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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

No hemming nor hawing on this one

Today I linked into a nice blog, iBlog @ 5twenty8, that I had never visited before. The blogger, Shane, had an interesting post giving new insight into the translation of Matthew 9:20 (click on the title to this post to read what Shane wrote). Observant male Jews wear a tallit (prayer shawl) which has tzitzit (tassels, Greek kraspedon) on its four corners. The woman with the "issue of blood" believed that if she could touch even the tassels hanging from Jesus' prayer shawl she would be healed. And she was right. And some English Bibles now have the translation right also, indicating that the woman wanted to touch the tassels of Jesus' prayer shawl, rather than the "hem" of his garment. Shane mentions that the ISV is one of the recent versions which has incorporated this anthropological insight so that its translation of the clothing term is more accurate. And more accurate is better. Here's the ISV wording of Matt. 9:20:
Just then a woman who had been suffering from chronic bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel of his garment.
I note that the HCSB also translates Greek kraspedon here as "tassel" rather than "hem":
Just then, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years approached from behind and touched the tassel on His robe
The NET Bible translates with the words "edge of his cloak" but footnotes "edge", explaining:
The edge of his cloak refers to the kraspedon, the blue tassel on the garment that symbolized a Jewish man’s obedience to the law (cf. Num 15:37-41). The woman thus touched the very part of Jesus’ clothing that indicated his ritual purity.
The ESV retains "edge" from the RSV and footnotes the word, pointing us to Numbers 15:38,39 and Deut. 22:12 which specifically refer to the "tassels" on the corners of garments. Well done! This is accuracy, guiding us to understand precisely what the woman wanted to touch.

The NASB translated with the words "the fringe of His cloak" and footnotes "fringe", saying:
I.e. tassel fringe with a blue cord
The REB (Revised English Bible) also footnotes "edge" saying it could also be rendered as "tassel."

I have found similar insights into the Jewish background of the gospels from the writings of the Jerusalem School, a group of Christian and Jewish scholars working together to help us understand the Jewish foundations of the gospels more accurately. And when we understand more accurately we can produce better Bibles.

I was glad to read in an interview with ESV translator, Paul House, that the ESV team made some of its revisions of the RSV based on "new scholarship coming out all the time that helps us understand the background of words and the meaning of words in their context." Those insights have made the ESV better. And better is better! (I couldn't pass that one up! Who wants to explain the humor here to our friends across the Atlantic or Pacific?)

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At Thu Jun 23, 01:05:00 AM, Anonymous Joe Missionary said...

Wow, that's really very interesting! Not just from a Biblical studies perspective, but as you say, from an anthropological one as well. Kinda changes the way I see Jesus the man. Thanks for that tidbit!


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