11. Just as when I was, for example, in the imperfect state of childhood; I then discoursed, I understood, I reasoned in the erroneous manner children do -- but when I arrived at the maturity and perfection of manhood, the defects of my former imperfect state were all swallowed up and forgotten.

12. For in this scene of being our terrestrial mirrour exhibits to us but a very dim and obscure reflection: but in an happy futurity we shall see face to face -- In the present life my knowledge is partial and limited; in the future my knowledge will be unconfined and clear, like that divine infallible knowledge, by which I am now pervaded.

13. In fine, the virtues of superior eminence are these three, faith, hope, benevolence -- but the most illustrious of these is benevolence.

Do these sentiments sound vaguely familiar? Ring any bells -- faint echoes of something you've heard before, perhaps many times? A scholar named Edward Harwood (1729-1794) penned the above elegant lines, in a work published in 1768. To put you out of your misery, here is how a committee of scholars phrased the same passage in 1611:
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Yes, it's 1 Corinthians 13 from the New Testament. This passage is universally regarded as one of the most beautiful and moving anywhere in the Bible: it can bring tears to the eyes of even the most hardened of atheists like me. We don't need to worry like a textual critic over whether agape should be translated as charity or love; whatever it means, the poetry is there, the sentiments are wide and noble and good, the vision is splendid and stirring.

And Harwood did that to it.

Harwood's 1768 version isn't a parody; it isn't like those joke Lord's Prayers rendered into bureaucratese you sometimes see. Oh no, they wrote like that in 1768: Samuel Johnson for example was famous for his style, which is a very good style, but ponderous, and just the way he was. They thought it was fine, and elegant, and pure, all sorts of good things, to use these long words and wordy phrasings. They thought they were improving it. Harwood called the old versions going back to Tyndale "the bald and barbarous languages of the old vulgar version".

His full title for the thing was typically eighteenth-century:

A
LIBERAL TRANSLATION
OF THE
NEW TESTAMENT;
BEING
An Attempt to translate the SACRED WRITINGS
WITH THE SAME
Freedom, Spirit, and Elegance,
With which other English Translations from the Greek
Classics have lately been executed:

The DESIGN and SCOPE of each Author being strictly and
impartially explored, the TRUE SIGNIFICATION and
FORCE of the Original critically observed, and, as much
as possible, transfused into our Language, and the Whole
elucidated and explained upon a new and rational Plan:

With SELECT NOTES, Critical and Explanatory.

Eighteenth-century English was regarded by eighteenth-century Englishmen as pretty much perfect, so it was natural that the Word of God was ripe for translation into this perfect medium. Indeed, the apostles themselves would surely have written it this way had they had the good fortune to be born as eighteenth-century Englishmen. You think I exaggerate for mocking effect? O ye of little faith! Harwood actually said this.
... to cloathe the genuine ideas and doctrines of the Apostles with that propriety and perspicuity, in which they themselves, I apprehend, would have exhibited them had they now lived and written in our language...

It is pleasing to observe, how much our language, within these very few years, hath been refined and polished, and what infinite improvements it hath lately received.

Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be a full text on the Web (yet; I hope), only a couple of samples; but here's how he improves that barbarous old ditty the Lord's Prayer:
O Thou great governour and parent of universal nature - who manifestest thy glory to the blessed inhabitants of heaven - may all thy rational creatures in all the parts of thy boundless dominion be happy in the knowledge of thy existence and providence, and celebrate thy perfections in a manner most worthy of thy nature and perfective of their own.
Here's the opening of the story of the Prodigal Son (in Luke 15), first in Harwood's, then in the rude and rustic language of the Authorized Version:
A Gentleman of a splendid family and opulent fortune had two sons. One day the younger approached his father, and begged him in the most importunate and soothing terms to make a partition of his effects betwixt himself and his elder brother -- The indulgent father, overcome by his blandishments, immediately divided all his fortunes betwixt them.

11 [And he said,] A certain man had two sons:

12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

Now here's the Magnificat of Mary (Luke 1, verses 46-48). This time I'll let you work out which is Harwood's liberal and rational version, and which the toiling of the crude and ignorant folk available to King James:
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

My soul with reverence adores my Creator, and all my faculties with transport join in celebrating the goodness of God, my Saviour, who hath in so signal a manner condescended to regard my poor and humble station. Transcendent goodness! Every future age will now conjoin in celebrating my happiness!

For completeness, here's the entirety of 1 Corinthians 13, which I opened this writeup by quoting the last three verses of:
1. Could I speak all the languages of men and of angels, and yet had an heart destitute of benevolence, I am no more than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.

2. And was I endowed with the amplest prophetic powers: could I unravel all the mysteries of nature: had I accumulated all the knowledge of the sons of men: could I exert such stupendous powers as to remove mountains from their basis, and transfer them at pleasure from place to place -- and yet my heart a stranger to benevolence, I am nothing.

3. And should I give away all I had in the world in charitable contributions to the poor: should I even surrender up my body to the flames -- and yet have an heart devoid of benevolence, it would be of no avail to me.

4. Benevolence is unruffled; is benign: Benevolence cherishes no ambitious desires: Benevolence is not ostentatious; is not inflated with insolence.

5. It preserves a consistent decorum; is not enslaved to sordid interest; is not transported with furious passion; indulges no malevolent design.

6. It conceives no delight from the perpetration of wickedness; but is first to applaud truth and virtue.

7. It throws a vail of candour over all things: is disposed to believe all things: views all things in the most favourable light: supports all things with serene composure.

8. Benevolence shall continue to shine with undiminished lustre when all prophetic powers shall be no more, when the ability of speaking various languages shall be withdrawn, and when all supernatural endowments shall be annihilated.

9. For in this state our knowledge is defective, our prophetic powers are limited.

10. But when we arrive in those happy regions where perfection dwells, the defective and the limited shall be no more for ever.

11. Just as when I was, for example, in the imperfect state of childhood; I then discoursed, I understood, I reasoned in the erroneous manner children do -- but when I arrived at the maturity and perfection of manhood, the defects of my former imperfect state were all swallowed up and forgotten.

12. For in this scene of being our terrestrial mirrour exhibits to us but a very dim and obscure reflection: but in an happy futurity we shall see face to face -- In the present life my knowledge is partial and limited; in the future my knowledge will be unconfined and clear, like that divine infallible knowledge, by which I am now pervaded.

13. In fine, the virtues of superior eminence are these three, faith, hope, benevolence -- but the most illustrious of these is benevolence.

Freeborn, Dennis (1992), From Old English to Standard English, Basingstoke: Macmillan Press.
Lord's Prayer: www.bible-researcher.com/versbib8.html
Prodigal Son and Magnificat: www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_trans_metzger2.html

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