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Thursday, June 21, 2007

ESV reprieves wizards

Rick Mansfield has started a series detailing the recent revisions to ESV. Most of the changes, at least as far as he has got so far (Genesis to Esther), are rather trivial. Some are welcome as minor adaptations towards more natural modern English.

The most interesting change is a consistent one from "wizard" to "necromancer", about which I have written a post, deliberately in a style to attract popular attention.

By the way, note the singular "they" in Leviticus 20:27 KJV and ESV, referring back to "a man also or a woman" which is treated as a singular subject ("is") in the first part of the verse. So "they" refers back to an indefinite singular referent, a classic example of singular "they". In the Hebrew, the verbs and pronouns are plural throughout this verse; a literal translation is "a man or woman that there is in them a familiar spirit or a spirit of knowledge dying will die (plural), with a stone they will stone them, their blood on them".


At Thu Jun 21, 08:26:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...


A man or a woman with whom is a ghost or a favorable-spirit—
they are to be put-to-death, yes, death,
with stones you are to pelt them, their bloodguilt is upon them!

(1) Hebrew grammar -- especially Biblical Hebrew works differently than English grammar (that is why the Bible begins with appears to be a grammatical error). I notice that even the NIV uses "them" (quite correctly) in this case to reflect the Hebrew original.

(2) You don't mention the possibility that both the wizard and the spirit that s/he holds are put to death. (I make this comment in jest -- well, 80% jest.)

At Fri Jun 22, 05:01:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Iyov, thank you for your helpful comment.

You don't mention the possibility that both the wizard and the spirit that s/he holds are put to death.

It can't be that in the Hebrew, for the spirit is "in them" (bahem), it is not one person plus one spirit. Of course KJV could be misunderstood in this way. But do familiar spirits have blood?

By the way, I note that in the Hebrew the plurals are marked as masculine, so the reason for the plurals is not to be gender generic. But in English, whereas the first half of the verse had to be shifted to the singular to be grammatical, the second half could not be without the gender clash of using "he" referring to the explicit "a man or woman". This is something which I think would have looked odd in KJV times (the same times in which Shakespeare occasionally used singular "they") as well as now.

At Fri Jun 22, 08:52:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

The comment was made in jest (well, 80% jest). I'm not that familiar with familiar spirits.

At Fri Jun 22, 09:40:00 AM, Blogger Jim Swindle said...

I doubt that "necromancer" is a very good translation, because I've almost never heard it used in conversation. I don't think I've ever heard it used with a positive connotation, and most things that are warned against in the Bible are things that are attractive. (I'm NOT saying that whatever is attractive is evil; just that most evil is attractive.)

All of this reminds me of what I think is a bad translation for a somewhat similar concept in most English-language New Testaments. Most use the term "demon-possessed," which leads to the strange idea that the demon owns the person. The Greek, daimoniazo, could be transliterated as "demonized" (or "demonised" for you Brits) and would be clearer, with less confusion. We have various similar "-ized" words that should make the idea instantly clear: having, or under the influence of, a demon.


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