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Bible (Fenton) 08, 13-14, 16-22, 25, 27: Holy Bible in Modern English, The: Psalms to 2 Chronicles

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The Holy Bible in Modern English, commonly known as the Ferrar Fenton Bible, was one of the earliest translations of the Bible into "modern English" (i.e., English as spoken and written in the 19th and 20th centuries). Work on the translation was begun in 1853 by a London businessman named Ferrar Fenton (1832–1920). The complete Bible was first published in 1903, though parts were published as separate volumes during the preceding 11 years. Fenton spent approximately fifty years working on his translation, with his sole goal 'to study the Bible absolutely in its original languages, to ascertain what its writers actually said and thought'. Fenton had acquired a great learning and understanding of ancient Sanskrit, Greek, Hebrew and Latin through being a distinguished member of the Royal Asiatic Society.[2] As a tradesman he also had access to numerous ancient Septuagint and Masoretic manuscripts to aid in his translation, and he also used Brian Walton's Polygot Bible (1657) for minimal referencing. The translation is noted for a rearranging of the books of the Bible into what Fenton believed was the correct chronological order. In the Old Testament, this order follows that of the Hebrew Bible. The name of God was translated throughout the Old Testament as "The EVER-LIVING", but to a lesser degree as "LORD" and to a much lesser degree as "JEHOVAH" (such as in Numbers chapter 15). The Bible is described as "translated into English direct from the original Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek languages." For his translation of the Book of Job which appeared in 1898, Fenton was assisted by Henrik Borgström. This was "rendered into the same metre as the original Hebrew, word by word and line by line". His translation of the New Testament is based on the Greek text of Westcott and Hort and was approved by many professors and theologians (Fenton's translation, 9th edition, 1905, includes an added page listing these exact authorities).

The ordering novelty in the New Testament is that it places the Gospel of John and the First Epistle of John at the beginning before the Gospel of Matthew, thus placing the Acts of the Apostles immediately after the Gospel of Luke. Fenton included an introductory note to explain this ordering which reads:

'(1) This Gospel is specially the Doctrinal Record of our Lord's life. The Great Teacher has here elaborated the thought and purpose of God concerning His plan of salvation by a Gift, and upon this basis have been formulated and propagated the doctrines of the Christian faith. The record should therefore precede the Historical Narratives.
(2) There is ample reason for believing that the Gospel of John was written at an earlier date than those of the other three Evangelists.'

Notable as well, is Ferrar Fenton's restoration of the Psalms into the musical verse form as close to the original as he could get. The Psalms were, quite literally, songs, complete with instructions for the "choirmaster" as well as descriptions of the appropriate musical instruments to be used. Today Psalm 48, Psalm 137, and Psalm 23 are still sung in churches, albeit to tunes not the original.

Ferrar Fenton's Bible however is most well known for its translation of Jonah 2: 1 which translates the fish (or whale) as a nickname for a ship or man made sea vessel and not as a literal whale or sea-creature. Fenton also included a footnote explaining how he restored this passage to its correct meaning.

Fenton also included footnotes at the bottom of many pages of his translation which aids the reader on linguistic or historical matters, as well as offering his personal opinion on certain topics. A lengthy note was added for example to the end of Genesis 11 which explains Fenton's own solution to the problem of the patriarchs great ages. Fenton wrote 'we may safely conclude that the patriarchs of such apparently incredible length of life were actually priest-chiefs of tribes, whose souls were believed to have passed from the first organizer of the tribe'. Fenton therefore believed that the great longevity of the patriarchs can be explained if those names were tribal house or clan appellations.


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