man of my peace
One of the most delightful Hebrew idioms I discovered recently is found in Psalm 41:9. The psalmist refers to his close friend as, literally, "man of my shalom." Isn't that beautiful?! Someone you can trust, in whom you can confide, is part of your shalom, your peace.
Of the 21 English versions I am evaluating for translation of Hebrew idioms, every one translated the idiomatic (figurative) meaning to English, as, for instance:
my close friend (NASB, NIV, TNIV, NET, ESV)And these idiomatic translations are proper, because few of us English readers would understand a literal translation as "man of my peace." But, at a minimum, for those of us who like to know literal meanings, when they do not communicate well in translation, it would be good for the literal meaning to be footnoted.
my trusted friend (NJB)
my most trusted friend (CEV)
my best friend (TEV)
my ally (NJPS)
my bosom friend (RSV, NRSV)
After thinking about translation of "man of my peace," my mind jumped to the New Testament where Jesus sent his followers out to evangelize. He told them (Luke 10:5-6):
Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. (ESV)Jesus' followers were first to say "Shalom," the Hebrew greeting still used today, when they entered a house. Then, if a "man of peace" (NIV) lived there the greeting would stay with that man. If there was no man of peace in that house, the greeting would not stay there. The Greek phrase huios erenes is literally 'a son of peace,' as found in the more literal English translations of this passage. The genitive is attributive, describing the kind of person, in this case a "peaceful" (NLT, NCV, GW) or "peace-loving" (TEV, CEV, NET) one. The word erenes, which, I assume, was a literal translation of the Aramaic word Jesus used, is, appropriately translated with the English word "peace" in this case. But the corresponding Hebrew word shalom in Psalm 41:9 is appropriately translated idiomatically to English, because few of us would understand its figurative meaning if it were literally translated as "man of my peace."
We can see almost the same idiom, one from the Old Testament, the other from the New Testament, which are translated differently, and properly so. The difference is in the contexts and what audiences would understand from the translations in each case. In the context of Luke 10:6, there is a focus on peace, whether or not someone is peace-loving. In Psalm 41:9, the focus is on the relationship between the psalmist and his trusted friend. The focus is not on literal peace, but, rather on the meaning of the entire idiom, which is the lexical unit to be translated, not the meaning of each individual word of the idiom, including the wonderful word "shalom."
I want to be a man of peace, of both kinds, a trusted friend, who never betrays a friendship, as well as a peace-loving person.