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Monday, August 13, 2007

Inserting words into the text

I remember Fee saying "Human wisdom, this is about human wisdom, and that's how we translated it." So the word human was added into the English text.

Here are a few examples of where a word has been inserted into the English text of Bibles. Only the KJV doesn't do this. That is one thing you can be comfortable with in the KJV. And if words are added they now appear in italics. I can't show you that in the electronic versions. In the original printed KJ Bible, the main text was in Gothic typeface and the added words were in modest Roman type. Look at chapter 2 verse 3 for an example.

However, here is where the TNIV has added the word "human". Actually all versions appear equally mangled to me with the exception of the NASB and NIV. The clearest I can get would be "loftiness of speech or of wisdom." Each version creates minor problems. Maybe prolixity would be even more accurate - "prolixity of speech or of wisdom." Since so many of the translations are simply not accurate, the TNIV doesn't come off too poorly. The HCSB obviously dropped the ball on this one. Uncharacteristic.
    1 Cor. 2:1

    κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἀδελφοί ἦλθον οὐ καθ' ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας καταγγέλλων ὑμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοῦ

    And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. KJV

    And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. NASB

    And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. ESV, NRSV, RSV

    1 When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. HCSB

    When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God NIV

    And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. TNIV
Here is another example of how versions add a word, this time the word "spiritual". Here the KJV and NASB are the most literal as you would expect.
    1 Cor. 1:7

    ὥστε ὑμᾶς μὴ ὑστερεῖσθαι ἐν μηδενὶ χαρίσματι ἀπεκδεχομένους τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

    So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: KJV

    so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, NASB

    Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (T)NIV

    so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. HCSB

    so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, RSV, ESV, NRSV
But here even the NASB caves in and adds the words "of God."
    Romans 12:19

    μὴ ἑαυτοὺς ἐκδικοῦντες ἀγαπητοί ἀλλὰ δότε τόπον τῇ ὀργῇ

    Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath KJV

    Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His [a] wrath HCSB

    Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, NASB

    Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God RSV, NRSV, ESV

    Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath (T)NIV
Overall, the KJV is the best translation for not inserting words into the text. Otherwise they are all pretty much of a muchness.

I am almost at the end of my notes from the course with Gordon Fee. It was not a course on translation so these notes were tangential to the course content.

Update: This calls for clarification. I didn't mean that I think translations should not insert words, Far from it. They usually have to and commenter J.K. Gayle has some excellent examples of where it is done from Hebrew to Greek.

What I mean is "If you want a translation that doesn't insert words, for whatever reason, but mostly to learn Greek, I suppose, then you should chose the KJV." It is all a little silly really. I learned Greek by reading only texts that I had never seen in English, and still haven't - Third Maccabees and all that. I studied in the same programme as John Hobbins in the year before him.

I was just responding here to something I had heard about translations that insert words. It is normally done by all the translations. Even the KJV, for example, on the page I linked to above, inserts words once in a while. It's normal.


At Tue Aug 14, 03:27:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Yes, unusually TNIV has seriously blown it here in 2:1. It has missed the fact that "wisdom" is dependent on kath' huperochen, well rendered in NIV as "superior". Of course the wisdom referred to here is human, not divine, as should be clear to anyone who hasn't started reading at the chapter break. But Paul is not denying any human wisdom, only refusing to claim any superiority over others in this regard.

But I disagree with you, Suzanne, about 1:7. "Gift" is a rendering of charisma only into Biblish. An ordinary reader of KJV or NASB, who is reading this letter in order and so doesn't yet know chapter 12, is likely to think that Paul is saying he has sent them lots of nicely wrapped presents. But that is a different concept for which there are different Greek words. charisma means something like "spiritual gift", and should be translated as such except where the context clearly makes "spiritual" redundant.

At Tue Aug 14, 09:36:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Actually I think the HCSB rendering is worse than the TNIV because it doesn't qualify "wisdom" at all. And "excellency" in the KJV isn't really a good translation for huperochen either. As I say, I think the NIV was better.

You could be right about q Cor 1:7, it is more literal to say "spiritual gift."

At Tue Aug 14, 09:39:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

"Prolixity" does seem to work well in 2:1. But whereas KJV uses "excellency" there, in I Tim 2:2 ( where Paul uses ὑπεροχῇ again) KJV translates it "authority." In 1:7, for χαρίσματι, how about "favors" or "favours" if χαρίς might be "favor" or "favour," which is how Brenton translates the LXX Greek in Esther to English.

Now, is "the best translation for not inserting words into the text" really the best translation? Don't the NT writers insert words in translation? For example,

Matthew (in 1:23) uses the four words, μεθ' ἡμῶν ὁ θεός, for the single word, Ἐμμανουήλ.

Mark (in 3:17) explains Jesus's one word Βοανηργές with these two, υἱοὶ βροντῆς; and (in 5:41) Jesus's two-word sentence, ταλιθα κουμ, with the four-word sentence, τὸ κοράσιον σοὶ λέγω ἔγειρε; and (in 15:22) the three-word phrase τὸν Γολγοθᾶν τόπον with a two-word phrase, κρανίου τόπος, only; and (in 15:34) Jesus's four-word sentence, ελωι ελωι λεμα σαβαχθανι, with this ten-word sentence, ὁ θεός μου ὁ θεός μου εἰς τί ἐγκατέλιπές με.

Luke (in Acts 4:36) uses the two words, υἱὸς παρακλήσεως, to translate the one word, Βαρναβᾶς; and (in Acts 13:8) he uses the two words, ὁ μάγος, to translate the one word, Ἐλύμας.

John (in 1:38) does make a one-to-one translation with διδάσκαλε for ῥαββί. But John (in 1:41) reduces the two-word phrase, τὸν Μεσσίαν, to the one: Χριστός. Note how KJV inserts the one-word article here (in 1:41) to make it "the Christ."

Finally, Paul (in Romans 8:15) uses the two-word phrase, ὁ πατήρ, to translate the single word, αββα. But most English translations (including KJV) omit a one-for-one translation of the article here, because of the vocative case.

If not inserting words indicates the best translation, then perhaps the NT writers didn't do a good job of translation. My pet peeve is transliteration, when translation would have worked; but these writers of the Greek Bible (in the above examples also) seemed to have no problem with transliterations either.

At Tue Aug 14, 10:11:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

"Superiority" would be better for ὑπεροχῇ I guess. And, of course, there is no reason to translate one word in Greek by one word in English - that is just silly, but it is one of the claims some people make.

At Tue Aug 14, 11:30:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I don't agree that HCSB is worse than TNIV at 2:1. It depends I suppose how you parse "brilliance of speech or wisdom", but I would understand "speech" as well as "wisdom" as dependent on "brilliance". On that understanding it is a brilliant translation. But it would have been better still if clarified to "brilliance of speech or of wisdom".

As for "prolixity", I had to look it up in a dictionary to check its meaning, but as I thought it means "wordiness" or "verbosity", and that is surely not what the Greek means. In fact Paul's point is probably more like using words like "prolixity" which sound impressive but are not clearly understood.

At Tue Aug 14, 12:59:00 PM, Blogger Doug Chaplin said...

I'm more inclined to agree with you, Suzanne, and disagree with Peter about the use of the word "spiritual" in 1 Cor 1:7. (I do see Peter's point but think spiritual is misleading.) I've madea a fuller argument here.

At Tue Aug 14, 01:00:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

It was the missing "of" in the HCSB that I noticed.

Prolixity was directly out of the Liddell Scott Lexicon but I can see that superiority might be better.

At Wed Aug 15, 08:34:00 AM, Blogger Milton Stanley said...

I'm not sure it's clear in your post, but the NASB, like the KJV, italicizes added words.

At Wed Aug 15, 10:12:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thank you for reminding me.

At Thu Aug 16, 02:27:00 AM, Blogger Don Fisher said...

My favorite translation is the Revised English Bible. Here is how it handles the three passages from the original post:

1 Cor. 2:1

So it was, my friends, that I came to you, without any pretensions to eloquence or wisdom in declaring the truth about God.

1 Cor. 1:7

There is indeed no single gift you lack, while you wait expectantly for our Lord Jesus Christ to reveal himself.

Romans 12:19

My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads 'Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.'

I particularly think they got it right with their translation of "pretensions to" rather than something like "superiority of" in 1 Cor. 2.

Don Fisher

At Thu Aug 16, 09:36:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks so much, Don. I don't have the REB and didn't think to include the NEB in this post either. Always interesting.


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