Friday, June 4, 2021

Comparing translations

I am very grateful to Christopher Page for doing this verse by verse, section by section study of the Psalms. I will do all I can to encourage it and all I can to participate as gracefully as possible. Even when my irritation level is raised by what we English speakers have done to the text over the years. It takes a long time to become simple. (Thinking of the Shaker song, 'tis a gift to be simple...)

Psalms 7 is butchered in the NRSV. 

repent, God, heads, and other glosses are simply wrong-headed, inconsistent, and ungrammatical. I will not repeat the words on this site. There is a discussion here that you can look at. NRSV is in common use. I don't blame people for using it. It is a 'politically correct' rendering, and like the rendering of animals in a slaughterhouse, it does not leave the text alive, but packaged for ease of consumption.

Reading the Bible should not be a pre-packaged exercise. How will we ever admit our mistakes if we are given wrong information? How will we face what is real instead of our imagined cocoon of lies when a translation explains a pious viewpoint instead of a comical poem on consequences.

repent - is an unnecessary gloss, misunderstood in this era. I use turn / return for the most part for this stem. Turn? Turn away from sin, turn towards the good, turn towards our imagined enemy. Turn up when we are called to account. Turn works. And as long as we have the capacity to turn literally or figuratively, it can apply to individuals or corporations, or nations.

God - is used as the subject of the sentence when there is no subject specified. The poet may be deliberately leaving out the subject. I think REB and JB are on track when they make the poet's 'enemy' the subject, but this too is not translation. Specifying the subject when it is not in the poem is doing the reader's work rather than the translator's work. It takes all the fun out of it.

I have some rules for translation. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I am wrong. But the rules are there: 

  • don't interpret
  • repeat sounds in the host language (in this case English) when they are repeated in the guest language (in this case Hebrew)
  • don't repeat sounds when they are not repeated
  • try and be true to the genre and the grammar - a dance is not a dirge
  • don't assume the Bible is always pious
Recent posts on Psalms 7 are here and here

Any translation with new and revised and standard in its name should be discarded. The name says it all: we didn't know what we were doing and we still don't.

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