Translation commentary on Judith 15:1

When the men in the tents heard it: This is the first verse of a new chapter, so it will be helpful to identify these men; for example, “When the rest of the Assyrian soldiers heard it.”

They were amazed: While the verb used here usually has this meaning, it is inappropriate here. The men are “appalled” (Moore), “aghast” (Enslin), “shocked,” “stunned,” or just plain “horrified.”

At what had happened is perfectly obvious and adds nothing; Good News Translation combines it with the first clause: “When the soldiers heard what had happened.” Contemporary English Version incorrectly interprets what had happened as “their officers crying,” whereas in reality they were stunned/horrified at the news of Holofernes’ death.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• When the rest of the Assyrian soldiers heard that Holofernes had been killed, they were horrified [or, stunned].

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Judith. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Judith 16:21

After this: This connector begins a new paragraph, and Good News Translation appropriately translates it with a clause of background information: “When the celebrations had ended.”

Every one returned home to his own inheritance: Home to his own inheritance is literally “to his own inheritance.” Only home (Good News Translation) is needed since it gives the meaning of his own inheritance. The writer may be using this phrase as a conscious link with Josh 1.15.

Judith went to Bethulia, and remained on her estate may be rendered “Judith returned to Bethulia and lived on her own land.”

Was honored in her time throughout the whole country: In her time is appropriately translated “For the rest of her life” by Good News Translation and “as long as she lived” by Contemporary English Version. In languages that do not have the passive voice, one may translate this final sentence as “People everywhere in Israel honored her [or, gave her great face] for the rest of her life.”

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Judith. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Judith 2:17

He collected a vast number of camels and asses and mules for transport: For a comment on camels, see Tob 9.1. For asses refer to “donkeys” in Tob 10.10. Mules are the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. They were valued for their strength and endurance in carrying loads. The army was well supplied, so many of these animals were needed for transport, that is, to carry the baggage and equipment.

And innumerable sheep and oxen and goats for provision: For oxen and sheep see Tob 8.19. For goats refer to Tob 2.12. These animals were taken for provision, that is, for the soldiers’ food. Note that they were innumerable (similarly Jdg 6.5; 7.12). Only a finite number of beasts of burden was needed for their purpose, but there was no telling how long the campaign might be and how much food might be needed, so the number of animals taken along for slaughter was virtually infinite.

In cultures where the animals in this verse are unknown, one may say “a large number of pack animals [or, animals for carrying loads] and a huge number of other animals for meat.”

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Judith. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Judith 4:14

All the priests who stood before the Lord and ministered to the Lord: Good News Translation is probably mistaken in speaking of “all the others who served” as distinct from the priests. Those who stood before the Lord and those who ministered to the Lord are the same group—the priests. One may combine these two clauses with “and all the priests who served in the temple.”

With their loins girded with sackcloth: The priests went about their duties, but they were wearing sackcloth along with the people mentioned in verse 10. Another rendering for this clause is “who had sackcloth around their waists.”

Offered the continual burnt offerings and the vows and freewill offerings of the people: Three sacrifices are mentioned. The continual burnt offering is the most important. A burnt offering refers to the offering of animals that were burnt completely on the altar as a fulfilment of a promise. It was actually made twice a day (morning and evening), every day, so both Good News Translation‘s “daily burnt offering” and Contemporary English Version‘s “daily sacrifices” are a bit misleading (see Exo 29.38-42; Num 28.6, 23). It will be necessary in a number of languages to indicate what was burned and where; for example, “offered lambs [young male sheep] and burned them on the altar.” The vows may also be expressed “sacrifices offered to keep a promise” (Contemporary English Version). Freewill offerings were voluntary and made from time to time. These offerings, as well as those made voluntarily because of a vow or promise, are provided for in Lev 7.16; 22.18-30; Num 29.39. Good News Translation reverses the order of the vows and freewill offerings, but there is no good reason for translators to do this.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Judith. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Judith 6:9

If you really hope in your heart that they will not be taken, do not look downcast!: Here Holofernes is reminding Achior of his words in 5.21. Another way to render this whole sentence is “If you are holding out any hope that the city will not be captured, then you have no reason to worry.” This is essentially what the Greek means; compare New English Bible: “If you are so confident that they will not fall into our hands, you need not look downcast.” Do not look downcast can also be rendered “Don’t look so worried, Achior” or “Why do you look so upset, Achior?” Good News Translation rearranges the order of the two clauses in this sentence, and shifts from a statement to two confrontational, mocking questions. A dramatic scene is created that is right on target emotionally.

I have spoken and none of my words shall fail: These words closely resemble those at the end of 6.4 where Holofernes stresses the importance of Nebuchadnezzar’s commands (“For he has spoken; none of his words shall be in vain.”). Essentially, only the verb is different; shall fail replaces “be in vain.” The verb used here is closer to that in Josh 21.45; 23.14; 1 Sam 3.19. Good News Translation‘s restructuring is consistent with the immediate context, but it misses the significant connection with 6.4. Contemporary English Version is slightly better with “Just remember that I will do everything I have said!”

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Judith. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Judith 7:23

Then all the people, the young men, the women, and the children, gathered: A new subject matter is introduced here, so Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation begin with a new paragraph. People refers to the young men, the women, and the children. Good News Translation shows this with “All the people of the town—men, women, and children alike—gathered.” Contemporary English Version‘s model is also permissible: “Then every person in Bethulia, both young and old, gathered.”

Uzziah and the rulers of the city may be rendered “Uzziah and the other town leaders” (Contemporary English Version).

Cried out with a loud voice and said before all the elders: “Shouted in protest” (Good News Translation) carries the weight of the two verbs cried out and said. “In protest” has support from the text. It can be inferred from the Greek verb cried out, as well as from the preposition that Revised Standard Version has translated before (see below). Good News Translation has combined rulers of the city and elders into one expression “town officials,” but the two groups are not necessarily identical. The rulers of the city are Uzziah, Chabris, and Charmis. These rulers are elders (see the note at 6.16; 8.10), but not all the elders were rulers. Revised Standard Version in 6.14-15 refers to these three as “magistrates” (“town officials” in Good News Translation and Contemporary English Version), but this is the same noun translated here rulers. What may be happening is that the people gather around the three rulers and make their statement in the presence of another group, the elders. (In 6.16 the magistrates call the elders together.) Good News Translation‘s understanding, however, is not without justification. There is an ambiguity in the Greek word translated before. Gonzáles and Alonso-Schöckel translates this word “against,” so that when the people cry out they are shouting against the elders, whom Gonzáles and Alonso-Schöckel apparently understands to include Uzziah and his two colleagues. Good News Translation seems to go in the same direction. It uses “town officials” to include Uzziah and the other two leaders, as well as the elders (Contemporary English Version similar with “town leaders”), and interprets the ambiguous preposition to mean “in protest.” Gonzáles and Alonso-Schöckel describes the scene as a “polite mutiny.” This direction is preferable to the approach of Revised Standard Version and others. It is simpler, it avoids making a legal puzzle of the presence of the elders, and there is no problem in interpreting the Greek preposition to mean “against.” It is surprising that more translations have not taken it this way. Moore has the people shout “in protest,” but goes on to translate “in the presence of all the elders.” Good News Translation serves as a good model for translators.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Judith. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Judith 8:23

Our slavery will not bring us into favor is not clear. One can deal with favor in three ways:

(1) Favor can refer to “our enemies’ favor,” so the clause may be rendered “Our slavery will not make our enemies think any better of us.” See New Jerusalem Bible, Traduction œcuménique de la Bible, Good News Translation, and Contemporary English Version.
(2) Favor can refer to “God’s favor,” so it may be rendered “Being slaves to the enemy will not restore us to God’s favor.” See Enslin.
(3) Favor may be impersonal. This interpretation is followed by the Good News Translation note: “No good will ever come out of our slavery.” New English Bible is effectively the same: “There will be no happy ending to our servitude, no return to favour.”

The reader would almost certainly infer from the next clause (but the Lord our God will turn it to dishonor) that we are talking about God’s favor. Judith, unlike the prophets, is claiming that these trials are not coming on them as divine punishment, but as a test (see 8.25-27). Surrendering and submitting to slavery, then, would not be submitting to God’s just punishment, but failing the test. So alternative translation models are “If our enemies make us their slaves now, it will not make God pleased with us” and “… that will cause God to be displeased with us.”

There may be then a deliberate ambiguity about whose favor we are talking about. It could refer to the Assyrians’ favor (“We will be despised and mocked…” in verse 22b) and God’s favor.

A bold approach to this would combine verses 22b-23 and reorder as follows:

• We are not going to win the favor of our enemies. We will be despised and mocked … We are not going to win God’s favor either. He will hold us responsible … The Lord our God will make sure that our slavery is nothing but dishonor.

Good News Translation has significantly shifted focus in this verse. It talks about “surrender” rather than slavery, which will be the ultimate result of surrender. Servitude was the subject of the previous verse, and the subject has not shifted here.

An alternative translation model for verses 22b and 23 is (all first person pronouns are inclusive):

• We will not win the favor of our enemies. They will make us their slaves and despise and make fun of us. If we become their slaves, we will not make God pleased with us. He will make sure that our slavery brings us only dishonor.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Judith. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Judith 10:7

The Greek says that Judith’s face was altered and her clothing changed. Good News Translation has shifted the focus a bit by neglecting the main point here, which is how different Judith looked, not only in clothing but also in facial appearance. It was not said in 10.3-4, nor is it said here, that she “put on make-up” (Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version). It only says that her face looked different, though make-up may be legitimately inferred. One could translate “When the men saw how different Judith looked after she had changed clothes and put on make-up….”

They greatly admired her beauty: “They were struck by her beauty” (Good News Translation) and “they were amazed at her beauty” (Contemporary English Version) are good descriptions of what happens. One must beware of the error made by New American Bible. It says “they were very much astounded at her beauty,” but this implies that they really didn’t know that Judith could be pretty—but surely they could remember her appearance only three years and four months ago, when her husband died (8.4).

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Judith. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.