of course) have given different accounts of the same matter. I have had abundant occasion to see that the history of the production of the American Arabic Bible has never been much studied or much known, even in Beirut ; and that there was little use in taking a current story without sifting it to the bottom. Many an inquiry, also, both oral and written, has The American Arabic Bible. 277 been answered by a reference to this or that printed book ; which latter has generally proved, on examination, to contain no more explicit or particular information than was suitable for the ordinary readers of the popular publications of the religious and benevolent societies. Besides, I have found many mistakes in the popular publications. When in Beirut, I inspected the working library of the trans- lators (gathered through the knowledge and efforts of Dr. Eli Smith), besides a specimen selection of the correspondence had by Dr. Van Dyck with various scholars during the progress of the translation. This specimen correspondence included a great variety of documents, in various languages, of various grades of value, and. was quite a rare and curious collection. These — and the whole mission library, in fact — are now deposited in the library of the theological seminary of the Syrian Protestant College. They were, when I was there, in the Mission Rooms at the building of the American Press. The records of the Mission and of the American Press give dates of certain votes, and of the presentation to the mission of this or that edition of the Bible or of some part thereof; and the papers and records of the American Press would probably enable one to give statistics of the number and kind of the editions issued. But of the real internal history of the pro- duction of this Bible, not much is to be learned from such sources. Official accounts of work of the sort generally steer clear of the internal history. The statement that at such a time it seemed proper to do such or such a work gives no hint of the toil, struggle, discussion, persuasion, that may have been necessary before that result was reached. Many of my inquiries elsewhere, and results thus obtained, coincide exactly with Dr. Van Dyck's own account ; and I therefore forbear to duplicate those portions. It seems best, moreover, to give Dr. Van Dyck's account first, and to add such supplementary matter as I have obtained from other quarters. 1. Dr. Van Dyck's Account. " The earliest Arabic version of the Scriptures, as far as I know, is that made under John, Bishop of Seville, about 750 A. D., from the Vulgate. According to the Jesuit Mariana, the whole Bible was translated, but was never printed. A number of manuscript copies of it have been found in Syria, but it was never [generally] known in the East. "Rabbi Saad Ghidgaon, commonly known as Saadias of the Babylonian School, translated the whole of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Arabic in the ninth century, for the use of the Arabic-speaking Jews, of whom there were several tribes or families in Arabia. The Pentateuch of this version was pub 278 / S. Hall, lished at Constantinople in 1546, in Hebrew characters, then at Paris in 1645, in Arabic characters, and at London in 1657. " An edition of an Arabic translation of the Samaritan Penta- teuch was edited by Juynboll, of Leyden, a few years before his death. ... I had this version, among others, before me while making my translation. I now recall the name : ' Abu Said the Samaritan;' date unknown — between the tenth and thirteenth centuries. A few copies have been found in Syria. " An unknown Jew of North Africa made an Arabic transla- tion of the Pentateuch in the thirteenth century, which was printed in Europe in 1622. " A translation of the prophetical books from the Septuagint by a Jew of Alexandria, in the tenth century — latter part — was printed at Paris, 1645, and at London, 1567. " There are extant parts of the historical books translated from the Syriac in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Some have been printed in Europe. We find occasional fragments of these in convents. " The version of the Psalms used by the Papal Greeks is a translation from the LXX. by Abdallah Ibn el-Fadl, in the twelfth century; printed at Aleppo, 1706, and at London, 1725. Another version was printed at Genoa, 1516, and at Rome, 1614 ; and a third, from the Syriac apparently, was printed at Shuweir, Mt. Lebanon, in 1610. " Little is known of Arabic versions of the New Testament. The Gospels seem to have been in Arabic since the seventh cen- tury, and the other books since the ninth and tenth. Several versions of parts of the New Testament are in existence ; some from the Syriac, some from the Greek, and some from the Coptic. The Four Gospels were first printed at Rome in 1591, and the whole New Testament in Holland, 1616, and at Paris, 1645, and at London, 1657. " In the early part of the seventeenth century, Sarkis er-Rizz, a Maronite bishop of Damascus, got permission from the pope to gather and compare copies of the Arabic Scriptures, and make a new version ; and he began the work in 1620, reducing all to the Vulgate : i. e., taking the version printed at Rome, and comparing with other Arabic versions and the Greek, but giving the prefer- ence to the Latin in most cases, as is evident from the Version itself. This version was printed at Rome (about 1671), in three folio volumes, with the Apocrypha. It was (without the Apocry- pha) adopted by the British and Foreign Bible Society, and printed by them, and circulated in the East by all missionaries, until the new version was made. "It is said that the Sultan Muhammad II. ordered a translation of the Old Testament to be made from the Greek into the Arabic, but it is not known whether the work was ever executed. Prob- ably not, or some trace of it would have been found. "Between 1840 and 1850, Fares es-Shidiak and Professor Lee, under the auspices of the Church Propagation Society, made a The American Arabic Bible. 279 version of the Scriptures in Arabic. In this the mistakes of King James's English version are copied. It seems that Shidiak translated from the English, and Prof. Lee was supposed to reduce it to agreement with the Hebrew. This version never came into use. It was printed between 1851 and 1857 at London. "As far back as 1837, the mission of the A. B. C. F. M. in Syria was considering the idea of making a new Arabic version of the Scriptures. The means for printing it when made were defective ; and Dr. Eli Smith began his labors on Arabic type mostly with the printing of the Bible in view. His punches and matrices and fonts of type were ready by 1843, but ill-health and domestic affliction prevented his actually beginning the work till 1848, when he commenced, with the help of Muallim Butrus el-Bistani, a good Syriac scholar, who first studied Hebrew with Dr. Smith. He made the first draught, and Dr. Smith carefully reviewed and compared it with the original. As soon as a form was ready, it was put into type, and a copy sent to each mission- ary in the entire Arabic field, and also to any other Arabic scholars near enough at hand. These proofs; with any sugges- tions, emendations, corrections, or objections, were sent back to Dr. Smith, who carefully reviewed each, and adopted what he thought proper. " Having begun on the Old Testament, and proceeded but a little way, Dr. Smith thought best to leave the Old Testament and proceed with the New Testament. He left a basis of the entire New Testament, but nothing was put in type. Dr. Smith adopted no known text of the Greek, but selected from Tischen- dorf, Lachmann, Tregelles, and Alford, as he thought fit. He had gone on far with the New Testament when Alford was published ; and he stopped until he could go back and compare what he had done with Alford. On his death-bed, he said he ' would be responsible only for what had been printed :' viz., Genesis, and Exodus with the exception of the last chapter. I edited the last chapter of Exodus after he died. "Dr. Smith died in 1857, January; but for the last year or more of his life he was able to do nothing at the translation. In the fall of the same year, I removed to Beirut [from Sidon], and assumed the care of the Press, and continued the translation of the Scriptures. It was then found out that Dr. Smith had followed no [one] Greek text of the New Testament, and this the Bible Society could not allow; wherefore the whole New Testa- ment had to be done over. I was directed to begin on it, and to finish it before turning to the Old Testament. I followed the Received Text, with permission from the Bible Society to put in as many various readings in the foot-notes as seemed desirable, especially where the text differed from the Syriac or any known version in Arabic; and I availed myself largely of this per- mission. " I followed the same plan as Dr. Smith, in sending out proofs, and re-reading and comparing all that were returned to me. 280 I. H. Hall, Some of the more difficult parts of the Old and New Testaments were kept in type for several months, till I could get the criti- cisms of Rodiger and Fleischer, from Halle and Leipzig. I have still their criticisms on the Song of Deborah and other difficult passages. The translation was finished August 23, 1864; and the printing of the first edition, 29 March, 1865. The New Tes- tament had been finished and printed in 1 860. Thirty copies of every form were struck oft" and distributed as above mentioned, and thus the work became the result of the labor of a large number of scholars. As Arabic scholars, Dr. Smith associated with him Sheikh Nasif el-Yazigi and M[uallim] B[utrus el-] Bis- tani, both Christians. I had with me Sheikh Yusuf el-Aslr, a Muslim, and a graduate of the college of the great Mosque of El-Azhar in Cairo. I preferred a Muslim to a Christian, as coming to the work with no preconceived ideas of what a pass- age ought to mean, and as being more extensively read in Arabic. "The Jesuits have issued a translation, made by them with the assistance of Ibrahim el-Yazigi, son of Dr. Smith's former assis- tant, and printed in three large octavo volumes. It is a fair translation generally, and only differs in very slight particulars from mine (so far as I have traced it) — and that only for the sake of differing from the Protestant Version. "The first printed of the New Version was the New Testament, 12mo, reference. That was followed by the entire Bible, 8vo, reference; then 12mo voweled New Testament, and 16mo New Testament without vowels. I then went to New York, and in the Bible House got out electrotype plates of a plain Bible, 8vo. These plates are still in use, and show very little wear. I am now at work reviewing them for correcting such little breakages as may have taken place in printing so many editions from them. " After two years, I returned to Beirut with Mr. S. Hallock, and we made here electrotype plates of four sizes of the entire Bible, one voweled entire ; three sizes of the New Testament, one voweled; and one set of voweled Psalms, 12mo: in all, between 10,000 and 1 1,000 plates. Some of these were made after I left the Press, and by oversight of proof-reader were not compared with the standard copy which I had left there for that purpose. By this means some slight discrepancies between the editions have crept in ; and I am now re-reading proofs of all the plates, to reduce al! to the same reading, and to correct any errors of broken letters or vowel-points which may have occurred. The British and Foreign Bible Society have also electrotyped two editions of the New Version (entire Bible), and several parts of the Scriptures." The American Arabic Bible. 281 To Dr. Van Dyck's account some few things may be added.* During the preparation of the plates in New York, sundry minor revisions in the translation were made, such as in the renderings of the words for hades and gehenna in the New Tes- tament. These may be seen by comparing the former with the later editions. The first edition of the whole Bible shows plainly where Dr. Smith's printing closed and Dr. Van Dyck's began, by the arrangement of the sheets. The last chapter of Exodus, except the title (which is on the preceding leaf), occupies one leaf by itself. The Butrus el-Bistani mentioned by Dr. Van Dyck is the same who compiled the Mohut el-Mohit, which is for the Arabic language what Webster's or Worcester's dictionary is for the English. He also wrote the Miftah, or ' Key,' an Arabic grammar which is in common use, and highly esteemed by every one. At his death, which occurred quite recently, he was engaged in compiling an Encyclopaedia in Arabic, of which several large 8vo volumes were already issued ; but I do not know how far down the alphabet he had reached. He also edited three periodicals, a daily, a weekly, and a monthly. He spoke English well, had a flourishing school, and was an esteemed and respected citizen of Beirut. Fares es-Shidiak was the auther of the common Arabic grammar that goes by the name of "Faris' Arabic Grammar," published by Quaritch. He was a brother of Assaad es-Shidiak, who was famous as a martyr among the Protestants, and as a heretic among the Lebanon Maronites. (He was imprisoned for his faith by the officials of the Lebanon native Christians, and never let out alive. Stories differed greatly as to his actual fate. His jailors declared that he fell sick and died, but others told a very different story. Many a native told me the story as he believed it; and they all agreed that he had been either starved or murdered.) The Sheikh Naslf el Yazigy, who assisted Dr. Eli Smith, was the author of several books published by the American Press at Beirut ; none of them, perhaps, more noted than his commentary on the Arabic grammar of Ibn Akil. His poems are still for sale at the Press. It will be observed that in general Dr. Van Dyck's account of former Arabic versions, though brief, is more complete than * At the reading of this paper were exhibited copies of the editio princeps of the' N. T., ] 2mo, the secoDd, 1 6mo ; the first pocket Arabic N. T. (the copy ex- hibited having been printed from movable types, before the plates were made) ; the editio princeps of the entire Bible, and a 12mo reference Bible. Prof. Edwin R. Lewis, M.D., then lately returned from Beirut, passed round a fine cabinet photograph of Dr. Van Dyck. VOL. XL. 36 I. E. ffaU, those found in easily accessible works ; but it is scarcely within the scope of this paper to supplement it by a fuller biblio- graphical list ; especially, as the issues of which he makes no mention were little more than later repetitions. The technical student will easily recognize the works which Dr. Van Dyck mentions so briefly. Perhaps it should be mentioned that the Arabic Pentateuch was published in quarto at Leyden' in 1622 ; and that the publications referred to as " Paris, 1645 " and "London, 1657 " are in, or part of, the Paris Polyglott and the London (Walton's) Polyglott, respectively. Also, that the Arabic Gospels published at Rome in 1591 appeared in two forms : one Arabic, with interlinear Latin, illustrated with numerous elegant engravings, and probably issued in 1590; while the other, which answers more exactly to Dr. Van Dyck's description, lacked the interlinear version, and appeared in 1591. The version of the Psalms printed at Genoa in the year 1516 is the famous Octuple Genoa Psalter, in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Chaldee, with a Latin translation of each, and the Vulgate, in parallel columns, and " Scholia " along the margins where possible. It is believed to be the second printed book in which Arabic type was used. It is best known in America for its famous note on the nineteenth Psalm, recording certain discov- eries of Christopher Columbus not easily met with elsewhere. From various sources I have learned that the New Testa- ment translation of Dr. Eli Smith was actually not used by Dr. Van Dyck: principally, I understand, because its following an eclectic text would make it at least a little confusing to one who was under orders to follow the Greek textus receptus. But I also heard, and am inclined to believe, that the manuscript was burned (I never could learn by whom), and that the few printed sheets or proofs were destroyed. At all events, Dr. Smith's translation of the New Testament was not adopted (or, we may say, it was rejected) by the Bible Society, on account of its underlying text ; and I could find no trace of the manu- script copy in Beirut Nothing would be more natural, in view of the ideas that then prevailed respecting the New Testa- ment text, than for some one to destroy it in holy horror, or as a well-intended but misguided work; for Dr. Smith was much ahead of his times, though apparently not a New Testament critic. I am inclined to think, on the whole, that it was destroyed as if useless, with tacit acquiescence of all concerned, as one would destroy a first draught after a fair copy was produced. Here I may say that Dr. Van Dyck informed me orally that the particular variety of the textus' receptus which he used, by direction, was that of Mill : I think, in some of its English The American Arabic Bible. 283 reprints. (Of course the professed reprints vary very much. The Oxford edition of 1836, with its repetitions, is almost the only one that is accurate — correcting Mill's misprints.) Dr. Smith's work, to judge from the little that is left (Genesis, and Exodus all but the last chapter), is an exceed- ingly nice piece of work as a translation, and shows, as its strongest mark, the effect of file and finish. His chief difficulty as a translator, as I have been told by those who knew about his habits of work, was in deciding between a number of synonyms in rendering a word. Some of the missionaries who believe in rapid work have said to me that he was therein a prey to indecision ; but to that I cannot agree. His work shows abundant discrimination and positiveness. But his (unfinished) Old Testament manuscript, as I have been told by those who saw it, often had a column of synonyms six or seven deep and high, above and below nearly every important word in the line. To Dr. Eli Smith, however, belong especially two, if not three, uncommon deserts of praise. I pass by the bringing of a printing press to Beirut in 1840, which some say was due entirely to him, while others contradict. A press and printing establishment of the A. B. C. P. M. were already in operation at Smyrna ; and doubtless it required some effort on the part of the more sensible and active missionaries to overcome the home prejudice, and show them that a press for a Greek popu- lation, with an Armenian and Turkish mixture, could not supply the wants of an Arabic-speaking people, the better part of a thousand miles away. I pass by, too, the question whether, as some who ought to know allege, Dr. Smith was the first to assert, and the one finally to maintain, that a new Arabic translation of the Bible was indispensable, and that the success of American missions and the spread of the truth demanded the work. (In those days the American Bible Society innocently circulated De Sacy's French Bible, and other versions with additions not altogether countenanced now ; and the missionaries generally were not eminent above their brethren at home in textual knowledge.) But I have heard repeated, and I can scarcely help believing, as the result of all I know, that it is fact; and that Dr. Eli Smith had a battle to fight, both at home and abroad (as Dr. Schaufner had abroad, at least, for his Turkish translation), for the nascent idea and the future existence of the new Arabic translation. But in all such matters, the final result is the act, if not the work, of the mission and the home Board ; and the latter has never been willing to yield its glory, nor too ready to admit that it has been taught by its servants abroad. The records of the councils of war are usually with- held, even if individual merit suffer obscurity thereby. 284 I. H. Hall, But for the collecting of such books as were necessary in order even moderately to furnish the Bible translator, it is the universal testimony that the work was planned and executed by Dr. Smith — except so far as continued after his death. I do not refer to the Arabic books, for in that respect Dr. Van Dyck's gatherings were much superior ; but to the critical and linguistic apparatus, such as are needed and appreciated in the better libraries of Europe and America, but are scarcely valued, or even understood, by the average missionary or clergyman at home. Such a collection, and yet quite moder- ate in extent, was brought together chiefly by the influence and efforts'of Dr. Smith; though how he justified it as a necessity to those who could not see the use of such costly tools of trade, is one of the questions which had better remain unasked. The simplest expression of the fact is that Dr. Smith is the father and original cause of that fostering of Christian learning which has been so conspicuous in the progress of the Syrian mission. Here, too, it should be said that, whatever may be decided as to the bringing of the first American print- ing-press to Beirut, Dr. Smith was the hand and spirit of the work of the " American Press" as long as he lived. The other service of Dr. Smith, to which reference was made above, was his bringing into existence the beautiful style of Arabic type in which the Bibles are printed at Beirut, and which is now preferred all over the world — with only the one exception that in Arabic journalism, and in other matters which demand rapid printing and easy type-setting, the orna- mental ligatures are more and more being laid aside. The history of these types is something like this: In Con- stantinople, once, between the years 1830 and 1840, Dr. Smith fell upon a set of specimens of Arabic calligraphy, in letters from an inch to an inch and a quarter in size. He secured them, and Used them as his models for drawing larger ones, two and a quarter inches in size. He made a copy, as per- fect as possible, of every letter, with all the variations; and these he used as (enlarged) patterns for the punch -cutters. In Leipzig he had the punches and matrices made, but he came back from Germany to Beirut, because the' work in Germany was taking too much time. Mr. Homan Hallock, the director of the A. B. C. F. M.'s printing establishment in Smyrna, undertook to cut the punches; and he went to Boston or near there, and there finished the work. The original calligraphic models which Dr. Smith purchased in Constantinople have been lost (a story says that they were stolen at his death), but his own outline drawings of them are believed to be in existence. Mr. Homan Hallock had a set of them ; and of these the Bible Society had copies made by a The American Arabic Bible. 285 draughtsman. One set of these last is said to be in the Bible House at New York, another in the rooms of the A. B. C. F. M. at Boston, and another in Beirut. Dr. Smith had three sizes of the type made ; a first, second, and third size ; now numbered, respectively, the first, second, and third font. After his death, Mr. Hallock made another, No. 4 ; also a set larger than No. 1, called " small caption." Also, from 1864-1867, large capitals, for various display pur- poses, were made at the expense of the Bible Society. The selection of Dr. Van Dyck to succeed Dr. Smith was as inevitable and necessary as it was happy. He had been Dr. Smith's favorite scholar, and the only writer in Arabic whose works were suffered to pass into or out of the American Press without Dr. Smith's personal corrections. Dr. Van Dyck had already published a number of works in Arabic, which are standards to this day among the natives ; amongst them, works on algebra, geometry, trigonometry, astronomy, and Arabic prosody — in which, of all things, a native Arabic speaker is the last to give credit to a foreigner. As a native poet told me, "Dr. Van Dyck had Arabic at his tongue's and fingers' ends " before he began to translate the Bible. But among the natives, no foreigners seem to have anything like the repute of these two Bible translators for Arabic scholarship. Of the Bible itself there is little need to speak further here. Its cir- culation and success among the natives are enormous. The variety of styles in which it is issued, and of the editions, and the numbers of each, can best be seen by consulting the lists and reports of the American and the British Societies, and the book-catalogues of the American Press at Beirut, for the last twenty years. The estimate of the Bible in the native mind may perhaps best be gathered from some cross remarks made by two natives in my hearing. One praised the elegance and excellence of the work, and its fine Arabic, and remarked that it was a wonder that Dr. Van Dyck could translate like that. The other replied " A wonder ? He couldn't translate it in any other way !" I should add that our English Bible was their only standard by which to judge of its correctness. From Edward Van Dyck, now in Egypt, second son of Dr. Van Dyck, I learned many minor circumstances which I can hardly detail here. Edward, himself " to the manner born " in Arabic, generally copied the sheets of the translation for the press, in large hand, after his father had corrected the proof from the criticisms of scholars to whom duplicates had been sent; which large-hand copy his father again carefully cor- rected ; and it was then finally ready for the press. Edward also assisted at putting the references into shape for the Old Testament part of the reference editions. 286 I. H. Hall. He also gave me an oral account of events on the day of his father's finishing the translation (August 23, 1864), of which I have not a full memorandum. His father remained at work long after the hour for going to dinner — a rarity for his regular habit then — while Edward was waiting below, and busying himself as one who waits. All at once he heard his father's step upon the balcony, and, all very quietly : " Edward, it is finished. Thank God ! What a load is off me ! I never thought I was going to live to finish this work." And they went home to dinner, leaving the last words of Malachi in Arabic, just finished, behind them. Since the above article was printed, a note has been received from the author, as follows : The report that the manuscript translation of Dr. Smith was destroyed, and not used by Dr. Van Dyck, is now contradicted, and seems likely to be proved untrue ; .and an early opportunity will be taken to publish the matter correctly, as soon as a com- plete statement on that point arrives from Dr. Van Dyck. It is the belief of those in charge of the mission archives that all Dr. Smith's manuscripts, of all the work he did, are preserved in tin boxes in the library of the mission. The present aspect of the matter is that the story of the destruction of his manuscript trans- lation of the New Testament rests upon the fact that all that was printed of the New Testament under his direction, viz. Matthew i. to end of xvi., was destroyed, for the reason that it did not follow the textus receptus. It may be added that some valuable additional reports on the subject of the Arabic Bible by Dr. Smith have recently come to my knowledge, which throw light on the subject, and deserve to be printed in full.