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Doug Chaplin

The angels may speak Hebrew amongst themselves. But you forget that they speak to Yahweh in (mainly Tudor) English.

JohnFH

Good comeback, Doug. That's another language David - and I - need to work on: Tudor English.

Peter Kirk

Did David say all Bibles must be at 5th grade level? I didn't. But they don't need to be in a language which even you need to work on either.

I won't speak for past generations of songwriters. But as for current ones, I don't know what contemporary songs they sing at Paola's cool sounding church, but the ones we sing at my church mostly, although not invariably, use good modern English which is understood by our congregation members, probably even the 5th grader equivalents. I don't know if the songwriters field test them before publishing them, but they certainly get field tested afterwards, and if found wanting by the discerning crowds of young and not so young churchgoers they quickly find their way on to the massive heap of new songs which are never sung.

JohnFH

Peter,

These are the kind of songs one might hear in a groovin’ church today – you are welcome to field-test the language with 5th or 8th graders of your choosing:

Johnny Cash
"The Man Comes Around"

"And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder. One of the four beasts saying, 'Come and see.' and I saw, and behold a white horse"
There's a man goin' 'round takin' names,
And he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won't be treated all the same,
There'll be a golden ladder reachin' down.
When the man comes around.
The hairs on your arm will stand up,
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
Will you partake of that last offered cup,
Or disappear into the potter's ground?
When the man comes around.
Hear the trumpets hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin'.
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettledrum.
Voices callin', voices cryin'.
Some are born and some are dyin'.
It's alpha and omega's kingdom come,
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks,
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks,
Till Armageddon no shalam, no shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home,
The wise man will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they'll cast their golden crowns,
When the man comes around.
Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still.
Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still.
Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still.
Listen to the words long written down,
When the man comes around.
Hear the trumpets hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin'.
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettledrum.
Voices callin', voices cryin'.
Some are born and some are dyin'.
It's alpha and omega's kingdom come,
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks,
The whirlwind is in the thorn trees.
It's hard for thee to kick against the prick,
In measured hundredweight and penny pound,
When the man comes around.

Darlene Zschech
Better I Swear

and you try so hard to get over it
but thought of it just makes you sick
and your friends worry cause you can not eat
and you carve at night and cry yourself to sleep
and he's long gone from here
it just seems so unfair
it'll get better i swear
if he can't bother writing you won't bother to call
and if he can't bother caring you won't bother at all
cause it's something you're born with it's something you've known
and it's something you'll live with and you'll live it alone
cause you're long gone from here
it just seems so unfair
it'll get better i swear
it's got to get easier
it'll get better...better i swear
it was an accidental suicide
the only help you knew how to cry
on a school night you broadcasted live to the whole world
now the pundits all politicize
and the networks want it televised
they vie to pay the highest price for the footage
they put your face on tv screens
and on covers to sell their magazines
talk shows vilify your music scene for some ratings
you've become the latest ad campaign
they're cashing in on all your pain
they Che you up just to make a buck
it's a disgusting display

I don't know what some of the phrases exactly mean either, though the second, because it is less biblical, is relatively easier to understand. But it doesn't matter. That's my point. The Bible is a like any classic, like a Disney flick; you will catch what you need to at whatever age and understanding is yours, if you have a decent context in which to absorb it (where the Holy Spirit is at work, in Christian terms).

Peter Kirk

Well, maybe they sing this kind of stuff at Paola's church, but in my church we praise and worship God in our contemporary songs. I suppose the Johnny Cash piece is arguably that, but it is certainly not for suitable for congregational singing.

JohnFH

But there are plenty of passages in the Bible, among the Psalms as well, which are remarkable for archaic language and unusual turns of phrase, the kind of thing one expects in poetry. And let's not forget about Job or the prophets. So it's not just Johnny Cash.

Yet you wish for a translation of the Bible that removes these features from the text. I consider your attitude disrespectful of the work of the Holy Spirit. Now, if you say, there is a place for translations at a 5th grade or 8th grade level, I'm fine with that. But I want the Bible that is read in worship to be faithful to the stylistic choices of the original.

Peter Kirk

I accept that there are "unusual turns of phrase" in biblical Hebrew poetry, and I accept these in worship songs as well. As for "archaic language", language which was actually archaic when it was written, I know that the book of Esther (which is not poetry) has been thought to be this, but is there any evidence that any Psalms or even Job were archaic when they were written? Of course they later became archaic, which is why they have to be translated into modern language.

Anyway I think you are putting words into my mouth by suggesting that I am calling for any features of the original text to be removed from Bibles read in church. What I was writing about here was worship songs.

JohnFH

Peter,

I am delighted if you are now willing to preserve archaic language, unusual turns of phrase, and so on, in the Bible if not in worship songs. Perhaps, after all, you might even admit there is a place for language such as atonement and justification, and extra-biblical language as well, such as the Trinity.

It is well-known that songs like Exodus 15, Deut 32, Judges 5, and Habakkuk 3 are chock full of archaic language and unusual turns of phrase. Less often, but still frequently, as one expects in poetry, phrases and syntactic figures that would not pass field-testing now or then are found throughout the prophets, psalms, wisdom literature, and, I dare say, the various NT genres.

On top of that, an author might use specialized terminology on occasion, as in Isa 40-48 with respect to idol-making. Then as now, not everyone by any means would get every word or idiom.

Once again, I would suggest that this is constitutive of human communication. I do not wish to deny the beauty and helpfulness of a simplified version of scripture, or a clear paraphrase of its contents. If I did, it would be the same as saying that I thought the exposition of scripture is unnecessary.

On the contrary, the exposition of scripture has been a highly prized discipline and gift within the life of God's people ab initio. But notice that, until recently, no one thought to simplify the Bible itself in translation.

Peter Kirk

If you prove to me that dikaioo in the letters of Paul was archaic Greek, I will accept that it can validly be translated with an archaic (in this sense) English word like "justify".

The poems you mention are probably much older than the rest of the Hebrew Bible. They do not represent deliberate archaism by their authors, who presumably wrote in the natural language of their times. I accept that when they were incorporated into longer books they were already archaic in style and perhaps in vocabulary. That might provide some justification (in the strictly contemporary sense of this word!) for using somewhat more archaic language in translation of these rather small parts of the Bible, to reflect their distinctive style, perhaps with a footnote at each of these places to explain the unusual translation. It does not justify general use of archaic language throughout a Bible translation.

But notice that, until recently, no one thought to simplify the Bible itself in translation.

Nonsense! I have noticed what people long ago like Jerome and Luther wrote about the need for the Bible itself to be in language which ordinary people understand.

JohnFH

Peter,

you say,

That might provide some justification (in the strictly contemporary sense of this word!) for using somewhat more archaic language in translation of these rather small parts of the Bible, to reflect their distinctive style, perhaps with a footnote at each of these places to explain the unusual translation. It does not justify general use of archaic language throughout a Bible translation.

In other words, you feel under no obligation to respect the stylistic choices of the authors of scripture, but if someone does, you will not lambast them. I'll take it!

Dikaioo as used by Paul was not archaic Greek, but it was technical terminology. Preachers of DE, I've noticed, really don't like technical terminology. They try to do away with it.

You might take a look at how Jerome and Luther actually translate. It is a rhetorical trick to cite them as the patron saints of DE translation style. They preferred to Hebraize and Greek-ize where possible, even if it meant coining new phrases. They expected far more of their readers than do DE translators.

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