Could any Hebrew scholars help me decide which translation is best?To Alan's list, I would also add the HCSB wording, since the HCSB is becoming a major English translation:
KJV: I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.
NASB: I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart.
ESV: I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
NET: I run along in the path of your commands, for you give me the capacity to do so.
NIV: I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
NRSV: I run the way of your commandments, for you enlarge my understanding.
NLT: I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding.
HCSB: I pursue the way of Your commands, for You broaden my understanding.I am not a Hebrew scholar but I have Hebrew scholar friends and access to other Hebrew scholarship. I'll respond some to Alan's question. I invite others to do so, also. If you answer here, please post an answer on Alan's blog also.
First, I always find it difficult to answer the question, "Which translation is best?" To answer that question I need to know the answer to a prior question, "Best for what?" We have that same issue in the question in the poll which has been in the right margin of this blog for many weeks. For that poll question I deliberately did not specify what "best" means when I asked "Which translation is best?" And the poll answers indicate, as I anticipated, that different respondents answered according from a different point of view. Some have answered according to which English phrasing comes closest to conveying the referential meaning of the bibical text. Others answered according to what English would most literally match the words of the biblical text. Others answered, it appears, according to which wording continues the traditional English translation for the biblical text. Alan's question can be answered similarly, from these different viewpoints.
I will attempt to answer Alan's question based on what I consider as the most important criterion for translation, which is accuracy. I want to know which of the wordings Alan cited most accurately conveys the meaning of the original Hebrew to contemporary users of the translation.
Now, speaking directly to Alan's question, I'll bring up a matter of translation accuracy for this and many other Bible passages which may startle many readers. The English word "heart" is not the most accurate translation of the Hebrew word, lev, when the Hebrew word is used metaphorically, as it is in Ps. 119:32. The physical organ of the heart was viewed as primarily the seat of the intellect, rational thought, for the ancient Hebrews. This contrasts with the English metaphor of heart which is the center of emotions. More accurate English translation equivalents for Hebrew lev, then, are brain, mind, and understanding.
Translating Hebrew lev, when it has a metaphorical meaning, as it does in Ps. 119:32, with English heart only translates the form of the Hebrew word, but not its meaning. Biblical forms are absolutely essential and they must be translated, but when their forms are used figuratively, the best translation conveys the figurative meaning most accurately.
Bible versions which render Hebrew lev by the English word understanding in Ps. 119:32 translate the meaning of the Hebrew in this context more accurately than those which translate just the form of the Hebrew word, heart.
There are likely a number of other comments that can be made to respond to Alan's question, but I will offer only one other. None of the translations which have "run the way/path of your commandments" (or something very close to that) are good English. No good speaker or writer, with a native command of English, would ever say or write such a thing. That phrasing is simply not part of the rules of English syntax, lexicon, and composition. In English, we do not run a way (or path) or commandments. The verb "run" does not collocate with the noun "commandments" in the English language. Such a translation, as with the word "heart," translates the form of the Hebrew words, but not their meaning. Too many English Bible translators forget that while form is absolutely critical, form conveys meaning. Form is not meaning itself. We get at meaning through linguistic forms.
For me, the Bible version in Alan's list which most adequately translates the meaning of the Hebrew for the beginning of this verse is the NLT with its wording "pursue your commands." Even that wording is not quite right for English since I'm not sure that English lexical rules allow collocation of "pursue" with "commands." For me, it would be better English to have "obey your commands" or "follow your commands." Both of these wordings do obey the rules of the English lexicon.
English Bible versions which, to my understanding, adequately translate the beginning of Ps. 119:32 to proper English include:
I will eagerly obey your commands, because you will give me more understanding. (TEV)I don't know what to think of the ending of the NIV (and identical TNIV) wording of Ps. 119:32:
I am eager to learn all that you want me to do; help me to understand more and more. (CEV)
I will quickly obey your commands, because you have made me happy. (NCV; as I currently understand the meaning of the Hebrew, I don't think the second half of this wording is translated accurately)
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.I would need to find out from the NIV/TNIV translators why they translated the Hebrew ending as "for you have set my heart free" before I could comment on that unique wording.
Categories: Bible translation, translation accuracy, collocational clash, metaphor, lev