“How are we to speak German, as these asses do?”
Martin Luther is pissed. He often was. No prissy Latin for him. He wanted good earthy language for his translation of the Bible into the vernacular.
“Rather we must inquire about this of the mother in the home, the children on the street, the common man in the marketplace. We must be guided by their language, the way they speak, and do our translating accordingly. That way they will understand it and recognize that we are speaking German to them.”
How then does the good doctor handle our contested idiom?
Metaphor for metaphor. Pretty sly:
Er fand ihn in der Wüste,
in der dürren Einöde, da es heult.
Er umfing ihn und hatte acht auf ihn;
er behütete ihn wie seinen Augapfel.
He found him in the wilderness,
in a barren waste of howling.
He shielded him and cared for him,
he guarded him like the apple of his eye.
“Augapfel”: a dread metaphor, the same one used later in the KJV. The children of Luther’s street apparently understood it.
But not our kids. They don’t get metaphors. They are literal-minded, according to Luther’s would-be heirs, who translate: “He guarded them as those he loved very much” (The International Children’s Bible, touted by Max Lucado). “Ouch!” level accuracy makes way for “It hurts me” accuracy on this approach to translation.
Luther’s translation has rhythm and spring to it. It even captures the onomatopoeia of the Hebrew in translation (heulen = ילל). Here’s my hunch. Luther noticed that German mothers of the “Kinder, Kuche, und Kirche” school could handle these things. Here is another example of the doctor at work:
Denn so spricht der HERR Zebaoth:
Er hat mich gesandt nach Ehre
zu den Heiden, die euch beraubt haben;
denn wer euch antastet,
der tastet seinen Augapfel an.
(Zechariah 2:8 = 2:12 in the Hebrew)
For thus said the Lord Sabaoth:
He sent me for honor
to the Gentiles who rob you;
for whoever touches you
touches the apple of his eye.
But it would be a shame to preserve the word-play and the figure of speech of the source text for the benefit of our children, wouldn’t it? The translators of the DE CEV come to the rescue. You decide what DE stands for in this instance. The perps of the DE CEV do away with the source’s parsimony, language of touch, and poetic feel, and throw this word-bomb at us:
Zion is as precious to the LORD as are his eyes.
Whatever you do to Zion, you do to him.
20 words in English for 6 in the Hebrew. I talk exactly like that to my children. They don’t get gapping, so I make what I’m talking about fully explicit, not once, but twice.
I love to tell them, “you are as precious to me as my eyes are to me.”
Where’s a barf bag when you need one?