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Friday, October 28, 2005

TEV Sirach 20:21

Today I stumbled upon a wording in the TEV (known today as the Good News Translation) which makes no sense to me. It is the translation of Sirach 20:21:
If a person is too poor to afford sin, he can rest without a guilty conscience.
Can you spot the problem?

It is the strange word combination, "afford sin." To me, anyway, in this context, these two words do not fit together, according to my understanding of the guidelines and constraints of the English lexicon. Technically, such a mismatch of words is called a collocational clash.

The TEV has some of the most natural English of any of the many English Bible versions. Yet, because translations are done by humans, translation mistakes, including poor quality English, can slip through the checks and balances of the translation of any Bible translation. I remember spotting a page heading error in the TEV in one of its first editions, many years ago. I wrote the American Bible Society, which produced the TEV, to notify them of the error. They thanked me, and the error was corrected in future editions.

It is a good thing to spot problems in English versions and graciously let translation teams know about them, so that we can have better Bibles. That is why this blog exists, to encourage more people to be alert to ways that English translations can be made better, and then to let the proper people know so that revisions can be made in future editions. Also, if we sensitize ourselves to observe translation wordings more closely we ourselves also benefit. We learn to pay better attention to what is written. In the process we can learn better what is the meaning of Bible passages and if we are willing, our lives can change when we follow the biblical teachings.

UPDATE: I have continued to think about the collocation of "afford sin" and I have eventually been able to get some meaning from it, although the collocation still strikes me as quite unusual for English. It might be possible to say of someone that they can "afford sin." By that might be meant that they have the financial (or other) means to pay for a sinful lifestyle. I do not know if that is the kind of meaning intended in the TEV wording in question here.

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9 Comments:

At Sat Oct 29, 11:41:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

I'd be interested to see how the verse reads in the Contemporary English Version (which is the update to the TEV). I have a copy of the CEV, but my edition does not have the Apocrypha.

 
At Sat Oct 29, 12:10:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rick, I don't have the CEV Apocrypha either, so I have put out a request on the Bible Translation discussion list for anyone who has it to give us the wording.

 
At Sat Oct 29, 02:22:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, the issue I immediately spotted with this verse is a different one, the gender mismatch: "If a person ..., he ...". The GNT is supposed to be gender neutral and so to avoid generic "he", but here it is not although it has used "person" rather than generic "man". This just looks inconsistent. I checked the Greek in the LXX, and it uses an indefinite grammatical masculine which can refer equally to males and females.

 
At Sat Oct 29, 04:22:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

I don't think the TEV was intended to be gender neutral, although it is in places like Gen 1:26 where it uses "human beings." But in Matt. 4:4, it still says "Man cannot live on bread alone" as opposed to the CEV revision that says "No one can live only on food.

The TEV was completed in 1976, and I don't think translators were even thinking much about gender neutrality at that time.

 
At Sat Oct 29, 05:15:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

I don't think the TEV was intended to be gender neutral, although it is in places like Gen 1:26 where it uses "human beings." But in Matt. 4:4, it still says "Man cannot live on bread alone" as opposed to the CEV revision that says "No one can live only on food.

Rick, that wording comes from an earlier edition of the TEV, probably the same as the edition I have. But the TEV has been updated some over the years and it now reads:

But Jesus answered, "The scripture says, "Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks."'

 
At Sat Oct 29, 05:16:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

There are several different editions of TEV. The most recent one, the one which has been re-released as GNT, has undergone extensive revisions especially in the area of gender neutral language. The electronic copy of this which I have reads "Human beings cannot live on bread alone" at Matthew 4:4. Another change in the new edition is "if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they will eat with me" in Revelation 3:20, whereas my 1976 printed edition has "...I will come into his house and eat with him, and he will eat with me".

 
At Sat Oct 29, 09:19:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

That's really interesting. I collect translations in English (currently have over 80 distinct ones), but this had slipped past me. So I wonder--and perhaps you can tell me--why would the American Bible Society update the TEV to the CEV and then update it again to the GNT? That seems rather confusing.

 
At Sat Oct 29, 10:36:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

why would the American Bible Society update the TEV to the CEV and then update it again to the GNT?

That's not what happened. The TEV/GNT and CEV are two separate translations. The CEV is not a revision or update of the TEV/GNT.

Every translation goes through various revisions during its publication history, including the KJV. The Good News Bible (also known as Today's English Version) has been revised various times over the years. Currently it is being re-published by Zondervan which has renamed it the Good News Translation (GNT). I don't know if any revision of the text took place along with the slight revision of its name.

FWIW, the CEV has sometimes been commercially published under the title "The Promise." But I haven't seen this edition for many years.

 
At Sun Oct 30, 03:46:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

That's interesting. I was working in a bookstore around 1994 when I first received an "Advanced Reviewers Copy" of the then forthcoming CEV from a sales rep. I remember him telling me that the CEV was an update to the TEV and I had never questioned that.

I had noticed in bookstores that there were still TEV's on the shelf, but I didn't even look in them to see if they were updates. I figured they were still out there because some folks must prefer what I thought was the older translation.

How does the CEV relate to and differ from the revised TEV in terms of purpose and audience?

 

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