Psalm 100:4 -- Have you entered gates?
Enter into his gates with thanksgivingI'm very familiar with this wording, having heard it all my life, and I might, without further thought, have simply enjoyed the traditional sound of this translation wording. But as a linguist and Bible translator I have learned to reflect on Bible wordings even if they are familiar to me. As I thought about the traditional wording of Psalm 100:4, I concluded that, in English, it is inappropriate to speak of "entering" a gate. In English we only enter spaces which can contain us. Enterable spaces can be physical such as:
a roomor they may be metaphorical "spaces" such as:
the sunset years of our livesThere are many things which we cannot enter, including:
this Christmas season
a telephoneWe cannot "enter" a gate since we view a gate as a solid piece of matter, which humans cannot enter. (Perhaps we can speak of termites entering a gate, although even this sounds a bit odd to me.)
If we want to use the verb "enter" with the noun "gate" one grammatical way to do so is to include a preposition. We might, for instance, say:
We entered at the gate.It is, of course, also grammatical in English to say:
We went through the gate.Better Bibles are translated by people who reflect upon the wordings they use as they translate. The result of such reflection should be that Bible translations only use word combinations which are appropriate within the lexicon of a target language, such as English. Such better Bibles will sound better to those who use them and more accurately communicate what the biblical source texts meant by what they said.
Is English "gates" the most accurate translation of Hebrew shahar of the first line of the poetic couplet of Ps. 100:4? (I suspect it is not.) What might be a better way to translate Psalm 100:4 so that the Hebrew meaning of the verse is accurately expressed in English and also follows the rules of English which specify what words can properly go with each other?
Categories: Bible translation, lexical collocation, proper English