my favourite translation
I have to say that I have some sympathy with Henry since I once knew a KJV only evangelist and it can be a very stressful thing. Dear old "Uncle" Jim. Before he came to visit, my dad used to sit me down with the Greek text and get me to prep him with a counter argument. That lasted until I was 17 and had read enough text criticism that even my dad didn't want to know about it. Then I was excused. But now I find that many people from various backgrounds that I know are quite fond of the KJV as a translation. They are lucky - they have never been evangelized by an onlyist.
But my favourite translation at the moment is not even in English. I have been studying the Psalms lately, three hours on Wed. night with the Hebrew tutorial some other time during the week. But Wed. night is basically in English with passing references to Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, German and Cree.
We sit 6 to a round table and study the psalm together charting it in coloured pencils à la Brueggemann. (I would appreciate hearing more from Bob about this.) I am a novice at this as well as the many other ways the psalms are studied in this class - 5 or 6 reformation and other psalters, modern music, ancient music, dance, clay, poetry, muttering, reciting, window painting, etc.
The basic study takes place by marking up the NRSV version of the text, with several parallel versions available for reference. There is always the KJV and sometimes the other 4 or 5 will be translations produced between 1520 and 1545 or some other specific era.
However, the main study is done on the NRSV text. The other pieces of paper pile up underneath. I obstinately keep open my Kohlenberger's Psalter with the Hebrew, RSV, NETS, LXX. The two English texts are too small for me to read, and my Hebrew is nascent, so, yep, my default version is the Greek. No one else in the room is interested much in the Greek so I don't blurt out random insights or anything like that.
But last week, working on Psalm 146, I thought that I had wandered completely off course. I thought that I must have been daydreaming or distracted and was not looking at the same psalm as everyone else. The group had decided to solve the problem of "voice" first. Who was speaking to whom? Nothing matched for me.
There was some discussion of imperatives and a soliloquy to self. I never was able to articulate exactly how I knew what was going on because I was reading the Greek in my head and I have no idea what language I was thinking in. However, in Greek all imperatives are marked as singular and plural, in fact, all verbs are marked as singular and plural.
Ultimately, without saying anything, I just took my copy of the psalm and wrote down the side "singular" and "plural" for the different sections and placed it in the centre of the table.
The KJV, if carefully considered would help, but it is not as clear as the Greek in this psalm. Quite simply there have been many times when I have found the Greek easier than the English. It matches up with other scriptures nicely and I always know if the psalmist is addressing one person or the congregation. Here is some of the text,
- αἴνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον
Praise (singular verb), my soul, the Lord,
αἰνέσω κύριον ἐν ζωῇ μου ψαλῶ τῷ θεῷ μου ἕως ὑπάρχω
I will praise the Lord in my life I will make music to my God while I have being
μὴ πεποίθατε ἐπἄρχοντας καὶ ἐφ υἱοὺς ἀνθρώπων οἷς οὐκ ἔστιν σωτηρία
Do not trust (plural verb) in rulers and the sons of men in whom is no salvation.
Another feature which is maintained in the KJV can be seen in the next verse,
- His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
- Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, (בְּבֶן-אָדָם beben-adam) in whom there is no help.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth (לְאַדְמָתוֹ leadmato) in that very day his thoughts perish.
Back to the pleasures of reading the Psalter in the Septuagint. This translation is literal in many places, obscure in some and given to commentary at other times. I even perceive flashes of humour. Look at this line in Psalm 51:6,
- הֵן-אֱמֶת, חָפַצְתָּ בַטֻּחוֹת
Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts;
ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀλήθειαν ἠγάπησας τὰ ἄδηλα
For behold, truth you love - the unclear
וּבְסָתֻם, חָכְמָה תוֹדִיעֵנִי
make me, therefore, to know wisdom in mine inmost heart
καὶ τὰ κρύφια τῆς σοφίας σου ἐδήλωσάς μοι
and the hidden things of thy wisdom you made clear to me.