What are you filled with?
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. Luke 2:40I don't know what Bible version this wording was taken from, and hat doesn't really matter. Here's what matters: I read this familiar verse and realized that there are wordings in it which are not true English, and which should be if we are going to have better Bibles which communicate biblical text meanings more clearly and accurately.
In English no fluent speaker would ever say that someone was "filled with wisdom." For that matter, there are very few things that anyone would ever say someone was filled with. I believe it is natural English to say that someone is full of anger. If a person is very happy at some point in time, they might say, "I'm full of joy" although I'm not sure how natural this actually is. We would need to study large corpuses of English to determine what "full of" phrases people actually write and speak.
There are a some epithets which are in use, such as "He's full of prunes" and, maybe, "He's full of wind." There is a derogatory expletive, "He's full of s___."
But, again, no one would ever say "He's full of wisdom" or "He was filled with wisdom." Could it be said? Sure. But it wouldn't be said because that is not how good, fluent speakers or writers of English express the meaning behind the Greek words of Luke 2:40:
pleroumenon sophiaThe problem is that the translators of this verse literally translated the participle pleroumenon to English as "filled with" without regard to whether or not English "filled with" collocates with the noun "wisdom."
It is important when translating the Bible to constantly monitor one's translation to determine if it is being expressed with the lexical combinations and syntax of the target language, in this case English.
The second problem with this translation of Luke 2:40 is the un-English wording "the grace of God was upon him." Again, no fluent speaker of any standard dialect of English would ever say or write this. Grace cannot be "upon" someone, according to the lexical rules of English. You don't have to believe me about this. Check with others, especially those who you regard to be good speakers and authors and who are able to tell whether something is expressed in good standard English.
Are there any translations of Luke 2:40 which are both accurate and natural, using only English of standard dialects? I find at least one which does:
The child Jesus grew. He became strong and wise, and God blessed him. (CEV)The translation of Luke 2:40 which began our administrator's letter is written in church English, or Biblish, as it is sometimes called. Many Bible users have become accustomed to such English in their Bibles. But Bibles written in the non-standard Biblish dialect create several barriers for the millions of people who speak standard dialects of English but are not familiar with Biblish. Church English translations help affirm the perception that many people already have that God is not relevant for us. If he were, he would be able to speak English better. He would be able to speak the English that we speak, our heart language just as he was able to speak the Hebrew and Greek of the people to whom the Bible was originally written.
At worst, there are passages in some English Bibles which not only sound odd because they are not expressed the way speakers of standard dialects of English speak and write, but these passages also prevent people from accurately understanding the biblical meaning. And that is another way of saying that such non-standard English wordings are inaccurate. Anything is inaccurate if it does not reflect its original adequately.
Better Bibles will be both natural and accurate. We need not hang on the horns of a dilemma (as blog commenter Tim expressed it so well) with a choice between Bibles which are natural or ones which are accurate. Professional translators are trained and work hard to translate both naturally and accurately. Bible translators can do so as well.
Categories: Bible translation, natural English, translation accuracy, biblish, church English