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Friday, November 30, 2007

idiomatic Bible translation

People all over the world find that the Bible speaks to them best when it is worded using the natural grammar and idioms of their own languages. Of course, we should never change the meaning of the biblical text when we use idiomatic language in a translation. Nor should we use idioms which introduce inappropriate connotations.

As I have been checking the TNIV recently, I have come across some idiomatic wordings which deserve kudos and I flag them for the TNIV team to let them know how nicely those wordings communicate the meanings of the biblical text. I thought it would be fun to share some of these wordings with you.

Esther 9:1 in the TNIV (and NIV) reads:
On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.
There are two English idioms in this verse. Can you spot them?

The first is "the tables were turned." There is nothing in the original Hebrew text about tables, but using the English idiom conveys the original meaning accurately and impacts us better than if the idiom were not used. Other versions translate this section accurately, but lack the stylistic power of the English idiom (I have highlighted the equivalent wording):
  • on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to get the mastery over them, but which had been changed to a day ... (RSV)
  • on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: ... (ESV; "the reverse occurred" is a stylistic improvement over the literal RSV wording)
  • It was on this day that the enemies of the Jews had supposed that they would gain power over them. But contrary to expectations, ... (NET; this is also an improvement over a literal translation)
  • the day when the enemies of the Jews were hoping to get them in their power. But instead, ... (GNB; also better than literal)
  • This was the very day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to do away with them. But the Jews turned things around.... (CEV; this is nice, mildly idiomatic)
  • On that day, the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but quite the opposite happened. ... (NLT; another nice translation)
The second idiom in TNIV Esther 9:1 is "got the upper hand". Again, this idiom does not literally translate the original. There is nothing in the original Hebrew about a hand or an upper hand, but the English idiom accurately translates the meaning of the Hebrew. Other English versions translate the Hebrew accurately, but lack the stylistic impact of the TNIV idiom:
  • when the Jews should get the mastery over their foes (RSV)
  • the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them (ESV)
  • the Jews gained power over their enemies (NET)
  • the Jews triumphed over them (GNB)
  • It was the Jews who overpowered their enemies. (NLT)
Now, I am not suggesting that "got the upper hand" is a better translation here. I am only pointing out that using an English idiom increases stylistic impact. When a translation uses natural idioms of that target language, people who use that translation get the feeling that "God speaks our language". Idioms and other figurative language bring color to a language. They help us feel that something is written the way we actually use our language.

Here are some other English idioms I have found in the TNIV (I highlight the idioms):
  • When all the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit. (1 Sam. 14:22)
  • Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin. (Psalm 106:43)
  • Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler! (Prov. 17:7)
I am not suggesting that, overall, the TNIV is a better translation than others because I have spotted some English idioms in it. (There are many passages in the TNIV, as in other versions, which are not very idiomatic.) I am only citing examples from the TNIV in this post because that is the version I am currently checking.

What are some English idioms you have found in other English versions?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

vocabulary and Bible reading levels

We have had a number of BBB posts on reading levels of various English Bibles. Typically, reading levels are computed by algorithms that consider sentence length, words per sentence, and number of syllables per word. A number of us have commented over the years that reading level is more complex than can be determined by just mechanistic factors such as these.

One factor which is never included, as far as I know, has to do with vocabulary level, including the social register of a word. A word may compute at a low reading level according to an algorithm, but it may actually require a high reading level. For instance, the word "ascribe" is relatively short. It has only two syllables. It would contribute to a low reading level calculation. But "ascribe" is a word which is not well known to many English speakers today. Oh, sure, many of you reading this post understand and perhaps even regularly use this word, but many visitors to this blog are capable of operating well at high reading levels, due to levels of education and practice reading literature which has high level words.

Furthermore, reading level algorithms do not currently calculate for whether or not a word is currently in use or is obsolete. The word "thence" is mono-syllabic (a high level word itself!). It would calculate at a low reading level according to the typical algorithms. But many readers today, especially children in the typical grade levels for which reading levels are aimed, 3rd to 12th grade, are not familiar with the word "thence". So even if a computer algorithm says that a sentence with the word "thence" computes to a low reading level, the word "thence" would create a reading level problem for many.

I have been pushing hard these days to check the TNIV in order to submit revision suggestions to its translation team (CBT) before its annual January 1 submission deadline. (We still need checkers for several Old Testament books. See the green background poll in the margin of this blog.)

Here are some individual words in the TNIV I have spotted which seem to me should raise the reading level of the TNIV, even though the TNIV computes with the usual algorithms to between a 7th and 8th grade reading level:
lapis lazuli
What are other words you have noted in the NIV or TNIV (or other versions) which seem to you to be above the 7th grade reading level?

As you think about this post, please do not forget that a Bible version is, whether intended or not, best suited to a particular audience, such as those who have completed a high school education, or those who are familiar with church language or theological terms.

We are not suggesting in this post that reading levels or vocabulary levels be "dumbed down". It is appropriate to use higher reading levels and words such as those noted in the list from the TNIV for more highly educated audiences.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Shaddai in Ps. 68

This is a short post to round up the series on Shaddai. Shaddai in Psalm 68 is translated in the Septuagint as the "Heavenly One."
    When the Heavenly One sets apart kings over it
    they will be snow covered in Selmon. Ps. 68:14 NETS
Finally, in Ezekial 10:5 Shaddai is simply transliterated as Σαδδαι. To sum up the different ways that Shaddai is translated in the Septuagint, we find, Pantocrator, theos, hikanos, Epouranios, Saddai, and in at least one case it is simply omitted. There is no definitive translation or easily established meaning for Shaddai. It is masculine in gender and I do not see that it is helpful to translate it as Breasted One. Neither do I see that as heresy. I will talk about this is a future post.

If we were to suggest an anatomically female name for God, we would wonder if there was a corresponding anatomically male name. Although the names of God have grammatical masculine gender (it is slightly more complicated than that) they don't refer to biologically or anatomically male characteristics.

The name "Lord of Hosts" is often referred to as a masculine name for God, the warrior God. However, it is worth noting that in Ps. 68:11, the "hosts" are women. Hosts is not an exclusively male term. So, rather than label the "Lord of Hosts" masculine and "Shaddai" feminine, I personally don't have a theory of gender for God's name. It doesn't seem necessary in deciding how to translate these names.

My sense is that names for God evolved somewhat independently in the different languages and that there has never been concordance or a one-to-one correspondance for translating the names of God from one language to another.

I hope to post on the name Adonai next and will also discuss feminine metaphors for God in a different post. These are both request posts.

I realize that there are some people who don't want to read about gender. This is a difficult thing. First, I have just looked at the flicks of the bibliobloggers lunch. There are lots of guy bibliobloggers. There are few enough of us who lack facial hair and don't talk about flatulence at lunch. I mean, how predictable is that. Get a bunch of guys in a room without a woman and what do they talk about! Get a woman alone on a blog and what does she talk about! We are so predictable.

Of course, some of you know that most of my work and writing has nothing to do with gender. I can talk of other things. However, at this time, it seems best for me to respond to the two requests I have on the table, Adonai, and the image of God as mother.

In any case, I have learned a lot about the Septuagint and about Shaddai, myself. I hope you have enjoyed it. John Hobbins has a great post on translating Gen. 1. There are also some good posts on Word Alone, He is Sufficient and This Lamp on translation.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The Value of Dictionaries

On Tuesday I’ll be turning back the first drafts of the semester-long paper project in my ethnohistory class. The biggest teaching point associated with that assignment is getting the students to evaluate their sources critically. It’s a history class — don’t ask why a linguist is teaching this class, it’s a long story — so the students have to be taught to ask the most basic question: how do they know that they can trust a source. Is the writer a witness to the events? That would make it a primary source, which is as good as we can do. But sometimes you can’t find anything from the eyewitnesses and you have to settle for the newspaper accounts. But being careful only to use primary sources or contemporary news accounts, you still have to worry about how to read past the prejudices, opinions, and worldview of the writer.

The trouble is most of the time most of us don’t have the time or the access to documents to enable us to assemble and read the primary sources for ourselves. So we look to authorities, to the folks who have read the primary sources. What they write, however, are secondary sources. Of course, secondary sources, too, have prejudices and opinions, but the problem is that their opinions are even harder to sort out from the facts than those of the primary sources. That’s because we ask of the authorities that they synthesize the primary sources into a story. Much of the time we take the stories of the secondary sources as gospel truth and don’t ask the hard questions: how does he/she know that? Can we trust that his/her story is the real story?

Wait. What does all this have to do Bible translation?

Well, when we get into arguments about what words mean, we don’t much pay attention to the difference between primary and secondary sources, and that gets us into trouble.

Let me explain.

In the case of translation, what constitutes a primary source?

Ideally, a natively bilingual speaker. But unfortunately for us, there never were any natively bilingual speakers for Roman era Koine and 21st century English.

So if we can’t get such a person, what’s the next best thing? What's the primary source in that case.

Interestingly enough, it’s the text itself. Combine the text with early translations as a way to triangulate on the original meaning and you’re well more than halfway there. (This makes dealing with ancient texts the analogue of doing oral history, not a trivial task, but most definitely do-able.)

Oh, you say, that sounds all very approximate. Can we have any confidence in such a source?

Actually, yes we can, because of one thing — language is highly redundant — the standard figure is 50%. It’s redundancy that enables children to learn language by observing how people use language in context. That same redundancy allows me to mimic what children do in learning a language when I approach a body of ancient texts. Give me a large enough corpus (a collection of texts in a single language) with a translation that simply gets me to a close approximation of what the text means, and I can, by dint of great effort, tell you what all but the rarest expressions in the corpus mean with great precision and confidence.

The NT plus Roman era writers and the Roman era papyrii constitute a big enough corpus to work with. Throw in that we have a very similar, but more archaic variety of Greek in the LXX and that there is a lot known about the older (but much different) forms of Greek from 500 BC on, and we are in a very, very good place to use this corpus as a primary source for figuring out what words and expressions in the NT mean to a high degree of accuracy. (You can find an example of me doing this in a series of earlier posts regarding the word ἐπιτιμάω.)

But wait! you say, wouldn’t it just be simpler to use the dictionary? After all, the dictionary makers did what I just described. They're the experts. They poured through the corpus and figured out what the words mean.

True, but we have to remember that their work still has the status of a secondary source. The problem for us is that almost all of that work, reading the texts and assembling examples of distinct senses, was done in 19th century.

You see, for us to use those dictionaries properly, we have to take into account the fact that even if they got the translations right for 19th century English, those translations might not be right for 21st century English.

A good word study in the original texts, carefully done trumps the dictionary every time.

ἄνθρωπος is a case in point.

There is much ink spilt in this blog about the meaning of ἄνθρωπος and its Hebrew equivalent adam (אדם), most recently relating to an unnecessary neologism, adamkind. It’s a topic that comes up over and over when one talks about accuracy in translation.

Reading the texts, one finds absolutely convincing examples which make it clear that from Homeric Greek on, ἄνθρωπος refers to humans without explicit reference to maleness. Some key examples and discussion can be found here particularly in the comments.

So why does the ESV insist on translating both adam (אדם) or ἄνθρωπος ‘man’?

Because its translators don’t recognize that English has changed.

In Liddell and Scott’s time one did not say human being, one said man. (Liddell and Scott is the standard reference dictionary for Greek.) Liddell and Scott’s entry for ἄνθρωπος begins:
ἄνθρωπος, ἡ, Att. crasis ἄνθρωπος, Ion. ὥνθρωπος, for ὁ ἄνθρ-:--
A. man, both as a generic term and of individuals, Hom. etc., opp. gods, ἀθανάτων τε θεῶν χαμαὶ ἐρχομένων τ' ἀνθρώπων Il.5.442 , etc.; πρὸς ἠοίων ἢ ἑσπερίων ἀνθρώπων the men of the east or of the west, Od.8.29; even of the dead in the Isles of the Blest, ib.4.565; κόμπος οὐ κατ' ἄνθρωπον A.Th.425 , cf. S.Aj.761.
2. Pl. uses it both with and without the Art. to denote man generically, ὁ ἄ. θείας μετέσχε μοίρας Prt.322a ; οὓτω . . εὐδαιμονέστατος γίγνεται ἄ. R.619b , al.; ὁ ἄ. the ideal man, humanity, ἀπώλεσας τὸν ἄ., οὐκ ἐπλήρωσας τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν Arr.Epict.2.9.3.
3. in pl., mankind, ἀνθρώπων . . ἀνδρῶν ἠδὲ γυναικῶν Il.9.134 ; ἐν τῷ μακρῷ . . ἀνθρώπων χρόνψ S.Ph.306 ; ἐξἀνθρώπων γίγνεσθαι depart this life, Paus.4.26.5, cf. Philostr.VA8.31.
But if you look through all of the glosses of compounds of ἄνθρωπος in Liddell and Scott, when the gloss is adjectival it is given as human, not male, as in the examples below.
ἀνθρωπο-πᾰθής , ές,
A. with human feelings, ib.182, al. Adv. –θῶς, λέγεσθαι, of the gods, Hermog. Id.2.10.
ἀνθρωπό-νοος , ον, contr. ἀνθρωπό-νους , ουν,
A. with human understanding, intelligent, πίθηκοι Ael.NA16.10 : Sup. -νούστατος Str.15.1.29.
Not surprisingly, Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker, the standard reference for the Koine of Christian literature, which was revised in the middle of the 20th century (1958-1979) has the more modern usage in its gloss:
ἄνθρωπος, ου, ὁ (Hom. + inscr., pap., LXX, EN., EP. Arist., Philo, Joseph., Test. 12 Patr.; loanw. in rabb.) human being, man [pg. 68].
(It probably doesn’t hurt either that this lexicon was developed starting with a translation from the German. German has a word Mensch with the primary sense meaning exactly what ἄνθρωπος in its primary sense means, namely, ‘human being’.)

It isn’t until you get down to BAGD’s sense group 2: “in special combinations and meanings” that you get
b. the context requires such mngs. as—a. man, adult male [a list of citations follows, pg. 68]
My point?

If the complementarians really understood what shaky ground textual ground they stand on, the whole debate would be different.

re-Kindle your Bible reading

Every once in awhile some new device comes along that catches on with a lot of people. is hoping that Kindle, a wireless reading device, is one of those. Kindle will allow you to read any e-book that you buy from, as well as having free access to Wikipedia.

Of course, we can already read e-books with other devices, including our laptop computers, iPods, iPhones and some other cell phones, and PDAs. But Amazon is hoping that Kindle's lighter weight than a laptop and larger, clearer screen than on smaller devices, will make us prefer to read books on Kindle.

Bible versions which are available so far for reading on Kindle are KJV, NIV, TNIV, The Word on the Street, and Young's Literal. But expect to see the ESV available for Kindle very soon, since the Crossway blog and technology team is keen on using the latest technology to promote the ESV.

Kindle can accept documents transferred from your computer in popular formats such as Microsoft Word, PDF, etc. So any Bible version, such as ISV and NET, already available for download in those formats, may be readable on Kindle.

UPDATE: Michael Hyatt, President of Thomas Nelson Publishers, describes how computer-to-Kindle document sharing works:
You can put your own documents on Kindle. And, contrary to many reports on the net, I was able to add PDF documents with no trouble. You simply email the documents as attachments to your email address. Amazon converts the document to their proprietary format and sends it to your Kindle. They charge 10 cents for each document. Alternatively, Amazon will return it to the email you address you sent the document from and you can load it on the Kindle yourself via the USB connection. (I haven't tried this.)
UPDATE: Rick Mansfield notes in a comment what others have said, including Sean Boisen of Blogos, on whose blog I first learned of Kindle, that the price of Kindle is high, $400. That's too high for the general book-reading public (or is that now an oxymoron?!). But its price and the price of look-alikes will come down if there is enough demand for them, just as the price of the iPhone dropped soon after it was released.

HT: Blogos

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Psalm 23 in stereovision.

Here are the relevant texts, you know the traditional one, now go to Aristotle's Feminist Subject and enjoy.

1 ψαλμος τω Δαυιδ κυριος ποιμαινει με και ουδεν με υστερησει

The Lord shepherds me and I shall lack nothing.

2 εις τοπον χλοης εκει με κατεσκηνωσεν επι υδατος αναπαυσεως εξεθρεψεν

In a verdant place, there he made me encamp.
By water of rest he reared me;

3 την ψυχην μου επεστρεψεν ωδηγησεν με επι τριβους δικαιοσυνης ενεκεν
του ονοματος αυτου

my soul he restored.
He led me into paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4. εαν γαρ και πορευθω εν μεσω σκιας θανατου ου φοβηθησομαι
κακα οτι συ μετ' εμου ει η ραβδος σου και
η βακτηρια σου αυται με παρεκαλεσαν

For even if I walk in the midst of death's shadow,
I will not fear evil, because you are with me;
your rod and your staff-they comforted me.

5 ητοιμασας ενωπιον μου τραπεζαν εξ εναντιας των θλιβοντων με ελιπανας
εν ελαιω την κεφαλην μου και το ποτηριον σου μεθυσκον
ως κρατιστον

You prepared a table before me over against those that afflict me,
you anointed my head with oil, and your cup was supremely intoxicating.

6 και το ελεος σου καταδιωξεται με πασας τας ημερας της
ζωης μου και το κατοικειν με εν οικω κυριου εις
μακροτητα ημερων

And your mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life,
and my residing in the Lord's house is for length of days.

PS I am in the middle of writing a paper right now.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hen Scratches 23-11-07

For those who don't want to read my post on adam, here are some other items of interest.

Hear Corey Booker on Judaism, a light to the nations. A Thanksgiving Psalm . Faces from SBL. Cyber Psalm 15. Luther on understanding the Word,


Erasmus on understanding the Word,
    If you approach the Scriptures with all humility and with regulated caution, you will perceive that you have been breathed upon by the Holy Will. It will bring about a transformation which is impossible to describe. You will perceive the delights of the Blessed Bridegroom; you will see the riches of Solomon. The hidden treasures of eternal wisdom will be yours.

    Yet I would caution you. The entrance to this abode of wisdom is narrow. The doorway is low, and there is danger in not stopping stooping when you enter.
The Handbook of the Militant Christian.

Update: An terrible typo.

Adrian Warnock: adamkind

Just as Adrian Warnock takes the big step to defacilitate comments on his blog, he finds himself incapable of expressing the essence of "humanity" in English. It is not good enough to call us "humans" so invents a neologism. Here is how it happened. First, Adrian quoted Mark Driscoll,
    Mark took us to Genesis 1-3 in order to look at our first father, Adam. The race is named man because men rule humanity. We are made in the image of God.
Then Adrian was challenged on this in comments, which I abbreviate to spare you boredom but which have been saved on Peter's blog.
    Charity said…
    The race is named man because men rule humanity.

    What is the basis for this argument?

    18 November, 2007 17:20

    Glennsp said…
    That has been answered elsewhere many times Charity and as such why not go over all that material that already exists. :-)

    18 November, 2007 21:04

    Suzanne McCarthy said…
    Yes, I too would like to know how the word Adam, which God used to name the human race, means only the male, when in Numbers 31 the word “adam” is used to refer to a group of 32,000 women, exclusively women. At that point Bible translations have to translate Adam as “people”.

    In fact, I suspect that Driscoll is quoting from Grudem who once stated that God named the human race Man in Gen. 5:2 and that all translations up until the 80’s had Man/man in this verse.

Adrian posted this comment and a couple more but then decided to end all further comments on his blog once and for all. It was just too stressful for him to decide what to post and what not to. However, on Dave Warnock's blog he was asked if he agreed with Mark on this statement. He responded,

    I do not think that taken alone my notes of Driscoll's phrase expresses something clearly. He was speaking of the fact that adamkind was named after Adam.
So Adrian did recognize that there was a problem. Dave then asked,
    The quote you included from Driscoll seems clear. Is the race called mankind (with male understanding of man) or humankind? When you say adamkind are you referring to humans or male humans? I appreciate your dilemma here. The Hebrew is clearly referring to all humans whereas complementarianism requires a faulty translation so that adam refers to men. Which side are you on? Scripture or Complementarianism? Can't be both.
I am puzzling over whether Driscoll's error here is related to the way the ESV has translated Gen. 5:1-2 in comparison with the way the text appears in a gender accurate translation.
    This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man,(A) he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man[a] when they were created. ESV

    This is the book of the lineage of Adam. On the day God created the human, in the image of God He created him. Male and female He created them, and He blessed them and called their name humankind on the day they were created. Alter
After looking at these verses in a male gendered Bible and in a more literal and gender accurate translation, Alter's, I really don't see how the male gendered Bible can be solely responsible for Driscoll's misunderstanding. However, it is possible that Driscoll understood that only man is made in the image of God, and therefore, only men rule.

Or maybe Driscoll's confusion is due to this piece of writing,
    God gave the human race a name that, like the English word man, can either mean a male human being or can refer to the human race in general.

    Does this make a difference? It does give a hint of male leadership, which God suggesting in choosing this name. It is significant that God did not call the human race "Woman."(I am speaking, of course, of Hebrew equivalents to these English words.)

    Nor did he give the human race a name such as "humanity", which would have no male connotations and no connections with the man in distinction from the woman. Rather, he called the race "man." Raymond C. Ortlund rightly says, "God's naming of the race 'man' whispers male headship.
    If the name man in English (as in Hebrew) did not suggest male leadership or headship in the human race, there would be no objection to using the word man to refer to the huamn race generally today. But it is precisely the hint of male leadership in the word that had led some people to object to this use of the word man and to attempt to substitute other terms instead. Yet it is that same hint of male leadership that makes this precisely the best translation of Gen. 1:27 and 5:2. *
I just thought I would post this insight into the translation philosophy of the ESV. I still can't decide if Driscoll's error is simply an idiosyncratic misreading of the text, or whether it is influenced by the translation he is using.

Update: I haven't done this justice without quoting Gen. 1:27
    So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    (A) male and female he created them. ESV

    And God created the human in his image,
    in the image of God He created him,
    male and female He created them. Alter
It is significant that Alter does respond to Grudem's challenge to have God name the human race after the man, Adam, by simply calling Adam what he was, a "human."

Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood. 2002. W. Grudem. page 30

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Christmas presents for the TNIV team

There are few things in life that bring me greater joy than helping a Bible translation team improve its translation. Others might not experience that same joy that I do, but I do know that people experience joy when reading a better Bible. All around the world people marvel (and are spiritually impacted) whenever they hear God's Word translated as they speak and write their own language.

For several years I have been sending revision suggestions to the CBT, the TNIV translation team. These days I am checking TNIV Psalms. My regular job (checking Bible translations in other languages) does not allow me time to check the TNIV as thoroughly as I would like, but I am still able to skim read and spot wordings which could be improved.

But I am not going to be able to complete my check of the TNIV before their annual deadline, January 1, for receiving revision suggestions. Would you consider giving a Christmas present to the TNIV team by suggesting revisions which would make their translation even better? Perhaps you could skim read books of the Bible which I have not yet been able to check, so that as many books of the Bible will be covered as possible before the CBT deadline. In my latest push the past few weeks I have checked Ruth, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and I will soon finish Psalms. BBB reader Tim Carr is expecting to complete checking the New Testament by the deadline. If you prefer to check New Testament books, check Tim's suggestions on the TNIV revisions suggestions webpage to see if he has not already suggested a revision for a wording you are interested in.

I realize that there is barely a month to go, but if you would be willing in that time to skim one or more books which Tim and I have not been able to check yet, it would be a big help. I will post a survey in the BBB (and TNIV Truth blog's) margin where you can mark down which book, God helping you, you hope to check for the TNIV team.

Do you need to be a Greek or Hebrew scholar to check an English translation? No, in fact such scholarship can often be an impediment to the kind of TNIV checking most needed at this time. You just need to be a native speaker of English, with a good sense of whether or not some wording sounds like good English, whether it follows the standard rules of English syntax and lexicon.

To help you see what kinds of things you might find, here are few examples I have spotted in the TNIV Psalms, along with explanatory words about the translation issue:

Ps. 38:3 "there is no health in my body" – unnatural; consider natural: "my body is not healthy

Ps. 68:17 "The chariots of God are tens of thousands" – improper English with "are" connecting the noun subject and the number of them; consider: "The chariots of God number in the tens of thousands", or "God has tens of thousands of chariots"

Ps. 75:1 "Name" – This is the only capitalized instance of "name" (including for God's name) I have found in the TNIV. I suspect it is a typographical error.

Ps. 82:1 "gives judgment" – unnatural; I don't think we "give" judgment in English

Ps. 84:7 "from strength to strength" – unnatural English; I don't know what it means.

Ps. 89: 13 "endued" – not a well known word today

Ps. 89:15 "acclaim" – not a well known word today

Ps. 90:12 "Teach us to number our days" – I've heard this Bible phrase since childhood but I do not understand it. It sounds like the psalmist is asking God to teach him how to count the number of days he has done something, perhaps how many days he has lived.
You can record your revision suggestions on the TNIV revision suggestions webpage. There are further instructions on the webpage. There is also a link there to download a free copy of the TNIV if you do not have this Bible version yet. I will forward suggestions to the TNIV team by their deadline, January 1.

Please consider indicating which TNIV books you would like to check in the new survey in this blog's margin. And if you cannot skim an entire book, if you can submit even one suggestion that can be a help.

Monday, November 19, 2007

NETS and NRSV: Psalm 1


    Happy is the man
    who did not walk by the counsel of the impious,
    and in the way of sinners did not stand,
    and on the seat of pestiferous people did not sit down.
    Rather, his will is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he will meditate day and night.
    And he will be like the tree
    that was planted by the channels of waters,
    which will yield its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf will not fall off.
    And in all that he does, he will prosper.

    Not so the impious, not so!
    Rather, they are like the dust that the
    wind flings from off the land.
    Therefore the impious will not rise up in judgment,
    nor sinners in the council of the righteous,
    because the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    and the way of the impious will perish.


    Happy are those
    who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
    or take the path that sinners tread,
    or sit in the seat of scoffers;
    but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law they meditate day and night.
    They are like trees planted by streams of water,
    which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
    In all that they do, they prosper.

    The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
    Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
    for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.
There has been some discussion by Kevin, Iyov, Stefan, and doubtless by others, on the recently published New English Translation of the Septuagint. One of threads is concerned with how closely the NETS follows the NRSV, the translation which it is designed to parallel.

I am sure you will immediately notice that the NETS is not a completely gender neutral translation. However, it is in principle, and in Genesis the word "humankind" is used for anthropos. But here the word is aner. Although there is strong case to be made for aner sometimes being translated as "person", the preference, in a translation of this sort, is to maintain concordance where it works. Pietersma writes,
    Though I have eschewed any rigid policy of one-to-one Greek-English equation, a reasonable effort has been made to reproduce word echoes in the Greek, which may or may not reflect echoes in the Hebrew. In passing it deserves to be mentioned that this effort has not infrequently meant that the reading of the NRSV has been replaced by a synonym in NETS. Psalms: To the Reader
Other differences are the adherence to the Greek inverted word order and the grammtical endings such as plural "waters" in line 8.

On another note, Pietersma mentions a particular literary feature of the Greek Psalms which is the lyrical translation for ben adam in Psalm 49:3, where the translator writes, γηγενεις "earthborn".

I note with some chagrin that when Pietersma mentions his grad students, the names appear to be all male. In my year, his class was well balanced with men and women, but the women did not stay in that field of study, although not for lack of a love of language.

Update: I certainly had no intention of saying anything negative about either the NETS use of gender language or the fact that there are so few women involved in this project. I only spoke with regret that I had not pursued this area myself. When I ask why why more Christian women are not in active leadership in certain areas, I am speaking first to myself.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Getting the key point right

There are two choruses that make me think of Ken Pike. I got to know him well in his last years at the University of Michigan where I was a grad student and then a junior faculty member. We went to the same Reformed Church and he and Evie hosted the monthly Wycliffe prayer meeting when they were in town. We never missed it.

One of the choruses is It will be worth it all. It was Pike’s theme song. The other is Turn your eyes upon Jesus. (OK, so the second one is really a full hymn, but for years I only ever sang it as a chorus.) I'm not sure why I connect it to Pike other than that it seems that I sang it a lot in Wycliffe contexts.

Why am I talking about these choruses?

Well, we sang Turn your eyes upon Jesus in church last week and it’s been running through my head for a week now. And this got me thinking about Ken Pike and Wycliffe and how all Bible translation for languages other than those with a long history of translation is done on the basis of dynamic equivalence. These translations, by the way, are overseen by very theologically conservative folks and nobody bats an eye.

One wonders why.

Maybe it’s because the folks in the non-theologically-driven Bible translation business know enough not fall prey to the most insidious misunderstanding regarding dynamic equivalence: that it is somehow unconstrained, that the translator is allowed to say anything.

They know that nothing could be further from the truth.

And it just so happens that singing Turn your eyes upon Jesus at Berkeley Covenant provides a great parallel about what it means to translate something and get the key point right.

At Berkeley Covenant Church we have blended worship. We sing contemporary worship music and hymns from the hymnal all in the same set. There is a pianist some Sundays, but the worship is guitar driven. We never play hymns straight from the book with four part piano accompaniment (although we have been known to sing a verse in four part a cappella every now and again). You’d think that guitars would ruin the hymns but they don't. We’ve learned how to translate hymns from piano to guitar.

The secret is that most hymns have a hook — one particular part of the hymn — and if you get that right, it counts as the hymn, even to the old-timers like me, and even if the rest is only an approximation.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus is a good example. If you get the right chord progression on strangely dim, you can approximate the rest and it still feels like Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Most of the available guitar transcriptions miss this. So the Worship Archive has:

  C        G        Am C7
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
F Dm7 G7
Look full in His wonderful face
C C7 F Fm
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
C G7 C
In the Light of His glory and grace.

Nice, but not quite right. Play the third line like this

          C    G7   C         G7     Am  C7  F
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

with a walk down bass on the last three chords, A - G - F, and you have a winner. You can even leave out the G7’s, as long as you get those last three chords. (BTW, unless you’re a bass or a low alto, you might want to capo up three or four frets. The hymnals pitch this one in F for good reason.)

A similar situation holds for Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee. Get the progression around the circle of fifths at the end of the third line

 D7   bm   B7     em7   A7   D
Drive the dark of doubt a - way

and it sounds like Beethoven.

You get the idea.

Well, that’s the way dynamic equivalence works. There’s a key point to the communication and if you get that right you have a good translation. That was what I was getting at when I put up a post about a joke last year. Examples of the need to decide what the key point is just to wrest the text into English are everywhere in Scripture.

This Sunday’s sermon was on I John 2:18-27. The pew Bibles are NRSV. The first two verses read:
Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.
This is pretty much literally Greek although with one interesting deviation which I will mention later:
18 παιδία ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν καὶ καθὼς ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἀντίχριστος ἔρχεται καὶ νῦν ἀντίχριστοι πολλοὶ γεγόνασιν ὅθεν γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν 19 ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν ἀλλ' οὐκ ἦσαν ἐξ ἡμῶν εἰ γὰρ ἐξ ἡμῶν ἦσαν μεμενήκεισαν ἂν μεθ' ἡμῶν ἀλλ' ἵνα φανερωθῶσιν ὅτι οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες ἐξ ἡμῶν
Last night my wife asked me what I thought John meant. I believed I had a pretty good idea, but we thought we’d look and see what other, more English-sounding translations had, starting with Phillips:
Even now, dear children, we are getting near the end of things. You have heard, I expect, the prophecy about the coming of the anti-Christ. Believe me, there are anti-christs about already, which confirms my belief that we are near the end. These men went out from our company, it is true, but they never really belonged to it. If they had really belonged to us they would have stayed. In fact, their going proves beyond doubt that men like that were not "our men" at all.
And I was also interested in what Peterson’s take was:
Children, time is just about up. You heard that Antichrist is coming. Well, they're all over the place, antichrists everywhere you look. That's how we know that we're close to the end.

They left us, but they were never really with us. If they had been, they would have stuck it out with us, loyal to the end. In leaving, they showed their true colors, showed they never did belong.

So we started talking about whether you could argue from the Greek that it says:
Little children, the end is near! You have heard that a False Messiah, an opponent of the true Messiah, will arise. In fact, many have already become opponents of the true Messiah. That’s how we know the end is near. They were among us but they left. They aren't real believers. If they had been, they would have stayed. By leaving they have shown that they never were real believers.
The basic question is what are the key points John is making? It's pretty clear that they are:
1) the end of time will be soon
2) someone will show up who is the opposite of Jesus
3) there are former church people who oppose what is true
4) they aren't saved even though they were in the church
You can judge for yourself how well the translations (including mine) convey these ideas in English. All of them leave things out that are in the Greek, most notably the word play around the word ἀντίχριστος which can't be expressed in English. ἀντίχριστος is ambiguous meaning either the end times false Messiah or opponents of the Messiah in John’s time. I tried to capture that with some paraphrasing, and that, in turn, allows me to use the verb become in the third sentence, which is exactly what it says in Greek (γεγόνασιν). Ironically that makes my translation more literal than the literal one, at least on this point. This is a key point that the literal translation misses altogether.

In evaluating the translations you should ask yourself what are the key points? Does the translation get the key points right?

If so, that’s dynamic equivalence.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Christus Paradox

You, Lord, are both Lamb and Shepherd.
You, Lord, are both prince and slave.
You, peacemaker and swordbringer
Of the way you took and gave.
You the everlasting instant;
You, whom we both scorn and crave.

Clothed in light upon the mountain,
Stripped of might upon the cross,
Shining in eternal glory,
Beggar'd by a soldier's toss,
You, the everlasting instant;
You, who are both gift and cost.

You, who walk each day beside us,
Sit in power at God's side.
You, who preach a way that's narrow,
Have a love that reaches wide.
You, the everlasting instant;
You, who are our pilgrim guide.

Worthy is our earthly Jesus!
Worthy is our cosmic Christ!
Worthy your defeat and vict'ry.
Worthy still your peace and strife.
You, the everlasting instant;
You, who are our death and life.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.
You, who are our death and our life.

Sylvia Dunstan (1955-1993) graduated from Emmanuel College, University of Toronto, in 1980. She served as a United Church minister and women's prison chaplain. She was working an a metrical Psalter when she died at age 38 of cancer.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The she ass

I have only read the first paragraph of an article* on the defense of women preaching in the Reformation, but I must share it with you. I had heard of this before, but forgot. There has been a another buzz about gender accurate language, looking at the metaphorical potential of grammatical gender in the Hebrew Bible.

Here is an official apology to dear friends who I have clucked at in the past. May it never be said that I cannot laugh at myself - after the fact, of course. (This is not a major capitulation, maybe an indulgence.) Here is the opening of an article on K. S. Zell.
    N'est-il pas vrai que jadis une ânesse a parlé, et qu'elle a vu l'ange que le prophète n'a pas voulu voir. Katherina Schutz Zell (1498-1562)
This is not to say that she did not use other scriptures to justify women preaching, she did, but she also had an easy way to express the sense of Num. 22,
    Is it not true that once a she ass spoke, and she saw the angel that the prophet would not see.
How much the story loses in translation! It was, after all, a female donkey through whom God spoke to Balaam. Actually, the correct word is a "jenny."

I'll let you know later if anything else in this article relates to Bible translation.

Update: Towards the end of the article I found this mention of gender language in the first Psalm by Martin Bucer, 1491-1551,
    Bucer a voulu interpréter les premiers mots de l'hébreu 'ashre ha-'ish, de la manière suivante, "Béni soit la personne, homme ou femme, qui se donne à l'étude de la Loi divine," car, dit-il, "quand il est question de la piétié, toute distinction basée sur le sexe ou des choses extérieures doit être bannie."

    Bucer wanted to translate the first words of the Hebrew 'ashre ha-'ish, in the following manner, "Blessed is the person, man or woman, who gives themselves to the study of the divine law," for, he said, "when it is a question of piety, all distinction based on sex or exterior things should be banished."

*R. Gerald Hobbs. Le cri d'une pierre: la prédication de Katherina Schütz Zell dans son contexte religieux." Positions Luthériennes 47:2 Avril-Juin 1999.

Errata: I was mistaken in thinking that Zell made use of a feminine gender for the donkey in quoting from Numbers 22. She wrote,
    Hat doch ein esel ein mol geredt, und den engel gesehen, den der Prophet nit sehen wolt. Ist den ein wunder ob ich die wahrheit red, so ich doch ein Mensch byn.
Entschuldigung Katherina Schützinn für M. Matthes Zellen iren Eegemahel. Strasbourg. 1524. Sign. cii r.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Parallel Bibles: S. Bagster & Sons'

I take a risk in admitting that I have jumped into another series which will run in parallel to my continued exploration of Ps. 68 and the names of God.

However, I could not help but look for an appropriate response to these posts, Why are Christians satisfied with English-only Bibles? and Christianity is cross-cultural and cross-linguistic. The truth is that I am not sure of the answer.

On the one hand, Christianity seems to be a religion of translation, transmitted across cultures. The phenomenon of tongues was attested to in Acts 2:8. Peter puts the case well. On the other hand, I have a considerable interest in diglots and the like and I wonder, along with Iyov, why they are not more popular. I cannot think of Christians as those who are not attached to such things. I use a KJV-Greek diglot, 1901, regularly, and the Pagnini Psalter I refer to often is a Hebrew-Latin diglot. My impression is that diglots were quite prominent in the history of the church.

I am going to undertake a few posts on polyglots, parallel versions and interlinears, picking from one century and then another as the spirit moves. In this post I am going to reproduce the intoduction to the Catalogue of Samuel Bagster & Sons' Polyglot Bibles and Biblical Works, 1860.
    There are not many who can consult with confidence a display of Eight or Nine Languages; but the number is very great of persons who read with facility as many as two, or three, or four languages. To meet the wants of such, the Hebrew Text of this Polyglot Bible, as well as all the various Versions of which it is composed have been issued as separate and independent Volumes, of a pocket size; and to admit of their combination together as Diglot Bibles, and Edition of each has been prepared, which will interleave page opposite page with any other.

    This principal feature commends the plan of these Works specially to notice. The various languages are single, separate Volumes, complete in all respects, and yet afford their possessor, without trouble of inconvenience, the assistance of the costly editions of the libraries.

    An individual purchases a single language, and proceeds to study it-be it Greek, French, English, or what it may; he desires to compare the object of his study with another translation, or with the Original, and, possessing himself of it, he finds, to his inexpressible comfort, that he has only to refer to the same page, and part of the page, to obtain the desired comparison. He afterwards adds another and another Version to his library, and finds the same principle carried through the whole; and he obtains a Bible of two, three, four, or more languages, not only convenient for comparison with one another, but adapted to the various uses single pocket volumes. This arrangement affords the purchaser also the opportunities of providing himself only with those languages he may acquire; and supplies his wants in the most convenient, elegant, as well as inexpensive form possible.
I can't imagine that there is anything like the following in print now, although software is probably able to reproduce a similar effect. This is only a drop in the bucket of interleaved versions that Bagster & Sons' offered.
    Hebrew and English Scriptures, interleaved
    page for page, fcap. 8vo., price 1/5/- $6,25—Turkey
    morocco, $10
    Ditto, with a Hebrew Lexicon, 6/- $1,50 extra.
    Ditto, with the Greek and English New Testament
    Scriptures. This convenient pocket volume contains the
    Original Text of both Testaments with the Authorised
    English Version interleaved, price 1/15/- $8,75—Turkey
    morocco, $12,50
    Ditto, with Hebrew Lexicon and Greek Lexicon,
    10/6 $2,63 extra.
    Hebrew and Greek Septuagint, interleaved;
    with various readings, price 1/10/- $7,50—Turkey
    morocco, $11,25
    Ditto, with Greek New Testament, 5/- $1,25 extra.
    Ditto, with Hebrew New Testament, 5/- $1,25 extra.
    Hebrew, interleaved with the Vulgate
    Latin, price 1/4/- $6—Turkey morocco, $9,75
    Ditto, with the Greek New Testament, interleaved
    with the Vulgate Latin, 8/- $2 extra.
    Hebrew, with the German Version,
    price 1/4/- $6—Turkey morocco, $9,75
    Catalogue ; S. Bagster and Sons. . &
    Hebrew, interleaved with the French
    Version, price 1/4/- $6—Turkey morocco, $9,75
    Hebrew, with the Italian Version,
    price 1/4/- $6—Turkey morocco, $9,75
    Hebrew, with the Spanish Version,
    price 1/4/- $6—Turkey morocco, $9,75
    Hebrew, with the Portuguese Version,
    price 1/4/- $6—Turkey morocco, $9,75 %*
    The New Testament in Hebrew, or Greek, may be bound up with
    any of these Polyglot Bibles, 5/- $1,25 extra ; or the Greek New
    Testament, interleaved with either language, may be added, 8/—


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reception of the Bible

Since I am boycotting SBL along with Dave and Peter et al. I am going to try and catch up with a couple of conversations that have whipped right by me on John's blog and elsewhere. To start with the most recent conversation which interests me, John has written about the history of the reception of the Bible in a post about James Kugel.

While acknowledging the importance of a history of interpretation, John takes exception to Kugel's choice of a normative interpretation and writes,
    First of all, it must be emphasized, neither of the two eyes available to a modern interpreter - pre-traditional and traditional -€“ are his own. They are not eyes so much as lenses. It requires effort and training to read the Bible with either of the lenses. It is especially rewarding to read the Bible through both. A rich and unique perspective on the text is thereby laid open.

    The history of reception of the Bible in its entirety will interest a contemporary interpreter of the Bible. Kugel is exactly wrong to suggest that we cast one available lens aside, and be satisfied with the one he prefers.
This topic of the history of the reception of the Bible came up earlier in a comment by Iyov,
    Kugel's major contribution, in a series of books, has been to present a detailed reception history of the Scriptures.
In fact, what I have been attempting on this blog most easily fits into reception theory. One of my early contentions on joining this blog was that we are now going through a revolution in Biblical interpretation today in the English-speaking church as a whole to the effect that no individual English translation is normative. I would like to suggest that this is comparable in effect to the transition of the 16th century from Latin to vernacular language translations. Although the two transitions are not identical they have some characteristics in common.

In the last few decades, the KJV and RSV have been supplanted by a wide range of translations which compete for dominance, the (N)RSV, (T)NIV, NASB, ESV and NJKV to name a few. None of these have these have the features necessary to make them normative even within the narrow confines of evangelical Christianity, let alone across major denominational divides and different faith traditions. The academic community is somewhat better off with the NRSV occupying a place of general acceptance. The Jewish community has the NJPS and the Catholics, the NAB and NJB. Kevin Sam provides more detail in this insightful post.

While the present divergence is fascinating to study, it has been much more illuminating for me to explore the shifts in biblical interpretation in the 16th century. While I have not previously expressed an interest in Reception of the Bible on the blog, I have set about attempting to access some of the earliest versions of the Bible to be produced at the time of the Reformation. Fortunately, Coverdale recorded his use of four Bibles as the basis of his translation, Tyndale, Luther, Pagnini and the Zurich Bible of 1530. This outline is somewhat helpful.

The Blackwell Bible Commentaries provides a broad definition of the study of the reception of the Bible,

    The Blackwell Bible Commentaries series, the first to be devoted primarily to the reception history of the Bible, is based on the premise that how people have interpreted, and been influenced by, a sacred text like the Bible is often as interesting and historically important as what it originally meant. The series emphasizes the influence of the Bible on literature, art, music, and film, its role in the evolution of religious beliefs and practices, and its impact on social and political developments. Fundamental to the aims of this series is the conviction that what people believe a sacred text means, and how they actually use it can be studied with the same degree of sensitivity and rigour as its ‘original meaning’. By its nature, the emphasis of the series is emphatically an interdisciplinary project.

    Until quite recently this whole dimension of biblical studies has been for the most part totally neglected by modern biblical scholars. The goal of the commentary writer has been to get behind the centuries of accumulated Christian and Jewish tradition to one single meaning, normally identified with the author's original intention. The most important and distinctive feature of this new type of commentary is that it will present readers with many different interpretations of each text, in such a way as to heighten their awareness of what a sacred text, can mean and what it can do, what it has meant and what it has done, in the many contexts in which it operates. The Blackwell Bible Commentaries will consider patristic, rabbinic (where relevant), and medieval exegesis, interpretation from the Reformation and early modern period, as well as insights from various types of modern criticism, acquainting readers with a wide variety of interpretative techniques. Where relevant, reference will be made to questions of source criticism, date, authorship, and other historical critical and archaeological issues, but since these are comprehensively covered in existing commentaries, such references will be considered briefly as part of the history of interpretation.
This kind of study is not intended to compete with the quest for the author's original intention, but from my perspective it illuminates certain shifts in "Bible-based" doctrines, both how these are derived from contemporary Bible translation and interpretation, and these doctrines then feed into the next generation of Bible translation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shaddai in Modern Translations

Here are a few modern translations of Psalm 91:1,
    You who sit down in the High God's presence,
    spend the night in Shaddai's shadow, Message

    Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. NLT

    He who lives in the safe place of the Most High
    will be in the shadow of the All-powerful. New Life Version

    The one who lives under the protection of the Most High
    dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. HCSB

    Whoever goes to the LORD for safety,
    whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty TEV

    You who live in the secret place of Elyon,
    spend your nights in the shelter of Shaddai, NJB
And here a couple of the recent Jewish translations. Although I would not normally have access to these translations in electronic form, I was able to find this verse in a post on Psalm 91 on Iyov's blog.
    He who dwells in the Most High's shelter,
    in the shadow of Shaddai lies at night -- Alter

    O you who dwell in the shelter of Most High
    and abide in the protection of Shaddai -- NJPS
These translations illustrate well several of the elements of a literary approach to translation. The one element I have been focusing on in this series is the translation of a name of God - Shaddai, should it be translated, in this case not necessarily possible; transliterated, or replaced with its traditional translational equivalent, Almighty? On this point I would like to quote Iyov's comment,
    The Israeli scholar Yair Hoffman, noting its eloquent expression of God's unflagging providential protection, has interestingly characterized the poem as an "amulet psalm" with the idea that its recitation might help a person attain or perhaps simply feel God's guarding power.
Some translators might wish to retain a traditional translational equivalent for Shaddai in consideration of the role of the Psalm in a particular faith community.

Other literary elements that seem rather obvious, but are nonetheless of varying difficulty to accomodate in translation, are: word order, alliteration, rhythm and meter, the use of figurative vs non-figurative language in translation, and as John raises here, the use of grammatical gender in metaphor.

Ultimately a translator has to account for the overall construction of the couplet in such a way that the second half relates to the first half in a way that imitates the original.

In this connection, I would like to mention a post by Ros Clarke who has translated Psalm 80.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

in defense of desire

On the compegal blog Paula has quoted from God's Word to Women by Katherine Bushnell. I won't recap the discussion here, but I want to throw a pebble in the pond, so to speak. Bushnell mentions the history of the word teshuqa in Gen. 3:16. What was teshuqa in the curse of Eve? Some bloggers have watched in utter befuddlement as this issue is discussed at great length.

For the record, here are a few variations on a theme,
    καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἡ ἀποστροφή σου LXX
    and to your husband your turning*

    et sub viri potestate eris Vulgate
    and under the power of the husband you will be

    ad virum tuum eris desiderium* tuum Pagnini
    towards your husband will be your longing

    and thy lust shal pertayne vnto yi hußbande Coverdale

    and thy desire shal be subiect to thine husbande, Geneva

    and thy desire shall be to thy husband, KJV

    and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, D-R

    et te soumettras à ton mari, Olivétan (Calvin)
    and you will submit to your husband

    Your desire shall be for[a] your husband ESV
    (a) or against
These are the major variations as I know it. Here is the complementarian interpretation.
    Eve would now rebel against the God-given authority of her husband
I have been exploring a new interlinear Septuagint here. In contrast, it translates apostrophe as "submission"
    and to your husband your submission
So the curse of Eve can be either "submission to" or "rebellion against" male authority or anything else mentioned above.

No problem, Biblical interpretation is a free for all. However, I did want to share this with Paula, and Molly, so they know that there are not 2000 years of straight teaching about women rebelling.

In fact, history shows that biblical interpretation was and is a lot more varied and humane than that.

Historically the theories have included these ideas, that the curse of Eve is that she is under the power of her husband, or that she desires her husband even though her chances of dying in childbirth are considerable, or that she longs for her husband as one longs for something that one has lost. I think you get the message. These interpretations were for the most part initiated by men, and betray, to my mind, a fellow human feeling.

If the curse of man is that the ground is hard to till, then ask yourself how many women worldwide share that curse? More than a few. And so how many men share the curse of Eve, the longing for something lost?

* ἀποστροφή - turning away, however, explicitly "towards the husband", (Is it a turning away from God to the husband?)

* desiderium - a longing, ardent desire or wish, properly for something once possessed; grief, regret for the absence or loss of any thing.

PS If you want to know what teshuqa really means, ask John.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reading level stats

Suzanne recently posted on Bible version reading levels. Here is a followup guest post by English teacher Tim Carr:
I looked at that chart which the ESV Blog has recently posted. And it has been mentioned on your site also. I'm speaking of Bible Text Stats. I thought I would summarize only some of the info which I find interesting. First the syllables per word category. I was stunned that the KJV, ESV, NASB all had only a 1.3 average. More amazingly the NIrV was in this group. The NLT, NIV, NRSV, HCSB, and NKJ all were in the 1.4 range. ( BTW, I am not sure if the NLT is the 96' or 04' version ).

I'll go from highest to lowest in the next two categories. And I will only reference 8 versions.

This section reflects how many sentences were used.

1) NIrV-- 95,999 --That was no surprise. That version is thick !
2) NLT -- 52,787-- I like that amount of sentences. Not too many and yet not too few.
3)HCSB--46,394-- That's better than the mid to low 30's.
4) NIV --- 39,873-- If it's almost the same as the TNIV, then the number of sentences need to increase.
5) ESV--- 36,457 -- Too few.
6) NKJ -- 34,837 -- Ditto the above.
7) NRSV -34,217 --Same
8) NASB -33,224 -- The rankings of 5-8 are within 3,233 sentences.


1) NIrV -- -873,450 -- That's too many for a person of average or above average reading ability. But, I like some of the wording.
2) HCSB -872,271 -- Is that surprising or what ? It came so close to the range of the NIrV.
3) ESV --804,566 --
4) NKJ --- 803,611 --
5) NASB -784,841 --
6) NLT --782,244 --
7) NRSV -780,660--
8) NIV --741,065 --

I'm not sure how to react to this data. The number of words alone doesn't mirror the reading level. But I like thinner Bibles! Did you notice that the NRSV came in 7th place twice ? We knew that the NIrV would rank as it does.

Words per sentence

1) NASB -- 23.6
2) NKJ --- 23.1
3) NRSV ---22.8
4) ESV -----22.1
5) HCSB----18.8
6) NIV -------18.6
7) NLT -------14.8
8) NIrV --------9.1

I think being in the mid-teen range is ideal. So the NLT gets my vote. Translations 1 through 4 are too wordy. These versions need to reduce the number of words per sentence so texts will read more smoothly.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Broken bodies

    καὶ εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν
    καὶ εἶπεν τοῦτό μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα
    τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶντοῦτο
    ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν
    And when he had given thanks,
    he broke it, and said,
    "This is my body which is for you.
    Do this in remembrance of me. ESV

    And when he had given thanks,
    he broke it, and said,
    "This is my body which is broken for you.
    Do this in my memorial. (ESV inserting footnotes)

    And when he had given thanks,
    he brake it, and said,
    Take, eat: this is my body,
    which is broken for you:
    this do in remembrance of me. KJV
Some verses, those which have become part of the liturgy, are hard to change.
    For even hereunto were ye called:
    because Christ also suffered for us,
    leaving us an example,
    that ye should follow his steps:
Some have indeed followed in his steps. Let us remember them.

Broken Ground by Jack Hodgkins is a good novel about WWI. And here is a poem by Wilfred Owen. Only 22 years old in 1915, he wrote,
    "I came out in order to help these boys--directly by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can. I have done the first."
He was killed three years later.
    The Parable of the Young Man and the Old

    So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
    And took the fire with him, and a knife.
    And as they sojourned, both of them together,
    Isaac the first-born spake, and said, My Father,
    Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
    But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
    Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
    And builded parapets the trenches there,
    And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
    When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
    Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
    Neither do anything to him. Behold,
    A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
    Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
    But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
    And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

    Wilfred Owen

    "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

More from Tyler at Codex. We had a very solemn Remembrance Day service at our school with a recitation of In Flanders Field, and then the choir sang Dona Nobis Pacem.

Update: Doug has a related post here.

Tagged for Ephesians 4:7

Mike has tagged me for a translation of Ephesians 4:7.
    ἑνὶ δὲ ἑκάστῳ ἡμῶν ἐδόθη ἡ χάρις κατὰ τὸ μέτρον τῆς δωρεᾶς τοῦ Χριστοῦ
It seems fairly straightforward,
    But to each one of us grace has been given according to the portion given by Christ.
Here is an excerpt from Mike's post,

    Most translations go with something like:

    But the grace was given to each one of you according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

    This last phrase is a genitive nightmare. And the following translations more or less give the same rendering: ISV, NASB95, NRSV, HCSB, KJV, NET, ESV.

    The NIV and TNIV were the only ones different:

    But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

I would like to add a few more translations,
    Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The Message

    Christ has generously divided out his gifts to us. CEV

    Each one of us has received a special gift in proportion to what Christ has given. GNB

    Each of us has been given his gift, his due portion of Christ's bounty NEB
So the question here seems to be whether the second phrase is simply "the portion Christ has given" or "according to the portion of Christ's generosity". Is generosity intended to be emphasized in this verse? I don't really think so. In fact, the "measure" is explained in verse 13 - the full stature of Christ. Not that this isn't generosity, but I think the sense is that Christ wants us to be adults, that is the full stature.

There are a couple of approaches then,
    But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift ESV, NASB

    But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it TNIV, NIV
In my opinion, the shift in tense in the (T)NIV is more accurate. Tenses do not agree across languages and should not be made to. The word order is better in the (T)NIV, but the ESV reproduces the second reference to "gift". The problem with my translation is that it repeats "given" but so does the Greek although in different forms. I understand why the (T)NIV did what it did,
    But to each one of us grace has been given according to the portion given by Christ. (mine)

    But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it TNIV, NIV
Well, mine is more literal, but the (T)NIV reads more smoothly. I hope that helps, Mike.

Shaddai - reflections

The study of Shaddai has completely taken me by surprise. I had thought when I began that Shaddai meant Almighty. In fact, this is the meaning and translation that I have found most frequently on the internet and in other resources. However, now I see that "Almighty" comes from Lord of Hosts.

I have also found that the traditional lexical etymology attributed it to shadad, destruction or overwhelming power. It is in reaction to this that many have pointed out that it could just as well be from shad, breast. I have no insight into the etymology of Shaddai, none whatsoever. I am fascinated, however, by the indelible influence of the traditional translation "Almighty". This is neither a transliteration, nor a translation, but comes from Pantocrator, the original LXX translation of "Lord of Hosts" or "Lord of Armies".

There should be a name for a translational equivalence such as "Almighty" for Shaddai. Possibly we could call this a "traditional corresponding term" or simply a "traditional translational equivalent." The truth is that we don't want to devalue these terms. "The Almighty" has become the name of God for many people. I don't want to imply that this is not valid, it is a traditional equivalent. It may have become the name of God for many people, but it is not a literal translation.

So the other path that some follow is that of looking for a contrasting etymology. As some have insisted on finding a masculine and "power full" etymology in Shaddai, others have looked for the nurturing God, the God of the womb. These people have argued vociferously for "breast" as the origin of the name Shaddai.

We need to understand this "seeking for the feminine" etymology within the context of an equally fictitiously constructed masculine etymology.

For me, God is neither masculine nor feminine, nor do I scour the Bible trying to find matching feminine and masculine images for God. For me, God is imaged in the Good Shepherd of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, He is to us as the shepherd is to sheep and gender is irrelevant. He is creator to creature, and maker to made, "Sufficient" to Naomi and Job alike.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Shaddai - Sufficient

Update: Mark comments,

Shaddai is also translated with hikanos in Job 21.15; 31.2; and 40.2.
A great tool for doing exactly what you hope to do in lining up the Hebrew with the LXX is the way Tov's Parallel Aligned Hebrew and LXX is implemented in BibleWorks7. I've posted about it a couple times here and here.


I finally found it. Apologies. I had no idea of this translation. In the Septuagint, in Ruth 1:20, Shaddai is translated as "sufficient" or "enough" - hikanos.
    21 καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτάς μὴ δὴ καλεῖτέ με Νωεμιν καλέσατέ με Πικράν ὅτιἐπικράνθη ἐν ἐμοὶ ὁ ἱκανὸς σφόδρα

    She said to them, Call me no longer Noemin, call me Bitter, for the Sufficient One was greatly embittered against me. NETS

    She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. ESV

    “Don’t call me ‘Naomi’! Call me ‘Mara’ because the Sovereign One has treated me very harshly. NET.

    But she said, "Don't call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow. Message
This took me by surprise. I didn't realize how many different ways Shaddai had been translated in the LXX and everywhere else. There is more to come.

What amazes me is the different slant put on this name, from "sufficient" to "sovereign" to "strong one". For the first time, I really wish I had some searching software. I would like to quickly line up all the cases of Shaddai in the Hebrew with their translation in the Septuagint. I am almost, but not quite, finished doing this one by one.

NETS - New English Translation of the Septuagint is available here in electronic form.
NET - New English Translation.
Other translations from


Reading Levels at Amazon

Many thanks to the ESV Bible Blog for joining the conversation on reading level statistics. They have posted a chart representing reading level statistics from Amazon. I am unsurprised to see that the King James Version has less complex sentence structure than most other translations.

It is a good bit of fun to compare the stats provided by the ESV blog with those found here. Just as you don't want to read only one Bible translation, you also don't want to read only one set of reading level statistics.

On the ESV chart, which displays statistics generated by, the order of reading level from high to low is NRSV, ESV, KJV. On the chart supplied at the order is KJV, NRSV, ESV.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Shaddai - Heavenly

I can't find the meaning "Heavenly" for Shaddai mentioned anywhere but it is how Shaddai was translated in the Psalms of the Septuagint. Shaddai occurs only twice in the Psalms, once in Ps. 68:14 and once in Ps. 91:1. This verse forms such a lovely couplet in which we see varying types of alliteration and metaphor, that I can't resist writing about it.

So, today Ps. 91:1 to keep company with ElShaddai, John, Bob and others. Here it is in the various versions.
    יֹשֵׁב בְּסֵתֶר עֶלְיוֹן
    בְּצֵל שַׁדַּי יִתְלוֹנָן

    yoshev beseter elyon
    betzel shaddai yitlonan

    ὁ κατοικῶν ἐν βοηθείᾳ τοῦ ὑψίστου
    ἐν σκέπῃ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ αὐλισθήσεται

    Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi,
    in protectione Dei cæli commorabitur. Vulgate (Old Latin)

    Qui habitat in abscondito Excelsi
    in umbraculo Domini commorabitur Jerome Iuxta Hebraica

    Qui habitat in abscondito Altissimi
    Et in umbra Omnipotentis commoratur Pagnini

    Wer unter dem Schirm des Höchsten sitzt
    und unter dem Schatten des Allmächtigen bleibt, Luther

    Wer im Schutz des Höchsten wohnt,
    bleibt im Schatten des Allmächtigen Elberfelder

    Du, der im Versteck des Höchsten sitzt,
    im Schatten des Gewaltigen darf nachten, Buber Rosenzweig

    Celui qui se tient dans la demeure du Souverain,
    se loge à l'ombre du Tout-Puissant. David Martin

    Celui qui demeure sous l'abri du Très Haut
    Repose à l'ombre du Tout Puissant. Segond

    He that dwellith in the help of the hiyeste God;
    schal dwelle in the proteccioun of God of heuene. Wycliff

    Who so dwelleth vnder ye defence of the most hyest,
    & abydeth vnder ye shadowe of ye allmightie Coverdale

    Whosoeuer sitteth vnder the couer of the most highest:
    he shal abide vnder the shadowe of the almightie. Bishops

    Who so dwelleth in the secrete of the most High,
    shall abide in the shadowe of the Almightie. Geneva

    He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High
    shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. KJV

    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
    who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, RSV

    He that dwelleth in the aid of the most High,
    shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob. Douay-Rheims

Here Shaddai is the "God of heaven" in the LXX and Old Latin. In Ps. 68, Shaddai is Heavenly. The translation "Almighty" and its equivalents does not seem to have been standardized until the 16th century. The Buber-Rosenzweig has Gewaltig, a word rather difficult to translate. However, it does have an association with height and mountains. The Douay Rheims translation of the "God of Jacob" is a bit of a surprise. One gets the notion the translator didn't know what to do with it but has identified Shaddai well.

Luther's is the earliest to show alliteration, and in English, the RSV . However, the KJV is significantly more euphonic than the previous English translations. The French translation also became alliterative with Louis Segond. I find the Elberfelder translation to be a slight improvement on Luther's alliteration and shows the reverse word order in the second line. One surprise is that the KJ was the first to use the masculine generic pronoun "he".


Reading Levels revisted

Sorry for pushing the reading level thing. It was a bit of a bust.

There really is no such thing as a "reading level". That's right. I know. I am in charge of assessing reading levels of all kinds of books and all kinds of kids, have done this for years and years. So what's the score?

Just this. A text or a person has reading level score on such and such a reading level assessment instrument. I am sorry to be so tedious about it, but publishing reading levels without identifying the instrument isn't worth much. A little bit of research brought me to this website where you can put in your URL and get a breakdown of the analysis, including syllables per word and words per sentence.

I tried some of the same ones I blogged about the other day and came up with grade 11 for the "genius level" posts, and grade 8 for my "junior high" post. This assessment offers a Flesch-Kincaid readability score. Therefore I was also able to assess the posts in the Flesch Kincaid reading level assessment tool in MS Word. (Scroll down this page to learn how to use FKRS in MS Word.) I found that when I put the URL of a particular post into the website mentioned above, it was rated at grade 11, but when I put the same post into a Word document and ran the FK reading level, it received a grade 12 rating. This seems to demonstrate that the sidebar does affect the reading level somewhat.

However, I then checked a few pages of the King James Bible in MS Word and Matt. 2 came out at grade 8 and Romans 3 at grade 4. Elsewhere the King James Bible is rated at grade 12. What I really want to know is what assessment is used to rate the King James at a grade 12 reading level, if I am scoring Paul at grade 4.

This is why I don't like to talk reading levels.

Here, ElShaddai links to four websites which provide reading levels for different Bible versions. However, I was unable to find the assessment instrument for the readability scores on any of the websites. One did, however, mention this,
    Not everyone will agree about the reading difficulty level of every translation. The grade levels above are offered as general guidelines, and wherever possible, are taken from information provided by the publishers of the various translations.

    In the case of some translations such as the KJV, we've gone with a generally accepted grade level or range of grade levels.


The most interesting thing about this whole exercise is how susceptible we are to suggestion. On ElShaddai's site, one commenter attributes his post grad rated blog to reading Paul in the NASB. Now think about it. His blog is rated at "post grad" (on the FK scale Grade 12) and Paul's writing in the NASB is rated on the FK scale at grade 7 for Romans 8. (This was after I carefully removed verse numbers and arranged it into paragraphs so it would not be too contaminated by versification.) And the link is?

Well, you can see that you can play with this stuff all day. I am sure there must be an explanation for this somewhere.

If anyone knows of a reading level assessment instrument that rates the King James Bible at grade 12, I would be interested. Obviously it is rating more than syllables per word and sentence length. Archaic vocabulary must play into it.

Further insight into this would be most welcome. I would like to know exactly how the reading levels of Bibles are scored since it does not seem to be the FK.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Hexaglot Bible

I experienced a rare treat this evening reading the *Hexaglot Bible in the VST library. I laid Jerome's Psalms, translated from the Hebrew, beside it for a perfect seven. I read through a psalm or two, noting the shifting landscape, as terms for the name of God evolved through the Greek and Hebrew into a more uniform rendering in the 16th century. Of the modern language translations, I found the German used more alliteration and rhythm than the English or French although they all contrasted favourably with modern translations.

The French translation was David Martin's revision (1744) of the Olivétan Bible, which was Calvin's Bible. While it is not identical to the original Olivétan, (1535) or the earlier Lefevre Bible, which my mother used to talk about so much, it has the virtue of being available in electronic form. A history of French Bible translation is found here.

*The hexaglot Bible; comprising the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in the original tongues, together with the Septuagint, the Syriac (of the New Testament), the Vulgate, the authorized English, and German, and the most approved French versions; arranged in parallel columns
. 1901.

Blame it on your Sidebar

I laughed until I cried. Try out you blog's reading level. Here is who you are up against.

Me on the BBB (where I am talking to an audience) - Junior High School
Me on Suzanne's Bookshelf (where I am talking to myself) - Post Grad
Pen and Parchment - Junior High School
Jim West - High School
This post of mine - Undergrad
Iyov - Post Grad
John - Genius

I finally formulated the notion that if you are posting your own prose you might score lower or higher than if you are posting cut and paste copy. So the very curious and somewhat naughty Suzanne put two of Iyov's posts into this gadget and found out that his own writing scores as Genius, and his cut and paste copy scores as - Genius. Hmm. Must be the sidebar that is dragging him down.
HT: Mike Aubrey