Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Helen Spurrell

Many thanks to El Shaddai Edwards, Rick Mansfield and David Reimer for the ongoing success of this series on women Bible translators. Rick mentioned Helen Spurrell in a comment on El Shaddai's blog. I will be getting to Frances Siewert soon.

In Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study by F. Danker, page 188, we can read,

The nineteenth century saw a number of noncommittee type versions of the Bible, but the most noteworthy is a version of the Old Testament, published in 1885, whose claim fo fame was obscured by the prestige of the RV, which apeared in the same year.

At the age of fifty, Helen Spurrell, already accomplished in music, painting, and sculpture, decided to learn Hebrew with a view to translating the Bible of Israel. using the unpointed Hebrew text as her base, "she made free use," observes Pope, "of the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint version, substituting their readings for that of the Hebrew text in a number of passages ... She printed her text in paragraphs, not in verses, with the poetical passages laid out as poetry - devices that had just been adopted in the Revised Version.

Here is the only excerpt that I can find from her translation, Psalm 119:150-151,
    "When designing pursuers approached me, who are far from thy law;
    then Thou, O Jehovah, wast near, with all thy faithful commandments..." Surrell

    They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy law.
    Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth. KJV
To get some sense of her theology we can read,
    In her translation of the Old Testament Scriptures, Helen Spurrell expressed the following wish for all who should read her translation: "May very many exclaim, as the translator has often done when studying numerous passages in the original, I have found the Messiah!"
She is also mentioned in the introduction to Let Her Speak for Herself by Marion Taylor and Heather Weir. Anyone interested in women in biblical scholarship will find this book fascinating reading.


Don said...

I have heard about Helen Spurrell before your post and have been trying to find any of her books since, to no joy.

It would be great to find any.

R.T. Spurgeon said...

I have one. Because the bookseller did not pick up on the Title page misprint I got an 1885 original for the price of the 1985 reprint. Mine is dark blue. The original owner signed his name with the date of 1912. I bought it because I love God's name. I value it because truth is rare: not the publication itself. Someone wanted a sample. Here is Malachi 3:16---"Then they who reverenced Jehovah spake of Him
Each one to his neighbour:
And Jehovah listened and heard:
And a book of remembrance was written before Him,
For them who reverenced Jehovah,
And for them who thought much of His Name;"