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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Luke 1:34--the ESV is better

Today's ESV Bible blog post wrestles with the preference of Anthony Esolen of the Mere Comments blog and Fr. Bob of the The 7 Habitus blog for translating the Greek (imported from Hebrew) idiom of Luke 1:34 literally as "I know not a man" (or, better English as "I do not know a man.").

The ESV blog points out that the ESV:
translates Luke 1:34 as, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” and adds the footnote “Greek since I do not know a man.
The ESV wording here is better than a literal translation. It accurately translates the figurative meaning of the Greek of Luke 1:34 for English speakers. A literal translation of "I do not know a man" does not communicate that figurative meaning so accurately to many, perhaps most, English speakers today. In fact, it is literally not true, since Mary likely knew several men, including her own father and her betrothed, Joseph.


At Tue Mar 14, 11:32:00 AM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...


Yes. I agree that this is better, and rendering the meaning ought to be a given for translating Scripture or anything, for that matter.

At Tue Mar 14, 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Ruud Vermeij said...

The Dutch NBV (New Bible Translation) translates:
Ik heb immers nog nooit gemeenschap met een man gehad.

nooit = never
gemeenschap = intercourse

I am a virgin seems further from the original than I never had intercourse with a man.

Or is this not said in English?

At Tue Mar 14, 04:44:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

HCSB has the following:

Mary asked the angel, "How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?"


At Tue Mar 14, 05:13:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Or is this not said in English?


These things are not said in my dialect of English, Canadian, (British origin) middle class and middle age.

When I was studying in Switz., an American instructor, speaking to a large class in French suddenly turned and asked me in English if I had understood what he had just said. I nodded, and he blushed and apologized. Such are the sensitivities of the English speaker.

Having said that I am daily surprised at the things that complementarian Christians are willing to say. I can hardly read a sentence of what they write without feeling acutely embarassed.

At Tue Mar 14, 06:34:00 PM, Blogger Henry Neufeld said...

I normally like the CEV, but in this case their "I'm not married" doesn't seem quite on target. The HCSB, ESV, and NRSV get points on this one. I found two renderings rather humorous:

Wuest: " . . . since I do not have an experiential knowledge of a man?"

YLT: " . . . seeing a husband I do not know?" (I'd love to see field testing results for this one!

At Fri Mar 17, 09:24:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Suzanne, I see nothing complementarian or egalitarian about this issue in any way. This is an issue about how to translate the Hebrew word for knowledge in a sexual context. There's nothing about roles, equality, authority, or anything like that in this, from anyone in the discussion.

This is an issue about what some people perceive to be a literal vs. a figurative translation. As Wayne argues in the post, there is no literal translation of this expression. It's really just a debate between two different dynamic translations that capture different elements of the sense of the original, and Wayne thinks one element is more fundamental, while the person the ESV blog quotes goes the other way, with the ESV blogger in the middle. That's where I happen to think it's probably best to be on this issue, though I'll develop that in my own post on this rather than writing a really huge comment here about it. This is an issue I feel really conflicted on, and I think that's the right way to be because there are two competing principles that go in opposite directions.

At Fri Mar 17, 08:00:00 PM, Blogger Rey said...

Tangentially off-topic, Clinton used similar terminology when he said that he had no relations with Monica. Tickled my funny bone knowing (heh) that the NASB uses the same term throughout the OT. heh. (In Luke it goes with virgin)


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