tohu wa-bohu

The Hebrew assonance tohu wa-bohu is often translated in English as “formless void” or some equivalent, but in some translations and languages attempts have been made to recreate some of its literary flavor:

  • English: wild and waste (Everett Fox 1995); welter and waste (Robert Alter 2004); void waste (Revised English Bible, 1989); void and vacant (James Moffatt 1935)
  • German: Irrsal und Wirrsal (Buber / Rosenzweig 1976); wüst und wirr (Einheitsübersetzung, 1980/2016)
  • French: vide et vague (La Bible de Jérusalem, 1975)
  • Ancient Greek: aóratos kaí akataskévastos (ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος) (Septuagint)

all scripture is inspired by God

The Greek that is translated as “all scripture is inspired by God (or: is God-breathed)” is translated into various languages in the following ways:

  • Berom: “All the words that were written in the Leaf of Teaching of Father Sun came away from God thing his” (Mwa neha de bà jɛk e Bwok-basa Dagwi na vey yi na Dagwi pyɛ mɛ)
  • Hausa (Common Language Version): “All the writings of the Word of God are blown from his place” (Duk Rubutacciyar Maganar Allah hurarre ce daga wurinsa)
  • Kera: “All the words that were written in God’s book come straight from God’s mouth” (Kel gə minti gə jeerə-jeere giidə kefter kə Pepeŋa keɗe ha’aŋ, yə bəŋ ku Pepeŋ da)
  • Arabic (True Meaning Arabic edition): “All of this book is a revelation from God” (فهذِهِ الكُتُبُ كُلُّها وَحيٌ مِن اللهِ)
  • Chadian Arabic: “The book is completely the word of God which he sent down (الْكِتَابْ كُلَّ كَيْ هُو كَلَامْ اللّٰهْ النَّزَّلَهْ)
  • Dari (Today’s Dari Version 2008): “The whole holy book is divine revelation” (تمام کتاب مقدس از الهام خداست)
  • French (Parole de Vie 2017): “All the holy books were written with the help of God” (Tous les Livres Saints ont été écrits avec l’aide de Dieu)
  • Lamogai: “All of the talk written in God’s book was given by God’s Spirit.”
  • Northern Emberá: “God (emph.) made all of his word to be written” (Ãcõrẽbʌrʌ jũma Idji Bed̶eara b̶ʌbisia)
  • Hiligaynon: “The whole Written-Item was written by-means-of the power of God” (Kay ang bug-os nga Kasulatan ginbugna sang Dios kag mapuslanon sa pagtudlo sang kamatuoran)
  • Sindhi: “The origin/fount of each writing of the holy word/scripture is God (emph. = alone)”
  • Dobel: “And God’s Message all of it, it was he alone who put it in people’s thoughts, then they wrote it in The Book” (Sa Dukwaida Ssinan Ler si Rakwin re nam ffui, nai naꞌꞌenni yaꞌa nam i tamatu ada faꞌirandi nama datiya i Suratu Yabil)
  • Amele: “All the written good talk God’s Spirit he himself taught/instructed men and they wrote” (Me je jaqec cunug Anutna Kis uqadodoc dana iwaladeceb jaqein)
  • Saxwe Gbe: “Every holy writing came from God”
  • Aja: “It was God’s Spirit that took all things that were written in the books of God’s Word and put them in the minds/consciences of people, and they wrote them” (source for this and all above: discussion on BT email list, contributions used with permissions)
  • Kaqchikel: “All scripture is God’s breath”

On this last translation, the translation into Kaqchikel, Cameron Townsend reports:

“We were struggling with the part of the Scripture that says, ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God.’ We tried several different ways of translating this, but the men were never satisfied that it communicated well in Kaqchikel. I consulted the Greek and said, ‘How about translating it ‘all scripture is God-breathed?” ‘No,’ they said, ‘that doesn’t sound right.’ Then I suggested using ‘God’s breath.’ The men liked this and we agreed to use this phrase. But I wasn’t entirely convinced it was as accurate as it should be. Then I began to read other portions of Scripture where I noticed that when God spoke in creation it had the same connotation as God’s breath. And so we left it that way: ‘All scripture is God’s breath.'” (Quoted in Steven 1995, p. 196f.)

See also examined the scriptures, scripture, and complete verse (2 Timothy 3:16).

the Jews

The translation of the Greek οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι (hoi Ioudaioi), traditionally “the Jews” in English, is used particularly often in the Gospel of John and has been receiving attention in the last 50 years. Below you’ll find an overview of how some English translators and translation have translated it, why they did so and the solutions some other languages have chosen.

Starting in the late 1960s, at the time the English Today’s English Version (Good News Bible) and respective translations in other languages (see below) were published, many translators started to question the translation of hoi Ioudaioi with “the Jews.”

Robert Bratcher, the translator of the Today’s English Version New Testament describes why his translation uses four different translations for the same Greek words (in The Bible Translator 1975, p. 401ff. ): “Jewish people,” “Judeans,” “people hostile to Jesus,” and “the authorities in Jerusalem” (for more see here):

“In order to better understand the meaning of ‘the Jews’ in the Gospel of John, we must first look at the use and meaning of ‘the world’ in this Gospel. The author sees everything in terms of opposite forces: light and darkness, truth and error, life and death, God and the Devil. And he makes a sharp distinction between the world and Jesus and his followers, especially in the last half of the Gospel. Of course the world is the object of God’s love and of Christ’s saving mission (John 3:1617; 12:47; 17:21, 23), but it is not the object of the love of the followers of Jesus: they are not commanded to love the world. The disciples of Jesus are in the world (John 13:1), but they do not belong to it (John 15:19). The world hates Jesus and his disciples, because they do not belong to it (John 15:1819; 17:14, 15, 16). The world loves only those who belong to it (John 15:19). It does not know Jesus (John 1:10), or the Father (John 17:25), and cannot receive the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). The world’s ruler is to be overthrown (John 12:31, 14:30; 16:11). When Jesus is parted from his disciples, they will be sad, but the world will be glad (John 16:20). Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33); his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). In the Gospel of John ‘the world’ stands in opposition to Jesus and his disciples.

“‘The Jews’ belong to ‘the world,’ as compared with Jesus and his followers. The Jews, like the world, do not know the Father. They have never heard his voice or seen his face, nor do they believe in the one whom he sent (John 5:37, 38). Jesus says to the Jews. ‘You come from this world, but I do not come from this world’ (John 8:23). (…)

“The author clearly places himself, and those whom he represents, as separate from the Jews. He speaks of ‘the Passover of the Jews’ (John 2:13; 6:4; 11:55), the religious rules of the Jews about purification (John 2:6), a religious festival of the Jews (John 5:1), the Festival of Shelters of the Jews (John 7:2), the Day of Preparation of the Jews (John 19:42), and the way in which Jews prepare a body for burial (19:40).

“And quite as clearly he regards Jesus as not ‘a Jew’. In talking to the Jews. Jesus speaks of ‘your Law’ (John 7:19; 8:17; 10:34) and ‘your circumcision’ (John 7:22). Abraham is ‘your father’ (John 8:56). When the Jews say to him. ‘Our ancestors ate manna in the desert’ (John 6:31), Jesus replies, ‘What Moses gave you was not the bread from heaven’ (John 6:32), and later on says, ‘Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert’ (John 6:49).

“It is true that twice Jesus is called a Jew: by the Samaritan woman (John 4:9) and by Pilate (John 18:35). But in both instances the term is used in its sense of ‘person of Judah’, contrasted with the Samaritan and the Roman. The same applies in John 4:22, where Jesus says to the Samaritan woman. ‘You (Samaritans) do not really know whom you worship; we (Jews) know whom we worship, for salvation comes from the Jews.’

“Apart from those two instances, it is only in John 1:11 that Jesus is identified as a Jew. in the statement that he came to ‘his own country’, but ‘his own people’ did not receive him. This passage, however, does not go against the Gospel as a whole, in which Jesus is shown as not being a part of ‘the Jews.’

“What accounts for this? It seems clear that the deep differences shown between Jesus and ‘the Jews’ of his time reflect the hostility between Church and Synagogue at the time the author wrote his Gospel. He has moved back the disputes and arguments of his own time into the time of Jesus, and they are represented as taking place between Jesus and the people of his time.

“The prominent part played by the Pharisees in the opposition to Jesus is worthy of note here. The High Priest and the chief priests are mentioned often, especially in chapters 18-19, as we would expect. They were, after all, the religious authorities responsible for arresting Jesus and turning hint over to Pilate. What is surprising is that the Pharisees appear so often in the Gospel (see John 1:24; 4:1; 7:32, 47, 48; 8:13; 9:13, 15, 16, 40; 11:46; 12:19, 42), and are at times identified as ‘the Jews’, that is, the authorities. Their part in relation to Jesus in the Gospel of John is different from the part they play in the other Gospels. In John it is their refusal to believe in Jesus and his claims that brings them into conflict with him. They are not, as in the other Gospels, condemned by Jesus because of their hypocrisy or their understanding of the Law. (…)

“The translator is bound to represent faithfully the way in which the author describes the ministry of Jesus. But the way in which he will translate the Greek hoi loudaioi every time it appears in the Gospel is not an easy matter to decide. (1) Should he not, always and everywhere, translate it by ‘the Jews’? This certainly may be argued, since the author does not use the expression in a precise national or racial sense of the people of Israel in the years A.D. 30-33, but of the opponents of his own time who denied the claims the Church makes about Jesus the Messiah. If the translator did this, however, he would almost be forced to use quotation marks — ‘the Jews’ — to show the strangeness of the phrase. (2) But since the author has placed these disputes in the time of Jesus, it is at this level that the translation must take place, so that ‘the Jews’ must be identified in terms of the people of Jesus’ own time. But as a matter of fact Jesus was a Jew, and to translate a passage, for example. ‘Jesus, in Jerusalem, said to the Jews’, is as unnatural as to say, ‘The President, in Washington, said to the Americans’, or, ‘The Queen, in London, said to the British.’

“In translating on this ‘historical’ level, however, does not the translator somehow distort the meaning of the text? The answer depends on whether we believe that the author intended his readers to understand his Gospel as reporting historical events which took place in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee in the early part of the first century. Assuming that he did, it seems to me that the translator does not have much of a choice, unless he says something like ‘the enemies of Jesus’, or ‘the unbelievers’ every time ‘the Jews’ is used of the opponents of Jesus.

“Consequently, in following the course which I think is the only right one to take, the translator must carefully observe the different senses in which ‘the Jews’ is used in the Gospel of John—and this is what will be done in this study, with an examination of every occurrence of the phrase and its meaning in the ‘historical’ setting of the Gospel. (…)

“According to this review, ‘the Jews’ in the Gospel of John may have four different meanings:

  • its natural sense, meaning simply Jewish people
  • Judeans, people who live in and near Jerusalem
  • people hostile to Jesus
  • the authorities in Jerusalem

For the Contemporary English Version in the 1990s, similar translation strategies were taken, as explained by David Burke, a member of the translation team (see the reprint from an original article in TIC TALK 24, 1993, right here ). Other English translations that use varied translations for hoi Ioudaioi include the Living Bible, New International Version, Common English Bible, New Living Translation, The Inclusive New Testament, and others.

For a recent translation of the New Testament, its translator and Eastern Orthodox scholar David B. Hart (2017) explains why he chose to use ‘Judaean’ for every occurrence of the singular Ioudaios or the plural Ioudaioi throughout the New Testament (for more see here):

“The next term is Ioudaios — or Ioudaioi in the plural — which is usually rendered ‘Jew’ or ‘Jews,’ except in places where ‘Judaean’ or ‘Judaeans’ seems better to fit the context: again a perfectly justifiable practice, but also one that inadvertently introduces a distinction into the text that would not have been entirely intended by the authors. The books of the New Testament were written in an age in which national, ethnic, religious, and racial identities were not arranged in the often pernicious categories that came to hold sway in subsequent centuries; and it would be a severe distortion of the texts of the New Testament to allow these later developments to cast a shadow backward onto a time innocent of the evils of mediaeval or modern history. For example—and the most striking example — the Gospel of John has often been accused of anti-Semitism, despite the anachronism of the very concept. Where English readers are accustomed to reading the Gospel as referring, often opprobriously, to ‘the Jews,’ the original text is usually referring to the indigenous Temple and synagogue authorities of Judaea, or to Judaeans living outside Judaea, or even to ‘Judaeans’ as opposed to ‘Galileans’ (see, for instance, John 7:1). The Gospel definitely reflects the disenchantment of Jewish Christians in Asia Minor with those they saw as having expelled them from the synagogue, and later Christian culture certainly often took this as an excuse for anti-Jewish violence and injustice, but it would be absurd to impute to the Gospel the sort of religious prejudices born in later generations, or certainly the racial ideologies that are so much a part of the special legacy of post-Enlightenment modernity. I have rendered the word as ‘Judaean’ or ‘Judaeans’ throughout, even where that sounds somewhat awkward, and even in places where ‘Jew’ or ‘Jews’ would be an utterly anodyne or bracingly affirmative translation. After all, the general extension of the term ‘Jews’ to all who worshipped Israel’s God meant principally that their cultic life was focused on the Temple in Jerusalem. Again, my rationale for doing this, and for ignoring my own twinge of reluctance whenever it produced a somewhat inept construction, is that I thought it better to preserve the unity of the word and the concept in the language of the ancient authors than to impose distinctions that would make the texts conform more readily to our cultural categories (and historical sins). (source: Hart 2017, p. 548f.)

Other English translations that use Judeans in most passages in John for Ioudaioi include N.T. Wright’s Kingdom New Testament (in the UK: New Testament for Everyone), the Messianic Jewish Bible Project’s Tree of Life translation, and David Stern’s Jewish New Testament.

In The Jewish Gospel of John its translator explains why he chose to not translate but instead transliterate virtually ever occurrence of Ioudaioi (for more see here):

“The Gospel of John was initially written for a particular audience consisting of a variety of intra-Israelite groups, one of the main ones being the Samaritan Israelites. To them, unlike for us today, the word Ioudaioi did not mean ‘the People of Israel,’ i.e. ‘the Jewish people’ as we call them today. For these people, the people I propose are one of the main audiences for the Gospel of John, the Ioudaioi, meant something different.

“One modern example that illustrates this ancient dynamic comes from an Eastern European setting. The Ukrainians often called Russians, with whom they had an uneasy relationship to say the least, ‘Maskali.’ The Ukrainian word ‘Maskal’ comes from the name of the Russian Imperial Capital — Moscow. Those who were either of Russian ethnic descent, or who even as much as acknowledged Moscow’s authority or leading role in the region, could be referred to as ‘Maskal.’ In fact, the Maskal did not have to be from Moscow or be ethnically Russian at all. The individual simply needed to be (or be perceived to be) a supporter of a Moscow-led political agenda. Other peoples outside of the Russian-Ukrainian political conflict, who were familiar with the issues, never used the designation ‘Maskali’ themselves, knowing that it was a Ukrainian term for the Russians and Russia’s affiliates.

“Therefore, using a similar analogy, those who acknowledged the Jerusalem-approved authorities in Kfar Nahum (Capernaum) and Cana, which were far from Jerusalem, were also referred to by the principal name for the Jerusalemite formal rulers and leading sect — the Ioudaioi. All members of the Jerusalem-led system became the Ioudaioi in the Gospel of John. This is very similar to the way ‘Russians’ became ‘Maskali’ to Ukrainians and to others who witnessed their polemic. So when the audience for John’s Gospel heard these anti-Ioudaioi statements (like John 7:1-2), whom did they think the author/s had in mind? This is the key question.

“To Samaritan Israelites, whatever else the Ioudaioi may have been, they were certainly Judeans –- members of the former Southern Kingdom of Israel who had adopted a wide variety of innovations that were contrary to the Torah as Samaritans understood it. Judging from this Gospel, the original audience understood that, as well as simply being Judeans, the Ioudaioi were: i) Judean authorities, and (ii) affiliated members of this authority structure living outside of Judea.

“These affiliates were located both in the territories of the former Northern Kingdom of Israel (Galilee) and in the large Israelite diaspora outside the Land of Israel, both in the Roman Empire and beyond. In this way, the Gospel of John, like the other Gospels, portrayed Jesus’ antagonists as representatives of sub-groups within Israel, and not the people of Israel as a whole. In other words Ioudaioi (‘the Jews’ in most translations) in this Gospel are not ‘the Jewish People’ in the modern sense of the word.

“The translation of Ioudaioi always and only as ‘Jews’ sends the reader in the opposite direction from what the author intended. While the translation of this word simply as ‘Judeans,’ is a more accurate choice than ‘Jews,’ it is still not fully adequate –- for three reasons that come to mind:

  • The English word Jews evokes, in the minds of modern peoples, the idea of Jewish religion (i.e. Jews are people who profess a religion called Judaism) and therefore cannot be used indiscriminately to translate the term Ioudaioi, since, in the first century, there was no separate category for religion (Judaism, when it was used, meant something much more all-encompassing than what it means to us today). In a sense, it was only when non-Israelite Christ-followers, in an attempt to self-establish and self-define, created the category called Christianity, that the category called Judaism, as we know it today, was also born. Since then most Christian theologians and most Jewish theologians after them project our modern definition of Judaism back into the New Testament.
  • On the other hand, the English word Judean evokes in the minds of modern people, oftentimes, an almost exclusively geographical definition (a Judean is the person who lives in Judea or used to live in Judea) and hence cannot be used indiscriminately either, since today it does not imply everything it intended to imply in late antiquity.
  • The word Judean, without clarification and nuancing, does not account for the complex relationship of the outside-of-Judea affiliates with the Jerusalem authorities either.

“Because of the lack of a perfect word to describe what was meant by Ioudaioi in the Gospel of John, I suggest that the word is best left untranslated.” (source: Lizorkin-Eyzenberg 2015, p. XIff.)

In other languages, many common language versions (approximate equivalents to the English Today’s English Version (Good News Bible) or other simplified translations (as well as non-simplified versions) use varied translations for Ioudaioi in John as well. Below are some examples of translations of hoi Ioudaioi in John 1:19:

  • Portuguese: líderes judeus (Jewish leaders) (in Nova Tradução na Linguagem de Hoje — New Translation in Today’s Language)
  • French: autórités juives (Jewish authorities) (in Bible en français courant — Bible in Modern French) or chefs juifs (Jewish leaders) (in Parole de Vie — Word of Life)
  • Spanish: autiridades des judias (Jewish authorities) (in Dios Habla Hoy — God Speaks Today)
  • Italian: autorità ebraiche (Jewish authorities) (in Traduzione Interconfessionale in Lingua Corrente — Interconfessional Translation into Modern Language)
  • Dutch: Joodse leiders (Jewish leaders) (in BasisBijbel — Basic Bible)
  • German: führende Männer (leading men) (in Die Gute Nachricht: Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch — Good News: The Bible in Today’s German), führende Männer des jüdischen Volkes (leading men of the Jewish people) (in Neue Genfer Übersetzung — New Geneva Translation), or jüdische Behörden (Jewish authorities) (in BasisBibel — Basic Bible)
  • Indonesian: penguasa Yahudi (Jewish authorities) (in Alkitab dalam Bahasa Indonesia Masa Kini — The Bible in Today’s Indonesian)
  • Hindi: यहूदी धर्म-गुरुओं ने Yahūdī dharma-guruoan ne (Jewish religious leaders (in पवित्र बाइबिल CL — Holy Bible CL)
  • Nepali: यहूदी अगुवाहरूले Yahūdī aguvāharūlē (Jewish leaders) (in सरल नेपाली पवित्र बाइबल (Simple Nepali Holy Bible)
  • Hebrew: רָאשֵׁי הַיְּהוּדִים rashei hayehudim (heads of the Jews) (Modern Hebrew New Testament)

Wendland (1998, p. 93) gives a large range of translations that was used in Chichewa interconfessional translation (publ. 1999): “Jewish leaders” (John 2:18); “people” (John 7:35); Jewish guards of the Temple (John 18:12); “Jewish elders/authorities” (John 18:28); “tribe/nation of Jews” (John 18:33); “whole crowd” (John 18:38).

translations with a Hebraic voice (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Some translations specifically reproduce the voice of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible.

English:
And it was, at the priests’ going out from the Holy-Place,
that the cloud filled the House of Yhwh,
and the priests were not able to stand to attend because of the cloud,
for the Glory of Yhwh had filled the House of Yhwh.

Source: Everett Fox 1995

German:
Es geschah, als die Priester aus dem Heiligtum ausgefahren waren:
die Wolke füllte Sein Haus,
nicht vermochten die Priester zu stehn um zu amten, wegen der Wolke,
denn Seine Erscheinung füllte Sein Haus.

Source: Buber / Rosenzweig 1976

French:
Et c’est à la sortie des desservants du sanctuaire,
la nuée remplit la maison de IHVH-Adonaï.
Les desservants ne peuvent se tenir pour officier en face de la nuée,
oui, la gloire de IHVH-Adonaï remplit la maison de IHVH-Adonaï.

Source: Chouraqui 1985

eye of a needle

The Greek that is translated as “eye of a needle” in English (and in many Romance and Germanic languages) is rendered variously in different languages:

In Warlpiri, needles were not traditionally used, so after much discussion the translation there is “(Does a camel go into) the hole of an ant’s nest?” which uses a more traditional metaphor. (Source: Sam Freney in this article.)

See also It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

translations with a Hebraic voice (2 Kings 2:6-11)

Some translations specifically reproduce the voice of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible.

English:
Then Eliyyahu said to him:
Pray stay here,
for Yhwh has sent me to the Jordan.
But he said:
By the life of Yhwh and by your own life, if I should leave you. . . !
Thus the two of them walked on.
Now fifty men of the Sons of the Prophets went
and stood opposite, at a distance,
while the two of them stood by the Jordan.
And Eliyyahu took his mantle, folded it up, and struck the waters,
and they split in half, to here and to there,
and the two of them crossed over on dry-ground.
It was when they crossed that Eliyyahu said to Elisha:
Make-request: what may I do for you before I am taken from beside you?
Elisha said:
Pray let a twofold measure of your spirit be upon me!
He said:
You have made a difficult request.
If you see me being taken from you, it will be thus for you,
but if not, it will not be.
And it was, as they were walking, walking along and speaking
that here, a chariot of fire and horses of fire:
they parted the two of them,
and Eliyyahu went up in the storm to the heavens.

Source: Everett Fox 2014

German:
Elijahu sprach zu ihm:
Verweile doch hier,
denn Er hat mich an den Jordan gesandt.
Er aber sprach:
Sowahr Er lebt, sowahr deine Seele lebt:
verlasse ich dich je, …!
So gingen sie beide.
Mitgegangen aber waren von den Jungkündern fünfzig Mann,
die blieben gegenüber stehn, von fern,
als die beiden am Jordan standen.
Elijahu nahm seinen Mantel,
er ballte ihn
und schlug das Wasser,
das spaltete sich hierhin und hierhin,
auf dem Sandgrund schritten die beiden hindurch.
Es geschah nun, als sie hindurchgeschritten waren,
zu Elischa sprach Elijahu:
Wünsche,
was soll ich dir tun,
ehe ich von dir hinweggenommen werde?
Elischa sprach:
Geschähe doch, daß mir würde von deinem Geistbraus das Erstlings-Doppelteil!
Er sprach:
Schweres hast du erwünscht!
darfst du mitansehn,
wie ich von dir hinweggenommen werde,
wirds dir so geschehn,
sonst aber: wirds nicht geschehn.
Es geschah:
während sie weitergingen, gingen und redeten,
da, Feuergefährt und Feuerrosse,
sie trennten die beiden.
Elijahu stieg im Sturm zum Himmel.

Source: Buber / Rosenzweig 1976

French:
Élyahou lui dit: « Siège donc là, oui, IHVH-Adonaï m’envoie au Iardèn. »
Il dit: « Vive IHVH-Adonaï, vive ton être, je ne t’abandonnerai pas. »
Ils vont, les deux.
Cinquante hommes, des fils des inspirés, vont et se tiennent en face, de loin.
Les deux se tiennent sur le Iardèn.
Élyahou prend sa cape, l’entortille, frappe les eaux.
Elles se divisent, là et là. Ils passent, les deux, à sec.
Et c’est à leur passage, Élyahou dit à Èlisha‘:
« Demande ce que je ferai pour toi, avant que je sois pris loin de toi. »
Èlisha‘ dit: « Que deux bouches de ton souffle soient donc en moi ! »
Il dit: « Tu es dur en demandes.
Si tu me vois pris loin de toi, pour toi, ce sera oui. Sinon, ce sera non. »
Et c’est eux, ils vont, vont et parlent.
Et voici, un char de feu, des chevaux de feu, séparent les deux.
Élyahou monte, dans la tempête, aux ciels.

Source: Chouraqui 1985

behemoth

Another often transliterated biblical term is bĕhēmôt (…). The Hebrew noun behemâ typically means “beast, animal, cattle”, while the -ôt feminine plural ending here seems to indicate something like a “plural of majesty,” since in the context of Job 40, this creature is obviously singular in number.

Countless tons of ink have been spilled in arguments over whether this creature is a hippopotamus, an elephant, a dinosaur, or a mythical amalgam of large, powerful land animals. The point that is of interest to us here is that in modern English, at least the U.S. variety which I speak, the commonly recognized meaning of the term behemoth has become the following: “any monstrous or grotesque creature or thing”, “something of oppressive or monstrous size or power.” This word is usually applied as a description of inanimate entities, such as “a behemoth car” or “the behemoth government agency,” but can occasionally also be used to refer to animate creatures. A quick search through a corpus of contemporary American English (…) shows that the term is often used with a negative connotation approximating “more trouble than it’s worth.” So when an English reader who has not had much contact with Christian teaching or the Bible reads this passage in Job for the first time, it is quite likely that associations of oppressiveness or inutility will color this reader’s initial mental image of the creature, even though the context of the verse does not contain any such connotations, but rather the opposite connotation of appreciative wonder.

The Russian Synodal translation (RST) has transliterated this word from the Hebrew as “бегемот” (begemot), apparently borrowing this rendering from the Russian scholar/poet M. Lomonosov in his poetic translation of the Job 40 passage (c. 1750 AD). What is of interest is that this very transliteration has become the main term meaning “hippopotamus” in modern Russian. There is another Russian term with an almost completely synonymous meaning, “gippopotam,” derived from ancient Greek, but in contemporary Russian usage this latter term is becoming more and more obsolete, or at least restricted to scientific contexts. An informal corpus study of the use of the word begemot in Russian texts indicates that prior to the publication of the RST, it was used to refer to monstrously large animals, but not specifically to the hippopotamus. Thus, it seems that what gave the meaning of “hippopotamus” to the transliterated word “begemot” was the tradition of scriptural interpretation in favor at the time of the translation of the RST. Even though the transliteration “begemot” was originally introduced into the Russian text of Job ostensibly because the translators were not quite sure what this creature was, the new word eventually came to refer unambiguously to the hippopotamus and nothing else.

What should the Tuvan translation team have done with this term? (Note: The goal of the Tuvan translators was to match the Tuvan transliterations with those of the Russian Synodal translation)? the RST, which all Tuvan believers currently read as their main Bible version, specifically states in Job 40:15 that this animal is a begemot, which in contemporary Russian is completely unambiguous as meaning “hippopotamus.” This is the meaning with which the Russian word has already been borrowed into the Tuvan language. Maintaining this transliteration would mean affirming this specific interpretation of the Hebrew term “bĕhēmôt.” Although the explicit “hippopotamus” interpretation is found in some other modern translations (e.g., the English CEV, The French La Bible en français courant or Louis Segond’s translation, or the Italian Conferenza Episcopala Italiana), the Tuvan translation team did not want to commit themselves wholeheartedly to this interpretation. So we decided to retransliterate the Hebrew word using a different medial consonant — “бехемот” (bekhemot), with a footnote explaining this decision as an attempt to remain open-minded concerning the exact nature of this beast. This new transliteration created a word that did not have any pre-existing semantic associations transferred from the Russian language. Only time will tell how exactly future generations of Tuvinian Bible readers will react to the new transliteration of this term, and whether or not they will imbue it with the same “hippopotamus” sense as in the RST or with something completely unforeseen by our translation team.

Source: Vitaly Voinov in The Bible Translator 2012, p. 17ff.

burnt-offering

The Hebrew olah (עֹלָה) originally means “that which goes up (in smoke).” English Bibles often translates it as “burnt-offering” or “whole burnt-offering,” focusing on the aspect of the complete burning of the offering.

The Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate Bibles translate it as holokautōma / holocautōsis (ὁλοκαύτωμα / ὁλοκαύτωσις) and holocaustum, respectively, meaning “wholly burnt.” While a form of this term is widely used in many Romance languages (Spanish: holocaustos, French: holocaustes, Italian: olocausti, Portuguese: holocaustos) and originally also in the Catholic tradition of English Bible translations, it is largely not used in English anymore today (the preface of the revised edition of the Catholic New American Bible of 2011: “There have been changes in vocabulary; for example, the term ‘holocaust’ is now normally reserved for the sacrilegious attempt to destroy the Jewish people by the Third Reich.”)

Since Georgian translation traditionally was done on the basis of the Greek Septuagint, a transliteration of holokautōma was used as well, which was changed to a translation with the meaning of “burnt offering” when the Old Testament was retranslated in the 1980’s on the basis of the Hebrew text.

The English translation of Everett Fox uses offering-up (similarly, the German translation by Buber-Rosenzweig has Darhöhung and the French translation by Chouraqui montée).

See also offering (qorban).

in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius

The Greek that is typically translated in English as “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius” is translated by the Italian La Sua Parola è Vita translation as Passarono circa due decenni. Era adesso il quindicesimo anno del regno dell’imperatore Tiberio Cesare or “About two decades passed. It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Caesar.” Cotrozzi (2019) explains: “There is a time gap between the last events recounted in 2:52 and those in 3:1. Jesus was 12 at the end of chapter 2 but about 30 years old when he began his work (3:23). As a result, some 18 years must have elapsed since 2:51-52. However, this is not readily apparent to most modern readers. All the more so since the gap coincides with a break at chapter level and is followed by the same name (Herod) as in 1:5 which seems to indicate continuity. What most readers are not aware of is that the same name refers in Luke to two different historical figures, Herod the Great (1:5) and his son Herod Antipas (3:1). Only a few Bibles — Danish Bibelen på Hverdagsdansk and Den Nye Aftale, English New Living Translation, French La Parole de Vie, German Die Gute Nachricht and Neues Leben Übersetzung, and Spanish Traducción en lenguaje actual — make this clear in the text.”

LORD of hosts

The Hebrew that is translated as “Lord of hosts” in English (or: “Yahweh of Armies” [translation by John Goldingay, 2018]) is translated in various ways:is translated as “God the Highest Ruler” in Kankanaey, as “Lord Almighty” in Newari, as Wànjūnzhī Yēhéhuá (万军之耶和华) or “Jehovah of 10,000 [=all] armies” in Chinese, as “Yawe God of the universe” in Mandinka, and in the German (Luther) Bible the second part of the name is transliterated: Herr Zebaoth or “Lord Zebaoth” (Swedish, Finnish and Latvian use the same translation strategy).

The traditional French translation of l’Eternel/Yahve/le Seigneur/Seigneur des armées (“Lord of the armies”) presents a problem when listened to, as Jean-Marc Babut explains (in The Bible Translator 1985. p. 411ff. ):

“For the hearer, the traditional translation l’Eternel/Yahve/le Seigneur des armées can easily be taken in a bad sense: there is nothing, in fact, to prevent the listener from hearing l’Eternel désarmé, ‘the Eternal One disarmed’ or ‘stripped of his power’! (…). Thus the Bible en français courant [publ. 1997] has decided to use the expression Seigneur/Dieu de l’univers, “Lord/God of the Universe”. This formula, which has an undeniably liturgical ring, seems to have been favorably received by users.”

Other, later French Bibles who have chosen a similar strategy, include Parole de Vie (publ. 2017) with Seigneur de l’univers or Bible Segond 21 (publ. 2007) with l’Eternel, le maître de l’univers.

See also Lord of hosts.

translations with a Hebraic voice (Exodus 20:2-14)

Some translations specifically reproduce the voice of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible.

English:
I am Yhwh your God,
who brought you out
from the land of Egypt,
from a house of serfs.
You are not to have
any other gods
before my presence.
You are not to make yourself a carved-image
or any figure
that is in the heavens above, that is on the earth beneath, that is in the waters beneath the earth;
you are not to bow down to them,
you are not to serve them,
for I, Yhwh your God,
am a zealous God,
calling-to-account the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons, to the third and the fourth (generation)
of those that hate me,
but showing loyalty to the thousandth
of those that love me,
of those that keep my commandments.

You are not to take up
the name of Yhwh your God for emptiness,
for Yhwh will not clear him
that takes up his name for emptiness.

Remember
the Sabbath day, to hallow it.
For six days, you are to serve, and are to make all your work,
but the seventh day
is Sabbath for Yhwh your God:
you are not to make any kind of work,
(not) you, nor your son, nor your daughter,
(not) your servant, nor your maid, nor your beast,
nor your sojourner that is within your gates.
For in six days Yhwh made
the heavens and the earth,
the sea and all that is in it,
and he rested on the seventh day;
therefore Yhwh gave the Sabbath day his blessing, and he hallowed it.

Honor
your father and your mother,
in order that your days may be prolonged
on the soil that Yhwh your God is giving you.

You are not to murder.

You are not to adulter.

You are not to steal.

You are not to testify
against your fellow as a false witness.

You are not to desire
the house of your neighbor,
you are not to desire the wife of your neighbor,
or his servant, or his maid, or his ox, or his donkey,
or anything that is your neighbor’s.

Source: Everett Fox 1995

German:
Ich
bin dein Gott,
der ich dich führte aus dem Land Ägypten, aus dem Haus der Dienstbarkeit.
Nicht sei dir
andere Gottheit
mir ins Angesicht.
Nicht mache dir Schnitzgebild, —
und alle Gestalt,
die im Himmel oben, die auf Erden unten, die im Wasser unter der Erde ist,
neige dich ihnen nicht,
diene ihnen nicht,
denn Ich dein Gott
bin ein eifernder Gottherr,
zuordnend Fehl von Vätern ihnen an Söhnen, am dritten und vierten Glied,
denen die mich hassen,
aber Huld tuend ins tausendste
denen die mich lieben,
denen die meine Gebote wahren.

Trage nicht
Seinen deines Gottes Namen
auf das Wahnhafte,
denn nicht straffrei läßt Er ihn,
der seinen Namen auf das Wahnhafte trägt.

Gedenke
des Tags der Feier, ihn zu heiligen.
Ein Tagsechst diene und mache all deine Arbeit,
aber der siebente Tag
ist Feier Ihm, deinem Gott:
nicht mache allerart Arbeit,
du, dein Sohn, deine Tochter,
dein Dienstknecht, deine Magd, dein Tier,
und dein Gastsasse in deinen Toren.
Denn ein Tagsechst
machte Er
den Himmel und die Erde, das Meer und alles, was in ihnen ist,
am siebenten Tag aber ruhte er,
darum segnete Er den Tag der Feier, er hat ihn geheiligt.

Ehre
deinen Vater und deine Mutter,
damit sich längern deine Tage
auf dem Ackerboden, den Er4 dein Gott dir gibt.

Morde nicht.

Buhle nicht.

Stiehl nicht.

Aussage nicht
gegen deinen Genossen als Lügenzeuge.

Begehre nicht das Haus deines Genossen,
begehre nicht das Weib deines Genossen,
seinen Knecht, seine Magd, seinen Ochsen, seinen Esel,
noch allirgend was deines Genossen ist.

Source: Buber / Rosenzweig 1976

French:
« Moi-même, IHVH-Adonaï, ton Elohîms qui t’ai fait sortir
de la terre de Misraîm, de la maison des serfs,
il ne sera pas pour toi d’autres Elohîms contre mes faces.
Tu ne feras pour toi ni sculpture ni toute image
de ce qui est dans les ciels en haut, sur la terre en bas,
et dans les eaux sous terre.
Tu ne te prosterneras pas devant elles et ne les serviras pas.
Oui, moi-même, IHVH-Adonaï, ton Elohîms, Él ardent
je sanctionne le tort des pères sur les fils,
jusqu’au troisième et au quatrième cycle pour mes haineux,
Mais je fais chérissement jusqu’au millième à mes amants,
aux gardiens de mes ordres.
Tu ne porteras pas le nom de IHVH-Adonaï, ton Elohîms, en vain:
car, IHVH-Adonaï n’innocente pas qui porte son nom en vain.
Souviens-toi du jour du shabat pour le consacrer.
Tu travailleras six jours: fais tout ton ouvrage.
Le septième jour, shabat pour IHVH-Adonaï, ton Elohîms,
tu ne feras aucun ouvrage, toi, ton fils, ta fille,
ton serviteur, ta servante, ta bête,
ton métèque qui est en tes portes.
Oui, six jours, IHVH-Adonaï a fait les ciels et la terre,
la mer et tout ce qui y est,
puis il s’est reposé le septième jour,
sur quoi IHVH-Adonaï a béni le jour du shabat et il le consacre.
Glorifie ton père et ta mère, pour que se prolongent
tes jours sur la glèbe que IHVH-Adonaï, ton Elohîms, te donne.
Tu n’assassineras pas.
Tu n’adultéreras pas.
Tu ne voleras pas.
Tu ne répondras pas contre ton compagnon en témoin de mensonge.
Tu ne convoiteras pas la maison de ton compagnon,
tu ne convoiteras pas la femme de ton compagnon,
son serviteur, sa servante, son boeuf, son âne,
et tout ce qui est à ton compagnon. »
Et c’est au soir, la caille monte, elle couvre le camp,
et le matin, c’était une couche de rosée autour du camp.
La couche de rosée monte, et voici: sur les faces du désert,
une croûte fine, fine comme givre sur la terre.
Les Benéi Israël voient et disent, chaque homme à son frère:
« Mân hou ? Qu’est-ce ? » Non, ils ne savaient pas ce que c’était.
Moshè leur dit:
« C’est le pain que IHVH-Adonaï vous donne en nourriture. »

Source: Chouraqui 1985

translations with a Hebraic voice (1 Samuel 25:22)

Some translations specifically reproduce the voice of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible.

English:
This may God do to “the enemies of” David, and thus may he add,
if I leave from all that belongs to him, by daybreak [even] one pissing against the wall!

Translator’s notes:

“David’s enemies”: Later scribes have added the word “enemies” here, in order to avoid placing a verbal curse on David.
“One pissing against the wall”: Others, euphemistically, “a single male,” but the imagery is doglike. Unlike most modern translations, Tyndale and the King James Version got it right: “aught / one that pisseth by the wall.”

Source: Everett Fox 2014

German:
so tue Gott Dawids Feinden, so füge er hinzu,
laß ich bis zum Morgenlicht von allem, was sein ist, einen Wandpisser übrig!

Source: Buber / Rosenzweig 1976

French:
Ainsi fera Elohîms aux ennemis de David et ainsi il ajoutera si je laisse,
de tout ce qui est à lui, avant le matin, un pisseur contre un mur !

Source: Chouraqui 1985