Some translation oddities
Reading the daily lectionary, I have found some odd translation choices in terms of English usage in some different translations. The following readings come from today’s (Sep. 21) readings. With earlier readings from other days I noticed other odd or awkward phrasings. My goal is not to extensively deal with each text, but look at the English word choice and style used to translate the Hebrew.
Hebrew: וַיִּמָּלֵ֨ךְ לִבִּ֜י עָלַ֗י, roughly “my heart was counseled upon me.”
NAS I consulted with myself
ESV I took counsel with myself
NRSV After thinking it over
NAB After some deliberation
HCSB After seriously considering the matter
NIV pondered them in my mind
NET I considered these things carefully
NLT After thinking it over
GW After thinking it over
Lutheran Study Bible using the ESV has this alternative in a footnote: “mulled over in his mind what to do” (p. 745).
NAS and ESV maintain the Hebrew sense, but in the process provide an awkward/unusual rendering in English to do so. Most of the other translations adapt the thought into common English usage.
Hebrew: וַיִּפְּל֥וּ מְאֹ֖ד בְּעֵינֵיהֶ֑ם, roughly “their eyes fell greatly”
NAS they lost their confidence;
ESV fell greatly in their own esteem
NRSV (so also RSV-RCC) fell greatly in their own esteem
NAB our enemies lost much face in the eyes of the nations
HCSB lost their confidence
NIV lost their self-confidence
NET they were greatly disheartened
NLT they were frightened and humiliated
GW lost their self-confidence
Note that ESV/NRSV/RSV-RCC use an odd way to express the Hebrew text. Most of the others show the reflexive (Niphal) sense, with “lost confidence.” NAB is unique in that the focus is not their own eyes that matter, but the eyes of the nations.
Hebrew: יִשְׁמַ֤ע ׀ אֵ֨ל ׀ וְֽיַעֲנֵם֮, roughly “God hears and will afflict them”
NAS God will hear and answer them (footnote: “afflict them”)
ESV (so also RSV-RCC) God will give ear and humble them
NRSV God…will hear, and will humble them
NAB God…will hear me and humble them
HCSB God…will hear and will humiliate them
NIV God…he will hear them and humble them
NET God,…will hear and humiliate them
NLT God…will hear me and humble them
GW God will listen. The one…will deal with them
Most translations offer a readable and understandable English rendering of the Hebrew. But notice ESV and RSV-RCC “God will give ear.” Aside from the original RSV and now lately ESV, I have never heard the use of “God will give ear.” My first humorous thought is “how many ears does God have.” With some practice, a reader might catch what is written. But what of an oral reading (i.e. in worship), will that communicate clearly and easily?
This is not an academic exploration but a simple look at translation choices and how that fits the register of understandable (and primarily oral) English. Over the past several years as I have reviewed translations, I have found that ESV is problematic in this specific area. And it follows the RSV, NRSV, and RSV (RCC) pattern. This also makes me more aware of how I preach and teach and at what level (vocabulary, etc.) I do so.
Hope to explore more on this topic.