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Friday, October 06, 2006

joyful noise or joyful shouting

I memorized Psalm 100 long ago and my wife and I sang it many times in a psalm-singing church we attended. Sometimes I think about verse 1, as I memorized it:
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. (KJV)
I enjoy the humor when someone comments on a musical performance in church that lacks musical finesse, "Well, at least it was a joyful noise."

The last few days I've been wondering if "noise" is the best word to use for translation of the Hebrew word רוּע in this verse. From the evidence I have seen so far, I conclude that it is not.

Brown-Driver-Briggs gives this:
BDB Definition:
1) to shout, raise a sound, cry out, give a blast
1a) (Hiphil)
1a1) to shout a war-cry or alarm of battle
1a2) to sound a signal for war or march
1a3) to shout in triumph (over enemies)
1a4) to shout in applause
1a5) to shout (with religious impulse)
1a6) to cry out in distress
1b) (Polal) to utter a shout
1c) (Hithpolel)
1c1) to shout in triumph
1c2) to shout for joy
2) (Niphal) destroyed
Can you see what semantic elements are common to each of these meaning senses? It's the idea of making a loud sound with your voice. In the context of Psalm 100, the meaning is surely one of shouting joyfully to God, praising him with a loud voice, whooping it up for him, if we can state it so colloquially.

The English word "noise" seems to me to be too broad as a translation of Hebrew רוּע. We could make a "joyful noise" with a drum, trumpets, a tamborine, or clapping. But the Hebrew word seems to call for the joyful sound to come from one's voice.

English versions which maintain the traditional wording of "joyful noise" include the KJV, ERV, ASV, RSV, NRSV, and ESV. As you can see, these are versions in the KJV literary tradition. (The NKJV, also in that tradition, however, has "joyful shout.")

Versions which more accurately translate the Hebrew include some older than the KJV as well as most recent ones which stand outside the KJV tradition:
Al erthe, singe ye hertli to God; serue ye the Lord in gladnesse. (Wycliffe, 1395)

Sing ye loude vnto the Lord, all the earth. (Geneva, 1587)

Sing joyfully to God, all the earth: (Douay-Rheims)

Shout to Jehovah, all the earth. (Young's)

Shout aloud unto Jehovah, all the earth! (Darby)

Shout unto the LORD, all the earth. (JPS, 1917)

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. (NASB)

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. (NIV, TNIV)

Shout in triumph to Jehovah, all [YOU people of] the earth. (NWT)

Raise a shout for the LORD, all the earth. (NJPS, 1985)

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands (NAB)

Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth (NJB)

LET all the earth acclaim the LORD! (REB)

Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! (NKJV)

Shout praises to the LORD, everyone on this earth. (CEV)

Shout to the LORD, all the earth. (NCV)

Shout happily to the LORD, all the earth. (GW)

Shout with joy to the LORD, O earth! (NLT)

Shout out praises to the LORD, all the earth! (NET)

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth. (HCSB)
Better Bibles are ones which are willing to break out of a literary tradition, if doing so brings greater accuracy. I think the versions just listed do that.

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At Sat Oct 07, 01:10:00 AM, Blogger Eddie said...

The Scottish psalter has a version of this psalm which many might recognise as a hymn.

"All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice..."

At Sat Oct 07, 10:46:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Thanks, Eddie. I heard no noise in that psalm set to music. We've sung that one before. I love it. I love singing from the psalter.


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