The genesis of this project began following the republication of John Hunt's 1847 translation of the New Testament, which was launched on Viwa on the 200th anniversary of Hunt's birth - June 13 2012.
At the Conference that year, Rev Dr Tuikilakila Waqairatu was elected President. He was an Old Testament scholar and became very interested in some excerpts of David Hazlewood's Fijian Old Testament which I passed on to him at the beginning of 2013. An existing copy of the 1864 Bible had gone missing while on transferral from the Fiji Museum to the National Archives. (Let us hope that it will be found eventually; it belonged to Sir Allport Barker, a former colonial official who bequeathed his considerable personal library to the Fiji during its days as a colony.)I managed to track down a clean copy of Hazlewood's translation in the Mitchell Library, Sydney.
It is not the occasion to go into the considerable history behind the writing of this remarkable piece of Fijian literature. Suffice to say that Hazlewood's manuscript, completed in NSW a few months before his death in 1855, was picked up by James Calvert, en route to England for leave. There the manuscript was "revised" by Calvert, Joseph Waterhouse (also on leave) and a Bible Society editor named Mellor. It appears, thankfully, that they did not make extensive changes to Hazlewood's script (that was done 40 years later by Frederick Langham). So it was that in 1864, the Bible Society printed and published Hazlewood's translation.
Like Hunt's translation, that of Hazlewood did not survive the passage of time, which has been the reason for the republication of the two foundational Fijian Scriptures.
My gratitude is due to President Waqairatu for supporting this OT project which was way beyond my capacity to finance. A digital copy of the book was sent to China - Nanking, where 80% of the world's bibles are printed - and right on cue the finished result arrived in Fiji one week before Conference was due to meet at the end of August. The Chinese did a fantastic job - hard cover, sewn binding, B5 size with a clear copy of the original. Interim President Ratabacaca launched the Old Testament and sales were hot through Conference week.
I am not a Fijian linguist but my good friend Talatala Peni Cabenalevu tells me that there is something very special about this first translation. Like Hunt, Hazlewood had a good grasp of idiomatic Fijian (and add to that everyday Fijian as well). So the prose of this 1864 edition is probably easier to understand than Langham's "standard" Fijian Bible which was written with chiefly language coming out of Langham's 30 years residence on Bau.
And here are the words of Fijian scholar in Sydney to whom I gave a copy of the book. This is what she said:
"I have read some of the psalms and looked a little at ecclesiastes this morning. You are very right in pointing out the difference in language. Hazlewood's translation is more organic to the nature and perhaps theology of Fiji. I myself am not particularly fluent in my language, but I see the spirit of the words which he uses to express or name things in the Fijian vernacular. I find it to be a good representation of the poetical fluidity of Fijian expression".
In summary, as I told the Methodist Conference, Fijian now have access to three contrasting translations of the Bible: firstly the foundational texts of Hazlewood and Hunt which will forever(because of their faithfulness to the original languages) form the reference point for later revisions and translations; secondly the Langham revision of 1901, which became standard because there were no other versions for 80 years and thirdly the very recent Bible Society translation which I mentioned in an earlier blog and which tries to do what the Good New Bible did for English.
Now we await the scholarly study of the various forms of Fijian language and idiom used in these three translations, stretching across more than 160 years.
|Top: An open Hazlewood republished Old Testament. Below: The Hazlewood and Hunt republished Scriptures.|