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CD-Host

John --

I'm glad to see someone sharp making a pro-ESV case relative to the NRSV. I haven't seen one yet so I think its a good thing.

Now onto Psalms 2:1. First off this is poetry so except for the most literal translations I'm going to want something that works poetically. And it is not just the dictionaries are split between conspire and angry the translations are too:


NJPS: assemble
NET: rebel
NRSV: conspire
NLT: so angry
NIV: conspire
KJV family: rage
NJB: uproar
NEB/REB: turmoil
Anchor: forgather
etc...

I think the NRSV captures the parallelism well:
nations conspire, people plot

while the ESV has
nations rage and the people plot in vain
which makes less sense in context.

I'm not an expert but given the division of the experts and the context I'd go for conspire as well. Sorry but I just don't see this as a clear win for the ESV.

As for Psalm 1:1
Are women who don't walk in the counsel of the wicked not blessed? That's the implication of specifying men there, in modern English. This is a well worn debate but again I don't think it is reasonable since it comes down to a fundamental choice whether masculine denies the feminine or not which is a matter of core translation philosophy. You are criticizing the NRSV for one of its core translation principles. That's not saying they did a bad job, rather that is simply disagreeing with their theology.

So again not a clear cut case.

JohnFH

CD,

With respect to the Hebrew verb in question in Psalm 2, sorry, its sense simply is not "conspire."

The translations who so render are tidying up the parallelism of the source text on the principle that the parallelism should be stricter. But that is unfaithful to the poetry of Psalm 2, whose approach to parallelism is freer, not just in 2:1, but in 2:2 and elsewhere.

KJV, ESV, REB, NJB, and NLT win this round. NRSV, NIV, and TNIV lose. The only way one might claim otherwise would be by disassociating the sense of the verb in question in biblical Hebrew from its use in Dead Sea Scrolls Hebrew. That would be linguistically inappropriate. The correct meaning of the verb in question was already understood before the discovery of the DSS. See BDB; now, HALOT.

With respect to NRSV's translation principle according to which singulars must be pluralized to avoid the masculine singular pronoun, I stand by my criticism. But you're right, at least they are up front about what they are doing.

TNIV takes the same approach.

On the other hand, NJB avoids the masculine singular pronoun in this psalm, but keeps the singular. In a case like Psalm 1, surely that is the way to go if one is allergic to masculine pronouns.

I take it you need more examples. They are legion! I will give more in upcoming posts.

Tony Siew

Dear John, I read all the versions you listed except NJPSV. In class, sometimes I bring 4 or 5 Bibles just to illustate a point based on the original language. My problem with the NRSV is with "pluralizing the singulars" as you noted. For example, in Mark 6:4, NRSV has "prophets are not without honour" while the most other versions have "a prophet is not without honour". Translating the singular as plural misses the point altogether. Jesus is referring to himself as a prophet; He is not speaking about "prophets" generally or "prophets" as a class. BTW, thanks for inviting me to list the five books. Done.

JohnFH

Hi Tony,

Excellent example! And thanks for the doing the book meme:

http://cherubim77.blogspot.com/2009/06/five-books.html

Augustine and Calvin are absolute classics, Eric and Carol Myers' Anchor Bible commentary is a splendid example of careful and informed exegesis, and Meynet's work deserves a wide reading (I've reviewed it on this blog).

CD-Host

John --

i don't think it is that simple. Lets take an orthodox Jewish translation (judaica Press) they use "gather". And this goes back 800 years Rashi uses Gather


Why have nations gathered: Our Sages (Ber. 7b) expounded the passage as referring to the King Messiah, but according to its apparent meaning, it is proper to interpret it as referring to David himself, as the matter is stated (II Sam. 5:17): “And the Philistines heard that they had anointed David as king over Israel, and all the Philistines went up to seek, etc.,” and they fell into his hands. Concerning them, he says, “Why have nations gathered,” and they all gathered....
link.

The passage he is comparing it to is "came up to seek". I don't want this to turn into an is-to is-not debate but I have a hard time time believing Rashi is casually changing the meaning of the text because he doesn't like the style of Hebrew poetry. At the very least this seems open to debate.

JohnFH

CD,

Two points:

(1) Rashi and NJPSV are on the same page, but not NRSV and Rashi. Even if Rashi were right, NRSV's translation remains a mis-translation, against its own translation philosophy: as literal as possible, as free as necessary.

(2) As Gruber notes in his edition of Rashi's Psalms commentary, "gather" or "assemble" reflects Rashi's exegesis of the passage. It is understood that it is not quite on target. Still, it is relatively close. Waves of the sea can be said to "throng" or "gather," but really, the verb seems to carry a reference to noise made (see the DSS texts). KJV-RSV-ESV is the better translation, over against NRSV. Jerome has a translation that is half-way between Rashi and the Iuxta LXX (fremuerunt); I like it: Quare turbabuntur gentes.

Jerome's translation of the cognate noun in Ps 63 (MT Ps 64) is also superb: a tumultu operantium iniquitatem. This is better than the Iuxta LXX: a multitudine operantium iniquitatem.

The one translation that does not adhere to the Hebrew except in the loosest sense is NIV and NRSV "conspire." Rashi cannot be used to defend this mis-translation.

BTW, if a translation's approach is avowedly paraphrastic, like NLT - which however correctly retains "rage" - "conspire" might be thought acceptable. But NRSV has to judged against its own stated translation approach. Here it is wanting.

No big deal. Every translation has flaws of this nature. If you want to protect yourself from such flaws, you have only one choice: master ancient Hebrew.

Doug Chaplin
If you want to pick an argument with me, tell me why NRSV, ESV, TNIV, NLT – pick your poison – is poorly conceived, dangerous, or otherwise too flawed to recommend to others
I have taken up your challenge here
JohnFH

Thanks, Doug, for taking the challenge. This promises to be a helpful and lively discussion. I will be posting more on these matters, and will give you plenty of points to take issue with.

Bob MacDonald

John - is there a problem with using 'it' for the pronouns in psalm 1 that refer to the tree? I find 'his' there really offputting for the integrity of the metaphor. I see lots of translations using 'its' here

JohnFH

Hi Bob,

I've waffled between those two alternatives myself. I'm not sure there are decisive arguments for either alternative. The question deserves further study.

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