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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Provocative Vocative in Psalm 47:9

If you like fascinating nuggets about language, often about translation of language in the Bible, you really do need to add Calvin College's Inflections blog to your RSS reader (such as RSS Reader--I'm not really repeating myself, at least not this time!). Or if you don't have a reader you can just periodically check the Inflections posts. They are so much fun to read and are enlightening, as well.

Today Calvin English professor Nate Bierma posted on a problem of interpretation and translation in Psalm 47:9. He cites translation options from several English versions. He quotes from Keith Bodner's recent JTS article, which suggests that a good solution is to translate the difficult Hebrew as a vocative, "O people of the God of Abraham."

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At Thu Aug 11, 06:28:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

This is interesting. The problem is that the vocative is unmarked in Hebrew, and so it can only be discerned from the context. Nathan Bierma writes "Now I want to write a paper on vocatives in the Psalms." Well, I wish someone would do so. Without reading (and first paying for) the full JTS article, I can't comment on whether this can legitimately be taken as a vocative. But I do note that LXX (46:10) reads μετὰ τοῦ θεοῦ Αβρααμ meta tou theou Abraam "with the God of Abraham", and that the Hebrew can mean the same if only the vowel pointing is changed, from עַם `am "people" to עִם `im "with". The Vulgate, however, supports the pointing of the Masoretic Hebrew. Nevertheless, I am surprised that none of the modern translations have followed this alternative.


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