Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Biblical Translation Superbattles

David Plotz of Slate magazine has hit upon a great many interesting topics in his quixotic quest to blog the Bible, but his most recent report on progress takes us to an issue of particular relevance. Regarding a dispute over translations of Judges 7:5-7:
This is baffling. In my NRSV, the ones who kneel put their hands to their mouths and are disqualified. But in the NIV, the ones who kneel don't put their hands to their mouths. Rather, the lappers put their hands to their mouths. (The King James Bible and the English Standard Version, incidentally, agree with the NIV.) Is there a superb scholar of biblical Hebrew out there who can explain why these translations contradict each other? Is it, as I fear, a mistake by the NRSV translators?
So we see, it pays to take the trouble to know what the source language says. Translation resolves all conflicts. Translation saves the world. </bias>

Not to be neglected in this article is the author's admission that he failed to properly highlight the discrepancy between the NRSV version of Eglon's death in the Book of Judges, and that found on the King James Bible. When Ehud, son of Gera, jams a knife into Elgon's gut, is it dirt that's ejected, or dung? It's the sort of question careers are built upon. </snicker>

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