Are we polytheists?
The NIV follows the practice of most other English versions here, literally translating four different ways of referring to God in the original Hebrew.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Stepping back from my lifelong familiarity with these verses, it sounds to me that such English translations imply that there are four different referents, that is, four different beings in whom we "dwell", "rest", "take refuge", and "trust." (Actually, I think that the second sentence is clear the "the Lord" and "my God" are co-referential, so, technically, the two verses appear to refer to three entities.) It requires teaching beyond the words of the translation for the uninitiated hearer/reader to know that all four names refer to a single deity, the God of the Hebrew Bible. If this is startling to you, you will also need to step back from this particular text and think about how English refers to different entities. Think, for instance, about the following English:
Today I am flying back home with my wife and my friend and my director and my co-worker.How many people am I flying with today? Just from these words, as they would normally be interpreted according to English syntax and semantics, it sounds like I will be flying with four different people. In actual fact, all four are the same person, my wife, Elena. But English grammar does not permit me to refer to them all as expressed in that sample sentence. To make it clear that they are all the same person, I would need to use English rules of reference to do so. I could do so with a revision of the sample sentence:
Today I am flying back home with Elena. She is my wife, my friend, my director, and my co-worker.The most referentially accurate translation of Psalm 91:1-2 and other passages like it requires, if I understand English grammar correctly, revision so that it is clear that each reference to an entity is to the same entity. These beautiful verses refer to the same God who is referred to in four different ways:
In the Hebrew (which has different referential syntax from that of English), these verses refer to only one god, not three or four different gods. So translation of these verses should accurately reflect that all of the names for deity refer to the same god.
the Most High
Categories: Bible translation, translation accuracy, reference, polytheism, monotheism